Jay Dardenne (at right) endorsing John Bel Edwards
• LA-Gov: The amazing Louisiana governor's race just keeps getting amazing-er. On Thursday morning, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican who finished fourth in the primary with 15 percent, endorsed Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the Nov. 21 runoff. In announcing his support for Edwards, Dardenne was particularly scathing toward his fellow Republicans:
"The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term. David Vitter's governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign. I cannot and will not sit idly by and refuse to speak truth to power."
Obviously this is a guy who doesn't care about his electoral future, because he just signed his political death warrant by unleashing cannon fire on his own party. But Dardenne is not alone in his hostility toward Vitter, who attacked him relentlessly during the primary. The third-place finisher, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, has likewise refused to back Vitter, and many Angelle and Dardenne voters are also siding with Edwards, as shown by the first three post-primary polls
that all had the Democrat over 50 percent and leading Vitter by double digits.
But as we just saw in Kentucky on Tuesday night, you should be particularly skeptical when you're only look at a smattering of polls, and especially when they're showing good news for a Democrat running in a red state in an off-year election. HuffPo Pollster's final average had Jack Conway leading Matt Bevin by 2 points, but Bevin won by almost 9.
That said, these new Louisiana polls have Edwards up by an average of 16 points, so even if they're wrong by as much as the Kentucky polls were, Edwards would still be ahead. But there's still two weeks to go, and Republicans will keep hammering Edwards as an Obama apparatchik, the same strategy that worked in Kentucky. So it would still be a huge upset if Edwards won, but if Dardenne's very public decision gives cover for other Republicans to defect, his heavy lift just got a bit lighter.
Head below the fold for a new poll that dropped late yesterday, plus the rest of the Morning Digest.
P.S. A new poll from Republican pollster Triumph Campaigns released late on Thursday finds Edwards up "only" 49-41 on Vitter, the closest result we've seen since the primary. Interestingly, Triumph also asked a straight-up generic matchup and found "the Republican candidate" leading "the Democrat" 45-40; that tells you that the antipathy toward Vitter is personal and real. They also included numbers on the lieutenant governor's race, where Republican Billy Nungesser leads his barely-known Democratic opponent, Kip Holden, 49-38. Other surveys have put Holden on top, but Triumph's numbers seem a lot more plausible, thus lending further credence to their gubernatorial results.
However, Triumph didn't poll the primary with great accuracy. Their final poll had Edwards leading Vitter 37-27, with Dardenne at 15 and Angelle at 10. So while they were fairly close to Edwards' final 40 percent tally, they failed to capture how close Angelle was to Vitter (he finished just 4 points back), and incorrectly pegged Dardenne for third.
• IN-Sen, Gov: Democrat Tom McDermott, who just won a fourth term as mayor of Hammond this week and had been considering a bid for higher office, has decided against the idea. McDermott had looked at both the Senate and governor's races, but the former is an extreme longshot while for the latter, Democrats have already united behind their 2012 nominee, former state House Speaker John Gregg.
• NC-Gov: Elon University's latest poll shows Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper beating Republican Gov. Pat McCrory 45-40, the first time Elon's found Cooper ahead. It's also the largest lead Cooper's had this year, though this far in advance, the numbers always gyrate a bit. For instance, PPP had Cooper up 3 in August, then McCrory up 3 in September, followed by Cooper up 1 in October, so it's not worth reading too much into any one poll. All we know is that the race is close.
• CA-52: The NRCC touted Jacquie Atkinson as an early 2016 recruiting success in the beginning of the year, but the former Marine has shown little aptitude for fundraising and, as a result, Republicans have been casting about for an alternative to take sophomore Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. On Thursday, they finally landed someone: Republican consultant Denise Gitsham, who worked for Karl Rove in the Bush White House. Gitsham also put in an appearance on the reality TV show "The Bachelor" back in 2008, but, reported the Washington Post, was "booted in favor of a Venice Beach hot dog vendor; Lorenzo Lamas's 22-year-old daughter; and a church publicist who showed off her ability to bite an aluminum can in half."
• FL-09: State Sen. Darren Soto, who is running to succeed Rep. Alan Grayson, has released an internal poll of the Democratic primary that, unsurprisingly, shows him with a lead. The survey, from SEA Polling, finds Soto at 25, while Grayson's former district director, Susannah Randolph, is at 6, biotech consultant Dena Minning (who is also Grayson's girlfriend), takes 3, and former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel brings up the rear with just 1 percent. As the only current elected official in the field, it makes sense that Soto's out in front. But as you'd expect for a poll this early, there are a ton of undecideds—65 percent—so this nomination is still very much up for grabs. This seat should be safely Democratic in a presidential year.
Interestingly, the poll also included numbers on the Democratic primary for president, which you don't often see publicly down at this level. However, they offer a useful sanity check, as Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 67-19; given how heavily Hispanic the 9th District is and how popular Clinton is with Latinos, this is, again, the sort of result you'd expect to see here. Also note that interview for this poll were conducted in both English and Spanish.
• NH-02: Republican state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, who recently started exploring a bid for Congress, has stepped down from his leadership post, a move he probably wouldn't make unless he were serious about running. As we noted previously, though, Flanagan was part of a band of renegade Republicans who, after the 2014 elections, joined with Democrats to elect a less-crazy House speaker. That infuriated the bulk of his party, which had already decided it wanted lunatic Bill O'Brien at the helm once again. That stain will make it hard for Flanagan to win a primary against a conservative true believer, and even if he did win the GOP nomination, he'd still have a tough time beating Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster next year.
• NY-13: The crowded Democratic primary for retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel's House seat just got even more so this week. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who fell just short in two prior challenges to Rangel, announced a third run, while his longtime rival, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares declared that he "fully intend[s] to be a candidate" as well. Of course, intentions are one thing, but will Linares actually follow through? Like Espaillat, Linares is Dominican, and he could seriously cut into Espaillat's base—or vice-versa.
That's why an Espaillat ally suggested Linares should instead run for Espaillat's Senate seat—a suggestion Linares quickly shot down. Thanks to New York's absurd system of conducting separate primaries for federal and state races (with federal primaries taking place first), Espaillat can run for re-election even if he fails to win at the congressional level, something he's done twice in a row now. That screwed Linares in 2012, when he did run for Espaillat's seat, only to lose in the primary after Espaillat belatedly sought another term in the Senate after Rangel defeated him for Congress.
But Linares also screwed himself, because he had supported Rangel over Espaillat; had Espaillat won, Linares would have had a much clearer shot at Espaillat's Senate seat. (The Rangel endorsement, incidentally, led Espaillat to claim Linares had "betrayed" Latinos, so you can see how poisonous their relationship is.) Still, Linares' reluctance to take Espaillat's offer a second time makes rational sense, but on the other hand, he'd have a very hard time winning a congressional race. In other words, his choices aren't great, but if Linares really does want to move up, his best bet would be to do everything he can to help Espaillat win Rangel's seat—including not running for Congress himself. But given their history, the odds of Linares helping out Espaillat are extremely low.
• NH-Gov: Mark Connolly, New Hampshire's former top securities regulator, announced on Thursday that he'd run for governor. Connolly is the second Democrat in the race after Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. So far, the only announced Republican is Executive Councilor Chris Sununu.
• NJ State Assembly: One of Tuesday's few races that's gone into overtime is in New Jersey's 16th Legislative District, which covers a swath of territory in central Jersey that jogs over to the Pennsylvania border. There, Democrat Andrew Zwicker, a physicist, currently holds a 67-vote lead over Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon, with around 100 provisional ballots left to count. Democrats say they feel "optimistic" Zwicker's edge will stand up, though they expect a legal challenge from Simon. If Zwicker hangs on for the upset, that would give Democrats four pickups in the Assembly, handing them their largest majority since the 1970s.
• Manchester, NH Mayor: The mayor's race in Manchester, New Hampshire is headed for a recount after election night results showed Republican incumbent Ted Gatsas leading Democrat Joyce Craig by a 10,046 to 9,961—a margin of just 85 votes, or less than 0.4 percent. Craig has formally requested a recount, which will take place within the next week. At around 110,000 people, Manchester is the largest city in the state, and for years, Gatsas had been talked up for higher officer. But that chatter ceased after his tighter-than-expected re-election campaign in 2013; if Craig can somehow reverse Tuesday's results (or perhaps even if not), then she'd soon be the one getting mentioned for bigger things.
• Yakima, WA: Here's one other "good news" story from Tuesday's election that also shows the importance of the Voting Rights Act. Yakima, a town of 91,000 residents in the agricultural part of central Washington state, is 41 percent Hispanic according to the 2010 Census. It, however, had previously never elected a Hispanic to its city council, in large part because all seven city council seats were elected at-large, essentially letting city's (mostly Republican) white voter majority pick all seven.
The ACLU brought a lawsuit against Yakima under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, claiming that the at-large council system impermissibly diluted the Hispanic community's voting strength. In 2014, a federal court agreed, forcing the city to switch to a system of electing councilmembers by district. And lo and behold, in this year's elections, Yakima voters elected three councilors from the districts where the city's Hispanics are heavily concentrated.
• Swing Voters: If you follow polls closely—especially, for instance, Pew's recent deep dive on party identification—you're probably aware that the idea of the "swing voter" who scrupulously weighs the issues and then votes the candidate, not the party, has become something of a bad joke. Now, a new study by Michigan State University professor Corwin Smidt shows just how lame a joke that concept is.
Smidt calls them "floating voters" rather than "swing voters," but whatever you call them, there aren't many of them left: about 5 percent of the electorate today, down from a peak of about 15 percent in the 1960s. (Click through for the key graph.) And as those voters have disappeared, the ranks of the "standpatters"—in other words, those who are consistently partisan—have welled. Smidt also has several graphs demonstrating the dramatic increase how much voters understand the growing difference between the parties over the decades. He finds that regardless of how partisan you are, and how much attention you pay to politics, everyone is now likelier to understand how the parties are different, which in turn contributes to increased partisanship.
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 Stephen Wolf.