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It's the first Digest of the New Year! Happy New Year!

Pres-by-CD: After taking a short holiday break, we're back with more districts! (Alternatively, now that Christmas is over, the Grinch is free to wreck your empty digest jokes.) Now that New York has certified, we're happy to bring you the first two districts from that state, NY-21 and NY-26. New York was one of the states where Obama's performance held up even in largely white areas; indeed, Obama's 52.2 percent haul in the North Country-based NY-21 (to Romney's 46.1) is a few tenths of a percentage point better than his 2008 performance.

Perhaps Obama's strong performance (especially upstate) relative to 2008 results from a shift in voter preferences attributable to Superstorm Sandy, but keep in mind that these results also include federal-only ballots cast by voters outside of their regular precincts. (If you'll recall, voters in New York were allowed to vote outside of their regular precinct, but in doing so, were limited to the statewide races only, i.e., President and US Senator.) The extent to which this meaningfully shifted votes between Congressional districts is unknown (e.g., if displaced Manhattanites ended up casting ballots upstate), but the undervote rate in the upstate Congressional races does seem somewhat higher than would be normally expected (suggesting the presence of at least some federal-only ballots).

Meanwhile, on the western end of the state, NY-26 is a Buffalo/Niagara Falls-based Dem vote sink; Obama's performance there improved slightly as well, to 63.9 percent (up from 63.4). (jeffmd)

10:12 AM PT: SC-01: Gov. Nikki Haley has now set dates for the special election to fill the House seat of Tim Scott, who resigned (effective Wednesday), in anticipation of being sworn into the Senate the same day to replace Jim DeMint. The primary will take place on March 19, with a runoff scheduled for April 2 if no candidate scores more than 50 percent of the vote. The general election will happen on May 7, but in this strongly conservative district, the Republican nomination battle is where the real action will be confined. Speaking of, one potential GOP candidate is already taking himself out of contention: Paul Thurmond, son of Strom, who just won what's described as a "hotly contested" race for state Senate in November.

10:54 AM PT: TN-04: Step right up and take your whacks at Scott DesJarlais! The Republican congressman, who made a habit out of sleeping with patients (and manipulating them into getting abortions) when he worked as a physician, has already gotten his first primary opponent for 2014. State Sen. Jim Tracy, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in TN-06 in 2010, says he'll run against DesJarlais—and promises his would-be constituents that he'll "never embarrass you with my personal conduct." (As for the district switch, it makes sense: Tracy's home base of Rutherford County was moved into the redrawn 4th during the most recent round of redistricting.) Plenty of other contenders still loom, so this could wind up being a very crowded race. But can even DesJarlais slip through via the proverbial clown car? We'll have to see.

11:22 AM PT: MN-08: Here's something you don't see very day: Incoming Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan has selected former Duluth City Council member Jeff Anderson as his district director—the same Jeff Anderson he beat in the primary last year, on his way to victory over one-term Rep. Chip Cravaack. Nolan is 69 (and famously served in Congress once before—over thirty years ago), while Anderson is just 35, so it's conceivable Nolan is hoping to groom Anderson as a successor. To that end, district director is a good job, since you get to stay in touch with constituents and can more easily avoid attacks that you've "gone Washington."

11:34 AM PT: AR-Gov: Republican businessman Curtis Coleman says he plans to form an exploratory committee for a possible run for governor. Seriously, just kill me, because I hate these kinds of stories. I mean, this is an announcement not about the creation of a bona fide campaign committee, not even about the creation of an exploratory committee (which isn't even really a thing, legally), but about the future creation of an exploratory committee? Sheez.

As I've said many times before, you should only open your yap twice: Once, on the record, when you're considering a run, and once when you officially announce. Don't have "sources close to" you leak the news, don't play footsie with the press, and don't drag it out forever. And it's not just for the sake of anyone's sanity: You kill your momentum if you don't hit the ground running with a short, sharp shock. You want to make a quick splash and get the media interested: first, with your table-setting statement, then later with your formal announcement. Driving reporters nuts with vague tea leaves is a sure way to have your actual campaign kick-off seem like a dud if and when it does ever happen. So don't do this!

As for Coleman, the guy took a mere five percent in the 2010 GOP Senate primary and didn't self-finance worth a damn, so meh.

11:42 AM PT: IA-Sen: Cue the "Odd Couple" theme music: UMN's Smart Politics blog reports that Iowa Sens. Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley (he's a Democrat! he's a Republican!) are now the fifth-longest serving pair of senators from the same state, at 28 years in office. The longest ever? GOPer Strom Thurmond and Dem Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who served over 36 years concurrently. Among active members, the next-longest streak belongs to California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, with 20 years together.

11:54 AM PT: Polltopia: PPP's going into the field in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and as per usual, Tom Jensen is soliciting ideas for questions and candidates. Tom particularly wants to know which Dem names to test against PA Gov. Tom Corbett, and which GOP names to try against VA Sen. Mark Warner, who are both up for re-election in 2014, but he's taking all suggestions. PPP might also do a national poll this weekend, so head on over to PPP's website and post your question ideas in the comments there.

12:16 PM PT: Actually, Tracy hails from Bedford County, just to the south of Rutherford, but it, too, was moved into the 4th in redistricting, and Tracy performed well in (much more populous) Rutherford during his previous run for Congress.

12:56 PM PT: MA-Sen: I'm not ready to read a whole lot into this: Sure, it could be Scott Brown testing out a line of attack on Ed Markey, but it could also just be Scott Brown acting like a jerk. Speaking of the lone declared Democratic candidate for the (apparently likely) John Kerry special election, Brown sneered:

"I'll tell you what; they're making it awfully tempting. You got Ed Markey: Does he even live here any more?" Brown said with a laugh as he called into the "Jim & Margery Show" on WTKK-FM.

"You've got to check the travel records. I've come back and forth (from Washington to Boston) every weekend, almost, for three years, and I see, you know, most of the delegation, and I have never seen Ed on the airplane—ever," Brown added.

In all seriousness, though, I wonder if Markey might have something of a Dick Lugar problem:
Markey, a Democrat born and raised in Malden, long called his childhood bedroom in his parents' house as his Massachusetts residence, even though his wife is a doctor at the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington and the couple owns a home in Chevy Chase, Md.

Following the death of Markey's father in 2000, the congressman bought his family house and continues to maintain it as his voting address, an aide said last week.

Hrm. Regardless, Markey's put himself out there, while Brown has just dithered; if he thought he had a good shot, wouldn't he just go for it? (Notably, the conservative Boston Herald is trying to nudge Brown in the direction of the governor's race, which is probably the easier gambit.) Anyhow, time's growing short for Brown to make a decision, since the special will likely take place mid-year and he'd start at a big fundraising deficit against Markey.

1:25 PM PT (David Jarman): Votes: Yesterday’s House vote on the fiscal cliff is one of those rare votes where you don’t get a straight party line vote (like most contentious votes) but one where the House shatters into pieces and then winner is the side that reassembles the most fragments. Of course, this time it was Nancy Pelosi who did that, putting together a strange coalition of most of the Dems (minus a few defections on the caucus’s left and right flanks), plus the bulk of the establishmentarian and/or moderate Republicans (including the vote of John Boehner himself, no “moderate” but certainly “establishment”).

On the Democratic side, there were 172 yes and 16 no votes (with 3 non-votes, from Pete Stark, Lynn Woolsey, and John Lewis). Within those 16, though, there seem to be two camps: Xavier Becerra, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Rosa DeLauro, Jim McDermott, Brad Miller, Jim Moran, and Bobby Scott (most of whom are Progressive Caucus members) voting against it from the left, and John Barrow, Jim Cooper, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Colin Peterson, Kurt Schrader, Adam Smith, and Pete Visclosky (most of whom are Blue Dogs) voting against it from the right.

It may not be that simple, though: DeFazio has in recent years been one of the likeliest members of the Progressive Caucus to stray from the party line (for example, he voted against both the Progressive budget and even the leadership budget last year); it’s increasingly hard to tell if he’s becoming more conservative or if DeFazio, always irascible, has just gotten more willing to dig his heels in on bills that feel like half-measures. Adam Smith, on the other hand, has generally been a New Democrat establishment-type player, but he might be looking to remake himself a bit with his newly-configured, much more liberal district which now contains a slice of Seattle. And Moran and Visclosky, even though Moran (who represents northern Virginia) is significantly more liberal than Visclosky, are probably coming from the same mindset, whatever that might be; they’re tight, and are some of the last remaining members of that John Murtha/Norm Dicks appropriations clique that didn’t really fit within any of the Dem caucuses.

(Worth noting: Oregon is the only state where the Dems have the majority of House seats but where the majority of members voted “no.” That’s Progressive Earl Blumenauer, Blue Dog Kurt Schrader, and who-knows DeFazio, while fellow Progressive Suzanne Bonamici and establishment-flavored GOPer Greg Walden voted “yes.”)

On the Republican side, there were 85 yes and 151 no votes (with 5 no-votes, from Ann Marie Buerkle, Dan Burton, Sam Graves, Jerry Lewis, and Ron Paul). That’s too many votes to replicate the entire list, but there was a significant geographic dichotomy here, one that seems to support the larger idea that the GOP is increasingly becoming a regional rump party. The New York Times has a helpful interactive map that puts that into stark relief.

Of those 85 yes votes, only 13 were Republicans from the Census-defined “southern” states, and many of those were either ones with ties to leadership (ex-NRCC chairs Tom Cole and Pete Sessions, Appropriations chair Hal Rogers) or ones with atypical, moderate districts in Florida (Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bill Young). Rodney Alexander, Kevin Brady, Howard Coble, Ander Crenshaw, John Sullivan, Mac Thornberry, and Steve Womack, most of whom are also pretty establishment-flavored, round out the list.

And of those 151 no votes, 59 were from non-southern states. That may still seem like a lot, but bear in mind most of the rest of those 59 were from the GOP’s other strongholds, the Mountain West and Great Plains. Maybe more striking is the number of GOP no votes that came from the Northeast: a grand total of two, from recently-defeated Frank Guinta and from New Jersey’s Scott Garrett. (Actually, it adds up to four if you break with the Census Bureau and consider Maryland to be a northeastern state, which would include Andy Harris and the outgoing Roscoe Bartlett.)

One other interesting consideration: the GOP didn’t seem as reliant on departing members, which is a turnaround from other high-profile decisions late in the cycle where they needed members who weren’t worried any more about their voting records to step up (think back to 2008’s TARP vote, for instance).

Fifteen of the GOP “yes” votes were members who, either because of defeat or retirement, won’t be coming back (Charlie Bass, Judy Biggert, Brian Bilbray, Mary Bono Mack, Bob Dold, David Dreier, Jo Ann Emerson, Elton Gallegly, Nan Hayworth, Tim Johnson, Steve LaTourette, Dan Lungren, Todd Platts, John Sullivan, and Bob Turner). 20 end-of-the-liners, however, voted “no” (Sandy Adams, Todd Akin, Steve Austria, Rick Berg, Quico Canseco, Chip Cravaack, Jeff Flake, Frank Guinta, Connie Mack, Sue Myrick, Mike Pence, Ben Quayle, Denny Rehberg, David Rivera, Bobby Schilling, Jean Schmidt, Tim Scott, Cliff Stearns, Joe Walsh, and Allen West), though I suspect some of the more establishment-flavored names on that list would probably have been willing to offer a “yes” if the vote had looked closer than it actually was.

2:12 PM PT: NJ-Gov: Considering her long odds, this sounds like a pretty decent start for state Sen. Barbara Buono: She's already raised $250,000 in her first month of campaigning against GOP Gov. Chris Christie. That suggests she'll soon qualify for public matching funds, which kick in when she gets to $380,000. So far, Buono's still the only notable Democrat in the race, seeing as state Sen. Richard Codey just kicked the can again on announcing his plans. He originally promised a decision by Jan. 1, but now is saying he will make his mind "as fast as humanly possible." With the election coming this November, though, there really isn't much time left.

Meanwhile, the man who ousted Codey as state Senate president two years ago, Stephen Sweeney, is also reportedly talking with potential candidates—including Codey himself, as well as Rep. Bill Pascrell. Sweeney, too, is weighing a bid, but it sounds like he may be more interested in recruiting someone he views as stronger than Buono. (According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Sweeney's worried that a gubernatorial blowout in Christie's favor could have negative consequences downballot.) I wonder if Pascrell would do it, though: Since the election is in an odd-numbered year, he wouldn't have to give up his seat in the House. But he did just have to deal with a bruising primary last year, so maybe, at age 75, he'd rather chill.

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