● FL-Sen: Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who will be termed out in 2018, might not be done with politics just yet. As early as last year, not long after he narrowly won re-election, Scott reportedly began telling backers he might run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Now he's publicly confirmed his interest this week at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, calling a Senate bid "an option." Tampa Bay Times reporter Adam Smith seems to believe Scott's even further along in his thinking, saying Scott is "expected" to run.
Nelson, who is 74, hasn't confirmed that he'll seek a fourth term, but he's publicly spoken in the past about "my re-election in 2018." And on Tuesday, Nelson sounded pretty fired up, saying, "Whoever it is, I run my race like there's no tomorrow." A September poll from PPP declared Nelson the most popular politician in Florida with a 41-30 job approval rating, and he'd start off leading Scott (the most unpopular, at 42-47) by a 45-41 margin.
Scott, though, would likely start the race as the heavy favorite to win the GOP nomination, thanks to his name recognition and monstrous personal wealth. In fact, he could even clear the field, which just saw one potential candidate remove himself from contention: State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who took serious steps toward a Senate run this past cycle but ultimately bailed, says he won't run for any office in 2018.
And assuming it happens, a Nelson-versus-Scott matchup would be a heavyweight battle. Democrats have twice hoped Scott, whose healthcare company perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history, would be too damaged to win Florida's governorship and twice walked away bitterly disappointed. At the same time, Nelson crushed the once-touted Connie Mack in 2012 by a 55-42 margin, so he's not one to mess with lightly. The big question in this and almost every other race will be what matters more in two years' time: the usual dip in Democratic turnout, or Donald Trump? We have a long wait ahead of us.
● LA-Sen: The runoff between Republican John Kennedy and Democrat Foster Campbell is Dec. 10. Louisiana is very friendly to the GOP in federal races, and it's tough to see Campbell pulling off a win here. Still, the executive director of the state GOP tells The Advocate that the NRSC is opening up 10 offices across Louisiana for the contest (we didn't think they had any offices outside of D.C.), so national Republicans seem to be taking this at least somewhat seriously. Still, there's no indication that the NRSC or their allies at the Senate Leadership Fund are planning to run ads, and national Democrats also haven't signaled that they'll engage here.
Kennedy defeated GOP Rep. Charles Boustany in a nasty jungle primary, and Campbell may have hoped that Boustany would stay neutral for the runoff, or even support Campbell. But on Tuesday, Boustany endorsed Kennedy; Rep. John Fleming, another vanquished Republican, officially backed Kennedy days before. How ugly was the Kennedy-Boustany match? A few months ago, Kennedy put out a now-infamous statement saying:
I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany's sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered, his staff's alleged involvement in running the bar and hotel where this illicit behavior took place, or publishing the book.
Louisiana politics is many things, but it's rarely boring.
● OH-Sen: State Treasurer Josh Mandel earned special contempt from us for his campaign against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown four years ago, which set new records for mendacity and chutzpah. It was therefore no surprise when the hyper-ambitious Mandel, who regularly ignored his duties as treasurer, dusted off his federal campaign committee early this year, with an eye toward a rematch with Brown.
Mandel was a prodigious fundraiser last time out, and while he has yet to kick into high gear, he'd start with almost $1.4 million in the bank. He also hasn't formally confirmed he'll try for Senate again, though since he's term-limited in his current post (and has shown such little regard for the treasurer's job in the first place), we'd be shocked if he didn't. However, he could have company in a potential GOP primary if Rep. Pat Tiberi decides to run as well.
Like Mandel, Tiberi also hasn't said much publicly, though earlier this year, he refused to rule out a bid, and a Republican consultant described as a "close ally" said that Tiberi "is very seriously considering" a Senate campaign. Tiberi was once tight with fellow Ohioan John Boehner, but that's not worth a whole lot in the House anymore, as Tiberi found out when he lost a bid for the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee last year.
One thing a Mandel-versus-Tiberi primary would lack is much of an ideological angle. Both are establishment figures, which could leave an opening for either a conservative true believer in the tea party mold, or a Trump-esque nativist—or perhaps we'll start to see outsider fusion candidates who try to meld both types of rage. Don't imagine for a second, though, that we'll ever participate in the normalization of Trumpism.
And regardless of whom the GOP nominates, Brown will be in for another very difficult race. He beat Mandel 51-45, but Barack Obama carried Ohio that year 51-48. Hillary Clinton, however, lost the Buckeye State by a painful 52-43 margin. Brown has to hope that result was either an aberration or can be turned around in time for the midterms.
● FL-Gov: One additional Republican who could get into 2018's open gubernatorial race is incoming state House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The Naples Daily News, without citing anyone or anything, says that Corcoran "has hinted" he might run, while a July post from the blog Florida Politics claimed that "a variety of sources close to the tight-lipped Corcoran" said he hadn't ruled out a bid. The same Naples Daily News item also adds Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to the list of potential Democratic candidates.
Meanwhile, as noted above in our FL-Sen item, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, another Republican, has ruled out any bids for office in 2018. But the potential fields on both sides remain in flux. You can read about the other players in our recent update here.
● NJ-Gov: Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible 2017 bid a few weeks ago, and he officially announced that he would run on Tuesday. Wisniewski will face former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, who served as Obama's ambassador to Germany, in the primary, and the assemblyman is going to have a very uphill climb. In addition to his wealth, Murphy has the support of powerful Democratic Party chairs in populous North Jersey.
Wisniewski, who served as Bernie Sanders' state chair during the presidential primary, wasted no time going after Murphy's connections to Wall Street. But Wisniewski will need a lot of money to overcome the Democratic establishment in this very expensive state, and he doesn't have much time to raise it before next year's primary.
● OH-Gov: Republican Gov. John Kasich is termed out in 2018, and there's likely to be a competitive GOP primary to succeed him. Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, announced he would run back in May. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Secretary of State John Husted haven't officially entered the race, but they've each made their interest very clear over the last year.
Buckeye State Democrats are coming off two very bad election cycles, and they're hoping to revitalize the state party with a much-needed win in 2018. Back in August, state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni expressed interest in running. Ex-Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who serves in the Obama administration as assistant secretary of Commerce, also talked about getting in last month, though he said he'll wait to see what Rep. Tim Ryan and ex-state Attorney General Richard Cordray do before deciding. Ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, who lost the 2014 secretary of state contest to Husted, is also reportedly mulling a bid. Ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, who lost the 2014 treasurer race to Republican Josh Mandel 57-43, hasn't said anything publicly, though she reportedly told Ohio Democrats she'd run back in May, and she declined to publicly comment when asked.
And what would an Ohio election season be without some flirtations from Tim Ryan? The congressman hasn't publicly expressed interest, though his spokesperson didn't rule out the idea on Tuesday. Ryan's office said that he is "not been talking about that, but it is always something that people are calling on him to do." Ryan is infamous for always mulling statewide bids but never getting in. Maybe this time will be different, but we'll believe it when we see it.
The Columbus Dispatch mentions a few other possible Democratic candidates. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Richard Cordray, who will serve as Obama's director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until January, haven't publicly said anything about their plans, they're reportedly getting talked up by unnamed "party types." Ex-Rep. Betty Sutton also got name-dropped for statewide office.
● OK-Gov: Gov. Mary Fallin is termed out in 2018, and there are roughly a billion Republicans who could run to succeed her in this dark red state. Last month, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt confirmed he was interested, and other potential candidates are likely to come out of the woodwork soon.
By contrast, Team Blue doesn't have much of a bench in the Sooner State. However, ex-Rep. Dan Boren said last month that he "really might" run, and that he's "going to take the holidays to think about it." Boren, the son of former Gov. David Boren (a former senator who has served as president of the University of Oklahoma for 22 years), was one of the most conservative Democrats in the House when he represented eastern Oklahoma. Unlike many other Democratic incumbents in red seats, Boren decisively won re-election during the 2010 GOP wave, and retired voluntarily two years later.
There aren't many Democrats who could win here (Boren confirmed that if he runs, it will be as a Democrat). But one person who doesn't want Dan Boren to be governor is David Boren. Back in January, the elder Boren actually put out a statement saying that he "learned from media reports today that Dan Boren is considering a race for governor in 2018. I will advise against it." Evidently, Dan Boren didn't take the advice to heart.
● SD-Gov: Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard is termed out in 2018, and the race is already on to succeed him. Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican who represents the entire state in the House, announced on Monday that she would run for governor.
There's a good reason why Noem decided as early as she did. Last week, South Dakotans voted for a ballot measure that will prevent candidates for governor from receiving more than $4,000 a year from a single person or political committee. However, the law doesn't go into effect until Wednesday, so Noem had time to transfer all $1.9 million from her congressional campaign to her fledgling gubernatorial account.
Noem is unlikely to have the GOP primary to herself. On Tuesday, state Attorney General Marty Jackley said he had transferred $700,000 from both his attorney general campaign and another political action committee into a new committee. Jackley, who is termed-out, hasn't officially announced that he's in, though he said last week that he was "listening to supporters and preparing to run for governor."
The GOP has controlled the governorship since 1979, and Democrats will have their work cut out if they want to break that long streak in a state this conservative. But Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, who leads South Dakota's largest city, isn't ruling out a bid. Last week, after the Argus Leader asked him about his plans, Huether responded by noting that, while people consistently ask him if he'll run for governor, "I love being the Mayor of Sioux Falls and we still have plenty of opportunities to conquer and issues to address so that is the job I am focused on." That's far from a no.
● SD-AL: With GOP Rep. Kristi Noem leaving this seat behind to run for governor (see our SD-AL item), it didn't take long for two South Dakota Republicans to publicly express interest in succeeding her. Dusty Johnson, who served as a public utilities commissioner and as chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said he may consider getting in. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs also said that she's "going to seriously consider it."
South Dakota has a huge GOP bench, and there are plenty of other candidates who could jump in. GOP operatives tell Roll Call that two people who lost to Noem in the 2010 primary could get in: Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson, who lost 42-35, and state Sen. R. Blake Curd, who took 23 percent. They also name two alums of the 2014 Senate primary, state Rep.-elect Larry Rhoden and ex-state Rep. Stace Nelson. Two years ago, Rhoden and Nelson each took 18 percent of the vote against now-Sen. Mike Rounds, who won with 56 percent. None of those four potential candidates have publicly expressed interest so far. If no one takes at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary, there will be a runoff.
South Dakota is a conservative state that backed Trump 62-32, and this seat is likely to stay red. The Democrats' ideal candidate here is probably ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who narrowly lost to Noem in the 2010 GOP wave, but there's no indication yet that she's at all interested in a comeback.
● NRCC: On Tuesday, House Republicans chose Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers over Texas Rep. Roger Williams to lead the NRCC. Stivers has occasionally been mentioned as a possible statewide candidate in 2018, but he's not going to be going anywhere now. Stivers also probably won't need to worry much about re-election in his suburban Columbus seat: Romney carried the 15th District 52-46, and Trump did even better in the area.
● St. Louis, MO Mayor: Earlier this year, Democratic incumbent Francis Slay announced that he would not seek a fifth four-year term in 2017. We expected a crowded March Democratic primary to succeed him, and we haven't been disappointed.
On Monday, City Treasurer Tishaura Jones became the latest candidate to jump in the race. Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who lost the 2013 primary to Slay 54-44, has been running for a while. (St. Louis calls their city council the Board of Aldermen, and the president of the board is elected citywide.) Alderman Lyda Krewson and Alderman Antonio French, who became famous in 2014 for documenting the Ferguson protests on social media, have also declared their candidacies. Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly and state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed have both set up campaigns to raise money, but they haven't announced they're in yet.
The primary filing deadline is Jan. 6. It takes just a simple plurality to win the Democratic nod in March; St. Louis is a heavily Democratic city, so the primary winner should have no trouble in the April general election.
● Demographics: We'll be delving into the new county-level presidential numbers in the coming weeks and months at Daily Kos Elections (though we're waiting for, you know, the votes to be fully counted in our West Coast states). However, if you can't wait and want an appetizer right now, Jed Kolko is out with some terrific preliminary slicing and dicing, looking at what other characteristics correlate best with the results.
While state-level polling was really poor this year, what we were seeing in the crosstabs of national polls, in terms of huge chasms between different races and different educational levels, appears writ large in the county-level results. Compared with previous elections, there's a stronger-than-ever correlation between a county's percentage of white residents and the Republican margin (up to 0.7). Education doesn't have as much explanatory power as race, but it has significantly more power this year (0.6) than it did in, say, 2000 (0.3).
County density is also a strong a predictor as ever. However, one concept that used to get trumpeted by the GOP in the past doesn't seem to matter much anymore. You might remember Karl Rove touting how almost all of the fastest-growing counties in the nation went red in 2004 ... but this year, there's almost no relationship at all in terms of county growth, thanks to Donald Trump overperforming most in the nation's stagnant rural counties and Hillary Clinton doing better in suburban areas.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.