● FL-Gov: The Tampa Bay Times recently speculated that termed-out GOP Gov. Rick Scott may try to recruit a wealthy political outsider to succeed him in 2018, and Adam Smith takes a look at why the governor is unhappy with the developing Republican field. Smith says that Scott has a "frosty relationship" with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is very likely to run, and state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has done nothing to shoot down speculation that he's interested. A third prospective candidate, state Sen. Jack Latvala, is also far more moderate than Scott. Smith also says that all three men are "the sort of longtime political insiders disdained by the governor."
However, it's unclear who Scott may be interested in. Wealthy freshman Rep. Francis Rooney has been mentioned, but Rooney says a 2018 gubernatorial bid is "[o]ut of the question." But Smith notes that Florida is full of rich people who Scott could turn to.
The governor also has plenty of time to keep looking: Scott himself didn't jump into the 2010 race until mid-April of that year, only a little more than four months before the primary. However, he narrowly beat primary foe Bill McCollum, who had an 11-month head start over Scott, and narrowly won in November as well.
● PA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is up for re-election in 2018, just reported raising $2.5 million last year and has $1.4 million left over. Simple subtraction might make it seem like Wolf spent an awful lot in a non-election year, but according to PoliticsPA, a large chunk of Wolf's funds—more than $675,000—went to the state Democratic Party. Wolf, who is personally wealthy, spent $10 million of his own money in his successful bid for office in 2014, but his campaign recently said the governor doesn't plan to self-fund again.
● TN-Gov: This is … odd. Andy Berke, the Democratic mayor of Chattanooga, hasn't publicly spoken about running for governor next year, but a political opponent of his might have just flushed out Berke's interest in a really strange way. Berke is up for re-election next month, and one of his rivals, City Councilman Larry Grohn, unearthed a Berke strategy presentation online that he claims shows the mayor is in fact actually focused on seeking the governor's mansion.
The document itself is quite boring, and the only way it really tips its hand is by describing an effort to build up Berke's "statewide brand," which of course wouldn't be necessary in a citywide race. But Berke didn't dispute the presentation's authenticity; in fact, his team confirmed it had been authored by his chief of staff but claimed it was "a long since discarded campaign plan." What he didn't say: that he's not going to run for governor.
Grohn, of course, is trying to score points with voters ahead of the March election, arguing that the materials he found show Berke "cares more about his own future than the future of Chattanooga and its people." But Berke, who has a huge financial edge, is probably content to ride this one out until after he secures another term, which appears likely. Perhaps then we'll hear from Berke, but he has to know that a gubernatorial bid for a Democrat in Tennessee, even though the seat will be open, is a longshot undertaking at best.
● WY-Gov: The field for this open seat is taking shape at a very slow pace. Last June, retiring GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis didn't rule out a run, and she still isn't saying no. Lummis insists that, "I haven't ruled out running for governor, but I did not come home to run for governor. … I came home because it was time." Two other Republicans, Secretary of State Ed Murray and state Treasurer Mark Gordon, also didn't say no last June, but we've heard nothing from either of them since then.
There's also the small possibility that termed-out GOP Gov. Matt Mead may not be so termed-out after all. Back in 2004, Wyoming's Supreme Court struck down a voter-approved term limits law for state legislators. The ruling did not apply to gubernatorial term limits since no one had raised the issue properly in court, but the state Supreme Court strongly suggested that they'd act if someone did properly challenge it. In 2010, termed-out Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal considered taking the issue to court, but he decided in the end just to leave office as planned.
It's possible that Mead could pick up where Freudenthal left off and try to run again in 2018. However, Mead only won renomination 55-32 in 2014 against an underfunded foe, so he may not be inclined to tempt fate and run again.
● FL-07: Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy will likely be a top GOP target next year, and the NRCC may already have decided on their first-choice recruit. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes says he's "exploring" a bid in this suburban Orlando seat, and confirmed that he's met with the NRCC in D.C. An unnamed GOP source also tells Politico that Cortes is "being strongly urged to run," and that "many local businessmen and activists feel that Cortes is the best suited to knock off Murphy." The source also says that Cortes met with ex-Rep. John Mica, who was unseated by Murphy and who didn't rule out another bid in December.
Cortes has strong ties to Orlando's local Puerto Rican community, which could help him make inroads against Murphy in a seat that Clinton carried 51-44. One other Republican state legislator, state Sen. David Simmons, has talked about running here.
● IA-01: One of many 2014 catastrophes for Team Blue came in Iowa's 1st Congressional District, which came open that year when Rep. Bruce Braley ran for Senate. Not only did Braley get humiliated in his bid against Republican Joni Ernst, but Democrats also unexpectedly lost his Cedar Rapids House seat, too, when Republican Rod Blum former state House Speaker Pat Murphy by a close 51-49 margin.
Blum's victory seemed like an accident just waiting to be cleaned up, though: Obama carried his district by a 56-43 margin, and John Boehner all but triaged Blum after the freshman congressman voted against Boehner for speaker in his first week on the job. But Boehner rode off with his lawnmower, Blum made nice with Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump romped in Iowa, carrying Blum's district 49-45. Blum, in turn, dispatched Democrat Monica Vernon 54-46.
But Democrats are sure to take another run at Blum, and there are a number who could try. Previously, state Sen. Liz Mathis wouldn't rule out a bid, and now Bleeding Heartland offers a few more ideas: Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson (who switched from the GOP in 2015); former state Sen. Steve Sodders (who lost his bid for re-election last fall); and state Sen. Jeff Danielson (who is serving a four-year term and could run for Congress without giving up his seat in the legislature).
None of these three have spoken on the record yet, and as Bleeding Heartland notes, both Sodders and Danielson were possible candidates in 2014 but declined to run. The only person to publicly contemplate a bid so far is engineer Courtney Rowe, an alternate Bernie Sanders delegate to last year's Democratic National Convention.
● IA-02: Rep. Dave Loebsack is now the last Democrat left in Iowa's congressional delegation, and though he won re-election last fall, his district swung sharply toward Donald Trump: After Barack Obama carried this seat, based in the southeastern corner of the state, by a 56-43 margin, Trump prevailed there 49-45, a 17-point swing. That makes Loebsack one of just a dozen Democrats in the nation who sit in a seat Trump won—and therefore a likely GOP target come 2018.
However, the GOP has unsuccessfully tried to unseat Loebsack in the past, and so far, no Republicans are running or even openly considering this time. Still, a serious challenge is likely to emerge, and Bleeding Heartland suggests one possible candidate: state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, the son of state party chair Jeff Kaufmann. However, Kaufmann has yet to say anything publicly.
● IL-13: While GOP Rep. Rodney Davis only won his first term in 2012 by a little more than 1,000 votes, he's been a very tough target for Democrats over the last two cycles. While Team Blue was excited about former Judge Ann Callis in 2014, Davis beat her 59-41 during the GOP wave. Last year, Davis turned in a similar performance against an underfunded Democrat as his seat swung from 48.9-48.6 Romney to 50-44 Trump.
State Rep. Carol Ammons is the first Democrat to express interest in a bid. Ammons represents Champaign and Urbana in the state legislature, which are considerably more liberal than the 13th District as a whole. Perennial candidate David Gill also is considering a sixth bid. Gill was the Democrat who almost beat Davis in 2012, but he tried to run as an independent in 2016; Gill didn't make the ballot after a judge ruled he didn't have enough valid signatures. Gill says he's not sure if he'd run as a Democrat or independent if he gets in. Hopefully if Gill does run as an independent and makes the ballot, enough time has passed that left-leaning voters have forgotten who he is, and he won't end up taking many votes from the Democratic nominee.
● Pres-by-CD: Daily Kos Elections has now completed calculating the 2016 presidential election result by congressional district. One of our foremost concerns is what these numbers mean for Democratic chances of retaking a majority in the House. With ticket-splitting rates at historic lows, and presidential results highly correlated with congressional results, these numbers serve as a strong predictor of future House election outcomes. Thus, the presidential election results by district can give us a strong idea of the underlying advantage each map gives a particular party.
In a new post, Stephen Wolf digs into the presidential results to calculate each state's median congressional district. What this means is that if we ranked every district in a state from most to least Democratic—in other words, from Hillary Clinton's best margin to Donald Trump's best margin—the median is the one exactly in the middle, where half the districts are more Democratic and the other half are less Democratic. If the presidential margin in that median district varies dramatically from the statewide outcome, then that state's map can be said to give one party a strong advantage.
As Wolf demonstrates, far more states have a decisive Republican median seat advantage than a Democratic one, and the median district for the entire country was consequently a red one. Trump won Virginia's 2nd District, the national median, by 3.4 percent even though he lost the overall popular vote by 2.1 points. That gives America's congressional maps an overall 5.5 percent Republican advantage. This built-in edge helps Team Red maintain their grip on the House even when the nationwide popular vote for Congress is very evenly divided like it was in 2016 and 2012.
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.