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Leading Off:

IA-Sen: It sounds like the GOP is trying to create its own cat fud inspection commission, with the aim of flushing past-the-expiration-date tea-infused cat fud down the toilet. I definitely don't see any problems stemming from that! Spooked by the likes of Todd Akin, a new Super PAC called the Conservative Victory Project will try to derail the further hopes of conservative nutbars, starting with Iowa. This sounds like it will actually be a lot of fun:

The group's plans, which were outlined for the first time last week in an interview with [Stephen] Law, call for hard-edge campaign tactics, including television advertising, against candidates whom party leaders see as unelectable and a drag on the efforts to win the Senate. Mr. Law cited Iowa as an example and said Republicans could no longer be squeamish about intervening in primary fights.

"We're concerned about Steve King's Todd Akin problem," Mr. Law said. "This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he's said are going to be hung around his neck."

Law, by the way, is president of American Crossroads, and this new group also is, of course, connected to Karl Rove. Anyhow, it's not like Democrats don't experience chip-on-the-shoulder primaries either, when butthurt candidates moan about the "establishment" trying to pick a nominee. (See MA-Sen for the most current example.) But "Unelectable Freak Wins Democratic Primary" is not a common headline, and the fact is that conservative voters like their politicians crazy. So will the likes of this Conservative Victory Project be enough to nuke the nutters from orbit? Or will it just fuel teabagger ire even further? I'm guessing there will be some mixed results, but it's probably very dangerous to start lighting matches in the vicinity of Steve King.

Senate:

GA-Sen: Jim Galloway surveys the wide-open Georgia Senate scene and reports that two prominent names are taking themselves out of consideration. GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, whom you may recall infamously called Barack and Michelle Obama as "uppity" while pretending not to realize he was using racially incendiary language, says he'll stay where he is. Westmoreland seems pretty tight with House leadership, and NRCC chief Greg Walden recently named him as his top deputy, so his decision is unsurprising.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, one of very few top-tier Democrats who could make the race, was less definitive, though he said he's "just focused on being mayor" and specifically touted two other candidates who could run: Rep. John Barrow, who hasn't entirely closed the door, and Peter Aman, who served two years as Reed's chief operating officer.

Some Republicans are definitely sounding a lot more interested, though: Galloway thinks Rep. Jack Kingston "is in," based on his "words and body language." And Rep. Phil Gingrey says he's "very, very interested" and adds that he's polling the race. Finally, it looks like Rep. Paul Broun, whose wife already declared he's running, will formally announce on Wednesday.

MA-Sen: Unless you spent last Friday exploring a particularly large cave, you know that the big news out of the Bay State was that Republican ex-Sen. Scott Brown won't be running in the special election to replace John Kerry. That led to a weekend's worth of fallout, though, as the Republicans tried to figure out what Plan B would be, in a state where the bench doesn't even seem to contain a Plan C.

Probably the next best option for the GOP was Richard Tisei, the former state senator who was the losing lieutenant governor candidate in 2010 and then a narrow loser in last year's MA-06 election against damaged Dem incumbent John Tierney, a race where the polls had given him a significant lead heading into November. However, he was the first domino to fall, with a statement on Saturday saying "the timing is simply not right for me."

So, the fickle finger then pointed to Bill Weld, who won two convincing electoral victories as governor back in the 1990s. Weld came with a few problems, though, perhaps most notably that he was out of the state for most of the 2000s, in fact exploring a New York gubernatorial run in 2006. He is back in Massachusetts now, but his seemingly short attention span was a big strike against him, and on Monday morning he too pulled his name from consideration.

Working our way further down the totem pole, the next option seemed to be Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who was Mitt Romney's no. 2 and then badly lost the 2006 gubernatorial race. After sources said she was unlikely to get in, Healey confirmed late Monday that she wouldn't be running in the Massachusetts special election either.

So, if you can't get a Romney administration vet ... why not get an actual Romney? With that in mind, on Monday morning, the name of Tagg Romney (the Romney son who was most actively involved in the presidential campaign) started popping up. Aside from the wee problems that he's never run for office before, has a last name that's pretty much mud in the Commonwealth, and has some sketchy friends in the finance world, what could possibly go wrong? Well, he might decide not to show up either, as ABC News reported on Monday that close sources said he was not interested; later on Monday afternoon, Tagg Romney confirmed his disinterest, putting out a statement saying that he wouldn't run in MA-Sen—and, oddly, using the exact same language as Tisei ("the timing is not right for me").

Okay, well, how about Ann Romney? The would-be first lady got some ink too over the weekend, and nobody has even bothered rebutting that ... probably because of the sheer ridiculousness of the suggestion.

So, it seems like the GOP's rolls-of-the-dice at this point are obscure moderate state legislator or charismatic outsider. The top option among the former category seems to be state Rep. Dan Winslow, who floated his name on Friday, and hasn't subsequently taken his name out of consideration.

As far as the latter category goes, the NRSC has apparently been talking to Gabriel Gomez, a businessman who seems to check a number of boxes for them (ex-Navy SEAL! and a Latino!). However, picking Gomez seems like it'd be a way to double-down with the hard-right base and give up hope of winning over many moderates; Gomez is carrying a big-ass piece of baggage, in that he has been spokesperson for a group of veterans behind a controversial documentary alleging that Barack Obama leaked confidential intelligence as part of trying to claim sole credit for killing Osama Bin Laden.

But wait, there's more! Now that it looks like the Democratic primary between Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch is going to be for all the marbles, other ambitious Dems may be starting to sniff out the race. The only one who came forward publicly is Gerald Leone, the DA of Middlesex County (the job that Martha Coakley held before becoming AG, in the state's most populous county); saying he was giving "serious consideration" to the race. However, Leone's trial balloon was equally short-lived as well, as he also let it be known late Monday that he wouldn't be running either.

MI-Sen: Dem Sen. Carl Levin was already on retirement watchlists just thanks to his age (78) and long tenure (34 years), so I don't know how much it means that he only raised $13,000 in the fourth quarter of last year. A Levin spokeswoman points out, though, that that's exactly what he raised in the final quarter of 2001, before gearing up for re-election in 2002. Notably, that's not the comparable quarter to the current one—that was a year into the cycle. In any event, she says her boss will decide "within the next three weeks." Even if Levin doesn't run, though, it'll be difficult for Michigan Republicans to put up a strong fight. (Last year, Sen. Debbie Stabenow blew out ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra by 21 points.)

NJ-Sen: Here's another senior Democratic senator who raised very little last quarter, but it means just as much: Frank Lautenberg's 4Q haul was just $11,000. Thing is, though, Lautenberg is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, worth perhaps more than $100 million thanks to his stake in payroll processing giant ADP, of which he was a co-founder. In his prior two campaigns, Lautenberg "only" contributed around $1.5 mil each time, but undoubtedly he could dig much deeper if he needed or wanted to.

SC-Sen-A: Could Lindsey Graham get a primary challenge after all? Conservatives would surely love that (as would I), though it had been looking like a dim hope. But here's a new name, and the crazy is strong with this one: state Sen. Lee Bright, who says there's a "better than 50 percent" chance that he'll enter the race. Bright is a favorite of the local branch of the Club for Growth, so maybe the national org would like to ride this loony pony as well. How loony, by the way? Two years ago, he suggested that the state of South Carolina should create its own currency, saying: "If folks lose faith in the dollar, we need to have some kind of backup." I'm hopeful he can raise a ton in Palmetto pounds sterling for his run.

Gubernatorial:

CO-Gov: In a long Great Mentioner-style piece, the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels looks at the sad picture the Colorado GOP faces when it comes to next year's gubernatorial race—similar to their grim Senate situation. Bartels lists a number of potential candidates to take on Dem. Gov John Hickenlooper and even talked to a few of them, but no one sounds excited about the prospect. Says one conservative strategist: "We have no bench. We have a folding chair."

CT-Gov: Add one more name to the list of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in Connecticut: former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, who served under ex-Gov. Jodi Rell from 2007 to 2011, sounds tentatively interested in running in 2014. It's already a pretty busy field, though no one has formally entered the race yet. The Greenwich Time's Neil Vigdor sums it up:

The GOP field is starting to take shape for next year, with former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, who lost by 6,500 votes to Malloy in 2010, and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, of Fairfield, unofficially entering the fray.

The race has also whet the appetite of House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, Jr., of Norwalk, and could draw interest from Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.

FL-Gov: Is this attempted makeover really going to work for GOP Gov. Rick Scott? After years of budget cuts and attacks on unions, he now says he wants to increase education funding by almost half a billion dollars and give every teacher a $2,500 pay raise. Oh, but here's the kicker: He just reduced teacher salaries by 3 percent last year! So this raise is nowhere near as generous as it sounds (and indeed, Florida has some of the worst-paid teachers in the nation) and just looks so transparently expedient.

IL-Gov: We Ask America, the right-wing pollster that tries to hide the fact that it's an arm of the conservative Illinois Manufacturers' Association, has a new survey looking at potential Democratic primary matchups in their home state. WAA does a lot of in-house polling, like PPP, but this one isn't up on their website, leading me to wonder who might have paid for it. (They have done some client work in the past, including at least one poll for a Democrat, oddly enough: NE-02's John Ewing.)

Anyhow, the numbers show dominant leads for AG Lisa Madigan, who leads incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn 51-26. (PPP had her crushing even harder a few months ago, 64-20.) In a matchup against former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, Quinn does a little better with a 38-33 edge, but I wouldn't take too much solace in numbers like those. And in the event of a three-way, Madigan's still on top with 37 percent, versus 20 for Quinn and 15 for Daley. You really have to wonder whether Quinn will go through the pain and suffering of seeking re-election, or whether he'll just decide that stepping aside makes more sense at this point.

MN-Gov: I wonder how Dem Gov. Mark Dayton feels about this. On the one hand, 2010 nominee Tom Emmer came awfully close to victory, but on the other, he's a conservative loudmouth who probably would have been a much longer shot in any year other than 2010. Anyway, in response to a draft movement, Emmer says he will "never close the door" but adds that he is "not currently planning" to run for governor or any other office next year.

NE-Gov, -LG: How crazy: Republican Rick Sheehy resigned as Nebraska's lieutenant governor on Saturday, after the Omaha World-Herald discovered that Sheehy had made some 2,300 late-night phone calls to four different women who were not his wife, mostly before his wife filed for divorce last year. How did the paper discover these calls? Kind of amazingly, Sheehy made them on his state-issued cell phone, and the World-Herald simply issued a records request after hearing reports that Sheehy was involved with other women. (Sheehy was known for his extensive road travels, so you can put two and two together. But in any event, one of the women says they had a romantic relationship and that Sheehy promised to marry her.)

Sheehy had been the frontrunner for the GOP nod to succeed term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman, who had endorsed his former no. 2. It's hard to see how Sheehy could continue running now, and in any event, Heineman immediately withdrew his support. Late last year, state House Speaker Mike Flood also bowed out, albeit for a very different reason (his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer). These twin developments have now completely recast the race, leaving a wide-open field. The only other potential candidate who had something in the works is state Sen. Charlie Janssen, who had promised a decision by the end of the month, but others are sure to get in now.

Indeed, the WH has a look at other possible contenders as well, citing State Auditor Mike Foley, Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, former state Sen. Phil Erdmann, and University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare. And some Republicans are hoping Flood can re-enter the race. As for Democrats, they'll be hard-pressed to compete for this seat, but who knows what opportunities a sloppy, multi-way primary between second-tier candidates could bring? In any event, party chair Vince Powers says that state Sen. Steve Lathrop and former NU Regent Chuck Hassebrook are both "looking at it hard."

Meanwhile, Heineman will have to pick a new second-in-command with Sheehy turning into a real-life version of Joe Biden as imagined by The Onion. Reporter Robynn Tysver mentions Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, state Sen. Beau McCoy, attorney Bob Evnen, and state Policy Research Office Director Lauren Kintner.

NY-Gov: Siena has some new approval ratings (PDF) for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and like Quinnipiac, they see him sliding, albeit not as badly. He's still very strong, at 67-29, but that's down from 71-24 a month ago.

VA-Gov: A new interview with Virginia's Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in the Richmond Times-Dispatch shows a dramatically changed man, now that—with a potential independent bid for governor on tap—he's freed from the constraints of having to make a play for the GOP base voters. Bolling, in fact, says as much ("There's a certain liberating feeling to be able to say what you think without regard for the political implications") ... and as far as the guy who out-maneuvered him for the Republican nomination, Ken Cuccinelli, he says, "It's like he's written off trying to reach mainstream voters."

The natural temptation is to think that Bolling has merely changed his rhetorical spots, but he may be starting to flex his muscles on the legislative front as well, as on Monday he broke a legislative tie (in the 20-20 state Senate) in the Dems' direction, on a bill concerning what forms of voter ID are appropriate. (David Jarman)

House:

CA-17: Does Ro Khanna want to take on everyone in tarnation? He might have to, given how aggressively Rep. Mike Honda is moving to lock down the kind of big-name support you'd expect a veteran Democrat to be able to muster. We previously mentioned Barack Obama's unusual early endorsement of Honda after Khanna started sniffing around this seat, but now Nancy Pelosi, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and DCCC chair Steve Israel have all done the same. The linked article notes that this foursome also endorsed now-ex-Rep. Pete Stark last year (whose seat Khanna had been interested in), but it didn't do him a lot of good, seeing as he was turfed out by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell.

But Honda's a different bird than Stark: He's part of the House Dem leadership, and I'd think someone like Pelosi would be a lot more interested in helping out Honda than an irascible eccentric like Stark. What's more, when Khanna ramped up his fundraising in 2012 as a prelude to a possible run, Pelosi was among those headlining his signature events. That definitely won't happen again. Oh, and same with Mike Honda: He actually lent his name to a Khanna fundraiser in 2011, with the understanding that Khanna would hold off challenging Stark. It seems like quite the betrayal for Khanna to contemplate using that money against one of the guys who helped him in the first place, and I'd wager the very thought is enough to get Honda fired up for re-election.

CO-06: Just weeks after his name first came up as a possibility, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has officially filed paperwork with the FEC for a campaign against GOP Rep. Mike Coffman. At least two other current office-holders are interested, though: former state Rep. Karen Middleton and state Sen. Linda Newell, who said last week that she, too, is "seriously considering" a run herself. Like Middleton and Romanoff, Newell has already talked to the DCCC and is planning a trip to Washington to meet in person. Given how blue this seat is and what a ripe target Coffman is, we could wind up with a seriously contested Democratic primary here.

Other Races:

Special Elections: They keep happening, and Johnny Longtorso keeps covering 'em:

Georgia HD-71: Open Republican seat in Coweta County. Five Republicans are running: Thomas Crymes, Michael Farbo, Jr., Darryl Marmon (who lost a primary 72-28 to the previous incumbent last year), David Stover, and Richard Weisser, along with one Democrat, Cynthia Conradt Bennett. Bennett ran as an independent in a special election for the State Senate in 2011, coming in fourth in the open primary with 9.5%.

Also of minimal note are two runoffs, SD-11 and HD-21, both between two Republicans.

Mississippi SD-28: This is an open Democratic seat located in the capital of Jackson. The election is nonpartisan and has drawn a whopping nine candidates: Cindy Ayers-Elliott, Tamarra Grace Butler, Marshand Crisler, Sollie Norwood, Antonio Porter, James "Jimmy" Stewart (not kidding, this is how he filed), Kathy Sykes, Tommy Wallace II, and Cassandra Welchlin. I'm not even going to try to figure out who all these dudes are.

Grab Bag:

Alaska GOP: Do state-level Republican organizations just get screwier the further you move into the nation's corners? California's state party is flatlining, Maine is constantly in pitched battle between Paulists and New England old-schoolers, and Florida's party has seen a bizarre parade of unsavory characters. Alaska may take the cake, though: It's one of the few states where Paulists are close to a plurality, rather than a vocal fringe ... and last week's news ought to help inflame their resentments and paranoia even further.

Incoming state party chair Russ Millette—a Joe Miller ally who'd been elected at the state's convention last year thanks to an influx of Paulist first-time conventioneers—was removed as chair by the old-guard members of the state party's rules committee shortly before he was to take office last week, based on charges that he'd failed to raise money for Republican candidates while in the stepping-stone position of finance chairman. That leaves the party temporarily leaderless, as Randy Ruedrich, who'd been party chair for more than a decade before being ousted by Millette, said he wouldn't stay on. (David Jarman)

Census: The Census Bureau has actually compiled a fair bit of demographic data, according to the new district lines of the 113th Congress, but they've made it frustratingly difficult to find and use. Fortunately, our own David Jarman took the time to manually download all the new American Community Survey data from the Census's "Easy Stats" page, which only lets you pull a single seat at a time. So that no one ever need do that again, we've compiled it all into a publicly available Google Docs spreadsheet.

Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman has been at work on a similar project, pulling data from the Census's FTP site and posting it online as well. The difference between the two files is that Wasserman is using the actual 2010 Census results, whereas our sheet uses the 2011 ACS figures. The two data sets don't overlap completely (and note that the ACS info, while newer, is a survey as opposed to an actual count), so you'll want to keep both links handy.

Electoral College: After the epic multi-state flameout of the GOP's electoral college-rigging master plan last week, Pennsylvania seemed like the only state left where it was even remotely on the table. And, indeed, it may yet rear its head in the legislature this session; state Senate leader Dominic Pileggi says he'll introduce new legislation about it this session, though conceding that it's "not a top priority" in Pennsylvania. He's pushing a slightly modified (and less nakedly power-grabby) version of EC-rigging, where Pennsylvania would give 2 votes to the winner and split the remaining 18 proportionately according to the state's popular vote (which, in 2012, was close enough that it would break down 9-9). We've seen this surface before, though; the idea was originally floated in December (here's the memorandum Pileggi circulated at the time).

So, what would actually happen if the entire nation switched en masse to this method? (Which is not Pileggi's intention, I'm sure.) Re-running the 2012 election under these rules, by my reckoning (and my own assumptions about how the law would handle rounding errors), would give 279 electoral votes to Barack Obama, 258 to Mitt Romney, and 1 to Gary Johnson. A closer election to be sure, but also one that's much closer to the national popular vote than the current structure (279/258 would be 51.85 percent to 47.95 percent, while Barack Obama's share of the head-to-head popular vote was 51.95 percent). If you're wondering how Johnson managed to sneak in there, California has a large enough number of EVs (55) that the Libertarian manages to pick off one of them with 1.1 percent of the state's vote. (David Jarman)

Pres-by-CD: The lighting in the Superdome wasn't the only thing that got turned back on on Sunday ... the SSP Labs Pres-by-CD machine is back too! (Too soon?)

Anyway, we're bringing you 15 new districts, spanning four states:

Massachusetts (Statewide)

Missouri (MO-02 and MO-03)

New York (NY-01)

Texas (TX-11, TX-19, and TX-35)

First up are provisional results from Massachusetts. "Why are they provisional?" you might be asking. Well, it appears that official results by town got lost along with the sleeves on Bill Belichick's game-day hoodie. (On the "unseemly and disgraceful" scale, the Secretary of Commonwealth's failure to publish that information comes in right around the Patriots', er, home videos.) In the meantime, we're mashing together results we've received from individual towns and the Boston Globe's 2012 results page as a crutch. (We'll provide updates when we get official results by town, even if we have to hike to Beacon Hill in Tom Brady's Uggs to get them.)

As for the results themselves, there's nothing particularly surprising, though we continue to see differentiation among the seats held by the all-Democratic delegation. Rep. John Tierney gets credit for holding the reddest seat in the state (54.7 percent Obama), though fellow Rep. Bill Keating's MA-09 comes close, having suffered a rather sharp drop to 55.4 percent Obama. This is looking ahead (knock wood), but Dems should have no problem holding the seats of either Ed Markey (65 percent Obama) or Stephen Lynch (58 percent Obama) should one get elected to the Senate, though the thought of the latter makes me cringe like a Billy Cundiff field goal.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, results from St. Charles County allow us to finish MO-02 and MO-03. Given the sharp drop in Obama's performance in the state (and in MO-02 especially, which is now 57-41 Romney), one wonders how Russ Carnahan would have fared had he chosen to run for that open seat. (Instead, he chose to run in MO-01, and now we're all free to ponder which is sadder—Carnahan's 63-34 loss at the hands of fellow Dem Lacy Clay in the August primary, or Mark Sanchez's loss of the football at the butt of fellow New York Jet Brandon Moore in Week 12.)

Speaking of New York, data from Suffolk County means that NY-01 is complete (much like Colin Kaepernick's sweet toss to Ed Reed). This district was surprisingly close, with about 1,600 votes separating Obama and Romney here for a 49.6-49.1 result. (PA-08 is still the closest district calculated thus far.) Dem incumbent Tim Bishop seemed to attract just enough crossover support, hanging on by 5 points.

Lastly, there's a smattering of not-particularly-interesting Texas districts, with two falling into the heavily Republican camp—the west Texas-based TX-11 (79 percent Romney) and TX-19 (74 percent Romney), and one falling into the heavily Democratic camp—the Austin-to-San Antonio TX-35 (63 percent Obama).

In addition, we've received more detailed data from several jurisdictions in Florida (which now has an awesome statewide precinct file!) and Bell County, TX, allowing us to update a smattering of districts in those jurisdictions.

Florida (FL-05, FL-07, FL-23 through FL-27)

Texas (TX-25 and TX-31)

Accordingly, the following changes were made to vote totals and percentages.

District Obama Romney Total Obama% Romney%
FL-05 +488 -159 +329 +0.09% -0.09%
FL-07 -488 +159 -329 -0.10% +0.10%
FL-23 -33 -4 -35 -0.00% +0.00%
FL-24 +326 -10 +311 +0.02% -0.02%
FL-25 -700 -439 -1,149 -0.06% +0.06%
FL-26 +163 +194 +356 -0.01% +0.01%
FL-27 +244 +260 +517 -0.01% +0.01%
TX-25 -174 -460 -638 +0.02% -0.03%
TX-31 +174 +460 +638 -0.03% +0.03%

Better data from Miami-Dade County allowed us to resolve split precincts, while both Bell, TX and Volusia, FL gave us early votes allocated by precinct. The largest change is that Obama's performance in the heavily Democratic Jacksonville-Gainesville-Orlando FL-05 was understated by 0.1 percent and overstated by 0.1 percent in adjoining FL-07. (FL-05 could have been the Tim Tebow district, but it turns out that not even Jacksonville wants him.)

The trend we've been seeing with these adjustments is that our early vote formulas tend to overstate Obama's performance in Republican districts and Romney's performance in Democratic districts, with the distortion being larger in states with larger shares of early voting. Interestingly enough, that means the districts are likely even more polarized than currently calculated to be. Of the results we've calculated so far, this will be the biggest issue in North Carolina, where 20 percent of ballots were not allocated to precincts at first pass and in some counties, almost 75 percent of ballots were unallocable (fortunately, better data have already started trickling in).

This will also be an issue in Maryland (20 percent of ballots were also unallocable there), though less of one, as unallocable ballots never constitute more than 30 percent of the votes cast in a given jurisdiction. We're not expecting better results there, but hey, the Lombardi trophy is fine just as it is. (jeffmd)

VA Redistricting: Well, glad to see someone's come to his senses (probably after getting smacked around a bit by his colleagues). State Del. Onzlee Ware said last week that he was thinking about voting for a Republican mid-decade redistricting scheme that would screw Democrats—but create a new black-majority seat in the Senate, one which Ware may have had his eye on. But it was a craven proposition that would only offer the GOP cover, seeing as the plan has already passed the Senate and Republicans have a huge majority in the House. Thankfully, though, he now says he's backed off that possibility, though it's not clear where the other wayward Dem, Rosalyn Dance, stands on the matter.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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