And perhaps even sooner than November: Not long after Bevin's victory, two House Democrats switched parties and joined the GOP, while the new governor appointed two others to well-paid state jobs, prompting them to vacate their seats. Two Republicans, meanwhile, had won statewide alongside Bevin, and their seats became vacant as well, forcing a four-seat special election that would give Republicans an excellent chance of taking over the House—and with that, control over every branch of Kentucky's government.
It wasn't just the longer-term trends that looked disturbing; the partisan leanings of those vacant seats were also a cause for deep Democratic pessimism. The bluest of them had gone for Mitt Romney by 9 points in 2012; the reddest by a whopping 38. What's more, Democrats everywhere usually fare worse in special elections, when there are no big-name races at the top of the ticket to juice turnout.
But, against all odds, not only did Democrats retain their majority on Tuesday night, they padded it by grabbing one of the Republican seats, which had favored Romney by a 61-37 margin. Those amazing victories now mean that Democrats hold a 53-47 House majority heading into November, when every seat will be up for election.
Republicans will have another shot at recapturing the chamber then, but Tuesday's results show that Kentucky Democrats aren't done yet. And their ability to retain the House matters a great deal, since Bluegrass Republicans are eager to dismantle the legacy of the governor Bevin succeeded, Steve Beshear, whose achievements include the state's widely praised Obamacare exchange, known as Kynect. While Bevin has already done a great deal of damage through executive orders, the state House stands as the lone bulwark against even deeper assaults on Kentucky's safety net.
The GOP will try its hardest to eliminate that bulwark this fall, but for now, it stands—thanks to a set of Democratic wins that are nothing short of incredible.
● FL-Sen: A new Florida poll from the Washington Post and Univision Noticias finds Rep. Patrick Murphy leading Rep. Alan Grayson by a 36-29 margin in the Democratic primary. A day earlier, SurveyUSA put Murphy up 27-16. Those stand in contrast to a PPP poll from about a week ago that had Grayson ahead 33-22.
The newer surveys came after an unusual endorsement for Murphy from both Barack Obama and Joe Biden. However, few voters are tuning in this early (as evidenced by the large number of undecided in all three polls), so it's unlikely that Murphy's surged as a result of the White House's backing. Rather, like most primaries, this is just a slippery race to poll, especially with both candidates not particularly well-known, and you can't really say much more than that the contest looks like a tossup at the moment.
● IL-Sen: While there's little doubt that Rep. Tammy Duckworth is the frontrunner in Tuesday's Democratic primary, a new Research America poll for the Chicago Tribune shows her simply obliterating her competition. The survey, which was conducted March 2 to March 6, gives Duckworth a 72-8 lead over ex-Chicago Urban League head Andrea Zopp, with state Sen. Napoleon Harris at 4. In fact, Duckworth's primary lead is actually larger than GOP incumbent Mark Kirk's 65-22 edge against Some Dude James Marter.
The only other recent primary poll we've seen here came from Southern Illinois University, and they had Duckworth beating Zopp 52-6. Zopp has been airing ads, including this very powerful spot focused on gun violence. However, we don't know how much Zopp is spending. In any case, the Research America poll indicates that either primary voters aren't seeing her commercial, or it's just not convincing many people to back her. We still have very limited data but unless both polls are catastrophically wrong, Duckworth has little to worry about on Tuesday.
● IN-Sen: GOP Rep. Marlin Stutzman is out with a new TV spot, which Politico says is running for $150,000. The ad blames Republican leaders like John Boehner for surrendering to Democrats, and promotes Stutzman as a courageous conservative who voted against Boehner. Young faces fellow Rep. Todd Young, who is closer to the House GOP leadership, in the May primary.
● NH-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has launched a $200,000 ad buy against GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and they're using both Donald Trump and the Senate blockade over Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat in their spot. The commercial starts with a clip of Trump chanting "delay, delay, delay," before the narrator charges that "Donald Trump wants the Senate to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy so he can choose the nominee next year. And Senator Kelly Ayotte is right there to help." Expect to see a lot more ads like this in the fall if Trump winds up as Team Red's presidential nominee.
● PA-Sen: The GOP pollster Harper Polling gives us our first look in a long time at both the April Democratic primary and the general election in the Keystone State. Their early March poll gives 2010 nominee Joe Sestak a 33-17 lead over national party favorite Katie McGinty, with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman at 15. Back in January, Harper had Sestak beating McGinty just 33-28, with Fetterman taking a similar 11.
We don't have enough data to know if this is just noise or if McGinty really has taken a hit in recent weeks. Both McGinty's rivals and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey have been hitting McGinty over past donations from the oil and gas industry, though no one has aired any TV ads over this. McGinty has started to run spots introducing herself to voters, and Sestak also has enough money in the bank to start advertising; Fetterman himself has struggled to raise funds. A group called Accountable Leadership PAC is now spending $250,000 for Sestak, though their commercials aren't available yet.
Harper also tests the trio against Toomey; their September numbers for Sestak and McGinty are in parentheses (Fetterman was not running then):
● 47-41 vs. Joe Sestak (47-37)
● 47-39 vs. Katie McGinty (48-34)
● 47-36 vs. John Fetterman
Aside from a few university polls showing an absurd number of undecided voters, we haven't seen any other general election surveys recently. Harper gives Toomey a decent 49-40 approval rating while a February PPP survey, conducted for the liberal group Americans United for Change, had Toomey underwater at 29-40.
● OR-Gov: Filing closed Tuesday for Oregon's May 17 primary, but there isn't much to watch. Democrat Kate Brown unexpectedly became governor early last year after John Kitzhaber resigned; while some Beaver State Democrats initially made noises about challenging her in the primary, she's only attracted a bunch of Some Dudes. On the GOP side, businessman and 2014 candidate Allen Alley will face physician Bud Pierce, who has been doing some self-funding. Oregon has become a reliably blue state in recent years, and Brown doesn't appear to have done anything that should cost her victory in November. Whoever wins in the fall will serve the final two years of Kitzhaber's term, and will be up for a four-year term in 2018.
● CA-31: On Tuesday, ex-Democratic Rep. Joe Baca quietly filed with the state to challenge freshman Democrat Pete Aguilar as a Republican. Almost a year ago, rumors began to fly that Baca would take on Aguilar in this Obama 57-41 Redlands seat, but Baca appears to have done nothing in that time to prepare for what will be a very uphill bid. In fact, Baca still hasn't bothered to even update his campaign website which, as of Wednesday evening, still touts him as "the only Member of Congress from the Inland Empire who stood with President Obama's Stimulus Package and Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act."
Baca will face two Republicans in the June top-two primary: 2014 nominee Paul Chabot and economics professor Sean Flynn, who is emerging as the favorite of DC Republicans. It's hard to see Aguilar losing here with presidential turnout on his side, but his narrow 2014 win means the GOP will at least take a look at this seat. But Baca's probably not going to attract much love from national Republicans. While he brings plenty of name-recognition to the table, he's badly lost his last three campaigns. But hey, I'm told a fourth defeat gets him one free frozen yogurt at the University of Redlands' student center.
● GA-09: On Tuesday, ex-Rep. Paul Broun announced that he would challenge Rep. Doug Collins in the May primary for this safely red northern Georgia district. Broun represented about 42 percent of the seat from 2007 to 2013 so he's not exactly an unknown here, but he only just moved into the district.
Collins is a pretty generic Republican who is close to powerful Republicans like Gov. Nathan Deal, while Broun is anything but bland. Broun infamously declared in 2012 that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." Broun left the 10th District behind in 2014 to run for the Senate, but he only took a distant fifth place in the primary. Broun tried to stop Paul Ryan from becoming speaker last year, so there's little question that the House leadership won't be pulling for him.
● GA-11: It appears that freshman GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk is going to need to work a little harder than planned if he wants to win renomination in May. Georgia's filing deadline is Friday and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that businessman Daniel Cowan will run for this safely red suburban Atlanta seat; the paper describes Cowan as "deep-pocketed" and "well-connected within Cobb County," so he may be able to make trouble for Loudermilk.
The incumbent only had $68,000 in the bank at the end of last year and he didn't do any self-funding during his competitive 2014 primary, so Loudermilk could very well get badly outspent. Loudermilk is a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus so it won't be easy for Cowan to run to his right, though Cowan is likely to try and frame this contest as a battle between a longtime politician (Loudermilk served a decade in the legislature) and an outsider.
● NH-02: On Tuesday, ex-state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan announced that he would challenge sophomore Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Flanagan gives the GOP a non-Some Dude candidate in swingy New Hampshire, but it doesn't sound like he was Team Red's first choice. WMUR's John DiStaso reports that unnamed Republicans saw ex-state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker as a potentially strong candidate, but while Blankenbeker originally planned to run this cycle, she won't now that she's been called up to active military duty.
Flanagan himself was one of the renegade Republicans who, backed by state House Democrats, put themselves in power and kept their party's consensus pick out of the speaker's chair. Conservative leaders are still angry with Flanagan's actions last year, which could hamper his fundraising or invite a primary opponent. While New Hampshire is a very volatile state, the 2nd District backed Obama by a strong 54-45 margin. Kuster herself survived the 2014 GOP wave 55-45, albeit against an opponent who spent the final weeks of the campaign defending herself from plagiarism charges.
● NY-03, 04: On Monday, state Sen. Jack Martins' path to the GOP nomination in the swingy 3rd District got a bit easier. Martins won the support of all three GOP county parties, as well as the Conservative Party's ballot line for the general. Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci had indicated that he would also seek this seat, but he's instead decided to endorse Martins.
Retired Marine David Gurfein was running for this seat even before Democratic Rep. Steve Israel decided to retire, but it's hard to see him taking the GOP nod. Still, local Republicans don't want a primary at all, and Newsday writes that the Nassau County GOP is trying to persuade Gurfein to switch districts and challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice in the 4th. Gurfein is reportedly considering, but he's reluctant to run somewhere he doesn't live. Gurfein also has some name recognition in the 3rd District for serving as high school quarterback during Great Neck's only undefeated season ever, and he wouldn't have that local appeal in another seat. There's also the small fact that while Obama only carried the 3rd 51-48, he took Rice's seat 56-43.
New York's filing deadline isn't until mid-April, so Gurfein has a little time to decide. But with the local party support circling the wagons behind Martins, he has a big edge in the June primary. Still, Martins may have some intra-party opposition regardless of what Gurfein does. Brookville Village Mayor Daniel Serota set up an exploratory committee in late January and while he blew past his plans to make an announcement sometime in the following ten days, he did file with the FEC in early March. Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta set up an FEC account to run here in January, but he still hasn't said anything publicly about his plans. There's a crowded primary developing on the Democratic side.
● NY-22: On Monday night, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney beat her two GOP rivals to win the Conservative Party nomination for this competitive upstate New York seat. In New York, candidates can claim multiple party nominations, and the minor Conservative Party's endorsement does carry some weight with GOP primary voters. If Tenney loses the June GOP primary, the Conservatives can give their ballot spot to the GOP nominee by nominating Tenney for a judgeship. Tenney faces businessman Steve Wells and Broome County Legislator George Phillips in the GOP primary.
● NY State Senate: A critical special election on April 19 for New York's GOP-controlled state Senate is heating up, with both candidates releasing new ads. A spot for Republican Chris McGrath, a personal injury attorney, features a man who was badly assaulted by a group of assailants wielding a baseball bat; McGrath, says text on the screen, helped him win "funds for his medical bills" in court.
Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, meanwhile, also talks about his legal career, specifically his efforts to fight public corruption as a prosecutor. Kaminsky says he "didn't care" whether his targets "were Democrat or Republican—I cared whether they broke the law." Halfway through, the ad features a still image of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the man whose resignation following a corruption conviction led to this special election in the first place.
● Special Elections: Four other special legislative elections were held Tuesday, and Team Blue picked up a seat. Johnny Longtorso fills us in:
Michigan HD-75: Democrats held this seat easily. David LaGrand defeated Republican Blake Edmonds by a 77-23 margin.
Michigan HD-80: Republicans had no trouble holding on to this seat. Mary Whiteford defeated Democrat David Gernant by a 64-30 margin, with Libertarian Arnie Davidsons taking the remaining 6 percent.
Michigan HD-82: This seat was also easily retained by the Republicans. Gary Howell defeated Democrat Margaret Guerrero DeLuca by a 59-37 margin, with Libertarian Tracy Spilker pulling in the remaining 4 percent.
New Hampshire House, Rockingham-21: Democrats picked up this seat last night. Mike Edgar won with 40 percent of the vote. Independent Phil Bean came in second with 31 percent, while Republican Ken Sheffert placed third with 29 percent.
● Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Incumbent Tom Barrett took a disappointing 45 percent of the vote in the February non-partisan primary, and he has to deal with Alderman Bob Donovan in the April 5 general. But Barrett, a two-time Democratic gubernatorial nominee, got a nice endorsement this week from President Obama.
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.