Archive for the 'CT-Gov' Category

Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

The AP had called Dan Malloy the winner of Connecticut’s gubernatorial race, but pulled back the call an hour ago. Its results now just Tom Foley leading by 8,500 votes with 99% of the vote reporting.

But something does not add up: The AP and CNN both show New Haven entirely reporting, and Malloy leads 7,441 to 1,579 votes. This is not plausible.

First, about 25000 voters cast a ballot in New Haven in the 2006 gubernatorial race; three times as much.

Second, the New Haven Independent reports that Dan Malloy won New Haven by 18,000 votes (22,298 to 3,685 [Corrected]). That would add up to about 25,000 - right about where we should be given the 2006 turnout level.

Third, CNN says Dick Blumenthal has won New Haven 22,154 to 3,271. So 26,000 votes were cast in the Senate race and 9,000 in the Governor’s race? More than implausible. The New Haven Independent’s numbers are most probably right.

This means that the AP’s supposedly complete New Haven count is probably underestimating Malloy’s lead by about 12,000 votes (corrected), which puts him in the lead statewide. With 40% of the vote in Democratic Bridgeport still to be counted, that makes Malloy a favorite to win.

Tom Foley is now moving ahead with his own claims to victory based on the AP’s latest count, so this error has the potential of creating a lot of chaos - not to mention impact the tone of litigation going forward. If anyone notices a glaring problem in my argument or something obvious I am missing, please let me know and I will gladly retract!

Weekly update: NM’s filing deadline passes, state Senator takes on Murray, Krolicki won’t run

The past week was dominated by an avalanche of open seats, most of which concern congressmen who were not expected to retire. Diane Watson, Patrick Kennedy, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Vern Ehlers announced they would not seek re-election and Marco Diaz-Balart made a move for his brother’s district that opened up his own seat. Meanwhile, Jack Murtha’s death will lead to a special election that will probably be held in early May.

A fifth state saw its filing deadline pass this week: New Mexico. The main attraction is the open Governor’s race, in which there were no last minute surprises. On the Democratic side, actor Val Kilmer and state Senate Majority Michael Sanchez let the filing deadline pass without making a move, leaving Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish in control. On the Republican side, no one joined state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Dona Ana County DA Susana Martinez and Pete Domenici Jr. Over on House races, all three Democratic representatives are seeking re-election, with Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) the most endangered since Steve Pearce is seeking his old seat back. In NM-01, Rep. Martin Heinrich’s probable opponent is Jon Barela, a former vice chairman of the state GOP who will need the environment to be truly dismal for Democrats to pull off an upset.

In Washington, Republicans have yet to convince Rob McKenna, Rob Reichert or Dino Rossi to challenge Senator Patty Murray but they did get a credible candidate in the race this week: Don Benton, who has served in the state Senate since 1996. While Benton is only 52, he seems to have had a higher profile ten years ago: In 1998, he mounted a challenge to Rep. Brian Baird (who is retiring this year) and in 2000 he became chairman of the state Republican Party, though a rocky tenure led to his ouster within 8 months; also, he seems determined to emphasize conservative themes and embrace the Tea Party label, which should prove risky in a state that has trended increasingly Democratic over the entire decade (i.e. not just in 2008).

Yet, Benton’s entry is significant as it once again demonstrates the GOP’s rising confidence. In normal circumstances, Murray would likely crush Benton but if the electorate grows even more hostile to Democrats than it has for now, even a relatively low-profile state legislator can upset a seemingly solid incumbent. (While it seems hard to compare Elizabeth Dole and Patty Murray, Dole would have far tougher for Hagan to beat in most other cycles.) There is for now little reason for the DSCC to be alarmed, but the NRSC does have an eye on this state and Benton could still make life difficult for the incumbent.

In Nevada, we are getting a clearer picture of what the GOP’s Senate primary will look like. After seeing his prospects crushed by an indictment, Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki found himself back in contention when the charges were dropped; but he announced this week he would not jump in. On the one hand, the months of bad publicity due to his indictement surely damaged his standing (Rasmussen recently found him running weakest); on the other, he was a rare Republican with an imposing profile. The GOP field now contains at least 5 candidates with a credible shot at the nomination (Lowden, Tarkanian, Amodei, Angle, Chachas), which makes the primary wildly unpredictable; that’s always a dangerous place for a party to be, as we saw recently in Illinois’s gubernatorial primary.

A twist: A “Tea Party” group has qualified as a official party in Nevada, which will allow them to field a candidate on the November ballot; that candidate will likely be a man named Jon Ashjian. While Democrats will hope this takes some conservative votes away from the GOP, there is no evidence this will have any importance on the general election, but it still merits mentioning.

In Connecticut, week after week the gubernatorial field looks to be in as much flux. On the Republican side, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton had joined the race last week and this week, it was Newington Mayor Jeffrey Wright’s turn. I see that I had missed Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh’s entry in the race, so we now have at least five Republicans in the race. On the Democratic side, former Speaker James Amann’s decision to drop out appeared to open the way to a clearer opposition between Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont, but then we learned that Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura is preparing to jump in. The state’s fifth biggest city, Waterbury has about 110,000 inhabitants; Jarjura could certainly be a major player in the primary.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the retirement and race-by-race pages. First, updates to Retirement Watch:

New open seats Debra Watson (D, CA-33)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25): will run for FL-21, leave FL-25 open
Vern Ehlers (R, MI-02)
Patrick Kennedy (D, RI-01)
Jack Murtha (D, PA-12)
Will not retire No one
Added to retirement watch No one

Next, the recruitment page:

NV-Sen, GOP Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki will not run
retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold will run
NY-Sen, GOP/indie Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman added
OR-Sen, GOP Kareem Hamdy is running
SC-Sen, Dem attorney Chad McGowan dropped out
WA-Sen, GOP state Sen. Don Benton announced run
Chris Widener is running
chiropractor Sean Salazar is running
enery trader Craig Williams is running
physician Arthur Coday Jr. is running
Rod Rieger is running

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

CT-Gov, Dem former Speaker Jim Amann dropped out
Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura announced run
CT-Gov, GOP Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh is running
Newington Mayor Jeffrey Wright announced run
MI-Gov, Dem Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is running
former Treasurer Bob Bowman is running
UM regent Denise Ilitch will not run
NM-Gov, Dem state Senator Michael S. Sanchez will not run
PA-Gov, Dem state Senator Anthony Williams added

Weekly update: As Coats’s baggage mounts, Dems land their first candidates in DE & ND

The 2010 cycle got its official launch this week as Illinois hosted the first primary of the year. State voters put an end to brutal intraparty battles, though the GOP’s gubernatorial primary has yet to produce a clear winner (more on Illinois soon.) The other states that monopolized our attention are Delaware, where New Castle County Executive Chris Coons entered the Senate race, and Indiana, where former Senator Dan Coats came out of nowhere to announce he was preparing to challenge the man who replaced him, Evan Bayh.

While Coats is obviously a major threat to Bayh’s re-election, his move in the race was followed by an avalanche of stories that he will struggle to overcome. The latest episode: A video filmed in 2008 in which he says he is planning to retire in North Carolina, footage that could haunt him the same way Tom Dashle’s “I’m a D.C. resident” damaged his 2004 campaign. This video will be all the more damaging that Coats changed his voter registration to Virginia as soon as he left office ten years ago. The continued drip of revelations about Coats’s lobbying clients is also sure to give Democrats major ammunition. Coats spent ten years paying no attention to how his actions and words might play in an electoral context, which is now making him an opposition researchers’ dream.

In North Dakota, Democrats got their first Senate candidate: first-term state Senator Tracy Potter announced this week he will take on Governor John Hoeven. (Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp had been getting the most buzz, but she has yet to clarify her plans.) The Republican is obviously heavily favored to pick-up this seat and while Democrats now have a credible candidate in case Hoeven self-implodes due to some bizarre scandal, that’s probably all Potter can pull off.

Interestingly, Potter has a long political career that started with his activism on behalf of North Dakotan Eugene McCarthy in the 1972 presidential election. While the Democrat plans to tout himself as a centrist, the Grand Folk Herald notes that he was a prominent member of the Prairie Campaign for Economic Democracy, a group that sought to strengthen the state party’s progressive wing in the 1970s; in 1980, he walked out of the Democratic convention in protest over Jimmy Carter’s renomination. Another interesting fact: In 1984, he lost the Democratic primary to be insurance commissioner to Earl Pomeroy, who went on to win the general election and now serves in the House.

In Arkansas, Rep. John Boozman formally announced his challenge to Senator Blanche Lincoln. Since it was already all but certain he would do so 9 days ago, I already analyzed his move at length last week and I refer you to that post for why Boozman’s entry goes a long way towards sealing Lincoln’s fate and why the GOP is clearly favored to defend his open seat (AR-03).

In Maryland, it is looking increasingly likely former Governor Bob Ehrlich will seek a rematch against Marty O’Malley, who defeated him in 2006. The Washington Post reports Ehrlich has been lining up fundraising events; “I’m willing to serve,” he said to the Post. While he added he would not make up his mind until March, that alone signals he is leaning towards running: pulling out of the race so late would make it next to impossible for the GOP to find a back-up. Larry Hogan, who looked like the probable Republican nominee before the Ehrlich buzz increased, ended his exploratory committee this week. “I am convinced [Ehrlich] will run,” he explained.

In Connecticut, both parties have their front-runners but there is still movement. On the Democratic side, state Senator Gary D. LeBeau announced this week he was dropping out, which leaves four candidates in the primary. The Republican side got a new entry: Mark Boughton, who has served as the Mayor of Danbury since 2001. Danbury is a decent-sized city whose population hovers around 80,000, so expect Boughton to be a player in the Republican primary; Quinnipiac’s most recent poll found a wide open field with Tom Foley at 17%, Lieut. Gov. Michael Fedele at 8% and Boughton at 6%.

In California, Rep. Jackie Speier ruled out leaving her House seat this week, despite mounting rumors that she was preparing to run for California Attorney General. Her retirement would have created a fierce Democratic primary in her staunchly blue seat, but it would have been all but impossible to envision a competitive general election (Kerry and Obama both received more than 70% in CA-12). Another Democrat who confirmed his re-election plans this week is Tennessee’s Rep. Lincoln Davis. While he had already said he would run, the GOP still hoped it could push him towards the exit and have a shot at an open seat in a district that voted for McCain by 30%.

While I typically publish my weekly update on Sunday, I had left time to blog today so I am posting this post (which is prepared through the week) today and shall have time to do something else tomorrow.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the retirement and race-by-race pages. First, updates to Retirement Watch:

Will retire Rep. John Boozman (R, AR-03)
Will not retire Rep. Jackie Speier (D, CA-12)
Rep. Lincoln Davis (D, TN-04)
Added to retirement watch Rep. Bill Delahunt (D, MA-10)
Rep. Diane Watson (D, CA-33)

Second, updates to the Senate recruitment page:

AR-Sen, GOP Rep. John Boozman announced run
DE-Sen, Dem New Castle County Executive Chris Coons announced run
IL-Sen, Dem Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias won nomination
IL-Sen, GOP Rep. Mark Kirk won nomination
IN-Sen, GOP former Senator Dan Coats exploring run
Secretary of State Todd Rokita ruled out run
KY-Sen, Dem doctor Jack Buckmaster is running
Darlene Price is running
businessman Maurice Sweeney is running
KY-Sen, GOP former Ambassador Cathy Bailey will not run
Bill Johnson is running
Gurley Martin is running
Jon Scribner is running
ND-Sen, Dem state Senator Tracy Potter is running
NY-Sen-A, GOP CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow added
WA-Sen, GOP former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi added

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

CT-Gov, Dem state Senator Gary D. LeBeau dropped out
CT-Gov, GOP Danbury Mayor Mark D. Boughton is running
IL-Gov, Dem Governor Pat Quinn won primary
MD-Gov, GOP Lawrence J. Hogan dropped out
MN-Gov, GOPDFL former state Senator Steve Kelley dropped out

Senate GOP leads in AR, NH, NV, CO, KY, IL but Reid enjoys uptick & Ayotte struggles in primary

The week’s most dramatic polls no doubt are those from Arkansas since they suggest that Blanche Lincoln’s fate is all but sealed. Rasmussen finds the senator’s favorability rating at a dismal 36-59; PPP shows her approval rating at an even more catastrophic 27-62. Her numbers against Republicans are a disaster. PPP has her down 56% to 33% against Rep. John Boozman and 50% to 35% against Gilbert Baker; Rasmussen shows her trailing by similar margins - 54% to 35% against Boozman, 52-33 against Baker, 50-34 against Curtis Coleman, 51-35 against Kim Hendren. Those are not numbers an incumbent recovers from.

The problem for Democrats is that they can hardly pull a Dodd or a Torricelli: PPP tested a variety of alternatives to Lincoln and found the GOP generally in control. The party’s only savior could be popular Governor Mike Beebe - and even then he is down 1% against Boozman and he leads Baker by an underwhelming 46% to 38%. Rep. Mike Ross trails Boozman 48-37 but ties Baker at 39%; Wesley Clark is down 51-36 and 45-39, respectively and Halter 53-30 and 45-34.

While none of these results are encouraging for Democrats, all four of her potential replacements perform better than the senator. Since Halter, Ross and Clark’s name recognition is lower and favorability ratings is incomparably stronger than Lincoln, they would also have more hope of improving their results while it is hard to envision the incumbent doing so. In short, the GOP is more likely than not to pick-up this seat but it does not mean Democrats should not at least try a switcheroo.

Senate: GOP also leads in NH, NV, CO, KY and IL…

New Hampshire: The first public poll of the GOP’s Senate primary finds that Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has her work cut out for her: Research 2000 has her only leading Ovide Lamontagne 36% to 27%, with William Binnie at 4%. If conservatives decide they can add New Hampshire to an already long list of summer primaries they want to prioritize, Lamontagne could very well pull the upset and thus give Democrats a boost in the general election. While Rep. Paul Hodes trails Ayotte 46% to 39%, leads Lamontagne 46% to 36% - a 17% differential. The bad news for Democrats, of course, is that Ayotte remains the front-runner and her high favorability ratings and early poll lead presage good things for the NRSC.

Nevada: Harry Reid arguably just received the best poll he has seen in months - and it came from Rasmussen! While his numbers remain very rough, they are for once not insurmountable: His favorability rating stands at 44/55 and he trails all of his competitors “only” by single-digits: 45-39 against Lowden, 47-39 against Tarkanian and 44-40 against Angle. Of course, an incumbent has nothing to boast about when stuck around 40%, but last month Reid trailed by double-digits in all match-ups. We’ll have to see whether this trendline is an outlier or whether it is due to Reid’s well-financed attempts to improve his image. The poll’s most interesting part is the match-up between Reid and Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki, who has been mulling the race ever since he was cleared of an indictement: Krolicki has the smallest lead among these four Republicans, 44% to 41%.

Colorado: No miracle for Michael Bennet in Rasmussen’s new poll: the unelected senator leads trails Republican front-runner Jane Norton by a massive 51% to 37%. That said, Bennet’s favorability rating remains (barely) positive and he should have an easier time to improve his numbers than other incumbents since he is less well-known and thus has more room to grow. And yet, his primary challenger Andrew Romanoff performs far better against Norton since he only trails 45% to 38% - a sign Democrats would be better off dumping the incumbent to start fresh? Both Democrats trail by more narrowly against Republicans Tom Wiens and Ken Buck.

Kentucky: Rasmussen’s monthly Kentucky poll confirms not only that the GOP has gained edge in this open seat (a red state’s electorate naturally gravitates rightward in this environment), but also that Rand Paul would be a far more formidable candidate than had been expected: He leads LG Mongiardo 48% to 37% and AG Conway 47% to 39%. Tray Grayson’s leads are more uneven, as his 49-35 rout over Mongiardo contrasts with his 44-40 lead over Conway. Democrats look like they’d be better off with Conway, whose favorability rating stands at 47-32, than with Mongiardo, whose favorability rating is a mediocre 45-43.

Illinois: Conducted by Rasmussen, The first public poll to test the Illinois Senate race since voters chose their nominees finds Mark Kirk leading Alexi Giannoulias 46% to 40%, a result that contradicts PPP’s recent finding that the Democrat has an 8% lead; note that PPP’s poll was conducted just before Giannoulias was hit by new questions over his family bank, so that might account for some of the difference. In any case, Illinois is one state the DSCC simply cannot afford to lose so Kirk’s early lead is an ugly one for Democrats to see.

Connecticut: Even Rasmussen agrees there is nothing to see in this race since Chris Dodd’s retirement. Thanks to a massive 70% to 26% favorability rating, Richard Blumenthal crushes Rob Simmons 54% to 35% and Linda McMahon 56% to 36%.

New York: I already reported Marist’s Senate survey earlier this week, and Quinnipiac’s poll draws the same lessons: Gillibrand starts with an edge in the Democratic primary but Harold Ford certainly has an opening (Gillibrand is up 36-18 with Tasini at 4) and the incumbent would be favored in the general election against Bruce Blakeman; however, she does not pass 50% in this survey (she leads 44% to 27%), a potential sign Blakeman could still gain traction as he introduces himself.

Arizona: John McCain and John Hayworth both released internal polls of what is shaping up to be a rough primary. As you would expect, the two camps’ numbers tell a different story. Hayworth’s survey (conducted by McLaughlin) has the incumbent leading 49% to 33% while McCain’s survey (conducted by POS) has him up 59% to 30%. Given that there is still a long time to go, that McCain is after all the GOP’s former presidential nominee and that he is better known than Hayworth, the latter set of numbers is also quite underwhelming and signals that the challenger has an opening.

Governor: White within single-digits of Perry, Michigan’s Cox leads

Texas: Since Bill White’s entry in the race, Democrats have been paying more attention to this gubernatorial race but Rasmussen is the first pollster to find a real opening for the Houston Mayor: When matched-up with Governor Rick Perry, he trails 48% to 39% - a sign of vulnerability for the incumbent since he is only up single-digits and remains under 50%. Against Kay Bailey Hutchison, White trails by a larger 49% to 36%. As such, whether the general election will be competitive depends from the outcome of the March-April primary; there is no little doubt White would rather face an incumbent with a mediocre 50-48 approval rating.

New York: David Paterson still looks to be heading towards certain defeat in Marist and Quinnipiac’s new polls. His approval rating stands at 26% in the former and 37% in the latter; that might be an improvement over his low points of 2009, but it leaves him in no position to be competitive against the ultra-popular Andrew Cuomo. Marist shows the Attorney General would crush the Governor by a stunning 70% to 23% in the primary, while Quinnipiac shows the margin to be a comparatively modest 55% to 23%. Both surveys have Paterson struggling against Rick Lazio (he trails by 3% in Marist, leads by 1% in Quinnipiac), while Cuomo crushes the former congressman by 37% and 32%.

Michigan: While some cheered Lieutenant Governor John Cherry’s early January withdrawal as an opportunity to field a stronger candidate, EPIC-MRA’s latest poll finds state Democrats are hardly saved: Attorney General Mike Cox crushes the three Democrats he is matched-up against by margins ranging from 17% to 22%. Yet, Cox is not certain of surviving the primary, since he leads 32% to 25% against Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who does not fare quite as well in the general election: He leads by 17% against Virg Bernero but only by 8% against Andy Dillon and by 7% against Denise Ilitch. The other good news for Democrats is that former GOP Rep. Schwarz is now saying he is 75% certain of running as an independent, which could lead Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Connecticut: Democrats don’t have as clear an edge in this Governor’s race since Susan Bysiewicz dropped out, though they still lead all match-ups in Rasmussen’s new poll: Ned Lamont is up 41-33 against Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele and 40-37 against Tom Foley while while Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy tops the two Republicans by just 1%.

New Hampshire: Governor Lynch is one incumbent Democrats will apparently not have to worry about. In Research 2000’s new poll, he crushes low-profile businessman Kimball 59% to 13%.

Weekly 2010 update: The Delaware blow

The series of nightmarish developments that recently befell Democrats prolonged itself through Monday, with Rep. Marion Berry retiring and Attorney General Beau Biden all but handing Delaware’s Senate seat to Republicans. The rest of the week gave Democrats some breathing room, from Rep. Mike Pence’s decision not to challenge Evan Bayh to a number of Democratic congressmen taking themselves off retirement watch.

Yet, the landscape could still get more brutal for Democrats in the coming weeks, as we shall soon know how successful the GOP will be in expanding the map not only at the House level but also in Senate races. All eyes are now on Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann, Washington’s Dave Reichert and Indiana’s Todd Rokita. Meanwhile, Democratic congressmen who are still trying to figure out whether they want to run for re-election will be making up their minds soon, and their decisions will help determine just how rough a cycle Democrats are facing. One person to keep track of right now is Indiana Rep. Baron Hill: While he’s been considered unlikely to retire; the state’s filing deadline is looming in just 3 weeks so we shall soon know for sure.

In New York, reports that Andrew Cuomo is finalizing plans to announce a gubernatorial run in March should reassure Democrats and make it harder for the GOP to recruit a new candidate. Indeed, many Republicans seem unsold on Rick Lazio’s ability to make the race competitive and at least to hold down Cuomo’s coattails; one name who was mentioned, Erie County Executive Chris Collins, ruled out running this week.

Also in New York, but this time in the Senate race, Rep. Steve Israel for the second time ruled out challenging Kirsten Gillibrand. While he had already done so in May, Gillibrand’s continued vulnerability combined with Harold Ford’s apparent entry in the race had made him reconsider and reportedly even poll his viability. His repeat exit leaves Ford and Jonathan Tasini as Gillibrand’s only primary opponent.

In Michigan, Rep. JoeBart Stupak closed to door to his flirtations with the gubernatorial race. While he had already declared he was unlikely to run, the DCCC will be happy that his probable became a definite since an open seat in MI-1 would have been tough to defend. Also in Michigan: While Republicans have been increasingly confident about picking-up this Governor’s Mansion, they received somewhat worrisome news this week: former Republican Rep. Schwarz, who was ousted by a Club for Growth-backed candidate in 2006, said he might run as an independent. Depending on who wins the GOP nomination, Schwarz might be able to peel away some moderate Republican voters.

In Arizona, Democrats will be relieved that Attorney General Terry Goddard finally made his gubernatorial campaign official. While he was always expected to do so, the week did start with another Democratic Attorney General (this one in Delaware) bucking expectations. One reason Goddard waited so long to make his intentions clear is an Arizona law that forces state officials who want to seek another position to first resign from their position unless they are in the final year of their term. Had Goddard announced in 2009, he would have been out of a job in 2010 whereas he can now continue to serve as Attorney General until January 2011.

In Connecticut, former Rep. Chris Shays voiced interest in running for Governor, which comes as a surprise given that last year he had categorically ruled out running for Senate, explaining that he was not interested in seeking office so soon after the three very tough re-election campaigns he went through from 2004 to 2008. Shays’s moderate profile would probably make him a stronger general election contender than Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele, though voters might not be eager to elect a man who was so recently ousted by his district by more than 20%. Furthermore, the certainty of a tough primary could also dissuade Shays from entering.

In Alaska, Governor Sean Parnell got rid of one primary challenger as state Rep. John Harris, who served as state Speaker from 2005 to 2008, announced he was dropping out of the race. While another former Speaker (Ralph Samuels) is still challenging Parnell and now will not have to worry about another contender dividing the anti-incumbent vote, Parnell doesn’t have any obvious vulnerability among Republican voters so this primary is unlikely to yield many surprises.

In Alabama, Richard Shelby landed his first Democratic challenger, but attorney William Barnes is more than unlikely to make the senator tremble much. At the very least, it can’t hurt Democrats to have a complete ticket.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the retirement and race-by-race pages.

First, updates to Retirement Watch:

Will retire Rep. Marion Berry (D, AR-01)
Rep. Steve Buyer (R, IN-04)
Will not retire Rep. Bart Stupak (D, MI-01)
Rep. Tom Bishop (D, NY-01)
Rep. Rick Boucher (D, VA-09)
Added to retirement watch Rep. Jackie Speier (D, CA-12)

Second, updates to the Senate recruitment page:

AL-Sen, Dem attorney William Barnes announced run
AR-Sen, GOP former football player Jim Lindsey added
DE-Sen, Dem Attorney General Beau Biden will not run
former Lieut. Gov. John Carney will not run
Lieut. Gov. Denn will not run
IN-Sen, GOP Governor Mitch Daniels added
Rep. Mike Pence will not run
Secretary of State Todd Rokita added
KY-Sen, GOP Former Superintendent of Public Instruction John Stephenson announced run
NV-Sen, Ind/Dem Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not run
WI-Sen, GOP former Rep. Mark Neumann added

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

AK-Gov, GOP state Rep. John Harris dropped out
AZ-Gov, Dem Attorney General Terry Goddard is running
CT-Gov, GOP former Rep. Chris Shays added
MI-Gov, Dem Joe Dumars ruled out run

Rep. Joe Stupak ruled out run

MI-Gov, Indie former GOP Rep. Schwarz added to list
MN-Gov, IP public-relations executive Tom Horner announced run
NV-Gov, Indie Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not run
NY-Gov, GOP Erie County Executive Chris Collins will not run

An epic polling roundup to get our minds off Massachussetts

Research 2000 and ARG just released two of Massachussetts’s final polls - if not the final polls. ARG found a 7% lead for Brown (52% to 45%), up 4% from where he was just last week. Research 2000, meanwhile, found… a tie: Scott Brown and Martha Coakley receive 48% apiece, a testament to how unpredictable the contest remains heading into Election Day. While at this point any poll that doesn’t have Brown ahead is a relief for Democrats, I don’t have to tell you that even that survey is rough for Coakley: Just last week, Research 2000 found her ahead by 8%, which makes this yet another poll to found stunning momentum for the Republican.

Yet, Research 2000 also confirms the hypothesis I enunciated this morning, as an update to last night’s post: Coakley performs better in polls that include Libertarian nominee Joe Kennedy, who will be on the ballot tomorrow. Pajamas Media and PPP, which gave Brown large leads yesterday, did not include Kennedy at all; surveys that have the race within the margin of error do include Kennedy, who for instance receives 3% in Research 2000. There’s every reason to believe that Kennedy is drawing his voters from the conservative camp, so if the race is close his presence on the ballot could allow Coakley to shave off a few points off Brown compared to PPP’s survey. (ARG’s website appears to be down, so I cannot determine whether they included him.)

It’s hard to think of anything but Massachussetts, but let’s try to do just that: Over the past week, there was so much news to cover that I ignored an avalanche of polls, to which I’ll now get to. Now that we’ve entered 2010, there will be more and more surveys released weekly - even daily - so I will obviously not attempt to cover each one in as much detail as I did over the past year; I will however start with polls that are testing election we’ve seen little data on. Today, those consist in 3 House districts and 2 Western Governor’s races.

(Yes, this is a fairly long post… but I let polls accumulate without covering them for more than a week, so I wanted to get to them all at once to make sure I can focus on Massachussetts and other important news after this!)

Three House races find mixed results for Dems

NC-08: PPP managed to find a freshman Democrat from a swing district with solid standing! In NC-08, a district that swung from Bush to Obama, not only does Rep. Larry Kissell have a strong approval rating (45% to 30%), but he displays no sign of vulnerability in three match-ups against his challengers, leading Lou Huddleston 55% to 37%, Tom D’Annunzio 54% to 38%, Hal Jordan 55% to 39% and Harold Johnson 53% to 39%. Sure, none of these Republicans have much name recognition, but consider all the polls we have seen recently in which incumbent Democrats have struggled to mount any sort of lead against unknown opponents. Yet, not only is Kissell up big but he’s also topping 50%.

ND-AL: The DCCC is relieved Rep. Earl Pomeroy decided to seek re-election, but it doesn’t mean he is a shoo-in to win another term. A new poll by Research 2000 finds him solidly ahead of all of his competitors Kevin Cramer and Duane Sand, but he fails to clear 50% against either. (He’s ahead 46-24 and 47-22, respectively.) This is all the more problematic when you consider that Republicans are 5 times more likely to be undecided than Democrats, so the GOP candidates have a lot of room to grow once they introduce themselves, and the NRCC especially has hope in Cramer (North Dakota Public Service Commissioner). In short: Pomeroy has a good standing and he is clearly favored to win re-election, but he is not safe.

OH-01: If Kissell and Pomeroy look strong, Rep. Steve Driehaus is sinking according to a SUSA poll commissioned by FiredogLake. We already knew that this freshman Democrat was one of the most endangered of the cycle (he is facing a rematch against the Republican he ousted in 2008, and OH-01 is a district with a substantial African-American population, so a drop in black turnout compared to the past cycle would be particularly hurtful to his chances), but SUSA’s numbers are uglier than even optimistic Republicans surely expected: Driehaus trails 39% to 56% for former Rep. Steve Chabot. I don’t need to tell you the odds that an incumbent who trails by 17% might win re-election. (Coincidentally, this is the same exact margin SUSA found against Rep. Vic Snyder on Friday.)

An unexpected Dem opportunity in UT, door is closing in OK

Utah: Democrats were excited at Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Coroon’s decision to challenge Governor Herbert, and a Deseret News poll confirms that Coroon could make the race well-worth watching: Herbert leads 48% to 35%, down from his 56-32 lead back in November. There’s no question that Herbert is heavily favored, but Coroon does represent one third of the state’s population in a capacity that ensures he is a visible presence. At the very least, Coroon’s presence on the ballot could help Democrats ensure that Rep. Jim Matheson isn’t a victim of any potential red wave.

Oklahoma: Whatever Oklahoma’s staunchly conservative status, Democrats had enough of a bench they were expecting to mount a highly competitive bid to defend the state’s governorship. (Governor Henry is term-limited.) Yet, a Tulsa News poll finds that Lieut. Gov. Jari Askins and Attorney General Drew Edmonson are no match for Rep. Mary Fallin; despite their strong favorability rating (Edmonson’s stands at 51-31), they trail the Republican 52% to 36% and 51% to 39%, respectively. A former Lieutenant Governor, Fallin is well-known and popular (54% to 29%). Democrats shouldn’t entirely give up, but the race most certainly leans Republican.

Connecticut and North Dakota won’t be competitive

From the moment Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd retired two weeks ago, we have known that the races to replace them are unlikely to be competitive. Three new poll confirm that John Hoeven and Richard Blumenthal are very heavily favored to be sworn into the Senate come January 2011.

North Dakota: Richard 2000 finds Hoeven leading 56% to 32% against Ed Schulz, 55% to 34% against former AG Heidi Heitkamp and 56% to 32% against Jasper Schneider. Sure, Hoeven’s lead doesn’t quite reach “overwhelming” status, but looking at the internals it’s hard to see a path to victory for whoever Democrats nominate: There are few undecideds, including among Democratic voters; Hoeven enjoys near unanimous support among Republicans; and he has daunting leads among independents.

Connecticut: We’ve already seen a few surveys displaying Blumenthal’s dominance, but over the past 5 days Quinnipiac and Research 2000 both released surveys confirming it. In Research 2000, Blumenthal leads Rob Simmons 54% to 35%, Linda McMahon 56% to 34% and Peter Schiff 56% to 33%. In Quinnipiac, whose brutal numbers for Dodd were as responsible for driving the narrative of his doom than those of any other pollster, his leads are gigantic: 62% to 27% against Simmons, 64% to 23% against McMahon, 66% to 19% against Schiff. Everything can happen if Democrats aren’t careful (see neighboring Massachussetts), but Blumenthal isn’t Martha Coakley.

CO, NH, NV, OH: 4 key Senate races, 7 rough polls for Senate Democrats.

Ohio: Democrats led this open race for much of 2009, but Rasmussen’s new poll is its second in a row to find Rob Portman has grabbed the edge. He leads Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 37% and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner 43% to 40%. These numbers are very interesting because the Democratic establishment holds Fisher to be a stronger candidate; yet, Portman increased his lead against Fisher whilelosing ground against Brunner! Overall, then, the two parties are roughly where they were in early December.

Colorado: This week, we received three surveys testing Colorado, which until this week an underpolled state:

  • Rasmussen has by far the worst set of results for Democrats: Senator Michael Bennet trails former Lieut. Gov. 49% to 37%, and he’s also behind lower-profile Tom Wiens (44% to 38%) and Ken Buck (43% to 38%). Former Speaker Andrew Romanoff trails Norton and Wiens by the same margin but is only behind Buck by 1%.
  • In response to these ugly numbers, Bennet released an internal poll, which might have found better results but he is still behind Jane Norton, 43% to 40%.
  • Finally, just this afternoon Research 2000 released the best news Bennet has received in quite some time: Bennet leads Norton 40% to 39%, Buck 41% to 38% and Wiens 42% to 38%; Romanoff trails Norton by 2% but leads Buck and Wiens by 1% and 2%.

There is quite a lot of disparity between these three surveys, and Bennet’s camp will be delighted that he finally manages a lead in a poll - even if it’s well within the MoE. That said, it is clear from all of these surveys that Bennet is stuck at 40% - a dismal place for an incumbent to be, even an appointed one. Colorado remains a major problem for Democrats.

New Hampshire: Another tough Rasmussen poll, since it shows that what once looked like a Democratic-leaning open seat might now be leaning Republican: Attorney General Kelly Ayotte leads Rep. Paul Hodes 49% to 40%. (This is roughly the same margin Rasmussen found in September.) Hodes does led lower-profile Republicans Ovide Lamontagne and Bill Binnie 45% to 38% and 43% to 37%, respectively. This is

Nevada: With everyone now aware that Harry Reid is one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable senators, there’s been speculation that the party might try to convince him to pull a Chris Dodd, as in retire for the good of the party. But a new poll released last week revealed that Democrats don’t have a Blumenthal-like savior:

  • PPP found Harry Reid trailing Sue Lowden 51% to 41% and Danny Tarkanian 50% to 42% - very ugly margins for a longtime senator against second-tier challengers. Yet, the Republicans enjoy similar margins against other Democrats! Rep. Shelly Berkley trails by 8% against both; Rose Miller trails by 10% and 11%, respectively. Only Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman manages to stay on an equal footing: he ties Tarkanian at 41%, leads Lowden 42% to 40%.
  • If PPP’s numbers were ugly, how can we describe Rasmussen’s? Here, Reid is crushed Lowden 48% to 36% and Tarkanian 50% to 36%! He manages to stay close to former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, but even here he’s stuck at 40%, trailing 44% to 40%.

If polls showing other Democrats doing better than Reid started piling up, the party could hope to convince him to retire; but PPP’s survey cuts that hope short (Research 2000 will also soon release a similar poll), which allows Republicans to feel increasingly confident about picking-up Nevada.

OH, NV and MA: 3 key Governor’s races, three tough polls for Dems

Ohio: If Ted Strickland started 2009 as the clear favorite, he starts 2010 trailing former Rep. John Kasich. Rasmussen finds him trailing 47% to 40%, which is actually a 2% improvement over December’s numbers. Other surveys have found a closer race, but there’s no question that Strickland is in for a very tough battle.

Nevada: Rory Reid is in as much trouble as his father, only the position they’re vying for is different. Sure, Reid manages to lead incumbent Governor Jim Gibbons 43% to 36% in Mason Dixon’s poll, but considering that Gibbons is even more unpopular (his favorability rating is 18% to 53%) than David Paterson that doesn’t mean much; the favorite to win the Republican nomination, Brian Sandoval, crushes Reid 53% to 31%! In a three-way race involving Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who is considering running as an independent, Sandoval and Goodman are close (35% to 33% for the former), with 20% for Reid. There’s no mystery as to why: Reid’s favorability rating is 25% to 35%, Goodman’s 43-15 and Sandoval’s 36-5. Hard to explain Reid’s numbers by anything but his last name.

Massachussetts: Two new polls confirm that Martha Coakley isn’t the only struggling Massachussetts Democrat:

  • PPP shows that Governor Deval Patrick has a dismal approval rating of just 22%. In three-way races involving Treasurer Tom Cahill (as an independent) and one of his 2 Republican opponents, Patrick is ahead but he receives less than 30% (!) and leads whoever is in second place by just 2% or 3%. In both match-ups, the 3 candidates are within 8%.
  • The Boston Globe poll is more favorable to Patrick: His favorability rating is a bad but not horrendous 39/50 and his leads over Cahill are a bit larger. If the GOP nominee is Charlie Baker, Patrick receives 30, Cahill 23% and Baker 19%; if the GOP nominee is Mihos, the numbers are 32, 23 and 19 for Mihos.

Much will depend on how Cahill positions his campaign. A former Democrat, he has been inching closer to the right since announcing he would run as an independent, for instance asking a conservative Republican state legislator to join his ticket.

Democrats’ silver lining is definitely Connecticut

Not only did Chris Dodd’s retirement all but guarantee Democrats will save Connecticut’s Senate seat, but Research 2000 shows they can look forward to in the Governor’s race - and also the 2012 Senate contest. Susan Bysiewicz, who just dropped out of the race last week, was in a very strong position: she led Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele 52% to 33%, Tom Foley 51% to 35% and Mark Boughton 52% to 32%. But the Democrats left in the race look solid as well: Ned Lamont leads 46-36, 46-37 and 46-34 while Dan Malloney is up 44-35, 43-37 and 44-34, respectively.

Research 2000 also tested the 2012 Senate race. In a two-way general election match-up between Joe Lieberman and Chris Murphy, the representative leads the independent senator 45% to 26% - it’s quite stunning to see such a longtime senator fail to receive more than a quarter of the vote. Not only does Murphy crush Lieberman among Democrats (71% to 20%), but also among independents (41% to 22%). Democrats might fear a lot of losses in 2010, but at least Lieberman looks to have too low support to have much hope to win re-election in 2012.

Weekly 2010 update: While Senate races are mostly set, still plenty of movement in Gov contests

All eyes are - and should be - on Massachussetts, but there were a number of other important midterm stories this week - starting with Rep. Vic Snyder’s retirement, which is almost as good an illustration of how brutal the landscape has become for Democrats. Also, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper became the first Democrat to step forward to fill the void left by Governor Bill Ritter (though he might not be the last) and Rep. John Shadegg announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, creating an open seat that favors Republicans but which Democrats do have a chance of contesting. In lower-profile news:

In California, former Rep. Tom Campbell announced he was switching from the Governor’s race to the Senate race. This story is important, and I would have covered it at length if I hadn’t already addressed the possibility he might pull such a jump with a full post mid-December. The short take: Campbell is arguably the GOP’s best bet to win a statewide race next fall, and he should have an easier time surviving the Senate primary since he will be less swamped financially against DeVore and Fiorina than he was against Whitman and Poizner, who are both pouring in staggering amounts of their personal fortune The move could advantage DeVore, however, as the state Senator is now the only candidate in the primary with a strongly conservative reputation.

In other Senate news, this time from Pennsylvania, Democratic state Rep. Bill Kortz announced he was dropping out his Senate campaign, which leaves a two-way race between Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak; since Kortz was running from the left, this could help Sestak to the extent that he won’t have to worry about a divided liberal vote or even a divided anti-incumbent vote. This is also a reminder that the Pennsylvania primary is less than 3 months away, and while we haven’t heard much from Sestak-Specter lately it will soon be time to turn our attention towards the year’s highest-profile Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, the field is taking shape in many important gubernatorial races - and we have to start with Maine. Did you think Minnesota’s contest was crowded? Well, The Bangor Daily News notes that there are now 23 people running for Governor in Maine - 8 Democrats, 7 Republicans, 7 independents and 1 Green. The latest two get in are two Republicans: Susan Collins’s former chief of staff Steve Abbott and former University President William Beardsley. Democrats are favored to hold on to the open seat, but Maine has been open to voting GOP.

In Connecticut, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s decision to drop out shook up the race, since she was perceived to be a slight front-runner; Ned Lamont is now in command of the primary, though he is certainly not a sure bet to win it. On the Republican side, Michael Fedele and Tom Foley go the company of Larry DeNardis, a 71-year who served one term in the House in the early 80s; both of the state’s GOP legislative leaders (Lawrence Cafero in the House, John McKinney in the Senate) announced they wouldn’t run.

In Michigan, many Democrats are still considering their option in the wake of Lieut. Gov. John Cherry’s unexpected withdrawal 12 days ago. While Speaker Andrew Dillon wasted no time before making his move, many in the party have been searching for alternatives to Dillon, both because of his frosty relationship with labor and because it’s unclear how receptive voters would be to someone who occupies that prominent a position in state government. As two Democratic legislators ended their campaign this week, new names have popped up, including former Treasurer John Browman and Rep. Bart Stupak; the latter signaled he was unlikely to run yesterday, but he hasn’t entirely ruled it out. One person who’s kept us guessing for months is Lansing Mayor Vig Bernero, who hasn’t made much noise since Cherry’s withdrawal even though he formed an exploratory committee months ago; state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith is also in the race.

Two statewide officials who were rumored to be considering primary challenges to Governors of their own party took opposite decisions this week. In Arizona, Treasurer Dean Martin announced he’d run against Governor Jan Brewer, but he’ll have to do with two other primary contenders; there’s no doubt that Brewer is highly vulnerable, but with so many Republicans clamoring for voters’ attention she could very well hold on. In Massachussetts, Secretary of State William Galvin ruled out going against Deval Patrick; he was never expected to do, but the possibility had seemed high enough that he was tested in a recent poll.

In Rhode Island, Cranston’s former conservative mayor Stephen Laffey had made it clear he was reconsidering his decision not to run for Governor - but he ruled out the possibility yet again. And yet, state Republicans finally managed to find a candidate: Governor Carcieri’s communication director John Robitaille, who has very limited electoral experience, will run. Why this matters? If the GOP fails to field a candidate, Linc Chaffee should have an easier time than if he has to worry about the right’s votes going to a Republican - in the same way as Lieberman wouldn’t have survived the 2006 cycle if the GOP had had a strong candidate in the race.) Finally, in South Carolina, state Senator Larry Grooms dropped out of the 6-way GOP primary; the Charleston City Paper notes he was the “Tea Party” candidate, so his withdrawal could help Huckabee-endorsee Andre Bauer or Sanford-ally Nikki Haley.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the “retirement watch” and recruitment pages. Written in red are those politicians who announced their definite plans rather than simply expressed interest or stroke speculation. First, updates to Retirement Watch:

Will retire Rep. Vic Snyder (D, AR-02)

Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-03)

Will not retire Rep. Gary Peters (D, MI-09): won’t run for Governor

Second, updates to the Senate recruitment page:

CA-Sen, GOP former Rep. Tom Campbell announced run

NY-Sen, GOP Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld will not run
NY-Sen, GOP former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. added
PA-Sen, Dem state Rep. Bill Kortz dropped out

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

AZ-Gov, GOP state Treasurer Dean Martin announced run
CA-Gov, GOP former Rep. Tom Campbell dropped out
CO-Gov, Dem Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced run
CT-Gov, Dem Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz dropped out
CT-Gov, GOP state Rep. Lawrence Cafero won’t runformer Rep. Larry DeNardis announced run

state Senator John McKinney won’t run

MA-Gov, Dem Secretary of State William Galvin won’t run
ME-Gov, GOP Collins’s former CoS Steve Abbott announced run

former University President William Beardsley announced run

MI-Gov, Dem former Treasurer John Browman added

state Senator Hansen Clarke dropped out

former state Rep. John Freeman dropped out

former County Treasurer Dan Kildee added

Rep. Gary Peters won’t run

Rep. Stupak added to list (but admits it is unlikely)

RI-Gov, GOP former Cranston Stephen Laffey won’t run

staffer John Robitaille announced run

SC-Gov, GOP state Senator Larry Grooms dropped out
WY-Gov, GOP Auditor Rita Meyer announced run

Hickenlooper in, Bysiewicz out

For years, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has been passing countless opportunities to run for open seats. He finally decided that this was his year; that’s a curious choice considering ambitious Democrats have generally been trying to avoid running in 2010, but his party isn’t going to argue since it gives them a prominent candidate to field in Colorado’s Governor’s race.

Governor Bill Ritter’s unexpected withdrawal left a void in the Democratic ticket. The opportunity to replace him wasn’t quite as promising as that of swapping Chris Dodd for Richard Blumenthal, but given Ritter’s low approval ratings the party had more to gain than to lose. With Hickenlooper, Democrats have almost certainly improved their chances to hold on to the nomination considering that the two-term mayor has a strong statewide standing: back in December 2008, a poll that tested him in potential Senate match-ups found him crushing former Governor Bill Owens by double-digits. I am not aware of any other recent poll testing him but Research 2000 is currently in the field in Colorado, so we won’t have to wait long.

(Note that Hickenlooper cannot be sure he’ll have the Democratic field for himself: former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff is still considering switching from the Senate race, where he is challenging Bennet in the primary, to the Governor’s race.)

Republicans tend to relish attacking statewide candidates who are either from Boulder or from Denver, two cities that are more liberal than the state-at-large. (You might remember that saying Mark Udall was a “Boulder Democrat” was in-and-of itself considered an attack during the 2008.) Yet, Denver has nearly 600,000 inhabitants while its metropolitan area makes up more than half of Colorado’s population. Mayors are often better-known (and often better-liked) than other political officials, and Hickenlooper has been leading Denver for the past six years. If he manages to perform as well or better among voters who’ve been following him closely for the past than recent Democratic candidates who aren’t from Denver (Salazar, Udall and of course Obama), he would be sure to be competitive.

As such, Hickenlooper’s entry guarantees Democrats remain relevant in this crucial race - and this should have repercussions far beyond the question of who controls the state’s Governor’s Mansion. Senator Michael Bennet has never faced an election, he is still largely unknown and as of now he hasn’t displayed a particular ability to energize any voters, let alone a depressed Democratic base; had his part had suffered recruitment setbacks in the Governor’s race and had they settled on a lower-tier candidate, it would have raised troublesome questions as to who could carry the Democratic flag and draw voters to the poll next fall. Whatever Hickenlooper’s ultimate fate (as of now, a general election match-up against Republican Scott McInnis can only be called a toss-up), the presence of a well-known Democrat on the ballot has to be a relief for all the party’s other nominees down-ballot.

Another consideration is that Hickenlooper has a more moderate profile than other state Democrats; when we were speculating as to who would be appointed to Ken Salazar’s seat, Hickenlooper was considered a more conservative option than Democrats like Ed Permutter - and certainly than liberals like Diana DeGette. How will that impact the Democratic ticket considering that Bennet also has a centrist profile? Furthermore, Hickenlooper has had a rough relationship with unions; we’ll have to see how that affects how interests unions are in helping out Democrats in Colorado. Considering the party is facing turnout problems, it certainly cannot afford losing out on labor’s help.

If Democrats gained a prominent candidate in Colorado today, they’re also losing a formidable gubernatorial contender in Connecticut: Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz had arguably become the front-runner ever since Jodi Rell announced her retirement, which made today’s reports that she was preparing to drop out to run in the newly-open Attorney General race instead all the more surprising!

Indeed, this is one withdrawal we can’t link to a fear about a tough environment: Just last week, a poll was released that showed Bysiewicz crushing her Republican rivals by 25% and 22%. She was also in a strong position in the Democratic primary; though she did face tough competition (the most recent Quinnipiac poll had her leading Ned Lamont 26% to 23%, with Dan Malloy in single-digits), she never expected to have the field for herself since Malloy was always sure of running. More puzzling still: it’s not like Bysiewicz will have an easy time in the Attorney General race. She’ll have to face former state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, who is close to current-Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal.

Bysiewicz’s exit leaves three Democrats to battle it out: 2006 Senate candidate Ned Lamont, former House Speaker James Amann and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy. While all three would be strong general election contenders against Lieut. Gov. Michael Fedele and former Ambassador Tom Foley, last week’s PPP poll did suggest that none would be as formidable as Bysiewicz; Lamont and Malloy’s leads were half as large as Bysiewicz’s.

Also, a good point from Politico: If Bysiewicz wins the Attorney General race, Democrats are likely to remember the strong poll numbers she enjoyed over the past few months when they look for someone to take on Joe Lieberman in 2012.

A third and last important story about Democratic gubernatorial candidates comes to us from Rep. Stupak (yes, that Stupak) is now actively mulling the possibility that he might run for Governor in Michigan. That would probably leave everyone in his party unhappy, since the DCCC would have another tough open seat to defend while state Democrats would have to deal with one of liberals’ biggest looking villain looking to represent them. I’ll wait for Stupak to make up his mind to delve more into this possibility.

Dems get still more ugly Senate numbers

The Boston Herald poll that was rumored to be coming today has not surfaced, which leaves us with no better idea of MA than this morning; while I did spend more time arguing that PPP should not be dismissed (this Blumenthal post is also worth reading), I agree with those who say the race is certainly Coakley’s to lose and that the poll’s release is one of the best thing that could have happened for her campaign. Unfortunately for Democrats, they have a lot more to worry about than Massachussetts since other polls released over the past few days find them in very tough spots in 3 key Senate races: AR, KY, NV. (These come on top of ARG’s NH poll, which I covered on Tuesday and which found Hodes trailing two Republicans outside of the MoE.) However, Democrats do get news from CT thanks to the combination of Dodd and Rell’s retirements and Lieberman’s unpopularity.

Nevada

Mason-Dixon paints quite an ugly picture for Harry Reid: He trails 50% to 40% against Sue Lowden, 49% to 41% against Danny Tarkanian and 45% to 40% against Sharron Angle. That latter result suggests Democrats can’t even root for Angle to win in the hope she’d be less electable, because there’s a good chance they would then find themselves with her as a senator. Here again, what’s striking is that none of the GOP nominees are particularly formidable or even high-profile, which makes their leads all the more telling of the huge trouble Reid is in. And as if those margins were not ugly enough, the Senate Majority Leader is plagued by a dismal 33% to 52% favorability rating. How can one envision winning re-election in such conditions?

This poll comes at a particularly troubled time for Reid, who is fielding a media firestorm since he admitted having told reporters during the 2008 campaign that Obama’s electability was helped by his light skin and his lack of a “Negro dialect.” The obvious parallel for Reid’s comments is Joe Biden’s 2007 remark on Obama, but the GOP is trying to tie them to the uproar that cost Trent Lott his leadership in 2002. I fail to see any similarity between Reid and Lott’s comments: The latter expressed regret that a segregationist candidate didn’t win the 1948 presidential election, i.e. he signaled support for racist policies, while the latter assessed the state of race relations. He used indefensible and insensitively anachronistic language, but that doesn’t change the fact that these two things have nothing in common. In any case, this episode will surely damage his standing in Nevada - and as the Mason-Dixon poll reveals he has no more room for any error.

Arkansas

Blanche Lincoln is sinking, according to Rasmussen’s latest poll. Make of his methodology what you will, but dismissing his samples as too skewed towards Republicans do nothing to diminish trendlines, which are also very worrisome for the senator. She trails 51% to 39% against Gilbert Baker (compared to 7% in December), 48% to 38% against both Curtis Coleman and Tom Cox (she trailed both by 4% in December), 47% to 39% against Kim Hendren. I don’t need to tell you how atrocious it is for an incumbent to be stuck under 40%, let alone when a challenger manages to cross 50%, let alone when opponents she is trailing by double-digits are low-profile and little-known. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Kentucky

At least, Democrats have nothing to lose in KY as it is currently by the GOP; but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have high hopes for contesting it. According to Rasmussen’s latest survey, however, the two Republican candidates have for the first time grabbed healthy lead. Trey Grayson leads Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo 45% to 35% and 44% to 37% respectively (in September, he was tied with the former and led the latter by the same margin); Rand Paul leads Conway 46% to 38% (he trailed by 4% in September) and crushes Mongiardo 49% to 35% (he led by 4% last month).

What’s most striking is that Paul is performing so well; it’s still hard to believe a general election featuring him could be as smooth for the GOP as one featuring Grayson, but there’s certainly little evidence at this point that the Texas congressman’s son would perform poorly against Democrats. The second striking fact is the very pronounced trendline, as the Republicans improve by more than 10% in three of the four match-ups. (I have a hard time believing that Rasmussen didn’t misreport its Grayson-Mongiardo numbers, which make little sense: Not only is is the only match-up to show no GOP improvement whatsoever, but it also has Mongiardo and Grayson performing better than their party rivals, something the other match-ups contradict.)

Connecticut

Thankfully for Democrats’ spirits, Rasmussen also released a poll confirming that Chris Dodd’s retirement immediately transformed a lean-GOP seat into a safe-Democratic seat: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal crushes Rob Simmons 56% to 33%, Linda McMahon 58% to 34% and Peter Schiff 60% to 24%. These margins are slightly smaller than the ones PPP found earlier this week, but they’re certainly very decisive and show no hint of vulnerability on Blumenthal’s part since he very solidly clears the 50% threshold.

In fact, Connecticut could cheer Democrats overall in November, since PPP also found the party is clearly favored to win a gubernatorial election for the first time since 1986. While all candidates have somewhat low name recognition, the bottom-line is that Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz leads the two Republican candidates (Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele and former Ambassador Tom Foley) by 25% and 22%; Ned Lamont and Dan Malloy leads’ are less decisive, but they do reach double-digits.

On top of polling the senatorial and gubernatorial numbers, PPP also tested Joe Lieberman’s approval rating, and the numbers are brutal: While Lieberman managed to keep somewhat decent numbers after his endorsement of McCain, it seems like the health care debate did cost him whatever support he had left among Democrats. His approval rating stands at 25% (14% among Democrats), with 67% disapproving, which has got to make him one of the most unpopular senators in the country. Only 19% approved of Lieberman’s health-care related actions (versus 68%). Sure, Blumenthal can no longer be of service to dislodge Lieberman in 2012, but with numbers like this there are many other Democrats who’d have a strong shot.

Richard Blumenthal, Josh Penry exit Governor’s races

Blumenthal and Simmons deny interest in succeeding Rell

Jodi Rell’s abrupt announcement that she will not seek re-election has altered Connecticut’s political landscape, but the biggest question mark has already been take care of: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal made it clear he would not jump in the now open race.

At the same time, Blumenthal delighted liberals nationwide by making it clear he is looking at running for Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat in 2012. “It would be a challenge that I would welcome, if it were the right time to do it, and I thought I could make a difference,” he said. “Stay tuned.” (Note that Lieberman has yet to make it clear whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination, run as an independent from the start or even enter the Republican primary.)

Blumenthal would have entered the Democratic primary with an edge given his prominent stature, so his exit leaves the race wide open: A Quinnipiac poll released this morning finds Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz leading Ned Lamont 26% to 23%, with Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy at 9%. This is anyone’s race to win.

In the general election, Quinnipiac tested Rell since the survey was completed before the governor announced her retirement. There is speculation that the pollster leaked the results to the Governor’s office and that Rell took her decision after seeing that she was leading Bysiewicz by a worrisome margin: 46% to 40%. (In February, she was ahead by 21%.) But Rell posts much wider leads against Lamont (53% to 33%) and Malloy (52% to 33%).

Thus, Lamont might have his share of dedicated supporters that carry him into a primary tie with Bysiewicz but he performs 14% worse than her in the general election - a result that cannot be explained by a difference of name recognition, since the two enjoy an equivalent level of notoriety. Rather, Lamont seems plagued by the resentment of Lieberman voters. His favorability rating is mediocre overall (31% to 24%, compared to 43-11 for Bysiewicz); it is weaker both among Democrats (45-11 compared to 55-3) and independents (27-27 compared to 41-12).

Of course, we know since Rell’s retirement that the Democratic nominee won’t have to face a Republican who is as uncommonly popular among independents as the incumbent, which dramatically improves the party’s prospects of picking-up the governorship.

On the other hand, we don’t yet know how voters view Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele, who has over the past 48 hours solidified his hold on the Republican nomination thanks to other potential candidates ruling out gubernatorial runs. In particular, all 5 of the GOP’s Senate candidates (all of whom have a credible shot at the nomination) denied any interest in switching races. That means that state Senator Sam Caligiuri, former Ambassador Tom Foley, businesswoman Linda McMahon, economic commentator Peter Schiff and former Rep. Rob Simmons will still battle it out for the right to face Chris Dodd.

That says a lot about the Democratic senator’s vulnerability. Sure, if one of these Republicans were to switch races, he’d have to get through Fedele but that isn’t any more difficult than winning a 5-way Senate primary. But the GOP’s prospects of defeating Dodd are higher than those of defending the governorship: In a blue state like Connecticut, a Republican has a better shot at statewide victory if he’s facing an unpopular incumbent than if he’s running for an open seat, which is why some Democrats were eager to push Corzine off of the ballot this summer.

Penry leaves Colorado’s Republican field to McInnis

Another state in which a Republican candidate might benefit from an unexpectedly easy gubernatorial primary is Colorado. We were expecting a high-stakes battle between former Rep. Scott McInnis and state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, an ambitious 33-year old who was held up by many Republicans as a rising star of the party.

Yet, Penry was failing to gain much traction. Polls showed him widely trailing McInnis and he could not get the former representative to  treat him like a serious rival. Add to that the fact that Penry was up for re-election in 2010 (so he would not have been able to fall back to his seat in the state Senate had he lost the Governor’s race) and that he is young enough that he can wait for another opportunity, and it is no shocker that he decided to drop out.

His move leaves the Republican field to McInnis and sets up what should be one of 2010’s most competitive Governor’s races: Ritter vs. McInnis.

Polls have repeatedly shown the Republican narrowly ahead, which at least suggests that he doesn’t face a major electability problem and Democrats shouldn’t look forward to facing him. Sure, they will be able to use his years in Washington against him - the electorate has decisively soured on anyone’s whose part of Congress lately - but Penry faced his own problem: it can be difficult for candidates as young as Penry to be elected to an office like governorship.

Another reason that Republicans should be relieved is that Penry had little choice but to run an anti-establishment campaign. “I think there’s been a recognition that if we continue to run the same old campaign with the same old type of message, that’s there’s going to be the same old results, which are resounding election night defeats,” he said over the summer. That kind of rhetoric is typical for any candidate who is facing a more established contender, but in the current context it could have led this primary to be covered through the lens of the GOP’s civil war. Given that Colorado holds a late primary (August), the rifts that might have then been created could have boosted Ritter’s re-election prospects.

Jodi Rell will not seek re-election

We had seen it coming, but that doesn’t make Jodi Rell’s announcement that she will not seek re-election next year any less surprising.

Despite the ignominious circumstances in which she came to occupy the position in the summer of 2004, Rell’s approval rating quickly attained stratospheric levels and she crushed New Haven Mayor John DeStefano in the 2006 midterms. Heading into 2010, her popularity was on the decline but she was still heavily favored to win her second full term.

Instead, we get confirmation that few executives want to extend their tenure - a striking contrast with congressmen, who tend to never retire. Sure, most states have term-limits but even those governors who are not subjected to them typically call it quits: Of the 4 governors who were entitled to prolong their tenure beyond eight years in 2010, three chose to retire: Rell, Tim Pawlenty and Jim Douglas. Only Rick Perry is seeking re-election. All of that adds up to an astonishing number: There will be 20 open gubernatorial races in 2010!

Rell’s decision hands Democrats a golden opportunity to reclaim a position that has escaped them since 1990: Connecticut is blue-leaning enough that they have to be considered slight favorites in the early going.

Of course, the GOP has had its share of success in the Nutmeg State, as they have throughout New England in non-federal races: Connecticut, Massachussetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island all had a Republican Governor at some point this decade. Add to that the fact that the GOP has a decent bench to choose from, and the contest will be anything but a slam dunk for Democrats.

Republicans already have a candidate: Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele wasted no time before making it clear he would jump in the race, adding that the governor had promised him her support no matter who else runs on the GOP side. As such, Fedele could quickly gain a secure hold on the Republican nomination. A former state representative, he narrowly lost a state Senate race in 2002. He has never won statewide on his own name (he ran on a ticket with Rell in 2006), but his position should help him secure institutional support and a level of credibility Republicans can never be sure of having in a New England race.

Other Republican names are circulating, starting with the Republican leaders of the state legislature’s two chambers - state Rep. Lawrence Cafero and state Senator John McKinney. One intriguing politician who might receive some phone calls: former Rep. Chris Shays. Yet, Shays strongly hinted he was not interested in a political comeback when he ruled out challenging Chris Dodd in 2010.

All of this said, today’s news is undoubtedly a reason for Connecticut Democrats to celebrate: They had not had a shot at an open Governor’s race since the 1994 cycle, when John Rowland narrowly won a 4-way race with just 36% of the vote. Whatever the political environment next year, it will be tough for any Republican to win in a state Obama won with 61% of the vote - especially since the party won’t be able to focus the spotlight on an unpopular Democratic incumbent.

For all the talk of potential red wave next year, there is no denying that Democrats are in a great position to limit their losses thanks to the far larger number of Republican retirements; this holds true at the gubernatorial level (Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut), at the Senate level (Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio) and at the House level (IL-10, PA-06, DE-AL).

The Democratic field had already attracted high-profile contenders before today’s announcement: Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, former state Speaker James Amann, state Senator and Gary Lebeau have long already jumped in the race. This week, former Senate candidate Ned Lamont formed an exploratory committee, and the thought of an incumbent-less general election will presumably make him more eager to jump in the race.

The question now is whether Democrats who were not considering challenging Rell will consider running. In particular everyone’s attention turns towards Attorney General Blumenthal, a major political figure in Connecticut who has repeatedly passed on opportunities to run for Governor. Yet, this is the first time he has the opportunity to run in an open race. My sense is that Blumenthal has been eying the Senate and that challenging Joe Lieberman in 2012 should be a far more attractive proposition for him than running for Governor.

Yet another reason for Democrats to celebrate is that Rell’s retirement could help Chris Dodd’s re-election prospects. For one, the GOP’s Senate nominee will not be able to count on Rell’s coattails. Even if the party keeps the Governor’s Mansion, it will surely not be the type of margin Rell was entitled to hope for - and there is the possibility that the Democratic nominee piles up a big lead, driving Dodd along with him.

Second, the senator can now be sure that he won’t be the only Democrat responsible for turning out the party’s base: many Democratic voters might be too dejected to bother going to the polls just to save Dodd, but if they’re going anyway to elect Bysiewicz, Malloy or Lamont to the Governor’s Mansion, they would also pull the lever for the Senator.

Weekly 2010 update: A surprisingly busy week

In recent months, we had gotten used to a slower pace in statewide recruitment news but this past few saw a flurry of activity. In Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will seek re-election; Roxane Conlin will challenge Iowa’s Chuck Grassley; Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak filed paperwork to run for Governor in Minnesota; Carly Fiorina confirmed that she’ll challenge Barbara Boxer in the California Senate race; and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff dropped his challenge to Bob Bennet, a big relief for the embattled senator.

In Connecticut, Ned Lamont formed an exploratory committee for the Governor’s race - a move that I for one did not see coming. Not only had Lamont opened the door to seeking a rematch against Joe Lieberman in 2012, but Democrats already have plenty of candidates in the race - starting with Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy. Could Lamont ride the good will he gained among liberal activists for taking on Lieberman in 2006 all the way to his party’s nod?

Another election in which the Democratic primary could unexpectedly get more crowded is Florida’s Governor’s race. CFO Alex Sink was considered the party’s presumptive nominee, but two new names surfaced this week. The first, McGillis Records CEO Darrin E. McGillis, doesn’t look like he has the profile to endanger Sink; but the second could attract contributions and media attention by virtue of his last name: Anthony Shriver, who had already considered running for governor in 2006, is the fourth member of the Kennedy dynasty to consider entering politics this year (after Caroline, Chris and Joe Kennedy).

In Maryland, a Republican candidate is starting to attract endorsements for his gubernatorial race: real estate broker Larry Hogan got the support of lawyer Mike Pappas, who dropped out of the race. This suggest the GOP establishment doesn’t think former Governor Bob Ehrlich will challenge Martin O’Malley, and Hogan could very well end up as the Republican nominee. In a blue state like Maryland, that could guarantee that O’Malley is a rare incumbent governor to coast to re-election.

In Oregon, the Republican field is still unsettled. Not only has Rep. Greg Walden still to make up his mind, but a new candidate could soon join businessman Allen Alley and former state Senator John Lim: Former NBA player Chris Dudley, who for a while played for the Portland Trail Blazers, formed an exploratory committee to seek the GOP nomination. At the very least, that could help Republicans compete with Democrats in terms of media coverage. Also in Oregon, a Republican entered the Senate race; but Dennis Hall will be no match for Senator Ron Wyden.

Finally, state Rep. Sam Rohrer formed an exploratory committee to consider joining Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race. Considered very conservative, Rohrer should have trouble winning a general election in this blue-leaning state. (On the other hand, a Republican ticket led by Toomey and Rohrer would cause massive turnout in the GOP base.) If Jim Gerlach and Tom Corbett go at each other too strong, it could leave an opening for Rohrer to clinch victory thanks to conservative mobilization; alternatively, it could help Gerlach win the nomination by dividing up the hard-right vote between Corbett and Rohrer.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the “retirement watch” and recruitment pages. Written in red are those politicians who announced their definite plans rather than simply expressed interest or stroke speculation. First, updates to Retirement Watch:

Will retire No one
Will not retire Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
Rep. Denny Rehberg (MT-AL)

Second, updates to the Senate recruitment page:

CA-Sen, GOP Carly Fiorina confirmed run
IA-Sen, Dem attorney Roxane Conlin will run
IL-Sen, Indie Eric Wallace drops out of GOP race, announces as indie
NH-Sen, GOP businessman Andrew Binnie announced run
attorney Ovide Lamontagne announced run
OR-Sen, GOP Dennis Hall is running
UT-Sen, GOP Attorney General Mark Shurtleff dropped out

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

CT-Gov, Dem Ned Lamont formed exploratory committe
FL-Gov, Dem McGillis Records CEO Darrin E. McGillis is running
Anthony Shriver added to list
IL-Gov, GOP former Attorney General Jim Ryan is running
MD-Gov, GOP real estate broker Larry Hogan is running
lawyer Mike Pappas dropped out
MN-Gov, Dem Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak filed paperwork
NJ-Gov, GOP Chris Christie elected
OR-Sen, GOP former NBA player Chris Dudley formed exploratory cmtee
state Sen. Frank Morse ruled out run
PA-Sen, GOP state Rep. Sam Rohrer formed exploratory committee
VA-Gov, GOP Bob McDonnell elected
VT-Sen, Dem former state Senator Matt Dunne is running
state Senator Peter Shumlin added to list


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