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Leading Off:

SC-Gov: For whatever reason, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's come up a bunch in the comments over at Daily Kos Elections in recent days, with a lot of people wondering if she might be vulnerable to a challenge in 2014. Despite running in a very red state in a very red year, Haley only first won office with a four-point victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen in 2010, and Sheheen (just 41) may well run again. But has Haley managed to recover her mojo—to the extent she ever had any? Maybe not, according to a new Winthrop University poll, which has her job approval rating at a rather mediocre 38-41. That's actually down a touch since April, when she stood at an even 37-37.

But why is Haley down in the dumps? I'd wager there are a number of reasons. Both sex and race could both be playing a role (Haley's parents are immigrants from India). But she also came into office as the protégé of disgraced ex-Gov. Mark Sanford, who alienated a lot of his fellow Republicans and of course departed office in humiliating fashion. While Haley's not quite the lone wolf Sanford was, like her predecessor, she's often had a rocky relationship with the legislature, and those ugly spats don't tend to play well for either side. A recent article in The State sums things up well:

Critics say Haley has adopted an insular management style, surrounding herself with a small group of 20-something former campaign staffers, led until recently by a young chief of staff, with limited state government experience. She also employs an "us vs. them" mentality against her perceived foes.

The result?

Haley has alienated some former allies, made powerful enemies and damaged relationships with legislators who could have helped pass her agenda. A list of the bruised extends from Tea Party elements and the libertarian Policy Council, both of which once championed Haley, to fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

The piece goes on to add that while Haley has managed to secure the support of the state's business community, lots of observers think she's more interested in national aspirations than what's going on back home. That's the sort of line of attack that could be extremely potent in a general election, since it would allow someone like Sheheen to go after Haley over a decidedly non-partisan issue—the kind of thing a Democrat running on red turf needs to be able to do. Haley has lots of time to turn things around before election day, of course, but without a course correction, she could indeed find herself in trouble.

P.S. Want one more bad sign for Haley? Obama somehow has a 48-41 approval score in this same Winthrop poll. Now, maybe that's a sign this survey perhaps leans a bit too Democratic, but regardless, for a Republican governor in South Carolina to chalk up a worse rating than a Democratic president ... well, that's pretty awful.

Senate:

IL-Sen: Heh. If Michelle Obama were to pull a Hillary Clinton and run for Senate in the final year of her husband's presidency, PPP finds that she'd beat GOP Sen. Mark Kirk 51-40. While we often caution that two years is a long time in politics and things can change, I am of the opinion that polls taken four years in advance of a race are absolutely dead accurate, Nostradamus-like predictions of the future, so take this one to the bank, Senator-elect Obama!

P.S. Illinois voters support gay marriage by a 47-42 margin—interestingly, quite a bit narrower than in New Jersey (see below).

KY-Sen: Not that this was ever going to happen, but Dem Gov. Steve Beshear confirms he will not run against Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014. Says Beshear, who once unsuccessfully challenged McConnell in 1996 (losing 56-43): "I have no interest in running for that or any other office."

NM-Sen: Businessman and former state GOP chair Allen Weh says he's considering a bid against Sen. Tom Udall and hopes to decide by next spring. Weh ran in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, coming in second with 28 percent in a five-way field. (The winner, now-Gov. Susana Martinez, cleared an outright majority.) You might also recall Weh, a Marine Corps vet, from his involvement in the tawdry U.S. Attorneys firing scandal—he advocated pushing out U.S.A. David Iglesias because he had refused to indict a Democratic legislator on voter fraud charges. Weh, 70, is wealthy and could self-fund his campaign, but he says he doesn't want to. He's far from a perfect candidate, but if he were to open up his checkbook, he could wind up being New Mexico Republicans' best bet, since they don't exactly have a top-flight bench.

SD-Sen: I really don't think these new comments are very meaningful, seeing as Dem Sen. Tim Johnson had already made it quite clear that he hadn't reached a decision about whether to seek a fourth term in the Senate. So his remarks on Wednesday are not at all a surprise: "If I run again," said Johnson, "I will run a strong campaign is what I meant. But only if I run again, and it's far too soon to make that statement."

This is just tea leaves 101: Yes, Johnson said last week that "I fully intend to put together a winning campaign," but that was not at all dispositive. If Johnson wanted to put to rest any talk about a possible retirement, he could have done so at that time. Put another way: If a candidate does not definitively say, "Yes, I am running for re-election," then you should make no assumptions either way.

Gubernatorial:

PA-Gov: Interesting: Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor says he's thinking about challenging Gov. Tom Corbett... in the GOP primary. Castor ain't some Some Dude, either: He served as MontCo DA for two terms, and in 2004, Keegan Gibson notes, he lost the attorney general primary to Corbett by just five points. Of course, it would be quite a thing to knock off an incumbent governor in a primary, but at least Castor has something of a profile. (One other Republican, businessman Scott Wagner, has also expressed interest, but it's not clear how much mojo he's got.)

VA-Gov: Ah, too bad: Former Congressman and progressive hero Tom Perriello says he will not run for governor next year, following a few hazy reports that suggested he was considering a bid. Instead, he's endorsing former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, which makes it seem increasingly likely that T-Mac will have a clear primary field. As for Perriello's future, he says: "I do not feel called to serve in elected office at this time, but I do not need to have my name on the ballot to be part of the fight." Hopefully he'll run for something again in the near future, though, but at just 38 years of age, he has a lot of time to plan his next steps.

House:

CA-35: We've talked a lot about the unusual race in CA-35 since election day, which I think may have produced the most remarkable upset of the cycle. But I'm still going to recommend you read Dan Morain's piece in the Sacramento Bee discussing the contest between soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Joe Baca and state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, because I think it's the best analysis of the entire race I've seen to date.

In particular, Morain explains why exactly NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PAC, which is pretty much the only moneyed force in politics that's focused on advancing gun control, went after Baca—and how Baca was cut loose by the NRA despite asking for their help because he didn't vote to censure Eric Holder over "Fast and Furious." (A smart sacrifice for them: The NRA can point to Baca's loss and failure to support their entire agenda next time someone comes to them cap-in-hand.) Interestingly, Morain says Negrete McLeod "hardly is an anti-gunner," but Baca was evidently so offensive to Bloomberg that it didn't matter. In any event, as I say, the entire piece is worth a read.

IL-02: Uh, whoops? State Sen. Donne Trotter, who just announced he'd make a bid for ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s now-vacant seat was... just arrested at O'Hare for trying to bring a handgun and bullets through security? WTF? Well, yeah, apparently this did indeed happen. Some local reports have suggested Trotter might be a frontrunner in the crowded Democratic primary field thanks to his insider's game, but something like this definitely ain't gonna help him.

P.S. If this sounds at all familiar, here's why.

LA-03: If you'd like some more background on the issues being fought over in the all-GOP LA-03 runoff between Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry, the Times Picayune has a very good, detailed summation. The two congressmen are going after each other on things like energy exploration (Landry says he's the only one with an oil background) and, believe it or not, "death panels" (Boustany, a heart surgeon, supports end-of-life counseling). Much more at the link.

Other Races:

NJ-LG: GOP Gov. Chris Christie's campaign is now confirming that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will remain a part of Christie's re-election ticket, even though just a week ago, Christie told reporters "I don't know what she wants." It seems odd to me that a matter like this would in any way get aired publicly—you'd think Christie's team would prefer to handle this entirely in private, lest anyone wonder whether there's dissension in the ranks. In any event, this probably takes Guadagno out of the running for a Senate bid, since New Jersey's gubernatorial election is in Nov. 2013. (Then again, I don't think anyone had seriously considered the possibility that she might run for federal office—PPP simply tossed her into their recent poll as a stand-in.)

While we're on New Jersey, PPP is back with their usual sports-n-gay-marriage miscellany. (Not exactly the most obvious combination of question topics, but Tom Jensen is a polling iconoclast!) While it will likely never happen as long as Christie occupies Drumthwacket, New Jersey voters support same-sex marriage by a wide 53-36 margin. Democrats, who have big majorities in both chambers of the legislature, also lead 49-36 on the generic legislative ballot. (All seats will be up next year at the same time as the gubernatorial election.)

WA-St. Sen, Seattle Mayor: When we last checked in on Washington's state Senate, there wasn't one-tenth the dysfunctional drama as in New York, but there was still complete uncertainty: Ed Murray had just been elected majority leader by the Dem caucus, but that was in the face of a potential coup by two wayward Democrats who might give some level of control to Republicans. We still don't have any resolution on that front (especially while we wait on a recount in SD-17, where GOPer Don Benton appears to have survived by less than 100 votes), but now there's a whole 'nother wrinkle in the story: Murray has announced he's going to run for Seattle mayor in 2013.

It's hard to tell what the implications are as yet. It may seem like Murray's feeling a lot less confident about becoming majority leader and is looking for Plan B. But Murray has also been talked about as a potential mayoral candidate for many years and may have been planning to forge ahead even if he was to be leader this cycle, so it may mean nothing as far as the Senate is concerned. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

DGA: The Democratic Governors Association have elected Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who just won a second two-year term in November, as their new chair. He succeeds Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who will remain on as finance chair. Executive Director Colm O'Comartun is also staying on for another term as ED.

NY-St. Sen: Watch New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wriggle like the snake he is. From a Wednesday press conference:

[Cuomo] had harsh words about how his fellow Democrats ran the chamber in 2009 and 2010, when they held the majority. The conference leaders at the beginning of that period—Sens. Malcolm Smith of Queens and Jeff Klein of the Bronx—are now members of the IDC, poised to play major roles in the chamber.

Cuomo wriggled when asked if he was criticizing those men: "I don't think it's important to figure out who or why or how. But I think it's almost inarguable—it's as close to inarguable as any premise in this building—that that was not a good period of government."

So Cuomo's being all kind toward this new coalition of Republicans and their renegade Democratic enablers because (as he wrote in an op-ed on Wednesday) "the past two
years" of GOP control "evidenced higher levels of successful activity than the State Senate had previously produced in years." And in the same piece, he also said: "The Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises."

But it's obviously very inconvenient that two of the people responsible for the dysfunction in 2009 and 2010—Klein and Smith—are now at the heart of the new power-sharing structure. So Cuomo wants to blame an amorphous "Democratic Conference" for screwing things up two years ago as the reason he isn't supporting his own freakin' party (which holds a majority of seats in the chamber), but he also says it's not "important to figure out who or why or how" things got utterly derailed back then. That's a pretty naked admission that he doesn't want to point a finger at Klein and Smith, even though he knows he ought to. And if it's "not important to figure out why" things went wrong, then how can the mistakes of the past be avoided?

By the way, this is all a new tune for Cuomo. In the fall of 2010—even after the two painful years of Democratic quasi-control of the Senate—he was still saying:

I support a Democratic majority in the State Senate.
So what changed between then and now? Did Cuomo feel he had to say that because he was running for governor and needed to make sure the Democratic Party was consolidated behind him? Perhaps, but he won in such crushing fashion that I doubt this would have mattered. The only plausible explanation is that Cuomo, whose economic ideology is very right-leaning, grew to feel much more comfortable with Republicans in control of the Senate than Democrats. And this guy thinks he can win a presidential primary?

Passings: Former Democratic Texas Rep. Jack Brooks has died at the age of 89. The AP's lede offers a capsule summary of his career:

Jack Brooks hounded government bureaucrats, drafted President Richard Nixon’s articles of impeachment and supported civil rights bills in a congressional career spanning 42 years. But for most of the country the Southeast Texas politician is frozen in a photograph, standing over the left shoulder of Jacqueline Kennedy as Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president.

Brooks, who died Tuesday at age 89, was in the Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Hours later he stood behind the grief-stricken widow in the cabin of Air Force One as Johnson took the oath of office.

The iconic photo is here.

Pres-by-CD: We've got 28 more districts today, mostly thanks to a large dump from Los Angeles County (and the 17 districts that it allowed us to complete):

California (23 more: CA-14, 17-20, 24-30, 32-35, 37-40, 43, 44 & 47)

Illinois (1 more: IL-17)

Mississippi (statewide)

Consistent with the pattern we've seen, minority-heavy districts swung towards Obama.  Republican Gary DeLong kept it respectable in the Long Beach-based CA-47, but with Romney lagging by more than 22, there wasn't much of a chance for him. Elsewhere, there was some, but not substantial, softening. (Obama got 61% in the Westside/South Bay-based CA-33, but Henry Waxman lagged substantially with his 54% performance.) Outside of L.A. County, Obama saw a slight drop in the Central Coast-based CA-24 and the Silicon Valley-based CA-18, but also saw improvements and mostly held the line in the other San Jose-based districts. (jeffmd)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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