Quinnipiac finds Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (left) smoking Democrat Joe Sestak (right) in a rematch of their tight 2010 contest
• FL, OH, PA-Sen: Quinnipiac just published a batch of polls from three presidential swing states that are also all hosting key Senate races next year, and the results are a bit surprising. The bluest of the trio, Pennsylvania—it hasn't gone for a Republican at the top of the ticket since 1988—actually offers the worst results for Democrats, with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey beating ex-Rep. Joe Sestak by a rather wide 48-35 margin. That's up from 45-35 in January, though back then, a contemporaneous PPP survey found Toomey ahead just 40-36.
The debate seems to center, then, not around Sestak's standing but around Toomey's. If he's at 40, he's in a lot of trouble; if he's at 48, he's in good shape. Either way, we'll need more data to get a proper read. As for Sestak, it might seem surprising that a candidate who's run statewide is so little-known, but in fact, it's not. Sestak's prior engagement with Toomey is now five years distant, and many voters don't even know the name of the guy who won, let alone the guy who lost. So it makes sense that he has a lot of ground to recapture. The question is just how much.
Meanwhile, in much swingier Ohio, Quinnipiac finds Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland with a stunning 48-39 lead over the Republican incumbent, Rob Portman. What makes these numbers so hard to believe is that the Ohio Democratic Party's own internal polling (conducted by PPP) found the two tied up at 45 just a month ago. Portman's margin over Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld—Strickland's primary rival who's refused to drop out, despite alleged promises to do so—is much more plausible, at 47-24.
If your head's spinning a bit, at least Quinnipiac's Florida results seem sensible. Mostly, they feature a lot of undecideds, since the pollster is presuming GOP Sen. Marco Rubio won't seek re-election and didn't include him in any of their matchups. Instead, they paired the two likeliest Republican alternatives, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, against Democrat Reps. Patrick Murphy (the only declared candidate so far) and Alan Grayson. Here's how each twosome stacks up:
• Murphy (D): 35, Lopez-Cantera (R): 31
• Murphy (D): 34, Atwater (R): 38
• Grayson (D): 32, Lopez-Cantera (R): 33
• Grayson (D): 32, Atwater (R): 42
As we've seen in previous polling, Atwater's by far the best-known of the bunch, but even he only has a 29-12 favorability rating (Lopez-Cantera's at just 13-8). Interestingly, Murphy only trails Atwater by 4 points while Grayson lags by 10, even though Grayson has greater name recognition, with a 20-17 favorable score versus 19-6 for Murphy. That's similar to what we saw in PPP's recent poll, though, with the two sporting similar positive scores but Grayson in possession of higher negatives. Of course, the totals are still very low, and importantly, Grayson isn't actually running yet (if he ever does at all).
In the end, there are good reasons to be skeptical of a lot of the numbers presented here, and you never want to rely on a single poll to inform your opinion of a race, especially when other polling data disagrees. But if you're reading the Daily Kos Elections Digest, you already knew that.
• MO-Sen: Jason Kander (D): $783,000 (in six weeks), $700,000 cash-on-hand
• FL-02: Gwen Graham (D-inc): $525,000 raised, $480,000 cash-on-hand
• MN-02: Mary Lawrence (D): $215,000 raised (in five weeks), $300,000 self-funded
• CA-Sen: You knew it was coming, and yet it's still a big number: State Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only notable Democrat who's actually entered the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, just announced that she raised $2.5 million in the first quarter of the year. Harris has locked up a ton of establishment support and early polling has shown her in a dominant position, but a few other Democrats (chiefly Reps. Xavier Becerra, Loretta Sanchez, and Adam Schiff) have said they're still considering the race. Now they all have another massive fact on the ground to contend with if they're going to try drumming up support for bids of their own.
• FL-Sen, 17: Oodles of Republicans are already considering running for Marco Rubio's Senate seat in the likely event he bails to run for president, but what's another between friends? Rep. Tom Rooney is the latest to express interest, telling the Crowley Report that he's thinking about jumping in. Rooney says he had his eyes on a 2018 campaign against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, but he doesn't want to face possible candidate Gov. Rick Scott. If Rooney departed the House, his Romney 58-41 Central Florida seat should easily stay in GOP hands.
On the Democratic side, Patrick Murphy just scooped up another endorsement from one of his House colleagues, this time from Frederica Wilson.
• NV-Sen: While former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto hasn't said anything publicly about her plans, Politico's Kyle Cheney reports that the DSCC is going to endorse her as soon as she gets in. Retiring Sen. Harry Reid has made it very clear that he wants her to run, and Cheney tells us that Masto is expected to kick off her campaign this week. EMILY's List is also making it known that Masto would be their preferred choice even though Rep. Dina Titus is considering a Senate bid.
But unsurprisingly, we won't see the return of 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rory Reid, who is also the senator's son. Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak also sounds unlikely to run, saying he's "leaning no." Ex-Secretary of State Ross Miller is also a member of the "probably not running, but not saying no" club. Former Rep. Steven Horsford's name has also been bandied about, though it seems unlikely he'll go for it now that he's taken a new job. Still, right after Reid retired, Horsford declined to take his name out of contention, saying he couldn't comment since he was in a meeting. Well, it's been well over a week and he hasn't commented yet: Must be one long meeting.
On the GOP side, Las Vegas Councilor Bob Beers has been running for over a year with little fanfare. The NRSC would love it if they could land Rep. Joe Heck, who is a tough campaigner. However, Heck declined to make the jump before Reid retired, and recently said that he hasn't changed his mind. Treasurer Dan Schwartz does sound a bit more likely to go for it though. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Schwartz says he'd consider running, but only if Heck and Gov. Brian Sandoval don't.
• OH-Sen: Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld made a bit of a splash when he announced that he'd raised $500,000 in the first six weeks of his Senate campaign, but once ex-Gov. Ted Strickland got in the race, you knew that couldn't last. Indeed, Ohio Democrats had widely expected Sittenfeld to bail when Strickland entered, and some have even said Sittenfeld had promised to do so (which he hasn't denied) so it's no surprise he's seen his fundraising dry up. Sittenfeld's total first-quarter haul was $750,000, which means he took in just $250,000 after his initial burst. As Andrea Drusch puts it, that's "half the money in twice the time."
It'll be interesting to see what Strickland shows for the quarter, but regardless of how the two stack up in this early financial test, it's really hard to figure out what Sittenfeld has in mind for himself.
• PA-Sen: The Keystone State Democratic establishment has not been remotely subtle when it comes to telling the world how they feel about 2010 nominee Joe Sestak. While Sestak came close to beating Republican Pat Toomey during the 2010 red wave, plenty of members of his party feel he ran a disorganized race that cost them the seat, and is likely to do it again in 2016. And it appears that national Democrats are looking for someone to challenge Sestak in the primary as well. Over at New York Magazine, Chris Smith writes that incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is scouring Pennsylvania in search of a candidate. Schumer ran the DSCC during its successful 2006 and 2008 cycles and if he can't find someone willing to take on Sestak, that person may just not exist.
• IN-Gov: Former state House Speaker and 2012 nominee John Gregg looks likely to seek a rematch with Republican Gov. Mike Pence, but not all Hoosier Democrats are excited about it. While Gregg came close to upsetting Pence last time, Gregg's meh fundraising and socially conservative positions has some members of his party looking elsewhere.
It's far from clear who is willing to step into the ring with Gregg though. The National Journal's Karyn Bruggeman speaks to wealthy architect Jim Schellinger, who narrowly lost the 2008 gubernatorial nomination. Schellinger didn't rule out another bid, but he doesn't sound incredibly interested, saying he hasn't "thought about it a great deal." Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, who is now a pharmaceutical executive, also gets name-dropped. Peterson was recently great mentioned for the vacant Senate seat as well, though he's said nothing about his 2016 plans.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott has also been talked about as a future statewide candidate, but he sounded reluctant back in February. McDermott appears to be siding with Gregg now, saying that he's "gone through the mud with us," while decrying other potential candidates who showed no interest in facing Pence before the blowup over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
• KY-Gov: Last week, we learned that a super PAC called Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity and Prosperity would be spending about $450,000 in support of state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who looks like he can badly use the help ahead of the May 19 GOP primary. We now have a copy of their spot, and it's... well, not boring. As drums play in the background, the ad shows several split screens and quick cuts, while the narrator praises Comer as a bold conservative. The whole thing is really overwhelming, and not in a good way.
Joseph Gerth of the Courier-Journal gives us some information on who is funding the group: It's Terry Stephens, who spent $5 million to help 2011 nominee David Williams, who also happened to be his son-in-law. Stephens says he won't spend nearly that much to help Comer, but he doesn't indicate how much he is chipping in this time. Stephens spent big on Williams despite the Republican's huge deficit in the polls (Williams ultimately lost 56-35 to Steve Beshear), so he's clearly willing to pour money into candidates he likes regardless of their odds. Then again, Stephens probably won't need to worry about running into Comer at family reunions, so he may be a bit more pragmatic this time.
• CA-17: Former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna narrowly lost the 2014 general election to fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, and it appears that he'll be back for another round sooner than expected. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Khanna is raising money for another bid (one of his guests at a recent fundraiser was Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet of all people), and is expected to report a massive $800,000 for the quarter. Honda made it clear after their last campaign that he had no intention of retiring anytime soon, but the incumbent can't be relishing another long, expensive race.
• CA-21: Democrat Daniel Parra announced on Monday that he would challenge sophomore Republican David Valadao. Parra serves as mayor pro tem of the small town of Fowler (pop. 5,570) so he won't start out with much name recognition, but the DCCC has been talking to him about a bid. Obama won this Central Valley seat 55-44, but a weak 2012 nominee and poor 2014 Democratic turnout helped Valadao win easily both times. If Parra can run a good campaign, he very well might be able to succeed where others have failed. But Valadao is a tough candidate and beating him won't be easy.
• FL-18, 17: On Monday, Republican state Rep. Pat Rooney confirmed for the first time that he's looking at a run for this open light red seat. Rooney agreed that his odds of joining this contest are about 50-50. So far, no serious Republicans are running to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, though several have expressed interest.
Rooney's brother, 17th District representative Tom Rooney, is considering a Senate bid (see our FL-Sen item), but it would be a big surprise if Patrick tried to keep that seat in the family. Patrick Rooney's state House seat is located almost entirely in FL-18 (with a small portion landing in the safely blue 20th). The two congressional districts are also located in completely different media markets, so Patrick couldn't count on much name recognition of his own.
• FL-26: Over the weekend, Democrat Annette Taddeo announced that she would challenge freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo in a Miami-area seat Team Blue very much needs to win back. Taddeo, who most recently served as Charlie Crist's running mate during last year's gubernatorial race, spent the last few months being recruited by the DCCC. While Taddeo has never won an election (she lost to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a 2008 longshot bid, and failed to win a seat on the Miami-Dade County commission in 2010), she has a reputation as a great fundraiser. So far, no other notable Democrats have expressed interest in this contest, and former Rep. Joe Garcia has already ruled out a re-run.
This district has been trending blue in recent cycles, going from 50.0-49.6 McCain to 53.1-46.4 Obama in just four years. Politico also tells us that the Crist-Taddeo ticket carried it 51-46, despite narrowly losing statewide. Curbelo also might have some flaws Taddeo can exploit. During the 2014 campaign against Garcia, Curbelo called Social Security and Medicare a "Ponzi Scheme," and there are unresolved questions about $93,000 omitted or mislabeled campaign contributions to his campaign.
However, Curbelo quickly made it clear that he's not going to be easy to unseat. The incumbent announced he had raised a massive $700,000 during the last three months, and the well-connected Curbelo proved in 2014 that he's capable of hauling in even more. The area also still has plenty of voters who are willing to split their ballots. This is another seat Democrats need to hold if they're going to have any chance to retake the House anytime soon, and we're expecting a competitive race.
• IL-18: On Monday, homebuilder Ed Brady became the latest Republican to announce that he would sit this special election out. Brady will instead back state Sen. Darin LaHood, who is still the only notable candidate in this race.
The filing deadline is April 20, so it's still possible that LaHood will attract a credible primary foe. However, the list of Republicans who might give LaHood a real fight rapidly diminishing. Political consultant Michael Flynn has talked about challenging him, but he hasn't lived in the district in 20 years. Community College Trustee Kent Gray could also go for it, though like Flynn, he'd struggle for name recognition. We'll see if anyone else comes out of the woodwork here, but LaHood's chances are looking very good right now.
Democrats never had an easy to path to victory in this Romney 61-37 seat, but they were hoping that state Sen. John Sullivan would jump in. No such luck: Sullivan announced on Friday that he'll stay put. There are a few other Democrats who have been great mentioned, but so far no one's shown much of an interest in what they know would be a very uphill race.
• NV-04: With ex-Rep. Steven Horsford taking a pass on a comeback bid against freshman GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy, the Democratic primary field is wide open. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen is already in the race, and several others (including former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores) might join in as well. There's also one new name who now says he's considering: former state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, who ran against Republican Rep. Joe Heck in the neighboring 3rd District in 2012.
Oceguera will need to make some major changes if he wants to compete, though, since his last campaign was a disaster. Among other things, Oceguera repeatedly refused to even say whether he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act, leading Jon Ralston to dub Oceguera's appearance on Ralston's talk show "arguably one of the worst, most vacuous performances" he'd ever encountered.
The National Journal's Jack Fitzpatrick also tells us that North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow are also publicly considering running. Lee sought this seat during the 2012 cycle, but bowed out after he decided he couldn't beat Horsford. Lee soon ran into problems when he sought re-election to the state Senate. Lee's voting record alienated gay and environmental groups, and he lost renomination to first-time candidate Patricia Spearman by a decisive 63-37 margin, despite holding a massive fundraising edge.
Spearman, who easily held the seat in the general, is also taking about running here, so we could see a rematch between these two. Lee's 2013 comeback victory for mayor in the Silver State's fourth largest city proves he can't be counted out, and if enough candidates are running, he could slip through the primary despite his conservative views.
• Chicago Mayor: The April 7 runoff has arrived, and if Odgen & Fry is right, it's going to be a blowout for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They give the incumbent a 51-33 edge over Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, an improvement from his 48-34 lead a week ago. Only a few pollsters have released numbers here, but they've consistently found Rahm ahead by double-digits since early March. Garcia's team has alluded to better numbers, but they've declined to release them or even name the pollster. We'll find out where things really stand on Tuesday, but it will be a massive surprise if Garcia pulls it off.
• Mayors: Chicago isn't the only big city that will host a mayoral race on Tuesday. Here is a quick look at the other contests to watch: All these contests are officially non-partisan, though each contender's affiliation is well-known.
• Anchorage Mayor
: Ten candidates are competing in the race to succeed Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan. Former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz is the only Democrat in the race, and while he is unlikely to take the 45 percent of the vote he'd need to win outright, he's expected to advance to the May 5 runoff.
It's less certain who would face him next month. Former City Assemblymember Dan Coffey, a conservative independent-turned-Republican, has Sullivan's backing and has raised and spent the most money. Republican Assemblymember Amy Demoski is also competing for a similar pool of voters, but her fundraising has been relatively weak. Former city Chamber of Commerce head Andrew Halcro, a conservative independent who ran for governor in 2006, has been spending real money and he could also reach the runoff.
• Colorado Springs Mayor: Four candidates are facing off here, and it's unlikely that anyone will take the majority needed to avert a May 19 runoff. Former Republican Attorney General John Suthers has outraised his opponents and he looks likely to advance. Former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace has a good deal of name recognition as well, and as the most liberal contender she could be able to consolidate enough support to go forward. El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen and former Councilor Joel Miller, who are both quite conservative, are also in the hunt here.
• Las Vegas Mayor: The contest between independent Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Republican Councilor Stavros Anthony has revolved around the construction of an expensive new soccer stadium, with Anthony campaigning hard against the incumbent's proposed project. Major League Soccer recently announced that they would not set up a new team in Las Vegas, which seemed to kill the plan. However, Anthony and his allies argue that the only way to make sure the stadium stays dead is to fire Goodman.
Anthony has raised a respectable amount of money, but has been badly outspent by Goodman. However, if his anti-stadium supporters are more excited than Goodman's, it could make all the difference in a low-turnout contest. A few minor candidates are running, and they could keep Goodman or Anthony from taking the majority they'd need to avert a June 2 runoff.
• Wichita Mayor: Two Republicans made it to the runoff, where Councilor Jeff Longwell will face businessman Sam Williams. A late-March SurveyUSA poll gave Longwell, the more conservative contender, a 42-35 lead.
Please check out our calendar for poll closing times and other election dates.
• Philadelphia Mayor: We still haven't seen a public poll of the fast-approaching (May 19) Democratic primary in the open Philadelphia mayoral race, but now we have a second internal poll to flesh things out a bit. It's from Public Policy Polling, on behalf of Forward Philadelphia, a labor-funded group backing former Councilor Jim Kenney.
Unsurprisingly, given the source, they find Kenney in the lead, though it's a dogfight with state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams; Kenney is at 26 and Williams at 25, with ex-District Attorney Lynne Abraham at 20, Milton Street at 4, and Nelson Diaz and Doug Oliver both at 3. Our only other reference point is an older internal from Abraham, which had her at 30, and Williams and Kenney back at 14, but that was before the TV ads started in earnest. The airwar is being fought mostly by pro-Kenney and pro-Williams proxies, which would explain why they're moving up and Abraham isn't.
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso fills us in:
Florida SD-06: This is an open Republican seat consisting of Flagler, Putnam, and St. John's Counties and part of Volusia County. The candidates are Democrat David Cox, who ran for FL-06 in 2014 and lost 63-37, and Republican Travis Hutson, who resigned from the state House to run for this seat. This is a dark red district at 60-39 Romney.
Florida HD-24: This is the seat vacated by the above-mentioned Republican Travis Hutson, consisting of Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia. The candidates here are Democrat Adam Morley, a boat captain, and Republican Paul Renner, an attorney who lost a primary for the Jacksonville-area HD-15 by a whopping two votes in 2014. This district is little better for Democrats, having gone 57-42 for Romney in 2012.
• Demographics: Pew Research takes a thorough look at a small, often-overlooked demographic segment, but one that's fast growing: Native Hawaiians. Different academics have different estimates of the pre-colonial population, but under some counts, there are more Native Hawaiians now than there were before colonization (after which point the population was devastated by disease), and the number is projected to go up significantly more in coming decades.
As the article points out, though, part of that large increase may simply be because of the way that the Census now counts people; starting in 2000, it allowed people to claim "two or more" races, and then identify which races respondents identify with. Hawaii already has a much higher than usual rate of "two or more" than any other state, and Native Hawaiian is often one of those races in the mix. In fact, only 33 percent of all people claiming Native Hawaiian ancestry claim that alone, while 36 percent claim two races and 26 percent claim three. So what this really represents may simply be that many people who were, say, predominantly Asian and fractionally Hawaiian can now lay claim to both identities.
• Maps: Clarity Campaigns has produced a lot of fun widgets using their deep database of political information, like how Democratic or Republican your first and last names are. And now they have data available on what the most liberal and most Republican towns in each state are (based on political orientation questions, not on voter registration or voting patterns).
There's a helpful lesson in here, though, which illustrates the geographic clustering problem that plagues Democrats in the House and in state legislatures. If you look closely at the map, you'll notice that in nearly half the states, the largest city in the state is also the most liberal (the rest tend to be either college towns, or minority enclaves); in other words, the bulk of the state's left-of-center population is concentrated into one place. Pretty much every most conservative place, however, is a hamlet you've probably never heard of (case in point: Drewsey, Oregon, a wide spot in the middle of the desert, has a population of 18).
• WATN: Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt tried to retake his Wichita-area seat last year, but lost the GOP primary to his successor Mike Pompeo by a convincing 63-37 margin. Tiahrt seems to realize that his time in elected office is over, since he's just joined the Boston-based public affairs firm O'Neill and Associates, which the Boston Globe describes as "heavily Democratic."
• WATN: I'll take "Shit That Won't Ever Happen" for £1,000, Alex.
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.