● Redistricting: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that, if successful, would overturn the concept of "one person, one vote" and dramatically alter how congressional and legislative districts are drawn. The plaintiffs in Evenwel vs. Abbott are arguing that map-makers should only count eligible voters rather than all residents when crafting election districts, which would reduce the political power of areas with large concentrations of non-citizens, children, and prisoners. Naturally, this would undermine Democrats and bolster Republicans, so unsurprisingly, the court's conservative majority seemed to give the idea some real purchase.
Of course, we won't know how the justices actually feel until they issue a final ruling, which won't be for several months. Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage said that the court "seemed poised" to side with the plaintiffs, but election law expert Rick Hasen (also writing in the Times) concluded that it "seems doubtful" the court would adopt the "eligible voter" standard, largely because we simply don't even know how many eligible voters there are in the country. (The Census doesn't collect this information, and other sources are fraught with problems.)
Hasen thinks such a move would cause "so much upheaval," but Savage noted that two justices (Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts) suggested that implementation of any new rules could wait until after the 2020 census. Relying on the Supreme Court to act sensibly seems like a risky bet, especially if the justices can convince themselves that delaying a few years would make a radical change in standards more palatable.
● AZ-Sen: GOP Rep. David Schweikert has shticked around all year as to whether he's actually interested in issuing a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain. In early February, he first said he was "leaning against the idea," then added a few weeks later that his wife was "not thrilled" at the thought of a Senate bid. But he never ruled anything out, and in September, he would only say that running against McCain was not his "life's priority right now."
And now, reports Reid Wilson at Morning Consult, unnamed Schweikert supporters are talking up the possibility of Schweikert going for it, though it's clear he wants commitments of support from outside groups before he does. But even if, say, the Club for Growth got behind him, Schweikert still faces the problem of ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is already challenging McCain. Ward is the sort of cuckoo-bananas candidate who would be very unlikely to respond to calls for her to drop out and unite behind a single anti-McCain option; after all, she just resigned her post in the legislature so she could focus on her campaign. As long as she's in the race, it'd be very hard for Schweikert to consolidate votes to topple the incumbent.
● LA-Sen: While Republican Rep. Charles Boustany hasn't publicly announced that he's running for this open Senate seat yet, he's filed an FEC statement of candidacy. Once Boustany makes his campaign official, he'll join fellow GOP Rep. John Fleming in this contest. Retired Col. Rob Maness, a tea partier who took 14 percent in last year's Senate jungle primary, has also filed with the FEC but has yet to announce. While Fleming and Maness will be chasing after the same type of anti-establishment conservatives voters, Boustany is close to the GOP House leadership.
State Treasurer John Kennedy is another possible Republican contender, and his allied super PAC Louisiana Proud has released a poll from SurveyUSA showing him taking one of the top two spots in the November jungle primary that he'd need to secure a spot in the December runoff:
● Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D): 23 (2007 gubernatorial candidate)
● State Treasurer John Kennedy (R): 21 (2008 Senate nominee)
● Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R): 12 (2015 gubernatorial candidate)
● Rep. Charles Boustany (R): 10
● Retired Col. Rob Maness (R): 9 (2014 Senate candidate)
● Rep. John Fleming (R): 6
The poll also gives Kennedy a 55-12 favorable rating, easily the best of the six men they tested. (Maness has the next best net favorability score at 39-13.) However, the poll shows huge portions of the electorate have no opinion of the other possible contenders, so they all have a lot of room to grow.
Incidentally, it strikes us as unusual and possibly unprecedented to see SurveyUSA polling for a partisan client. However, we do note that the Lexington Herald-Leader recently announced that they were rethinking their partnership with the group after SurveyUSA badly underestimated Republican Matt Bevin's performance in this year's Kentucky gubernatorial race, so perhaps they're looking to branch out into non-media clients.
Angelle and Campbell haven't made it clear if they'll be on the 2016 Senate ballot. Angelle's camp says he might run for the Senate, though he may instead run for Boustany's soon-to-be-open House seat. Campbell has been mentioned as a possible contender, but he hasn't said anything yet.
And while this poll indicates that Kennedy is laying the groundwork to run, it doesn't mean he's decided to get in yet. In January, Kennedy flirted with running for attorney general and he released a poll giving him a lead, but he ended up sitting out the contest. There are several other Republicans and Democrats who could dive in as well, and it may take a while for things to crystallize here. It's always possible that if enough Democrats run, two Republicans could advance to the December general. It's also not completely out of the realm of possibility for two Democrats to grab the runoff slots, but absolutely everything would need to go right for Team Blue for that to happen in this conservative state.
● NC-Sen: The Democratic field seems to have sorted itself out in North Carolina: Former state Rep. Deborah Ross, Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, and businessman Kevin Griffin are all giving it a go, and no other names remain in circulation. All three are little-known, and they all fare similarly against GOP Sen. Richard Burr in PPP's latest poll: Burr leads Griffin and Ross 46-35 and beats Rey 47-33. Numbers like that suggest an upset is not completely out of the question, but as we've said before, it would be quite the undertaking, which is why we have the raced pegged as Likely Republican.
Meanwhile Ross, who had a somewhat prominent role during her five-plus terms in the legislature as a Democratic Party whip, starts with a wide edge in the primary, earning 41 percent of the vote, compared to 15 for Griffin and just 5 for Rey.
● MT-Gov: We don't usually write up polls that only contain approval ratings without any horserace matchups, but data out of Montana is so scarce that this survey from Montana State University Billings is worth flagging. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who is up for re-election next year, sports a strong 50-20 job approval score, which is all the more notable since Barack Obama's approvals stand at an awful 28-67. Respondents were not asked for their opinions of the two main Republicans hoping to unseat Bullock: Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson and wealthy businessman Greg Gianforte.
● NC-Gov: The more things change, the more they stay the same. PPP has shown a tight race between Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper all year, and their latest poll gives Team Red a 44-42 edge.
● FL-05: If Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum wants to challenge Rep. Corrine Brown in the Democratic primary for this redrawn district, it's in his best interest to decide soon and scare off other Tallahassee-based politicians like ex-state Sen. Al Lawson. Gillum seems to realize this, since he now says he'll "have a clear answer about the future following the holidays."
● LA-03: With Republican Rep. Charles Boustany poised to make his long-awaited Senate bid official (see our LA-Sen item above), attention turns to his soon-to-be-open House seat. This southwestern Louisiana district, which contains Lafayette and other parts of Acadiana, backed Romney 66-32, and it should stay red without much trouble. In fact, it's quite possible that two Republicans could grab the top two spots in the November jungle primary and advance to a December runoff.
Roll Call's Eli Yokley takes a look at which Republicans could jump in here. Termed-out state Rep. Brett Geymann said back in August that he'd run for this seat if it opened up, and we'll likely find out soon enough if he's still game. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who performed well here during the October gubernatorial jungle primary, may also get in, though he's also eyeing the open Senate seat. Angelle refused to endorse fellow Republican David Vitter during the runoff, so he may have to some fence mending to do with influential Republicans.
Yokley also mentions state Sen. Stuart Bishop, outgoing Lafayette Mayor Joey Durel, state Rep. Nancy Landry, and businessman Gregory Ellison as possible Republican candidates. One Republican operative tells Yokley that Ellison could self-fund, though he'd have problems if Angelle runs. Another unnamed local Republican operative says that Bishop especially could end up taking support from Angelle. Races in Louisiana typically develop late, though the state moved its filing deadline up a few weeks to July.
● LA-04: Republican Rep. John Fleming recently kicked off his Senate bid, and Roll Call's Eli Yokley takes a look at who might run to succeed him. Romney won this northern Louisiana seat, which includes Shreveport and Bossier City, 59-40, and Team Red shouldn't have much of a problem keeping it, though Democrats may try and put it into play.
A Republican operative tells Yokley that three Republican legislators are considering a bid: state Reps. Mike Johnson and Alan Seabaugh, and state Sen. Barrow Peacock. Seabaugh, who mulled a Senate run last cycle, talked about running here at the beginning of the year.
All three members are ardent conservatives, but Johnson made headlines early this year shortly after he was elected when he proposed the Marriage and Conscience Act, modeled off Indiana's infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Johnson said his bill was designed to prevent the state government from revoking a business' licenses and tax benefits over the owner's view of same-sex marriage. However, critics charged that it would allow companies to discriminate against married gay people once same-sex marriage came to Louisiana.
Gov. Bobby Jindal was looking to bolster his support with religious conservatives before he made his presidential bid official, and he wholeheartedly backed Johnson's proposal. But other Louisiana Republicans had no interest in courting the national backlash that had just hit Indiana, and a legislative committee overwhelmingly killed his proposal. If Johnson gets in, he'll likely appeal to social conservatives, but business groups may view him warily.
Over the last year, a number of other Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates, though they haven't taken any pubic steps towards running yet. Back In January, the National Journal named Shreveport Councilman Oliver Jenkins and Judge Jeff Thompson, who narrowly lost the 2008 primary to Fleming.
Over the summer, LA Politics said that Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Jason Brown was telling people that he was interested. There were also rumors that Mike Reese, who leads a prominent group dedicated to keeping Fort Polk open, was interested. In any case, things should start to take shape here soon.
This seat is reliably red but Democratic Gov-elect John Bel Edwards performed well here last month, and Team Blue has some Shreveport-based politicians who may be interested. Yokley says that former Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is considering. However Glover, who will be returning to the state House next year, has not said anything publicly.
● WA-07: If you were wondering whether there's any behind-the-scenes oomph to state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw's surprise primary challenge to long-time Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott, Walkinshaw has rolled out a pretty extensive list of local endorsements. Many of the names aren't elected officials, but instead well-known local activists (some from a more counter-cultural bent), but there are a couple big establishment names as well: former Mayor Charles Royer and Councilor Sally Bagshaw.
Royer is widely regarded as one of Seattle's most adept mayors, but it's unclear how many current Seattleites even remember his reign: he served from 1978 to 1989. Even that type of endorsement, though, puts Walkinshaw way ahead of, well, anybody else who's challenged McDermott in the last few decades (for instance, compared to attorney Andrew Hughes, whose briefly-hyped challenge to McDermott in 2012 turned out to have nothing under the hood except for money).
● Special Elections: Two up, two down, from Johnny Longtorso:
Iowa HD-21: Republicans held this seat; Tom Moore defeated Democrat Tim Ennis by a 62-38 margin.
Minnesota HD-3A: This was an easy Democratic hold. Democrat Rob Ecklund won with 64 percent; Republican Roger Skraba came in second with 19 percent, while independent Kelsey Johnson pulled in 16 percent.
● Houston, TX Mayor: The non-partisan runoff to lead America's fourth largest city is on Saturday, and it's anyone's guess whether Democratic state Rep. Sylvester Turner or ex-Kemah Mayor Bill King, a conservative who identifies as an independent, will come out ahead. The University of Houston and Rice University give us our first, and probably only, independent runoff poll, and they have things tied 38-38. A recent Turner poll gave him a 47-40 lead, while a pro-King group has their man up 48-43. If King wins, he'll be Houston's first non-Democratic mayor since Republican Jim McConn left office in 1982.
● Demographics: The best indicator about where the population growth in the future will be, is usually where the job growth will be in the very-near-future. Along those lines, housing demographer Jed Kolko has released some new insights about job predictions at the metropolitan area level, mashing up Bureau of Labor Statistics projections with Census occupations data.
Kolko finds that the big cities, which were the main engines of growth in the post-Great Recession years, will continue to drive growth in the near future as well. The strongest outlooks are for the usual "creative class" suspects, like Raleigh-Durham, San Jose, and Boston. More unexpected may be that the weakest outlooks are heavily concentrated in California. They're not the coastal hubs, but inland cities like Fresno, Stockton, and especially Bakersfield, which suffers the one-two punch of being reliant on both oil and agriculture.
● President-by-LD: We venture back to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a look at Democrat Tom Wolf's 2014 55-45 victory over Tom Corbett in the gubernatorial contest. We have the results calculated by district for state House, state Senate and congressional district. We also have the results calculated for the 2012 presidential, Senate, and other statewide elections. You can find our master list of states here. Also be sure to check out Stephen Wolf's interactive state legislative maps.
Tom Wolf's decisive win over the horribly unpopular Corbett was a bright spot for Team Blue on a terrible night, but Democrats who hoped that Corbett's toxicity would allow them to retake the state Senate were disappointed. While Wolf carried 28 of the state's 50 state Senate districts, the GOP made gains in the chamber and they currently hold a 31-19 edge there. Wolf won six districts that Romney had carried. The one state Senate seat to go from Obama to Corbett was SD-15, located around Harrisburg and represented by Democrat Rob Teplitz. Obama only carried it by 25 votes, and Corbett took it 52-48. Wolf also won 112 of the 203 state House seats, but Team Red maintains a 119 to 84 majority; two years before, Obama won only 89 districts.
The good news for Keystone State Democrats is that they won't need to fight on a GOP-drawn legislative map indefinitely. Democrats retook control of the state Supreme Court in November and they're favored to keep it at least until after the 2022 round of redistricting. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court selects the tie-breaking vote for the commission that draws up the maps for the state House and Senate and for the first time in decades, the GOP won't be able to ram their map through. The GOP-crafted state House and state Senate maps will be in place until the 2022 elections, but Democrats will have a good shot to flip both chambers that year.
The bad news is that the state legislature will still draw the congressional map, though if Wolf is still governor in 2022, he can veto a GOP gerrymander. But the Republicans are favored to keep at least a majority of the state's 18 congressional districts for a while: While Corbett lost by 10 points, he took 10 seats. Wolf won the five congressional districts that Obama carried (those five seats are also the only ones that have a Democratic representative) and narrowly took PA-06, PA-07, and PA-08 in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The 8th District, which Wolf carried 52-48 and Romney won by less than 300 votes, is being vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, and both parties are planning to compete here. Wolf carried the 7th District 52-48, while Romney won it 50-49. The DCCC recruited pastor Bill Golderer to face Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, though we'll need to wait and see how serious of a candidate Golderer is. Wolf also took the 6th 51-49, while Romney won it 51-48. However, Democratic candidate Mike Parrish has raised very little money, and Team Blue will likely need to find someone else if they want to beat freshman Ryan Costello.
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.