● SCOTUS: Every single vulnerable Republican senator has weighed in on whether Barack Obama should be permitted to name a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, and they're speaking with one voice to say, "No way in hell." All except one, that is: Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who's refused to offer anything substantive on the matter whatsoever. As a result, Kirk's already getting hammered from both the left and the right.
His likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, wants to know if Kirk "supports the Constitution" or if instead he'll be a "rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell's obstructionist and unconstitutional gambit." Meanwhile, his Some Dude primary challenger, businessman James Marter, wants Kirk to stand with the rest of the GOP. Marter's raised bupkes and the primary is just a month away, but this issue lights such an extraordinary fire in conservative hearts that even someone like Marter might be able to gain some traction with it.
Still, despite all the incoming fire, it's possible that Kirk is actually the savvy one. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley just seemed to pull the chair out from under all the other Republican senators up for re-election this year in new comments on Tuesday:
"I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions. In other words, take it a step at a time."
That's quite a "whoa" moment, because all the way back on Saturday, Grassley was only too happy to follow along with Supreme GOP Commander Ted Cruz. Said Grassley then:
"[I]t only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice."
Perhaps Grassley will have to walk back his latest remarks, but perhaps we're about to see a fissure erupt within the Republican Party, with one wing hell-bent on denying Obama a chance at Supreme Court and the other, fearful of the political backlash that's already developing, takes a less strident stance. And Grassley's not alone: Even conservative Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said he's worried about falling "into the trap of being obstructionists."
If this division does indeed burst open, then Kirk will look smart for not having committed himself so quickly. And all of his colleagues who did side with Cruz and McConnell will find themselves in the unpleasant position of having to either double down on intransigence or walk back their earlier statements.
● AR-Sen: According to the polling we've seen this cycle, Republican Sen. John Boozman's problem isn't that voters dislike him, it's that they still don't know who he is. Boozman is hoping to fix that with an early ad campaign: His new spot is very generic, but it passes on the message that Boozman is a conservative. Boozman faces a credible Democratic challenge from ex-US Attorney Conner Eldridge, but it's very hard to see the senator losing in what's become a very Republican state in recent years.
● CT-Sen: On Tuesday, always-wrong CNBC talking head Larry Kudlow announced that he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Way back in August, Kudlow declared that he would run if Blumenthal supported the Obama's administration's Iran deal. The senator backed the agreement days later, and Kudlow decisively proceeded to spend the next several months doing nothing. Larry Kudlow is so wrong about politics, he can't even predict what Larry Kudlow will do.
The popular Blumenthal would have been safe in this dark blue state in any case. In 2009 and 2015, Kudlow flirted with runs in both Connecticut and New York before deciding not to do anything (though he still has some time to growl at Chuck Schumer). Both states have Senate races next cycle, so Kudlow can waste some more of our time soon enough.
● IN-Sen: The Indiana Democratic Party and tea partying Rep. Marlin Stutzman rarely see eye to eye, but they have one common goal. Both camps are arguing that Rep. Todd Young didn't submit enough petitions to make it on the May GOP primary ballot, and they're each challenging his signatures at this Friday's state Election Commission hearing. If Young gets ejected from the ballot, Stutzman wins the GOP nod by default, and Democrats think that Stutzman will be easier to beat in November.
The unholy alliance hasn't sat well with the GOP establishment, and retiring Sen. Dan Coats is blasting Stutzman's move. While Coats hasn't endorsed Young, he recently went on TV and called on Stutzman to apologize "for taking such a self-serving step and joining Democrats to take out an opponent." Last week, the NRSC also defended Young's place on the ballot and denounced Team Blue's tactics.
However, both of Indiana's GOP legislative leaders are singing a different tune. While Senate President David Long didn't explicitly endorse Stutzman's challenge, he said that if Young actually didn't submit enough signatures, "it's one of the most colossal mistakes I've ever seen." State House Speaker Brian Bosma acknowledged that even if Young turned in enough signatures, he's "cutting it way too close," adding, "There are requirements in statute that need to be met. If they aren't met, and there's not some reason to waive them, they need to be complied with." Stutzman's allies at the Senate Conservatives Fund are also standing by their man, arguing that, "If Marlin Stutzman had failed to get his signatures, there is ZERO chance that the NRSC would have sided with him."
We'll find out where things stand Friday. In order for Young to get thrown off the ballot, three of the four Election Commission members need to rule against him. There are two Democrats and two Republicans, so if the challenge breaks down along party lines, Young is safe. Multiple media groups have analyzed Young's petitions and found that he has just 497 of the 500 signatures he needs from the 1st Congressional District to make it to the statewide ballot. (Senate candidates need 500 valid signatures from each of the nine districts.) However, the secretary of state lists 501 signatures that have been verified by the 1st District's county clerks, which would be just enough for Young.
● LA-Sen: On behalf of an unnamed "independent group of subscribers," Southern Media and Opinion Research takes a look at the November jungle primary and unsurprisingly, they find a lot of chaos:
State Treasurer John Kennedy (R): 22
Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R): 10
Rep. Charles Boustany (R): 10
2014 candidate Rob Maness (R): 7
Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D): 7
Rep. John Fleming (R): 6
Attorney Caroline Fayard (D): 4
Ex-Jefferson Parish President John Young (R): 4
A December SurveyUSA poll for a pro-Kennedy super PAC also showed him ahead. If no one takes a majority, the top two contenders will advance to November. Angelle, Campbell, and Young have not announced if they'll run yet.
● OH-Sen: Oy. After a year on the campaign trail, former Gov. Ted Strickland still doesn't seem to have shaken the rust off. In a new interview with cleveland.com, Strickland said he'd "find it difficult to vote for" a Supreme Court nominee who opposed abortion rights, but he didn't rule out the idea completely. But after the interview, Strickland called the site back and declared that he'd consider anti-choice views a "total disqualifier" for any potential nominee.
On its own, either answer would have been fine for political purposes. But the problem, as John Kerry could tell you, is having two different answers. Had Strickland simply stuck by his initial response, the whole thing probably would have been so unremarkable as not to even merit a writeup in the first place. Instead, he now looks like a waffler. This bumble isn't likely to move any votes, and there's only a month until the Democratic primary, where Strickland still leads his rival, Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld, by a wide margin. But it's long past time for Strickland to get it together.
● WV-Gov: The West Virginia Coal Association, a trade association that represents more than 90 percent of the state's "surface and underground coal mine production," endorsed Republican Bill Cole on Friday. The group doesn't instinctively side with Republicans: They supported Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin in the tight 2011 gubernatorial contest, and backed Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin in 2012. One of the three Democratic candidates, billionaire Jim Justice, owns several coal mines himself.
● AK-AL, Sen: Last year, ex-Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, didn't rule out challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Rep. Don Young, but he announced on Tuesday that he wouldn't seek any elected office in 2016. So far, Democrats don't have any credible candidates interested in taking on either incumbent. Murkowski's seat isn't in any danger unless she loses her primary, but tea partiers appear ready to give her a pass this time.
However, Young may be beatable if conditions are right. Young won by a 64-29 margin in 2012, but he took a far weaker 51-41 in 2014 even with the GOP wave at his back. Young made insulting comments about a local high school student's suicide last cycle, and he could very well lose if he pulls something like that again against a stronger opponent. The filing deadline isn't until June, but there's no indication that Team Blue plans to make this seat a priority.
● AZ-02: On Tuesday, ex-state Rep. Victoria Steele received an endorsement from Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who represents a neighboring Tucson-area congressional district. Steele is competing with ex-Rep. Matt Heinz in the primary to face freshman GOP Rep. Martha McSally in this competitive seat.
● FL-02: The primary for this safely red North Florida seat is one of this cycle's sharpest divides between the GOP establishment and anti-establishment. Physician Neal Dunn has the support of several former legislative leaders, but conservative activists distrust him in large part due to his past donations to candidates like Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Mary Thomas, a former general counsel to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, is backed by the well-funded Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
So far, Dunn's influential supporters are helping him bring in more money. Dunn took $135,000 from donors and loaned himself another $65,000, while Thomas raised just $85,000. Dunn held a large $545,000 to $238,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of December. The primary is in late August.
● FL-24: Former University of Miami and Miami Dolphins player Randal Hill got some attention over the summer when he entered the Democratic primary against Rep. Frederica Wilson, but The Thrill just isn't exciting donors. Hill has only hauled in $72,000 during his entire six months in the race, and he's burned through most of it already. At the end of 2015, Wilson led him $371,000 to $6,000 in cash-on-hand.
● FL-26: The DCCC and Steny Hoyer may have spurned ex-Rep. Joe Garcia, but he still has some friends in Congress. Seventeen members of the House, including Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy, are headlining a DC fundraiser for Garcia next week, even though the D-Trip just named his primary rival, businesswoman Annette Taddeo, to its Red to Blue program.
● IL-08: A new internal poll from businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi finds him with a 41-27 lead on state Sen. Mike Noland in next month's Democratic primary, with Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel taking just 5 percent. The survey, from GBA Strategies, differs from a PPP poll we saw recently (and have now learned was conducted for the PCCC) that had Noland beating Krishnamoorthi 22-17. But the PPP poll was conducted over a month ago; GBA's was in the field less than a week ago.
Krishnamoorthi hasn't run any TV ads, but in his press release announcing his new poll numbers, he indicates his voter contact operation is already underway. That may explain the lead he's opened up on his rivals, and given his wide fundraising edge, he should be able to expand it further between now and the March 15 primary.
● IL-10: The March 15 Democratic primary isn't far away, and it's going to be expensive. Ex-Rep. Brad Schneider outraised Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering by a strong $382,000 to $163,000 in the fourth quarter, but Rotering loaned herself another $100,000. At the end of the year, Rotering held a modest $936,000 to $882,000 cash-on-hand lead. Both candidates have some powerful allies. Nancy Pelosi is supporting Schneider, and the DCCC only included him in their "Red to Blue" program. However, Sen. Dick Durbin is in Rotering's corner.
The winner will face GOP Rep. Bob Dold! in this suburban Chicago seat. Dold has always been a strong fundraiser, and he's not letting up: Dold hauled in $460,000 and had almost $1.5 million in the bank in December. Obama carried this district 58-41, but Republicans still do well downballot.
● IN-05: While departing Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann is applying to lead Ivy Tech Community College, two other notable Hoosier Republicans are also reportedly eyeing the job. The chair of Ivy Tech's search committee says that he's "only heard that a congressperson is interested," and sources tell IndyStar that Rep. Susan Brooks, who used to serve as Ivy Tech's general counsel, may be that congressperson. Brooks' spokeswoman only said that Brooks hasn't applied for the post, but she didn't say if Brooks would apply sometime before the March 15 deadline. Additionally, ex-Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is also said to be looking at the gig.
The Indiana filing deadline closed a little while ago, and Brooks faces only token primary opposition for this 58-41 Romney seat. In 2010, 3rd District Rep. Mark Souder resigned after winning his primary, and the seat's precinct party committee members chose Marlin Stutzman to serve as the new GOP nominee; presumably, the same thing will happen if Brooks gets the Ivy Tech job.
● KS-01: The GOP primary for this safely red seat is just not moving very fast. Physician Roger Marshall outraised tea partying incumbent Tim Huelskamp by a small $107,000 to $102,000 margin, while Huelskamp has a $775,000 to $341,000 cash edge. Alan LaPolice, who only lost to Huelskamp 55-45 in 2014, has continued to bring in almost nothing, and he has just $10,000 to spend. Agriculture groups have long despised Huelskamp for his stance against subsidies, but it's not clear if they'll try to beat him in the August primary.
● LA-03: We have a fourth Republican contender for this safely red Lafayette-area seat. Gus Rantz, who heads the Acadiana Management Group, kicked off his campaign on Tuesday. According to LaPolitics' Jeremy Alford, Rantz is capable of self-funding his bid. Rantz joins energy executive Greg Ellison, ex-state Rep. Brett Geymann, and Lafayette School Board member Erick Knezek in the November jungle primary, and it's hard to pick a favorite. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle could shake things up if he gets in, though Angelle's hesitation probably isn't helping him much.
● NY-01: The June Democratic primary for this swingy Long Island seat is a while away, and it's clear it'll be pricy. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst outraised venture capitalist David Calone $304,000 to $229,000 in the fourth quarter, and she has a $1 million to $900,000 cash-on-hand edge. For the most part, national figures like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Steve Israel have sided with Throne-Holst, while local power players are backing Calone (though Throne-Holst has some local support as well).
The winner will face freshman Republican Lee Zeldin. Zeldin has been building up his warchest as the two Democrats tangle: He raised $500,000 during the fourth quarter, and had $1.5 million to spend.
● NY-13: We have a very crowded June primary for this safer-than-safe Democratic seat. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat almost unseated retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel in 2012 and 2014, but he only brought in $104,000 during his first quarter in the race. Most of his opponents are black, and Espaillat is hoping that he'll be able to run up the score with Hispanic voters. Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, an old Espaillat rival, is also in, and he could frustrate Espaillat's plans. The good news for Espaillat is that Linares only hauled in $31,000 in the quarter.
Former DNC Political Director Clyde Williams recently kicked off his campaign, and he hauled in a strong $247,000. Williams' fundraising didn't help him much in the 2012 primary though, when he only took 10 percent of the vote. Assemblyman and Manhattan Democratic Party Chair Keith Wright raised $155,000, but his $270,000 warchest is larger than anyone else's. (Williams comes in second with $189,000 on hand.) Ex-diplomat Suzan Cook; ex-Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV; and state Sen. Bill Perkins all had less than $100,000 in the bank even though they've each been running for a while.
● PA-02: Indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah's path to renomination in this safely blue Philadelphia seat got a bit tougher on Tuesday. Brian Sims pulled the plug on his primary campaign and endorsed fellow state Rep. Dwight Evans, who was already emerging as Fattah's main opponent.
Both Evans and Sims had been raising a credible amount of money and they could have split the anti-Fattah vote enough for the incumbent to secure a plurality win, but that's not happening now. Two other Democrats, ward leader Dan Muroff and Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon, are still in. Muroff had a credible $209,000 in the bank at the end of December so he can still be a factor, but Evans is undoubtedly pleased by this turn of events.
Tuesday did have a silver lining for Fattah. The state SEIU threw its support behind him, joining several other major unions in his corner. Fattah had just $8,000 in the bank at the end of the year, so he's going to be very dependent on these groups in the April primary. Evans has the support of newly-elected Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and he had a strong $303,000 to spend in December. Evans also released a poll last month showing him beating Fattah 37-21, and no one has released any contradictory numbers.
● PA-AG: Despite well-nigh delusional claims that she planned to run for another term, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane finally announced on Tuesday that she would not seek re-election this year. Kane's political future imploded last year when she was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice over allegations that she illegally leaked secret grand jury materials to harm a political rival, then lied about it to investigators. Her fellow Democrats swiftly called for her to resign, but she refused.
In the interim, though, Kane attracted several primary opponents, including Montgomery County Supervisor Josh Shapiro, who is widely regarded as an up-and-comer, as well as two county district attorneys, John Morganelli and Stephen Zappala. Even with a multi-candidate field, it was impossible to imagine Kane winning renomination: It's a little difficult to run for your state's top law enforcement post with an indictment hanging around your neck.
Kane still faces a trial this August, and the legislature has begun the process of considering impeachment, so her woes are far from over. But Democrats will be relieved that she's now out of the picture, since the battle to succeed her in the November general election will likely be a contested one.
● Demographics: Probably thanks to Grapes of Wrath, many people visualize times of economic disaster as when more people than usual move: they lose their jobs and maybe their homes, and set off in search of greener pastures elsewhere. However, the exact opposite is true. People are less likely to move during economic downturn, and instead they hunker down. If you're a homeowner, you might not be able to sell, or not want to sell because you're underwater; even if you're a renter, you might not have access to the money needed to move.
New migration data from the Census Bureau shows that interstate moves are back up to a healthy rate, after grinding nearly to a halt in 2010; they're comparable to where they were during the period of relative prosperity in 2004 and 2007. For purposes of political power, though, we're more interested in the question of where people are moving to and from (and therefore which states are growing fast, or shrinking or stagnating).
For net migration in the year 2015, the prime destinations are in the South or West, and Florida is, as usual, the top destination, followed by Texas and Colorado. New York is the big loser, followed by Illinois and California (which is a bit of a surprise, since most extrapolations we've seen have shown California on track to gain a congressional district in 2020—this may well change that trajectory). If you switch over to percentage change rather than raw numbers, and a longer-term change (2000 to 2015), smaller states like Nevada and South Carolina move to the front for gainers, but New York is still the big loser even when expressed as a percentage.
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.