SSP Daily Digest: 1/4

CT-Sen: Joe Lieberman, in a recent interview, gave some more insight into how he might approach the various ways in which he might lose in 2012. He says he’s “leaning toward” running again, and it will likely be as an independent (although he’d need to create yet another ballot line for himself, having lost control of CfL), although he says some Senate colleagues have encouraged him to run as a Democrat.

NE-Sen, NE-02: One of the items on the agenda for the legislative session this year in Nebraska (in its ostensibly-nonpartisan but practically-GOP-held unicameral body) is fixing a small hole that could theoretically wind up costing the GOP the presidency in a close election. Nebraska is one of only two states that allocates some electoral votes by congressional district, and Barack Obama took advantage of that to win 1 EV in Nebraska by narrowly winning NE-02. It’s worth noting that if this option is taken off the table before 2012, it makes it much less likely that the Obama campaign will put any money or manpower into the Omaha market, making Ben Nelson’s re-election hopes slimmer and also making it harder to take out Rep. Lee Terry, who was vulnerable in 2008. (That same link also mentions one potential other GOP Senate candidate, despite there already being a long list of possible challengers to Nelson: Mike Simmonds, whose main claim to fame seems to be owning 73 Burger King franchises.) Speaking of Nelson, he does have one new talking point that won’t help him much in the blogosphere but may help him get a little mileage in his red state confines: CQ’s new unity scores for last year are out, and Nelson was the least likely Senator to vote with his party, doing so only 46% of the time.

NM-Sen: This seems a little unexpected: GOP ex-Rep. Heather Wilson, after taking the 2010 cycle off (when she, in retrospect, could have pretty easily gotten elected governor), may be interested in getting back into the political game in 2012, which would have to involve a seriously-uphill race against long-time Dem incumbent Jeff Bingaman for Senate. Of course, that presumes Bingaman runs again. His fundraising schedule suggests that he will run again, but maybe Wilson’s engaging in some early saber-rattling in the hopes of scaring the 68-year-old Bingaman into retirement, which would make her task easier.

IN-Gov: Mike Pence seems to be making the sensible choice given the options of a longer-than-long-shot presidential bid and (with Becky Skillman out of the primary and Evan Bayh out of the general) what’s looking like a lightly-contested lay-up in the Indiana gubernatorial race. Insiders are looking at his newly planned schedule of events, with Lincoln Day Dinners scheduled all over Indiana, as an indication that he’s moving pretty firmly toward the gubernatorial race.

FL-25: Usually Representatives wait until at least after they’ve gotten sworn in before getting involved in criminal investigations, but David Rivera is a real go-getter. In the wake of inquiries into Rivera’s support for a push to bring slot machines to Miami-Dade County, Rivera is now having to disclose $137K in never-before-mentioned loans from his mother’s marketing company (the same company under investigation for receiving payments from the Flagler Dog Track).

IN-02: Jackie Walorski may be back in 2012 for another run against Rep. Joe Donnelly, saying another run is “possible.” Her main calculation seems to be what happens to the 2nd, which could be mutated into a much more Republican-friendly district if the state’s GOP legislature wanted to experiment with strange shapes.

Mayors: Rahm Emanuel got one more seal of approval for his Chicago mayoral candidacy today: a state circuit court judge just ruled today that Emanuel meets residency requirements and his name can remain on the Feb. 22 ballot, upholding the decision by the city’s Board of Election Commissioners. It’s not a done deal though as an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court is imminent. Also, Salt Lake City is another one of the many cities holding mayoral elections this November; one-term incumbent Ralph Becker has announced he’s running for re-election, and, with a whopping 84% approval rating, it’s sounding like he won’t face more than a token challenge. The GOP may not even wind up running someone against him (Becker’s a Democrat, although it’s officially a nonpartisan post), and while there have been rumblings of a challenge to him from the left (with former SLC mayor Rocky Anderson a possibility), there doesn’t seem to be enough dissatisfaction with him to make that viable either.

2010 Leftovers: Two of the leaders of the Dems’ efforts in 2010 are in the news today, including outgoing DGA executive director Nathan Daschle, who let loose a curious tweet stating that “The purity test on display at yesterday’s RNC chair debate is one more reason why we need something other than 2 parties.” Now, given his previous aptitude at messing with Republicans’ heads via concern trolling, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s subtly encouraging some sort of full-on split between the sane Republican party and the crazy wing while the Dems remain intact, rather than him going all No Labels on us. Meanwhile, Jon Vogel, the former exec director of the DCCC, is moving to the private sector, launching a political media firm with fellow consultant Steve Murphy. (This seems like a good time to queue up the best line from Ghostbusters: “You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector! They expect results!”)

Redistricting: Here’s an interesting interview with Democratic redistricting guru Matt Angle, who was Martin Frost’s right-hand man during the post-2000 round. Angle’s particular area of expertise is Texas, and he has some thoughts about what we can expect there. While he seems confident that at least two of the four new districts will be Hispanic-majority, he sounds a warning about last-remaining-Anglo Dem Lloyd Doggett, who may find himself drawn into either a Republican or VRA district (although it’s worth noting that already happened to Doggett once, as he briefly had a Hispanic-majority seat in the immediate pre-litigation aftermath of the DeLayMander).

Twitter: We’re up to 3,981 followers on Twitter, but that’s not a nice, round number with a lot of zeroes in it that we can arbitrarily feel good about. Please help us reach 4,000!

UT-Gov: Herbert Faces 2010 Special Election

One consequence of Gov. Jon Huntsman’s sudden decision to accept Barack Obama’s offer of the position of Ambassador to China is that the newly-promoted governor, current Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, will need to face the voters in 2010. Huntsman’s term would have taken him through 2012, but Utah law is such that a replacement Governor newly elevated in a term’s first year faces a special election at the next regularly scheduled general election. (Remember, Huntsman was just re-elected in 2008.)

Herbert seems to be giving every indication that he will not be a placeholder and run for re-election in 2010 (for the remaining two years of the term; if he won, he’d still have to run again in the regularly-scheduled 2012 election if he wanted a full term). However, history may not be on his side. Lt. Gov. Olene Walker took over as Utah Governor in 2003 after Mike Leavitt became the Bush-era EPA Administrator, but because of Utah’s weird nominating procedures (previously discussed here), she didn’t even make it into the primary for her 2004 re-election, finishing third at the convention. (The top two finishers at the nominating convention advance to the primary, unless one candidate receives more than 60% at the convention, in which case he or she moves straight to the general.)

Herbert does not sound as out-of-step with activist base that dominates the nominating conventions as the somewhat moderate Walker, so he may still survive. He may still face some top-shelf competition, starting with AG Mark Shurtleff, last seen screwing up the announcement of his Senate primary candidacy against Bob Bennett via Twitter. Although Shurtleff is rumored be “Senate or bust,” he may be tempted to run against the less-known Herbert rather than longtime institution Bennett. (Another Bennett challenger, Tim Bridgewater, may be also interested in swapping races.)

There’s also the possibility that a decent Democrat might be more attracted to a chaotic, off-year gubernatorial election. That probably wouldn’t include Rep. Jim Matheson (who’d still have to give up his seat in 2010 to run), but it could include Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon or Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who could run without giving up their current seats. While Swing State Project is skeptical of any Democrats’ chances in this race (it is, after all, Utah), there is enough fluidity here, especially on the GOP side, for us to add this as a “Race to Watch” to our 2010 Gubernatorial Race Ratings.

UPDATE (James): The Salt Lake Tribune touched bases with both Corroon and Jim Matheson, and they both are refusing to rule anything out:

A run for governor “is certainly not something I was planning for,” said Corroon, who “would never say never.” He says his “intent” is to finish his second term as Salt Lake County mayor.

Matheson says he will weigh his options. “In politics you always look at your opportunities,” he said, “and that’s what I always do.”