SSP Daily Digest: 4/20


HI-Sen: Very slow fundraising quarters from Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa, despite Dan Akaka’s retirement announcement on March 2. Hirono raised around $100K and has $291K on hand, while Hanabusa took in a mere $33K and has only $72K in the bank.

More interestingly, despite Ed Case’s attempts at rapprochement, Sen. Dan Inouye still has hard feelings about Case’s primary challenge to Akaka in 2006 – and he didn’t hesitate to say so in a recent interview. He all but said that Case lied to his face when he asked him lo those many years ago if he’d run against Akaka, and then added a few remarks that made it sounds like Case had definitely not succeeded in making amends. So unless Inouye is playing some weirdly deep game here, then it looks like my fears that he’d subtly back Case seem unfounded. Good.

KY-Sen: I don’t know if I care about this, or whether it even matters, but glibertarian maniac Rand Paul filed for re-election yesterday. I guess this means he thinks the United States won’t collapse into anarchy by 2016, but he’s probably still hoarding kruggerands (and toilet paper) just to be on the safe side.

MN-Sen: It’s sort of easy to forget that Amy Klobuchar is up for re-election this cycle. Dedicated and hard-working, she doesn’t showboat and is a consummate team player. The fact that she crushed in her debut campaign with 58% of the vote and no Republican opponents loom even in the distant horizon definitely have the effect of putting this race on the mental back burner. But true to form, she’s taking her campaign very seriously, raising $1 million in Q1 and holding on to $2.5 mil in the bank.

NJ-Sen: Is Republican biotech millionaire John Crowley thinking about a Senate bid – again? Roll Call notes that Crowley is stepping down as CEO of his pharma company, which could be a sign he’s interested in taking on Sen. Bob Menendez. But for some reason, the article fails to point out that Crowley was heavily recruited to run against Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 2008, and backed out at the last moment – twice. He was also talked about for a gubernatorial run in 2009 (which he obviously didn’t pull the trigger on). So we’ll see if he has the fire in the belly to actually do something this time.

TX-Sen: Did you know that there’s already a declared Democrat in the race? I didn’t, but Some Dude Sean Hubbard is apparently running.

WA-Sen: Sen. Maria Cantwell raised $1.2 million in Q1 and has about the same amount in the bank.


KY-Gov: Gov. Steve Beshear raised an impressive $1.3 million in the first three months of the year and has $3.3 million on hand.

WV-Gov: Treasurer John Perdue is up what I think is the first negative ad of the Dem primary. He principally after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for taking money from utility companies who have charged jacked-up prices, accusing him (and also Natalie Tennant and Rick Thompson) of being “in the pocket” of the big energy firms. Using smokestacks as negative imagery in a state like West Virginia is certainly an unusual choice, given how many people there rely on “smokestack industries” for their livelihoods. But I guess whoever wins this multi-way primary is expecting to do so with only a relatively small plurality.


AZ-06: We previously mentioned that Republican ex-Rep. Matt Salmon was thinking about a bid to reclaim his old House seat, with Jeff Flake running for Senate, and now he’s made it official. Salmon, a member of the GOP’s class of ’94, honored a term-limit pledge and declined to run for re-election in 2000. However, he did run and lose against Janet Napolitano in the governor’s race in 2002.

FL-14: This seems unexpected: Chauncey Goss, son of former Congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss, says he’s thinking about challenging Rep. Connie Mack in the Republican primary. Goss acknowledges that such a fight would be an “uphill battle,” but also suggests that he could wind up running in an open seat. It sounds like he thinks that a new seat could be drawn by splitting Lee County (currently the bulk of the 14th CD), but I still wonder if Mack might wind up retiring. (By the way, the current 14th was in fact the elder Goss’s seat before he was tapped to run the CIA in 2004.)

IA-04: Ex-Gov. Tom Vilsack told a gathering of state Senate Dems that they should “stay tuned” regarding his wife’s political ambitions. That sounds to me like Christie Vilsack is very much leaning toward a run against Republican nutter Steve King. Tom also promised the race would be a “holy war,” a phrase which I sure as hell hope he a) doesn’t repeat for public consumption and b) means that Christie plans on seriously taking King the woodshed.

MI-11, MI-Sen (?): The AP canvassed all 15 House incumbents in Michigan, and all but one confirmed they were seeking re-election. The holdout? 11th CD Republican Thad McCotter, who is in his fifth term. I’ve hesitantly flagged this item as MI-Sen as well, since it’s possible that McCotter is hedging because he’s thinking about challenging Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though he hasn’t really been talked about much.

NM-01: Dem state Sen. Tim Keller, only 33 years old, says he won’t seek Rep. Martin Heinrich’s open House seat but will instead seek re-election next year.

NY-10: Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who hasn’t ruled out a primary challenge to Rep. Ed Towns, says in a new interview that he wants the chance to serve alongside Barack Obama. So that means he’s either a) gotta run next year b) run in 2014 or c) get the Constitution amended.

Other Races:

IN-SoS: It looks like Republicans have found a pretty simple way out of the Charlie White mess: change the law. If White, the Republican Secretary of State who is currently under indictment, gets removed from office, the next-highest vote-getter in the last election, Democrat Vop Osili, would take his place. But a bill moving through the state lege would give the governor the power to appoint a replacement instead. (It also would let the GOP avoid any related fallout from having recorded zero valid votes in the SoS contest, a race to which many other electoral perks are tied.)  Sucky for Dems, but whatcha gonna do.

NJ-St. Sen.: Republicans are challenging Olympian Carl Lewis’s residency status, trying to get him thrown off the ballot. Lewis says he’s owned homes in New Jersey since 2005, but has voted and paid taxes in California until last year. The Secretary of State will rule by Thursday, but that decision can be appealed.

Philly Mayor: This is definitely unusual. Former Mayor John Street just changed his party registration from “Democrat” to “independent,” which could allow him to challenge Mayor Michael Nutter for his old job, something Street refused to rule out. Also unexpectedly, Street’s wacky ex-con brother Milton, who is in fact running against Nutter in the Dem primary, got three big union endorsements last week. Seems impossible to imagine him winning next month, though, no?

WI Recall: As expected, petitions were filed against Sheila Harsdorf yesterday, making her the fourth Republican state Senator to achieve this dubious status. And in more good news, state Rep. Fred Clark is planning an announcement for Thursday, very likely to declare a run against Luther Olsen, against whom petitions were filed on Monday. On the flipside, Republicans say they will file signatures in three Dem-held districts this week, but time is running out for them: Their deadlines are mostly April 25 & 26 (ours aren’t due until May 2).

Grab Bag:

DCCC: I’m getting kind of tired of these “DCCC launches campaign against 25 Republicans” (and the mirror images from the NRCC), mostly because I think the amounts being spent are quite small, but anyway, here’s another one, this time about Medicare.

Passings: William Donald Schaefer, the iconic four-term Democratic mayor of Baltimore and two-term governor of Maryland, died on Monday at the age of 89. The Baltimore Sun has wall-to-wall coverage of Schaefer’s passing, whose legendary career is hard to summarize, but you can start with the obituary at the first link.

Redistricting Roundup:

California: Newspaper editorial pages are usually filled with some of the worst goo-goo anti-gerrymandering handwringing, so I found this op-ed by George Skelton in the LA Times to be particularly delightful. Skelton wryly observes that California Dems can’t get a tax deal done with Republicans because a key tool in their arsenal – offering to draw recalcitrant legislators good districts, and threatening them with bad ones – has been taken out of their hands. In other words, like a lot of California’s supposedly well-meaning ballot initiatives, the independent redistricting commission is also having some unintended consequences. In the end, Skelton seems to come down on the side of the commission anyway, but I think he’s right: When you limit legislators’ ability to legislate, you limit their ability to do good things as well as bad.

Iowa: We’re done: Iowa is now the third state to complete a new congressional map, with Gov. Terry Brandstad signing off on the plans yesterday. At the bottom of the linked article, you’ll also find a list of all state House and Senate incumbents who have been thrown together in the same district.

Missouri: Some interesting backstory on the Dem side of redistricting in Missouri. Apparently, things got nasty between Russ Carnahan and Lacy Clay just a couple of weeks ago: Carnahan asked Clay (and Emmanuel Cleaver, MO’s other Dem member of the House) to help him ask Gov. Jay Nixon to veto the state legislature’s new maps which throw Clay and Carnahan into one district together. (The seat would be heavily black, which would favor Clay.) Clay refused, leading to a heated moment on the House floor, but now apparently Carnahan has agreed not to run against him in a primary. Instead, Carnahan is supposedly being pushed toward a run in what would become the new 3rd CD, which at present is largely Todd Akin’s district. That seat could open up if Akin runs for Senate, which I’d currently say is more likely than not.

Republicans, however, have not made any peace agreements and in fact appear to be in meltdown mode. Yesterday we mentioned that Republican leaders and congressmembers were gathering to discuss the impasse between competing maps, a meeting which reportedly became “acrimonious.” I’ll let Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum of the St. Louis Beacon summarize the key points of contention:

The Republican members of Congress generally want the Senate to drop consideration of its map and take up the map already passed by the Missouri House. But Senate leaders dislike some of the House’s proposed boundaries. They also say they don’t have the votes for a veto-proof majority of the House map.

I strongly suggest reading the entire Beacon article if you’re interested in this topic – it’s definitely one of the sharper tradmed pieces I’ve seen on redistricting in general this year. In any event, Republicans want a shot at over-riding a possible Nixon veto before the current legislative session ends on May 13, so time is running short here.

New Jersey: With the Garden State losing a seat this decade, Aaron Blake runs through five different scenarios involving various incumbent-vs-incumbent matchups.

Oklahoma: Yesterday, the state House unanimously passed a new congressional map (which makes very minimal changes to the existing district lines). Given that all five members of Congress have signed off on the plan, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t breeze through the Senate as well – but we’ve already had more than our share of redistricting surprises this cycle, so I’ve stopped calling my bookie.

Virginia: A committee in the Republican-held House made some minor tweaks to their map, which Gov. Bob McDonnell had previously vetoed. I’m sure this is just cosmetic b.s., because McDonnell really only cares about the Dem map that the Senate produced. In McDonnell’s world, the first is a work of unparalleled bipartisanshippy beauty, while the second is a hideous Demmycrat gerrymander FROM HELL. That’s fookin’ politics for ya.

SSP Daily Digest: 2/7

AZ-Sen: One more fundraising number to report from Q4: Republican #2 and potential retiree Jon Kyl raised $106K, leaving him with $682K CoH. That’s a difficult number to assess as a tea leaf: it’s too much for him to look like he’s clearly about to hang it up, but also not enough to make it look like he’s actively engaging his race yet.

CT-Sen: Rep. Chris Murphy looks like he can count on a lot of hometown backing in his bid for the Senate (where the real challenge may be getting out of the Dem primary). He just rolled out the endorsement of 60 Democratic leaders from around CT-05, including three state Reps.

IN-Sen: State treasurer Richard Mourdock confirmed over the weekend at the Tippecanoe County Republican Women’s Club that he’ll be challenging long-time incumbent Richard Lugar in the GOP Senate primary in 2012, although he didn’t serve up much tea-spiked red meat in doing so, instead ladling on the praise of Lugar but touting the need for competition of ideas. He specified Feb. 22 as the official date of his campaign launch, though.

MI-Sen: Saul Anuzis (who I’ve just noticed is one typo away from being the Egyptian jackal god… maybe getting tough on grave robbers will be at the top of his agenda) is now the subject of a draft website, encouraging him to get into the Michigan Senate race.

MN-Sen: Buried deep in this article about Amy Klobuchar is some pretty clear indication that Rep. Michele Bachmann isn’t going to run for Senate in 2012; the GOP state party chair says that Bachmann was “very emphatic” to him that she wasn’t going to run. (Does she have any mode other than “very emphatic?”)

MT-Sen: In case you were hoping that all those leaks and rumors last week about Denny Rehberg announcing for the Senate were some sort of gigantic miscommunication, sorry, no such luck. The Republican Rep. officially announced his bid against Jon Tester on Saturday.

NJ-Sen: That Woody Johnson-for-Senate rumor a few weeks ago is continuing to get some continued oxygen, with revelations that the New York Jets owner dined at Drumthwacket (sorry, I just like saying “Drumthwacket”) with both Chris Christie and Mitt Romney several weeks ago. To me, this seems more like Johnson, a big Republican donor (although a John McCain backer in 2008) being there on Romney’s behalf than a Senate tea leaf. (Just found out he’s actually “Robert Wood Johnson IV,” as in the do-gooding Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and big pharma company Johnson & Johnson.)

SC-Sen: Lindsey Graham — not up until 2014, so this is mostly academic at this point — is sporting some rather Olympia Snowe-ish approval numbers in the way they break down. He’s at 40/37 overall in PPP’s South Carolina sample, but at 31/38 among Democrats and only 43/36 within his own party. He’s looking better positioned to win the general in ’14 than to win his own primary.

UT-Sen: Orrin Hatch is grinning and bearing it: eager to avoid the fate of fellow Senator Bob Bennett, who ignored the tea partiers at his own peril, Hatch will participate in an online town hall sponsored by Tea Party Express (whose Sal Russo offered Hatch some rhetorical cover last week). He’ll be the establishment odd-man-out, sharing face time with Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Steve King.

KY-Gov: Republican state Senate president David Williams, the establishment canddiate in the Kentucky gubernatorial GOP primary, looks to be pretty safe from a teabagging, if his own internal poll is any indication. A poll from Got Focus shows him at 47, with Bobbie Holsclaw at 10 and tea-flavored businessman Phil Moffett at 9.

PA-Gov: Here’s an intriguing rumor, although one that doesn’t have much to it beyond eavesdropped rumblings at the state Democratic committee meeting: ex-Rep. Joe Sestak for governor in 2014. Can he be the one who stops the state’s clockwork alternation between the parties for 8-year gubernatorial terms?

WV-Gov: You can count Republican zillionaire John Raese, who lost the 2010 Senate race by an unexpectedly wide margin, out from this year’s gubernatorial special election; he said “no thanks” (after already having declined a 2012 senatorial rematch against Joe Manchin). And the election dates are finally official, with acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signing off on the compromise legislation that set the primary on May 14 and general on Oct. 4.

FL-25: The hits just keep coming for freshman Rep. David Rivera. On top of the $500K in mysterious dog track money and the $60K in mystery expenditures while a state legislator, now the AP is reporting on an entirely separate $150K paid from the Miami-Dade Republican Party to a key ally of Rivera (to consultant Esther Nuhfer for “media” expenses) without any of the usual paper trail. $35K was used to purchase radio ads, but the whereabouts of the remainder is anybody’s guess.

LA-03, LA-07: While we reported on Friday that Jeff Landry was considering a state AG run as a way out of his likely redistricting-related demise, it looks like he’s still fighting to keep a viable House district for himself too. He and LA-07’s Charles Boustany are publicly at odds over the state’s new redistricting map. Landry wants a district that spans the whole coastline of the state (which would put him on a collision course with the Lafayette-based Boustany), while Boustany says there needs to be one district for the New Orleans suburbs (which would probably wind up pitting Landry against Steve Scalise in current LA-01 instead).

MI-09: It sounds like Democratic Rep. Gary Peters may also have a Plan B in the event of the elimination of his district via redistricting. Based on the war of words emerging between Peters and Republican Oakland Co. Executive L. Brooks Patterson, it’s possible that Peters is eyeing a 2012 run to become head of the state’s second largest county. Oakland Co. is one of those prototypical mostly-affluent inner-ring suburban counties that has moved pretty solidly into the Dem column at the presidential level but still has a lot of Republican strength further down the ballot; MI-09 currently occupies most of the county.

MO-05, MO-06: In that one or two weeks where it looked like Rep. Sam Graves was going to run for Senate (thus opening up the 6th), that prompted Republican state Rep. Jerry Nolte to officially throw his hat into the ring for the presumably open seat. Now that he knows Graves is sticking around, though, Nolte apparently isn’t going to let his newly-opened federal account go to waste. He says he might run against Emanuel Cleaver in MO-05 instead. (Nolte lives in Gladstone in the KC suburbs, currently in the 6th but a possible inclusion in the 5th after redistricting, as the 5th will need to gain a lot of population.)

Redistricting: The Fix’s ongoing series of profiles on state redistricting turns to Pennsylvania this week, the state whose 2002 map became almost synonymous with one of our favorite words here: “dummymander” (i.e. a map that looks like a coup at first but is so flimsy that it blows up in your face the minute the political winds turn against you). The state GOP, in charge of the process again in 2012, seem to have learned from their mistakes and don’t plan to get so “greedy” this time. As we’ve mentioned here, the likeliest approach to lose the one seat will be to draw western PA Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into one district. The alternative would be to try to take out the seemingly-indestructible Tim Holden in PA-17, although reddening his already GOP-leaning district would probably make things even worse for Lou Barletta, whose PA-11 is currently D+4.

2012 Prez: Jake McIntyre’s presidential cattle calls have been a rich tradition over at Daily Kos for years now, and this one is no exception. (It’s so good we’re actually breaking the first rule of Swing State Project: no talking about presidential politics.)

SSP Daily Digest: 2/1

MI-Sen: This looks like a tea leaf that Peter Hoekstra isn’t a likely Senate candidate for 2012: he’s joining big DC law/lobby firm Dickstein Shapiro, a popular destination for outgoing Congresspeople and certainly not the usual route for someone who wants to keep in touch with the little people back home. (Current “senior advisors” there include Dennis Hastert, Tim Hutchinson, and Albert Wynn.)

MN-Sen: Norm Coleman comes right out and says it explicitly: he’s not going to run against Amy Klobuchar in 2012 (although he didn’t rule out eventual other runs). Not that anyone rational was expecting it, but now we can check that box.

NV-Sen: Cue up some doomy soundtrack music for John Ensign: despite his having dodged the DOJ, the Senate Ethics Committee has decided to plow ahead on its inquiry of him, just in time for the cycle where he’s up for re-election. Today a special counsel in l’affaire Ensign was announced.

NY-Sen: Going up against Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012 (in the wake of her cresting 60% in the down year of 2010) seems like an unenviable task for any Republican, and the duties might fall to former Lt. Gov. turned health insurance industry astroturfer Betsy McCaughey. Speaking before a confab for New York’s Conservative Party, when asked about the race, she said she’s “considering it.”

WA-Gov: We can’t officially shut the door on a highly-unusual run for a third term by Chris Gregoire until she actually says “no” herself, but state Dem party chair Dwight Pelz is publicly saying that he’s looking ahead to electing a new governor in 2012. Don’t expect Gregoire to say anything until the end of the legislative session, though.

WV-Gov: Get out your calendars and your red pen, because it looks like things are getting switched around yet again in West Virginia. The state House passed a bill authorizing the upcoming elections (including a primary, which wasn’t considered a done deal because of the cost involved), but they’ve moved the dates around again. Now the primary date is May 14 (instead of June 20), and the general special election date is Sept. 13 (instead of Oct. 4). Of course, that’s only the House version, so the state Senate could monkey around with it even more. Meanwhile, one Republican candidate is already exiting the field: state party chair Mike Stuart, who probably saw the writing on the wall given his 1% showing in PPP’s sample of the primary. A few more GOPers that we haven’t mentioned before are thinking about getting in to replace him, though: state House minority leader Tim Armstead, and state Del. Mitch Carmichael.

CT-05: This is a bit of a surprise, and ought to create a wide-open Republican field in the open seat race created by Chris Murphy’s quest for a Senate seat. State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, who made a competitive race of it in 2010, says he won’t run again in 2012.

MT-AL: As Denny Rehberg-related rumors got ramped up over the last few days, there’s been a corresponding rise in rumors that Steve Daines (the Republican businessman who lost the 2008 Lt. Gov. race and announced a Senate bid in November) might bail out of the Senate race and drop down to the now-open House race instead. That would be a bit of a turnaround for Daines, who had already consolidated some backing from right-wing orgs for a possible tea-flavored primary rumble, but the House is a path of much less resistance for him. No confirmation from Daines today, but as of yesterday he sounded open to the idea.

State legislatures: This article about how state legislature constituencies are getting too populous for legislators to maintain effective old-school communications with their voters is most noteworthy for its neat interactive graphic. You can compare the legislator-to-constituent ratio for each state (unsurprisingly, California and Texas are the worst, while North Dakota and New Hampshire are the best).

Fundraising: We have fundraising numbers from 2010 Q4 for five different Senate Dems up in 2012, and we’ll start with the weakest link: Dan Akaka, who has $66K CoH. (Not that that should presage retirement or even encourage Linda Lingle, as he doesn’t really fundraise outside the cycles where he’s up for re-election; he had $83K at this point six years ago.) Next up: Jim Webb, who has $444K CoH but raised only $12K last quarter, a number that by itself screams retirement… but as we know, Webb marches to his own drummer and could turn that around quickly. Ben Nelson is also in camped out in the land of the mediocre (and of the potential retirees), raising only $81K, though he has a more robust $1.4 million CoH.

Jeff Bingaman, on the other hand, seems to be heading for another term, albeit in slightly lukewarm fashion, raising $216K last quarter; he has $511K CoH. Debbie Stabenow is looking pretty aggressive, by contrast: she raised $537K and has more than $2 million CoH. One Republican to report on, as well: Orrin Hatch, likely to face a serious primary, raised $400K and is sitting on $2.5 million CoH (compared with Jason Chaffetz’s $140K CoH).

Redistricting: Here’s more on the growing worries from plugged-in Republicans that they don’t have the money in place to effectively fight the legal battles associated with redistricting. The sense is that they’re victims of their own success: they spent so much money on winning state legislatures last year that they didn’t leave any leftovers budgeted for the aftermath.

SSP Daily Digest: 1/21

CT-Sen: If you think the Chris Murphy/Susan Bysiewicz primary is an open-and-shut case, guess again: Ted Kennedy Jr.’s name seems to be getting a lot of mention now too. If the 49-year-old lawyer does get elected, if would bring the Kennedy-free interregnum in Congress to a close after only two years. Meanwhile, I don’t think anybody was expecting him to give up his leadership slot for a run, but Rep. John Larson has confirmed he’s not running for Senate, and isn’t endorsing… yet. Rep. Chris Murphy seems to know that this race, with its expensive media markets, is going to cost a lot of money; he’s putting a $10 million figure out there, although that of course could go even higher if he finds himself in a general election against Linda McMahon. Luckily for Murphy, MoveOn seems to be backing him up; while they didn’t explicitly endorse, they e-mailed their donor base on his behalf today. If he can corner the “netroots candidate” niche in the primary, obviously that’ll help him go a long way toward that money goal.

MI-Sen: Could Saul Anuzis, who just lost his RNC chair bid, wind up being the Michigan Senate nominee for the GOP in 2012? Apparently that’s an option on the table for him, although he tells Dave Catanese he hasn’t “ruled it out or in.” Anuzis is a primarily behind-the-scenes player, though, who’s never won an election before. At least that gives him that much in common with Tim Leuliette, the only other person to have expressed much interest so far. Also, this isn’t exactly Senate related, but here’s another Greg Giroux special: a database showing the Michigan governor’s race breakdown by current congressional district.

MN-Sen: Marty Seifert, the state Rep. who lost the 2010 Republican nomination to the further-right Tom Emmer, has declined to run for either the 2012 or 2014 Senate races, leaving the state GOP still casting about for anyone to go up against Amy Klobuchar. They’re still laying the groundwork for a hard run, though, already launching a new website trying to tar the often-moderate Klobuchar with the dreaded “liberal.”

NV-Sen: John Ensign confirms yet again that he’s running for re-election (at least for now), though he says he expects a primary challenge and will have difficulty regaining the voters’ trust. The main thing, though, he’ll have difficulty is regaining money… he raised only $19K last quarter for his campaign account. (His legal fees are another story: he raised $550K for his legal defense fund last quarter, and spending $97K of that on lawyers. Likely rival Dean Heller, for his part, said at a press conference that he’s keeping an eye on the race, but without a specific timetable for an announcement.

RI-Sen: One well-known name (at least locally) who does seem interested in the Senate race (which so far hasn’t drawn any takers) is Alan Hassenfeld, the former CEO of locally-based toymaker Hasbro. (Does that make him the real-life inspiration for Mr. Weed on the Family Guy?) At any rate, Hassenfeld is registered independent and contributed to and voted for the Moderate Party’s gubernatorial candidate last year, so he seems like he might be running on their line, not for the GOP.

VA-Sen: The rest of the Democratic A-list in Virginia seems to be shying away from the Senate race, meaning either Jim Webb is pretty certain to run again or else we’re in a world of hurt. Terry McAuliffe, who in the end acquitted himself well in the ’09 gubernatorial race, says he won’t run if Webb doesn’t (joining Tim Kaine in the “no thanks” pile). That’s not a surprise, in that McAuliffe’s interest in another whack at the gubernatorial race in 2013 is well-known.

LA-Gov: We’ve been seeing a lot of polls with strange configurations lately, and this one from Market Research Insight (not a pollster we seem to have any track record from) may take the cake. As one might expect, they find Bobby Jindal looking pretty safe for re-election, but they test him against both Mary Mitch Landrieu (as a D) and John Kennedy (as an R) in what, I assume, is supposed to be a jungle primary format (despite no indications from either Landrieu or Kennedy that they’re interested). At any rate, it’s Jindal 51, Landrieu 25, Kennedy 10. More generically, they find Jindal with a 49/40 re-elect number.

WV-Gov: Now this is highly unusual. Faced with a court mandate to hold a special election this year, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (the main person wanting to kick the election back to 2012), has declared that the special election won’t be in November as one might expect, but rather on Oct. 4! The primaries will be held on June 20.

KY-AG: After some last minute rumors this week that he wasn’t going to run again, Jack Conway announced today that he’s filing for re-election as Attorney General and putting together a new campaign team. Needless to say, that’s a relief for those of us who want to keep building a bench in and contesting Kentucky.

Chicago mayor: There’s a new Chicago Tribune/WGN poll out of the mayoral race, and like other recent polls, it shows Rahm Emanuel with a big lead and continuing to climb, but still short of the 50% mark at which he could avoid a runoff. The poll finds him at 44, with Carol Mosely Braun (last seen sniping at Bill Clinton, telling him he’s “turning his back” on minorities) at 21, Gery Chico at 16, and Miguel del Valle at 7. Emanuel is also announcing his financial haul, which, as you might guess, is huge (Senate-sized, really): $10.6 million raised through mid-January. With that in mind, he’s sparing no expense when it comes to advertising, rolling out a $150K ad buy during the Bears/Packers game this weekend.

SSP Daily Digest: 12/30

AK-Sen: With the book about to close on 2010, so too is the last outstanding race of 2010, the Alaska Senate race. Today the state is planning to certify Lisa Murkowski as winner of the race, including hand-delivering the certification papers to Washington DC so there won’t be any possible obstacles to Murkowski’s swearing-in next week (and ensuing temporary loss of state clout). This, of course, follows a legal one-two punch to Joe Miller’s hopes: last week’s loss at the Alaska Supreme Court, which upheld the trial court’s decision that the write-in votes for Murkowski were properly counted, and then this week’s ruling by a federal district court judge dismissing his related federal suit and lifting the hold on the race’s certification. Miller will not stand in the way of the certification, although he says he is still considering whether to continue litigating the matter (which, if he did, would feature the 9th Circuit as the next stop).

The most ironic part of the whole tale is that the Tea Party Express, in their ill-advised RINO hunt, seem to have only succeeded in making Murkowski into more of a free agent. If you’ve noticed that Murkowski seems to be toeing the GOP line less since winning the election without running under the GOP banner, you’re not alone: she was the only Senate GOPer to vote with the Dems on all four big action items during the lame duck session (the tax compromise, DADT repeal, START, and the DREAM Act).

DE-Sen: SSP isn’t about re-litigating old elections, but this is indeed relevant because Christine O’Donnell, looking to capitalize on her newfound celebrity, may yet be a fourth-time candidate for the Senate against Tom Carper in the future. That fourth run might be more difficult, though, if she’s in prison… perhaps possible as it seems like the federal government has decided it’s had enough of her once-every-two-years grifting tours and is now criminally investigating her use of campaign funds for personal purposes during her 2010 campaign. Anyway, she put out a truly epic statement today on the matter that ought to have you reaching for your copy of the DSM, so laden with paranoia and delusions of grandeur it is.

MA-Sen: While everyone seems to be wondering which U.S. Rep. will step into the gap if nobody named Kennedy runs for the Senate, there’s always the outside possibility that someone with a business background and lots of his own money tries to move to the head of the pack in the Bay State. Robert Pozen may fit that bill, and he’s apparently been talking to party insiders about the possibility. The investment banker-turned-Harvard Business professor has some liabilities, though: he served briefly in Mitt Romney’s cabinet, which may help his bipartisan bona fides but could be poison in a primary, and his personality has been described as [John] “Silberesque,” which would just be all-purpose poison.

MI-Sen: If the NRSC ever had any interest in Tim Leuliette as their Senate candidate in Michigan, that probably evaporated this week. The auto-parts magnate just said that he’s not comfortable with self-funding his campaign and wouldn’t put much of his “large fortune” into a run. Considering that that was the main (if not only) selling point for a candidacy from an otherwise unknown political newcomer, that should pretty much be end-of-story.

MO-Sen, MO-Gov: A poll from Republican pollster Wilson Research (commissioned by consulting firm Axiom Strategies) has (big surprise) good news for Republicans in it, most notably Jim Talent. The ex-Sen. has a significant lead in a rematch against Claire McCaskill, ahead 51-40. Talent seems to have a big electability edge over Sarah Steelman, who’s tied 44-44 with McCaskill. McCaskill’s approvals are 48/45. They also look at the Governor’s race, finding a more competitive race than PPP did but not the lead that a Peter Kinder internal showed. They find Dem incumbent Jay Nixon leading Kinder 45-42, with Nixon’s approvals at 52%. Worth noting: the poll’s a little stale, taken Dec. 1-2.

ND-Sen: It’s starting to look like Kent Conrad will face some serious opposition from Republicans this cycle (assuming the 62-year-old runs for re-election), although it’s not clear exactly from whom. Perhaps the heaviest-hitter available, the state’s ex-Gov. and the former Bush administration Agriculture Secretary, Ed Schafer, has just ruled it out. For now, the likeliest-sounding one right now seems to be Brian Kalk, one of the state’s three Public Service Commissioners, a statewide elected position. Kalk says he’s giving it “serious thought,” which contrasts with oft-mentioned AG Wayne Stenehjem’s statement that he doesn’t have “any plans” (although not closing “any doors” either) and with newly-promoted Gov. Jack Dalrymple, for whom it’s the “last thing” on his mind.

NE-Sen (pdf): In case you weren’t sure whether or not Ben Nelson’s in trouble for 2012, um, yes, he’s in trouble. Republican pollster Magellan is out with a poll finding Nelson with an overall 29/59 re-elect, and trailing GOP AG Jon Bruning 52-38. He’s also trailing state Treasurer Don Stenberg (not yet a candidate, but sounding likely to run as well) 46-40. Hopefully we’ll get a look from PPP at this one soon for confirmation. It seems like the Dems are already treating Bruning as a serious threat, though, with the state party trying to throw obstacles in his path by filing FEC and IRS complaints against Bruning over shoddy campaign-committee setup.

VA-Sen: So apparently all you have to do is append “Tea Party Activist” to your job description, and all of a sudden you’re magically promoted from Some Dude to Very Serious Candidate Worthy of National Media Attention. Or at least that’s the case with the campaign announcement from Jamie Radtke, head of the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots, whose main claim to fame seems to be organizing a gathering of 3,000 ‘baggers in Richmond. At any rate, Radtke is the first actually announced GOP candidate. Meanwhile, Jim Webb seems to be moving closer to making a decision on whether to run for re-election (though no clues on how he feels), saying he’ll sort it out over the holiday break and make an announcement in the first quarter of 2011.

IN-Gov: This comes as a surprise, since there had been a lot of buzz about her as the nominee, with increasing moves from Rep. Mike Pence toward a presidential run instead. But Becky Skillman, Indiana’s Lt. Governor, recently announced that she wouldn’t run for Governor in 2012, citing “minor health issues.” Does this make likelier a Pence gubernatorial run, now that he’d have an easy stroll to the nomination? And if Pence doesn’t run, that seems to point to a truly wide open field, as no one seems to have contemplated a GOP field that didn’t include Pence or Skillman. Who else might step up? (I hear Mike Sodrel may still be looking for a job…)

NC-Gov: Rounding out the troika of Republican polls showing Dem incumbents in trouble is one from North Carolina from Civitas, who have coordinated with a variety of pollsters and this time went straight to the big daddy of GOP pollsters, POS. The poll finds GOP former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory cruising in a rematch against Dem incumbent Bev Perdue, who never really seemed to gain her footing after a narrow 2008 win: he leads her 51-36 (with Perdue getting only 64% among Democrats).

WA-Gov: Two interesting developments mean this race isn’t as open-and-shut as I’d thought. One is that there’s increasing buzz linking Dow Constantine, just elected in 2009 as King County Executive, to the governor’s race. I’ve regarded Constantine (who’s 47) as a very likely Governor starting in 2020, but with Dems seeming a little edgy that none of their biggest-name candidates (Rep. Jay Inslee, whose WA-01 is centered in suburban Snohomish Co., Snohomish Co. Exec Aaron Reardon, Spokane-based state Sen. majority leader Lisa Brown) are from their stronghold of King County while likely GOP candidate Rob McKenna is, there might be some pressure on Constantine to move up his timetable. (It’s worth noting that Gary Locke became Gov. in 1996 after three years as King Co. Executive.) The other develompent is that Chris Gregoire isn’t categorically ruling out an attempt at a third term, which she’s legally entitled to do but Just Isn’t Done. (Although she might point out that the last time it was tried, 1972, Dan Evans was successfully re-elected… in fact, the last time a Republican was re-elected Governor in Washington.) She registered as a 2012 candidate with the Public Disclosure Commission, in order to “keep her options open.” (UPDATE: Big h/t to meekermariner, who points out in comments that this Gregoire article is nearly two years old, leaving me to wonder why Politico was linking to it with such enthusiasm. At any rate, the Gregoire committee remains open today, although that in itself isn’t much of a suggestion that a third term may be in the offing.)

WV-Gov: This week was the deadline for filing briefs for the lawsuit that’s attempting to move up the special election to replace Joe Manchin up to 2011. We still don’t have an answer to when it will happen, but at least we know who’s on what side in the case: the state’s major unions (including the AFL-CIO and WVEA) want it sooner, and so does likely candidate and Dem state House speaker Rick Thompson. State Auditor Glen Gainer supports the expedited election too, while SoS Natalie Tennant (another possible Dem candidate) has basically punted on the issue. And if you’re wondering about Joe Manchin’s decision to duck DADT and DREAM Act votes in order to enjoy family holiday festivities, it seems like it wasn’t, first and foremost, a self-protecting profile in cowardice. With Manchin having survived probably his toughest challenge, he’s more interested now in clearing the way for ally and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and not interested in provoking a social issues-based civil war within the state Dem party that could undermine Tomblin’s shot at getting elected to a full term.

OH-01: Guess who’s sounding like he’s gearing up for a rematch? Steve Driehaus, in an interview with the Cincinnati paper, took a variety of potshots at Steve Chabot, calling him a Boehner “follower” and saying he shouldn’t “sit too easy.” Driehaus has previously said he’s “open” to another attempt. (This is Cincinnati-based district is notorious for steep dropoff in African-American voting in off-years, so if any time would be the right time for Driehaus to try again, 2012 would be it.)

LA-St. House: There was a long period of threatening and flirting, but now it’s official: state Rep. Noble Ellington switched to the Republican Party, formally flipping control of the state’s lower legislative chamber to the GOP for the first time since Reconstruction. Functionally, it may not make much perceptible difference, since there was already a Republican speaker, and many Dems were already quite conservative.

NY-St. Sen.: Looks like the end of the line in one other outstanding race (which ultimately had the balance of the New York state Senate in play): the state’s Court of Appeals said no thanks to incumbent Dem Craig Johnson’s appeal of a lower court decision that said there didn’t need to be a hand recount of machine votes in New York’s 7th District. GOPer Jack Martins had been declared the winner in the race by several hundred votes, handing the state Senate back to the GOP by a 32-30 margin.

PA-St. Sen.: Pennsylvania’s state Senate has been even more stubbornly Republican over the years than New York’s, and it looks like the Dems are going to have play a bit more defense there in an upcoming special election. Democratic minority whip Michael O’Pake (the state’s longest-serving legislator) died several days ago at age 70, leaving a vacancy in SD-11 that will need to be filled by special election at some point between March and May (date TBD). On paper, this looks like the kind of district that would be a major test case for whether the Dems are going to continue their run of bad luck in the Keystone State from the 2010 election: while it works out to about D+4 (going 59/40 for Barack Obama and 51/48 for John Kerry), it also gave 55% of the vote to Tom Corbett and 50.6% to Pat Toomey this year. However, this may all boil down to bench strength in a traditionally-Dem district (centered on the blue-collar city of Reading, although made purple by inclusion of its suburbs, too): insiders from both parties are treating Democratic former Berks Co. Commissioner Judy Schwank as “prohibitive favorite.”

Approvals: PPP does us the favor of consolidating all their year-end Senate approval ratings and gubernatorial approvals in one (or two, really) places. In the Senate, the most popular Senator overall, in addition to most popular one up in 2012, is Amy Klobuchar (59/29); while outgoing Roland Burris is the overall goat, Joe Lieberman is in worst shape of anyone up in 2012 (33/54). Among the few governors facing 2012 re-election, Jack Markell is tops at 50/32 (with Jay Nixon not far behind at 44/30), while Chris Gregoire fares the worst, in case she actually runs (although this might dissuade her sudden interest in a third term); her 40/53 is actually a worse spread than Bev Perdue’s 35/44.

Redistricting: The Fix has a good piece on redistricting out, that should pretty much serve as the last word on why GOP purely-redistricting-related House seat gains are likely to be limited to the single digits for 2012: thanks to their 2010 overperformance, they’re thoroughly maxed out in the big four prizes where they have total control (Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). That’s compounded by, in Florida, the new Fair Districts initiative, and in Texas, the need to create at least two more VRA districts while still protecting Blake Farenthold. Also, here’s one other redistricting implication that’s gotten totally overlooked in all the last few weeks’ discussion: although California didn’t lose or gain a seat, there’s been enough population shift within the state (thanks to stagnation in the Bay Area and rapid growth in the Inland Empire) that the net result will be the moving of most of one district from NoCal to SoCal. It’ll be interesting to see whether the new independent commission is able to do that in a way that lightly shifts boundaries southwards and protects the jobs of all 53 incumbents, or if someone from the north actually gets turfed out and an effectively new seat opens up in the south.

Chicago mayor: A lot has happened in the Chicago mayoral race since we last checked: first, Rahm Emanuel cleared the first hurdle in ascertaining that he is, indeed, a Chicago resident and not a Kenyan (although there will be inevitable courtroom appeals for weeks to come, with opponents willing to go to the state Supreme Court). The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners last week rejected claims that Emanuel had abandoned his Chicago residency when he went to work in the White House. Also, we’ve seen two of Emanuel’s erstwhile opponents drop out of the race, narrowing the number of African-American candidates but still leaving that part of the field split between Danny Davis (last seen publicly urging Bill Clinton against coming to Chicago to campaign for Emanuel) and Carol Mosely Braun. State Sen. James Meeks dropped out, saying he didn’t want to further split the black vote, and Roland Burris also withdrew, via press release, from the race (although it’s unclear whether he ever really was in the race, since he never made any public appearances). Finally, we got another poll of the race from We Ask America, which may be most noteworthy for showing Gerry Chico in position to make the runoff. They find Emanuel at 44, Chico at 12, Braun at 8, Davis at 7, Miguel Del Valle at 6, and Meeks at 4.

SSP Daily Digest: 12/14

AK-Sen: To quote Troy McClure, “here’s an appealing fellow… in fact, they’re a-peeling him off the sidewalk.” Yes, Joe Miller didn’t even wait until today to make his decision about whether or not to appeal to Alaska’s Supreme Court; he already pulled the trigger on his appeal (despite the fact that everyone but him knows that he’s, at this point, roadkill). Arguments are set for Friday, so (since he can’t introduce new evidence, which the trial judge found sorely lacking, at the appellate level) this should get resolved pretty quickly.

CT-Sen: Linda McMahon is sounding very much like she’s ready to run again in 2012 against Joe Lieberman and a Dem to be named (maybe she found another $40 million under the couch cushions). She has a meeting planned with the NRSC’s John Cornyn, presumably to discuss her next move. Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman (who lost control of his own vanity party, the CfL) is seeming likelier to run again, thanks to encouragement from both sides of the aisle, and he may even have a useful vehicle to do it with: the new “No Labels” party-type thing courtesy of Michael Bloomberg. Meanwhile, there’s more follow-up from yesterday that, yes, Rep. Joe Courtney is considering a run for the Dem nomination (which could set up a primary against fellow Rep. Chris Murphy); he says he’s “looking at it” and, if he runs, will announce soon. That pretty much leaves Rosa DeLauro as the lone Dem House member in the state who hasn’t said yes or no, and today, as you’d expect, she said a loud “no.”

ME-Sen: Roll Call seems to have read the same article as everybody else yesterday that had that baffling interview with Andrew Ian Dodge — the tea party impresario who claims to be in contact with a killer-app candidate who will unite the teabaggers and defeat Olympia Snowe — and just flat-out concluded that Dodge is the mystery candidate himself (meaning that he’s spent the last few months talking to himself?). As added evidence, Dodge doesn’t dispute a local blog’s reports that he plans to run.

MI-Sen: Despite his strong name-rec-fueled showing in a PPP poll last week of the GOP Senate primary (or perhaps because of it), ex-Gov. John Engler is now saying that he has no plans to run for Senate, and will be staying in his role as head of the National Manufacturers Association. Strangely, the biggest-name candidate beyond Engler associated with the race, soon-to-be-ex-Rep. and gubernatorial primary loser Peter Hoekstra, sounded pretty indifferent about it when asked by a reporter yesterday, saying “We’ll see. I’m not sitting around yearning to get back into office.”

MN-Sen: PPP is out with GOP Senate primary numbers, and it’s a familiar story: the GOP base is irretrievably enamored with a female politician who’s poison in the general election. Rep. Michele Bachmann (who loses the general 56-39 to Klobuchar) leads the field at 36, far ahead of more establishment figures like outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty (20) and ex-Sen. Norm Coleman (14). They’re followed by new Rep. Chip Cravaack at 7, Tom Emmer at 6, John Kline at 5, Laura Brod at 4, and Erik Paulsen at 2. There’s not much indication that Bachmann is interested in a Senate run — in fact, she’s currently sending out fundraising appeals based on the threat of a rematch with Tarryl Clark — but there’s also word that Amy Klobuchar’s camp is most worried about facing Bachmann of any of the possible opponents, probably because of her national fundraising capacity (although it may also be a bit of public don’t-throw-me-in-that-briar-patch posturing).

NV-Sen: Need some evidence that Rep. Shelly Berkley is planning a Senate run? National Journal looks at her repositioning, as one of the key members of the party’s liberal wing in the House to break away and support the tax compromise, suggesting that she’s trying to tack toward the center to play better in the 2nd and 3rd districts. (Of course, it’s worth noting that she wasn’t that liberal to begin with, as a member of the New Dems, not the Progressives, and with a National Journal score usually putting her around the 60th percentile in the House.)

IN-Gov: Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel isn’t in a hurry to declare whether or not he’s going to run for Governor, although with Evan Bayh’s recent demurral, the iron would be hot. The key indicator, though, will be whether Weinzapfel runs for another term as mayor; the election is in 2011, and it’s assumed that if he does run for re-election a gubernatorial run is unlikely. He’ll need to make a mayoral decision by Feb. 18.

MT-Gov: The Dems have lined up a real candidate for the governor’s race, maybe the best they can do if AG Steve Bullock doesn’t make the race. Dave Wanzenreid, if nothing else, has a long resume: currently a state Senator, he served previously as a state Rep., as both minority and majority leader in that body. He was also chief of staff to ex-Gov. Ted Schwinden and then state labor commissioner in the 80s.

Crossroads: American Crossroads, after its avalanche of late-cycle ads a few months ago, is already getting back in the TV game. The Karl Rove-linked dark money vehicle is spending $400K on radio advertising in the districts of 12 Dems who won by narrow margins, urging them to vote in favor of the tax compromise package. Tim Bishop, Jim Costa, Gabrielle Giffords, Gerry Connolly, Ben Chandler, Jason Altmire, Bill Owens, Maurice Hinchey, Heath Shuler, Gary Peters, Joe Donnelly, and Sanford Bishop are all on the target list.

Votes: There’s a strange array of “no” votes on the tax compromise that passed the Senate 83-15. The Dems have a few votes from the left (Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Pat Leahy, Russ Feingold (although it’s gotten kind of hard to tell if he’s doing anything from the left or not anymore)), but also some votes from some pretty avowed centrists (Jeff Bingaman, Kay Hagan, Mark Udall) too, of which Bingaman is the only one up in 2012. John Ensign was one of the few GOP “no” votes, although you’ve gotta wonder whether it’s because he’s trying to save himself in a primary by appealing to the far-right or if he’s just given up and voting his conscience.

Census: While you wait for the main course on Dec. 21 (the day for reapportionment hard numbers), the Census Bureau is out with a gigantic appetizer. They’re rolling out their first-ever 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey (their one-year samples aren’t that reliable, but over five, they are). The ACS covers a lot of the deeper demographic information that used to covered by the Census “long form,” covering stuff like poverty, housing values, commute times, and education. Information is available all the way down to the block level, but here’s an array of county-level maps to start with.  

MN-Sen: Klobuchar In Good Shape

Public Policy Polling (12/4-5, “Minnesota voters”)

Amy Klobuchar (DFL-inc): 56

Michele Bachmann (R): 39

Undecided: 4

Amy Klobuchar (DFL-inc): 54

Norm Coleman (R): 40

Undecided: 6

Amy Klobuchar (DFL-inc): 56

Tom Emmer (R): 38

Undecided: 6

Amy Klobuchar (DFL-inc): 53

Tim Pawlenty (R): 43

Undecided: 4

Amy Klobuchar (DFL-inc):: 52

Erik Paulsen (R): 34

Undecided: 14

MoE: ±3.2%

PPP’s latest has DFL incumbent Amy Klobuchar doing extraordinarily well a little less than two years out, besting all five GOP challengers by spreads of 10 to 18 points.

Klobuchar remains extremely popular, with approval ratings in almost unseen territory of +30, at 59/29! Her Class II counterpart, Al Franken, is barely above water at 45/42.

Also of note, Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign (and potential post-election monkey business) have not reflected on him well, he records favorables at 37/49…almost as bad as tea party queen Bachmann’s 37/51.

SSP Daily Digest: 5/22

PA-Sen: Democratic internal pollsters Garin-Hart-Yang, at the behest of the DSCC, took a look at the possible Pennsylvania Senate primary between Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak. There’s no information about the dates or the MoE, but it shows Specter beating Sestak 56-16 (with 16% undecided), not much different from R2K‘s 56-11 a few weeks ago. This falls against a backdrop of coalescing conventional wisdom that Specter has, after a rocky first week, settled down into reliable Dem-ness (although Campaign Diairies offers an effective rebuttal of that idea).

The Corrections: Two things have already changed since yesterday’s digest: Suzanne Haik Terrell, suddenly rumored to be ready to primary David Vitter, backed down and endorsed Vitter. And in California, Dianne Feinstein walked back comments about running for Governor, saying it’s “very unlikely” and that she’s tired of being asked about it.

Senate: PPP put together a handy scorecard of all the approval ratings for Senators they’ve polled so far this year. Amy Klobuchar is tops, at 62/25, followed by Tom Coburn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. The bottom 3? Jim Bunning, Mel Martinez, and Roland Burris (at 17/62). The only other Dems in net-negative territory are the Colorado 2, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet (and that’s from that widely-poo-pooed Colorado sample).

FL-Sen: Rep. Kendrick Meek just got two endorsements as he and state Sen. Dan Gelber battle for supremacy in their shared south Florida stomping grounds: Broward County Mayor Stacey Ritter and West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. (Of course, Gelber may shortly be in the AG’s race instead, so this all may be moot.)

FL-16: Speaking of the Florida AG’s race, the DCCC has a top contender in mind for the 16th: state Sen. Dave Aronberg (who instead seems likely to square off with Gelber, and 2006 gov candidate Rod Smith, in the AG’s race). Aronberg’s seat is up in 2012, and wouldn’t have to give up his Senate seat to go for FL-16, although state law would require him to give it up to run for statewide office. The DCCC is talking to St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft as a backup plan.

MS-01: Nobody’s exactly sure what “national pundits” the rumors came from, but Rep. Travis Childers quickly quashed suggestions in a recent interview that he might jump to the GOP (and the deep minority) to have an easier go in the 2010 election. (What is this, the 90s?) “Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m a Southern Democrat – I vote what’s best for Mississippi.”

MN-Sen: Witness party unity before your eyes

I’ll say it up front, I’ve always been bullish on Al Franken, even when others here were ripping on him, and already giving up on the race, and lamenting how the race would’ve been better with Ciresi or Nelson-Pallmeyer.  And one of the arguments used against Franken was that he had pissed off some other prominent Minnesota Democrats like Congresspeople Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison and Amy Klobuchar.  There was quite a bit of hand-wringing going on.

Well, take a look below the fold to see what’s happened in the last couple days.  (And from the links, yes, I got this stuff from MN Publius.

To start off, last week Al Franken visited homeowners facing foreclosure with Keith Ellison.  And unlike previous statements, Ellison offered praise for Franken.

Franken and Ellison also took part in last Saturday’s Minneapolis Urban League’s annual Family Day Celebration at North Commons Park and made stops at two small shopping malls in South Minneapolis. Franken said he’s proud to be on the Democratic ticket headed by U.S. Senator Barack Obama and including Ellison, who is seeking his second congressional term.

“He [Obama] is going to need as many Democratic U.S. senators as possible to make sure that his agenda gets through,” candidate Franken said of Obama’s potential presidency. “I know that Keith has worked hard to get bills passed for addressing and alleviating the housing crisis. When I get to Washington, I look forward to standing beside Keith as we take the next step.”

Having two Senate Democrats in Congress will be helpful to push forward needed housing and anti-predatory mortgage lending legislation, said Ellison. “We need both houses [of Congress] working together and an administration working for us. Al isn’t just another Democrat, but a dynamic, energetic, charismatic voice that can help rally the public will to real solutions.

Then came the news that Sen. Amy Klobuchar is campaigning for Franken.

I’ve gotten to know Al well as he’s traveled the state building a grassroots movement for change, and I know he’ll be a champion for Minnesota families in Washington.

On issues like health care, energy, the war in Iraq, and our economy here at home, Al will reject the failed policies of the Bush administration and fight for change. In fact, just today Al offered some bold, common-sense solutions to strengthen Minnesota’s schools. Al will never sell out to the special interests – he’ll stay loyal to Minnesotans and advocate everyday to help the middle class.

And last but not least, Betty McCollum, who acknowledges her earlier reservations about Franken.

“Crisis” now describes a long list of issues facing Minnesota families and our country. From healthcare to energy prices, the economy to ending the Iraq war – America faces serious challenges that require urgent action.  In Washington, we need leaders who are willing to take America in a new direction.  I am proud of the work Democrats in the U.S. House have accomplished to pass important legislation.  Unfortunately, much of our work has been stalled in the U.S. Senate by an obstructionist Republican minority.  That needs to change.

As I look forward to 2009, I want to be represented in the U.S. Senate by two Minnesota senators who will support and vote to advance our positive, action oriented Democratic agenda to strengthen our economy, keep our nation secure, and invest in our country’s future.  That means in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate I will be voting for Al Franken.

This spring I voiced concerns about material from Al’s past career. To have remained silent when asked would have been hypocritical and dishonest.  I am confident my concerns have been heard and since then I have watched Al’s campaign take steps to address these matters. Now, I believe Al and his campaign are appropriately focused on building a solid relationship with voters based on our shared Minnesota values, ideals, and hopes for the future.  Like all candidates, Al understands that he is not only asking Minnesotans for their vote, but for their trust. As November 4th approaches, Al Franken will earn the trust of Minnesotans and I intend to work with him to win this election.

Fourth District DFLers, thank you for your on-going support.  This year I will continue to campaign hard to turn out the vote to elect Barack Obama to the White House, Al Franken to the U.S. Senate, and win my own re-election to Congress.  I know we will all work together in the 4th District to win in November and together take Minnesota and America in a new direction.

Franken has also just released this powerful ad called “Dr. Bob”, of a conservative Republican who praises Al for his patriotism and his commitment to our troops.

And please, don’t cite the SurveyUSA poll as evidence of how flawed Franken is.  The poll’s crosstabs are bonkers.

Lurking just beneath the surface was a raw reality for the Coleman campaign: the poll’s partisan splits were completely bonkers.

The poll showed a sample of 33% self-identified DFLers and 32% self-identified Republicans. I wasn’t the only one to notice how insane that split is — my former colleague Eric Black also noticed:

But Rasmussen, which doesn’t release full cross-tabs to non-members like me, suggests that Coleman’s share of Democrats has declined from 20 to 10 percent and that this may be the factor that cost him the lead he held a month ago.

Little change

SUSA has shown little change since its previous poll on the race a month earlier. The most suspicious thing to me about SUSA’s current poll is that the Minnesota sample consisted of 33 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans.  Most polls (including the previous SUSA poll in Minnesota) find that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 10-plus percentage points. The poll scholars on whom I rely for guidance tend to have a higher general opinion of SUSA than Rasmussen (and not too high an opinion of any robo-dialers). But if you’re looking for a reason to disbelieve this one, with its large and sturdy Coleman lead, the partisan makeup of the sample is suspicious.

Eric is in the right neighborhood here.  Most polls shoot for about a 36-28 DFL advantage in party self-identification, perhaps a couple of points more due to Barack Obama’s crushing victory in the Super-Duper Tuesday precinct caucuses. SurveyUSA is simply way out in left field with this poll.

According to one reader who apparently has a PhD in such things, if you multiply out the difference in partisan split between the last SurveyUSA poll and this one, Franken is actually doing about four points better than the previous S-USA poll — but I haven’t confirmed that yet…largely because I would need a PhD to understand what the heck I was doing.

I’ll add to that.  From looking at the crosstabs a bit closer, another thing doesn’t make sense.  Coleman’s best age group is young people.  Does that make ANY sense to anybody out there??  Like I’ve said in the past, to take this poll at face value, even forgetting the bizarre partisan split, would be to say that come November, there’s going to be a shitload (a statistical term) of young people that vote for Barack Obama for President, and then pull the lever for Norm Coleman.  Let that sink in.  It makes about as much sense as “Vegetarians for Bush”.

And all this is before the GOP convention heads to St. Paul, and Coleman is forced to be tied to the hip to the national party, which he’s trying to distance himself from.  Senators from other states who are up for re-election are skipping out, but Coleman can’t.  And keep in mind Al’s torrid fundraising pace, which will allow him to be financially competitive with Coleman.

So please, people, stop writing Franken off.  It doesn’t do us any good.

Minnesota Elections Post-Mortem

(A very thorough–and very good–post-mortem from a longtime SSPer. – promoted by James L.)

I wrote this diary on Daily Kos a couple of days ago and that it would be equally appropriate here.  I realize it comes nearly three weeks later than most election post-mortems, but nearly all of my free time in the past 20 days has been dedicated to the digestion of as many election returns as possible, particularly in my home state of Minnesota where my knowledge is most prolific.  It was a very good year for Democrats in the state of Minnesota and I will document all the statewide and Congressional races of note, beginning with the two hotly-contested House races and then moving the statewide races.

I had a feeling in the closing weeks of the campaign that Democrat Tim Walz would pull off a victory in what only a few months earlier seemed like a kamikaze run against six-term Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht, but I didn’t think he’d win by a solid six-point margin.  Considering Gutknecht’s mid-summer radio ad buys, I don’t necessarily think that Gutknecht was unable to see this challenge coming.  Nonetheless, his response to the challenge was absolutely abysmal, with boilerplate TV ads where the incumbent couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance in his own commercials and a series of mismatched debate performances where Gutknecht was very clearly on defense at all times and losing badly to the charismatic Walz. 

I wrote a diary in September on how Tim Walz could eke out a victory in MN-01 with huge margins in his native Mankato and the college town of Winona, along with fighting Gutknecht to a draw in his native Rochester.  In the end, Walz won by huger margins that I would have deemed possible in Mankato and Winona, but also managed to win Rochester by an astounding eight percentage points.  Walz outperformed my expectations pretty much everywhere, padding his margin with wins in a few of the more conservative southwestern farm counties.  It’ll be interesting to see how Walz holds up in 2008 and (hopefully) subsequent election cycles.  The one thing that concerns me is that Walz’s presence on the campaign trail is his chief asset….and that presence will not be as abundant if he’s stuck legislating in DC rather than travelling the district full-time as he did in 2005 and 2006.  Nonetheless, an excellent win for Walz, who I saw speak on two occasions and evoked a level of passion that I haven’t seen since Paul Wellstone.  Keep an eye on this guy.  Big things could be coming from him.

As for MN-06, a number of things went wrong and helped voters in this conservative district fall into the arms of wingnut Republican Michelle Bachmann even though I predicted last summer that Bachmann was too conservative even for MN-06.  Since Bachmann got 50%, it’s not fair to say that center-left Independence Party candidate John Binkowski cost Wetterling the election, but it would have probably at least been close without him in the race.  Nonetheless, far too many things went wrong in this race for Binkowski to shoulder the blame.

Wetterling hemmed and hawed for months, stating at one point that she couldn’t win in this district and then pursued a Senate run.  When it was clear she wouldn’t get the nomination against Amy Klobuchar, Wetterling made an eleventh hour leap into this House race, breaking her word against a moderate Democrat El Tinklenberg who, in hind sight, would have probably been a much better candidate against Bachmann.  Bachmann’s reputation as the Legislature’s wingnut-in-chief helped Wetterling pull off a small lead in September polls, but that’s when the bottom fell out of her campaign. 

The polished Bachmann always mopped the floor up with the political novice Wetterling in debates and public forums and managed to mask her nutball tendencies to the voting public, all while the Wetterling campaign failed to effectively define her opponent.  In the end, some controversial ads by the Wetterling campaign (which I never saw) were heavily scrutinized by the local media and by the final week of the campaign, my dad was hearing from campaign insiders that Wetterling was toast. 

In retrospect, Wetterling’s respectable performance in 2004 was the product of running against Mark Kennedy and having him step into the trap of swiftboating a figure as sympathetic as Wetterling.  Without Kennedy making her look good by comparison this time around, Wetterling’s flaws were more easily apparent.  I’m expecting that Bachmann will make a regular habit of embarrassing Minnesota on the national stage, and could find herself perennially vulnerable in her district.  Here’s hoping the Dems give El Tinklenberg another shot in 2008.

(Click Read More for additional commentary.)

Regarding the statewide races, I start out with egg on my face over my early predictions of a close Senate race.  As recently as six months ago, I ascribed to the conventional wisdom that Mark Kennedy would be a formidable Republican candidate and that the Minnesota Senate race would be close.  Considering Klobuchar’s home base of Hennepin County and familial ties to the Iron Range was being pitted up against Kennedy, the golden boy of outer suburbia, I spun this as a classic Old Minnesota vs. New Minnesota grudge match (which we ended up getting in the state’s gubernatorial election which I’ll get to later) that really excited me as an aficianado of Minnesota politics.

But what we ended up with excited me oh so much more.  How could I have possibly predicted that Mark Kennedy would put forth the lamest Minnesota Senate campaign since Democrat Ann Wynia in 1994?  Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have envisioned Amy Klobuchar riding out a 21-point landslide.  Her success touched nearly every nook and cranny of the state.  She won 79 of Minnesota’s 87 counties, as opposed to John Kerry who won 24 in 2004, and even Bill Clinton who scored what seemed like an insurmountable Democratic record of 76 counties back in 1996.  Klobuchar eked out narrow wins in some stalwart GOP counties such as the German-American settled Republican bastions of McLeod County (Hutchinson) and Brown County (New Ulm), counties that I never expected would be won by a Democrat in a statewide election in my lifetime. 

Kennedy even performed miserably in outer suburbia, winning only two of the six counties in his Congressional district, and by paltry margins of less than three points each at that.  In the end, the combination of the anti-Republican tide and Kennedy’s astounding weakness make me think even the hapless incumbent Senator Mark Dayton could have beaten Kennedy, but I’m thankful to Amy Klobuchar for not making me sweat out that prophesy.

It’s hard to say whether Klobuchar had coattails or whether the DFL mood of the electorate transcended her, but either way, Democratic candidates vastly exceeded expectations across the ballot in Minnesota.  In the back of my mind, I considered incumbent Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer to be beatable, but I also believed that the inclination of center-left voters in Minnesota to cast their ballot third-party in low-profile races would likely drag Kiffmeyer across the finish line once again.

If DFL candidate Mark Ritchie was going to take out Kiffmeyer, with her built-in advantages in the St. Cloud area where she always scores huge margins, I figured it would be by the skin of his teeth.  Once again, I was wrong.  Ritchie beat Kiffmeyer by a convincing five points, winning big in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, where third-party candidate strength derailed Buck Humphrey’s chances in 2002, but also fighting Kiffmeyer to a near tie in the three main suburban counties (Anoka, Dakota, and Washington).  If you’re a Republican winning Dakota County by less than one percentage point, you will not win statewide.  Such was the case with Kiffmeyer.  And good riddance!

A Minnesota Poll from September showing DFL Attorney General candidate Lori Swanson with a nearly 20-point lead should have clued me in to how powerful not being a Republican was going to be in Minnesota this election cycle.  In some sense it did, as even though the Minnesota Poll always oversamples Democrats, the margin Swanson was polling against Republican challenger Jeff Johnson helped me breathe a sigh of relief that we would hold that office.  Nonetheless, I was surprised by the blistering margin of 13 points that Swanson won by, scoring victories throughout the state and winning 65 Minnesota counties compared to Johnson’s 22.

A much bigger shocker was the State Auditor race where I found it hard to believe an incumbent with the surname Anderson in Scandinavian-heavy Minnesota could lose to a challenger named Otto in a low-profile down-ballot race.  But much to my surprise, Democrat Otto smashed Anderson almost as strongly as Swanson did Johnson in the Attorney General’s race, winning by 11 points and winning 56 out of the 87 counties.  Anderson even got trounced in her home county (Dakota), which is a suburban enclave where she won by 16 points in 2002.

Just as stunning were the tremendous gains the DFL made in the Legislature, notwithstanding the sad defeat of Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson in his increasingly conservative central Minnesota district (unfortunately, I could see Johnson’s defeat coming more than a year ago).  Nonetheless, the breadth of DFL gains throughout the state was breathtaking and the list of Republican casualties jaw-dropping.  Phil Krinkie in Lino Lakes.  Gone!  Brian LeClair in Woodbury.  Outta there!  Carrie Ruud in Bemidji.  Good to know ya! The DFL picked up even more legislative seats in Rochester and somehow managed to pick up a Senate seat in freakin’ Fergus Falls, perhaps the deepest red redoubt of outstate conservatism.  The DFL now has nearly 2-1 supermajorities in both Houses, and we will definitely need them given that the DFL once again failed to pick up the statehouse.

And with that segue, I’ll now focus on the one disappointment for Minnesota Democrats on election night, and that of course is the gubernatorial election where incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty held on by a one-point margin.  I’m of the mind that DFLer Mike Hatch’s eleventh-hour implosion cost him the election, although there are plenty who disagree with that consensus.  Judi Dutcher’s “What’s E-85?” gaffe probably didn’t do it alone, but it probably cost Hatch votes in the corn belt as Hatch’s numbers were softer than expected in the lower reaches of the proverbial “L”.  There’s no other explanation for me why ethanol-heavy Swift County, a western Minnesota DFL stronghold and birthplace of the Farmer-Labor Party went for Hatch by only 7 points, and why the swing county of Renville (even more ethanol-heavy) a few miles down the road went for Pawlenty by nearly eight points.

But Hatch pointed the shotgun barrel at his other foot and squeezed the trigger with the “Republican whore” brouhaha.  When the first 10 minutes of a televised debate the Friday before the election is dedicated to the “frontrunner” defending his potty mouth, it’s unlikely he’ll be a frontrunner much longer.  I’m kind of surprised that didn’t hurt Hatch even more than it did, and probably would have if it had gotten more media coverage outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul media market.  Visiting my parents in southeastern Minnesota the Friday before the election, the story was barely a blip on the local news, and Hatch’s numbers did not seem to be as suppressed in that region as they were in the metro area.  Similarly, Hatch’s numbers did not seem to take a beating in the state’s southwestern corner as much as they did in west-central Minnesota, which is in the Twin Cities media market.  Voters in the Worthington area are largely beholden to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, media market, where Minnesota politics merits hardly a word, and where Dutcher’s gaffe probably never passed their ears.

And, of course, Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson, can conclusively be branded a spoiler this cycle, with the DFL stronghold of Ramsey County giving Hutchinson nearly 10% of the vote (with most of it coming from the bluest districts in the city of St. Paul) and almost accounting for the difference between Hatch and Pawlenty by itself.  I’m not one to blame third-party candidates for DFL defeats, but if there was ever a clearcut example of that phenomenon in play it was this gubernatorial election.  Ultimately, it might be a blessing to have Pawlenty around heading in the 2008 Senate election, as DFL fatigue would be more likely to set in had Hatch been victorious amidst DFL supermajorities in the Legislature, and with Norm Coleman poised to be the beneficiary of that fatigue.  On the other hand, Pawlenty’s veep stock went up significantly with his victory, and he would now make a very attractive running mate for somebody like John McCain, increasing the likelihood of a Republican upset in Minnesota in the 2008 Presidential election.

As stated earlier, the Old Minnesota vs. New Minnesota dynamic that I predicted would be in play in the Klobuchar-Kennedy race actually did take hold in the gubernatorial election, with Pawlenty winning in much the way he did in 2002, scoring supersized margins in the suburbs and benefitting from a third-party spoiler.  This warrants mentioning for 2008 because the Senate race is likely to follow the same trajectory.  It’s too soon to comment much on this matter without a DFL challenger selected, but Norm Coleman’s 2002 victory is likely to follow the exact same formula as Pawlenty’s this year.  Finding a challenger that can peel off more of those second-ring suburban voters than Mike Hatch or Walter Mondale (circa 2002) were able to is imperative in beating Coleman, because we’re at the point now where we can’t win statewide if we’re not victorious in the second-ring suburbs…and they will likely be just as difficult to take away from Coleman as they were from Pawlenty.

Then again, I totally underestimated Minnesota’s DFL tide in 2006.  I’ll remain optimistic for now that we can keep the ball rolling heading into the next cycle.