● MO-Sen: A number of Missouri Republican office-holders have been mentioned as potential challengers against Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who is seeking a third term in a state that Trump carried 56-38. On Wednesday, well-known former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who abruptly retired two weeks ago, also dipped his feet in the water.
Edwards told the Associated Press that "I believe firmly in the principles that the U.S. was founded upon," and added, "If I could help, I definitely would consider it." Edwards said that he didn't have any plans to run, but he went on to quote Douglas MacArthur and declare, "No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation." Edwards didn't say he was interested in running as a Republican but it seems extremely unlikely that he's thinking of challenging McCaskill in a Democratic primary, and it's probably far too much to hope that he'll run as a conservative independent.
If Edwards does run, he'll have a very different profile than the myriad of other Republicans who could get in. Edwards came close to winning the NASCAR championship in 2011 and 2016, and he shocked fans when he stepped away from full-time racing earlier this month (though he refused to say he was retiring). Edwards also has a bit of a temper. In 2008, he allegedly had to be placed in a headlock to stop him from fighting another driver. Two years later, he admitted to intentionally wrecking an opponent's car during a race. However, Edwards' career survived both incidents, and Trump proved last year that Missouri voters can tolerate a lot from GOP candidates.
● AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Jeff Flake was one of Trump's most prominent intra-party critics last year, and Flake has acknowledged that he's preparing to face a Trump-backed primary challenge next year. However, it remains to be seen who will actually step up. State Treasurer Jeff DeWit has been mentioned as a possible candidate, and a November Remington Research poll gave DeWit a huge 42-33 lead in a hypothetical primary. However, DeWit hasn't said anything publicly about his 2018 plans, and an unnamed "person familiar with DeWit's thinking" tells Politico that the treasurer is leaning against running.
Politico says that state GOP head Robert Graham, who was also an ardent Trump supporter last year, could run instead if DeWit says no. Graham probably wouldn't be as formidable as DeWit but if he has Trump's explicit support, he could be very dangerous. Ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, who lost last year's primary to John McCain 51-40, announced that she would challenge Flake in October. There's no runoff here so if Ward just sucks up some anti-Flake votes, she could allow the incumbent to win renomination with just a plurality. Trump only carried Arizona 48-45 last year and Team Blue would love to put this seat in play, but no Democrats have made noises about getting in yet.
● WI-Sen: A number of Wisconsin Republicans are considering challenging Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year, and businessman Kevin Nicholson has now acknowledged that he's considering. Rep. Sean Duffy seems to be the top choice of state and local GOP power players, but Nicholson insists his decision won't depend on who else gets in.
● CA-Gov: PPP takes a look at the hypothetical 2018 top-two primary for this open seat in a poll paid for by businessman Jeffrey Haines. (It wasn't immediately clear what Haines' interest in this information is.) In California, all the candidates compete on one ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to the general regardless of their party.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D): 25
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R): 20
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D): 13
Ex-Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R): 12
Ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D): 9
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (D): 4
Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D): 3
Treasurer John Chiang (D): 2
Right now only Newsom, Villaraigosa, and Chiang are in.
● MA-Gov: Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton has occasionally been mentioned as a possible candidate against GOP Gov. Charlie Baker next year, but he hasn't said much about his plans. However, Moulton recently did what so many other prominent Bay State Democrats refuse to do and went after Baker, arguing that the governor has "done nothing to push back on Trump's radical agenda," and faulting him for missing Boston's women's march on Saturday. (By contrast, liberal state Senate President Stan Rosenberg recently summed up Baker's state of the state speech with a, "Thank you governor, that was brilliant." Can you imagine a prominent legislative leader saying that about an opposite party's governor almost anywhere else in this day and age?)
Moulton insists he's not criticizing Baker because he's interested in running against him, saying he has " no plans to run for governor." But as we've said time after time, "I have no plans" is a very different statement than "I won't run," though unfortunately, too many observers conflate the two. It's incredibly easy for politicians to make their plans clear, and it's notable that Moulton is at least keeping the door open to a bid. A recent MassINC poll gave Baker a strong 59-18 favorable rating, and he won't be easy to beat. But if Massachusetts Democrats are going to unseat Baker, they'll almost certainly do it by tying him to the unpopular Trump administration, which is exactly what Moulton is already doing.
A few other Democrats are eyeing this race. Newton Mayor Setti Warren hasn't announced he's in but he's already raising money, while ex-state Sen. Dan Wolf, the founder and chief executive of Cape Air, also hasn't ruled it out. Former state budget chief Jay Gonzalez also is reportedly considering.
● KS-02, KS-Gov: On Wednesday, GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins announced that she would not seek re-election in 2018. Jenkins had been flirting with a gubernatorial bid so her departure was not unexpected, but she also took herself out of the race to succeed Gov. Sam Brownback by declaring, "I will not be running for any office in 2018."
Jenkins' 2nd District includes Topeka, and it's not a particularly promising target for Team Blue: Trump carried the seat 56-37, an improvement on Romney's 56-42 win here four years before. Democrat Nancy Boyda did win the last version of this seat in the 2006 Democratic wave by defeating GOP Rep. Jim Ryun, but she lost 51-46 to Jenkins two years later. Republicans reportedly were worried about Jenkins late in 2014, but she won by a solid 57-39 anyway.
This seat includes all of liberal Douglas County, the home of the University of Kansas, and Topeka's Shawnee County, which backed Trump just 48-45, so there are a few local Democratic politicians in the 2nd. The problem is that the ultra-conservative rural counties make up about 60 percent of the seat, and any successful Democratic candidate would need to find a way to find a way to cut into the GOP's massive advantage there—not an easy task.
However, according to our calculations, Democrat Paul Davis carried this seat 51-45 against Brownback in 2014 even as he was losing 50-46 statewide. Voters tend to be more willing to cross party lines in gubernatorial races than in federal contests and Brownback's unpopularity led to a far-closer race than Kansas Republicans usually get, but it's at least a sign that this area hasn't completely rejected all Democrats. KansasCity.com mentioned Davis as a possible candidate to succeed Jenkins (Davis used to represent a Douglas County state House seat), and he's also been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial contender. However, it's not clear how interested Davis is in either office.
The GOP has a much larger bench here. Roll Call mentions Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the infamous Secretary of State Kris Kobach as possible contenders, though they've also been name-dropped as potential gubernatorial candidates. GOP operatives also tell Roll Call that if former Trump transition team member Alan Cobb's campaign in the 4th District special election fails (see our KS-04 item), he could run here instead.
● KS-04: Gov. Sam Brownback has scheduled the special election to replace Mike Pompeo, who resigned to head the CIA, for April 11. This Wichita seat backed Trump 60-33, and the GOP nominee should have no trouble holding it. Both parties need to hold their nominating conventions (there is no primary here) by Feb. 18. The GOP nomination will be decided by 126 party activists from across the 4th District.
A few Republicans have already announced that they're in and Alan Cobb, who was a member of the Trump transition team and is also close to the Koch brothers, also told Politico he'll run. Trump recently made calls to help his favored candidates in contests to run the Michigan and Ohio state parties, and it wouldn't be a shock if he did something similar here on Cobb's behalf.
● VA State Senate: Daily Kos Elections recently crunched the 2016 presidential results for Virginia's 100 state House seats, and we learned that Hillary Clinton carried a bare majority of the districts. We've now calculated the results for the Virginia state Senate, a chamber where the GOP holds a slim but stubborn 21 to 19 majority. Clinton's 50-45 win netted her 23 seats, two more than Obama won in 2012. Four Republicans sit in Clinton seats, while none of the Democrats represent Trump constituencies.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Old Dominion Senate Democrats is the electoral calendar. Virginia elects its state senators the year before the presidential race, and the next time the chamber will be up will be 2019. With no presidential, gubernatorial, or U.S. Senate race on the ballot, only the most motivated voters usually show up for state Senate races, and in the last few cycles, those voters have tended to be disproportionately conservative.
In 2015, Democrats made a serious effort to net the one seat they needed to flip the chamber (Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would have been able to settle a 20-20 tie in favor of Team Blue) but came up just short. The biggest battleground was SD-10, a Richmond-area seat that backed Obama 51-48, but Republican Glen Sturtevant won 50-47. Last month, Clinton carried Sturtevant's seat by a stronger 53-40, so this should be a target in 2019.
The other GOP-held Obama seat is SD-07 in Hampton Roads, which backed him just 49.5-49.1. Republican state Sen. Frank Wagner won re-election 54-46 after his Democratic foe faced a scandal over his military service. Wagner is running for governor this year and if he wins, there will be a special election for his seat. Clinton carried SD-07 47.1-46.9, almost the same as Obama.
Two Senate seats that backed Romney went for Clinton this time around. Northern Virginia's SD-13 is home to the infamous GOP state Sen. Dick Black who, among many other things, claimed that a husband could never be convicted of raping his wife "when they're living together, sleeping in the same bed, she's in a nightie, and so forth." Black's seat backed Romney 51-48 but Democrats targeted him in 2015, and Black won 52-48. Clinton carried his seat 51-43 last month, so Black should be a target in 2019. The other Romney/Clinton seat was SD-12 in suburban Richmond, which went all the way from 55-44 Romney to 48-45 Clinton. Republican Siobhan Dunnavant won the general election for this open seat 58-38, though she could have a tougher race in a few years.
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.