10:28 AM PT: KY-Sen: Epistemic closure? We has it! That's what GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign is all too proud to announce, in response to PPP's new survey showing the Minority Leader with crappy poll numbers. From a new fundraising email that McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton just sent out:
The partisan PPP polling company, which has been used as a tool for Obama Democrats to manufacture circumstances that don’t exist all across the country, descended upon Kentucky to proclaim that Senator McConnell has a 37% approval rating. The poll is laughable. But, the liberal press is gobbling it right up. [...]I really hope Republicans keep ignoring PPP as hard as possible.
On the first day of Republican Campaign Manager School, they teach us to ignore PPP polls. You see, PPP is a partisan Democrat polling firm, and they make their living giving the Democrat Party numbers they want to see.
12:00 PM PT: TN-Gov: I'm not sure how he'd have a path to victory, but state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says he's not ruling out a run for governor, and the Nashville City Paper reports (citing unnamed sources) that Fitzhugh is indeed planning to make a bid. That would make him the first Democrat of any note (or really, the first Democrat at all) to consider a challenge to first-term GOP Gov. Bill Haslam. As I say, though, Haslam will be incredibly tough to beat: He has a 68 percent job approval rating according to a new Vanderbilt University poll, including 60 percent from Democrats, and Mitt Romney just carried the state of Tennessee by over 20 points.
12:13 PM PT: SC-Gov: While it seems like everyone expects Vincent Sheheen to run against GOP Gov. Nikki Haley again, he hasn't really said much publicly about a possible rematch. But there are a couple of tea leaves in this new piece from Politico's Dave Catanese. Referring to PPP's new survey that had him leading Haley by two points, Sheheen somewhat vaguely told Catanese: "The poll numbers were encouraging in that South Carolina wants to go in a different direction whether or not I run." Obviously you can read that either way, but DGA Executive Director Colm O'Comartun said he's met with Sheheen, calling him a "great candidate," and according to Catanese, "indicated his committee is prioritizing the race this time."
12:30 PM PT: DCCC: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just announced its new leadership for the 2014 cycle, and a few names pop out. Two members of Congress who've been talked about as possible gubernatorial candidates in their home states—Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania and Gary Peters in Michigan—have both been tapped to help run various committee functions, Schwartz as national finance chair and Peters as recruitment vice-chair. Presumably the demands of these roles (particularly Schwartz's) would make runs for higher office less likely, though the DCCC could always pick replacements.
Also interesting is that Tim Walz (MN-01) is running the Frontline program for endangered incumbents. Walz represents a swingy district and had been targeted by the GOP in the past, but I guess he must figure he's out of the crosshairs and has the time and resources to help others who now face the kind of challenges he did in the past.
1:04 PM PT: VA-Gov: How odd: Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell can't run for re-election thanks to Virginia's super-strict one-term limit, but he may very well harbor national ambitions, which probably explains why he just released a new internal poll from Public Opinion Strategies showing how awesome his job approval rating is (67-24). That's not the odd part, though. What's weird is that on the last page of their presentation, POS included a ballot test for next November's likely gubernatorial matchup between state AG Ken Cuccinelli and former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. Even that isn't inherently odd—politicians do occasionally put out numbers on races they aren't directly involved in.
No, what's strange is that McDonnell would want to publish head-to-heads that have the Kooch trailing T-Mac 43-42! If the best that Cuccinelli can do right now in a Republican poll is a one-point deficit to McAuliffe, well, I wouldn't feel too thrilled about that—especially since McDonnell himself won in 2009 by a towering 59-41 margin. I suppose these figures are a touch better than the 41-37 McAuliffe edge that Quinnipiac recently put out, but still, I wouldn't have released this poll. Though... it's not possible that McDonnell's actually looking to undermine Cuccinelli, is it?
2:38 PM PT: FL-Gov: On behalf of an undisclosed client who supposedly does "not have a dog" in the gubernatorial fight, Democratic pollster ClearView Research just put out numbers for a hypothetical 2014 Dem gubernatorial primary. In a two-way matchup, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (who only formally joined the Democratic Party days ago) beats 2010 nominee Alex Sink 55-34, with a rather high 79 percent of respondents saying they have a favorable view of Crist versus 58 for Sink.
The poll apparently also asked about another half-dozen potential contenders but it sounds like ClearView didn't release numbers for their because their name rec is so low. But the list, in case you are curious: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, former state Sen. Nan Rich, former AG Bob Butterworth, outgoing party chair Rod Smith, and former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. So far no one has formally announced a challenge to first-term GOP Gov. Rick Scott, though.
3:00 PM PT: IL-02: Cook County Democrats are set to gather on Saturday to issue a formal endorsement—known as a "slating" in local parlance—in the crowded primary field to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson. Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli is apparently the most influential player (he controls 29 percent of all votes to be cast), and he's in favor of state Sen. Donne Trotter—even though Trotter was recently arrested for trying to carry a handgun and ammunition through security at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. (Zuccarelli reiterated his support for Trotter after the incident.)
But what does slating net you? Well, beyond the official imprimatur of the local party, probably not a whole lot in tangible terms—though go-along types in heavily machined Cook County may be more likely to expend some effort on behalf of slated candidates. Usually, though, slating matters more for obscure races (like, say, water reclamation board) because rank-and-file voters often follow party endorsements. But for a congressional race, if other candidates can raise sufficient money and get their name out, then a slating may not be as big of a deal. However, if Trotter gets the party's seal of approval, donors and operatives might become more reluctant to help his opponents, which is probably the most important aspect of slating, and likely what Trotter is hoping for.
3:13 PM PT: Senate: With South Carolina set to have two Senate elections in 2014, Geoffrey Skelley at Larry Sabato's place has a look at every prior occasion when a state hosted double Senate contests, going all the way back to 1914. There's a ton of stuff at the link, including a complete chart and a lot of historical tidbits, but here's the nut of Skelley's findings:
In what may be a good sign for whomever Haley picks for DeMint's seat, 18 of the 49 special elections in the chart have featured appointees who successfully held onto their seats; in only four cases did an appointee lose in November. But the greater challenge seems to be surviving to Election Day: There were six instances where the general election winner defeated an appointee for the party nomination en route to taking office. In most of the 21 other cases, either the appointee did not seek election or no one was appointed to the vacancy before the special election.
3:28 PM PT: DLCC: While the folks on this list aren't household names, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—which is responsible for helping elect Democratic legislators nationwide—also selected its leadership for the upcoming cycle. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal will remain as chair of the DLCC's board of directors, and Michael Sargeant, who is coming off a very successful 2012 campaign, will stay on as executive director. A full list of board members is at the link.