| • KY-Sen: I've never heard of Bill Johnson before, but bringing six figures to the table is bound to gain some attention. The western Kentucky businessman, who's running in the Republican Senate primary, said he's loaning himself $250,000 to try and garner some notice in the big-$ primary between Trey Grayson and Rand Paul.
• LA-Sen: I never thought I'd see the day when urea formaldehyde would become a campaign issue, but Democrats are hoping to use it against David Vitter in the Bayou State. Vitter (who has the backs of Louisiana's large chemical industry) has been placing a hold on a new EPA administrator's nomination, partly over concerns that the EPA will more heavily regulate formaldehyde. Unfortunately for Vitter, more than 34,000 Louisiana residents have first-hand experience with urea formaldehyde, outgassing from the paneling of their FEMA-provided post-Katrina trailers.
• MA-Sen: Republican State Sen. Scott Brown has an uphill fight in this month's special election to overcome the state's Dem lean and perhaps sentimental desires to keep Ted Kennedy's seat in Democratic hands. Still, he got an endorsement from the state's most popular conservative: Red Sox great Curt Schilling.
• NH-Sen: Salt shaker at the ready? ARG has a new poll out of general election matchups in the New Hampshire Senate race, showing a single-digit edge for Republican AG Kelly Ayotte over Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes, 43-36 (their last poll, from September, also gave Ayotte a 7-pt edge). They also poll Hodes against conservative upstart Ovide Lamontagne for the first time, and, in a bit of a head-scratcher, find a similar margin for the less-known and, one would think, less electable Lamontagne, who leads Hodes 37-31.
• MI-Gov: Here's a Rasmussen poll that slipped our notice over the holidays; as one might expect, Santa Rasmussen had a big lump of coal for John Cherry's stocking. All three Republicans lead the Democratic Lt. Governor, as other pollsters generally find, but Rasmussen still manages to depart from the other pollsters' findings: AG Mike Cox, who has generally polled the best against Cherry, here has the smallest edge over him (only 39-34), while loudmouthed right-wing Rep. Pete Hoekstra has the biggest edge (46-32). (This poll was taken before Hoekstra's grandstanding over the attempted plane bombing, which would serve to raise his name rec outside his western Michigan home turf.) Oakland Co. Sheriff Mike Bouchard leads Cherry 42-32. One hope for Cherry, though, is that, in terms of favorables, he still has higher unknowns than any of the Republicans, giving him room to grow.
• RI-Gov: Jan. 4 has been penciled in as the official launch date for Lincoln Chafee's independent campaign for Rhode Island for a while now. With it comes news that (against a backdrop of mediocre fundraising so far) he'll be dipping into the family fortune to propel his race; he just lent his campaign another $200K after starting it off with a previous $110K. Compared with Dem state Treasurer Frank Caprio's $1.5 million, Chafee has a lot of ground to make up. Meanwhile, Republicans would still like a candidate... any candidate.
• AL-05: Looks like recent turncoat Parker Griffith is having a busy day today, answering his own phones and making his own coffee. Almost his entire staff resigned en masse today, unwilling to join him on his foray into the Republican fold.
• CA-19: Another sort-of-well-known Republican is scoping out the new open seat in the 19th: former SoS, former Assembly minority leader, and 2004 Senatorial loser Bill Jones is considering the race. Fresno city councilor Larry Westerlund is also looking at the race, which already has state Sen. Jeff Denham and former Fresno mayor Jim Patterson in the GOP field... and, as of this afternoon, former CA-11 Rep. Dick Pombo. (I wonder if Tom McClintock is interested in running here? He's gotta be feeling restless again, having represented CA-04 for a full year now.)
• MN-01, MN-02, MN-03: We might actually wind up with a Democratic former elected official running in John Kline's 2nd but not in the theoretically more-vulnerable 3rd next door. Former state Rep. Shelly Madore of Apple Valley (who was defeated by a Republican in 2008) has decided to get into the race in Minneapolis's southern suburbs. (H/t Andrew.) Speaking of the 3rd, Democratic challenger Maureen Hackett is the first to hit the airwaves with a new radio spot; she faces a primary fight with state PTA president Jim Meffert, and the winner takes on freshman Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen. Finally, as expected, it only took Republican ex-state Rep. Allen Quist a few weeks to start bringing the crazy over in the 1st, as seen in recent comments that beating "radical" Democrats in Washington is a bigger battle than beating terrorism.
• NY-20, NY-Comptroller: Republican John Faso (the former Assembly minority leader and 2006 gubernatorial loser) was getting touted for a number of different races: for a run for Comptroller, against Rep. Scott Murphy in the 20th, or maybe even for NY-Sen-B if no other Kirsten Gillibrand challenger stepped up. It looks like he won't be doing any of those things, saying it's "doubtful" he'll run for anything this year. State party chair Ed Cox is pushing Emil Henry Jr. for the GOP's Comptroller slot now (Henry, a former Lehman Bros. exec, had earlier been trying to generate some interest for a gubernatorial run, apparently to little avail).
• PA-04: Insiders are leaking that former W.D. Pa. US Attorney (and loyal Bushie) Mary Beth Buchanan is increasingly likely to run against Rep. Jason Altmire this year, although the word is she'll make her decision "soon." On the flipside, this may mean the likelihood of state House minority whip Mike Turzai running for the GOP is going down.
• TN-08: Jackson-area physician Ron Kirkland will be joining the GOP field, now that this seat is a more tempting target with the retirement of long-time Democratic Rep. John Tanner. Kirkland joins "farmer" (or agribusiness kingpin, if you prefer)/gospel singer Stephen Fincher, who's already off to a big fundraising start.
• TX-10: With a nasty hole in the lineup looming with the departure of promising candidate Jack McDonald, here's a big-time save by veteran Ted Ankrum, who'll file to take McDonald's place in the 10th. Ankrum, you might recall, was our 2006 nominee in the 10th, and his strong performance with almost no funding is what drew a lot of Dem attention to the potential winnability of this rapidly-bluening seat. (Speaking of filing, the filing deadline in Texas is today. Primaries are soon, too - March 2nd, with potential run-offs on April 13th. Check out SSP's full sortable primary calendar, if you haven't before.)
• GA-SoS: With current Secretary of State Karen Handel resigning midterm in order to pursue her gubernatorial bid, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue got the chance to hand-pick a successor. 38-year-old state Rep. Jim Cole, a member of the House's leadership, will serve out the remaining year of her term and then run for a full term in 2010. (UPDATE: Or not. Cole has already turned down Perdue's offer; former state Sen. Brian Kemp now sounds likely to be offered the job. H/t RuralDem.)
• Mayors: Lt. Gov Mitch Landrieu's path to be the next mayor of New Orleans looks even easier now. His main opposition, state Sen. Ed Murray, opted to drop out, acknowledging that he didn't want to suffer through an expensive and racially-divisive (Murray is African-American) campaign.
• NRCC: Looks like we're not the only ones taking notice of the NRCC's cash-on-hand problems, as the legacy media start to take notice: Politico observes that right now the NRCC has enough money to fund about one big-name House race, not the dozens they're trying to put into play with various recruiting successes.
• RNC: Reid Wilson has an interesting catch: the RNC is sending money ($20K) to the local party in the Northern Mariana Islands (popu. 86,000), which, of course, don't have a voting member of the House or any electoral votes. It looks like it may be a little payback from Michael Steele, who owes his chairmanship to votes from the NMI and other insular territories.
• Polltopia: Politico also belatedly picks up on another favorite theme in the liberal blogosphere: what the hell is up with Rasmussen's numbers? Nate Silver judiciously examined the issue too, over the weekend, pointing out that Rasmussen's well-documented "house effects" aren't necessarily indicative of bias per se. Rasmussen's defenders, of course, will point to Nate's ratings of Rasmussen's accuracy, which are high; fitting, as their numbers do tend to converge with reality in a race's final weeks (as we saw last November in NJ and VA). Still, one question wasn't raised in either of these pieces over the weekend: how to hold Rasmussen to account for showing out-of-whack numbers long before the election, before they start to fall in line with everyone else (and when they, by virtue of Rasmussen's frequent polling, can play a large role in shaping the conventional wisdom about who's up and who's down)?
• Maps: A denizen of the forums at Dave Leip's site has put together an even better set of maps of presidential election results by county, dating back to 1840. (H/t metstotop333.)(D)
• Redistricting: A reminder - if you post an entry in the redistricting contest, please e-mail your .DRF.XML file to jeffmd [at] swingstateproject [dot] com. (Instructions for finding your file are here.) This will make it a lot easier for Jeff to judge entries. And the deadline to submit your entry is fast approaching - Sunday, January 10th at midnight Eastern time. (D)
Also, on the redistricting front, Politics Magazine has a lengthy piece on Democrats' efforts to avoid getting out-hustled by the GOP in both congressional and state-level redistricting. Hint to Bill Burke's Foundation for the Future and Brian Smoot's Democratic Redistricting Trust: Reach out to the redistricting geeks here at the Swing State Project. We're a great untapped resource. One interesting note: This is the first time since the passage of the Voting Rights Act that the White House (and thus the Department of Justice) will be in Democratic hands during the start-to-finish redistricting process. (D)
• Census: The Census Bureau is rolling out a $340 million ad blitz over the next few months to make sure that everyone knows about the Census and that they need to participate. The rollout includes two ads (directed by Christopher Guest and starring Ed Begley Jr., which ought to get the right-wingers a-foamin' at the mouth) during the Super Bowl, but also $80 million in ad outreach to non-English-speaking populations. Talking Points Memo also has a neat observation about Rep. Michele Bachmann, once the Census's greatest foe but who's been surprisingly quiet in her criticisms of it lately: she may need to rely on huge Census turnout by Minnesotans to keep Minnesota at 8 seats, and thus, keep her own seat (the likeliest target for elimination if the state needs to drop to 7 and Dems exclusively control the process).