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Leading Off:

TX-Gov: Look out! PPP's new numbers on GOP Gov. Rick Perry's re-election chances are grim indeed for the incumbent. His job approval stands at an abysmal 41-54 and his re-elects are a horrific 31-62! I guess that happens when you embarrass yourself before a national audience after hanging on to the governor's mansion for a dozen years. Even among Republican primary voters, 47 percent want someone else versus only 41 percent who want Perry as their standard-bearer once more.

And in an actual head-to-head versus AG Greg Abbott, things are even worse: Perry has a slim 41-38 lead, but as Tom Jensen points out, Abbott's name rec is only 59 percent. I'm not sure how Perry can recover from that: Abbott has raised tons of money (thanks to Texas's virtual lack of state contribution limits, and big business preferring him as their paisan to the spent Perry), and indeed, he leads 55-33 among those who have an opinion of him, whether positive or negative. But interestingly, "more conservative" voters prefer Perry, which gives me hope that he can ride extremist enthusiasm to another nomination.

And we really do have to root for Perry here. Take a look at how he performs against a variety of potential Democratic opponents, compared to Abbott's far better showing against the same array:

Democrat Perry Abbott
2010 nominee Bill White 44-47 46-39
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro 47-42 46-36
State Senator Wendy Davis 47-41 46-34
Houston Mayor Annise Parker 47-40 47-35
Note that Perry actually loses to Parker's predecessor, Bill White, who had the misfortune of being the right candidate running in the wrong year. Would he actually be willing to make another go of it? I tend to doubt it, because he'd have to bank on Perry as his opponent, since even White would be a steep underdog to Abbott—and even against Perry, getting to 50%+1 is no easy task.

On top of that, Castro's already ruled himself out and Davis has largely confirmed she'll seek re-election to her Senate seat. (I don't think anyone's thought to ask Parker, though I can't imagine she's interested.) But regardless of who our nominee is, I'm definitely wishing hard for the nastiest possible GOP primary, topped with a Rick Perry cherry at the end.

Senate:

GA-Sen: That was quick: Ex-Gov. Sonny Perdue is probably living the good life, because just days after first being mentioned as a possible successor to retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, he says he's not interested in joining the GOP field. And state House Speaker David Ralston is of the same mind: Asked if he might run, Ralston retorted: "Why would I want the demotion?"

IA-Sen: We should only get this lucky, right? Lunatic GOP Rep. Steve King, who had openly mooted a Senate run even before Tom Harkin announced his retirement, confirms that he's still very much interested—and indeed, Politico reports that nameless "sources close to King" say they "would be surprised if he passes." And if you want a tea leaf, here's a fragrant one:

King acknowledged Mourdock's and Akin's slip-ups but pointed to Republican losses by Rep. Rick Berg in North Dakota, Rep. Denny Rehberg in Montana and Mitt Romney, saying they weren't "vocal conservatives."

"There were a lot of conservatives who stayed home and were not energized," King said.

Hey, maybe both wings of the party suck, did you ever consider that? In any event, King is also quoted on the record puffing out his chest over his victory in his re-election fight last year against Democrat Christie Vilsack, but the fact is, his margin of victory (53-45) was identical to Mitt Romney's, so it's not like King did anything special. But don't tell him that!

P.S. Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix says he won't run for Senate, nor will he run for IA-01, which may become open if Dem Rep. Bruce Braley tries for a promotion.

MA-Sen: As expected, Sen. John Kerry breezed through his Senate confirmation vote on Tuesday, securing the post of Secretary of State by a 94-3 margin. (Only Republicans John Cornyn, Ted "Calgary" Cruz, and Jim Inhofe voted against.) Once Kerry officially resigns from the Senate on Friday, Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint a temporary placeholder while would-be successors duke it out in the upcoming special election (primary: April 30; general: June 25).

And just who might those candidates be? The only declared Democrat is still Rep. Ed Markey, and if he's been waiting for Kerry's confirmation to finally unleash his campaign... well, he's already past time, but he better come out in full force over the next 48 hours. (His campaign website is still just a splash page, and he's only sent out four press releases in the month-plus since he got into the race.) Meanwhile, local station WCVB reports that Rep. Stephen Lynch will indeed enter the race, on Thursday. Of course, last Friday, the Boston Globe had to retract a report that Lynch was about to join the campaign—after Lynch himself contradicted them, so we'll see.

On the GOP side, Sen. Scott "bqhatevwr" Brown still hasn't addressed his bizarre tweeting from Friday night, nor has he said whether or not he'll run. If not Brown, former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who blew what appeared to be a sure thing against Rep. John Tierney in MA-06 last year, says he might make a bid, but he sounds a lot more interested in seeking a rematch. Former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey is also not ruling it out, but the same Boston Globe report says that ex-Gov. Bill Weld is "highly unlikely" to enter the race.

(As a final aside, can I just say how maddening it is that after all that effort—money, resources, volunteering—devoted to helping Elizabeth Warren oust Scott Brown, Obama and Kerry have put us right back in the same, if not worse, position? Kerry was not the only well-qualified person for the job; certainly the president concluded that Susan Rice was not the only person capable of serving as Secretary of State. There are always other considerations, and ignoring electoral ones is foolish.)

Gubernatorial:

LA-Gov: Louisiana's next gubernatorial election isn't until 2015, but Republicans are already queuing up to express their interest. The latest names belong to state Sen. Gerald Long (a distant cousin of the legendary Huey Long) and Lt. Gen Russel Honoré, who made a name for himself during the response to Hurricane Katrina. The link is very thin, so it's hard to gauge Honoré's interest, but Long apparently says he will "probably" run.

PA-Gov: If GOP Gov. Tom Corbett hopes his lawsuit against the NCAA over their sanctions against Penn State thanks to the Jerry Sandusky scandal was going to help in the polls, well... it ain't. Quinnipiac's newest survey shows the long-suffering governor dropping to a 36-42 job approval rating, back down from the slight bump to 40-38 he saw in November. Meanwhile, his re-elects stand at a pitiful 31-51, the first time Quinnipiac's asked that question.

And here's the kicker: Even though a majority think the Penn State penalties were "too severe," and a plurality support's Corbett's suit, only 26 percent say they approve of Corbett's handling of the entire situation, versus 50 disapproving. Interestingly, there are also crosstabs on "Penn State households": 29 percent say they or a family member is a graduate of the school, and another 7 percent say they are currently attending. This sub-group tends to be more supportive of the university, of course, but they have an even more negative view of Corbett's treatment of the matter, disapproving by a 23-59 margin.

RI-Gov: Here's a new name in the mix: Ex-Rep. Bob Weygand, who served in the House for two terms in the late `90s before making an unsuccessful Senate run in 2000, says he's looking at a possible gubernatorial bid. And the man who beat Weygand over a decade ago? None other than current Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who at the time was a Republican but is now an independent and has been openly talking about joining the Democratic Party.

For his part, Weygand is anti-choice, which could pose a problem in a Dem primary, though the guy who succeeded him in the House, Rep. Jim Langevin, is also generally known as an abortion opponent, so it may not be a total dealbreaker. The bigger problem is that Weygand's been out of office a long time and a lot of heavy hitters seem interested in the race, so he might not have much room to maneuver. Indeed, he turned down a run in 2010, so this time might not be much different.

VA-Gov: This is pretty amazing, I think, but not in the way Ken Cuccinelli is probably hoping for. Virginia's true believer movement conservative attorney general is now—yeah, I can scarcely believe it myself—trying to moderate his image on his signature issue, abortion:

When a Senate panel on Monday killed a bill to soften the state's controversial ultrasound-before-abortion law, the move disappointed someone besides the usual Democratic suspects: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.

One of the state's most outspoken abortion foes, Cuccinelli (R) had dispatched his top deputy last week to a Democratic state senator's office to say that he supported the senator's legislation to make the ultrasound mandated by last year's law optional.

So here's the thing. Cuccinelli is such a dyed-in-the-wool wingnut that any attempts he might make to move to the center on any topic (but especially one as hot as abortion) come off looking about as authentic as Harold Ford in a hunting cap. So not only will no one buy his conversion, but he'll look so weak and nakedly expedient for even trying it. What's more, he'll also dispirit the tea partiers who form the most ardent part of his base. Indeed, one activist called it "very disturbing" and a "big letdown" to learn that the Kooch had tried to weaken the ultrasound law, particularly by acting in cahoots with a Democratic senator (Ralph Northam).

This all suggests to me a campaign whose internal polling shows a difficult path to victory and is flailing as a result. Cuccinelli really is damned either way, though: If he goes back to showing his true colors, he'll look like the extremist he is, and if he continues to try to revise his public profile, he'll look like a fraud. This is a good problem to have—if you're Terry McAuliffe.

Of course, Cuccinelli can't help himself. Over the weekend, he was busy expounding on how Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is not conservative enough:

"And really the way to fight back, given the governmental structure we have, the primary way is to get good judges who don't accept what is wrong as right after a while," Cuccinelli said, according to a video clip of the discussion. "Justice Scalia is in this category: 'Well, we've been doing it wrong for a while, so now it's part of the Constitution.' I don't buy that. I don't buy that. And that needs to be reflected in the judges selected by the president, not this president, but the president generally, and approved by the Senate. They need to take that a lot more seriously than they do."
House:

CA-17: Well whaddya know. It's super-rare for President Obama to make endorsements, and it's also super-early in the cycle, but the POTUS just gave his formal support to California Rep. Mike Honda. There can be only one explanation for this: Obama is sending a signal to one-time Commerce Dept. official Ro Khanna to back off any potential plans to challenge Honda in the Democratic primary—plans we discussed at length just a week ago. Khanna declined to comment in response, but he plays a high-powered gamed: With friends like Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Brown, who've hosted fundraisers for him, it would be quite something if he'd try to pit those allies against the president. And if he did, I can't imagine they'd be eager to stand with him.

In addition, the initial report about the possibility of Khanna going up against Honda (which Khanna did not deny) also suggested that Obama might appoint Honda to some administration post or another, as a way to open up the seat. But if the president is backing the incumbent for re-election, that seems unlikely.

IL-02: State Sen. Toi Hutchinson just received the endorsement of a top local official who had also considered running in the Jesse Jackson, Jr. special election: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Most interesting to me is that Preckwinkle says she "felt compelled" to get behind Hutchinson because of ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson's lead in the polls, and pegged her as "the most conservative candidate running and was one of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress in all of Illinois." Indeed, it seems like our fears of Halvorson sneaking through a split field might well come to pass.

NY-11: NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia is dropping his bid for Brooklyn borough president and will reportedly instead seek to challenge GOP Rep. Mike Grimm next year. Recchia is term-limited and had been looking for an escape hatch; assuming he goes through with it, this is actually his third-choice race (he previously abandoned a bid for city comptroller).

Recchia's name has come up in the past for this seat, but he's always turned down the opportunity, though this time, he might have company in the Democratic primary if ex-Rep. Mike McMahon makes a comeback attempt. And since McMahon is from Staten Island (which makes up the bulk of the district), while Recchia is from the Brooklyn corner, McMahon would likely be favored.

OH-07: This is super-unexpected: Ex-Rep. John Boccieri, who served a single term before getting walloped in the 2010 GOP wave, has filed paperwork for a comeback attempt—but not against the guy who unseated him, Jim Renacci. Instead, Boccieri is looking at the 7th District, home of GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs, where he considered running last cycle as well. (Boccieri's old 16th District was actually split almost exactly in half between Renacci's new 16th and Gibbs' 7th.)

Boccieri isn't committing to a run, though, saying, "I want to take a long hard look at it this coming year and see how the political landscape shapes up" and adding that he's "looking at all my options." Indeed, in a giant rundown of possible candidates for every statewide office, the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggested Boccieri could make a bid for Auditor or Secretary of State. (Incidentally, the same piece also suggested Dem ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson for Treasurer.)

But you have to wonder why Boccieri would prefer to take his chances in a mid-term year, when Democratic turnout is typically weaker than in presidential years. No matter what, though, it'll be tough sledding: The 7th was gerrymandered very well by the GOP and went for Romney by a 54-44 margin. Few Democrats hold districts that red, and it would take quite an effort by Boccieri to prevail. (Indeed, it's not like Gibbs has shown up on many Democratic target lists.) But it's at least interesting that such a top-tier name is even thinking about giving it a try.

P.S. Presumably this also rules out a comeback effort from Dem ex-Rep. Zack Space, the guy Gibbs beat in 2010.

SC-01: The filing deadline for the special election to replace now-Sen. Tim Scott was on Monday, and Ballotpedia has a full list of all the candidates. But I liked our own RBH's summation much better:

Republican (16)

Keith Blandford: Libertarian nominee in SC-01 in 2010/2012, might be the Libertarian nominee but I don't think he can be their nominee when he loses this primary
Curtis Bostic: former Charleston County Councilman, lost in 2008 to Vic Rawl
Ric Bryant: Some Dude
Larry Grooms: State Senator from Bonneau (Lake Moultrie)
Jonathan Hoffman: former White House Director of Border Security Policy
Jeff King: Some Dude
John Kuhn: former State Senator (lost primary in 2004 to Chip Campsen)
Tim Larkin: Afghan War Vet
Chip Limehouse: Charleston State Representative
Peter McCoy: Charleston State Representative
Elizabeth Moffly: Businesswoman / failed candidate for State Superintendent of Education
Ray Nash: former Dorchester County Sheriff
Andy Patrick: Hilton Head Island State Representative
Shawn Pinkston: Iraq War Vet/Attorney
Mark Sanford: Noted hiker
Teddy Turner: Son of Ted Turner

Democratic (3)

Elizabeth Colbert Busch: Her brother is on TV
Ben Frasier: Making his 13th run for Congress, lost in the primary 11 times, make it past Robert Burton in 2010 to lose 65-29 to Tim Scott
Martin Skelly: Businessman

"Noted hiker"—LOL. In any event, primaries will take place on March 19, with a runoff scheduled for April 2 if no one clears 50 percent in the first round. The general is set for May 7.

Grab Bag:

Electoral College: She's dead, Jim: The Virginia state Senate committee responsible for the GOP's electoral college-rigging bill has shelved it indefinitely, on a bipartisan 11-4 vote. And it looks like Republicans in three other states have gotten cold feet over the scheme that's already been pronounced dead in Florida. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich and leaders of both chambers of the legislature say they are "not pursuing" such plans, while in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker says he as a "real concern" about any proposed changes. And one powerful Michigan Republican, state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, is also expressing reservations.

Speaking of how his state awards electoral votes, Richardville said on Tuesday: "I don't know that it's broken, so I don't know that I want to fix it" and added that taking up a proposed bill is "not on our agenda." Meanwhile, Walker hasn't formally said no, but he acknowledged that implementing such a system would end Wisconsin's desirable swing state status. As for Ohio, it would be pretty suicidal for the GOP to alter things there, since it's almost impossible to imagine a Republican winning the White House without all of the Buckeye State's electoral votes, so sentiments there are unsurprising.

But it's never over until its over with the GOP, so don't pop any champagne just yet. So far, though, these are positive signs.

Votes: Well, the Senate finally got around to voting on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill on Monday, three months after the deadly storm ravaged the east coast. The measure passed 62-36, with all Democrats voting in favor, joined by just nine Republicans:

Lamar Alexander (TN)
Thad Cochran (MS)
Susan Collins (ME)
Dean Heller (NV)
John Hoeven (ND)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Richard Shelby (AL)
David Vitter (LA)
Roger Wicker (MS)

Several of these "ayes" come from senators in storm-ravaged states like AL, MS, and especially LA (it would have made national headlines had Vitter voted nay), with what passes for a few quasi-moderates (Collins, Heller, Murkowski) thrown in. But a whole bunch of Republicans from blue-leaning or swingish states voted against, including:

Kelly Ayotte (NH)
Chuck Grassley (IA)
Ron Johnson (WI)
Mark Kirk (IL)
Rob Portman (OH)
Marco Rubio (FL)
Pat Toomey (PA)

Kirk's vote strikes me as the most amazing. I mean, really? Some "moderate" he is. Oh, and if you were wondering whether Saxby Chambliss might start acting more reasonable now that he's announced his retirement, the answer is "no," just like his vote.

P.S. Democratic operative Eric Koch took to Twitter following the vote and went on a righteous tear, ripping into Republican hypocrites who had begged for disaster relief when their own states were in need. It includes guys like Dan Coats, who sought help when tornados struck Indiana, and Grassley, who's been in office for decades and has ask for federal aid funds on many occasions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by CenTex Kossacks and Daily Kos.

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