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Leading Off:

VA-Gov: By dint of being the only guy to actually file paperwork with the state Republican Party, AG Ken Cuccinelli just became the Virginia GOP's official nominee for this fall's gubernatorial race. (You'll recall, of course, that Cuccinelli partisans eliminated the traditional primary in favor of a convention, a move which prompted Cuccinelli's only rival, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, to quit the race and openly moot a third-party run.) Meanwhile, the Kooch also says he'll stay on as attorney general even while running for governor, even though the last six AGs all resigned in their final year to focus on campaigning.

That's actually good news for Democrats, though, since it means Cuccinelli will, as a state official, be prohibited from fundraising until the current legislative session concludes on Feb. 23. And money is indeed likely to be Cuccinelli's greatest weakness (though I'm sure the RGA will prop him up extensively): Both he and putative Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe just announced having around $1 million in cash-on-hand, and they've each raised roughly that amount as well. But here's the problem: Cuccinelli pulled in that sum in the last six months of 2012. T-Mac scraped it together in just the month of December alone. Say what you will about McAuliffe, but the guy sure can rake in the dough.

P.S. In case you were curious, the normal filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates in Feb. 28, but at this point, it's hard to imagine any other Democrats stepping up to challenge McAuliffe.

Senate:

HI-Sen: In a new poll for Honolulu Civil Beat, Merriman River finds that Hawaii voters approve of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's selection of former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to fill the late Dan Inouye's Senate seat by a 45-36 margin. Asked whom they'd pick if the choice had been up to them, respondents tied at 36 apiece between Schatz and Hanabusa, with 7 percent picking state official Esther Kiaaina.

And for what it's worth, voters also disapproved of Inouye's staff releasing the now-infamous letter in which he said he preferred Hanabusa to succeed him, 45-33, though the question wording is a touch pushy. (By the way, did you know that ex-Gov. Ben Cayetano has openly questioned the letter's provenance, saying it "was not the senator talking"? Wild stuff!) More importantly, Abercrombie's own ratings also seem to have improved: He now sports a narrowly positive 48-44 approval rating. (I'm not entirely certain when Merriman last tested his numbers, but I'm pretty sure that represents an uptick.)

MA-Sen: Ed Markey's going to be happy: Fellow Dem Rep. Mike Capuano just announced on Tuesday that he won't run in the expected special election to replace John Kerry, who has been nominated for Secretary of State. After the establishment rallied around Markey and made it clear there was no appetite for a contested nomination battle, Capuano got a bit testy, claiming that "the big names of our party are trying to choose our nominee for us." Well, the rhetoric wasn't matched with action, and Capuano will instead remain in the House.

Capuano's decision is also good news for progressives more generally, since his potential entry posed the greatest risk of the liberal vote being split between himself and Markey, thus giving conservaDem Stephen Lynch a shot at a plurality win. Now Lynch, the only remaining prominent name still thinking about a bid, has a much more difficult (if not almost impossible) calculus to consider. And while a few other potential contenders still lurk out there, there's no one left with the personal wealth or name recognition to make an immediate impact. It looks like Markey's getting a lot closer to wrapping this one up.

ME-Sen: Ordinarily, I wouldn't even bother with something like this—it sounds purely like a rumor, and it's a week old, to boot. But here's the thing: In response to a query about whether he'd run against Sen. Susan Collins in the GOP primary, ex-Treasurer Bruce Poliquin wouldn't offer any comment at all. Typically in this sort of situation, you either say something vague like, "I'm focused on my current job" or "I support the incumbent," but total silence is a bit unusual. Poliquin is known as an outspoken conservative, and he also just got turned out of his gig as treasurer because Democrats re-took the legislature in November, so it's not inconceivable to imagine that he's looking for something else to do. We can only pray!

NC-Sen: PPP is back to their usual habit of polling their home state of North Carolina on a monthly basis, so I think this gives us our first proper trendlines on any 2014 race. There is, of course, no reason to expect things to have changed much in just four short weeks, especially for such a nascent campaign without a single declared Republican—and indeed, they have not. Here's how Dem Sen. Kay Hagan fares (with December in parens):

• 46-40 (45-39) vs. Rep. Renee Ellmers

• 45-39 (48-40) vs. Rep. Patrick McHenry

• 45-37 (48-39) vs. Rep. George Holding

• 47-40 (49-39) vs. Rep. Virginia Foxx

• 48-38 (47-37) vs. state House Speaker Thom Tillis

• 46-38 vs. Rep. Robert Pittenger

• 47-38 vs. state Sen. Phil Berger

Honestly, I feel bad for Tom Jensen, who will have to struggle to find something to write about this race over a dozen more times until the primary, because I've already run out of ideas. (I would, however, be amused if someone could squeeze a "sky is falling" narrative out of this poll. I'm sure someone can!) Anyway, there are also some GOP primary numbers once more:

Virginia Foxx: 21 (17)
Patrick McHenry: 15 (13)
Renee Ellmers: 11 (11)
Robert Pittenger: 6 (--)
Richard Hudson: 5 (6)
Phil Berger: 5 (--)
George Holding: 2 (9)
Thom Tillis: 2 (2)
Other/undecided: 25 (33)

Don't get too excited about any of the movement you see here: Tom keeps tweaking his Republican roster, dropping ex-Rep. Sue Myrick and Rep. Mark Meadows in favor of Pittenger and Berger. Woot.

WV-Sen: Over the weekend, the Charleston Gazette published a piece on potential Democratic replacements for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller that would make the Great Mentioner proud. While we've already gone over most of the names in detail, there are a few new suggestions:

• Retired Adjutant General Allen Tackett (former head of the West Virginia National Guard)

• Ralph Baxter, CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (a major national law firm)

• State Sen. Corey Palumbo

• State Sen. Erik Wells

• Ex-state Sen. Jim Humphreys

• Ex-party chair Nick Case

Additionally, one major possible candidate has pulled himself from consideration: ex-Gov. Gaston Caperton, who served from 1989 until 1997. Caperton had the sort of profile that would have made him an instant contender (and perhaps even cleared the field, at least partially), but he's 72 years old and says his political career "began and will probably end" with his tenure as governor.

Gubernatorial:

AR-Gov: PPP is out with a new poll (PDF) for a private client called Jobs Now, which has little visibility on the web but which local media describe as a "union-funded think tank." The numbers seem aimed at showing that Democratic AG Dustin McDaniel has been seriously wounded by revelations that he carried on an affair with an attorney who had business before his office: He trails Republican front-runner Asa Hutchinson by a painful 46-33, with just a 25-40 favorability rating versus 39-30 for Hutchinson.

So why would a union group want to raise doubts about a Democrat? Very possibly because they'd prefer to see a different Democrat get in the race—and secure the nomination. Talk Business says that Jobs Now is "normally pretty friendly with Bill Halter," the former lieutenant governor who unsuccessfully ran against ex-Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary in 2010. Halter's bid was heavily backed by labor, so it'd make sense if the same coalition rallied around him once more. (A spokesman says that Halter is still "seriously considering" a run.) Of course, there are no Halter numbers in this poll, and even if he's not damaged in the way McDaniel appears to be, holding this seat looks like a seriously uphill fight for Team Blue.

FL-Gov: This story cracked me up. Remember Seamus! Oh wait, LOL! There's more! Rick Scott's dog was literally sent to a farm upstate!

MD-Gov: Don't coronate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown just yet: Attorney General Doug Gansler just announced that he's already banked an extraordinary $5.2 million in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Fundraising reports are due Wednesday, and Brown has by-and-large managed to project that frontrunner aura (he's supported by term-limited Gov. Martin O'Malley), but the WaPo says that Gansler's haul is "expected to greatly exceed" those of his rivals.

NJ-Gov: Jesus, I swear, I really thought Bill Pascrell had already said no to a gubernatorial run. I mean hell, this is what he said just last week:

"I'm not pursuing that position."
Now, okay, he also said he found the idea of a race against GOP Gov. Chris Christie "intriguing," but I figured he meant he considered the notion, felt it was somewhat attractive, but then abandoned it. Yet here we are now:
As for his own political future, Pascrell is involved in discussions about the governor's race.

"That's another story. I can't get into the details. I had a long conversation with [state] Sen. [Richard] Codey this morning," he said. "Many of the people that have talked to me in the last three weeks have urged me, this octogenarian, to consider doing this thing."

Pascrell is 75 years old.

"I have a lot of work in my district, not only with Sandy but it's a new district. I lost 75 percent of my district. I had to fight a primary. It took a toll on my family," he said. "And I'm back, I'm ready but I'm not ready to make any announcements. I'm not even close. I would say in the next three weeks you will have a clear picture on who's running."

These shifting, oracular pronouncements make me want to tear my hair out! (Though I do love Roll Call's Abby Livingston fact-checking Pascrell on his own age.)

House:

CO-06: Rep. Mike Coffman is assuredly one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents heading into 2014: He narrowly escaped defeat in November thanks to a left-leaning third-party spoiler candidate, and he sits in one of the bluest districts occupied by a Republican (at 52 percent Obama). And here's one possible contender who might try to do him in: former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Romanoff had considered a bid last cycle, but wound up deferring to state Rep. Joe Miklosi. You probably remember Romanoff from his ill-fated primary challenge to newly-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010 (one which saw him sell his own house to finance his campaign); that race seemed to generate a lot of ill will toward Romanoff, but if he can overcome that past and rally support for a go at Coffman, he could prove to be a strong candidate.

MN-06: Umm....

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: Two well-known Democratic pollsters announced on Tuesday that they will be merging: Anzalone Liszt Research and Grove Insight will combine to form the polling superteam of Anzalone Liszt Grove Research. Good luck to all involved, and may the Force be with you!

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Maryland Kos, Virginia Kos, and Daily Kos.

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