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Category Archive for ‘Pennsylvania’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'Pennsylvania' Category


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Ratings update: The landscape isn’t done shifting away from Dems

I first want to thank all those who wrote very kind words after I announced I would end regular blogging, either in the comments section, via e-mail or Twitter. It was very heart-warming to know how much Campaign Diaries meant to so many people. As I promised then, I am now thinking about the best way to put together a weekly update system. Perhaps it would be best to keep it open so I have the flexibility to do what I think fits the week best, though I will try to be regular.

This week, I am posting a “ratings update”, as many of my race assesments grew stale over the past month - most notably in Indiana and upstate New York. The races that are written in red are those in which the rating is changing towards Republicans; those that are written in blue are those in which the rating is changing towards Democrats.

Senate

Indiana, lean Democratic to toss-up: All hell broke loose in the Hoosier State when Evan Bayh announced his retirement just 24 hours from the filing deadline, but Democrats have managed to stabilize the situation by convincing Rep. Brad Ellsworth to give up his relatively safe House seat for a tough statewide campaign. (To be clear: Ellsworth has not yet been officially tapped by the party committee, but there is little doubt he will be the nominee.) If Ellsworth manages to defend this conservative-leaning state in an environment that is this toxic for his party, it will largely be because Bayh’s timing prevented Republicans from securing as formidable a nominee as they would have otherwise: It would have been harder to imagine Ellsworth prevailing against Mitch Daniels, Todd Rokita or Mike Pence than against former Senator Dan Coats, a former lobbyist who moved away from the state and hasn’t faced voters since 1992, or against former Rep. John Hostettler, who has always ran poor campaigns and has a very rough relationship with national Republicans. The GOP nonetheless starts with a slight edge, but Indiana is sure to host a highly competitive campaign.

Governor

Illinois-Gov, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: Not only is Pat Quinn running as the incumbent Governor of a Midwestern state - a sure way to face electoral trouble this year - but he cannot even count on one of the biggest assets of incumbency - voter familiarity: He came to become Governor upon Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment rather than through a victory of his own. Add to this the possibility that Blagojevich’s summer trial reflects badly on state Democrats, and the GOP has reason to hope it can oust Quinn. Yet, state Senator Bill Brady’s apparent victory should prevent Republicans from making full use of Governor Pat Quinn’s vulnerabilities as the relatively conservative state Senator could have trouble making himself acceptable to this blue state’s electorate. The fact that he is from downstate could boost GOP turnout across the state, but it might cause moderate voters in the Chicago suburbs not to support him. Furthermore, Brady has been denied the bounce primary winners typically get because it took a month for his victory over state Senator Kirk Dillard to be confirmed, while Quinn displayed strong survival skills in the Democratic primary.

Pennsylvania, toss-up to lean Republican: This is one of the most bizarre races of the cycle because of Democrats’ inability to recruit a strong candidate in what should have been one of the party’s priority. Former Rep. Joe Hoeffel, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Auditor General Jack Wagner might make decent candidates, but none of them appears to have much name recognition nor a preexisting popularity that would help them beat back the electorate’s current hostility towards Democrats. Attorney General Tom Corbett, on the other hand, has been a dominant force in the GOP primary and polls show he is well-known and relatively well-liked.

Ohio, lean Democratic to toss-up: Governor Ted Strickland entered the cycle in a very comfortable position. He had triumphed in the 2006 open seat race, he enjoyed strong approval ratings and it did not look like Ohio Republicans could recover from years of dismal showings in time to mount a credible challenge. Yet, the recession has hit Midwestern states with particular ferocity, and it is no shock that Strickland’s poll numbers have fallen along with Ohioans’ economic condition. Republicans are high on former Rep. John Kasich, and Ohio’s status as one of the premier swing states should ensure national parties prioritize this race. While polls differ as to where it stands (Quinnipiac has Strickland leading outside of the margin of error, Rasmussen shows Kasich leading by large margins), there is no doubt it’s one of the country’s most competitive contests.

Texas, likely Republican to lean Republican: Rick Perry displayed amazing political resilience throughout 2009, dispatching popular Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison with an ease no one could have foreseen a year ago. Yet, he did so by using a strategy that should be ill-fitted to beat former Houston Mayor Bill White in the general election: The electorate Perry needs to court should be less amused by his talk of secession and his refusal to take federal funds and White will not suffer from anti-Washington sentiment the way Hutchison did. Add to that Perry’s clear vulnerabilities - not only is it not good to be an incumbent governor this year, but his approval rating is decidedly mediocre and he won re-election with only 39% of the vote in 2006 - and White has a clear shot at winning Democrats’ first major victory in Texas since 1990.

Utah, safe Republican to likely Republican: Are Republicans trembling with fear at the thought of facing Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in the general election? No: Utah is too conservative a state for a Democrat to ever have that credible a shot at winning a statewide victory. Yet, Coroon does represent one third of the state’s population in a capacity that ensures he is visible and recent polls show he could score an upset if Gary Herbert (an unelected incumbent) stumbles.

House

FL-21, safe Republican to likely Republican: While candidates who try to succeed family members are more often than not successful, Mario Diaz-Balart’s announcement that he would run to replace his retiring brother Lincoln was so bizarre that it is worth keeping an eye on whether Democrats can recruit a strong candidate, attack Mario’s credibility and make the most of Southern Florida’s growing openness to voting for Democrats (Gore lost the district by 16%, Obama by 2%).

FL-25, likely Republican to lean Republican: Mario Diaz-Balart decided to switch districts because he felt FL-21 was a safer bet for a Republican than his FL-25, which covers western Miami-Dade County. While that means concentrating on FL-21 might not be advisable for Democrats, it also signals that an open seat in FL-25 is a real opportunity - even in a tough environment. Yet, much will depend on Democratic recruitment. While Republicans have already lined up top candidates (state Rep. David Rivera is running and state Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz will probably join him), Democrats are waiting for 2008 nominee Joe Garcia to make up his mind; Garcia, who now works in the Obama administration, came close to defeating Diaz-Balart two years ago.

IN-08, safe Democratic to toss-up: Evan Bayh’s retirement caused open seat headaches not only for Senate Democrats but also for their House counterparts, as Brad Ellsworth withdrew his name from the IN-08 ballot hours before the filing deadlne in the expectation that he’d be chosen to replace Bayh. Thankfully for the DCCC, the timing of Ellsworth’s exit might very well save the party: the GOP did not have time to recruit a top candidate. Heart surgeon Larry Bucshon would be a credible nominee, but you can be sure Republicans would have been able to find a far stronger candidate had IN-8 become an open seats weeks before - not to mention Bucshon can’t be sure to win the 8-way primary! Ellsworth, meanwhile, was able to orchestrate a transition with state Rep. Trent Van Haaften, who thus has a stronger shot at defending the district. All of this said, IN-8 remains red-leaning, the DCCC’s first choice (Evansville Mayor Jon Weinsapfel) passed on the race and the environment is tough enough that this open seat is no better than a toss-up for Democrats.

KS-03, toss-up to lean Republican: While Democrats can never expect to have it easy in Kansas, this is one open seat they should not have let get this compromised: KS-03 voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and the party had a reasonable bench from which to pick a candidate. Yet, one by one Democrats have ruled out running - the biggest blow being Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon - while the GOP field leaves nothing to be desired. The DCCC is now reduced to hoping that Rep. Dennis Moore’s wife Stephene Moore runs, as reports suggest she might; while she might be able to keep the party competitive, it’s hard to see how an inexperienced political spouse can get elected in a swing district in the absence of any sympathy factor.

MA-10, safe Democratic to lean Democratic: Rumors that Rep. Delahunt was preparing to retire started swirling in early 2010, but you can bet the DCCC was hoping they would not come to be true. MA-10 might be the state’s less Democratic seat, but this is likely the only cycle in which the GOP would have a real chance of winning an open race in a district that gave Gore, Kerry and Obama double-digit victories. Yet, MA-10 also decisively voted for Scott Brown, proving that voters are open to backing a Republican - and the NRCC is confident that former state Treasurer Joe Malone will make the most of this opportunity. Democrats in the running at the moment are state Sen. Robert O’Leary and Norfolk Co. DA William Keating.

MS-04, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Gene Taylor has easily held a district that gave John McCain 68% of the vote since 1989, convincing tens of thousands of conservative voters to support him: he received more than 75% in six of his last last seven races. His electoral track record make him a solid bet for re-election, but if there is any year the GOP could unseat him, it’s in 2010. State Rep. Steven Palazzo has announced he will challenge Taylor, which is as serious a challenge as any the staunchly conservative Democrat has received recently.

NY-29, lean retention to toss-up: What is going on in the Empire State? Rep. Eric Massa became the latest New York politician to self-implode in a bizarre scandal involving harassment claims, unwanted tickling sessions and allegations that he was pushed out due to his opposition to the health-care bill. Even after the first headlines appeared, Massa’s abrupt decision to resign came as a surprise, though it simultaneously helps Nancy Pelosi find the votes to pass the health-care bill and gives the DCCC the headache of worrying about yet another problematic special election on top of May’s PA-12 and HI-01. In fact, the NY-29 special will be New York’s third in a single cycle - a number that matches the record set by far larger California a few cycles back! While Democrats pulled unlikely triumphs in NY-20 and NY-23 in 2009, NY-29 is more conservative since it is one of only three state districts to have voted for McCain. Furthermore, the Democratic nominee will have to run under the clout of the Paterson and Massascandals at a time the new York electorate has shown signs of being exasperated with the party. Finally, the GOP will not be weighed down by the two factors that doomed its NY-20 and NY-23 candidates (too much of a connection to Albany and intraparty fighting), as Corning Mayor Tom Reed is emerging as a consensus choice. That said, Reed, who was already running before Massa’s resignation, had never come to look as that formidable a candidate and the GOP might have been better off with a stronger contender. It remains to be seen who Democrats pick.

OH-02, likely Republican to safe Republican: While Democrats threw a lot at Rep. Jean Schmidt in 2005, 2006 and 2008, they never fielded the type of prominent candidate whose local ties could have overcome the district’s staunchly conservative lean. They thought they would finally be able to do so in 2010, but the state legislator whose candidacy the DCCC spent months touting dropped out in November. The Democratic nominee will be Surya Yalamanchili, a political novice whose claim to fame comes from a bout on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, or David Krikorian, who got double-digits running as an independent in 2008. While they might have been promising candidates in other years, voters seem too reluctant to oust a GOP incumbent this year for a Republican holding a 59%-McCain district to have much to worry about - however controversial her profile.

OH-13, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: For car dealer Tom Ganley to defeat Rep. Betty Sutton would be one of the biggest upsets of Election Night, and yet it is no longer possible to rule out such results. While OH-13 gave John Kerry and Barack Obama double-digits victories, Ganley is reportedly willing to spend as much as $1 million of his money funding his race and Sutton is too junior a lawmaker for Democrats to be confident she can resist voters’ hostility towards her party. At the very least, OH-13 could emerge as a late headache for the DCCC, forcing the party committee to spend precious resources defending Sutton rather than more obviously vulnerable Democrats.

RI-01, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Democrats were sure not expecting to spend as much as a minute worrying about a district that gave Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama more than 62% of the vote, but Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s retirement has given the GOP hope that state Rep. John Loughlin can make the race competitive. The Democratic field is made up of two prominent contenders with a relatively progressive reputation - Providence Mayor David Cicilline and state Democratic Party chairman William Lynch; an ugly race could open the door to Loughlin, since the primary will not be held until September 14th. A wild card is the possible candidacy of former Providence MayorBuddy Cianci, who recently spent four years in federal prison but has now said he is considering an independent run.


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Poll watch: Democrats are strong in IL, have a shot in SD; Castle and Burr dominate

I wouldn’t go as far as to describe this week’s polling round-up as generally good for Democrats; after all, numerous of their House incumbents look vulnerable, Rob Portman retains a small lead in Ohio, Castle dominates, Richard Burr is up by double-digits and Pete Domenici is closer to Diane Denish than New Mexico Democrats would like. Yet, there is plenty for the party to point to as evidence that they are managing to stay afloat and that the GOP still has a lot of work to do to ensure they’ll benefit from as big a red wave as they’re hoping to. In particular, Research 2000’s Illinois poll and Quinnipiac’s Ohio survey find Democrats Alexi Giannoulias, Pat Quinn and Ted Strickland in stronger positions than conventional wisdom dictates; Democrats look like they have an unexpectedly credible shot at South Dakota’s governorship; and Rep. Harry Teague is in a far more competitive position than you would expect given that he is often described as one of November’s surest Democratic losers (2 polls have him within the MoE against former Rep. Steve Pearce).

House

New Mexico: It’s rare enough to have one House survey a week that PPP’s decision to test all three of New Mexico’s House races was a one of the week’s treats. The results are encouraging for both parties, though the most poll’s most surprising finding will delight the NRCC: Rep. Ben Lujan, who represents a district Obama won by 23% and who I had never heard described as competitive, leads his two Republican challengers by decidedly underwhelming margins: 42% to 36% against Tom Mullins, 40% to 32% against Adam Kokesh. That’s not to say he will lose, nor that the race will be competitive come the fall, but it does speak to the probability that a number of Democratic districts that are now on no one’s radar screen should find themselves vulnerable in the campaign’s final stretch (see what happened to the GOP in 2006). Interestingly, Rep. Martin Heinrich, a more obvious target since he is a freshman, leads Jon Barela by a somewhat more solid 45% to 36%.

But the more interesting race is happening NM-02, which is not only the state’s most conservative seat (it went for Bush by 17%) but former Rep. Steve Pearce is running for his old seat after running for Governor in 2008. This has led many to think Rep. Teague is one of the fall’s surest losers, which makes Pearce’s 43% to 41% lead seem like it should be a relief for Democrats as it certainly shows Teague is far from a sure loser. (In particular, consider that the traditional rules about how a challenger topping an incumbent in an early poll is clearly favored does not apply here since Pearce is probably better-known than the incumbent.) On the other hand, the poll should not be spun as bad news for the GOP: The bottom-line is that NM-02 is one of the party’s top pick-up opportunities indeed. In fact, Pearce released an internal poll last week showing himself leading 48% to 44%.

SD-AL: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin remains on top of her Republican opponents in a new Rasmussen poll, but Secretary of State Chris Nelson is within striking distance since he holds the incumbent Democrat under 50% and within single-digit: She leads 45% to 38%. Herseth-Sandlin is far stronger against Kristi Noem (49% to 34%) and against state Rep Blake Curd (51% to 33%), which certainly suggests she is in a far stronger position than many of her fellow Democrats. As the poll’s gubernatorial numbers also speak to (see below), South Dakotans don’t look committed to ushering in GOP rule.

Senate

Ohio: Democrats might be losing ground in Senate races left and right, but they remain in striking distance of picking-up Ohio’s open seat according to Quinnipiac’s new poll. Republican Rob Portman is up within the margin of error (40-37) against Democrat Lee Fisher and he leads 40-35 against Jennifer Brunner. These margins are similar to those Quinnipiac found back in November, though it should be said that both Democratic candidates spent much of 2009 crushing Portman by double-digits - an advantage that was erased as the electorate soured on the the party in the latter half of the year. Despite their prominent stature, all three candidates have low name recognition so the next few months could be crucial - starting with the run-up to the Democratic primary.

Florida: Rasmussen found more evidence of Charlie Crist’s collapse this week by showing Marco Rubio crushing him 54% to 36% - an unthinkable result just a few months ago that is now already coming to be expected; the pollster also confirms that Crist’s decline is due to his rising unpopularity among the electorate-at-large and not just among Republicans, since his once impressive approval rating is now down to 52-45. In the general election, both men lead Kendrick Meek by large margins: Crist is up 48-32, Rubio is up 51-31. But is it time to start testing 3-way match-ups with Crist as an independent?

Delaware: For once, Rasmussen and Research 2000 have similar results! The former shows Republican Rep. Mike Castle in control 53% to 32% (though the margin has shrunk by 7% since January) while the latter has him leading 53% to 35%. That does little to change the race’s “likely Republican” rating (especially when we consider Castle’s formidable 65/30 and 65/32 favorability ratings) but given the two candidates’ chances of stature the trendline also confirms it is too early for Democrats to give up.

North Carolina: Rasmussen released the most favorable poll Richard Burr is gotten in quite a while - far more favorable, in fact, than the survey PPP released last week. Not only does the Republican senator have large leads, but he also reaches 50%: He’s up 50-34 against Elaine Marshall and 51-29 against Cal Cunningham. Of course, Democrats long ago realized defeating Burr is a top proposition in this environment, but these numbers are nonetheless ugly for the party. On the other hand, an Elon University poll finds that only 24% of North Carolinians think Burr deserves re-election, versus 51% who think he should be replaced.

Pennsylvania: Franklin & Marshall sends some very ugly numbers Democrats’ way, though the bizarrely high number of undecided makes it hard to do much else than point to the wide disparity between the match-ups among registered voters and among likely voters. In the former group, Arlen Specter leads Pat Toomey 33% to 29% while Joe Sestak is only 3% behind (25-22); in the latter group, Toomey crushes both Democrats - 44-34 against Specter, 38-20 against Sestak. Could there be clearer signs of the turnout gap that’s threatening to submerge Democrats this fall?

Governor

Illinois/Ohio: I mentioned Quinnipiac and Research 2000’s polls finding Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and Ted Strickland in the lead in an earlier post, but the results are counter-intuitive enough that they bear repeating. In Ohio, Quinnipiac shows Strickand leading John Kasich 44% to 39%, which is obviously an underwhelming margin but is nonetheless an improvement over the 40-40 tie Quinnipiac found in November and is a far more encouraging result for Democrat than the large deficits Rasmussen has found in recent months; Strickland had almost started to look like a lost cause, but these numbers from a respected pollster suggest Ohio is definitely still winnable for Democrats.

In Illinois, Research 2000 has Governor Pat Quinn leading state Senator Kirk Dillard and state Senator Bill Brady 46-35 and 47-32. He might remain under 50%, but remember that in early February Quinn looked so damaged that he seemed to be marching towards a primary defeat. Yet, this is now the second post-primary poll to find him in command of the general election (the first was released last week), especially if his opponent is the more conservative Bill Brady - as still looks likely since Dillard has failed to overtake Brady after weeks of provisional ballot.

South Dakota: Would you have expected the week’s polling surprise to be that Democrats have a strong shot at picking up the governorship of this conservative state? Yea, me neither - especially considering that this finding comes out of a Rasmussen poll. Matched-up against three Republicans, state Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepreim holds his own: While he trails Lieutenant Governor Dennis Daugaard 41% to 32%, he is ahead against two other Republicans: 37% to 29% against state Senator Gordon Howie and 34% to 31% against state Senator Dave Knudson. That is of course nothing huge, but it certainly suggest that South Dakota voters aren’t desperate to jump in the GOP’s bandwagon.

New Mexico: It helps to have a famous name! While Pete Domenici Jr. has never been in the public spotlight before, he shares the first and last name of his father, former Senator Pete Domenici, which explains how his name recognition is so much higher in a new PPP poll than that of his fellow Republican candidates. The general election match-ups show that the contest is winnable by the GOP but that Democratic Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish is the front-runner: She leads Domenici Jr. 45-40, state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones 47-33 and DA Susana Martinez 46-42. One important factor in this campaign is whether Denish can free herself from Bill Richardson’s shadow: The outgoing governor has a catastrophic approval rating (28% to 63%).

Nevada: Earlier this week, I highlighted a POS poll that showed Governor Jim Gibbons improving his position in the GOP primary, which he was long expected not to have a chance at winning. Now, a Mason-Dixon poll confirms that Gibbons is increasingly competitive against Brian Sandoval: He trails 37% to 30%, whereas he was behind by 17% in Mason-Dixon’s prior poll. Given Gibbons’s worst-in-the-country approval rating of 17%, whether he can find a way to survive the primary will obviously go a long way towards determining the general election: While Sandoval crushes Rory Reid 51% to 29%, the Democrat tops Gibbons 42% to 38%. (The fact that Gibbons is within 4% of Reid says a lot about the latter’s weakness.)

Massachussetts: Despite a weak approval rating (35-54), Deval Patrick manages to stay on top of Suffolk’s general election match-ups because many voters who are discontent with him are choosing to support Democrat-turned-independent Tom Cahill, who enjoys a 31/16 favorability rating. Patrick tops Republican Charlie Baker 33% to 25%, with Cahill receiving 23% and 3% going to Green Party candidate Stein; if the Republican nominee is Christy Mihos, which at the moment seems unlikely given baker’s 47-17 primary lead, Patrick leads Cahill 34% to 26%, with 19% for Mihos. The main reason Democrats can hope that Cahill will actually maintain his level of support and help Patrick survive (whereas Daggett collapsed in New Jersey) is that Cahill is the state Treasurer and is better-known than either Republican candidates.

Wisconsin: Rasmussen’s latest numbers are similar to its previous ones: Republican Scott Walker would dominate Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 49% to 40%, whereas the Democrat would be more competitive if he were to face former Rep. Mark Neumann (44% to 42%). While that’s nothing for Barrett to be ashamed of, the poll also suggests that Barrett is not starting out as the formidable contender Democrats were hoping for. On the other hand, Wisconsin is a state in which we have seen very few non-Rasmussen polls (only a November PPP survey that had Barrett stronger comes to mind), so it would be nice to have more polling firms test this race as well as Feingold’s vulnerability.

Georgia: Former Governor Barnes manages to stay competitive in Rasmussen’s latest poll, but the match-ups are not as favorable than the pollster found last month: Barnes now trails the three most prominent Republican candidates (45-37 against State Insurance Commissioner Oxendine, 43-37 against Rep. Deal, 45-36 against SoS Handel) while tying state Sen. Johnson at 37%. Barnes would have been better-served by a more favorable environment, but he remains in a competitive position.

Rhode Island: Brown University’s poll finds a wide-open race with an early edge for Republican-turned-independent Linc Chaffee. If the Democratic nominee is Frank Caprio, The former Senator leads 34% with 38%, with 12% to the Republican Robitaille; if the Democratic nominee is Patrick Lynch, Chaffee leads by a wider 33% to 18%, with 14% for the Republican.


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Open seats: Dem field narrows as GOP tensions rise in PA-12; Phoenix Mayor won’t run in AZ-03

PA-12: Joyce Murtha and Singel back Critz, Russell signals he won’t give up

While I wrote about PA-12’s special election last night, the race took an entirely new direction in the past 24 hours alone: Where we expected a long-line of state legislators looking to replace Rep. Jack Murtha led by state Senator John Wozniack, today’s event make it look increasingly likely the Democratic nod will go to Murtha’s district director Mark Critz and that there won’t even be a single currently elected official from either party looking to challenge him.

While Critz came to look as a serious contender over the week-end, when a wealthy Republican businessman touted by the NRCC announced he would support him instead, his first big break occurred this morning, when Joyce Murtha endorsed her husband’s former aide. With that development already sure to weigh on Democratic leaders’ minds given the Murthas’ prominence in party circles, Critz caught as big a break when former Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel, who as of yesterday had come to be viewed as the closest thing the field had to a front-runner, announced he was withdrawing his bid and also throwing his support behind Critz! Add to this Westmoreland County Commissioner Tom Ceraso’s decision to also end his candidacy, and that leaves just two candidates actively seeking the Democratic nomination: Critz and the state’s former Republican Treasurer Barbara Hafer.

Given the deep bench the party has in this cycle, I confess this is not the final line-up I expected; this situation certainly confirms that most political insiders are expecting this district to be dismantled after the next round of redistricting. It also suggests that Democrats will have less difficulty uniting behind a single candidate than might have been expected. More specifically, I find it unlikely that whichever of these two was not chosen would mount a primary campaign against the other. (Remember that May 18th is both the special election and the primary for November’s regularly scheduled election, and for a candidate to have to simultaneously fight on both frights could be fatal.) Critz’s only asset is his institutional ties, so it’s unclear how he could run if the establishment chooses Hafer; and given the way in which local Democrats are coalescing around Critz, it would have to be seen who would vouch for Hafer’s party credentials if she attempted a primary run.

The situation is opposite on the GOP side as tensions are rising between Tim Burns and William Russell. National Republicans are transparently signaling they would prefer for their nominee to be the former, mainly because he could self-fund part of his campaign, but Russell is making it clear he would not step aside. In other words, even if party leaders choose Burns to represent them in the special election, Russell is threatening to still seek the GOP nomination for the November ballot and thus create an untenable situation for the NRCC: Of the Russell loyalists who would go to the polls on May 18th to vote for their champion in the primary, how many would skip voting in the special election question rather than cast a ballot for Burns? Republicans are down on Russell’s candidacy because he has $216,000 of cash-on-hand; that might be too low an amount to beat a Democrat if the NRCC is not willing to help, but it is more than enough to seriously complicate Burns’s life.

I would say that this is making Democratic prospects of defending PA-12 look even better than when the seat first became vacant, but I would first like to see what type of candiate Critz will turn out to be and at the very least wait until we learn more about a man who does not as of yet have the clearest public profile.

AZ-03: Gordon will not run

An open seat in a district that gave John McCain a 17% victory is not at the top of the Democrats’ priority list, but Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon would have at least made the party competitive - as any mayor of a city of more than 1,5 million is sure to be when he seeks another office with far fewer constituents. (Note that AZ-03 extends into Phoenix’s northern suburbs, so a fair amount of the district would have been new territory for Gordon.) Yet, after a few weeks in which he openly mulled the possibility of running, Gordon announced today that he would not seek the seat of retiring Republican John Shadegg.

Gordon’s decision is unlikely to lead many Democrats other than DCCC officials to lament since there’s a limit to how conservative a candidate the party is willing to tolerate - and with Parker Griffith’s party switch and Joe Lieberman’s antics fresh in everyone’s minds, recruiting a politician who enthusiastically endorsed John McCain’s presidential bid is not high on the DCCC’s to-do list. Besides his support for McCain, Gordon is mistrusted because he endorsed Republican Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio bids to be Maricopa County’s county attorney and county sheriff, respectively. (Thomas and Arpaio are high-profile figures who have led an anti-immigration crusade in Arizona.) That said, Gordon’s ties with Arpaio considerably deteriorated over the past two years, including over the mayor’s criticism over the sheriff’s sweeps into Hispanic neighborhoods.

One major reason that might explain Gordon’s decision is Arizona’s resign-to-run law, which would have forced him to give up his mayoral post as soo as he would have announced a House run - just as Republican state Senator state Sen. Jonathan Paton had to do this week as he moved to challenge Rep. Giffords. Given that the district is a tough one for a Democratic candidate, that would undoubtedly have been a big political risk. (Note that I am not sure the resign-to-run law applies to mayors in the same way as for statewide officials or state legislators, though I can’t see why it wouldn’t.)

The filing deadline is still three months away, so there could still be plenty of movement, but the Democratic front-runner is now more than ever attorney Jon Hulburd, whose main draw seems to be finances: He not only raised more than $300,000 in the fourth quarter, but he appears to have enough money to self-fund his campaign, allowing the DCCC not to have to do anything but potentially forcing the NRCC to invest some of its precious resources in playing defense and saving that money from being used to attack an additional Democratic incumbent. Can Democrats hope for much else in such a district in such political conditions?


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Open seats: Dems clarify plans in PA-12, candidates withdraw in WA-03

As Joyce Murtha rules out bid, other Dems clarify plans

While Democrats looked very interested in the possibility that Joyce Murtha might run for her late husband’s seat in the May 18th primary, but she announced she would do no such thing, thus leaving the field wide open. While her decision might complicate matters for Democrats in the short-term (widows tend to be strong candidates in special elections, however unjustified their candidacies), it will allow Democrats to work towards electing someone who could then try to defend his job even if this district is combined with a Republican-leaning district in the next round of redistricting, as I discussed last week.

It remains to be seen who that Democrat will be, however. Murtha’s decision has allowed other Democrats to come public with their plans. If former Treasurer Barbara Hafer said she wanted to run last week, this week brought a number of new contenders - starting with former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, Murtha’s former district director Mark Critz and Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic. (Remember that there will be no primary; rather, the party’s state executive committee will choose a general election candidate at a March 8th meeting, three days before a committee of GOP leaders selects its nominee.)

Singel is be the highest-profile name on that list. (He was the party’s gubernatorial nominee in 1994, and his 6% defeat to Tom Ridge was the occasion of a deep rift with outgoing Democratic Governor Casey, who did not campaign for Singel, perhaps over of abortion.) Yet, he has worked as a lobbyist for a Philadelphia law-firm, which is certainly not the best resume line with which to run for office - especially given the current economic conditions, especially in a hard-hit place like Western Pennsylvania. However, some local party officials might be reluctant to support Hafer, who was a Republican until 2002 and as far as I know has never before ran for office as a Democrat. That alone should make Critz a credible contender for the party’s nod; after all, as Murtha’s district director he forged close relationships with local officials, which should serve him well now that all he needs is to secure their support.

Interestingly, Republicans have not been able to get anyone interested in running except their 2008 nominee William Russell and businessman Tim Burns, neither of which would give the GOP as clear a shot at winning as the party was hoping to have when the seat became vacant. Indeed, whatever the national mood, let’s not forget that few districts have received as much federal money as PA-12, and most voters are probably aware of that. The GOP nominee might be very successful campaigning against Washington and against Democratic policies, but to run against the earmarking process or express pride in ignoring the ways of Congress could prove a tricky proposition to navigate.

The NRCC was hoping to convince wealthy businessman Mark Pasquerilla to seek the GOP nod, as he could try to spend his way to victory, Pasquerilla announced a few days ago that he not only would not run but that he is also endorsing a Democrat, Mark Critz. That came as a clear sign that the district’s increasingly red hue in presidential races has not translated to GOP-friendly conditions at the local level, and also that Murtha’s ability to secure millions of earmarks for the area was a powerful reason for people like Pasquerilla who identity as Republicans to support a Democrat in the special election - at least as long as said Democrat seems to follow in Murtha’s footsteps, as Critz presumably would.

Wallace withdraws in in WA-03

Within weeks of Rep. Brian Baird’s retirement, it seemed like the Democratic field to replace him would oppose centrist state Rep. Deb Wallace to progressive state Senator Craig Pridemore. Yet, a third contender (former Rep. Denny Heck, who has been working in the private sector since the early 1990s) disrupted that expectation: Not only did he indicate he would to self-fund by pouring $100,000 of his own money in his campaign, but he also displayed his institutional backing when he secured the surprise endorsement of Governor Christine Gregoire a few weeks ago. Also supporting Heck are former Governor Booth Gardner, for whom Heck worked twenty years ago, and Don Bonker, who represented the district from 1975 to 1989.

Perhaps as a result of the increased hardship created by Heck’s candidacy, Wallace decided to drop out of the race this week - and in doing so she called on voters to nominate a centrist. “Although Wallace is not making an endorsement for another candidate at this time she believes we need to elect a true moderate Democrat who has the wherewithal to win this election,” her statement said. That certainly rules out her backing Pridemore, though I am unable to determine whether Heck fits Baird and Wallace’s centrist mold enough for this primary to feature the clear ideological fault lines it would have had if Pridemore had been opposed to Wallace. With Heck out of public office for two decades, he doesn’t appear to have taken public positions on polarizing matters, which could allow him to play the front-runner card more easily. (For one, we will have to see whether Heck can follow-up his Gregoire endorsement with more high-profile gets.)

As to the question of who Wallace’s withdrawal should favor, the obvious answer would seem to be Heck, since centrist-minded Democrats should be more likely to gravitate towards him, but important geographical factors lead me to think Pridemore is breathing a sigh of relief. While Heck is from Olympia, Wallace and Pridemore are both based around in the Vancouver part of WA-03, and their legislative districts overlap are adjacent; had they both been in the race, they would have been competing over the same turf (the region they already represent), thus undermining their best chance to clinch victory.

Today, a Republican candidate also withdrew: Washougal Mayor Pro Tem Jon Russell dropped out. Russell indicated that he was only raising $500 per month, which probably means he wouldn’t have been a big factor had he stayed in. Here also, there will be a contested primary between state Rep. Jaime Herrera and financial consultant David Castillo, who was already running before Baird retired.


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Yet two more breaks for House Republicans

The NRCC was spared two big headaches this week-end: Rep. Bill Young has decided to run for re-election and ex-retiree Rep. Jim Gerlach finally succeeded at clearing his primary field. Not that Democrats are particularly optimistic about their chances of playing offense this year, but these two developments significantly diminish the party’s chances of picking-up either of their districts, rare GOP-held seats the DCCC had been eying.

No open seat in Pinellas County

79-year Bill Young has been in the House for 40 years, which makes him the longest-serving Republican in either chamber of Congress. The former chair of the Appropriation Committee, he used to be one of Washington’s most powerful politicians but is now relegated to the ranks of a largely powerless minority; even if the GOP regains control in 2010, he’d be unlikely to have anywhere near as much influence as he did between 1999 and 2005. This combination of factor has made him a fixture of retirement watches for years now, and there were a lot of reasons to believe Democrats (who have never been able to lay so much as a glove on him) would finally get their shot at the open seat this year.

For one, he explicitly stated he was undecided about whether he’d run. Second, he faced his first credible Democratic challenger in decades, as he at the very least needs to seriously campaign against state Senator Charlie Justice; would he have it in him to do so after 19 re-election races that have nearly all been uncompetitive? Third were his fundraising reports, which were so low that he could only be discouraging contributions: How can the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee raise only $750 in the fourth quarter otherwise? The question remains all the more puzzling that he has hasn’t shown animosity to off-year fundraising in the past.

Yet, the open race won’t be for this year. At an event held on Saturday night as a tribute to the congressman, Young announced he would run for a 21st term.

In normal circumstances, an incumbent who represents a district won by the opposing party’s presidential candidate (Obama carried the district by 4%), who has banked only $750 in the latest quarter and who faces a 10-year state Senator would be considered highly vulnerable. But these are hardly normal circumstances and Young is clearly favored to win in November. The electorate is too hostile to Democrats for the party to have a shot at ousting any but the least entrenched Republican incumbents, especially Young whose stature would make it tough for Democrats to defeat him in a favorable environment, let alone in 2010. Furthermore, as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee he should have no trouble quickly filling his campaign coffers. Finally, Democrats have generally been down on Justice since last spring, and whatever confidence they once had Justice could defeat Young has largely evaporated.

While Young’s decision considerably diminishes Democrats’ takeover prospects in a rare district they are targeting, there is a convincing reason (articulated by James L. over at SSP) to think Young’s decision should come as a relief to Democrats: Given that the party has been waiting for his retirement for much of the decade, it could have been a waste to have it come in the one cycle in which open seats are bound to favor Republicans. (In 2006 and 2008, Democrats had no difficulty holding open seats in tough districts like OH-06 and OR-05.) Had Young retired now, the GOP would have been favored to defend the seat whereas in most future cycles an open seat should be no worse than a toss-up for Democrats. Can the DCCC be that unhappy they might have a shot at a Young-less district in 2012 rather than in 2010? (A major caveat: redistricting could alter the district’s boundaries.)

None of this means we should entirely take our eye off of this district this year. Justice remains an experienced politician with a strong foothold in the district while an aging congressman who has not had to seriously campaign for decades is prone to gaffes that can endanger his re-election. Look at IL-08 in 2004, when 36-year incumbent Phil Crane despite the year’s being a tough one for Democrats.

(An other Florida district became the subject of retirement rumors on Friday, when 66-year old Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite announced she’d make a major announcement, which turned out to be that she is getting married. Not that Democrats would have had much of a shot at an open seat here: FL-05 gave Bush and McCain double-digit victories.)

No primary for Gerlach

PA-06 was one of the cycle’s most vulnerable seats until Rep. Jim Gerlach dropped out of the Governor’s race and announced he would seek re-election after all. That was a major blow to Democrats, since they were well-positioned to pick-up an open seat in a district that went for Kerry by 4% and Obama by 17%, but they clung to the hope that Gerlach might not be able to survive the May primary: Gerlach found himself in early January with no campaign structure and next-to-money he could use, whereas two credible Republicans were in the race refusing to drop-out.

State Rep. Curt Schroder lasted less than a week, leaving businessman Steven Welch as Gerlach’s sole GOP opponent. While Welch was clearly an underdog, he had more than $650,000 in the bank at the end of 2009, he was apparently willing to pour in much more from his personal fortune and he was clearly a credible enough candidate that the NRCC was once busy touting his entry as a recruitment coup. At the very least, he would have forced Gerlach to use whatever campaign cash he could come with by May 18th, making him an easier target for Democrats.

But Welch has now ended his campaign, taking with him the millions the DCCC was hoping would indirectly help its cause. (One reason that might have contributed to his decision is that his moderate profile made it impossible for him to hope for the support of the Club for Growth or of Tea Party groups, which might have considered backing a challenge to Gerlach otherwise.) Gerlach is now certain to be the GOP nominee on the November ballot, which considerably increases the party’s chances.

That said, Democrats should not give up on PA-06: With two hotly contested statewide races on the ballot in November, the party will have a full-blown turnout machine working the Philadelphia suburbs, so they might as well work against Gerlach at the same time as they’re working against Toomey and Corbett. Also, Manan Trivedi and Doug Pike had already put together top-tier campaigns before Gerlach’s re-entry and while their chances would have been much higher come 2008, it would be a waste for the party to give up now. After all, the DCCC has to play offense somewhere.

Note that this district was gerrymandered to favor Republicans in 2001. If Democrats have some control over the next redistricting process, they should be able to impose a more favorable redrawing of Philadelphia’s suburbs. Even if Republicans have full control, it’s tough to see how they could make it that much more protected, though depending on the November results they could try to draw PA-07 bluer to get PA-06 redder.


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Scheduled for May 18th, PA-12’s special might have lowered stakes due to looming redistricting

As expected, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell called the special election to fill Jack Murtha’s district on May 18th, a day you should mark on your calendars since it will also bring us the resolution to the hotly disputed Specter-Sestak, Mongiardo-Conway, Grayson-Paul and Kitzhaber-Bradbury races, as well as the first round of the Arkansas primary, which will shrink the number of Blanche Lincoln’s Republican challengers from 8 to 2. (It would also be the day Blanche Lincoln would have to fight off Bill Halter if the Lieutenant Governor ever took the plunge, though you should not hold your breath on that. Rumors were once again swirling last week that Halter was on the verge of jumping in the race, but the buzz has died down with no discernible movement.)

I explained last week the two main consequences of PA-12’s election being held on May 18th. First, it should prove a big help to Democrats since whoever emerges as their nominee will be able to rely on the turnout machines of the many candidates running in the party’s hotly contested senatorial and gubernatorial primaries; voters who come out to vote for Sestak or Onorato will also be likely to vote for the House race. The Republican nominee, meanwhile, will be all on his own since the GOP’s statewide primaries are uncompetitive. Second, it could create a confusing situation in which the candidates designated by party committees might have to fight simultaneous battles: one in the special election against the other party’s nominee for the right to represent the district until the end of 2010, another in the regularly scheduled primary for the right to be their party’s nominee again on the November ballot.

Yet, it looks like this latter scenario might not be as big of a factor as expected because PA-12 could emerge as a repeat of LA-3: Local politicians might be reluctant to give up their current office because they are fearful that the district will be eliminated in the next round of redistricting (Pennsylvania will probably lose a seat), which the Philadelphia Inquirer is today reporting is very much a possibility.

Even if a district resembling this PA-12 still exists come 2011, it is likely to look very different since the current district was apparently drawn specifically with Rep. John Murtha in mind. As such, we at the very least cannot know what the district’s exact boundaries will look like, nor even who will control the redistricting process.

When a district has to be eliminated, redistricting often targets the most junior lawmakers, which explains why whoever wins LA-3 is likely to be in big trouble come 2011-2012. Yet, Pennsylvania is likely to have many freshmen in the next Congress since the GOP is mounting strong challenges in no less than 7 districts (PA-3, PA-4, PA-7, PA-8, PA-10, PA-11, PA-17) while Democrats have a shot at capturing PA-06 and PA-15. This makes for a striking stat: 10 of the state’s 19 districts are hosting highly competitive races this year, which makes it highly likely PA-12’s new representative will not be the only junior congressman lacking the clout to ensure his or her district is protected. On the other hand, the possibility of many turnovers make it easy to imagine the congressional map looking very different from what it is today.

Adding to the uncertainty is that we do not know who will control the redistricting process. While the GOP is certain to have a voice in the process since the state Senate is firmly in their control, the Governor’s Mansion and the state House are up for grabs. While Democrats control both at the moment, Republicans have at least an even shot of holding all three levels of power come 2011 (Tom Corbett looks like the front-runner in the gubernatorial race and Democrats’ 104-98 House majority could easily be toppled if the November electorate favors the GOP). The map will look very differently if Republicans take control of redistricting or if Democrats can have a voice in the process, thus forcing a fairer map than the GOP gerrymander that was drawn in 2001.

Add it all together, and it hardly becomes surprising that candidates haven’t been rushing to hint at their interest for an election that is less than three months away.

In fact, the politician who was considered Murtha’s most likely successor in the first wave of stories following the congressman’s death just announced he would not run: state Senator John Wozniak’s decision is all the more surprising that he could have tried his luck without giving up his seat in case of a loss, since his term isn’t up until 2012. (Of course, he couldn’t go back to the state legislature if redistricting forced him out of Congress.) This is somewhat of a blow for Democrats, as the 14-year senator looked like the candidate with the most local experience.

Yet, another Democrat announced that she wanted the party’s nomination, and she has as credible a profile as you can think of: Barbara Hafer served as a commissioner in Allegheny County before winning numerous statewide elections, first as Auditor General and then as Treasurer. The twist: She won all of these campaigns as a Republican. She switched parties in 2002, after winning her second term as Treasurer and 12 years after being the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee against incumbent Bob Casey! Hafer considered challenging Senator Santorum in 2006, but she did not jump in so my understanding is that she has never ran for anything as a Democrat. Is that someone party officials are going to be comfortable choosing as their nominee?

The answer might very well depend on whether other candidates express interest. With Wozniak’s exit, other local politicians might take the possibility more seriously, for instance state Rep. Bryan Barbin, state Rep. Tad Harhai, state Rep. Rick Geist, former Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel and Westmoreland County Commissioner Tom Ceraso. The wild card: There is a lot of speculation that the deceased congressman’s widow Joyce Murtha might want to run for the seat. Despite how ridiculous such familial hand-overs tend to be, it would take a surprise if the party denied her the nod given the many precedents in which this has happened (Bono Mack in California, for instance).

While I do not know Joyce Murtha’s exact age, she married her husband back in 1955 so she has to be at least 73-75. For Democrats to nominate her would probably signal they are indeed expecting this district to be so disfigured come 2011 that it is not worth thinking about holding it long-term. One reason this is foolish: a Democratic incumbent could have a shot at surviving even if he is thrown into a incumbent-against-incumbent battle against a Republican in a district that would seem to favor the latter. Depending on how it is done, combining PA-12 and PA-9 could for instance result in a GOP-friendly but district that is nonetheless winnable for a Democrat in favorable circumstances, one of which could be the candidacy of someone who already represents the district.

Interestingly, there is far less at the moment about potential Republican candidates, which can either mean that the GOP thinks it does not have enough of a bench to find an upgrade over the current two candidates (Tim Burns and William Russell), that Republicans are waiting to see how the Democratic field shakes up or that the party doesn’t plan a full push to win the seat for the reasons I’ve already outlined.


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Poll watch: Bayh crushes Coats, Pomeroy & Shea-Porter struggle, GOP solid in PA

Less than three weeks from Texas’s primaries

Earlier this week, PPP shook up our expectations as Kay Bailey Hutchison suddenly looked in danger of being knocked out of the runoff by libertarian Debra Medina. Since then, three new Texas surveys have been released, all with a differing take on what is likely to happen on March 2nd. Research 2000 finds a likely runoff between Rick Perry and Hutchison, who come in at 42% and 30% with Medina at a still-impressive 17%. The University of Texas has Rick Perry closer to a first round victory (he is at 45%, with 16% still undecided) and a stunningly close race for second, with Hutchison at 21% and Medina at 19%. Finally, a poll conducted by two partisan firms shows Hutchison in front of Medina (27% to 19%) but Perry so close to 50% that it might not matter.

But all of these surveys were conducted before Medina attracted fire not only from the mainstream press but also conservatives like Glenn Beck for expressing openness to the possibility that the government was involved in bringing down of the World Trace Center. “I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard,” she said. “There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that. I’m certainly not into mind control or thought policing people.” This has gained a lot of coverage and should negatively affect her numbers. The question is: Does it help Perry cross 50% on March 2nd?

Two of these surveys also tested the general election, both finding Houston Mayor Bill White well within striking distance. In R2000, he trails Perry only 46% to 42%; he’s down 47-41 against Hutchison and 44-43 against Medina. The margins are larger according to the University of Texas, but both Perry and Hutchison are well under 50% (they lead 44-35 and 43-34, respectively); Medina and White are tied at 36%.

Bayh might not be that vulnerable after all

The week’s other very interesting poll comes from Indiana, where Research 2000 is the first pollster to test former Senator Dan Coats since he announced he was planning a political comeback two weeks ago. And the result is far less favorable than what the GOP was hoping to see: Coats’s favorability rating is only 38-34, weaker than former Rep. John Hosettler’s, which stands at 40-33. Evan Bayh, whose favorability rating stands at a solid 61-33, demolishes Coats 55% to 35%; against Hostettler, he is up by a narrower yet solid 53% to 37%.

A major reason Bayh has been painted as vulnerable in recent week is a Rasmussen survey showing him struggling against Mike Pence and against Hostettler; R2000 paints a very different situation, so it will certainly be interesting to see where other polls pit the race. Yet, Coats sure doesn’t look like a game-changer - and perhaps we should not be surprised at that: remember that he has not had his name on a ballot since 1992. The past 10 days have marked the first time most Indiana residents have heard about him in over a decade, and the coverage has been remarkably negative, which explains the rough welcome Coats has gotten as he has started to hit the trail.

House

VA-05: Given the number of House surveys that have found Democratic incumbents sinking (SUSA in AR-02, IN-09 and OH-01, most notably), we could have expected Rep. Tom Perriello to be in far worse shape than PPP finds him in. One of the NRCC’s top targets, Perriello is tied against state Senator Robert Hurt, 44% to 44%; the Democrat manages leads ranging from 4% to 10% against other GOP candidates. (While they might have a lower-profile, don’t forget how often we have seen unknown Republicans grab leads against incumbent Democrats lately.) Making matters more complicated is the prospect that former Rep. Virgil Goode, whom Perriello defeated in 2008, run as an independent: Boosted by a 57-28 favorability rating, Goode ties Perriello at 41%, with Hurt at 12%.

ND-AL: Tom Pomeroy might be keeping his head above water, but Earl Pomeroy is more vulnerable than is commonly believed, at least according to Rasmussen’s new poll. Like many of his colleagues, the 17-year incumbent finds himself trailing against Republicans he probably would have crushed in most cycles: against state Rep. Rick Berg, he is down 46% to 40%. While he maintains a 45-44 edge over Kevin Cramer, he has defeated him twice before, making this result underwhelming. Pomeroy does have a 47-38 edge over low-profile Paul Schaffner, but even then he remains under the 50% threshold. Put ND-AL in the column of truly endangered districts few expected would be vulnerable as 2009 started.

NH-01 and NH-02: In addition to releasing a Senate race (see below), UNH conducted a poll of both of New Hampshire’s districts, finding a very tough landscape for Democrats. (An important caveat: the margin of error is a large 6.2%.) In NH-01, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is in a truly terrible position, failing to garner more than 33% whoever she faces and leading 43% to 33% against former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. In NH-02, left open by Democrat Paul Hodes, former GOP Rep. Charlie Bass would be favored to regain his old seat if he runs: He leads Ann McLane Kuster 39% to 28% and Katrina Swett 37% to 30%. Sure, Bass’s name recognition is higher but New Hampshire does seem fertile ground for Republicans this year.

Senate

New Hampshire: Two different polls found remarkably similar results and confirmed what surveys have found over and over again since last fall, namely that Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has built a comfortable but stable lead over Rep. Paul Hodes. UNH has her ahead 41% to 33% while Rasmussen pits it at 46% to 39%. However, other Republicans are weaker: Hodes leads decisively against Ovide Lamontagne (38-29 in UNH, 44-38 in Rasmussen), while it is closer against William Binnie (he’s up 34-30 in UNH, trails 42-41 in Rasmussen). A recent Research 2000 poll showed that Ayotte is far from certain of winning the primary, but the fact that Hodes is trailing against a relatively unknown businessman is a bad sign for voters’ willingness to vote Democratic.

Missouri: Rasmussen might be the only pollster to find Robin Carnahan trailing outside of the margin of error, but today marked the second poll they have released with such a finding: Weighed down by Barack Obama’s 40-59 approval rating, Carnahan trails Rep. Roy Blunt 49% to 42%. Though Carnahan would likely have an edge in normal circumstances, Missouri is conservative enough that it should not surprise us to see Blunt carried by the GOP currents.

North Dakota: No miracle for Democrats in North Dakota, where Governor John Hoeven looks even more formidable than conventional wisdom dictates according to Rasmussen’s latest poll. Not only does he enjoy an eye-popping 85% approval rating, but he crushes state Senator Potter and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp 71-17 and 65-29, respectively. This has got to be all the more frustrating for Democrats that Heitkamp’s has a respectable favorability rating (54-36).

Louisiana: Here’s one race Democrats will not be contesting come November. It’s been obvious for weeks that Rep. Charlie Melancon’s hopes of pulling off an upset have been fading, but the Rasmussen survey with Senator David Vitter leading 57% to 33% is brutal for Democrats. With a 67% to 26% favorability rating, Vitter’s standing bears no trace of the D.C. Madam scandal.

Pennsylvania: With Senate Democrats in bad shape in Delaware, Arkansas or Nevada, they cannot afford to lose but Rasmussen finds Pat Toomey leading Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak by decisive margins: 47-38 and 43-35, respectively. I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again. I am not sure how a five-term senator can survive trailing by 9% and struggling to break 40%, while Pennsylvanians should be more open to voting for the lesser-known Sestak; that also explains why Toomey is further from 50% in the latter match-up. Yet, Specter manages to keep a comfortable lead in the primary: 51% to 36%. That might have been an encouraging back in the fall, but three months from Election Day, the time has come for Sestak to gain traction.

Governor

Colorado: Rasmussen confirms that replacing Governor Bill Ritter with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has improved Democratic prospects. While Ritter was weighed by a negative approval rating, Hickenlooper is popular (his favorability rating is 56-36); while Ritter trailed Scott McInnis in most late 2009 surveys, Hickenlooper leads 49% to 45%. That might not be anything for Democrats to celebrate, but it does leave them in a better position not just to defend the Governor’s Mansion but perhaps also the Senate seat.

Ohio: The good news for Ted Strickland is that his numbers are no longer in free fall. The bad news is that he stopped the bleeding too late not to look highly endangered. Weighed down by a negative approval rating (46-53) and facing a challenger that appears popular (John Kasich’s favorability rating is 47-30), Strickland trails 47% to 41% according to Rasmussen; that’s slightly less than in January, but it leaves him in a rough spot. Might Ohio Democrats have something to learn something from Colorado?

Illinois: The first poll taken since the Illinois primary found Governor Pat Quinn in a stronger position than he looked to be a few weeks ago, perhaps due to a bounce resulting from the coverage of his victory. Against state Senator Bill Brady, Quinn leads 42% to 31%, with 4% going to Green Party nominee Rich Whitney; against state Senator Kirk Dillard, who trails the GOP primary by 400 votes and has not conceded, Quinn is up 41% to 35%. An important caveat: The poll was conducted by Victory Research, a group I had never heard before.

Pennsylvania: Now that he has gotten rid of Jim Gerlach’s primary threat, Attorney General Tom Corbett looks unstoppable in Rasmussen’s latest poll: He crushes Jack Wagner 49-29, Joe Hoeffel 51-29 and Dan Onorato 52-26. While this is nothing we haven’t seen before, and even if we account for Rasmussen representing the GOP-friendly end of the polling spectrum, the margins by which Corbett is demolishing his opponents bode ill for other Pennsylvania Democrats.

Michigan: Rasmussen’s poll of this wide open race confirms the GOP can be optimistic since Republican candidates lead 11 of 12 trial heats. Only Speaker Andy Dillon  manages a 36-35 edge over Attorney General Mike Cox, though he trails 40-32 against Sheriff Mike Bouchard and 41-34 against Rep. Pete Hoekstra. The other important match-ups concern Lansing Mayor Van Bernero, who trails by 6%, 9% and 13%, respectively. This poll is somewhat surprising, since EPIC-MRA has repeatedly shown Cox to be the strongest Republican in the general election; it is also striking that Democrats looked to be in worse shape when Lieutenant Governor John Cherry was in the race. Cherry never looked to be within striking distance, whereas Bernero and Dillon do.


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Rep. John Murtha dies

Rep. John Murtha died this afternoon due to complications following gallbladder surgery. The 77-year old had represented Western Pennsylvania in the House since winning a special election in 1974, which made him the chamber’s 8th most senior member in the current Congress.

A longtime member of the Appropriations Committee, he directed billions of dollars towards his district and his hometown of Johnstown, a hard-hit region that came to rely on Murtha’s unapologetically aggressive earmarking. Murtha was also a close ally of Nancy Pelosi, and he played a key role in helping the California congresswoman rise in the Democratic leadership. In 2006, Pelosi backed his bid to become Majority Leader in the aftermath of the 2006 midterms.  Murtha lost to Rep. SteveSteny Hoyer but he moved on to chair the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which made him all the more powerful.

Murtha’s final years in Congress will perhaps be best known for his decision to call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops out of Iraq in early 2005; his statement came at a time the Democratic establishment was still largely hostile to withdrawal, and the generally hawkish Murtha, with his strong ties to the defense industries, was the last congressman who would have been expected to lead his party towards an anti-war stance. This led to an ugly incident on the House floor when GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt called Murtha a coward, leading to ten minutes of chaos that ended with Schmidt withdrawing her comments. Yet, in his final years Murtha also attracted criticism over his stance on ethics reform and over corruption allegations against groups in his entourage. While Murtha himself was never investigated, questions arose over his ties to the PMA Group, a lobbying shop raised by the FBI in 2008 that had been able to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of earmarks from Murtha, as well as to other organizations.

I will let you dig more information about Murtha in news outlets like The Washington Post and will move on to this blog’s main beat: What happens next in PA-12? With Murtha’s district now vacant, a special election will be organized, yet another major headache for Democrats at a time they cannot ill afford any more electoral setbacks.

Located in southwestern Pennsylvania, this district is the type of area in which Democrats once dominated but are now struggling as Appalachia’s formerly coal-mining, working-class electorate moved away from the party and towards the GOP. In fact, PA-12 is the only district in the country to have switched from John Kerry in 2004 to John McCain in 2008; in 2000, Al Gore had prevailed by 11%, which means the district took significant rightward drift over the past decade.

In short: The DCCC has to defend a McCain district with voters who were predisposed to punishing Democrats even before they were disproportionately affected by the economic crisis; this makes for a strong pick-up opportunity for Republicans.

However, numerous factors should favor Democrats, the first of which is the election’s timing.

State law gives Governor Ed Rendell 10 days to call a special election, which has to be scheduled at least 60 days after his proclamation. It is highly likely Rendell will choose to hold the general election on May 18th, which is the day of Pennsylvania’s regularly scheduled primaries. Why might that help the Democratic nominee? Democrats are hosting two highly competitive primaries for the Senate and Governor’s races while the Republican primaries are largely uncontested at this point. That means turnout should be higher among Democratic voters, who will have many other reasons to go out to the polls than to vote for Murtha’s successor.

Consider that May 18th will mark the culmination of the rough Specter-Sestak battle, which is now starting to heat up and on which millions will be spent by Election Day; that should sure boost Democratic turnout. Consider also that one of the front-runners in the party’s gubernatorial primary is Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, who will put together a heavy turnout machine in Western Pennsylvania, which is his geographic base (in fact, parts of Allegheny County are in PA-12). Some unions are sure to be heavily involved in both Democratic primaries, and as such they will be major players in turning out voters in PA-12, which is heavily unionized.

Whether they are going to the polls to vote for Specter or Sestak, Onorato or Jack Wagner, most of these Democratic voters will be likely to also punch the ballot for whoever Democrats nominate in the PA-12 special election. The Republican nominee should receive less help, as there will be less players ensuring GOP voters head to the polls (Tom Corbett and Pat Toomey don’t face much competition in the statewide primaries).

Second, PA-12 is mostly Democratic at the local level, which means that the party has a strong bench to choose from.

That should not only also guarantee Democrats not suffer the same fate as in KS-3 or LA-3, open seats in which they are struggling to field a candidate, but that they will have a solid contender. Names that are mentioned include Mark Singel, who served as Lieutenant Governor from 1987 to 1995; state Senator John Wozniak, who has represented Johnstown since 1996; state Senator Richard Kasunic, who has been serving since 1994; state Rep. Bryan Barbin; state Rep. Tad Harhai; and still many other state legislators. (State Rep. Bill DeWeese, who once served as state Speaker, probably cannot run given the criminal charges he is now facing.) The Republican bench is far weaker. The GOP has two candidates currently in the race, Tim Burns and William Russell, its 2008 nominee whom conservatives rallied behind late in the cycle; the NRCC spent more than $1 million on his behalf in the campaign’s final weeks.

The twist: Pennsylvania special elections have no primaries. Just as happens in New York (as we learned in 2009 with vacancies in NY-20 and NY-23), a committee of county party chairs meets to determine a candidate.

This should create quite a confusing situation: Whoever the county chairs place on the general election ballot will not have first established their legitimacy through a primary vote, which means these anointed candidates could face challenges from other members of the party for the right to be the nominee on November’s regularly scheduled ballot. And here is where things get really complicated: If Rendell calls the special election on May 18th, the special election’s general election and the regular election’s primary races will be held on the same day!

This could mean that whoever is nominated in the special election has to fight the opposing party’s candidate while at the same time battling opponents from his own party. If such scenarios occur, all bets are off as to how much support the candidates can expect from their party’s base and how united the respective camps will be. (It’s difficult to predict which party is most at risk here: Democrats have a deeper bench, and thus more potential for politicians seeking to move up, but as we saw in NY-23 the GOP electorate’s mood makes Republicans more receptive to ideological disagreements.)

In short, the PA-12 special has the potential to be just as wild as that in NY-23. While I have tried to argue Democrats have a stronger chance than we would think based on the fact that McCain won the district, there is no question that the DCCC is at serious risk of seeing its streak of 9 consecutive special election victories interrupted.


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Five crucial House races taking shape

AR-02: Democratic candidate jumps in

Democrats have deep benches in the newly open Arkansas districts, which means their primaries are likely to be heated showdowns between some of the state party’s biggest name. The possibility that Lieutenant Governor Brian Halter and Wesley Clark might run in AR-2 did not dissuade House Speaker Robbie Wills to announce his candidacy yesterday. He joins state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who is likely to be the primary’s more liberal option; Wills, meanwhile, seems to be a mainstream Arkansas Democrat, which also means he is not as conservative as Senate Majority Leader Bob Johnson, who is also mentioned as a potential candidate.

At this point, there is no buzz that Republicans might try to find an alternative to former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin. While I know some of you don’t think his prominent role in the U.S. Attorney’s scandal could hurt him, the GOP could try to find a candidate with less baggage; last year Griffin looked as formidable a challenger as the GOP could dream of, but it’s a whole new ball game by now.

PA-10: Carney lands additional challenger

Speaking of former U.S. Attorneys, yet another decided to put his name on the ballot this fall: Thomas Marino announced he would challenge Rep. Chris Carney. Just like Griffin, Marino was forced to resign in 2007, though his exit was not caused by the scandal that erupted around the Bush administration but rather by his ties to Louis DeNaples, whose aggressive efforts to secure a casino license made him the target of a government probe. That is sure to haunt him on the campaign trail; in fact, Democrats have already gone all-out on the issue. (Marino also faces a competitive primary, most notably against Snyder County Commissioner Malcolm Der.)

Carney is apparently very happy letting Democratic Party officials do the dirty work while he portrays himself above the fray. In the statement he released following Marino’s entry in the race, Carney chose instead to highlight the fact that Republicans tried to convince him to switch parties back in December as proof of his independent streak. “Congressman Carney is proud of his bipartisan record in Congress and was flattered to have recently been approached by Sen. John McCain and other Republican leaders about switching parties,” the statement said. “He believes, however, that his job is not about a political party.” This was something everyone saw coming as soon as we read reports about the GOP’s outreach; Republicans really shoot themselves in the foot on this one.

AR-08: Giffords lands her first one

It looked like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would be one junior Democrat who would not face too difficult a re-election race, but the GOP has put competitive AZ-08 on the map by recruiting state Sen. Jonathan Paton. The 38-year Paton has only been serving in the state Senate for a year (he was in the state House before), but his decision to run suggests he is really confident he can pull victory: Arizona law requires state politicians to resign if they want to seek another office, so Paton will now have to leave his job in order to challenge Giffords.

Yet, Giffords has won her first two races with surprising ease - both were double-digit victories, which means she considerably overperformed relatively to Barack Obama’s performance - and she’s one of House Democrats’ most successful fundraisers. Furthermore, Arizona could be more or less susceptible to a red wave depending on who wins the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.

SC-05: PPP confirms a veteran congressman is vulnerable

One of the most powerful House Democrats, Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt has served for 28 years, which makes him as entrenched a congressman as it gets and which means he has survived tough national environments before. Yet, a new PPP survey finds that he is vulnerable to losing his red-leaning South Carolina district: Not only is his approval rating in negative territory (41-42) but he is under 50% against both of his Republican opponents; he tops state Senator Mick Mulvaney 46% to 39% and leads Albert Spencer 46% to 37%.

Given the number of Democratic incumbents who have been trailing by decisive margins - think Reid, Lincoln, Snyder, Driehaus, Hill - for Spratt to post a 7% lead against a state Senator does suggest his standing is better than that of other congressmen; but the fact that such numbers might in any way be spun as good news for Democrats speaks to how rough a landscape they are facing. On the other hand, the poll also finds that Obama has a stronger approval rating than you might expect in districts that voted for John McCain by 7% (46-49).

KS-04: The best defense is offense

Given the environment, a staunchly red Kansan district that voted for Bush by 32% and for McCain by 18% is the last place you would expect Democrats to try and mount an offense. Yet, the DCCC has been so excited by state Rep. Raj Goyle’s candidacy in the open KS-04 that they’ve included the district in the list of their 16 top offensive targets! Goyle has been raising large sums of money for a House challenger; he just reported more than $250,000 in the fourth quarter, and he outraised the most prolific Republican 4:1 in the 3rd quarter. But is this a case in which national parties’ obsessive focus on fundraising strength makes them overstate their chances?

Whatever Goyle’s merits, he has been in the state legislature for only 2 years (so it’s not like he is an entrenched political figure) and if he picked up the seat KS-04 would become one of the most conservative districts represented by a Democrat; is that likely to happen in 2010, especially in a state in which the GOP will enjoy huge victories in statewide elections? It’s good of the DCCC to seek to counter  the narrative that it is stuck playing defense, but it would certainly be a huge surprise if Goyle can make the race close.


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Weekly 2010 update: And so ends Democrats’ hellish week

What has probably been Democrats’ most hellish week since George W. Bush won re-election is coming to a close, but the party won’t be able to easily turn the page. Scott Brown’s upset in Massachusetts will make itself felt in every Senate roll call for the next 3 years; health-care reform, which just 7 days ago looked certain to pass is still tinkering on the verge of collapse with little sign that Democratic leaders are willing to do what it takes to revive it; and the Supreme Court dealt a near-fatal blow to decades of campaign finance reform.

Heading into Tuesday, national Democrats were worried that a Scott Brown victory might unleash Democratic retirements but the party has for now succeeded at convincing its incumbents not to jump ship. In fact, one Democrat who the NRCC was hoping would call it quits is no longer a potential retiree: As West Virginia’s filing deadline is fast approaching (January 30th), Rep. Allan Mollohan filed for re-election so WV-01 will not host an open seat race. That doesn’t mean Democrats can count on keeping the seat (the GOP has a number of strong recruits lined up against Mollohan), but it is obviously a big relief for the DCCC. (Another Democratic incumbent who ruled out retirement this week is Arkansas’s Mike Beebe, who is a rare governor likely to coast to re-election.)

Democrats’ other fear is that the Brown shocker impacts recruitment in other races, and in no state are the stakes more obvious than in Delaware: While conventional wisdom has long been that Beau Biden would run for his father’s seat, it’s been just as obvious that he’s been having cold feet and Coakley’s defeat must be weighing heavily on his mind. Today, Joe Biden confirmed that his son was not sure to run in an interview with The News Journal. An early version of the newspaper’s story mistakenly quoted the vice-president as saying he does not think Beau Biden will run, which unleashed a wave of panic among Democrats this afternoon; but the release of the interview’s transcript, backed up by an audio recording, leaves no doubt that Biden was talking about Senator Ted Kaufman when he said “I know he doesn’t want to [run]” rather than about Beau, as the paper initially claimed.

As such, the story is far less damning for Democrats than it at first looked, but the vice-president’s comments should still worry the party. “Talk Ted into running, if Beau doesn’t,” Biden said in the interview’s corrected version, acknowledging that the odds his son chooses not to run are high enough that he is actively trying to figure out a Plan B. That’s quite a turnaround from the days Beau Biden’s Senate ambitions were so transparent the governor appointed a placeholder to allow him to run in 2010. If Biden might not run, why is he taking this long to make up his mind, thus endangering the possibility another candidate will have time to emerge, raise money and introduce himself?

The week’s most important electoral story I did not get to cover is former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman’s announcement that he would not run for Governor, but I will keep that for a longer post so let us move on to New Mexico, where Republicans have a new candidate: Pete Domenici Jr., the son of former Senator Domenici, has never ran for office before but his last name (and the political connections that go with it) could make him a strong contender in the primary. While this could also help him in the general election, I have trouble seeing him as a step-up for the GOP: The two Republicans who are already running (state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and DA Susana Martinez) are at least as credible as Domenici. This development does nothing to change the fact that Lieut. Gov. Diane Denish remains favored to win the governorship.

In Colorado, Andrew Romanoff announced this week that he would not switch to the Governor’s race, as he had been rumored to be considering after Bill Ritter’s retirement. This has two major consequences. First, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper becomes the heavy favorite to win the party’s nomination. Second, Romanoff is sticking to challenging Senator Michael Bennet in the Senate primary, which I don’t see as a problem for Democrats: Whether Bennet can be successful on the trail remains a question so it’s better he be tested in the primary than the general election - not to mention that given the electorate’s anti-incumbent mood, Democrats could be well-served dumping their weakest incumbents. Romanoff’s bid has not gained much traction for now, but the primary is in August, leaving the race plenty of time to heat up.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats’ underwhelming gubernatorial field shrank by one this week: Democratic businessman Tom Knox announced he was dropping out. Knox had the potential to make a mark: In his run for Philadelphia Mayor, he spent $12 million of his money and came in second to the eventual winner. Reports indicate that Knox left the race after an agreement with Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, who is trying to ensure that he is in a financially dominant position. On the other hand, Knox’s exit leaves Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel as the only candidate from the Philadelphia region (Onorato and Auditor Jack Wagner are both from the Pittsburgh area).

In Kansas, Democrats’ desperate efforts to find a statewide candidate is now focusing on a new name: state Senator Tom Holland, who is openly discussing the possibility he might run for Governor. “If I made a decision to run, it will definitely be to win,” Holland said, but he himself must know just how unlikely it is for him to beat Sam Brownback. At this point, Democrats’ priority isn’t to win the Governor’s or Senate race but simply to ensure the party is enough of a presence not to endanger down-ballot candidates.

As always, I list all the changes I have logged in during the week to the “retirement watch” and recruitment pages. First, updates to Retirement Watch:

Will retire No one
Will not retire Governor Mike Beebe (Arkansas)
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D, WV-01)
Added to retirement watch Rep. John Boozman (AR-03)
Rep. Mike Pence (IN-06)

Second, updates to the Senate recruitment page:

AR-Sen, GOP Rep. John Boozman added to list
AZ-Sen, GOP former Rep. Jay Hayworth will run
IN-Sen, GOP surgeon Tom Haney announced run
LA-Sen, GOP Secretary of State Jay Dardenne ruled out run
NY-Sen, GOP Port Authority Commissioner Bruce Blakeman announced run

Third, updates to gubernatorial races:

AZ-Gov, GOP Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker dropped out
CO-Gov, Dem former Speaker Andrew Romanoff will not run
KS-Gov, Dem state Sen. Tom Holland added
MI-Gov, Dem state Sen. Hansen Clarke dropped out
MD-Gov, GOP state Delegate Patrick McDonough dropped out
MN-Gov, GOP former Auditor Pat Anderson dropped out
former Senator Norm Coleman ruled out run
NM-Gov, GOP Pete Domenici Jr. announced run
PA-Gov, Dem businessmen Tom Knox dropped out

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Poll watch: Dems holds edge in Hawaii, GOP leads Senate races in MO, PA and AR

I have avoided spending much talk about the 2012 presidential race, but two new polls released by Fox News and PPP are worth mentioning since they offer quite contrasting takes on the state of Barack Obama’s standing with the electorate - and thus say a lot about the fact that we still have a lot to learn about what the 2010 landscape will look like and also how it will affect 2012. First, Fox has Obama crushing the 3 Republicans that are matched-up against him: 47% against Mitt Romney, 55% to 31% against Sarah Palin and 53% to 29% against Newt Gingrich. PPP, however, has Obama leading David Petraeus 44% to 34%, Palin 49% to 41%, Romney 44% to 42% - but trailing Mike Huckabee 45% to 44%.

I believe PPP’s survey marks the first time Obama has trailed a match-up since early September 2008 - yet another sign of how much the landscape has shifted in recent months. Yet, Fox News’s numbers leave nothing to be desired for the president - and it is striking that both surveys find that it would be a very bad idea for the GOP to nominate Palin.

Meanwhile, a number of important down-ballot polls were released this week. Our first look at HI-01’s special election and at Hawaii’s gubernatorial election, find that Democrats are leading both, while the first Georgia poll since former Governor Roy Barnes announced he wanted his old job back shows that Democrats have a great shot at regaining a Southern governorship. Yet, the news is mostly news for Republicans, as Democratic incumbents trail in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and IN-09. Perhaps the best news for the GOP is that Robin Carnahan has fallen behind for the first time in Missouri’s Senate race.

House

HI-01: Mason Dixon polled the soon-to-be-called special election in HI-01, which Neil Abercrombie is resigning from. Despite the district’s blue bent, Republicans are optimistic about this opportunity for two reasons. First, They believe Charles Djou is a top-tier candidate; second, they’re hoping that the fact that the special election will have no primary can help them pick-up the seat since 2 Democratic candidates will be splitting their party’s vote. Mason Dixon finds neither reason is justified: Djou receives a low 17%, far behind both Democratic candidates - Ed Case is at 35% while Colleen Hanabusa is at 25%. Looks like HI-01 is blue enough that it can accommodate two Democrats without handing itself over to a Republican. But can it accommodate three? Democrats today received the troubling news that state Senator Will Espero was forming an exploratory committee to join the race. If he manages to gain some traction, it would mean that the Democratic vote would split in three, strengthening Djou’s chances of pulling an upset.

NY-01: Rep. Tom Bishop hasn’t faced a competitive race since he won a tough open seat in 2002, but the GOP’s confidence that it can unseat him in 2010 will be boosted by a new SUSA poll showing the incumbent barely holding on 47% to 45% against challenger Randy Altschuler, a businessman with deep pockets. But here’s the deal: Swing State Project noticed that SUSA’s samples include an absurdly low number of 18-34 year olds - just 1% in this survey! In 2008, 17% of the electorate was made up of 18-29 year olds; sure, turnout among young voters will drop a lot next year, but it certainly won’t fall as low as 1% - it stood at 12% in the 2006 midterms, and that’s the 18-29 rather than the 18-34 year-old group we’re talking about. This skew is bound to have major consequences on what the results look like.

IN-09: The fourth survey in the series of FiredogLake/SUSA polls tested Rep. Baron Hill, and I can’t say I expected the Democrat to trail 49% to 41% against Mike Sodrel, who he’s running against for the 5th straight time. If the survey is confirmed (I never have had reason to doubt SUSA, and the sample’s age breakdown is less problematic than it was in the NY-01 poll), it would guarantee that the cycle will be very tough for Democrats: Hill just crushed him by 20% in 2008, and I recently wrote I found it highly unlikely that Sodrel was the GOP’s best bet. Hill is the third Democratic incumbent SUSA found trailing outside of the MoE in the space of two weeks.

Senate

Missouri: In what is one of the clearest polling signs yet that the midterm landscape has dramatically shifted in the GOP’s favor, the Democratic decline is now even affecting Robin Carnahan. Throughout the fall, I had marveled that she was one of the party’s only candidates nationally who had managed to remain stable - but Rasmussen’s latest poll has Roy Blunt leading 49% to 43%. Not only is this the first Rasmussen survey in which Blunt is ahead (Carnahan led by 2% last month), but it is also one of the first polls taken of this race that has one of the candidates’ leading outside of the margin of error. Sure, on paper Missouri is much more certain to be a Republican hold than OH or NH if the environment favors the party, but Carnahan is undoubtedly one of the cycle’s strongest Democratic recruits; if even she has fallen behind 6%, how are Jack Conway or Paul Hodes supposed to remain competitive?

North Carolina: PPP’s first poll of the year shows the same result it found throughout 2009: Senator Richard Burr inspires little passion among his constituents (his approval rating is an unimpressive 36/33, with 31% saying they have no opinion), he is stuck well under 50% of the vote and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall comes closest. Burr leads 44% to 37% against her, 45% to 36% against Cal Cunningham and 46% to 34% against Kenneth Lewis. The good news for the Republican is that his numbers are slightly better than they were last month, as Marshall then only trailed by 5%. But the good news for Democrats is that this is the first time Marshall performs better than a generic Democrat (who is behind 9%). Burr is undoubtedly the cycle’s most (only?) vulnerable Republican incumbent.

Pennsylvania: Rasmussen’s latest poll finds Pat Toomey expanding the leads he had built in the fall and continue to dominate both Arlen Specter (49% to 40%) and Joe Sestak (43% to 35%). While the two Democrats’ margins are similar, it is far more worrisome for an entrenched senator to trail by 9% (a deficit from which few such incumbents can recover) than for a candidate with no statewide profile to do so. As such, Democrats’ best bet to defeat Toomey remains getting rid of Specter - but here lies the party’s problem: Sestak’s primary momentum appears to have completely stalled. Specter now has a 53% to 31% lead, the largest he has received yet in a Rasmussen poll; back in the summer, I would have said this margin is encouraging for the challenger but now that we are 5 months away from Election Day Sestak’s lack of progress is more consequential.

Arkansas: Yet another rough poll for Blanche Lincoln, this time from Mason-Dixon. Not only does the conservative Democrat trail state Senator Gilbert Baker 43% to 39% and her 2004 opponent Jim Holt 43% to 37%, but she can barely manage leads against a series of low-profile Republicans: she’s up 40-39 against Curtis Coleman, 41-38 against Conrad Reynolds, 43-38 against Kim Hendren and 41-38 against Tom Cox. Sure, Mason Dixon’s numbers aren’t quite as brutal for Lincoln as its Nevada polls have been for Reid, but the fact that a two-term incumbent fails to break out of the low 40s obviously a bad sign - one that is sure to fuel speculation that Democrats might try to push Lincoln out; but the poll also suggests that the best way to do that would be convincing her to retire, since she does have a 52% to 34% lead in a potential match-up against Lieutenant Governor Brian Halter. Sure, that’s no insurmountable margin when we’re talking about a primary race, but it’s not like Halter is an unknown figure.

Governor

Georgia: Here’s one Republican-held seat Democrats have an excellent chance of picking-up! Rasmussen’s poll of the general election has former Governor Ray Barnes performing stronger than Georgia Democrats have grown to expect against a trio of Republicans. John Oxendine is narrowly up 44-42 while Rep. Nathan Deal and SoS Karen Handel are both down 43-42. On the other hand, these Republicans lead by margins ranging from 18% to 12% against Attorney General Baker. This is the very first survey of the state taken since Barnes jumped in the race in June 2009. While the dearth of polling has made us forget that the former Governor’s entry in the race is one of Democrats’ best recruitment coups of the cycle, this survey leaves little doubt that Barnes could help his party regain a footing in the South.

Hawaii: Mason Dixon released the very first poll we have seen of this state, and it suggest Republicans have a better shot than I expected to defend the governorship. While both Democratic candidates are clearly ahead, Lieutenant Governor Aiona does manage to stay in contact: he trail 43% to 34% against Rep. Neil Abercrombie, 41% to 35% against Honolulu Mayor Hannemann. The state holds very late primaries (on September 18th), so it will be quite a while before the Aiona has to worry about Democrats turning their fire on him.

California: General Jerry Brown remains favored to regain his old job back, but he cannot take the general election for granted. The latest Field Poll has Meg Whitman cutting her deficit by half to trail 46% to 36%. Given that her name recognition is about half of Brown’s she has room to grow, and it’s not like Democrats can hope for Whitman to be tripped up in her primary: she has opened a huge 45-17 lead Steve Poizner, who faces a 48% to 31% deficit against Brown. Rasmussen also tested this race and it found Brown leading Whitman by a much smaller margin (43% to 39%), though he is ahead of Poizner by 10%; strangely, the poll also has Senator Diane Feinstein, arguably the state’s most towering political figure, lead Whitman only 43-42. (The poll’s trendline is actually positive for Democrats, since Brown and Whitman were tied in November.) Even though Rasmussen’s numbers are out-of-line with other pollsters’ results, there is little doubt that Brown shouldn’t be considered a shoo-in.

Texas: For the first time, Rasmussen tested this race’s general election, which vindicated conventional wisdom. While Houston Mayor Bill White, has a shot at an upset, he does face an uphill climb - and his chances probably depend on the outcome of the Republican primary. While Perry leads White 50% to 40%, Hutchison is ahead by a larger 52% to 37%, which confirms that White’s potential would be greater if he were to face the incumbent. Interestingly, White has a slight lead when matched-up against libertarian Debra Medina 44% to 38%, suggesting Texas voters are willing not to automatically back the Republican.

Colorado: I covered the Senate half of Research 2000’s Colorado poll earlier this week, but they also released gubernatorial numbers that confirm not only that the race will be competitive but also that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is the strongest of the Democrats who were mentioned as replacements for the retiring Ritter: While Hickenlooper ties probable GOP nominee Scott McInnis at 43%, McInnis has a 2% lead against Ken Salazar (a striking result given Salazar’s statewide profile), a 5% lead over Andrew Romanoff and an 8% lead over Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Here’s further good news for Hickenlooper: Twice as many Democrats as Republicans were undecided in the poll, suggesting he has more room to grow, and he has a slight lead among independents, which is more than can be said of other Democrats across the country.

Maryland: We still have little information on whether former Governor Bob Ehrlich will challenge incumbent Marty O’Malley, but if he does he will start with a 48% to 39% deficit according to a new poll by GOP firm Gonzalez Research; Ehlrich is undoubtedly the only Republican who’d make this race worth watching. The poll also delivers useful confirmation that Barbara Mikulski is one senator Democrats do not have to worry about, since her approval rating stands at 64% to 23%


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NRCC rolls out favorable Pennsylvania news

Mike Sodrel must really have liked serving in the House in 2005 and 2006. This week, he announced that he would seek yet another rematch against Rep. Baron Hill. This will be the two men’s fifth consecutive match-up; Hill won in 2002, lost in 2004, reclaimed his seat back in 2006 and defended it in 2008. Sodrel’s entry certainly puts IN-09 on the map: he has the network and electoral experience to  benefit from a favorable environment just as he did in 2004.

That said, Sodrel is one Republican recruit who isn’t make Democrats shake in their boots. While rematches are sometimes successful, voters are often reluctant to reconsider a decision they’ve already made once; that’s all the more the case when they’ve had to make it four times already! In 2008, Hill crushed 58% to 38%; his prior largest margin of victory had been 5%. While a lot of that is due to Barack Obama’s unexpected ability to transform Indiana politics, there’s no question that district voters no longer seem open to entertaining the thought of backing Sodrel; that would make it hard for him to take advantage of a potential red wave. In further proof of Sodrel’s diminished stock, he will face his first contested primary in eight years: attorney Todd Young has been running since early 2009, and he has mounted a credible enough campaign to wrestle the nomination from Sodrel.

Sodrel might not make IN-09 a GOP success story, but over the past few days the NRCC have managed to expand the map yet again, putting in play two PA districts (PA-08, PA-17) while solidifying their chances in a third (PA-06).

In PA-08, Rep. Patrick Murphy did not appear to have much to fear in 2010: His district voted for John Kerry (albeit only by 3%) and backed Obama by 9% in 2008. Certainly not unwinnable by the GOP, but the party certainly has more promising districts to go after next year. Yet, the congressman Murphy defeated back in 2006 - former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick - just announced he will be running for his old job; he lost by just 1,521 votes that year. The major caveat to Fitzpatrick’s candidacy is that he only represented the district for one term. In fact, Fitzpatrick won his only congressional race in bizarre circumstances: longtime Rep. Greenwood announced he was dropping out after the primary, so Democrats weren’t able to replace the sacrificial lamb they had already nominated which allowed Fitzpatrick to score an easier victory than he should have given the district’s demographics. Despite the fact that Fitzpatrick won’t be able to rely on a long relationship with district voters, he is a rare Republican who can at least put the district on the map.

In PA-17, the NRCC managed to recruit a top candidate who just two months ago had said he was “99% certain” not to run, yet another sign that Republicans are increasingly confident that they can score great gains in this fall: This sets up 9-term Blue Dog Rep. Tim Holden’s first competitive race since he unexpectedly survived a redistricting-induced fight against a fellow incumbent back in 2002. Holden was not supposed to win that race, by which I mean that PA-17 was drawn to ensure GOP Rep. George Gekas’s re-election; it’s a conservative district that gave Bush a 16% victory in 2004 and McCain a 3% victory in 2008. Can state Senator Dave Argall succeed in picking-up the district Gekas failed to hold? Holden’s stature leaves him as the clear favorite, but there is no question that the DCCC will have to seriously sweat it out for yet another longtime incumbent.

In PA-06, finally, the NRCC has successfully cleared one of the obstacles to Rep. Jim Gerlach’s road to the GOP nomination: After initially announcing that he would stick to the race and blasting Gerlach for treating the district as a “consolation prize,” Rep. Curt Schroder announced today that he was dropping out. The anguished statement he released to explain his decision cites as a main reason the financial difficulties he was sure to face; the statement also clears any ambiguity there might have been about Schroeder’s ideological profile: he cites former Reps. Bob Walker and Pat Toomey (both known as staunch conservatives) as people he “highly respects,” which would have made for an interesting general election campaign in a district Obama won by 17%.

With Schroder’s out, Gerlach’s only obstacle to the Republican nomination (and to Democratic hopes that they won’t have to face the incumbent in November) is businessman Steven Welch, who could continue relying on his personal fortune to overcome the financial challenge of facing an incumbent. Before settling on any plan, will Welch at least check in with the Club for Growth about their interest in opposing Gerlach?

For Democrats to receive some good news tonight, let’s end this post in southwestern Virginia, as the NRCC has suffered an important recruitment blow in VA-09: In their efforts to expand the map and to target Rep. Rick Boucher in a district that gave McCain a 19% victory, Republicans had been heavily courting state Delegate Terry Kilgore. (You’ll probably recognize his last name, as he is the brother of the GOP’s 2005 gubernatorial candidate, who led for most of the race before losing to Kaine.) Yet, Kilgore announced last week that he would not challenge Boucher, which is a relief for the 14-term incumbent. Republicans are now courting state Sen. William Wampler, though he doesn’t appear likely to get in. As we learned in PA-17, the NRCC won’t rest until the filing deadline has passed, but VA-9 is shaping to be one conservative district the GOP won’t be able to put on the map.



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  • All good things must come to an end

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  • What remains on the table

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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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