● GA-06: The anti-tax extremist group Club for Growth recently backed businessman Bob Gray in the April 18 primary for the special election to replace HHS Secretary Tom Price, and now the Club's backing their play with a new $250,000 TV ad buy that turns its sights on Karen Handel. They attack the former Republican secretary of state over her spending record while in office, making this the first time anyone has directly run ads against her in this race. A recent independent poll found Handel leading Gray 20 to 10 for the second spot in the runoff, so the Club has work to do to drag Handel down.
For her part, Handel recently rolled out the endorsement of former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, whom Handel unsuccessfully tried to succeed in the 2014 GOP Senate primary. Meanwhile, current Sen. David Perdue, who ultimately prevailed in that election, is starring in a new TV ad for a third Republican, state Sen. Dan Moody. Perdue, claiming the mantle of an "outsider," calls Moody "one of us" and says Moody will take on career politicians.
● CT-Gov: State Comptroller Kevin Lembo has long been mentioned as a top potential Democratic candidate for governor this year, but he's only just now expressed his interest publicly. In a conversation with News-Times editor Jacqueline Smith, Lembo said he'd make a "preliminary decision" this spring, which Smith interpreted as Lembo saying he'd create an exploratory committee. Smith also characterized Lembo, who recently met with the News-Times' editorial board, as sharply critical of the current incumbent governor, fellow Democrat Dan Malloy, who still hasn't announced whether he'll seek a third term.
Malloy's indecision has kept Lembo in limbo (we had to say it), and the rest of the Democratic Party, too. But as Smith notes, would-be contenders can't wait around much longer. In order to qualify for matching funds from the state, candidates need to raise $250,000 in donations of $100 or less, a tall task. So far, several Republicans and one Democrat, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, have already gotten to work doing just that, regardless of what Malloy opts to do. For his part, Malloy says he'll also make up his mind this spring, after the state's budget is completed.
● IL-Gov: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has incredibly deep pockets and has already thrown $50 million of his own money behind his re-election bid, but that isn't stopping the RGA-backed group State Solutions from airing two new TV spots praising the governor's work on the state's budget amid a protracted impasse with the Democratic-controlled state legislature. Both spots features Rauner talking about his plans to keep taxes down while attacking supposed career politicians who just want to kick the can down the road. However, there's no word on the size of the buy, and at this early phase in the election cycle, there's a good chance these ads are aimed at the press rather than voter eyeballs.
The Democratic field to take on Rauner has quickly grown increasingly crowded, with state Sen. Daniel Biss, businessman and Kennedy family scion Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, and Madison County Regional Schools Superintendent Bob Daiber having already announced. Additionally, billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker recently formed an exploratory committee and seems likely to enter the race, while Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers is considering a run, too. Rauner, Pritzker, and Kennedy could all self-fund untold millions, so this contest—in what's already an expensive state—could quickly become a money pit.
● NJ-Gov: Fairleigh Dickinson University's latest poll of the June 6 primary mirrors what just about every other survey of the race has shown: Both parties have a front runner, but with the number of undecided voters sky-high, each race is uncertain. On the Democratic side, former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy leads with 23 percent, while no other candidate tops 4 points. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno leads for Republicans with 24 percent, while no other Republican exceeds 5 percent. Both matchups are similar to the pollster's last survey in January.
The poll didn't reveal any general election trial heats, but the eventual Republican nominee will likely be hard-pressed to distance him- or herself from GOP Gov. Chris Christie's atrocious 20-72 disapproval rating.
● NM-Gov: Local analyst Joe Monahan reports that former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010, is giving her support in next year's gubernatorial race to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a fellow Democrat. Denish backed Grisham's first House bid in 2012, so the move isn't too surprising, though another Denish ally, state Attorney General Hector Balderas, is also considering a bid, so if he runs, it'll be without Denish's endorsement. One other Democrat, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, is also in the race for this open seat, while no Republicans have announced yet.
● NV-Gov: Back in January, columnist Steve Sebelius reported that wealthy businessman Steve Cloobeck had told him that he was going to run for governor, but Cloobeck has yet to say so himself. In fact, in a new piece in the New York Times on wealthy "celebrity" candidates, Cloobeck said he was "still deciding," in the newspaper's words, and didn't offer any sort of timetable.
Cloobeck is the founder and former CEO of Diamond Resorts, a company that sells timeshares, has appeared on the reality TV show "Undercover Boss," and loves to lambaste both parties. However, he's quick to cut off any comparisons to Trump, saying, "I gave away $6.8 million last year, and my taxes are paid current." Still, he'd be a very tough candidate for progressives to love (Cloobeck previously said he wants to hire Republican plays-a-pollster-on-TV Frank Luntz), though so far, no other Democrats are running for this open seat. The Republican field has yet to coalesce either, though state Attorney General Adam Laxalt seems likely to get in.
● OK-Gov: State Auditor Gary Jones is the latest Republican to say he's considering a run for governor next year, when GOP Gov. Mary Fallin will be termed out of office. However, Jones doesn't sound particularly amped up about the possibility. He says that he could also run for state Senate, which seems like quite a step down, or perhaps he'll do nothing at all, saying that "maybe that best position for me is going home and feeding cows and spending time with grandkids."
For Democrats, another new name has also surfaced. In response to an online effort to draft him into the race, former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson says he's thinking about a bid. Edmondson served as attorney general for 16 years before losing the 2010 primary for governor by less than 1 point to then-Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. That might not have been such a bad thing, though, as Askins went on to get crushed by Fallin, losing 60-40 in the Republican wave.
So far, no candidates on either side have actually entered the race yet, though for the GOP, wealthy attorney Gary Richardson has formed an exploratory committee and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has said he's "leaning" toward a run. For Democrats, state House Minority Leader Scott Inman has also said he's considering a bid. Republicans will be heavily favored to retain the governorship in this dark red state.
● PA-Gov: Paul Mango, one of several wealthy businessmen potentially in the mix for next year's GOP gubernatorial primary, reportedly told a group of Republican county commissioners that he is indeed running. One of them, Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, actually went on the record to tell PoliticsPA that Mango said he would "officially announce after the primary," which, assuming Leinbach is referring to this year's primary, would be some time after May 16. (This is why we put together our helpful 2017 election calendar!)
Mango, though, still has yet to comment himself. And so far, the only Republican formally in the race against Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is state Sen. Scott Wagner, who, like, Mango, is also rich. (So, for that matter, is Wolf.)
● VA-Gov: Christopher Newport University returns to survey the field for Virginia's June 13 gubernatorial primary, and finds Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello deadlocked at 26 percent apiece for Team Blue. That represents a sizable upswing for Perriello after CNU's February poll placed Northam ahead 26-15.
Some in the media have tried to portray the Northam-Perriello contest as a redux of the 2016 presidential primary, with Northam supposedly embodying Hillary Clinton and the an allegedly centrist establishment, while Perriello plays left-wing insurgent Bernie Sanders. However, this poll simply doesn't support the notion. Northam does lead with Clinton voters by a 34-25 margin while Perriello is ahead with Sanders supporters 32-21, but those differences are simply nowhere near as polarized as one would expect if each candidate's base aligned heavily with the 2016 primary. Indeed, as we've detailed previously, there's far more nuance to both candidates' ideology and their relationship with the party establishment than this simplistic portrayal would suggest.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, former RNC chair and 2014 Senate nominee Ed Gillespie dominates the field with 38 percent compared to 11 percent for Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart and 10 percent for state Sen. Frank Wagner. With this many undecided voters, both nominations are still up for grabs, but Gillespie's rivals only have so much time left to close the gap.
● MN-01: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz's announcement that he would run for governor on Monday has opened up the floodgates for potential candidates seeking to succeed him in the House. Republican Jim Hagedorn nearly knocked off Walz in what would have been a shocking upset in 2016, no doubt thanks to Donald Trump carrying this southern Minnesota district by a surprisingly large 53-38 margin, but Hagedorn could have plenty of company as he wages a third consecutive bid to become Team Red's nominee in 2018. (Hagedorn, incidentally, is the son of former 1980s-era Rep. Tom Hagedorn.)
The Post-Bulletin queried several potential Republican candidates, several of whom seemed to think that their chances of succeeding would be much better without Walz. Olmsted County Republican Party Chair Aaron Miller previously won the Republican Party's official endorsement in 2014 but lost to Hagedorn in the primary that year. Miller sharply criticized Hagedorn for failing to beat Walz last year and says he's considering running again, although he added that he might defer to a stronger challenger. Meanwhile, state Sens. Carla Nelson, Jeremy Miller, and Dave Senjem all refused to rule out a bid, while state Rep. Nels Pierson maintained that he was open to a potential campaign.
Democrats don't have quite as deep a bench in this ancestrally Republican yet historically swingy seat, but state Sen. Nick Frentz said he'd "consider" running. The Post-Bulletin states that party insiders have also pointed to former Walz campaign manager and ex-state Rep. Terry Morrow as a potential contender.
● SC-05: Former Republican state Rep. Ralph Norman, who resigned last month to concentrate on his campaign for the upcoming special election in South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, has released two new TV ads. Cueing off the theme of "spring cleaning," Norman asks voters to send him to Washington to institute term limits and pass a balanced budget amendment in both spots. Norman faces several other candidates in the May 2 GOP primary, which will be followed by a runoff on May 16 if no one takes a majority in the first round. Republicans are heavily favored to hold this seat in the June 20 special.
● Demographics: William Frey of the Brookings Institution has an interesting post on geographic clustering, and it doesn't go the way you might think. It turns out that if you base your analysis on counties, then it may be the Republicans who are the ones who are clustered, specifically in the nation's rural counties. There are 177 million people living in the counties that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and only 146 million in counties that went for Donald Trump. That's a very anomalous result, one that didn't even happen the last time we had an Electoral College mismatch: In 2000, 149 million lived in George Bush counties and 133 million lived in Al Gore counties.
(If you're familiar with the recent work of Daily Kos Elections alumnus Xenocrypt, you actually wouldn't be that surprised, though. Xenocrypt made a similar argument back in January, pointing out that a disproportionately large number of people lived in Clinton counties subsumed within Trump states.)
What's helpful in Frey's post is when he starts breaking the Clinton-county and Trump-county populations down along various other demographic lines. You can see how Clinton counties lean more toward the higher-income, the never-married, the foreign-born, the non-white, and the college-educated. In particular, what's cool (and what should be terrifying to Republicans regarding future elections) are the graphs at the end of the article that divide the population down by both age and race. Trump counties are disproportionately not just white but also elderly, while the single-largest bucket by far is people who are under age 15, who are non-white, and who live in current Clinton counties. In other words, these are the people who'll be entering and reshaping the electorate in the next decade.