SSP Daily Digest: 1/15

MA-Sen: With last night’s Suffolk poll, there really can’t be any doubt any more that the Massachusetts Senate race qualifies as a “Toss Up,” so we’re changing our rating to reflect that. There’s still room for skepticism on whether Scott Brown can in fact pull it out, given not only the difficulty of pinning down a likely voter universe in a rapidly-fluctuating special election, but also the Democrats’ structural advantages on the ground in the Bay State. (The Democrats have the advantage of labor and local machines long-skilled at rousting out voters and getting them to the polls, while it’s questionable whether the Republicans have, given their long neglect of the state, any ground troops to deploy here, or even up-to-date, refined voter databases.) Nevertheless, given what can actually be quantified, right now the polls balance out to more or less a tie, and that’s how we have to treat the race.

The breaking news du jour is that Barack Obama has finally agreed to head up to Massachusetts and stump for Martha Coakley on Sunday. Also, the Coakley campaign is rolling out a second ad for the weekend, to go with their ad showcasing the Vicki Kennedy endorsement; they’re also running a populist-themed ad on Wall Street regulation (specifically, the rather narrow issue of the proposed bonus tax on banks). The ad deluge is being bolstered a League of Conservation Voters ad buy for $350K; on the third-party front, that’s being countered by a pro-Brown ad buy for $500K from Americans for Job Security.

CA-Sen: Yesterday I was musing about whether ex-Rep. Tom Campbell’s entry into the GOP Senate primary hurt Carly Fiorina or Chuck DeVore more, and we already seem to have an answer. The Campbell camp is touting an internal poll showing them with a sizable lead over both Fiorina and DeVore in the primary: Campbell is at 31, with Fiorina at 15 and DeVore at 12. The few polls of the primary so far have shown Fiorina and DeVore deadlocked in the 20s, so maybe it’s safe to say that Campbell hurts them each equally.

FL-Sen: Which of these is not like the other? There’s a new multi-candidate GOP fundraising PAC called the U.S. Senate Victory Committee, which benefits seven different Republicans: Kelly Ayotte, Roy Blunt, Jane Norton, Rob Portman, Rob Simmons, Pat Toomey… and Marco Rubio? Six establishment candidates, and one insurgent. Or is Rubio the new establishment?

PPP (pdf): PPP looks all the way to 2012 as part of their wide-ranging Nevada survey, and finds that John Ensign may weather his whole giving-a-patronage-job-to-the-cuckolded-husband-of-his-mistress thing, if he runs again. Ensign trails Las Vegas mayor (but probable 2010 gubernatorial candidate) only Oscar Goodman 43-41, but leads Rep. Shelly Berkley 49-40 and SoS Ross Miller 47-36. Of course, Berkley and Miller aren’t that well-known yet and would presumably gain ground in an active 2012 race, but again, more food for thought on the idea that Republicans really don’t get the vapors over sex scandals after all, so long as they’re perpetrated by Republicans.

MN-Gov: The St. Paul Pioneer Press is out with a poll of Minnesota voters (by a pollster I’ve never heard of, Decision Resources Ltd.). The poll seemed most focused on the question of whether there should be public funding of the new Vikings stadium, but it did throw in (almost as an afterthought) something we haven’t seen before: general election head-to-heads in the Governor’s race. The numbers are pretty encouraging for the Democrats: ex-Sen. Mark Dayton leads ex-Sen. Norm Coleman 41-31, and state Rep. Marty Seifert (who, assuming Coleman doesn’t get in, is the likeliest GOP nominee) 41-25. State House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher beats Coleman 33-31, and Pat Anderson (who dropped out of the race this week) 33-23. There weren’t any numbers for Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, another strong contender for the Dem nod. And yes, if you’re wondering, this does take into account the potential spoiler role of Minnesota’s Independence Party; IP candidates account for 11 to 13 percent of the vote in each of these trial heats. (H/t alphaaqua.)

NH-Gov: One other gubernatorial poll has good news for Democrats, and it even comes from Rasmussen. They find incumbent Gov. John Lynch in safe position with 58/38 approvals and, against his no-name opponents, leading social conservative activist Karen Testerman 53-30 and businessman Jack Kimball 51-32.

OH-Gov: Who knew that John Kasich had the power to transcend the boundaries of space and time? In an effort to court the GOP’s restive base, Kasich said “I think I was in the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.”

WY-Gov: One more big-name Republican (by Wyoming’s small standards) is getting into the gubernatorial race, banking on the assumption that incumbent Dem Dave Freudenthal won’t jump through the legal hoops necessary to run for a third term. Auditor Rita Meyer is getting into the race, where potential GOP primary rivals include former US Attorney Matt Mead and state House speaker Colin Simpson.

AL-05: Rep. Parker Griffith is showing his true colors. The party-switcher has been turning away requests for refunds of contributions that don’t meet the requirements buried in the fine print: he says he can’t refund donations for the 2008 cycle, only the 2010 cycle, because the 2008 contributions were spent long ago.

AR-02: Rep. Vic Snyder is in pretty dire shape, if a new poll from SurveyUSA is to be believed: he trails Republican candidate and former US Attorney Tim Griffin by a 56-39 margin. You may want to take this poll with a grain of salt, as it was paid for by Firedoglake, who seem to have an axe to grind in the health care reform debate, and the Snyder numbers seem to be less the main point than engaging in strangely-right-wing-sounding message-testing. The good news is that, even after a variety of anti-HCR arguments have been offered (and Nate Silver does a fine job of picking apart the survey), Snyder doesn’t fare much worse (at 58-35); the bad news, though, is that the 56-39 topline question was asked before any of the litany of anti-HCR talking points, suggesting that, HCR or no, we have a major problem in Arkansas.

AZ-03: Despite Jon Hulburd’s surprising cash haul, he may have bigger company in the Democratic primary to replace recently-retired Republican Rep. John Shadegg. Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon is the subject of speculation; he had briefly considered a 2008 run against Shadegg before ruling it out, saying his post-mayoral future would be in the private sector, but all eyes are on what he does now. (Gordon lives slightly outside the district’s boundaries.) On the GOP side, there’s no clear frontrunner at all. State Rep. Sam Crump has already said he’s running. Possible other candidates include state Treasurer Dean Martin (who would have to drop down from the gubernatorial bid he just launched this week), state Sens. Pamela Gorman and Jim Waring, Phoenix city councilor Peggy Neely, former ASU football star Andrew Walter, and, in a shocker, the co-founder of Taser International Inc., Tom Smith. Former state House speaker Jim Weiers has taken himself out of the running.

NC-11: Businessman Jeff Miller has reversed course and will run against Democratic Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler in the 11th. Miller had been recruited to run, but decided against it; he’ll have to face a primary against Hendersonville mayor Greg Newman, who got in after Miller initially declined.

OH-15: The Ohio GOP is still searching for an Auditor candidate after Mary Taylor decided to run for Lt. Governor instead of re-election. Former state Sen. Steve Stivers has been asked to run for Auditor, but made clear he’ll be staying in the race in the 15th (where he might actually have better odds, considering how close he came to Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy last time).

SSP Daily Digest: 10/13

AZ-Sen: Does the persistent rumor of a J.D. Hayworth primary challenge to John McCain boil down to nothing more than a Hayworth grudge against former key McCain aide Mark Salter (and thus a way for Hayworth to keep yanking McCain’s chain)? That’s what the Arizona Republic is proposing, pointing to a 2005 dust-up between Hayworth and Salter over immigration reform. Hayworth, for his part, says that “spite” would never fuel a primary bid.

IL-Sen: GOP Rep. Mark Kirk is touting an internal poll taken for him by Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies that has him beating Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in a Senate head-to-head, 42-35. It also shows Kirk in strong shape in the primary, leading developer Patrick Hughes (who seems to be cornering the wingnut vote) 61-3.

KY-Sen: The allegedly third tape (although nobody seems to remember what the second one was) involving Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Dan Mongiardo trashing his boss (and one of his few endorsers), Gov. Steve Beshear, has surfaced. This time, Mongiardo says people he talks to want to “yell” about Beshear and says, “It’s like being married to a whore.” This time it popped up directly on YouTube instead of on a Rand Paul fan blog.

NV-Sen: Markos has an interesting observation, that may give some comfort to the Reid boys as they face an onslaught of bad polls. Democrats now have a registration edge of nearly 100,000 in Nevada, and it’s growing: since February, Dems have added 4,860 while the GOP has added 1,549. In fact, this sad performance puts the GOP fourth, as both nonpartisan registration and the right-wing Independent American Party gained more new registrants.

PA-Sen (pdf): One more poll from Dane & Associates via GrassrootsPA, and it gives narrow edges to both Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak over Republican ex-Rep. Pat Toomey in the 2010 Senate race (46-43 for Specter and 43-38 for Sestak). Worth noting: this is only the second poll (after that freaky Rasmussen poll in August) that shows Sestak performing better against Toomey than does Specter.

TX-Sen, Gov: Kay Bailey Hutchison may be getting some cold feet about committing to a resignation date from the Senate. In response to questions on a conservative radio talk show, it’s sounding like she’s unlikely to resign her seat by year’s end. However, she also doesn’t sound like she’ll stay in her seat all the way through to the gubernatorial primary election in March, saying “that’s not what [she wants] to do.” (Although it’s understandable she may want to keep her day job if the whole being-governor thing doesn’t work out.)

NJ-Gov: PPP has its poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race out, and like everyone else these days, they’re seeing it as pure tossup. Chris Christie leads Jon Corzine 40-39, with 13 for independent Chris Daggett. (It’s right in line with today’s average of 41-40 for Christie.)That’s tremendous progress for Corzine, who was down 44-35-13 last month. Also, it’s worth noting that not only is Corzine dragging Christie down to his level but he’s actually starting to improve his own favorables; he’s up to 37/55, still terrible but better than last month’s 32/60. The race will still depend on getting unlikely Dem voters to turn out; the likely voter pool went for Obama by only 4% last year, way off from the actual 15% margin. One last tidbit: the poll asks Daggett voters their second choice, and Christie wins that one 48-34 (suggesting that Daggett does more damage to Christie, but that Christie’s best hope is to peel off some of the vacillating Daggett supporters).

VA-Gov: Not much change in Virginia, where Rasmussen finds a 50-43 lead for Republican Bob McDonnell in that gubernatorial race. (This is right in line with today’s average of 51-43.) Two weeks ago, Rasmussen found that McD led Creigh Deeds 51-42.

FL-08: This seems kind of surprising, given freshman Rep. Alan Grayson’s over-the-top invitations to rumble (or who knows… maybe being aggressive actually works to cow Republicans?). After a lot of public vacillating, it turns out that Republican former state Sen. Daniel Webster, considered the strongest contender to go up against Grayson, won’t run. Rich guys Jerry Pierce and Armando Gutierrez Jr. are in the race, but the establishmenet Plan D (with Webster, state House speaker Larry Cretul, and Orange Co. Mayor Rich Crotty out) seems likely to fall to state Rep. Stephen Precourt, who expressed interest but said he’d defer to Webster.

NC-11: Looks like businessman Jeff Miller declined for a good reason yesterday, as the GOP nailed down a stronger-sounding competitor to go up against Rep. Heath Shuler in the R+6 11th. Greg Newman, the mayor of Hendersonville (pop. 10,000 in 2000) since 2005, says he’ll take on Shuler.

SC-05: State Sen. Mick Mulvaney looks ready to launch his candidacy, most likely on the 17th at a GOP gathering in the district. He’ll take on 27-year incumbent and House Budget chair John Spratt.

TN-St. House: There’s a small House special election in Tennessee tonight, with big stakes. HD 62, located in rural south central Tennessee (its major town is Shelbyville) was vacated by a Democrat, Curt Cobb, who resigned to take a better-paying job; Cobb’s brother Ty is facing off against Republican Pat Marsh. It’s GOP leaning territory, though (this is part of the 6th CD, which had a very sharp Democratic falloff in 2008). The stakes are high because the Democrats hold the chamber by a 1-vote margin, 50-49, thanks only to a power-sharing arrangement with renegade Republican Kent Williams who serves as the Speaker elected with Democratic votes. A Republican victory here could give control of the House back to the GOP, if they’re able to reorganize in midterm. If the Republicans can control the state House and pick up the governor’s office in 2010, they’ll control the resdistricting trifecta.

Mayors: One other election on the docket in Tennessee tonight Thursday: Shelby Co. Mayor A.C. Wharton is looking likely to become the new mayor in Memphis. Polling has him leading Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery by a wide margin. (There are 25 candidates in the race, including professional wrestler Jerry Lawler.) The mayoral job was vacated, of course, by long-time mayor Willie Herenton, who after several abortive attempts to resign in the past is leaving to challenge Rep. Steve Cohen in a primary.