• 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.
CT-Sen: Mike Slanker, former political director of the NRSC when John Ensign ran the organization, has been caught up in connection with the investigation of his former boss's attempts to steer lobbying work to his mistress's husband. Slanker is currently running Linda McMahon's media operations as a consultant, but the campaign is mum on whether he'll stay involved with them.
NV-Sen: Republicans are trying to nuke the nascent candidacy of Tea Partier Jon Ashjian. Apparently, Ashjian was still a registered Republican when he filed as the Tea Party candidate, which may run afoul of Nevada election laws.
MN-Gov: State Sen. Tom Bakk, who represents the northeastern part of Minnesota known as the Iron Range, has dropped out of the gubernatorial race, citing what he felt were his slim chances.
CA-19: SurveyUSA, an uncharacteristically quiet pollster this cycle, is offering up a poll of the Republican and Democratic primaries for the open seat of retiring GOP Rep. George Radanovich. For the Republicans, state Sen. Jeff Denham leads the way with 26%, followed closely by ex-Fresno mayor Jim Patterson with 25%. Ex-Rep. "Dirty" Dick Pombo lags behind at 13%, while Fresno city councilor Larry Westerlund gets 7%. For the Democrats, real estate consultant John Estrada leads physician/attorney Loraine Goodwin by 24-14, with retired thespian Les Marsden clocking in at 8%. (JL)
CA-20: I really can't believe we missed this one. Term-limited GOP state Sen. Roy Ashburn had been considering a run against Dem Rep. Jim Costa as recently as December, and it looked like he could have posed a pretty serious challenge. In January, however, he did an abrupt about-face and said he was taking a break from public life. Perhaps it was a portent. A few weeks ago, Ashburn, who had long cultivated an anti-gay voting record, was arrested for drunk driving after leaving a gay nightclub. He subsequently admitted on a radio show that he is gay.
GA-09: Nathan Deal previously said that he'd wait until March 31 to resign from the House, but he only waited about 31 minutes after HCR passed to say sayonara. (JL)
IN-03, IN-Sen: Hah, check out this multidimensional episode of wingnut-on-wingnut violence. GOP Rep. Mark Souder is already on the air with negative radio ads against his opponent, wealthy car dealership owner Bob Thomas. Souder is dousing some haterade on Thomas, who until very recently was an Indianapolis-area resident, for his shallow roots in the district. Thomas, for his part, is blasting Souder for his hypocrisy, citing his endorsement of beltway lobbyist Dan Coats in the state's Senate race. (JL)
MA-10: Who gets hurt by this move? Taking a page from the playbook of Tim Cahill, lobbyist and former four-term state Rep. Maryanne Lewis has "unenrolled" from the Democratic Party in an apparent step to run for the seat of retiring Dem Rep. Bill Delahunt as an independent. State Democrats are on the record as saying that a Lewis candidacy would hurt Republicans more than Democrats, given Lewis' more conservative record in the state legislature. (JL)
MI-07: Republicans have found yet another specimen itching to take on frosh Dem Rep. Mark Schauer. Potterville city councilman Mike Stahly has thrown his hat into the race, where he'll face ex-Rep. Tim Walberg and Rooney clan member Brian Rooney in the GOP primary. Stahly, who is unemployed in his spare time, says that he'll be "the only candidate in the nation" to refuse donations from outside the district. Sounds like a winner! (JL)
ND-AL: North Dakota Republicans have opted to endorse state Rep. Rick Berg over North Dakota Public Service Commission Kevin Cramer as their standard bearer against Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy. Cramer now says that he's "95 percent sure" that he'll run for re-election to the PSC now that Congress isn't an option. (JL) As it happens, Berg's campaign manager resigned last week for abusing a state party email list and then lying about it.
NY-20: David Harper, who recently resigned as an assistant district attorney in Saratoga County, has dropped out of the race for the Republican nod to take on Rep. Scott Murphy this fall. Harper endorsed his opponent, retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who pretty much seems to be the GOP frontrunner now. None of these guys have filed any FEC reports yet.
NY-24: Well that was monumentally stupid. Despite the risks of being branded as a John Kerry-esque flip-flopper, of losing the Working Families Party line, and of earning himself a union-backed primary challenge, dumb-as-rocks Rep. Mike Arcuri voted "no" on healthcare reform anyway. Even before the vote, labor was busy looking for someone to take Arcuri on in the primary, and they're already talking to epidemiologist and professor Les Roberts, who briefly ran for this seat in 2006 (when it was open) before deferring to Arcuri. Roberts sounds pretty interested. Some other possible names (my own speculation) would include Cortland Mayor Bruce Tytler and Utica attorney Leon Koziol, both of whom also ran in 2006 before bowing out to avoid a contested primary.
PA-12: More good news for Mark Critz - Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic Jr. has decided to drop out of the Democratic primary for the late John Murtha's seat, citing party unity as a pressing concern. Critz will now face Navy veteran Ryan Bucchianeri and attorney Ron Mackell, Jr. as his only competitors in the Democratic primary. (JL)
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.
• Redistricting contest: Attention all redistricting nerds! Our New York redistricting contest deadline is Sunday, midnight Eastern time, so get your maps done. Don't forget that people need to email their .DRF.XML files to jeffmd at swingstateproject dot com.
• AR-Sen, MO-Sen: Here's an interesting alliance between two prominent female Senate candidates, one perhaps our most vulnerable incumbent and the other our likeliest pickup. Blanche Lincoln and Robin Carnahan have formed a joint fundraising committee, the Missouri Arkansas Victory Fund.
• CT-Sen: I had almost forgotten about Merrick Alpert, a young entrepreneur who'd been trying to carve out some space for himself in the Democratic primary against Chris Dodd as the "clean" outsider (and had been polling in the low double digits in primary polls, by virtue of his non-Dodd-ness). With the departure of Dodd and his replacement with the squeaky-clean Richard Blumenthal, it looks like Alpert's going to need to do some message retooling. At any rate, Alpert says he's sticking around in the race no matter what.
• DE-Sen: A politician voting against something, and then take credit for its benefits after it passes anyway? Why, I'm sure that's never happened before. Still, it's not the kind of thing you might expect Rep. Mike Castle to do... but he's doing it anyway, touting $5 million in aid to the Delaware state government that came from the stimulus package he voted against.
• FL-Sen: I'm not sure if Charlie Crist actually thinks this'll work; it seems like a transparent-enough ploy that the teabaggers will see through it like Grandma's underpants. At any rate, he's spinning to the paranoid right as quickly as the newly-rabid John McCain, decrying "Obamacare secrecy" in HCR negotiations, and also engaging in a little revisionist history about his stance on abortion.
• MA-Sen: Everyone's getting Twitter-pated about PPP's early teasings of its poll of this race, which they say is "loseable" for the Democrats; the actual numbers should be out this weekend. Still, you'd think that if there were an actual fire going on here, you'd see the national committees getting involved, and they aren't (yet)... although the RNC has been sending around an e-mail asking for money on state Sen. Scott Brown's behalf. Meanwhile, Martha Coakley has a big fundraiser scheduled for next Tuesday in DC (with all the state's Congressional delegation and other moneybags luminaries like the Podestas) -- although, given how gigantic a cash advantage she already has for blanketing the airwaves, it seems like that day might be better spent actually working on the ground than heading to Washington.
• ND-Sen: It turns out R2K had a perfectly good poll of North Dakota in the field on Tuesday, which got spoiled when Byron Dorgan suddenly retired. Still, it sheds some light on Dorgan's retirement decision, as the final result is Hoeven 54, Dorgan 37 (which may be skewed toward Hoeven because they kept asking polling after Dorgan's announcement, but Dorgan was still losing before the announcement too). That's despite Dorgan's sky-high approvals of 63%... just what happens when the state's natural lean is against you, and someone even more popular than you comes along (just ask Lincoln Chafee). Remember that R2K found a 57-35 lead for Dorgan back in February over Hoeven; the flip was driven in large part by independents, who moved decisively from Dorgan to Hoeven over the year. One other Democratic name is getting floated as a potential Dorgan successor: former Dorgan aide and former state Senator Kristin Hedger.
• NY-Sen-B: Lots of New York's power players are trying to talk Harold Ford Jr. down from the ledge regarding his potential primary challenge to Kirsten Gillibrand, starting with Gillibrand's mentor Charles Schumer. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who came around late to supporting Gillibrand but is firmly in her column now, also joined in the chorus telling Ford (who's been huddling with advisors from Michael Bloomberg's coterie) to back off. The campaign against Ford almost seems to write itself, starting with his pro-life proclamations and the fact that he's been registered to vote in New York for only six weeks. That's only the tip of the iceberg, though; Campaign Diaries has the definitive takedown of his record.
• NV-Sen: Some more intraparty sniping in Nevada, where Rep. Dean Heller is still complaining that John Ensign continues to tarnish the GOP's brand in the state, which could hurt its chances in the Senate and Governor's races in 2010. Heller said he wouldn't call for Ensign to resign, "at least not on this show."
• PA-Sen: Former Commonwealth Court judge Doris Smith-Ribner ended her longshot bid in the Democratic primary in the Senate race, having made no fundraising progress. She made so little impact I don't see this changing much of anything, although maybe it helps Rep. Joe Sestak a bit via less splitting of the anti-Arlen Specter vote. She's switching over to the Lt. Governor's race, although she faces a longshot bid there too for the Dem nod against former Philadelphia controller Jonathan Saidel.
• UT-Sen: Maybe yesterday's news that Jason Chaffetz wouldn't challenge him was good news for Bob Bennett, but things aren't getting any better for Team Bob. He's now officially a target of the Club for Growth, unhappy with his occasionally moments of across-the-aisle comity. The CfG doesn't have a preferred horse in the race, yet, as they seem torn between Mike Lee, Tim Bridgewater, and Cherilyn Eagar; for now, they're calling all three of them "superior" to Bennett.
• NM-Gov: The New Mexico GOP has only a number of second-stringers running for Governor (with Dona Ana County DA Susana Martinez maybe the most interesting), so they still seem to be casting about. They've gotten a nibble from a local attorney with no electoral experience but a prominent family name: Pete Domenici Jr.
• SD-Gov: One more Republican got into the field in the South Dakota gubernatorial race, bringing the total to five. State Sen. Gordon Howie seems to be laying claim to the teabaggers' mantle in the race, via his presidency of the Tea Party-linked Citizens for Liberty. (I'd rather see him run for the House, where he could someday form the Guys Whose Names Seem To Be Out Of Order Caucus, along with Rodney Tom and Nickie Monica.)
• TX-Gov, TX-Sen: Kay Bailey Hutchison's gubernatorial run has been giving John Cornyn nonstop heartburn since he took over the NRSC, and now he seems to be strategically leaking that he'd prefer that she drop her gubernatorial bid altogether (despite the primary being only two months away) to avoid the prospect of an expensive special election. Note to Cornyn: she'll lose the gubernatorial primary anyway, and you'll have her back shortly. While smart Texans (see White, Bill) seem to be backing away from the Senate-Race-that-probably-won't-exist, one more Republican is floating his name for the hypothetical race. And it's a guy I didn't know even had any political inclinations: ESPN talking head Craig James.
• UT-Gov: Democrats got a good candidate to run in the 2010 gubernatorial special election: Salt Lake County mayor Peter Corroon confirmed that he'll run. Corroon still faces a steep uphill fight, given the state's crimson hue, but Dems have a better opening than usual, given the muddled Republican field in view of possible convention and/or primary challenges to appointed Gov. Gary Herbert.
• CA-19: Neighboring Representatives are taking sides in the Republican primary in the open seat race in the 19th. Kevin McCarthy, who leads NRCC recruitment efforts, is sticking with his initial endorsement of state Sen. Jeff Denham despite ex-Rep. Richard Pombo's entry to the race (although he confesses that he "likes" Pombo too), while Devin Nunes has endorsed his ex-colleague Pombo. Denham also benefits from endorsements from many of the other state GOP House members (Dreier, Royce, Campbell, Issa, and Herger), although Duncan Hunter Jr. switched to "neutral" from Denham after Pombo's entry.
• IN-09: It's on... for the fifth freakin' time. Ex-Rep. Mike Sodrel is launching another run against Democratic Rep. Baron Hill. (Hill has a 3-1 win record in their meetings so far.) The trouble is, unlike previous tries, Sodrel will have to get through a primary this time; attorney Todd Young has already raised substantial money and has many establishment endorsements (including some statewide officials). With Sodrel increasingly buddying up to the teabaggers, this looks like it has the potential to turn into one more skirmish in the establishment/movement battle.
• ND-AL: Republicans suddenly seem more interested in taking on the usually untouchable Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, no doubt heartened by the knowledge that they'd be running downticket from John Hoeven in the Senate race and might benefit from coattails. State Rep. Rick Berg is sounding the loudest, although former Insurance Comm. Jim Poolman also is expressing interest. Public Service Commission member Kevin Cramer (who's lost twice to Pomeroy before) was scoping out a run even before Byron Dorgan's retirement.
• NH-02: With a crowd already formed in the NH-02 Democratic primary, Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli declined to run. She didn't endorse attorney Ann McLane Kuster, state Rep. John DeJoie, or Katrina Swett (who hasn't formally declared yet), though.
• PA-04: There are rumors of a potential primary challenge from the left to Rep. Jason Altmire (despite the R+6 character of his suburban Pittsburgh district). Businesswoman Georgia Berner -- who lost the 2006 primary to Altmire, who went on to defeat GOP Rep. Melissa Hart in the general -- is dissatisfied with Altmire's Blue Doggish record and is considering a rematch.
• VA-05: Some more delicious cat fud in the 5th, where state Sen. Robert Hurt, the Republican establishment's pick in the race, has told the teabaggers to get bent. He'll be skipping two debates sponsored by Tea Party organizations (although he cites the legislative calendar as the reasons for not showing up).
• Polltopia: Nate Silver has a very interesting deconstruction of Rasmussen, one of the best things I've seen written about them yet. He looks at why they keep finding right-wing insurgent candidates (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul) overperforming against Democratic candidates compared to Republican establishment rivals, contrary to other pollsters. What he sees is that between their exclusionary likely voter screen and their one-day polling periods (with no callbacks), they're disproportionately reaching the most informed, motivated, and ideologically-driven voters.
• IL-Sen: The Tom Dart boomlet didn't seem to go anywhere; the attention-grabbing Cook County Sheriff announced that, contrary to rumors, he wasn't going to run in the Democratic Senate primary and would instead stand for re-election.
• LA-Sen: David Vitter is wasting no time in trying to define Charlie Melancon with new TV spots, saying "Life sure is swell when you're a liberal-loving, Obama-endorsing congressman like Charlie Melancon." The good news is: this means everyone recognizes this is a highly competitive race; conventional wisdom says define your opponent if he's strong, ignore him if he's weak so you don't inadvertently give him free PR.
• MA-Sen: Rep. Stephen Lynch, the most conservative member of the Massachusetts House delegation and a former Ironworker, has been trying to lock down the slot as organized labor's candidate in the upcoming Senate special election, but he was booed at a health care rally and not even invited to a labor breakfast over the weekend, suggesting that his skepticism over the public option could be hurting him among the potential backers he most needs. Campaign Diairies has a handy compare-and-contrast chart of key votes among the Mass. delegation; interestingly, Lynch was also the only one to vote in favor of the Peru free trade agreement, another potential black mark for labor.
• NV-Sen, NV-Gov: There's something almost Shakesperean (or Freudian?) about this story: father and son Reid are both looking at each other as dragging down each others' poltiical fortunes. Rory sees Harry's presence on the ballot as hampering his potential gubernatorial run, while Harry sees Rory's run as hurting his senate re-election bid.
• TX-Sen: There's been increasing chatter about a run for the Democratic Republican Senate nomination in the possibly-upcoming special election by Dallas mayor Tom Leppert. He'd start out at a financial and name rec disadvantage compared with Bill White and John Sharp, though, having just been in office for half a term.
• UT-Sen: Bob Bennett may be in for some tough sledding in the GOP primary in the Utah Senate race, but he can count on the support of his fellow Senator Orrin Hatch, who gave Bennett a full-throated endorsement last week. Buried in the story, though, is something more troubling: Bennett managed to finish in last place at a Utah County GOP straw poll, where AG Mark Shurtleff won with 42% and ultra-right weirdo Cherilyn Eager got 32%. Bennett is also challenging the legality of Shurtleff's fundraising; Bennett alleges commingling of federal and state accounts at Shurtleff's Wasatch Shotgun Blast fundraising picnic (Utah has very lax limits on state fundraising).
• AZ-Gov: A poll for Arizona Capital Times has, buried in the fine print, some very alarming numbers for appointed GOP Gov. Jan Brewer. They don't poll her on head-to-heads, but she has perilously low re-elects: 18% say they'll vote for her, 46% say they'll vote for someone else, and 36% are undecided. More evidence that the anti-governor tide is high on both sides of the aisle. Sensing her vulnerability (following a budget standoff in which the conservative Brewer found herself to the left of her legislature), primary opponents are considering the race, including state Treasurer Dean Martin and polarizing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
• GA-Gov: There are now seven viable candidates running for the GOP nomination for Georgia Governor, as state Sen. Jack Jeff Chapman, who represents Brunswick on the coast, got in the race. The little-known Chapman has ruffled some feathers fighting overdevelopment along the coast.
• NH-Gov: John DiStaso points to a couple GOP challengers sniffing out the race against Democratic incumbent Gov. John Lynch, one of the few gubernatorial races left in the country that falls in either "Safe" category. Leading the way is behind-the-scenes conservative activist Karen Testerman, founder of Cornerstone Family Research, who apparently feels ready to step in front of the curtain. Another rumored name is state Sen. Chuck Morse. Little-known businessman Jack Kimball is the only confirmed candidate.
• VA-Gov: We've had a deluge of polls in Virginia in the last week, some showing some a tightening race, some not. The newest offering from SurveyUSA definitely falls into the "not" column, giving Republican AG Bob McDonnell a 54-42 lead over Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds (the same margin as their previous poll). Crosstabs show that Deeds has pulled into the lead in northern Virginia, but is still way behind in the rest of the state.
• VT-Gov: Here's someone actually considering switching from the Dems to the GOP: state Auditor Tom Salmon, whose father was Democratic governor in the 1970s and who defeated incumbent GOPer Randy Brock in 2006. Republicans are trying to spin this as a referendum on local Dems being too liberal, but there may be some garden-variety ambition behind this: Salmon says he plans to run for re-election, but may also be considering a run for Governor if Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie doesn't run, and this seems an easier way to get into the general election than through the already-crowded Dem field.
• AK-AL: Rep. Don Young, who recently drew a strong Democratic challenger in the form of state Rep. Harry Crawford, will also have to run the gauntlet of a strong primary opponent too. Businessman Andrew Halcro, who got nearly 10% of the vote in his independent campaign for governor in 2006 and since then has seen his profile increase via his anti-Sarah Palin blogging efforts, said he'll run against Young as a GOPer. Crawford gets good notices from local observers, using words like "old-school," "blue-collar," "backwoods," and "gritty" to describe him, which may be a better matchup against the crusty former tugboat captain than the more polished Ethan Berkowitz was last year.
• IL-07: Rep. Danny Davis made it official; he's out of the House in 2010. He'll be running for Cook County Board President instead. The 7th is D+35, so spare us the hand-wringing.
• IL-14: This could take us up to five Republicans vying to take back the 14th from Democratic Rep. Bill Foster: state Senator Randy Hultgren is now exploring the race. This could get more than a little inconvenient for crown prince Ethan Hastert, the presumed GOP frontrunner: remember that a bitter primary between dairy magnate Jim Oberweis and st. Sen. Chris Lauzen put a crimp on GOP chances in the 2008 special election here that Foster won.
• LA-02: I don't know if there was anyone out there fretting that we weren't going to get a top-tier Democratic candidate to go up against Rep. Joe Cao, but if there was, they can rest easy. State Sen. Cedric Richmond, who didn't make it into the runoff in the primary against ex-Rep. Bill Jefferson last year, announced he'll run again in 2010. State Rep. Juan LaFonta and state Sen. Cheryl Gray are also likely Dem candidates in the D+25 seat.
• LA-03: Roll Call takes another look at the many players jostling to take over for Charlie Melancon in the now R+12 3rd. Dept. of Natural Resources head Scott Angelle gets top billing, but nobody is sure whether he'd run as a Democrat or Republican. On the Dem side, state Rep. Damon Baldone, state Rep. Fred Mills, Ascension Parish sheriff Jeff Wiley, and attorney Ravi Sangisetty also get mentions, while other prominent GOPers in the mix are Lafourche Parish sheriff Craig Webre, state Rep. Nickie Monica, former state House speaker Hunt Downer, Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser Jr., and former state Senate candidate Jeff Landry. Complicating the candidates' decision to run is winning may be a pretty lame prize, seeing that the 3rd may be on the district elimination docket following the 2010 census, with parts of it possibly being subsumed into the nearby 2nd.
• MO-04: Sensing vulnerability or at least a possible retirement, a third Republican has piled on, against 33-year Rep. Ike Skelton. James Scholz, president of a computer security company, has filed to run. Skelton looks like he's going to stay and fight, though; he has five fundraisers scheduled for the next two months, including one with Steny Hoyer.
• ND-AL: Earl Pomeroy may get a real challenge for once, from Kevin Cramer, the Republican chair of the state's Public Service Commission (which regulates utilities). Cramer lost two races to Pomeroy in the 1990s, but this time he points to an NRCC-commissioned internal poll that has him within 4 points of Pomeroy, 46-42.
• NC-11: Local physician Daniel Eichenbaum has been in contact with the NRCC about a run against Heath Shuler. His biggest selling point: if he wins, he promises to stay for only one term. (That ought to get the NRCC interested, seeing as how they just love open seats.)
• SC-03: A bit more winnowing of the field in the dark-red 3rd, as businessman and engineer Stuart Carpenter pulled the plug on his campaign and endorsed state Rep. Rex Rice.
• WA-09: Better-than-usual GOP prospects started eyeing Adam Smith's seat early this year, speculating that a special election might be in the offing if Smith (an early Obama endorser) got an administration job. That never happened, and now one of them, moderate state Rep. Tom Campbell (not to be confused with the moderate GOPer running for California governor), pulled out of his bid last week, sensing a complete lack of interest from the NRCC. Nevertheless, Pierce County Councilor Dick Muri remains in the race.
• Redistricting: Remember the new independent redistricting commission that was created to take responsibility for California's legislative districts? Now there's an initiative afoot to add jurisdiction for congressional districts to the panel as well. The initiative also includes some vague language about preserving "communities of interest," which, depending on how it's interpreted, could result in some smoothing-out of California's remarkably convoluted boundaries and thus some more competitive districts.