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IL-02: On Tuesday night, former state Rep. Robin Kelly powered her way to an enormous victory in the special Democratic primary to fill ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s vacant House seat. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Kelly held a 52-25 lead over her nearest rival, ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson, meaning she took a majority of the vote in a massive 16-candidate field. A general election will be held in April, but in this solid blue district covering Chicago's South Side and southern suburbs, it's only a formality: Kelly will soon be headed to Congress.

Of the three leading contenders who began the race, only Kelly had earned an "F" rating from the NRA, which she wore as a badge of honor. Halvorson and another rival, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, had both scored "A" grades from the rifle association, putting them badly out of step with a district that has been plagued by gun violence. These incongruous stances prompted NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's Super PAC, Independence USA, to run ads in the district targeting Halvorson on guns.

Meanwhile, Kelly, pushing a strong message on curbing gun violence, started consolidating support within the 2nd. Daily Kos then became the first progressive group to endorse her, ultimately raising over $113,000 in small donations for her campaign. CREDO Super PAC got involved as well, spending six figures on field operations to benefit Kelly, and ultimately Independence pivoted to attack Hutchinson as well—and endorse Kelly, too. Following this move, Hutchinson dropped out with just 10 days to go, throwing her support to Kelly.

That left Halvorson and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale as Kelly's only legitimate opponents, but by then it was too late. The grassroots infusion of cash had already allowed Kelly to get on the airwaves and expand her voter outreach program well ahead of any other candidate. At the same time, Bloomberg's PAC kept their boot on Halvorson's neck with their continued air assault. Kelly continued to rack up local endorsements, including those of four members of Congress—all of whom, rather pointedly, had served with Halvorson but declined to back her.

In the end, Halvorson was only aided by a comically awful monochrome mailer from the local affiliate of the NRA—and it's indeed the NRA who was the biggest loser on Tuesday night. Many Democrats had long been terrified of the organization's political might, but in the wake of Sandy Hook, more are fighting back in support of sensible gun safety regulations.

Robin Kelly, though, was never afraid, and her victory sends a real message to those who oppose any efforts to stem the scourge of gun violence. This most definitely won't be the last election where an "F" rating from the NRA turns out to be an "A" with voters.

11:18 AM PT: MT-Sen: Remember the other day, when Democratic ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer told a local news outfit that he'd have "big news" for them "in the next week or so"? Well, it seems like this is it:

A former Montana governor considered a dark horse candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination has joined a hedge fund's attempt to take control of the state's largest publicly-owned mining company.

Less than two months out of office, Democrat Brian Schweitzer said he's intervening to save Stillwater Mining Co. from questionable foreign expansion plans he says could leave its 1,500 Montana jobs at risk.

A New York-based hedge fund, the Clinton Group, submitted formal notice to Stillwater on Monday of its bid to oust the precious metals company's board of directors. If Schweitzer and the Clinton Group can persuade enough investors to support them, the current board would be replaced with a new slate that includes Schweitzer.

Don't get me wrong: This sounds like an astute move politically. If Schweitzer's proxy fight is successful, he may be able to take credit for protecting Montana jobs, something that would no doubt prove valuable should he ever run for office again. And this also allows him to develop relationships with big money guys on Wall Street, but in a manner that insulates him from most standard critiques about "selling out."

Still, though, this isn't the Senate primary announcement many were hoping for, and indeed, if this attempted takeover works out, Schweitzer's duties toward the company may leave him too occupied to consider another run for office this year or next. So this may all be aimed at building up his profile for a possible 2016 presidential bid. But with Schweitzer, you never know, and he could yet surprise us.

12:19 PM PT (David Jarman): FL-Gov: Conventional wisdom considers Rick Scott one of the most vulnerable Republican governors up in 2014, but here's a poll that shows he has a fighting chance, and it comes from an unlikely source: a Democratic firm. The poll by Hamilton Campaigns shows Scott tied at 41 apiece with the likeliest opponent, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (running as a Democrat), a more pessimistic view of the race than we've seen elsewhere.

The article goes on to say, though, that the poll was taken for an unidentified "private client," and then it includes another result from the poll, that makes pretty clear this poll isn't one that got leaked by Crist or one of his allies: after negative statements about Crist are read, the results shift to 36 Scott, 30 Crist, and 18 for "an unnamed independent candidate." I haven't heard any rumblings, though, about a big-name independent candidate sniffing out the race, nor do I even have any ideas who that might be (unless it's former New York politics gadfly Tom Golisano, who rather loudly moved to Florida a few years ago).

At any rate, one more high-profile Dem seems to be stepping out of the way for Crist: Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer, whose name has often been linked with the race, has said he won't run in 2014. On the Republican side of the ledger, AG Pam Bondi has joined Ag Comm. Adam Putnam in criticizing Scott's "surrender" (her words) on Medicaid expansion. There were no indications that was a prelude to a primary challenge to Scott, though (which has been rumored lately, but no one seems to be stepping up to do it); probably more like 2018 positioning when she and Putnam are likely to face off for the GOP gov nod.

12:27 PM PT (David Jarman): IA-Sen, IA-03: They're popping champagne corks at the DSCC (though probably crying into their beer at the DCCC). Rep. Tom Latham, the long-time establishment-flavored GOPer who would have given the Republicans their best shot (probably their only shot) at defeating Bruce Braley for the open Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin, has said he won't run for the Senate. Latham said he didn't want a Senate run to detract from his duties in the 3rd, which certainly makes it sound like he'll be running for re-election there instead.

That leaves IA-04 Rep. Steve King a pretty clear path to the GOP Senate nomination if he still wants it, and given King's hard-right, foot-in-mouth ways, also gives IA-01 Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (already in the race, and expected to clear the Dem field) a similarly clear path to the Senate. The one downside here is that Latham's slightly Dem-leaning IA-03 would have been a good pickup opportunity for the Dems if it were open, but given his durability (he defeated Dem Rep. Leonard Boswell in a redistricting-forced mashup by around 8 pts.), it's a lot less of a tempting target with Latham sticking around.

12:41 PM PT (David Jarman): Consider PPP's most recent poll of Iowa, taken in early February shortly after Harkin's retirement announcement and before anyone had gotten in. They found a race between Latham and Braley a tossup, with Braley leading only 44-41. By contrast, Braley led King by 11, 49-38. That same poll showed King romping in the hypothetical GOP primary, though, leading Latham 50-27 in a two-man race. Those odds, more so than his duties to IA-03 constituents, are probably what weighed on Latham's mind as he made his decision. Also, Latham may have been feeling burned by Karl Rove's decision to declare war on Steve King and, more generally, on off-message, anti-establishment GOP primary contenders. That only seemed to have the effect of riling up King, and his small-donor backers, even more.

1:23 PM PT (David Jarman): GA-Sen: Polling the Republican primary in the open Georgia Senate race is currently an exercise in futility, since most of the state's top-tier Republicans are either already in the race or else publicly considering it. So every poll we've seen of the race has had a different leader, but with nobody breaking out of the teens, thanks to different polls including or excluding different possible candidates, and the clown car-nature of the hypothetical field ... while it's highly doubtful we'll actually see a field with 8 contestants. At any rate, the most recent poll of the field (by Landmark Communications and Rosetta Stone, on behalf of WSB-TV) finds Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle leading at 17 (probably thanks to his statewide name rec). He's followed closely by Rep. Phil Gingrey at 15, Rep. Jack Kingston at 12, Rep. Tom Price at 11, Rep. Paul Broun at 10, and Ross Tolleson at 2. Ex-SoS Karen Handel was not tested.

2:34 PM PT: KS-Sen: For the sake of completeness, PPP also took a look at Kansas's Senate race as part of their full Sunflower State poll:

Pat Roberts is one of the most anonymous Senators in the country. 31% of voters approve of him, 28% disapprove, and 41% don't have an opinion either way. The only Senator in the county we've found with a higher percentage of voters having no opinion about him is first termer Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Nevertheless Roberts shouldn't be in too much trouble next year, at least in a general election. He leads every Democrat we tested against him by double digits—it's 11 points over Kathleen Sebelius at 51/40, 15 points over Mark Parkinson at 49/34, and 16 over Carl Brewer at 50/34.

Roberts' low profile could give him more trouble in a primary. Just 42% of Republicans say they would vote to re-nominate him, while 34% say they would prefer someone "more conservative." Those are pretty uninspiring numbers if a more fiery candidate wanted to challenge him from the right. Roberts has bigger leads over specific GOP alternatives we tested against him though—21 points over Todd Tiahrt at 47/26, 31 over Tim Huelskamp at 53/22, and 36 over Kris Kobach at 55/19.

Democrats might have a better chance with someone like Huelskamp as the GOP nominee—he leads the Brewer/Sebelius/Parkinson trio by only 4-6 points. But obviously the Republican lean of the state will make it hard for Democrats regardless of the GOP candidate.

I think Tom is right that the best we can hope for is a messy primary. But Roberts hasn't gotten nearly the attention from angry conservatives that other wayward souls in the GOP have, like Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham, so I suspect he'll skate.

3:00 PM PT: MA-Sen: Unions keep taking sides in the Democratic primary, with three recently backing Rep. Stephen Lynch—the Nurses Association, the Building Trades Council, and the Professional Fire Fighters—and one, AFSCME, coming out for Rep. Ed Markey. Amazingly, the nurses cited Lynch's supposed support for "access to quality health care for all in America," even though he voted against the Affordable Care Act! Apparently, they're buying his b.s. that he opposed the bill because it didn't include a public option, claiming they "were in the exact same place." Really? They opposed the ACA because it wasn't perfect enough?

Perhaps—the group does say, after all, that they favor single payer healthcare, aka Medicare for All, and maybe they're purist enough to have opposed Obamacare. But guess what? Lynch doesn't support single payer, either! You know who comes closest to the nurses's view? Why, that would be Ed Markey, who said years ago that he's in favor of single payer legislation. If that's your signature issue, as it appears to be for the nurses, then how could they abandon that to endorse Lynch?

3:09 PM PT: NY-19: Meh. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes just bought a $2 million house in the 19th Congressional District, presumably so that he and his husband, Sean Eldridge, have a place to call home as Eldridge pursues a bid for Congress. Republicans are already overheating with predictable carpetbagger charges, but the same thing happened one seat to the south last year, where Sean Maloney nevertheless defeated GOP Rep. Nan Hayworth the same year he moved into the district. And carpetbagging charges didn't stick against either Kirsten Gillibrand or Scott Murphy when they ran in the old 20th (the predecessor to the 19th), either... hence the "meh" from me.

I'm more concerned about Eldridge's age—he's just 26—and the thin record of accomplishment he'll have available to run on. Yes, he's engaged in a lot of activism (thanks in part to his prominence and wealth), but I think he will have a lot of work ahead of him to convince voters that he's ready for such an important job.


3:25 PM PT: WATN?: Our thoughts are with Democratic ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson of Ohio, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered last week. Wilson's family says they are "hopeful that the congressman will make a full recovery." Wilson is 70 years old and made an unsuccessful comeback bid last cycle, though he had been mentioned as a possible candidate for state treasurer next year.

3:41 PM PT: CA-21: The Fresno Bee's John Ellis runs through a sizable catalog of potential successors to Democratic state Sen. Michael Rubio, who just announced his resignation. Now, while we love the Great Mentioner (okay, we have a love-hate relationship with him), lists of possible state Senate candidates are a bit deep in the weeds even for us. But we're filing this under CA-21 because some of the names cited here could very well run for Congress next year instead. (Rubio briefly ran for the 21st last cycle before bowing out.)

In any event, the Dems on Ellis's list: Assemblyman Henry Perea, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, Bakersfield City School District board member Andrae Gonzales, and Shafter City Council Member Fran Florez. Click through for more detail on each of these.

3:57 PM PT: GA-10: State utilities commissioner Tim Echols says he will not run in the Republican primary to replace Rep. Paul Broun, who is running for Senate.

4:28 PM PT: PA-13: See, this is why I was saying we have a love-hate relationship with the Great Mentioner in our CA-21 item above. I always love knowing about every last person who might run for a particular office (minus the Some Dudes), but I hate how difficult it can be to keep up with the inevitable flood of names that accompanies any open (or potentially open) seat. The good folks at PoliticsPA just got a taste of exactly that: On Tuesday, they published a piece about five different Democrats who might run for Rep. Allyson Schwartz's 13th Congressional District if she in turn runs for governor, but then they learned about another half-dozen names. Click through to see who else they're talking about.

4:52 PM PT: NC-07: I can't really say I understand what this move is about: New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield just announced a primary challenge to Dem Rep. Mike McIntyre, who barely survived one of the closest House races in the nation last year. Indeed, McIntyre had been targeted for extinction by the GOP, who redrew his district so as to be unwinnable for a Democrat. But McIntyre is no ordinary Dem, and he rode his conservative Blue Dog profile to a remarkable victory. If anyone else were to run in his stead next time, I can't see how they could pull off the same feat.

What's more, in the few news accounts I read, nothing Barfield said indicated why he thought a sitting congressman deserved a primary—just that he'd had his eye on the seat for "quite a while." I also don't know how he expects to beat McIntyre. Barfield is African American and the district is about 18 percent black, so black voters represent a decent chunk of the Democratic primary electorate. But McIntyre has a lot of name rec and goodwill built up, so the very same qualities which made him hard to beat in the general last year will make him hard to beat in a primary next year.

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