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WV-Sen, WV-02: Republicans have landed their biggest fish in West Virginia on Monday, where 2nd District Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced a challenge to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for re-election in 2014, thanks to his state's sharp movement toward the GOP in recent years. The 75-year-old Rockefeller has yet to announce whether he will, in fact, seek a sixth term in the Senate, and a surprisingly anti-coal speech he delivered earlier this year hinted that he might be ready to retire. (Coal is king in the Mountain State and not easily crossed.)

Capito, the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore, has generally cultivated a profile that has placed her in the left-most quadrant of the congressional GOP, and she's not the type of Republican pol who's likely to embarrass herself or her party. It's easy to imagine she's making such an early announcement in order to push Rockefeller into retirement, but I could also believe she's trying to ward off a tea party-fueled assault from the right in her own primary.

Indeed, the Club for Growth is already out with a statement banging Capito, accusing her of having "a long record of support of bailouts, pork, and bigger government." The Senate Conservatives Fund has also joined the circular firing squad in aiming their weapons at Capito (and themselves). SCF, the brainchild of wingnut South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, says they can't support Capito because "her spending record in the House is too liberal."

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(And in 2011, conservative businessman Bill Maloney upset former SoS Betty Ireland, the establishment pick, for the GOP nod in the special gubernatorial election. It's also worth noting that a mere 60,000 votes were cast in that primary, making it ripe for mischief. And Maloney's better-than-expected performance in his subsequent rematch attempt this year might make him interested in another bid for office.)

But where does this leave Rockefeller? An August poll from R.L. Repass & Partners actually found him trailing Capito 48-44 in what was at the time a hypothetical matchup. But Repass, which used an odd combination of live and online respondents, didn't perform particularly well this cycle—the same poll, for instance, had Dem Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin up 21 points in a race he barely won by five. That suggests the survey may have been too pro-Dem, but on the flipside, Repass was looking at likely 2012 voters. In 2014, Obama won't be at the top of the ticket, so anti-POTUS sentiment will provide less fuel for Republicans.

Rockefeller and the DSCC are obviously conducting their own polling (which we'll likely never see), and that, not anything from Repass, will inform his decision. His age, his health, and his desire to fight a bruising campaign will also presumably play a role. But while on paper Rocky, as the incumbent, has to be considered the Dems' best hope for holding this seat, I'm also concerned that his remarks about coal could be used to make him radioactive through a harsh and sustained negative campaign. So it's possible that a replacement candidate might, in the end, fare better. Who could that be?

Despite WV's hard-right turn of late, there are still tons of Democratic elected officials in the state, many of whom might be interested in moving up. At the top of the list is probably ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin, who, as an appointee, briefly served out the final months of the late Robert Byrd's term in 2010. Other possibilities include WV-03 Rep. Nick Rahall (though he barely hung on this year with under 54 percent), state House Speaker Rick Thompson, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, and perhaps even ex-Gov. Bob Wise. (I'd guess Tomblin, having run in two elections for governor in two straight years, probably isn't interested.) Undoubtedly, if Rockefeller steps down (or dithers), many more names will emerge.

Meanwhile, Rockefeller's statement in response to Capito's announcement was not exactly full of fire and brimstone. He certainly doesn't sound like someone burning for another run:

"[E]veryone I talk to in West Virginia is tired of the non-stop campaigning," Rockefeller said. "West Virginians just want us to do our jobs, and for me that means focusing full-time on the serious issues at hand. Politics can wait."

He added that Capito called him last week to let him know that she intended to run. "But my total focus right now is on the national budget situation and the fight for West Virginia families," he said.

Meanwhile, Capito's move makes WV-02, which stretches from the state capital of Charleston all the way to DC's outer 'burbs in the eastern panhandle, the first official House open seat of the 2014 cycle. While Capito was the first Republican to win a congressional race in West Virginia since 1983 when she was first elected in 2000, the 2nd District now, oddly, appears to be the most Dem-friendly of the state's three seats, at least judging by 2012 presidential returns. But at 60 percent Romney, it's certainly not friendly per se, though a local pol with the right profile could make a serious go at flipping this seat.

Some potential names here would again include Tennant and Goodwin, 2006 candidate Mike Callaghan, and perhaps state Senate Majority Leader John Unger. On the GOP side, Ireland is a possibility. As always, we'll be following all future developments, both at the Senate and House levels, very closely.

Gubernatorial:

ME-Gov: The Maine governor's race may shape up to be one of 2014's most interesting. First-term GOP Gov. Paul LePage's abrasive style helped return both houses of the legislature to the Democrats this fall, and Team Blue is eager to gun hard for the governor's mansion. But Dems have actually come in third in the last two major statewide elections (for Senate this year and governor two years ago) thanks to the presence of strong independent candidates—and the indie who relegated them to bronze in 2010, Eliot Cutler, looks set to run again. What's more, LePage himself has sounded very non-committal about seeking re-election, and I could definitely see him choosing to bail.

Right now, though, we're only at the Great Mentioner stage in terms of possible Democratic candidates. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud could both make a go of it, though Michaud would likely be the stronger candidate since he's had a lot of success running in Maine's more conservative 2nd District. Other potentials include former House Speaker Hannah Pingree (daughter of Chellie), current House leader Emily Cain, incoming Senate President Justin Alfond, and incoming House Speaker Mark Eves. And because the legislature gets to pick the state's constitutional officers, the "presumptive favorites" for each post (according to reporter Steve Mistler) could all make a go of it: Matt Dunlap (secretary of state), Janet Mills (attorney general), and Jeremy Fischer (treasurer).

MN-Gov: Retiring one-term GOP state Rep. John Kriesel says he's considering a run for governor, but seeing as he decided to quit the legislature to "spend more time with my family" (actual quote), it's kind of a "duh" observation that this move wouldn't actually help with that (something even Kriesel himself acknowledges). The real reason Kriesel didn't seek re-election, though, is because his seat became much bluer after redistricting and ultimately elected a Democrat. But he does stand out for his unusual profile: He's a 31-year-old Army vet who lost both legs in Iraq and is a vocal supporter of gay marriage. However, I have a hard time seeing how someone with a record like that makes it through a Republican convention and/or primary.

NE-Gov: Toward the end of the linked article, Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star details an emerging fault line in the brewing GOP primary between Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood. Earlier this year, Flood pushed through an override of a veto by outgoing Gov. Dave Heineman of a bill that offered prenatal services to illegal immigrants. Flood depicts the legislation as pro-life, while Sheehy (who's already been endorsed by Heineman) frames it as supporting illegal immigration. It'll be interesting to see which view wins out in this battle over the conservative soul, but I'm going to guess Sheehy has the "winning" argument.

NJ-Gov (PDF): Another day, another poll showing titanic approval numbers for GOP Gov. Chris Christie. Fairleigh Dickinson University re-contacted a panel of respondents after Hurricane Sandy to find out how their views on Christie had changed: Before the storm, they gave him a strong 56 percent job approval; afterward, that shot up to sky-high 77 percent. Also on Monday, Christie formally filed to seek re-election. With ratings like these, will any top-tier Democrat also take the plunge?

PA-Gov: John Hanger, a former head of the Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, just became the first Democrat to announce a run for governor on Monday, only a couple of weeks after first floating his name. And Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski, whose name had also been mentioned, is quoted on the record for the first time expressing interest in a possible bid.

We also have some "nos" as well: Sen. Bob Casey (who just won re-election) and ex-Gov. Ed Rendell (who served the maximum of two consecutive terms before retiring in 2010) sound like they won't run, though Casey seems to be leaving the door open a crack while Rendell basically confirms that he prefers being a pain-in-the-ass gasbag on TV. (Oddly, Rendell claims he isn't even allowed to run again, but that doesn't seem to be the case.) Finally, ex-Rep. and noted honey badger Joe Sestak says he's still "very interested" in public service but is refusing to talk about a possible 2014 run.

House:

CO-06: One thing I don't like about slow vote counting is that when a race is called on election night, that margin tends to be what sticks in people's heads—but often the final result is quite a bit different. Case in point is Colorado's 6th, where Democrat Joe Miklosi trailed Rep. Mike Coffman by around five percent after the initial tally on Nov. 6. But as Colorado has finally gotten around to adding up all votes cast, the margin has narrowed considerably. Coffman's now up about 7,000 votes, or just around two percent. While all this does for 2012 is make Miklosi's narrow miss all the more painful, it also matters for 2014, since Coffman (who took less than 48 percent) should definitely be at the top of Democratic target lists.

IL-02: Well, we have our first official candidate in the race to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who got smashed by Jackson earlier this year in the Democratic primary. Indeed, I'm a bit shocked that Halvorson is trying once more—but then again, I thought it was absurd when she ran the first time, and that belief was borne out by her abysmal 71-29 loss. I have no idea how she'll approach her donors and beg them to give again after that showing, but seeing as she only pulled in $150K for her most recent bid, it doesn't seem like she has much goodwill left. (She also left almost $250K unspent from her 2010 defeat in IL-11, an amazingly boneheaded move.)

There's also the fact that this district is heavily black and is very likely to elect an African American to succeed JJJ. As we've suggested previously, Halvorson might be hoping for a crowded primary and a split field, but as they say about teams that need other clubs to lose in order to make the playoffs, she wouldn't exactly control her own destiny if that's the path to victory she's relying on.

But there do in fact seem to be a billion other names circulating via the Great Mentioner, in addition to those we've previously noted ourselves. The Hill pulls together a bunch: state Sen. Donne Trotter, incoming state Sen. Napoleon Harris, Chicago Aldermen Anthony Beale and Will Burns, ex-state Reps. David Miller and Robin Kelly, attorney Sam Adam, Jr., disgraced ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds, and ex-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. The WaPo also lists Jackson's wife, Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, though she is also reportedly under investigation as well, just like her husband. And The Hotline rounds up several quotes from potential contenders and also suggests Jackson's brother Jonathan Jackson as a possibility.

P.S. Gov. Pat Quinn has set the special primary for Feb. 26 and the general for March 19. However, Quinn actually wants the general to take place on April 9, when regularly scheduled municipal elections will be conducted. State law requires an earlier date, but Quinn says he wants to work with the legislature to change the law so that the elections can be consolidated.

NY-11: The House Ethics Committee has announced that it will suspend its inquiry into GOP Rep. Mike Grimm's alleged campaign finance violations at the request of the Department of Justice, which is conducting its own criminal investigation. This is standard operating procedure for the committee, which usually tries to avoid interfering with law enforcement agencies' ongoing criminal probes—and it's also bad news for Grimm, since the DoJ thinks its case is serious enough to warrant this precaution.

The Justice Department's request was apparently prompted by a recent vote of the ethics committee to continue looking into the Grimm matter even though the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which referred the case to the House in the first place, believed it lacked jurisdiction because the purported misdeeds took place before Grimm was elected to office. But the House says that it can investigate conduct "which occurred during an initial campaign" for Congress, as Grimm's allegedly did. That means that regardless of what happens at Justice, Grimm still faces a possible continued investigation by the House, even if it's temporarily on hold.

NY-21: Dem Rep. Bill Owens has won each of his elections by about two percent or less, so it's no surprise that folks are already talking about taking him on again in 2014. Tea partier Kellie Greene, who got whomped in the GOP primary this year, says she is "seriously considering" another run, and incoming Queensbury Supervisor Mark Westcott is refusing to rule out a bid. Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun is also a possibility. Perhaps most notable, accountant Doug Hoffman, whose bids in 2009 and 2010 screwed things up for the Republicans both times, is weighing the race as well, saying he has to "read the tea leaves." One other GOPer, Assemblyman-elect Dan Stec, doesn't sound terribly interested.

Other Races:

CA-SoS: California's musical chairs are once again starting to rotate: Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, who faces term limits, says he will run for secretary of state in 2014. The current SoS, Democrat Debra Bowen, is also termed out then. Expect to see plenty more of this as term limits hit all manner of officeholders throughout the state.

And speaking of musical chairs, the first round of special elections set in motion by the November general election is about to begin. Ballotpedia, as per usual, is keeping track of all the state legislative vacancies which will soon have to be filled (including two so far in California and another five elsewhere). Only one has been scheduled as yet, in South Carolina's HD-17 (for March 12).

Grab Bag:

Ads: Remember the stories a few weeks ago about how the Obama camp used an intensely quantitative approach to "optimizing" their ad buys, piecing together a blanket out of cheap parts (mostly on cable) instead of spending big on the most highly watched spots? The Des Moines Register did a deep dive into one of the nation's busiest media markets (the Omaha market, more important because of western Iowa than NE-02), and what they found puts an exclamation point on how effective that was.

In the five final weeks before the election, Mitt Romney and his outside-group allies spent $3,644,600 in the Omaha market; Barack Obama spent a puny $144,800. And yet, 13,000 more Obama ads aired than did Romney ads! Now, it's quite likely that those Romney spots still hit more eyeballs overall than Obama's, assuming they were aired on more highly watched shows. But it's heartwarming to see that a flood of outside money not only can't buy you an election, but that it can't even buy you an effective ad strategy. (David Jarman)

Maps: If you've been looking for the best interactive map of 2012 county-level election results to bookmark, this one (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal) looks like the best. You can switch back and forth to see D-trending and R-trending counties over both 08-12 and 04-12 timeframes, and you can also break out results according to the clever little psychographic categories (like "Moneyed Burbs" and "Evangelical Epicenters" that the WSJ developed in its "Patchwork Nation" series. (It's much easier to look at that than the NYT's eye-melting offering this year, which is great if you want to experience an acid flashback.) Note, though, that the WSJ isn't up to date on some late-counting counties (mostly in California) that have now flipped to Obama. (David Jarman)

Polltopia: If you missed it over the Thanksgiving break, here's a good retrospective from Nate Silver at 538, squaring his state-level projections against how the states actually performed. The piece is titled "Where Obama and Romney Beat Their Polls," but that might not be the best title, since the deviation from the 538 projections seems dependent on how much the states were polled, which, thanks to the law of large numbers, dovetails with how well they were polled. The swing states were pretty much predicted spot-on, while the woefully underpolled states (where there wasn't much polling evidence to go on, and Silver's predictions were basically a test special sauce instead) saw the biggest variations.

Indeed, if you look at the map (where, for instance, West Virginia and Hawaii were some of the biggest outliers), the article seems to give a lot of support to dreaminonempty's theory that blue state polling tends to underestimate Dem votes and red state polling tends to underestimate GOP votes. However, that doesn't explain the way the pollsters missed the blue trend in Alaska and Mississippi this year ... though I speculated a bit on what might be behind that in an article on Sunday. (David Jarman)

Pres-by-CD: Oh boy do we have a ton of candy for all you kids. Thanks to jeffmd's hard work over the Thanksgiving weekend, we've got official presidential results by congressional district in a whole bunch of new states:

Arkansas
Florida (22 of 27 districts)
Hawaii
Idaho
Indiana (2 of 9 districts)
Louisiana
New Hampshire

A few quick thoughts: Arkansas was exactly the charnel-house you'd have expected, and the disastrous results there make Democrats' refusal to aggressively (or even half-heartedly) gerrymander the congressional map an even bigger failure, now that Dems have since lost both houses of the legislature. There's a ton to chew over in Florida, but two things stand out: (1) Even though Obama slipped a sizable seven points in FL-18 (going from a 51-48 win over McCain to a 48-52 loss to Romney), Democrat Patrick Murphy was still able to unseat GOP Rep. Allen West; and (2) despite winning statewide by a narrower margin this time, Obama improved in all three of Florida's southern-most districts: the 25th, 26th, and 27th. Indeed, both 26 and 27 flipped from McCain '08 to Obama '12, and the 25th shrunk from +8 McCain to +2 Romney.

Hawaii's two districts were both very similar (around 70 percent Obama each), but in HI-01, Dem Rep. Colleen Hanabusa may have set this cycle's record for worst underperformance with her nine-point win over ex-Rep. Charles Djou. There isn't much to see in Idaho, and Indiana is still a work in progress. In Louisiana, you can see what a fine job Republicans did in packing Democratic voters into the 2nd, which went 76 percent for the president; no other district even gave Obama 40 percent. And finally in New Hampshire, while the POTUS dipped in the state's two districts, he still won both, including the 1st by about 1.5 percent. That probably helped Democrat Carol Shea-Porter unseat GOP freshman Frank Guinta.

Redistricting: No doubt you've seen a lot of ink spilled about how the GOP's majority in the upcoming Congress is built on a foundation of gerrymandering (as seen in the oft-repeated data point that Dems won the aggregate House vote yet aren't in the majority). But if you zoom in to Ohio, that's put in even starker relief: Only 4 of the 16 House members in that closely divided swing state are Democrats, thanks to the GOP-drawn map. University of Minnesota's Smart Politics looks back at Ohio's history and finds that unprecedented: 25 percent is the lowest share of an Ohio House delegation that comes from the newly elected president's party since the rise of the two-party system in the 1820s. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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