• FL-Sen: Meg Whitman seems like a strange place to start talking about the Florida Senate race, but hear me out. She's in the news today for the outrageously large sums of money she paid to her top campaign staff (although, to be fair, in her particular frame of reference, I'm sure those seemed like outrageously small sums of money), including $948K paid to her campaign manager, Jill Hasner. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, she's the wife of former Florida state House majority leader Adam Hasner, currently making trips to DC to lay groundwork for a run in the GOP primary. If that $948K gets plowed straight into Hasner's bid, that's a pretty significant nut to start out with. Money is also the reason you keep hearing Rep. Vern Buchanan's name associated with this race, even if he hasn't said anything publicly indicating his interest for 2012; he has $956K in his House account, second most of all the Florida House delegation, which would give him a head start if he transferred that over to a Senate bid.
• MA-Sen: Not content to rest on his already-tops-in-the-2012-class $7 million cash stash, Scott Brown has set a fundraising target of $25 million for his Senate race. Whether he actually can hit that is an open question, but the fact that he can even credibly lay down a marker like this is a reminder that this race is no gimmee for the Dems. Also, here's a neat story that's more about the meta of reporting on campaigns in their formative stages, and how, in the absence of useful information, we're all pretty much just talking in circles about rumors that quickly become unclear where they started. It's a piece from a central Massachusetts blog that investigates where the heck the idea of Fitchburg mayor Lisa Wong running for Senate came from and how that bubbled up to the national level, despite her having done nothing to indicate any interest in the race... and today, closing the circle of meta, Politico, the main purveyor of such campaign-rumor grist, reported on the story. I don't know whether to be ashamed or pleased that Swing State Project is cited as one of the key players in this particular game of telephone; either way, clearly we've hit the big time.
• MI-Sen: Buried in a Roll Call article that does a lot of pointless Debbie Stabenow/Russ Feingold comparing are two names from potential GOP candidates I'd never heard of, although, without knowing more about their self-financing abilities, they seem to be at the Some Dude end of the spectrum. They cite businessman Al Pease, and former juvenile court judge Randy Hekman (who seems to be working a social con angle).
• NE-Sen: Ben Nelson's most recent statement on the Senate race was only that he was "leaning toward" another run, which isn't very confidence-inspiring considering that he'd previously said that he was running. But here's a more clear tell that he is running; he just re-hired his 2006 CM, Paul Johnson, as campaign manager.
• NJ-Sen, NJ-Gov: Quinnipiac is out with some New Jersey numbers, although it's approvals only... and, in what seems like an unusual departure from tradition, they actually find New Jerseyites, dare I say, liking their politicians?!? Is the giant nationwide wave of bile actually starting to ebb as the economy improves? At any rate, Bob Menendez (44/36), Frank Lautenberg (45/40), and Chris Christie (52/40) all sport positive approvals.
• SC-Sen: PPP fleshes out the 2014 Lindsey Graham situation with some more detailed numbers among Republicans, which they already hinted at with how his approvals broke down in their general electorate sample. His approvals among that group are 42/40, but he also has re-elects of only 37/52. He beats ex-Gov. Mark Sanford easily in a hypothetical primary (52-34), but against a non-Appalachian-Trail-hiking opponent, Rep. Joe Wilson, he trails 43-41.
• NC-Gov: It hadn't occurred to me that Republican former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory might not seek a rematch against Bev Perdue in next year's gubernatorial race; when asked about whether he'd run at an appearance Friday, his answer was just "I hope to."
• CA-36: Los Angeles city councilor Janice Hahn rolled out more endorsements today, most notably former NBA player Magic Johnson, whom I understand may have some goodwill of some sort in the LA area. She also boasts the endorsement of Assemblyman Warren Furutani (a rumored candidate for a day or two) and ex-Asm. George Nakano, as well as a slew of other city councilors in LA and its southern suburbs. The big question is whether Hahn will get the endorsement of Jane Harman herself; recall that Hahn was Harman's guest at the State of the Union last month, for what that's worth. There's also one other GOPer to add to the list: Redondo Beach city attorney Mike Webb.
• IN-06: With Mike Pence likely to run for Governor and leaving behind an open red district, look for this crowd to grow. Republican Henry County Councilor Nate LaMar is now actively telling local party chairs that he intends to run.
• NY-26: I'd file this more under general "schadenfreude" than a definite Congressional career-killer, but this little indiscretion can't make things any better for sophomore GOP Rep. (and possible redistricting truncation victim) Chris Lee.
• Chicago mayor: The big story here may not be that Rahm Emanuel keeps gaining in the polls -- he's at 54% in the new poll from Richard Day Research, taken for ABC-7, which is enough to avoid a runoff -- but that Carol Mosely Braun is in complete free-fall. In the wake of calling a minor opponent in the race a crackhead and various other lesser gaffes, she's down to 6%! While there aren't trendlines from this pollster, based on where other polls have been, Emanuel seems to be the main beneficiary of this flight, as Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle are still hanging far back, at 14 and 8 respectively.
• Votes: Here's an interesting bit of left/right convergence against the middle, on one of those rare common-ground issues: the Patriot Act. The House failed to renew the Patriot Act by a 277-147 margin, with 26 GOP nays joining 122 Dems. (For some reason, the leadership was doing this under suspension of rules, which means they needed 2/3rds to pass it. It looks like they'll simply do it again and pass it under normal rules.) Knee-jerk pundits have been presenting this as a triumph of the tea partiers newly elected to Congress, but a more detailed look between the lines finds less than half of the Tea Party Caucus voting against it, and only eight of the GOP freshmen voting against it. Interestingly, two GOP House members more on the establishment end of things who are likely to be running for Senate in 2012, Connie Mack IV and Dean Heller, voted against it, showing the amazing progress in the Patriot Act's transition from legislative slam-dunk ten years ago to a potential electoral liability now.
• VRA: The Dept. of Justice seems to have kicked things into high gear with redistricting and off-year elections approaching. They just granted VRA preclearance to California to proceed with its nonpartisan citizen redistricting panels (not a controversial proposal, certainly, but still requiring preclearance because of four California counties), and to Louisiana to restore its jungle-style primary at the federal level in addition to the state level.
• Voter suppression: Welcome Tennessee to the growing club of states with Republican-controlled legislatures who are getting on the bandwagon of requiring voter IDs. The proposal cleared a state Senate committee yesterday.