| • AZ-Sen: As the dust settles from Jon Kyl's retirement, the biggest name on the Dem side may also be the biggest question mark: Rep. Gabby Giffords, who it turns out had been telling her staff that she'd planned to run for Senate in 2012 if an open seat arose, but whose recovery timetable is entirely unclear at this point. Local Dems are saying she has "the right of first refusal," but it may be a while till we get a decision out of her, so the Dem field is very much up in the air. One other major Dem is publicly expressing his interest, though: Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon, who's termed-out of his job this year. (The same article also finds former Arizona Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez declining a run; not sure why he was being asked in the first place.) On the GOP side, Gov. Jan Brewer acted quickly to quash any speculation that she might run. However, J.D. Hayworth, last seen getting creamed by John McCain in the 2010 primary, says he's interested in another run, while another unappetizing leftover, ex-Gov. Fife Symington, says he won't rule it out (as well as floating the name of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner). If you want to see all the many potential names in one place, here's The Hill's mega-rundown.
• FL-Sen: Scratch one more of the state's myriad GOP House members from the list of possible Senate candidates. FL-16's sophomore Rep. Tom Rooney says the Senate may be an eventual goal someday, but he'd rather focus on building up his credentials in the House first.
• ME-Sen: It seems like his extended period of talking to himself is over, as local tea party leader Andrew Ian Dodge announced (at CPAC, instead of in Maine) that he will in fact challenge Olympia Snowe in the GOP primary. I'm not sure if Snowe is really shaking in her boots, though, if this is the best that the teabaggers can find: Dodge, though able to self-fund, is a bit of an iconoclast (and one might charitably describe his appearance as "scruffy"), and doesn't really seem to fit in with any of the various subconstituencies within the tea party umbrella. He's uninterested in social issues (he's pro-gay and indifferent to abortion) and more of a fiscal hawk, but doesn't have much common cause with the Paulists either, breaking with them on foreign policy. If he loses social con votes to the other teabagger in the race, little-known Scott D'Amboise, that split basically ensures Snowe another nomination. Further complicating matters, Dodge is allied with Tea Party Patriots, archenemy to the DC-based astroturf-flavored Tea Party Express. For what it's worth, TPX officially declared that Snowe is one of their top targets for 2012 (um, was there any doubt about that before yesterday?), but there's no word on who they plan to back in the race, and I can't imagine it being Doge.
• MI-Sen: Former state party chair Saul Anuzis may be getting cold feet about a Senate run all of a sudden, if his new comments are any indication: he said he'd rather see someone else run. One name he dropped as a preferred alternative to himself is (no surprise) ex-Rep. Peter Hoekstra, but another is perhaps the one potential candidate with even less name rec than Anuzis (and also the likeliest person to run, it seems): wealthy businessman Tim Leuliette.
• NM-Sen: In case Jeff Bingaman does (contrary to current expectations) resign, don't look for a Bill Richardson run to succeed him. The ex-Gov. leaves office under a cloud according to PPP, with a 34/55 approval, and 50% saying they'd never vote for him for anything again. Everyone else in New Mexico is pretty popular; Tom Udall is at 56/31 and new Gov. Susana Martinez is at 53/29.
• UT-Sen: Looks like Orrin Hatch, who's in full cozy-up-to-the-tea-party mode this week, can't count on any help from his new colleague Mike Lee; Lee just confirmed that he'll remain neutral in any primary that Hatch might face. Hatch, for his part, at CPAC today, just said that he's sorry for his bailout vote, but that the bailout helped prevent a depression. So... he's sorry about having helped prevent a depression?!? Let me sit and ponder that one for a bit.
• VA-Sen: Here's some good news: ex-Rep. Glenn Nye says he has "absolutely no interest" and has made "zero calls" about the Senate race on the Dem side. (That contradicts yesterday's reports that he was calling around; the "absolutely no interest" part may be true though, inasmuch as that's what he got on the other end of the line.) However, Rep. Gerry Connolly isn't doing anything to downplay his name; he isn't ruling it in or out, but is pitching himself as "viable." (Woooooo! Viable!!! The audacity of viability! We have nothing to fear but inviability itself! Mr. Gorbachev, this wall is not viable!) Connolly blanches at the pricetag though, saying this will likely be a $25 million race.
• MT-Gov, MT-Sen: Well, this pretty much makes it clear that Denny Rehberg will have a stroll to the Senate nomination. Military/security-complex businessman Neil Livingstone was one of the two initial non-Rehberg names associated with the GOP side of the Senate race; with Steve Daines now in the House race, Livingstone now has decided to announce for the gubernatorial race instead. He doesn't face anyone of Rehberg size there, although ex-Rep. Rick Hill is still a pretty imposing obstacle.
• WV-Gov: With tomorrow's filing deadline for the gubernatorial special election fast approaching, it's worth noting how few people (of the many, many possibles) have actually signed up. All we have so far are Natalie Tennant, Earl Ray Tomblin, Rick Thompson, and a Some Dude candidate (Arne Moltis) on the Dem side, and Clark Barnes on the GOP side. Betty Ireland was planning to file today, though, and there will probably be a rush tomorrow.
• NY-26: Kathy Konst isn't the only Dem who seems to be moving forward with seeking the nomination in the upcoming special election; Erie Co. Clerk Kathleen Hochul is interested, too. (She lives slightly outside the district's boundaries in Hamburg.) Meanwhile, lots of GOPers took their names out of contention: ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds, Assemblyman Jim Hayes, state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, and state Sen. Joe Robach. (With George Maziarz also apparently a no, that's pretty much all the GOP state Senators who'd been floated, lessening the likelihood of more 31-31 fun.)
• Mayors: There are mayoral polls in both Chicago and Philadelphia, neither one offering a surprise. In the Windy City, Rahm Emanuel finds himself just shy of clearing the runoff hurdle in a poll from Chicago Tribune/WGN; he's at 49, with 19 for Gery Chico, 10 for Carol Mosely Braun, and 8 for Miguel del Valle. (Last month's Tribune poll had Emanuel at 44 and CMB at 21.) In the Hey, Up Yours City, incumbent Michael Nutter wins easily despite some ambivalent approvals, according to Franklin & Marshall. His approval is 50/32 (60/24 among whites but only 42/41 among African-Americans, who, despite the fact that he's African-American himself, tend to be his weakest constituency); despite that, 53% say he doesn't deserve to be re-elected. Nutter beats Tom Knox 46-28 in a general election matchup (which is odd because Knox isn't a Republican, although I guess he could become one to avoid another primary loss to Nutter, which is what happened in 2007). Nutter's only announced opponent so far is former state legislator Milton Street, the brother of ex-mayor John Street; Street has a bit of a liability, though, in that he's currently on supervised release after spending 20 months in federal prison for tax evasion.
• Dark money: The billionaire Koch brothers have, over the last year, suddenly gone from anonymous rich guys who like to fund right-wing think tanks to, with their efforts to move more into funding activism and advertising, public enemies #1 on the dark money front. They've set a new target for the 2012 cycle that shows just what we're up against money-wise: they plan to contribute and raise $88 million for funding micro-targeting efforts as well as ads. It's not clear whether that would all happen under the aegis of their Americans for Prosperity, or if that money would get spread around the dark money universe, but Politico's article makes it sound that the secretive Kochs aren't closely allied with, if not directly in competition with, other groups like American Crossroads.