• FL-Sen: With everyone fixated on the three retirements in the Senate in the last week (although the Fix makes the good point this morning that by this point in the 2010 cycle, there had already been four retirements), Bill Nelson seems compelled to point out that he won't be one of them. In front of as many reporters as possible (at an AP gathering), he confirmed today that he's running again.
• MO-Sen, MO-06: Wow, this is out of nowhere (although I'm not sure whether this is going to have any legs beyond today), but potentially very interesting: Republican Rep. Sam Graves is suddenly expressing some interest in the Senate race, calling it a "great opportunity." He's been in the House since 2000 and is chair of the Small Business Committee, so giving that up would be a big move. He may be seeing the diminished likelihood of a Jim Talent run and sensing there's room for another establishmentarian-type candidate to go against the more tea-flavored Sarah Steelman. (This would open up MO-06 in the state's rural northwest, which was Dem-held before Graves but has shifted to the right, currently R+7; Dems tried to make it competitive in 2008 and didn't get any traction.)
• ND-Sen: Ready for a whole lot of names of people who might run for Senate? In fact, let me just blockquote the Bismarck Tribune, rather than transcribing it laboriously:
The list of Republicans whose names are being thrown out include Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, Rep. Rick Berg, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, Public Service Commissioners [Brian] Kalk and Kevin Cramer, Sen. John Hoeven's state director Shane Goettle, GOP state treasurer Bob Harms, and Great Plains Software developer Doug Burgum.
As for Democrats, names circulating include both [ex-state Sen. and radio host]Joel and [ex-AG] Heidi Heitkamp, former state Sen. Tracy Potter, USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider, state Sen. Mac Schneider, U.S Attorney Tim Purdon, Conrad's state director Scott Stofferahn and former Byron Dorgan staffer Pam Gulleson, former agriculture commissioner Sara Vogel, former state Rep. Chris Griffin, State Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo, Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor and even Earl Pomeroy.
The Bismarck Tribune article also gets a number of these people on record, although their comments are all various degrees of noncommittal. Kent Conrad tipped his hand a bit yesterday, giving nods in the Grand Forks Herald to both Heitkamps, as well as to Schneider. One other Dem who got mentioned a lot yesterday, Roger Johnson (the president of the National Farmers Union) has already said he's not interested. And in what's not a surprise, the Tea Partiers aren't happy with anyone of 'em (although some had some words of praise for Berg), but are still promising to "battle for control."
• VT-Sen: It looks like Republican state Auditor Tom Salmon's Facebook attacks on Bernie Sanders weren't just the work of a bored guy at work but, as many speculated, part of a coordinated plan to move toward a run against Sanders; he's now publicly saying that he he's interested in the race. Color me puzzled: why would Salmon (who was a Democrat until a year and a half ago) go after an entrenched institution like Sanders in 2012 when he could run for Gov. against Peter Shumlin, who's just getting situated and won by only a narrow margin in 2010?
• KY-Gov: This one gets filed straight to the Department of Foregone Conclusions, but it was made official today: Republican state Sen. president David Williams and Ag Comm. Richie Farmer filed their candidacy papers today, to go up against incumbent Dem Steve Beshear in November.
• WV-Gov: We're getting some pushback/clarification from Shelley Moore Capito's team regarding claims from gubernatorial candidate Betty Ireland that she wasn't going to run for Governor; a spokesperson says the only thing that's off the table is a run in the special election for Governor (which we know now will be held this November). She's still open to a bid for either Governor or Senate in 2012. Dave Catanese also wonders whether Capito's timeline is a little longer, i.e. a 2014 run against Jay Rockefeller (or for his open seat, if he retires, seeing as how he'll be 77 then). It's also looking like the candidates for November's special election will be picked by primary rather than by the parties; acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was the main impediment to a 2011 election until yesterday's supreme court ruling, says he's working with SoS (and likely Dem primary opponent) Natalie Tennant to set special primaries in motion.
• NY-13: Ex-Rep. Mike McMahon seems to be laying groundwork for a rematch against Mike Grimm, who defeated him narrowly in 2010. He reached out to members of the Staten Island Democratic Association at a meeting last night.
• OR-01: Rep. David Wu has always struck people as a little odd (many of you probably remember his Klingons speech), but it seems like something has intensified lately, and it's starting to come out in the open. It's been revealed that in the last few months, he's lost a number of his key staffers amidst complaints about his public behavior, including his chief of staff (who left to join a Rep. with less seniority) and his communications director (who left without having another job lined up, which is even more highly unusual, especially in this economic climate). This chief fundraiser and chief pollster also say they don't plan to work with him any longer. This is a D+8 district with a robust Dem bench, which is good because this may be a difficult story for Wu to shake, especially given general rumblings of discontent with him that have been building over time.
• Mayors: Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter looks like he's in good shape for his 2011 re-election, according to a new poll from Municipoll. Nutter's at 47-39 against Generic D primary opponent, wins a three-way primary against Bill Green and Anthony Williams 46-21-18, and wins a three-way against Sam Katz and Williams 44-22-21. Interestingly (though consistent with the original coalition that elected him), Nutter has stronger support among whites (64% favorable) than he does among African-Americans, at 45%. (Nutter is black.) Nutter also just secured the support of the Laborers union. Even further down the weeds in Philly, Republican state Rep. (and, briefly, former speaker) Dennis O'Brien will run for a vacant city council seat in NE Philly. That's good news, because it might free up his state House seat and make any Dem attempt to retake the state House in 2012 easier, seeing as how his seat is one of the most Dem-leaning seats held by a Republican.
• Minnesota: Two stories developing in Minnesota; one, the legal battle over 2012 redistricting has already begun, with Minnesota its first flashpoint. With the GOP controlling the legislature (but not the governorship), Dems have filed a suit seeking an injunction requiring legislators to submit proposed redistricting plans directly to the court (where they'll probably wind up anyway, regardless of how this suit goes). Also, Minnesota GOP legislators are seeking to emulate their next-door neighbors in Wisconsin in making it more difficult to vote, seeking to push a voter ID bill.
• Redistricting: You may remember some Republican laments from a few days ago about the apparent failure of their MAPS program to raise the money needed to coordinate redistricting at a national level; those fears seem to be spreading, including to ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds, who's spearheading the process for the GOP this year. Part of the problem seems to be that they spent so much money winning control of state legislatures in November that nothing was reserved for coordinating the subsequent redistricting. Nathan Gonzales also previews how state legislators from both parties are currently hunkering down in Washington learning (since many weren't in office in 2000) the redistricting process from the ground up; in particular, they're learning the new technologies (like GIS programs like Maptitude), which obviously have come a long way since the last round of redistricting.
• Census: Hats off to the Census Bureau, who, just in time to go with their upcoming onslaught of 2010 data, have launched a new and improved version of American FactFinder (the main research tool on their site), a significant improvement over the rather clumsy and unintuitive existing version. I wouldn't go so far as to call the new version intuitive either, but it makes multi-variable searches and customized maps much easier.
• AR-Sen: Bill Halter's netroots haul has crested $1 million, between MoveOn and ActBlue (led by the PCCC and Daily Kos). On top of all that, the Sierra Club is joining the fray, with its own attack ads against Blanche Lincoln over her attempts to limit EPA regulation. The ads don't mention Halter by name, though.
• AZ-Sen: John McCain is getting the newest GOP sensation, Scott Brown, to come to Arizona to stump for him. Because, you know, nothing says "Hey teabaggers, vote for me instead of J.D. Hayworth!" than bringing in the New England RINO who gladly took all the teabaggers' money and support and turned around and voted for a Democratic piece of legislation on his first week on the job.
• CO-Sen: Having seemingly scored big time with his public option letter (at least to the extent of raising his previously very low profile), Michael Bennet seems to be getting very ambitious. The freshman Senator just unveiled a comprehensive package of Senate reforms that he's authored that's aimed squarely at undoing the quagmire that the Senate has become, including filibuster reform, eliminating anonymous holds and private-sector earmarks, and barring lawmakers from lobbying... for life.
• KS-Sen: Rasmussen finds that (big surprise) all the action in the Kansas Senate race is the GOP primary (although they didn't bother polling the hotly-contested primary). Rather than test possible candidate state Sen. David Haley, they just take the "Generic D" route, and find both Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt beating G.D., 51-26 and 50-29 respectively.
• ND-Sen: The Dems' leading candidate for contesting the likely takeover of the open Senate seat in North Dakota by Republican Gov. John Hoeven decided against a run, probably sensing the long odds. Former AG Heidi Heitkamp said no (on her brother's radio show), although rumors suggest she's interested in running for Governor in 2012, meaning she probably wouldn't want a big defeat as people's last memory of her. State Sen. Tracy Potter is already in for the Dems, and businesswoman Kristin Hedger may also get in, as she said she'd defer only to Heitkamp.
• NY-Sen-B: Is Kirsten Gillibrand going to actually be able to waltz to re-election, or will some other moneybags celebrity pop out of the woodwork next week? After having sent Harold Ford Jr. packing, now billionaire publisher Mort Zuckerman decided against a Republican bid (couching it oddly, in that being a Senator would take up too much time from his actual day job). Zuckerman is wise to save his money, as Rasmussen finds Zuckerman losing to Gillibrand 47-36 (not as bad as Marist yesterday, but still not encouraging). Rasmussen also finds Gillibrand beating even George Pataki, 44-42 (although for some reason they don't poll actual candidate Bruce Blakeman).
• NY-Gov: When it rains, it pours, for David Paterson. The New York State Commission on Public Integrity just released its finding that he violated state ethics laws for securing World Series tickets for himself and friends and then falsely testifying under oath about it. That gets sent over to Andrew Cuomo's desk on top of the whole meshugas about the state police, which kept building today with the resignation of state police superintendent Harry Corbitt. Maurice Hinchey just publicly said what I'll bet most other New York Dems are privately thinking: he's glad he won't have to run with Paterson upticket from him.
Meanwhile, there's a ton of snap polling out today about Paterson, of varying degrees of badness for him. Quinnipiac finds his approval at an all-time low of 24/62, although voters say 61-31 he should finish his term rather than resign. SurveyUSA, however, finds a plurality for resignation: 47 say resign, 44 say stay. Rasmussen finds 28 say resign, 53 say stay. Rasmussen also threw in some numbers for the gubernatorial election in November, finding Cuomo winning against Republican Rick Lazio, 55-30. They also tested out gadflyish businessman Carl Paladino, who's made noises about running. With Paladino as the R, Cuomo wins 56-27, and with Paladino as an I, Cuomo is at 50, with 19 for Lazio and 15 for Paladino.
• OK-Gov: Here's a path for Democrats to win the Governor's race in Oklahoma, according to Rasmussen: find a way for state Sen. Randy Brogdon to win the GOP primary. Unfortunately, it seems like the very conservative Rep. Mary Fallin is well on her way to winning the primary against the ultra-conservative Brogdon. Fallin beats Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins 51-37, and AG Drew Edmondson 51-36. Brodgon, however, loses to Askins 42-39 and beats Edmondson 42-41.
• PA-Gov: Quinnipiac released the gubernatorial half of its Pennsylvania poll, and Arlen Specter's bounce doesn't seem to have rubbed off much on the Democrats running for Governor... although their main problem, as always, seems to be that no one knows who they are. In the primary, "don't know" dominates at 59, followed by Dan Onorato is at 16, Jack Wagner at 11, Joe Hoeffel at 10, and Anthony Williams at 2. AG Tom Corbett has no problems on the GOP side, beating state Rep. Sam Rohrer 43-5. In head-to-heads, Corbett beats Onorato 42-32, Wagner 42-30, and Hoeffel 41-30.
• TN-Gov: Here's another state where it's still just too damn early to be polling the gubernatorial race. MTSU doesn't even bother with head-to-heads in the Tennessee race, but finds that Republican Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam (who's been spending heavily on advertising) has a bit of a leg up, in that he's the least unknown of the myriad candidates (19% of respondents were actually able to name him). Mike McWherter is the best known Dem (although that may be because he shares a last name with his dad the ex-Gov.).
• HI-01: We've gotten confirmation that the May 22 special election to replace resigned Rep. Neil Abercrombie will be an all mail-in affair, saving the state some money but possibly scrambling the parties' GOTV plans. This election and the special election in PA-12 four days earlier pose a quandary for the NRCC -- spend money they don't really have, in order to take advantage of what seems to be nationwide Republican momentum... or fess up that they really don't have much chance in either of these districts and save their money for November (or worse, spend the money and lose anyway, as with NY-20 and NY-23). NRCC spokesperson Paul Lindsey seems to telegraph which way the NRCC is leaning: "Considering that one district is the birthplace of President Obama and the other gives Democrats a voter registration advantage of more than 130,000, it is not lost on anyone that we face an incredible challenge in both races."
• NY-15: Charles Rangel has finally put down his gavel as Ways and Means chair, after he was found to have violated ethics rules. He says it's a temporary "leave of absence," but the House's presiding officer said "the resignation is accepted," suggesting something more permanent. This comes in the face of a growing wave of opposition within his own party, with a number of members returning his PAC money (ranging from the very vulnerable, like Walt Minnick, to the theoretically vulnerable, like Niki Tsongas). Also, perhaps symbolically important, it came after Artur Davis (running for Alabama governor) became the first CBC member to call for Rangel to give up his gavel.
• OK-02 (pdf): The 2nd seems like a strange choice of a place to poll, but I guess it's a good test case in terms of a Democratic Rep. in a dark-red district that hasn't been on anyone's radar screen as being vulnerable (in the face of utterly no-name challengers). True to form, Dan Boren doesn't have much to worry about this fall. He's having no trouble against his anonymous opponents, beating Dan Arnett 49-22, Daniel Edmonds 44-28, and Howard Houchen 48-26. (Teabagging independent Miki Booth pulls in 7 or 8 in each matchup.) Much of that has to do with the level of opposition, but Boren is the first incumbent Rep. PPP has found who's polling above 50 in terms of approval, at 51/33. Boren's occasional, um, departures from the party line can be better understood in terms of Barack Obama's disturbingly low 27/65 approval in the district.
• PA-11: Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien got some help from the left as he fights a primary battle against crusty Rep. Paul Kanjorski; he got the endorsement of two local unions: the Northeast Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council.
• PA-12: Bill Russell released an internal poll showing him beating Tim Burns in the GOP primary in the 12th. That's not really the newsworthy part; what's interesting is his internal pollster is Zogby. The pollster that everyone treated as an oracle in 2004 has been reduced to polling on behalf of BMW Direct's direct-mail-scam frontman? Lord, how the mighty have fallen.
• Census: Guess who's finally learned to love the Census? Michele Bachmann! Probably after some of her staffers showed her a puppet show spreadsheet showing how a combination of not enough residents in her district + a Democratic governor and legislature = no more MN-06. At any rate, she's planning to vote for a largely symbolic resolution to encourage Americans to participate in the Census.
• AZ-Sen: John McCain's various Republican establishment friends keep showing up in droves to give him a boost in his primary fight against J.D. Hayworth. Today, it was the turn for former Tennessee senator and brief presidential primary rival Fred Thompson, who awoke from his slumbers long enough to give McCain the thumbs-up.
• KS-Sen: Wow, things are actually happening in Kansas. Not that it seems likely that Democrats are going to be in a position to make either the governor's or senate races there competitive, but at least they're filling the holes with credible candidates. In the wake of state Sen. Tom Holland getting into the gubernatorial race for the Dems, now Kansas City-based state Sen. David Haley is making noises about running for Senate. He'll make a final decision within the month. Former newspaper publisher Charles Schollenberger is already a candidate, but Haley sounds like an upgrade.
• ND-Sen: Kristin Hedger, a 29-year-old businesswoman in North Dakota who lost the most recent Secretary of State race, is floating her name for the Democratic nod in the Senate race. She says she'll defer to former AG Heidi Heitkamp if she gets in, but is interested in the race if not. State Sen. Tracy Potter is already in the race for the Dems. (And yes, it sounds like she's aware about needing to be 30 to be a Senator; she'll be 30 by swearing-in day.)
• NV-Sen (pdf): The legacy media keeps treating the GOP primary in Nevada like a two-way fight between Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, but I'm going to keep maintaining that former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle is the real one to watch here (seeing as how Lowden gets tarred with the "RINO" label and is especially loathed by the Paulist set). A straw poll conducted during the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee meeting several weeks ago supports that idea, as Angle finished first, with 49 votes out of a total of 202. Tarkanian and Lowden were still, of course, right in the thick of things, at 48 and 46 respectively. In a bit of a surprise, Some Dude named Bill Parson was a solid 4th with 24 votes. (Parson seems to be working the hardcore teabagger angle. And check out the flattop - shades of Bob Conley all around.) Another potential wrinkle for the GOP: Sen. Jim DeMint, self-appointed kingmaker on the extreme right, while speaking at CPAC, wouldn't rule out supporting third-party Tea Party candidates where the GOP fails to nominate "strong" candidates - and he explicitly mentioned one state: Nevada. Recall that the Tea Party just sprang into existence as an official 3rd party in Nevada, and already have a candidate lined up (Jon Ashjian).
• NY-Sen-B: I'm still chuckling over Mort Zuckerman's trial balloons regarding the New York Senate race... but then, I was also chuckling about Harold Ford Jr. at first too. The super-wealthy publisher Zuckerman has gotten some encouragement from state party chair Ed Cox to look into running. Still, Cox is also encouraging other entrants (like Orange County Executive Edward Diana) as well, even while a number of county-level party chieftains have started lining up behind port commissioner Bruce Blakeman.
• OH-Sen: The DSCC is starting to play offense against ex-Rep. Rob Portman, hitting the former Bush budget director, ardent free trader, and all-around consummate insider with a playful new website: "Mr. Portman's Neighborhood," conveniently located at the corner of K Street and Wall Street. (Which, seeing as how we spent an inordinate amount of time here thinking about redistricting, only served to remind us of this 2006 article from The Onion.)
• UT-Sen: Even though Club for Growth hasn't settled on which primary opponent to Bob Bennett they want to back, it seems like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks has made up their minds. They'll be backing Mike Lee, who despite his conservative legal establishment pedigree (son of former Solicitor General Rex Lee, and former clerk to Samuel Alito) has been reaching out to the tea party platoons.
• HI-Gov: Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann is operating in a kind of legal limbo for now, and his gubernatorial primary rival, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, is crying foul. Hannemann has opened a campaign account (which has $2 million in it) and, as such, is listed as running for governor with the state's Campaign Spending Commission, and he's actively campaigning around the state. However, despite the state's resign-to-run law, he's staying in his current position as mayor, as he doesn't have to resign until he actually files to run with the state's Office of Elections.
• NY-Gov: This is the weirdest endorsement I've ever read (although, where Ed Koch and David Paterson are concerned, I wouldn't expect anything else); in fact it may be more of a diss than an endorsement. At any rate, I'll just let Koch speak for himself: "I am for him, in effect, out of sympathy for his being in a Kakfa-esque situation.' You can't do this to people, use rumors to destroy them...But I'm not really for him."
• PA-Gov: As he's been hinting for a few weeks now, Scranton mayor Chris Doherty finally ended his long-shot Democratic gubernatorial bid, plagued by weak fundraising. He's still looking to move on from his mayoral gig, though, and instead he's going to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by long-time Dem Robert Mellow. (He'd also apparently considered the Lt. Governor slot, but that option seemed closed after the state party endorsed former Philadelphia controller Jonathan Saidel by a wide margin.) Meanwhile, Allegheny Co. Exec Dan Onorato seems to moving closer to something approaching frontrunner status with another big labor endorsement, this time from the United Steelworkers.
• DE-AL: Republicans had apparently been pinning hopes on wealthy businessman Anthony Wedo in order to help them retain Delaware's at-large seat, vacated by Rep. Mike Castle and soon to be occupied by Democratic ex-LG John Carney. Wedo won't be running, though, leaving another (and apparently less wealthy, which would explain the NRCC's seeming indifference to him) businessman, Fred Cullis, as the only GOP face in the race.
• PA-12: Here's a surprise: state Sen. John Wozniak, a longtime Johnstown ally of Rep. John Murtha and always at the top of the list when successors were discussed, has decided not to run in the special election to replace Murtha. I wonder if that gives some credence to this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (not Pittsburgh's "real" paper, but rather the local mouthpiece for the right-wing Mellon/Scaife crowd), which made some provocative allegations: that both parties were basically prepared to write this depopulated district off, in preparation for its dismantling during the 2012 redistricting process. Rumors are that the GOP wouldn't launch a top-tier effort and that Murtha's widow, Joyce, would hold the seat for the three years until its elimination (and, according to the article, "Democratic leaders" say she's emerged as the leading contender) - so for a key Murtha ally like Wozniak to stand down suggests there's some truth to this. Notwithstanding this seeming master plan, though, former GOP state treasurer Barbara Hafer and Ryan Bucchanieri remain in the hunt for the Dems.
• CA-LG: I'm surprised that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom would want to give up being executive of a major city in exchange for a do-nothing job with a fancy title, but maybe he sees that as a better stepping stone to becoming Governor someday (although he should ask John Garamendi how that ever worked out). Bolstered by polling giving him a big edge in the LG race, he's filing a ballot statement to run and is in the process of reassembling a campaign team.
• Polltopia: Nate Silver weighs in on the great Firedoglake/SurveyUSA debate of '10 (with what's hopefully the last word on the matter), saying that he doesn't see anything "untoward" going on here, although methodological choices seem to add up to some pro-GOP house effects.
• Election Results: With 99.1% of precincts reporting (97 remain, apparently mostly in Cook County), both sides of the governor's race remain too close to call. Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has declared victory, sitting on a 7,000 vote lead (50.4%-49.6%) and with the remaining precincts in Cook County likely to go his way, although Dan Hynes hasn't conceded yet. On the GOP side, we're looking most likely at a recount, as state Sen. Bill Brady leads fellow state Sen. Kirk Dillard currently by a 751-vote margin (20.3%-20.2%), as they both squeaked past the two presumed frontrunners, former state party chair Andy McKenna and former AG Jim Ryan. The fact that the remaining votes are from Cook County, however, may be poised to help the moderate suburbs-based Dillard, though, rather than the conservative downstate Brady, so this race seems likely to get even closer (Nate Silver actually projects a one-vote victory for Brady based on broader Cook County trends). Recount procedures make it sound like a protracted process - an initial vote tally won't happen until March 5, and then the process "could take months to complete" - giving Quinn a big headstart on whoever the GOP victor turns out to be.
As expected, Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk are the Senate nominees, although both won their races with somewhat underwhelming percentages (39% for Giannoulias, and 57% for Kirk, who could have been in more trouble had the teabagging right coalesced behind one person in particular). Conservatives did triumph over establishment candidates in several GOP House primaries, though, as Bob Dold! beat state Rep. Beth Coulson in the 10th, and state Sen. Randy Hultgren beat Ethan Hastert in the 14th.
In Florida, as expected, state Sen. Ted Deutch easily won the special election primary to succeed Rep. Robert Wexler, beating former Broward Co. Commissioner Ben Graber 86-15. It looks like he'll face Republican Ed Lynch (the 2008 nominee), who defeated Joe Budd by only 46 votes (but with only 8,000 total GOP votes, that's outside the margin for an automatic recount). And here's a surprise out of Kentucky: Democrats picked up a state House seat in the dark-red HD 24, which was recently vacated when Republican Jimmy Higdon got promoted to the state Senate in another special election. Terry Mills won, 54-46, based on an overwhelming edge (89-11) on his home turf of Marion County, reminding us that, at the end of the day, all politics is local.
Finally, last night was caucus and straw poll night in Minnesota. Only 80% of precincts have reported yet - I guess they go to bed early in Minnesota - but the straw poll in the Democratic governor's race points to only a lot of chaos at this point. Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak led with 21.8%, followed closely by state House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher at 20.2%. However, "uncommitted" is a solid 3rd at 15%, there are five other candidates who managed to break 5% (John Marty, Tom Rukavina, Paul Thissen, Matt Entenza, and Tom Bakk), and ex-Sen. Mark Dayton doesn't even seem to be bothering with the whole process, planning on going straight to the primary, so there's not much clarity on how the field will shake out. The GOP field seems much more clear-cut, where former state House minority leader Marty Seifert beat state Rep. Tom Emmer 50-39, with the rest of the field in the low single digits.
• AZ-Sen: With the imminent entry of ex-Rep. J.D. Hayworth into the Republican primary against John McCain, we're already looking at dueling internal polls. McCain offers up a poll from POS, giving him a 59-30 lead over Hayworth. Hayworth has his own poll from McLaughlin, which, not surprisingly, shows him much closer, trailing 49-33.
• FL-Sen: Kendrick Meek, NASCAR dad? Meek plans to call attention to his campaign by shelling out to be the lead sponsor of Mike Wallace's car in an upcoming race at Daytona.
• IN-Sen: With the surprising announcement by ex-Sen. Dan Coats last night that he's interested in a comeback and would start seeking the signatures to qualify for the Indiana GOP nod, the oppo pretty much writes itself. For starters, Coats can't even sign his own petition - he's been a registered voter in Virginia for more than a decade, not Indiana. And what's he been doing for much of that time? Lobbying... for King & Spalding, on behalf of nice people like the Carlyle Group and Bank of America. The Plum Line also points to Coats accusing Bill Clinton of "wagging the dog" when he started going after al-Qaeda in 1998, allegedly to distract the press from his peccadilloes... and we all know how that turned out.
• ND-Sen: Democrats have, well, somebody ready to go if ex-AG Heidi Heitkamp doesn't get into the Senate race to replace retiring Byron Dorgan. State Sen. Tracy Potter, who represents Bismarck, will be announcing his candidacy on Friday. Other potential candidates seem to be holding back, waiting to see what Heitkamp does; she's been strangely silent since initially expressing interest in the seat last month.
• NY-Sen-B: Quinnipiac's first poll of the New York Senate race after the Harold Ford Jr. boomlet began finds, well, pretty much what everyone else has found: Kirsten Gillibrand beats him by a wide margin but doesn't break 50%. Gillibrand beats 36-18, with Jonathan Tasini at 4. Quinnipiac also tests general election matchups against Republican port commissioner Bruce Blakeman (they don't even bother testing ex-Gov. George Pataki, who doesn't seem to be making any moves to get into the race). Gillibrand beats Blakeman 44-27, and Ford beats him 35-26. Gillibrand is slowly gaining some more name rec, up to a 42/28 approval. Blakeman may not have the GOP primary to himself, though, as a strange blast from the past is re-emerging to say he's interested in the race: ex-Rep. Joseph DioGuardi. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, DioGuardi served in the House representing Westchester County from 1984 to 1988, when he was defeated by Nita Lowey.
• NY-Gov: The same Quinnipiac sample looks at the governor's race, finding huge approval gaps between Andrew Cuomo (54/16) and David Paterson (34/49). Cuomo wins the Democratic primary 55-23. Cuomo beats Rick Lazio 57-25, while Lazio manages to get past Paterson 40-39. There's also one other bit of good news for Cuomo (who's seemed gunshy about taking on Paterson, perhaps out of bad memories of his race against Carl McCall). The poll asked if his candidacy would be "racially divisive," and respondents answered "no" by an 80-14 margin, including 73-22 among African-Americans. Marist (pdf) also just released the gubernatorial half of its recent Senate poll, finding generally similar numbers. Cuomo wins the primary 70-23. Cuomo beats Lazio 64-27, while Lazio edges Paterson 46-43.
• TN-Gov: Add one more candidate running for higher office who's publicly copped to being birther-curious: Lt. Gov. (and GOP gubernatorial candidate) Ron Ramsey. Not having made much of an impression in terms of polling (where Rep. Zach Wamp has an edge) or fundraising (where Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam is cleaning up), this seems like the most attention Ramsey has gotten so far.
• TX-Gov: Here's more evidence that the Texas GOP gubernatorial primary may be headed for a runoff: the new Rasmussen poll of the primary doesn't have anyone coming even close to 50%. Incumbent Rick Perry leads at 44, with Kay Bailey Hutchison lagging at 29, and Paulist insurgent Debra Medina all the way up to 14 on the strength of some buzz coming out of her debate performances. KBH may be counting on a runoff as her only way left to salvage this race, but somehow it seems like, in a runoff, Medina votes are a lot likely to gravitate toward the secession-invoking Perry rather than consummate DC insider Hutchison. In the general, all three defeat Democratic ex-Houston mayor Bill White, although, as one would expect, KBH puts up the biggest margin: 49-36. Perry wins 48-39, while Medina wins by only 41-38.
• AR-02: One of the non-Tim Griffin candidates in the Republican field, David Meeks, dropped out of the race today, probably realizing he was in over his head with the kind of attention open seat races get. One other candidate, restaurant owner Scott Wallace remains, and he may well carry the teabagger flag against Beltway creature Griffin. Realizing the best way to win this is by painting Griffin as insider, the DCCC is turning their attention to Griffin's past as GOP behind-the-scenes fixer, calling attention to his efforts at voter suppression. Over in the diaries, ARDem takes a look at the developing Dem field, which currently contains state House speaker Robbie Wills, liberal state Sen. Joyce Elliott, and retiring Vic Snyder's chief of staff, David Boling. It won't contain, however, Little Rock mayor Mike Stodola, or Public Service Commissioner Paul Suskie, who had seemed to be laying the groundwork for a run.
• CA-12, CA-AG: False alarm: Rep. Jackie Speier is staying put in the 12th District, where's she been in place for only a couple years. Rumors that she was about to move over to the state AG's race had many of the state legislators on the Peninsula angling to replace her.
• GA-04: In the wake of an internal from Rep. Hank Johnson showing him crushing his three opponents in the Dem primary in this solidly-blue district in Atlanta's suburbs, one of those opponents got out of the way: DeKalb Co. Commissioner Lee May. May is an ally of former DeKalb Co. CEO Vernon Jones, so it's possible that he's getting out of the way primarily so that Jones can get a bigger share of the non-Johnson vote.
• MA-10: With the general sense that this is the most vulnerable district in Massachusetts (as seen with its votes in the Senate special election last month), Republicans are taking more of an interest in challenging Rep. William Delahunt in this usually-ignored seat. Former state treasurer Joe Malone is probably the biggest name to express interest, but at least one other credible contender, state Rep. Jeffrey Perry, is already announcing his candidacy. State Sen. Robert Hedlund is also expressing some interest.
• NJ-07: One big hole in the Dems' recruitment schedule has been the 7th, narrowly won by freshman GOP Rep. Leonard Lance in 2008. They've managed to fill the gap with Ed Potosnak, who's elevated slightly above Some Dude status by the full Rolodex he brings with him after working for a number of years as a Hill staffer for Rep. Mike Honda.
• PA-11: Lackawanna Co. Commissioner Corey O'Brien has a compelling argument for why he should win the primary in the 11th: he says Rep. Paul Kanjorski has "zero" chance of defeating Republican Lou Barletta in their third face-off, citing Kanjorski's low approval ratings. O'Brien has been fundraising well ($180K last quarter, not far from Kanjo's $237K) and recently hit the airwaves with a small cable buy for his first TV spot.
• CA-LG: Is San Francisco mayor (and gubernatorial race dropout) Gavin Newsom actually thinking about a run for the dead-end job that is California's #2? Officially he's not interested, but he hasn't said no, and a new public poll from Tulchin gives him a big lead in a hypothetical LG primary, with Newsom at 33 against the two declared candidates: Los Angeles city councilor Janice Hahn at 17 and state Sen. Dean Florez at 15. Meanwhile, the state Senate this week takes up the issue of filling the current vacancy in the LG's chair (vacated by now-Rep. John Garamendi); there's actually talk of blocking Ahnold appointee state Sen. Abel Maldonado, despite that getting the moderate Republican Maldonado out of his seat would open up his Dem-leaning district for a takeover and help push the Dem edge in the Senate toward the magic 2/3s mark.
• CT-AG: The story of Susan Bysiewicz just gets stranger and stranger; she decided that rather than run for governor, she'd prefer to run for AG, but now the job's current occupant, Richard Blumenthal, says that possibly she can't. An AG opinion interprets state law requiring ten years of legal practice as unclear and urges a declaratory ruling on Bysiewicz's case from a court. Bysiewicz, for her part, said she won't seek the declaratory ruling and is simply plowing ahead with her AG campaign, although it's possible one of the other candidates in the race might force the issue in the courts.
• Polltopia: The skepticism toward those SurveyUSA polls commissioned by Firedoglake continues to grow, this time from political science professor and frequent Pollster.com contributor Alan Abramowitz. His gravest concerns are with the leading questions in the issues portions of the poll on health care reform, but he also points to serious problems with the samples' compositions that we were quick to flag. He observes that the samples deeply underrepresent younger votes, and that the youth subsets are so small that there's no good way to "weight up" younger voters to a more proportionate level.
Republican Gov. John Hoeven seems to have an even clearer path to the Senate than he did against Byron Dorgan, now that it's an open seat. He posts 20-point-plus leads against all of his opposition, including the likeliest Democrat to get the nod: former AG and 2000 gubernatorial candidate Heidi Heitkamp. We're looking at a strongly Republican likely electorate here (with Barack Obama at 41/54 approval, and the Republican Party faring much better as a party than the Democrats (although still in crappy position, too): 39/53 for the GOP vs. 25/61 for the Dems). That means that performance is pretty much equal for all Dems, whether they're well-known (Ed Schultz) or up-and-coming but unknown (North Dakota Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider). With that in mind, Swing State Project is moving this race to "Likely Republican."
Hoeven may still be in for a bumpy ride, though, thanks to the same thing facing fellow level-headed midwestern Governor (and 'stache wearer) Terry Branstad: bubbling-over anger on the teabagging right and mistrust of his establishment, insufficiently tax-averse ways. While the Tea Partiers don't seem to have a particular primary opponent in mind, they're adamant that Hoeven won't be getting a free pass through the primary.
Democratic at-large Rep. Earl Pomeroy seems to have had the right idea in staying where he is, rather than going for the promotion. He's looking fairly secure against the GOP opposition (although below the symbolic 50% mark), leading Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer (a statewide official, but one who's lost twice to Pomeroy previously, and just announced today that he's going back for a third try) and his 2008 opponent (and current Senate candidate, although he might want to drop down to get out of Hoeven's way) Duane Sand by similar 20-point-plus margins. Insurance salesman Paul Schaffner is also in the GOP primary, and state Rep. Rick Berg and Fargo city commissioner Dave Piepkorn are also weighing the race.
• AR-Sen: The news that the guy who held Blanche Lincoln to within about 10 points last time (in 2004) is getting back in the race this year seems like it should be a bigger news story than it is, but there's an already filled-to-capacity GOP field and the establishment seems to have already picked favorites. At any rate, former state Sen. Jim Holt, closely linked with the state's religious right, officially launched his bid today.
• AZ-Sen: It's look more and more like ex-Rep. J.D. Hayworth is serious about pursuing a Republican primary challenge to John McCain and not just looking to fundraise his way out of some lingering legal debts. He's been contacting consultants and pollsters about strategy, and he's also made some high-profile appearances recently, including headlining a fundraiser for controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In response to the possible challenge, John McCain is launching two different radio ads full of right-wing language pretty transparently aimed at the teabagging crowd, saying Barack Obama is "leading an extreme left-wing crusade" and calling himself "Arizona's last line of defense."
• CT-Sen: Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, but it's looking likelier that starting in 2013, Richard Blumenthal will be Connecticut's senior senator. PPP finds that Joe Lieberman's numbers, not good before his HCR sabotage, have gotten even worse. His approval is a mind-blowing 14/81 among Democrats (probably ending any plans by him to seek the Democratic nomination in 2012). He fares least worst among Republicans, who give him a 39/48 approval; it's good for a 25/67 approval over all, along with a 19/68 approval of his actions on health care (which pissed off Democrats while still leaving Republicans unhappy when he voted for final passage). While the Hill's piece on Rep. Chris Murphy seems to be based mostly on a vague sentence by Murphy, it does point to a suddenly congealing CW that Murphy (with Blumenthal already engaged) will be the person to tackle Lieberman in 2012.
• FL-Sen, FL-Gov: You know you're in trouble when you're spending valuable time fighting rumors spread on Facebook by thoroughly discredited ex-Rep. Mark Foley. Charlie Crist today said there's no truth to the rumors that he's about to drop his faltering Senate primary bid and try for re-election as Governor instead.
• IL-Sen: Patrick Hughes, who's been seeding his right-wing insurgent bid with some of his own money, is seeking to break out of the single digits in the GOP primary polls against Rep. Mark Kirk by upping his name recognition. He's out with a TV spot today.
• MA-Sen: Martha Coakley is shifting her sleepy general election campaign into overdrive today with the special election several weeks away, launching her first general election TV ad. She's also receiving the endorsements today of most of the key figures in the Kennedy clan, including Ted's widow Vicky and ex-Rep. Joe (along with honorary Kennedy and temporary Senator Paul Kirk).
• ND-Sen: As we parse the comments from various potential Democratic candidates in the newly-open Senate race in North Dakota, it sounds like former AG Heidi Heitkamp is "very interested" and "very much looking into" the race, while talk show host Ed Schultz is "at this point... not even considering."
• NY-Sen-B: Here's an interesting possibility surfacing, as the GOP seeks anyone who's willing to take on Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate race: ex-Rep. Susan Molinari, who was considered a rising star back when she represented NY-13. She's started floating her name out there (or more accurately, her dad, Staten Island GOP leader Guy Molinari), but one key point from the article is that Molinari -- currently employed at the firm of Bracewell & Giuliani (yes, that Giuliani) -- "left Congress in 1997 and currently lives in Virginia." Meanwhile, as the potential Harold Ford Jr. candidacy is still the "wtf?" heard 'round the blogosphere, The Albany Project takes a deeper look at the mysterious forces pushing the idea front and center.
• IL-Gov: Desperately needing to make up some ground on incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the last month before the Democratic primary, Comptroller Dan Hynes is going hard negative against Quinn from the apparent right in a new TV spot, painting him as a soft-on-crime tax-raiser. Meanwhile, Quinn got the endorsement from the Chicago Sun-Times.
• MA-Gov: State Treasurer Tim Cahill's independent candidacy for Governor hasn't really seemed to have its desired effect for Cahill, as it mostly has allowed Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to move ahead in the polls as Cahill splits the anti-Patrick votes. Cahill looks to be trying to lure some more GOP voters into his camp to become the definitive anti-Patrick candidate, though, with his running mate pick, GOP former state Rep. Paul Loscocco. It doesn't sound like Cahill or Loscocco are very enthuasiastic about taking each other to the prom, though; Cahill already got turned down by four previous people he'd asked to be his running mate (including current Senate candidate Scott Brown), and Loscocco had previously been lobbying to be GOP candidate Charlie Baker's running mate but missed the cut on that one.
• MD-Gov: Incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley seems to have a fairly clear path to re-election, but for the time being he has higher-profile opposition in his own primary than from the Republicans. He's facing a challenge from the right from George Owings, who officially launched today. Owings was a conservative Democratic state Delegate for many years and then picked by GOP Governor Bob Ehrlich as the state's veteran affairs secretary (who was then sacked by O'Malley once he took office); Owings is attacking O'Malley's tax raising and opposition to the death penalty.
• NE-Gov: Democrats are back to square one in the Nebraska gubernatorial race against GOP incumbent Dave Heineman, after Douglas Co. Commissioner (and former Omaha mayor) Mike Boyle -- who'd sounded likely to run last month -- decided against a bid. Democratic state Sen. Steve Lathrop has also ruled the race out.
• CO-03: Martin Beeson, the Republican DA for an agglomeration of small mountain counties, has pulled out of his bid for the GOP nod in the 3rd to challenge Rep. John Salazar. Beeson's hopes dimmed when state Rep. (and 2006 loser) Scott Tipton got into the GOP field a few months ago.
• IL-10: Moderate Republican state Rep. Beth Coulson got a big (if unsurprising) endorsement, from fellow GOP moderate ex-Rep. John Porter. Porter held the seat for 20 years, until he made way for his former chief of staff (current Rep. Mark Kirk) in 2000.
• MN-01: Apparently John Wade, the president of Rochester's Chamber of Commerce, had been interested in a run in the 1st against Democratic sophomore Rep. Tim Walz. He just decided against it, although a lone business conservative seems like he might have a shot at winning the crowded GOP primary, split between a number of loudmouthed social conservatives (most notably ex-state Rep. Allen Quist).
• MS-01: Good fundraising has propelled Republican state Sen. Alan Nunnelee up a tier in the NRCC's framework for challengers. Nunnelee, who'll likely face off against Rep. Travis Childers and his mighty 'stache, is now a "Contender."
• TN-06: Democrats are having trouble recruiting to fill the slot left behind by Rep. Bart Gordon's retirement. State Rep. Henry Fincher just said no; he follows fellow state Rep. Mike McDonald in declining. It can't be that appetizing, given the district's reddening hue, several strong GOPers waiting in the wings, and the likelihood of GOP gerrymandering making the district even less hospitable in 2012.
• UT-03, UT-Sen: I'd be surprised if anyone were on pins and needles about this, but if you missed yesterday's announcement, yes, Rep. Jason Chaffetz will be returning for another term in the House rather than getting into the primary against impermissibily sane GOP Sen. Bob Bennett.
• EMILY's List: Stephanie Shriock, chief of staff to Sen. Jon Tester, will take over as head of EMILY's List from Ellen Malcolm. It marks the first change in leadership at the top for the prolific PAC.
• RNC: After a revolt by what remains of its moderate wing, the RNC has backed down on its purity test (which would require 8 of 10 agreements on right-wing positions, and probably would have cut loose Mike Castle, Mark Kirk, Rob Simmons, and Charlie Crist loose from RNC funding). Now they're simply requiring that nobody endorse any Democratic candidates in 2010. Meanwhile, Michael Steele continues to overshadow the rest of the RNC's operations with his gift of saying odd things, with today's installment a riposte to intraparty critics intent on withholding RNC donations because of Steele's leadership: "get a life" or "fire me."
• Gay marriage: It's been flying under the radar with everything else going on this week, but New Jersey's state Senate is currently debating gay marriage, with a vote possibly later today. Only 13 Senators have definitely committed to it so far though, short of the 21 needed for passage. (Dems are already short 1 vote with the absence of Dana Redd, who resigned after becoming mayor of Camden.)
• Census: Here's an interesting conundrum for the Census Bureau -- how to deal with the issue of the nation's legions of sunbirds: retirees who live in the south for winter and the north for summer. It's especially an issue for Minnesota as it seeks to stave off elimination of one of its Congressional districts, and it's making special efforts to make sure long-term travelers list themselves according to their Minnesota addresses.
I'm now going to say a sentence I never thought I'd have to say: Let's round up everything that's happened so far in North Dakota today. The big news in the wake of Byron Dorgan's retirement announcement, of course, is perhaps also the least surprising: Republican Gov. John Hoeven wasted no time in throwing his name into the ring for the newly open seat:
Popular Gov. John Hoeven is letting his political allies know that he's preparing to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Gary Emineth told POLITICO that he spoke with Hoeven's senior staff soon after learning of Dorgan's retirement, and they informed him that Hoeven is preparing to jump in the Senate race once he deals with family issues back home.
Hoeven apparently will formally disclose his intentions within "two weeks." Hoeven's quick entry would almost certainly work to exclude any other prominent North Dakota Republicans from considering the race.
Now, who's going to be running for the Democrats? If the Progressive Change Campaign Committee gets its way, it'll still be Dorgan. They've organized a letter-writing campaign of constituents asking Dorgan to reconsider and run again; they've already racked up more than 1,000 notes.
The highest Dem on the totem pole would seem to be the state's at-large Representative since 1992 (when Dorgan got promoted to the Senate), Earl Pomeroy. Pomeroy is officially noncommital right now, but reportedly has let his staff know that he'll be remaining in the House. That may be for the best, as Pomeroy would be an underdog against Hoeven and he'd place that House seat in jeopardy as well. Instead, much of the speculation about possible Dem candidates has turned to former AG Heidi Heitkamp, who in fact ran against Hoeven in his first gubernatorial race in 2000. She held him to a 55-45 margin in that race after being diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-campaign, although she's been out of politics since then. (She's currently a director at Dakota Gasification, a synethetic fuels company.) (UPDATE: A new CQ article confirms that Pomeroy won't run, and also mentions that in addition to the possibility of Heidi Heitkamp running, so too could her brother Joel Heitkamp, a former state Senator and now host of a popular local talk show.)
Speculation has also turned to perhaps the most famous North Dakotan: populist talk show host Ed Schultz, who has been fielding calls requesting that he run (including from the state House minority leader, Merle Boucher). Schultz said he's a "long way" from actively considering it, but didn't explicitly rule it out and did addresss Hoeven's potential vulnerability.
We'll have a clearer sense of this race next week, when R2K polls this race (assumedly with Pomeroy, Heitkamp, and Schultz matchups against Hoeven). R2K will also be tackling Colorado and Connecticut next week as well. (Discussion underway in BruinKid's diary.)