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10:21 AM PT: FL-Gov: Whoa. Check out the stink lines coming off of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, according to PPP's first poll of the cycle. His approval rating has sunk to a horrific 33-57 (down from 37-48 in November) and is getting pounded in the head-to-heads versus an array of Democrats:

• 39-53 vs. ex-Gov. Charlie Crist

• 40-47 vs. 2010 nominee Alex Sink

• 39-43 vs. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio

• 42-44 vs. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

• 41-37 vs. state Sen. Nan Rich

• 41-37 vs. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Ouch! The important thing is not so much how Scott performs against each potential opponent but rather the fact that he can't clear 42 percent against anyone. Even against unknowns like Dyer and Rich (the only declared candidate so far), Scott's distance to 50%+1 is as long as the Florida coastline. The numbers do still matter, though, and Crist has to find them heartening: His transition to the Democratic Party now seems complete, with an impressive 73-17 favorability rating among Democratic primary voters. That's helping to power him to 49-38 favorables overall, and makes him the only would-be candidate whose name recognition matches Scott's.

It's also why, predictably, Crist leads a hypothetical kitchen-sink primary (not including DWS, who's pretty much said she won't run) by a wide margin:

Crist: 52

Sink: 18

Iorio: 13

Dyer: 4

Rich: 1

Undecided: 12

It looks like the nomination is Crist's for the taking, if he wants it. While he certainly has many flaws as a candidate, Scott's flaws are simply so much greater that Crist winds up stacking up very well. But what if Scott isn't the GOP nominee? Well, we can count our lucky stars that 50 percent of Republican primary voters still want him as their standard bearer, while 40 percent prefer "someone else." Scott won't want to get too comfortable, though: He actually trails ex-Rep. Allen West 38-37 in a fantasy head-to-head (but he leads AG Pam Bondi, whose name rec I'm sure is low, 49-25).

No, I'm not expecting West to issue a primary challenge to Scott, and I don't think Tom Jensen does, either. But the point is that if establishment Republicans decide they need to pitch Scott overboard, they could make it happen, even against his will. Of course, Scott is exceedingly wealthy and could make life hell for his party if, under this scenario, he refuses to go quietly. That's wishing for too much, though. Sure, things can change in two years, but right now, I'd be more than happy for us to take on Rick Scott directly.

10:50 AM PT: FL-19: Trey Radel is one of the more anonymous freshman of the 113th Congress: He's a 36-year-old conservative talk radio host who won the GOP primary in the dark-red seat left open by Connie Mack (on account of his disastrous Senate bid) with a mere 30 percent plurality, thanks in part to some mystery super PAC spending on his behalf. But right-wing radio host sitting in right-wing district... that's a recipe for crazy, right? Yep, it sure is: Radel, just weeks into his term, is already saying that impeaching Obama "should be on the table." He joins maniac Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, who made similar remarks on Monday, in the impeacher caucus. Please, by all means, keep up the chatter!

11:32 AM PT (David Jarman): FL-18: Things we now know that Allen West won't be doing in 2014: running a rematch against Patrick Murphy, the Dem freshman who beat him in November. (West sent out a statement confirming that, on Wednesday.) Things that he hasn't ruled out doing: running for a different, redder House district in Florida if one comes open, running for Governor in a primary against Rick Scott... or far more likely, cashing in on his two years of notoriety by joining the right-wing talking-head brigade, something he says he's already taken the first step towards with a new Internet TV program through PJ Media.

So is that good news or bad for Murphy? On the one hand, whoever opposes him will have much less money than West, but on the other hand, they'll also have more discipline and a better reputation. State Sen. Joe Negron is one name that immediately comes to mind (he's the guy who almost succeeded Mark Foley in 2006, and probably would have had he not been penalized by having to run as Mark Foley on the ballot).

11:54 AM PT (David Jarman): SC-01: There have been breathless updates from the right-o-sphere on almost daily basis for the last week that Mark Sanford's entry into the special election race for the vacant 1st was imminent. So, the fact that he made an official announcement on Wednesday morning was certainly not a surprise. Now, the eternal question resurfaces: is it better to have bad publicity... or to have no publicity, the problem facing the other little-known state legislators considering the race? Whether he wins may boil down to how many other candidates get into the Republican primary race and split the non-Sanford votes, but then, South Carolina is a runoff state, so he could still wind up losing if he gets forced into a second round against just one not-Sanford who gets social-conservative backing.

Actually, here's one more potential GOP candidate surfacing who's in a similar "bad-publicity > no-publicity" boat: Thomas Ravenel. (RCP's article seems to treat him as a candidate, though he doesn't seem to have progressed beyond the "considering" stage.) On the one hand, Ravenel has a last name that's a dominant one in Low Country politics, and he served briefly as state Treasurer. On the other hand, he had to resign that job after getting indicted on federal cocaine distribution charges, for which he later pled guilty.

12:13 PM PT (David Jarman): NRCC: The NRCC put out a list of its seven top targets for 2014 on Wednesday, and I've gotta wonder if they're getting a little lazy, as it's basically a list of the seven Democrats with the reddest congressional districts based on 2012 presidential numbers: Ron Barber, John Barrow, Ann Kirkpatrick, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Collin Peterson, and Nick Rahall. (I count only two other Dems in districts that Mitt Romney narrowly won, and those are freshmen Patrick Murphy and Pete Gallego.) Of course, given the ever-steeper decline in ticket-splitting, and the increased segmentation of the nation into top-to-bottom blue and red districts, that may be all they need to do. The only name that surprises me is Peterson, who, despite a 44/54 district, has had no trouble with re-election, even in 2010. Of course, that's had much to do with the quality of his challengers, so maybe the NRCC has someone better in mind who might step up this time.

1:43 PM PT (David Jarman): A subsequent interview with Allen West makes it clear that he isn't running for anything at all. As for the idea of running in a primary against Rick Scott, he says "That's one of the most asinine things I've ever heard." Instead, he says he has "bigger [i.e. more lucrative] fish to fry."

2:01 PM PT: NYC Mayor: As expected, former MTA chief Joe Lhota, who just quit his job in anticipation of a mayoral run under the Republican banner, is getting absolutely creamed in Quinnipiac's new poll:

• 17-62 vs. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

• 17-57 vs. Public Advocate Bill De Blasio

• 19-55 vs. 2009 nominee Bill Thompson

Lhota is, however, leading a hypothetical GOP primary with 23 percent, versus 9 percent for grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis (who may not run) and diddly for some other weaklings; more than half of registered Republicans are undecided. There's also little motion in the Dem primary compared to two months ago, with Quinn far ahead at 35. DeBlasio, Thompson, and Comptroller John Liu are all bunched between 9 and 11 percent. (Oddly, Quinnipiac insists on referring to him as "William Thompson," which might be artificially depressing his numbers since he's strictly known as "Bill." It'd be like asking about William Clinton's favorables.)

Incidentally, I dug up Quinnipiac's first-ever poll on Mike Bloomberg from 2001, and the numbers Bloombo faced back then (in May) are amusingly similar to what Lhota's seeing now:

• City Council Speaker Peter Vallone over Bloomberg 58 - 19 percent, with 19 percent undecided;

• Public Advocate Mark Green over Bloomberg 62 - 19 percent, with 16 percent undecided;

• City Comptroller Alan Hevesi over Bloomberg 57 - 20 percent, with 19 percent undecided;

• Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer over Bloomberg 52 - 24 percent, with 19 percent undecided.

Of course, there are a few wee differences between then and now. The 9/11 attacks took place just two months before the election and elevated Rudy Giuliani (whose public image had suffered badly over the prior two years) to a status that is probably unparalleled in American politics, at least for a local official. Rudy's late endorsement, combined with Bloomberg's immense fortune and Mark Green's horrid political skills, allowed Bloomberg to eke out a remarkable 49-47 victory. Suffice it to say, this remarkable confluence of events will not be replicated for Lhota.

2:11 PM PT: ME-Gov: Former Gov. John Baldacci confirms the scuttlebutt: He says he's "thinking about" a run for governor in 2014, against Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Baldacci served two terms before leaving office in 2011 and is now affiliated with the wankerish "Fix the Debt" movement (see Paul Krugman's takedown of this bogus group here).

2:18 PM PT: NC-Sen: Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who was included in PPP's new North Carolina poll this week as a possible Republican challenger to Sen. Kay Hagan, is being cagey about whether he's actually interested in running. Said Berger on Wednesday: "There have been some folks who have approached me about that, but I'm focused on what we're doing in the General Assembly at this time. I am not running for any other office at this time." Sounds like a classic dodge to me.

2:50 PM PT: P.S. Man, what a jagoff:

Facing a highly critical group of black legislators, Gov. Rick Scott largely defended his record Tuesday but distanced himself from a controversial election law that led to fewer early-voting days and long lines.

Scott agreed with black lawmakers that the 2011 election law contributed to the chaos at the polls in November, including long lines all over the state and up to seven-hour waits in Miami-Dade. But Scott, who is seeking re-election in 2014, said it was largely a decision of the Legislature.

"It was not my bill," Scott said. "We've got to make changes, I agree. ... The Legislature passed it. I didn't have anything to do with passing it."

Jesus. You signed it, schmuckface, and you defended it in court!

2:57 PM PT: NC-Gov: PPP's first batch of North Carolina miscellany in the new year is pretty unremarkable. Newly elected Republican Gov. Pat McCrory starts out with a 45-19 job approval rating, though we'll see where that heads, since his buddies in the GOP-controlled legislature are at a pitiful 16-50.

3:10 PM PT: MA-Gov: State Sen. Dan Wolf's name has come up as a possible gubernatorial contender before, but now we're hearing from the horse's mouth. Wolf says he is "absolutely thinking about" a run for governor, joining a sizable group of Democrats who say they're potentially interested in the job. Wolf is the founder of a regional airline, Cape Air, which now employs over 1,000 people and has $100 million in annual revenues, so I'm suspecting he has some personal wealth. He also sounds like a bona fide progressive: Check out this op-ed he wrote in support of Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign, calling her "the real pro-business candidate" and saying of himself: "I didn't 'build' Cape Air alone — many of us built it together." Really good stuff.

3:19 PM PT: MN-Gov: Toss another name on the pile of Republicans considering a run against Dem Gov. Mark Dayton: state Sen. Julie Rosen, who says she's "looking into" a gubernatorial bid. Her name came up last year as a potential candidate against Dem Rep. Tim Walz in MN-01, but she did not make the plunge.

3:29 PM PT: TX-Gov: New semi-annual fundraising reports are in, and Republican AG Greg Abbott continues to rake in huge dough. In the last six months of 2012, he took in $4.1 million, giving him an eye-popping $18 million cash-on-hand. The man everyone is sure Abbott would like to replace, Gov. Rick Perry, raised pretty well himself, pulling in $3.6 million, but he only has about $6 million in the bank. What I'm curious about is which moneyed interests think there's cheddar they can get out of Abbott that they can't squeeze out of Perry.

3:54 PM PT: WV-Sen: If you're looking for a more in-depth roundup of possible Democratic replacements for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Rothenberg's Nathan Gonzales has you covered. He doesn't cite any new names but offers a detailed rundown of each of the key figures who are considering bids. Gonzales also takes a look at potential GOP challengers to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the lone declared Republican so far, though he comes away skeptical that anyone will jump. (Businessman Bill Maloney "doesn't appear to be initially enthusiastic" after two straight unsuccessful gubernatorial runs.)

And speaking of which, probably the top hope of the Club for Growth, 1st District Rep. David McKinley, told the National Journal's Amy Harder on Tuesday that he "plans to support" Capito, in Harder's words. That means that wingers unsatisfied with the "moderate" Capito are going to have to dig very deep to find a potential standard-bearer. However, Maloney came from out of nowhere to upset establishment choice Betty Ireland in the 2011 special primary for governor (which, as is typically the case in West Virginia, featured very low turnout), so I wouldn't close the books on this one just yet.

Finally, there's a new interview with Dem Rep. Nick Rahall in which he confirms he's "looking at" a Senate run but sounds oddly unenthusiastic. Says Rahall:

You have to have a fire in your belly—you have to have that fire in your belly to take on a statewide race. That's something that perhaps I have lacked in my last couple campaigns in southern West Virginia, but I really feel—I really feel—if, I embark upon this path, that fire will be in my belly.
I find that to be a strange remark. Proverbial "fire in the belly" is like being hungry: You can't make yourself feel hunger—either you are or you aren't. Rahall can spend the next six months on a quest to find that fire, but if it's not there right now, I don't see how it ever will be.

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