● VA Redistricting: In yet another victory for Democrats, the federal court hearing a lawsuit challenging the state's congressional lines just ruled that elections this year must go forward under a new map proposed by a court-appointed expert, one that all but guarantees that GOP Rep. Randy Forbes' 4th District will turn solidly blue. Republicans had asked the court to delay implementation pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the judges declined to do so, saying that the defendants had "not made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits" when their appeal is heard.
Prof. Bernard Grofman, the court's expert, devised two maps, one known as Plan 6 and the other as Plan 16. The court opted for the latter, saying, among other things, that it made the fewest alterations to the existing map while still remedying its critical flaw—namely, that it packed too many black voters into the 3rd District (occupied by Democrat Bobby Scott), thus diminishing black voting strength in surrounding areas. Under the new lines, Scott's seat remains a Democratic stronghold, but Forbes will find himself in a district where Barack Obama won over 60 percent of the vote. He'll have virtually no chance of surviving there.
The GOP appeal could yet upend things, but it won't be heard until February or March, and a ruling wouldn't come until some time later. Given that Virginia's filing deadline is March 31 and its primary is June 14, the SCOTUS would probably be reluctant to send the entire state back to square one once Virginia's entire electoral apparatus is set in motion for 2016.
(We previously analyzed Plan 16 in this post, and you can find a map here. The court's full decision is here.)
● CA-24: Justin Fareed (R): $400,000 raised
● PA-02: Dwight Evans (D): $330,000 raised (in two months), $280,000 on hand; Dan Muroff (D): $95,000 raised, $210,000 on hand
● CA-Sen: The Field Poll takes another look at the June top-two primary, and they continue to find Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez advancing to the general election. Harris, the state attorney general, leads Sanchez, an Orange County congresswoman, 27-15. The three Republican candidates, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez and ex-state party chairs Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro, are only in the single digits.
A ton of Republican voters are undecided and if they consolidate behind one of their three little-known candidates, they'll have a better chance at denying Sanchez a spot in the general. It's unclear whether any of these Republicans has the resources or internal party support to break out from the pack, or if undecided Republicans will continue to split fairly evenly between this trio.
● MD-Sen: Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings seems content to wait to decide whether or not to run for the Senate for as long as possible. Maryland's filing deadline is Feb. 3, but Cummings says he's still deciding what to do. However, many of the Baltimore congressman's would-be supporters have gotten tired of waiting. The Baltimore County Council's Democratic members just endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and a number of influential Baltimore City politicians backed Van Hollen last year. Rep. Donna Edwards is also seeking the Democratic nod in this blue state.
● CA-17: While Democratic Rep. Mike Honda has always been close to unions, the regional branch of the Laborers' International Union of North America has endorsed Ro Khanna, his intra-party rival. The group backed Honda during his 2014 tangle with Khanna, though most unions are still sticking with the incumbent. Honda earned some bad headlines after the House Ethics Committee released a report saying they had "substantial reason to believe" that Honda had improperly used government staff and resources for campaign purposes, and a number of notable politicians who endorsed Honda in 2014 or remained neutral are siding with Khanna this time.
● CA-25: Democrats have had a tough time finding a challenger for freshman Republican Steve Knight who could raise money. However, attorney Bryan Caforio reports raising $138,000 during his first three weeks in the race, which is a good start. Knight usually isn't a very strong fundraiser, though he proved earlier this year that he's capable of hauling in the big bucks when he really puts his mind to it. Romney won this northern Los Angeles County seat 50-48.
● FL-10: On Thursday, former state Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe kicked off his bid for this safely blue Orlando seat. Poe is well-connected and personally wealthy. Poe joins former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in the primary, and Rep. Corrine Brown has not ruled out running here.
● GA-03: Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland wasn't exactly on anyone's retirement watch list—at 65 years old, his age doesn't stand out in Congress—but on Thursday, he announced he'd quit at the end of this term. Westmoreland had served since 2005, but he was best known for a couple of foot-in-mouth blunders. One came back in 2008, when he called the Obamas "uppity," then tried to claim he had no idea he'd used a racially loaded word. The other was just last year, when he accused Hillary Clinton tricking Republicans into looking stupid when they dragged her before the Benghazi committee. Georgia's 3rd Congressional district is dark red (Obama won just 33 percent of the vote here), so all the action to replace Westmoreland will be on the GOP side.
● LA-03: This week Republican Greg Ellison, a veteran and gas exploration businessman, joined the race for this safely red seat. Ellison can reportedly self-fund, though some Republican operatives think that he'll be hurt if Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle enters the contest.
The only other Republican running so far is Lafayette School Board member Erick Knezek. However, Angelle, state Rep. Brett Geymann, and state Sen. Stuart Bishop are all publicly considering, and there are several others who might be interested. Outgoing state Sen. Elbert Guillory has also reportedly flirted with a bid, though few people will be intimidated by him after his disastrous performance in last year's lieutenant governor's race.
● LA-04: Democrats have some vague hopes about putting this open 59-40 Romney seat in play, and Jeremy Alford writes that ex-Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower is being encouraged to run. Hightower hasn't said anything publicly, and Alford says he's unlikely to campaign here in any case. A few other Democrats haven't turned down bids, though no one seems to be chomping at the bit to run here.
On the GOP side, state Reps. Jim Morris and Mike Johnson are publicly considering, and Alford writes that Johnson is likely to jump in early this year. Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation President Rocky Rockett is also reportedly being encouraged.
● MN-02: With physician Mary Lawrence's departure from the race, Minnesota Democrats have now consolidated behind health care executive Angie Craig, but Republicans just saw their field of candidates grow. On Thursday, businesswoman Darlene Miller entered the contest for the state's swingy 2nd District, joining a crowded field that includes conservative radio host Jason Lewis, former state Rep. Pam Myhra, and former state Sen. John Howe.
● NY-01: When Steny Hoyer, the number two-ranking Democrat in the House, endorses in a congressional primary, it's the clearest sign you can get that the establishment has a particular preference—and wants to make sure everyone knows it. Hoyer's latest signal comes in New York's 1st Congressional District, where he just backed Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst over venture capitalist Dave Calone. Several local members of Congress have also endorsed Throne-Holst, who is hoping to take on freshman GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin in the fall.
● NY-03: While state Sen. Jack Martins looks very likely to run for this open Long Island swing seat, another Republican legislator isn't deterred. Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci hasn't declared says he's "strongly considering" a run, and he's opened a campaign account with the FEC. Lupinacci has easily won an Obama 51-48 seat twice, so he might be a good get for Team Red. (Hat-tip Greg Giroux)
● WA-07: State Sen. Pramila Jayapal was one of the many names we mentioned upon Rep. Jim McDermott's Monday retirement announcement, and Jayapal now says she's "seriously considering." Jayapal is pretty new to the Senate (she was first elected in 2014), and most of her seat overlaps with the 9th District. But she's already a familiar face to many Seattleites outside her district, thanks to her previous role as leader of pro-immigrant group OneAmerica. If she runs, she'd be on the left flank of what's already shaping up to be a very liberal field (though Seattle Councilor Kshama Sawant, if she runs, could even further outflank Jayapal).
● Demographics: One demographic group that's not very large as a percentage of the electorate, but is very strongly in the Democratic camp, is people who practice non-Christian religions. Pew Research is out with a quick look at projections on how that segment of the population will increase in the coming decades. Jews are currently the most numerous of the non-Christian religions (1.8 percent of the population, compared to 1.0 percent for Muslims and 0.7 percent for Hindus), but projections show that Islam will surpass Judaism around 2035.
By 2050, 2.1 percent of the population (approximately 8.1 million people) will be Muslim. Judaism will actually lose a bit of its share and come down to 1.4 percent (which seem surprising given very high birth rates among Haredi, though they're still a small percentage of the overall number of Jews), while Hinduism's share will rise to 1.2 percent. Pew's data oddly doesn't discuss Buddhism, though, which is surprising since Association of Religion Data Archives numbers suggest there are currently more Buddhists than Hindus in America.
● Polltopia: A number of polling misfires in the 2014 and 2015 elections have left people uneasy about polling accuracy heading into 2016. People tend to point the finger at response rates, which thanks to cellphones and caller ID have generally dropped down into single-digit percentages. A lot of it, though, may have more to do with the nature of the likely voter screen, which most any pollster will confirm is the "more art than science" part of the job. Pew Research takes an in-depth look at what's behind the problem, relying in part on their own efforts to go back and follow up with people they contacted prior to the 2014 election.
Pew's report is technical and complex even by standards that Daily Kos Elections readers are used to, so you might head straight to the good summary provided by Nate Cohn. The good news is that low response rates don't seem to be at fault; there's no evidence that, in itself, hurts polls' accuracy. However, the bad news is there isn't a good solution for the fact that people who remain undecided until close to the end tend to break en masse for one party or the other, depending on which way the wind is already blowing (in 2012, it was for the Dems; it 2014, it was for the GOP).
Nevertheless, there's another problem that can be fixed somewhat, that of people who say they're likely voters but then don't actually vote. Pew suggests the way around that is to rely less on random-digit-dialing and asking for self-described vote intention, but instead to rely on voter lists and screen in part on actual recent voting history gleaned from those lists. After all, that's how internal polls (the accurate ones that fly under the media radar, not the odd ones that get leaked to advance a narrative) usually operate. However, that costs money, and the question remains whether media organizations who pay for polls want the added expense of paying for voter lists.
In other words, is accuracy really what's most important to media orgs—or is it just the eyeballs that come with more and new content? We suspect it's the latter, which may be the real disincentive in terms of attempting to poll better. Still, as Cohn points out, Democrats just getting more reliant on irregular voters (and, in 2016 primaries, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are appealing specifically to non-typical voters and caucusgoers), so it's something media polls will need to grapple with more, if they want their polls to have any real-world generalizability at all.
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.