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Leading Off:

OH-Gov: Ah, what a bummer—though I'm not terribly surprised. After what felt like years of speculation and consideration, former Gov. Ted Strickland announced on Tuesday that he would not seek a rematch against the man who beat him two years ago, Republican John Kasich. I've always admired Strickland's fighting spirit and his unabashed populism, which kept his race against Kasich incredibly close despite the nightmare of 2010. (Noam Scheiber summed up Strickland's singular appeal well in this post-mortem.) It also made Strickland's two-point loss all the more painful, and easy for supporters to imagine him exacting sweet revenge in 2014.

But alas, it's not to be. While Strickland didn't explain his rationale for declining to run again, he's 71 years old and, by all accounts, seems to be enjoying his life these days, which has involved a teaching stint at Harvard and just generally serving as the Ohio Democratic Party's booster-in-chief. You can't exactly blame Teddy Ballgame, and I wish him nothing but luck.

Now, attention will turn to a host of other possible candidates: Rep. Tim Ryan, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, former state AG Richard Cordray, and perhaps even ex-Rep. Betty Sutton. Hazy reports have suggested Ryan's not interested, while an unnamed "Democratic source" tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Strickland specifically reached out to FitzGerald to alert him to his plans before making Tuesday's announcement. Given that Strickland is said to be a "mentor" to Ryan, and also seeing as Ryan, like FitzGerald, has been waiting on Strickland in order to make up his own mind, you have to wonder whether Strickland communicated with Ryan, too. If not, perhaps Strickland already knows Ryan won't run—or perhaps he prefers Fitz as a successor. In any event, this news should open the floodgates for other candidates to declare their intentions, so we'll soon see.

P.S. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who briefly ran for governor in 2005 before bowing out to make way for Strickland, confirmed in response to Tuesday's news that he, too,  will not make a gubernatorial bid this cycle. I don't think anyone was gunning for a Coleman entry very hard, but his spokesman went pure Sherman: "If nominated he will not run, and if elected he will not serve." Okay then.

Gubernatorial:

AR-Gov: Sounds like things are getting worse for Dem AG Dustin McDaniel before they get better... if they ever do. McDaniel, who is married, recently acknowledged an affair with an attorney, Andi Davis, who had business before his office, but only on Tuesday did he go before the media. I don't think this is a great place to be in:

"There is no other shoe to drop," McDaniel said. "There are no other women. There is no litigation that was ever compromised. No rules of professional conduct were ever violated. No state resources, dollars or personnel were used for personal purposes. I made a mistake, for which I have taken and continue to take responsibility, but it had no impact on my job."
If he's telling the truth, that's good, of course, and these are strong, declarative statements to make. The problem for McDaniel is that he's the one making them, and naturally everyone expects a public figure in circumstances like these to defend himself. There's also one extremely uncomfortable additional detail: A man named Maxwell Anderson was found shot to death in Davis's driveway last February... and her brother is apparently a suspect. The matter is still under investigation by the state police, but this is not a good thread to have hanging loose.

Interestingly, though, the probable GOP frontrunner, ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson, insists that he has no intention of making McDaniel's affair an issue... but weirdly, term-limited Dem Gov. Mike Beebe is shooting his mouth off, playing political pundit and declaring, "Certainly it's not helpful to him and it certainly will have some effect." Why wouldn't Beebe just keep quiet? Anyhow, this is one of those "only time will tell" type of situations: We simply won't know how this'll affect McDaniel's campaign until we see additional polling or fundraising numbers. Or until some other shoes drop—if they do at all. If McDaniel is lucky, they won't.

MA-Gov: Here's a new potential Democratic primary candidate: Donald Berwick, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who says he is "strongly considering" a run but has no timetable for deciding. If you follow DC goings-on closely, you may recall that Berwick was named to his post by President Obama via recess appointment, but after serving for a year and a half, he resigned because Republicans were opposed to permanently confirming him. Berwick doesn't have much of a public profile back home, but he is recognized as a healthcare expert and, if he can raise some money, could try to gain traction on that front, particularly as more key provisions of the Affordable Care Act come online.

The linked article also mentions a few other possible Dem names, in addition to the two heavy hitters who've already openly mooted runs (Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Treasurer Steve Grossman): Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and state Sen. Daniel Wolf are all reportedly looking at the race.

NJ-Gov: Oy vey. FDU's new gubernatorial poll (PDF) out of New Jersey is as brutal as they come. Even though GOP Gov. Chris Christie's stratospheric approval ratings have edged down a touch since Hurricane Sandy (to 73-19, from 77-17), he's still—as you'd expect—crushing a trio of Democratic state senators in head-to-head matchups. Christie beats the only declared candidate, Barbara Buono, 64-21, while two other "maybes" are also getting pounded: Richard Codey (59-26) and Stephen Sweeney (65-19). There's really not much to say here except "ouch."

Speaking of Sweeney, did he just commit political suicide by cop—at least as far as a run for governor might be concerned? Sweeney, president of the state Senate, has never really seemed interested in making the plunge himself, so this is definitely one way to forcibly take yourself out of the running:

"We gave the governor a jobs package. We gave him one. He vetoed it. And his job package is a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky a storm came. I shouldn't say that... I apologize for saying it."
Hey, sometimes we all say things we shouldn't say, so I'm willing to cut Sweeney some slack here, particularly since he apologized instantly. But yikes... you have to really know that this is the kind of remark you just can't make, period. My read could be totally wrong, though, since Sweeney hasn't backed down over the point he was originally trying to make. In response to the inevitable blast of GOP outrage, Sweeney issued a further statement accusing Christie of becoming the "chief politicizer of Sandy" and saying that the governor has been "using the storm to paper over his failure to lead" on other issues. I guess this one's not over yet.

VA-Gov: You've probably noticed a pattern about Virginia's off-year gubernatorial elections that goes back for decades: The state elects someone from the party that didn't win the presidential election the previous year, apparently in a futile attempt to balance out the forces of the universe. (The last exception: Republican Mills Godwin in 1973.) So what's it going to take to break this trend? Apparently, it'll take someone as unlikeable as Ken Cuccinelli.

Public Policy Polling's new poll of this year's Virginia gubernatorial race finds the presumptive Democratic nominee, ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, holding a 46-41 lead over Cuccinelli, the state's controversy-seeking Republican attorney general. Since McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have essentially locked down their parties' respective nods, there's only one other permutation that PPP tested.

The state's Republican Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, had been laying the groundwork a gubernatorial run for many years now and now is none-too-happy that he got elbowed aside by Cuccinelli, who has the state's GOP activist base on his side; he's been publicly floating the idea of running a three-way race as an independent. As you might expect, the effect of running a Democrat vs. two Republicans is ... the Democrat winning by an even bigger margin: 40 for McAuliffe, 32 for Cuccinelli, and 15 for Bolling.

Bolling isn't much less conservative than Cuccinelli—he's just more of an establishment figure. So, actually, it's surprising that McAuliffe loses as much ground as he does with Bolling in the race; it's not as if Bolling somehow fits into some previously-unsatisfied "moderate"/Americans Elect/No Labels space in the spectrum, but is just a partisan who got screwed out of his turn by a bigger partisan and isn't going quietly. T-Mac loses few Democrats to Bolling, though (only 3 percent); most of the damage comes among self-described independents, who, in the three-way race, break 30 for McAuliffe, 27 for Cuccinelli, and 24 for Bolling. (Meanwhile, 19 percent of Republicans defect from Cuccinelli to Bolling.)

Bolling has the best favorables of the trio but is also the least-known, at 29/16. Voters are pretty "meh" on McAuliffe, at 25/26; the main reason he fares as well as he does is because of how disliked Cuccinelli is. The Kooch is currently at 29/45 favorables, including only 48/23 favorables among self-identified Republicans. In other words, he's essentially starting out the race in a position where, even in a two-way affair, Democrats only have to convince 5 percent more of the electorate not to vote for him. Given the many targets Cuccinelli's record offers, that seems like a very doable proposition. (David Jarman)

House:

IL-02: Monday was the filing deadline for the special election to fill ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s seat in Congress, and a ton of candidates tossed their names into the hopper, including 17 Democrats and five Republicans. (The full list is here.) In this dark blue district, the Democratic primary is the only contest that matters, though, and there were no last-minute big-name surprises. The top contenders are all names you've seen before: state Sens. Toi Hutchinson and Napoleon Harris, ex-state Rep. Robin Kelly, ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson, and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale. The only fundraising deadline ahead of the Feb. 26 primary is not until the 14th of that month, but a couple of candidates have leaked some early numbers (Kelly $200K, Hutchinson $130K). I wouldn't read too much into those figures, though: With little time left to campaign, I expect this to be a low turnout, anything-can-happen kind of affair.

MS-04: One thing I neglected to mention in the previous Digest is that GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo was thought to be a potential primary target last year, thanks to a "raucous house party" organized by his staffers that led to two of them getting fired, as well as a possible violation of state ethical laws regarding a transfer of his accounting business to his wife. No such challenge ever materialized in this dark-red district, but could Palazzo's outrageous vote against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy—his pleaded for federal aid for his hometown of Biloxi after it was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina—offer additional fodder? At least one local paper is taking Palazzo to task over his vote, but I'm not sure this is the kind of hypocrisy that motivates Republican primary voters. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on this crumb bum.

WI-08: Uh, Reid Ribble said what? From a new Huffington Post piece on how (predictably) miserable fundraising (chiefly, "call time") is for new members of Congress:

On Capitol Hill, call time evokes a rare bipartisan accord. "An hour and a half is about as much as I can tolerate. There's no way to make it enjoyable," Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) told HuffPost. "I've never had four hours a day. Not even close to it. I've got work to do. I don't know how anybody could put that much time to it. That'll burn everybody out. Why would you want this stupid job if you had to do that?"
This stupid job? Also, check out the Alcee Hastings, the useless deadweight from FL-20, bragging about how he doesn't help his party:
But call time isn't for him. "Yours truly, in 20 years, I have combined—on behalf of DCCC, DNC and myself—been to DCCC for call time less than six hours in 20 years. I'm still standing."
Hastings is the same jagoff who berated Rahm Emanuel in 2006 for supposedly doing a poor job recruiting candidates, while at the same time refusing to campaign against then-Rep. Clay Shaw because the two were buddies. In fact, Hastings even "gave Shaw strategic advice" on how to campaign that year. Well, Shaw lost and Rahm won, to put it mildly, so maybe we're better off without Hastings' "help."

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: Kill me now:

Mr. Bloomberg has mused about a Mayor Charles E. Schumer with the Democratic senator from New York, and teased Mortimer B. Zuckerman, a fellow billionaire media mogul, about a possible bid. The mayor's advisers raised the idea of a run with Edward G. Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia, and with Edward Skyler, Mr. Bloomberg's former top deputy in City Hall, according to several people.

The mayor's most formal overture was delivered to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, perhaps Mr. Bloomberg's most quixotic choice for the job. The mayor personally encouraged her to enter the race about a year ago, three people who were told about the discussions have told The New York Times.

Ed Rendell? Oh god. At least these ridiculous "musings" must be painfully embarrassing to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who's done everything she can to set herself up as Bloomberg's successor. It would be quite the irony if Democratic primary voters wound up feeling the same way about her as Bloomberg apparently does.

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: Here's PPP's latest "where should we poll" poll. The choices: DE, FL, HI, ME, OH & RI. I picked Ohio, for what it's worth.

Pres-by-CD: Results keep trickling into SSP Labs, allowing us to roll out another six districts today:

Indiana (IN-06)

Missouri (MO-06)

New York (NY-17 through NY-20)

Both IN-06 and MO-06 show some fairly typical drop-offs for Obama: The former dropped 6 percent to 37 percent Obama; the latter dropped 3 percent to 38 percent Obama.

More interesting, though, are the suite of results from New York. We're still missing results from the city and Long Island, but the new districts take us down the Hudson from Saratoga almost to Yonkers. The pattern we've seen of a slight swing to Obama breaks down as soon as we enter the lower Hudson Valley: Paul Tonko's Capital Region-based NY-20 swung 1 percent towards the president with 59 percent, but the districts further south did not: NY-17 was down 1 to 57 percent Obama; NY-18, where Democrat Sean Maloney knocked off incumbent GOPer Nan Hayworth, was down half a point to 51 percent Obama; and NY-19, where GOP Rep. Chris Gibson beat back a respectable challenge from Dem Julian Schreibman, was down 1 to 52 percent Obama. (jeffmd)

WATN?: Is it even news when an ex-congressman becomes a lobbyist? Republican Steve LaTourette, who served nine terms representing northeastern Ohio, is joining lobbying firm McDonald Hopkins, which is opening up a branch in Washington, DC, natch. LaTourette decided not to seek re-election very late in the cycle (long after the primary), and subsequently went on a tear, ripping his colleagues right and left to almost any reporter who'd let him. That actually does make him a somewhat surprising choice to head up a "government relations" shop, since he didn't exactly leave the House gracefully and had found himself quite marginalized by the end of his career. Ah, but money is money.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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