I have a good feeling about this
• WI-Sen: Sweet merciful Moses! Run, don't walk, to Marquette's new poll of their home state of Wisconsin, which finds that former Sen. Russ Feingold would beat the man who unseated him in 2010, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, by an astounding 54-38 spread. Crazy as those numbers may seem, they're not that far from the 50-41 margin for Feingold that PPP saw last month, so yeah, we have real confirmation that Johnson is in real trouble.
(It's also worth noting that Marquette was the most accurate pollster in last year's gubernatorial race in the Badger State. Their final survey predicted GOP Gov. Scott Walker would beat Democrat Mary Burke by 7 points; he won by 6. Everyone else had it as a 1- or 2-point race.)
The only problem here for Democrats is that Feingold isn't actually running yet. He did recently step down from a post at the State Department, which hopefully presages a political comeback bid, but he's a quirky, unpredictable guy, so we can't be sure of his intentions. And if he does return to the fray, his standing with voters is likely to droop once the GOP starts taking shots at him (sort of like what we've seen with another former State official, Hillary Clinton). But if Feingold is having any doubts, how can polling like this not excite him about righting an old wrong?
: Lisa Murkowski
(R-inc): $700,000 raised
• NH-Sen: Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $3 million cash-on-hand
• SD-Sen: John Thune (R-inc): $793,000 raised, $10.4 million cash-on-hand
• MO-Gov (October through March): Chris Koster (D): $1.2 million raised, $3.3 million cash-on-hand; Catherine Hanaway (R): $1.4 million raised, $1.25 million cash-on-hand; Eric Greitens (R): $480,000 raised (in 35 days); Randy Asbury (R): $32,000 raised, $5,000 cash-on-hand (since January)
• AZ-Sen: While Rep. Matt Salmon hasn't shown much interest in challenging Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary, he never quite ruled it out. Conservative groups anxious about being stuck with little-known state Sen. Kelli Ward have continued to urge him to consider the contest, and it seems their pleas are having some small effect at least. On Thursday, Salmon told The Hill "I'm not saying that I'm in. I'm not saying that I'm not in." Salmon may not be chomping at the bit to get in, but it at least gives McCain's intra-party detractors some hope. But if Salmon enter the race, there's no guarantee Ward will take a pass. McCain would definitely rather face Ward than Salmon, but if they both run and split the anti-McCain vote, he won't be complaining.
• CA-Sen: Three Southern California House members are considering diving into the race against fellow Democrat Kamala Harris, and the end of the campaign finance quarter allows us to get an early look at where their Senate campaigns would start financially (money can be transferred between House to Senate campaigns).
Orange County's Loretta Sanchez has said that she'll decide in the next week or so, and she'd start out with $540,000 in the bank. Pasadena-area representative Adam Schiff says he'll make his choice by the end of May, and he has a hefty $2.1 million on hand. Finally, Xavier Becerra, who holds a downtown Los Angeles seat and has been vague about his timeline, has $1.3 million available. None of these members raised more than $263,000 in the last three months so while they may still run for Senate, they aren't exactly in campaign mode yet. Harris herself has $2.2 million on hand, which is actually not much better than Schiff.
The GOP knows they don't have much of a shot in this blue state, but they actually found a real live office holder to run. However, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez pulled in an anemic $12,000, and only has $5,000 on hand. If Chavez is hoping he can use a losing Senate campaign to at least get his name out in Republican circles, he's going to need to work a lot harder. And if he's hoping to actually win... well, at least his dream isn't costing his party anything.
• FL-Sen: Sigh. Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, who previously declared only a "fool" would announce a Senate bid this early in the cycle, now says he will "probably" seek a promotion after all, and he hopes to make up his mind "soon." Grayson says he's "encourage[d]" by the fact that Republicans have failed to land their two top recruits (state CFO Jeff Atwater and ex-state House Speaker Will Weatherford), but the real test for Grayson would come in the Democratic primary, where he'd face off in a very tough fight against fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy.
On the GOP side, Republican Rep. Tom Rooney has been talking about running here for the last week. On Thursday, he offered a rough timetable, saying he'll make a decision in the next month.
• IL-Sen: Following his ugly comments in which he declared that "the black community" is "one we drive faster through," GOP Sen. Mark Kirk isn't apologizing. Instead, he's blaming the world for his own outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease:
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., up for re-election, told the Chicago Sun-Times he won't be talking about race or ethnicity in the future.
"I would say that whenever a targeted member talks about race or ethnicity, it is impossible for him to get it right. So I'll leave it at that," Kirk said.
A "targeted member?" Seriously? As Steve Singiser points out
, for a powerful middle-aged white male to call himself "targeted" is a terribly poor choice of words, even if Kirk was describing his status as a vulnerable GOP senator in a blue state, rather than as a member of society at large.
Regardless, the idea that it's "impossible" for him to avoid making racially idiotic remarks just because he faces a tough re-election campaign is absurd. As the old saw goes, this ain't beanbag. Kirk said something offensive and stupid; he should have the dignity to say he's sorry. But if he wants to dig in and clam up instead, he can suit himself. It won't help.
• MD-Sen: Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings has been talking about running for the Senate almost from the moment Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement last month. Cummings isn't in the race yet, but he recently released a survey from the Mellman Group showing him leading in a hypothetical primary over both declared candidates. Cummings edges Donna Edwards 29-23, with Chris Van Hollen just behind at 22. It's not exactly a dominant edge, but the memo gives Cummings a 63 percent favorable rating, compared to Edwards' 45 and Van Hollen's 48.
Of course, even if Cummings gets in, there's no guarantee that we'll see this three-way primary. Fellow Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, and John Delaney have each talked about seeking a promotion, and they'd bring their own geographic strengths to the table. Other Old Line State Democrats have also been eying this seat, and they could further complicate things. If we did see this exact intra-party match though, it would definitely be fascinating and hard to predict: Cummings would be the only Baltimore-area candidate, Van Hollen would be the only white contender, and Edwards would be the only woman running.
• NH-Sen, Gov: National Democrats have been working hard to recruit Gov. Maggie Hassan to challenge freshman Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in swingy New Hampshire, and a new survey from PPP finds that a matchup between the two would start out tight. Hassan would edge Ayotte 46-45, similar to the early numbers we've seen from other pollsters. And while Ayotte posts a meh 40-43 job approval rating, Hassan is on considerably stronger ground with a 53-34 score. Some of these voters who give a thumbs-up to the governor may be more right-leaning folks who are fine having Hassan in the statehouse but are wary of a Democratic Senate, but it does give her a cushion.
Hassan's status as her party's top option is confirmed by another pairing PPP tested, which finds Rep. Annie Kuster trailing Ayotte by a much steeper 49-38 margin. Hassan hasn't yet said that she'll forgo re-election to run for Senate, but both parties are working under the assumption that she'll take on Ayotte.
During the 2010 GOP primary, tea partier Ovide Lamontagne came incredibly close to denying Ayotte the nomination, and he hasn't ruled out a rematch. However, he's not going to have an easy time gaining traction against the incumbent, despite her efforts to moderate her image: PPP gives Ayotte a 57-32 lead in a hypothetical primary. Ayotte's 60-26 approval rating with her own party could be better, but she's far from dire territory. Lamontagne, who was his party's gubernatorial nominee in 2012, posts a 49-20 favorable rating, not bad at all but still weaker than Ayotte's. But if Lamontagne did pull off a miracle and emerge as the Republican nominee, it would not be good news for Team Red. Lamontagne trails Hassan 54-35, and Kuster 43-39.
If Hassan does indeed leave Concord for a shot at Washington, both parties will be working hard to win the governor's mansion. It's far from clear who will end up running for this open seat, but PPP tested out several combinations. For the Democrats, they included Hassan, in case she runs again, as well as state Rep. Jackie Cilley (who lost the gubernatorial nomination to Hassan in 2012) and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. For the GOP, PPP asked about state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (who is also a former congressman), Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (brother of ex-Sen. John Sununu).
• Hassan 53, Bradley 36
• Hassan 55, Bradley 25
• Hassan 52, Sununu 35
• Cilley 31, Bradley 37
• Cilley 32, Lozeau 26
• Cilley 36, Sununu 37
• Van Ostern 31, Bradley 37
• Van Ostern 31, Lozeau 27
• Van Ostern 34, Sununu 37
If Hassan runs for re-election, she looks secure, but the other matchups are much more fluid, with huge portions of voters undecided. Lozeau and Sununu have both expressed interest in this seat
, while everyone else has been much more quiet about their plans. (Democrats in particular are waiting to see what Hassan does.)
The Granite State is prone to wild swings, and the national climate might decide next year's contests in the end. But as PPP shows, Hassan would let the Democrats put a Senate seat in play that they badly need to win, and the DSCC will keep working to recruit her until she gives them a definitive answer.
• NV-Sen: On Thursday, EMILY's List endorsed former Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a move that comes as no surprise given that they urged her to run. EMILY joins retiring Sen. Harry Reid and the DSCC in throwing their backing behind Masto, who so far has the primary field to herself. Rep. Dina Titus, another prominent Democrat, is mulling a campaign, but she can't be looking forward to the prospect of running with so many powerful forces already against her.
• PA-Sen: The state and national Democratic establishment is desperate for someone to challenge 2010 nominee Joe Sestak in the primary, but this may not be exactly what they had in mind. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's camp says he'll make a major announcement on Friday, and sources tell the Morning Call that he's in.
While Pawlowski's strength in the Lehigh Valley could help him in the primary and in the general against GOP Sen. Pat Toomey (who used to represent the area in the House), his last statewide bid went badly. Pawlowski's 2014 gubernatorial campaign raised little money, barely registered in the polls, and folded well before the primary. If the Democratic establishment gives him a hand this time, Pawlowski could catch fire, but they may insist on holding out for someone else.
• IN-Gov: Hoo boy. We have another poll confirming just how badly GOP Gov. Mike Pence hurt himself with his bungling over Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and not only are the numbers worse than those we saw just the other day, they come from a Republican pollster, Bellwether Research. Surveying on behalf of local tipsheet Howey Politics, Bellwether finds Pence with an underwater 35-38 favorability rating, very similar to his 39-38 score in the earlier poll from Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and his job approvals are a similarly uninspiring 45-46.
Bellwether also pitted Pence against three possible Democratic opponents. He leads all three matchups, but his own share of the vote is pitiful:
• 42-39 vs. Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz
• 43-37 vs. 2012 nominee John Gregg
• 43-36 vs. ex-Rep. Baron Hill
GQR had Gregg and Pence tied at 47, which offers Democrats a different sort of optimism (it's tied!) than these results (Pence sucks!). Either way, the data aren't good for Pence, and if he's really mired in the low 40s against a trio of lesser-known candidates, then he might be in for a very difficult re-election campaign indeed.
• CA-24: On Thursday, Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian announced that he will run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Lois Capps. Obama won this coastal seat 54-43 and while Democrats start out favored to keep it, Achadjian's move is good news for the GOP. Achadjian already represents two-thirds of the district, including all of swingy San Luis Obispo County, and he's always won his light-red seat with ease.
Businessman Justin Fareed is already running for the GOP, but he's going to need a lot to go right if he's going to deny Achadjian a spot in the general. However, there is the possibility that if too many Democrats jump in, Achadjian and Fareed could advance past the top-two primary and give the Republicans an automatic pickup. Tea partier and 2014 nominee Chris Mitchum may also run, which would help mitigate this possibility.
• CA-52: Following in the proud, geographically confused tradition of fellow Republicans like Van Tran, Rob Cornilles, and the immortal Bill Sali, Marine vet Jacquie Atkinson is kicking off her bid for California's 52nd Congressional District ... in the 53rd Congressional District. What's even funnier is that Atkinson has reportedly hired a bunch of operatives who worked for Carl DeMaio's campaign last cycle. DeMaio was unsuccessful in trying to oust Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, but you'd think his staffers would at least know where the district is. On second thought, maybe that explains a few things....
• CO-06: Democrats aren't going to have an easy time unseating Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, but it's hard to see any path to a House majority without this swingy suburban Denver seat. Centennial Councilor Rebecca McClellan is reportedly considering challenging Coffman, who sounds more likely to seek another term than to run for Senate. But back in November, former state Rep. Ed Casso said that he was forming an exploratory committee, and we've heard almost nothing from him since then.
We wanted to see whether Casso is still looking at this high-profile contest, so we contacted our top-secret high-level sources in the Colorado Democratic Party, the DCCC, the White House, the CIA, Starfleet Intelligence, and... ok, we asked him on Twitter. Casso gave us a quick reply, telling us that yes, he is indeed still exploring a bid, but has not yet started soliciting contributions.
If Casso runs, he won't start out with too much name recognition. He left the state House in 2013, and his old seat barely contained any of the 6th District. However, Casso does hail from Adams County, so at least he can't easily be portrayed as a Denver politician parachuting into the suburbs to run. By contrast, while unsuccessful 2012 and 2014 candidates Joe Miklosi and Andrew Romanoff also hailed from outside the 6th, they were both from the Mile-High City. Still, McClellan's constituency is entirely in CO-06, so she wouldn't need to worry about being depicted as a carpetbagger.
• IA-01: Freshman Rob Blum has long been viewed as one of the most endangered House Republicans, and this isn't going to convince anyone otherwise. In the last three months, Blum raised a pathetic $120,000, not the type of money you need to bring in to win re-election in an Obama 56-43 seat. Blum loaned his campaign $500,000 to give himself $644,000 cash-on-hand, so maybe he's just decided he can self-fund his way to victory. Blum may not be able to rely on outside help though: He voted against re-electing John Boehner as speaker and probably not coincidently, he was excluded from the NRCC's Frontline Program for vulnerable members.
• OR Recall: On Tuesday, the Oregon state Senate finally passed a new law that would close a loophole by requiring background checks for private gun sales—a measure Democrats had been pushing for years. (The bill should make it through the House easily.) Predictably, the very same day, a gun activist started up a recall drive targeting state House Majority Leader Val Hoyle over her support for the legislation, and the Oregon Firearms Federation says that other recall efforts may soon follow.
So far, though, it's mostly talk. Organizers have until July 13 to collect signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in Hoyle's district in the most recent gubernatorial election, which amounts to 3,600 total, and that's just one seat. Hoyle's district voted for Barack Obama by a 57-40 margin, so ordinarily, that would be out of reach for the GOP. But it's worth paying attention, because a 2013 campaign in Colorado succeeded in ousting two Democratic state senators in similarly blue seats thanks to the intense feelings of persecution on the part of gun owners and pitiful turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies. Democrats need to be vigilant here.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Taniel.