• SD-Sen: Republicans picked up their second heavyweight Senate recruit in a week, though this one had been telegraphed for a while: Former Gov. Mike Rounds, who had previously formed what he dubbed an exploratory committee, formally announced on Thursday morning that he'd take on Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Rounds was a surprise victory in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2002, sneaking through after the two main contenders bashed each other to death. He went on to win two terms and generally had high approval ratings, except for a time in 2006 following his attempt to enact legislation banning nearly all abortions. (It was overturned at the ballot box that fall.) Presumably, Rounds' entry will clear the field, though given movement conservative anger, you never want to say never.
As for Johnson, the big question is will he or won't he (seek reelection, that is). In 2006, Johnson suffered a very scary and dangerous stroke-like episode involving bleeding in the brain which required emergency surgery and extensive rehabilitation. The incident still affects his mobility and speech, but reports over the years indicate he has improved markedly, and his mental acuity never suffered, though he sometimes still uses a wheelchair and cane.
Johnson did avoid a serious challenge in 2008, since his long recovery made top-tier Republicans wary of jumping in and running an aggressive race lest they look callous. But he had a couple of pretty remarkable wins under his belt prior to that. His first victory in 1996 came against GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, and let's just say that unseating a Republican incumbent (who isn't under indictment) in a red state in a presidential year is truly a hell of a thing. In 2002, Johnson was a top GOP target but managed to win narrowly against John Thune—the same John Thune who went on to beat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle just two years later.
So his physical condition may not be tops, but Johnson is quite the politician. And he's sounding more enthused about the possibility of another run than, say, Jay Rockefeller is in West Virginia:
"As in past campaigns, I will make my formal announcement later next year," he said in the statement. "But I feel great, still have work to do, and I fully intend to put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead."I wouldn't take that one to the bank just yet—after all, he could dispel any retirement talk with the snap of his fingers if he chose to—but I'm pleasantly surprised to hear Johnson sounding so game. While Democrats do have some possible replacement options (such as ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin) if Johnson does call it quits, I'm quite convinced he's our best hope of holding this seat and I certainly hope he runs again.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
• NJ-Sen: PPP is out with their first in-house post-election poll, and while the 2013 New Jersey governor's race is on everyone's mind, they're leading off with a look at the state's Senate contest the following year. PPP didn't exactly conduct a standard test of the Democratic primary, but if Newark Mayor Cory Booker would prefer to take on Sen. Frank Lautenberg rather than Gov. Chris Christie, it looks like he'd be in strong shape. Though Lautenberg retains good approval ratings among Democrats, only 36 percent say he should seek reelection versus 45 who want him to retire.
More importantly, by a 59-22 margin, Democratic primary voters say they prefer Booker over Lautenberg as the party's nominee. Booker also handily beats out two other possibilities in a quasi-head-to-head ("who would you most like to see as the Democratic candidate for Senate"), taking 48 percent to just 17 for Rep. Rob Andrews (who primaried Lautenberg once before, in 2008) and 13 for Rep. Frank Pallone.
As for the general election, Tom Jensen tested just one Republican, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Given that she's been Christie's no. 2 for years now, she's still almost comically unknown, with 73 percent of voters having no opinion of her. Booker's overall 48-20 favorability rating, plus New Jersey's implacably blue lean on the federal level, thus power him to a 52-29 lead over Guadagno. (Pallone and Andrew are both basically tied with Guadagno in the low 30s.) Of course, those name rec numbers would change in a real campaign, but it's not even clear if Guadagno is interested, and in any event, Booker would still be the heavy favorite.
• IL-Gov: Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn's had some terrible ratings for a long time, but these latest numbers from PPP are just disastrously bad. Thanks in part to presiding over an income tax hike necessary to pay for state government services, Quinn's worked his way down to a 25-64 job approval score, and predictably, his numbers in hypothetical 2014 matchups with Republicans are just awful:
39-43 vs. Treasurer Dan Rutherford
40-39 vs. Rep. Aaron Schock
Obviously, lots of Democrats are thinking about replacing Quinn, so Tom Jensen tested Attorney General Lisa Madigan (who has high name rec) and former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley (who doesn't) as well. Madigan leads Dillard and Rutherford 46-37 and Schock 46-38, while Daley trails Dillard (34-36) and Rutherford (37-38) but edges Schock 40-35.
Madigan has long been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidate and has a good 48-32 favorability rating overall and a 68-16 score among Democratic primary voters. In a direct head-to-head with Quinn, she trounces him 64-20. Even Daley comes out ahead, too, though, 37-34, which really should give Quinn second thoughts about seeking reelection. But Daley also probably wants to think twice about setting himself on a potential collision course with Madigan, who looks very strong.
Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Rutherford noses Schock 27-26 in a hypothetical three-way primary, with Dillard at 17. He also takes the top spot in PPP's kitchen-sink scenario:
Aaron Schock: 18
Bill Brady: 14
Kirk Dillard: 12
Joe Walsh: 8
Bruce Rauner: 7
Someone else: 7
Not sure: 15
As for the additional names there: Bill Brady was the GOP's 2010 nominee, who barely beat Dillard for the nod and then barely lost to Quinn; Joe Walsh is the infamous loudmouth and soon-to-be-former congressman; and Bruce Rauner is a wealthy private equity titan. As always, these "let's toss everybody into the hopper" polls don't reflect any kind of prediction as to what the primary field will look like, but they do offer a way to judge the initial standing of potential players.
• IL-02: State Sen. Toi Hutchinson is now the fifth candidate to join the Democratic primary for the Jesse Jackson, Jr. special election—an interesting move, because it will pit her against her former boss, Debbie Halvorson. Hutchinson was Halvorson's chief of staff when Halvorson served as a state senator before winning election to Congress in 2008 and then wound up taking Halvorson's Senate seat. (Meanwhile, as expected, legislation to move the general election from March to April is moving through the Illinois legislature and will undoubtedly be signed into law soon.)
• NC-07: Put it in the books! After a recount which altered the final tally by exactly one vote, Republican David Rouzer conceded to Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre in North Carolina's 7th District. McIntyre's 654-vote victory is one of the narrowest (if not the narrowest) in the nation, and it's testament to his remarkable ability to survive in incredibly adverse circumstances—as well as the fact that he got a lot of outside financial help. But so did Rouzer, since Republicans were eager to knock off the conservative Blue Dog McIntyre, particularly since his district was deliberately redrawn to go from 52-47 McCain all the way to an almost impossible 58-42 McCain. (The Romney numbers are not yet available.) McIntyre will remain a target as long as he's in office, but as constituents in the new part of his district become familiar with him, he may wind up better-positioned in 2014 than he was this year.
This also wraps up the final uncalled House race in the nation, which means the 113th Congress will contain 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats (once Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s safe blue seat is filled). That represents a gain of eight seats for Team Blue compared to the 193 they held in January of 2011. There's still a long way to go until 218, but this is a good start.
• NY-19: I thought this was pretty hilarious. Freshman GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who just fended off a tough reelection challenge from Democrat Julian Schreibman, is trying to get out from under his pledge to anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist—a pledge he made readily when he first ran for Congress in 2010. But Gibson doesn't want to look like he's going back on his word, so he's come up with a truly comical "rationale" as to why his promise no longer applies to him:
The Congressman signed the pledge as a candidate in 2010 for the 20th Congressional District. [...]I'm pretty sure Gibson is trying to say that because his district number got changed, the pledge no longer applies! That's some amazing chutzpah. I mean, what if the number had happened to stay the same? And even forgetting that nonsense, how about the fact that 44 percent of the constituents in the new 19th were previously represented by Gibson in the old 20th? So would the pledge apply to that group, but not the remaining 56 percent? This is so ridiculous I can scarcely believe it. It doesn't matter what I think, though: The real question, though, will be whether Norquist buys it. Somehow, I have a feeling he won't.
Regarding the pledge moving forward, Congressman Gibson doesn't plan to resign it for the 19th Congressional District, which he now represents (the pledge is to your constituents of a numbered district).
• WV-02, WV-Sen: Dave Catanese reports that Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants says he's interested in a possible bid for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's open seat and that he's not going to challenge her for the GOP Senate nomination. Probably the biggest name who hasn't shut the door to a primary tumble with Capito is 1st District Rep. David McKinley, but I'll bet the Club for Growth is hard at work trying to find someone (anyone!) willing to take her on.
Oh, and ... whoops!
• DCCC: Politico's Alex Isenstadt has a good piece on Steve Israel and the DCCC's plans for 2014, filled with lots of interesting details. The overall message is that Democrats are already hitting the ground running, but I encourage you to read the whole thing, and here are a few noteworthy tidbits:
• Israel's reached out to several 2012 candidates who lost narrowly (or got otherwise punked) about possible repeat bids, including FL-10's Val Demings, IN-02's Brendan Mullen, and CA-31's Pete Aguilar. He's also spoken to two potential WV-02 candidates: ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin and 2008 nominee Anne Barth.
• Israel identified four interesting GOP targets as being the most vulnerable: OH-14's David Joyce, IL-13's Rodney Davis, FL-13's Bill Young and CA-31's Gary Miller.
• Rep.-elects Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) and Brad Schneider (IL-10) are already assisting with candidate recruitment, along with Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow (GA-12) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34), the highest-ranking Hispanic member of the House.
• House: Leave it to Greg Giroux to come up with a number like this: When the 113th Congress convenes in January, California's House delegation will lose 212 years of combined seniority. Thanks to the retirements of several veteran members (like 17-term GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis) and the losses of some other senior congressmen (such as 20-term Democrat Rep. Pete Stark), the Golden State's new delegation will have a 536.5 total years in office, versus 748.8 for the outgoing gang.
• Pres-by-CD: It's candy time! We have a bunch more presidential results by congressional districts for you:
• Connecticut (quasi-official)
• Florida (three more: FL-05, -10, -11)
• Rhode Island
A note regarding Connecticut: Unlike nearly all other states, CT actually breaks down presidential results by CD itself, which is nice. However, it's not clear exactly how "final" the numbers are. According to this news article, the secretary of state has "officially certified" the results, but a "full Statement of the Vote including final vote tallies" will not be available until January—and bonncaruso says that in 2008, the numbers did change "between the announcement of the certified results and the final canvass." So please consider the CT results preliminary.
Some thoughts on the numbers themselves: In California, the most interesting district we've tabulated so far is CA-41, an open seat technically held by Republicans that was picked up by Democrat Mark Takano. Takano wound up performing very well, winning by over a dozen points—in part because he had some serious help at the top of the ticket. Obama's performance improved from 59-38 in 2008 to 62-36 this year, all but ensuring this seat won't make any GOP target lists in the future.
Three of Connecticut's districts saw drops of 5-6 points for the POTUS, except for the already heavily-blue 3rd, which was unchanged, and the wealthy 4th, where Obama dropped from a 20-point edge to just 11. The 4th is home to Greenwich and a lot of other gold-plated New York City suburbs filled with Wall Street types who probably found more appeal in Romney's platform than other folks in the Nutmeg State. Fortunately, Democrat Rep. Jim Himes ran well ahead of the ticket, winning by 20 points.
FL-10 confirms further how Obama's narrow victory statewide really was powered by his tremendous showing in South Florida. In this Orlando-area district, his performance fell a couple of points (from -5 to -7), which probably held back Democrat Val Demings a bit. But it probably wasn't the difference-maker, as she lost by four to GOP Rep. Daniel Webster.
In Minnesota, we'd previously had unofficial numbers. Nothing's really changed, but if you click through, you can now drill down to the county level. Want to know how Obama did in the portion of Beltrami County contained in the 8th District? Have at it! (Though it is worth noting how badly Michele Bachmann underperformed: Romney won the 6th by a punishing 57-42 margin, but she could barely muster a 1.2 percent victory.) Oh, and as for Rhode Island? Almost no change at all.
P.S. Remember to bookmark our permalink where we're compiling the numbers for all 435 House seats!
• NYC Redistricting: When the commission responsible for drawing new city council lines for New York issued their final maps, there was every reason to believe that the new plans would just sail through the council—after all, most of the members of this supposedly independent panel were hand-picked by the council itself. But politics has a way of proving unpredictable, and now we've reached a very unexpected juncture: Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the frontrunner for next year's mayoral race, is now asking the commission to go back to the drawing board. So you might rightly ask, "Whu?"
Well, here's whu, as Politicker's Colin Campbell explains. Some 11th-hour changes to the maps appear to have been made for the benefit of disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who turned himself into a pariah earlier this year after details emerged about a taxpayer-funded six-figure settlement given to two former female staffers who alleged he had sexually harassed them. Because New York politics is so venal, that somehow didn't end Lopez's career, though he now seems eager to get out of Albany and is reportedly considering a run for council.
But Quinn doesn't want a map that would give Vito a boost in seeking an open council seat (term limits, delayed four years ago by Bloombergian fiat, are finally kicking in), especially since it looks like some of Vito's remaining allies went out of their way to do a favor for him. (After all, it wouldn't look good for her mayoral bid.) So now she's reportedly begging the council to vote down its own map and has specifically asked the panel to edit the lines for the putative Lopez district.
Of course, this all shows what a sham NYC independent-in-name-only redistricting process is (and the rest of the map, predictably, is almost all about incumbent protection). What's more—not that I'm defending Lopez, who is a scumbag—isn't there something a bit unseemly about the head of the city council going to extraordinary lengths to amend a map that might help someone she dislikes, who might run for office (and still could even if the map does get changed)? But either way, Quinn is squeezed, since if the "pro-Vito" lines were to get enacted, they'd be a black eye for her. And given that Quinn has sold herself as the next coming of Mike Bloomberg, I can't say I'm unhappy about that.
• OH Redistricting: By a 4-3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the state's new legislative maps, which were drawn by Republicans earlier this year and used in November's elections. Plaintiffs had argued that the maps violated a provision of the state constitution which (as in many other states) required county splits to be minimized. The court rejected this claim on the grounds that the commission which drew the new map was obligated to make the new boundaries similar to the prior lines.
But a very vocal dissent accused the majority opinion of "fail[ing] the tests of logic and fairness" and said the burden of proof the majority demanded was far too high. What's more, said the dissent, the requirement that the maps mostly stand pat is "absurd"; since the prior maps themselves were flawed, it equates to saying "because we have already violated the constitution, we can continue to violate the constitution." A very frustrating outcome, but quite predictable, seeing as the court is dominated 6-1 by Republicans. I suppose we should be happy that two GOP judges crossed over to the minority, though that's cold comfort.