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Leading Off:

WA-St. Sen: Putting Republicans in power even though Democrats have the majority: It's not just for New Yorkers anymore! As has been previously threatened, the two renegade Democrats in the Washington state Senate (where Democrats are in control 26-23) just sorta-defected to the other side. They didn't throw the Senate to Republican control entirely but rather created a centrist power-sharing arrangement that I doubt is going to leave anyone very happy except for maybe newspaper editorial boards. Democrat Rodney Tom, the ringleader of the enterprise (who was a Republican as a state representative, until he ran for the Senate as a Dem in 2006) will take over as majority leader from Ed Murray, and co-conspirator Tim Sheldon will become president pro tem.

Republicans and Democrats will each chair one-half of the chamber's committees, including some that will be co-chaired—although it's worth noting that some of the most moderate first-term GOPers, Andy Hill and Steve Litzow, will head two of the most important committees, leapfrogging over much-more-senior conservative members. One other consequence that shouldn't be overlooked: Seeing as how every vote needs to count in order to make the coup work, the Republicans were also forced to accept loose-cannonish (emotionally more so than ideologically) Pam Roach—whom they kicked out of the caucus—back into the fold.

As for the question of "why" behind the Washington Senate coup, for Tom it's a mix of power-questing and goo-goo centrist douchiness, while for Sheldon it's a matter of just being temperamentally conservative and representing a red district. The analogy would be if Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson (respectively) had been given the opportunity to do the same thing in a 51-49 U.S. Senate.

And as for what progressives might actually do about it, Washington has one of the highest bars to recall in the nation (signatures equal to 35 percent of the votes cast in the last election are required), so recall is highly unusual. Tom and Sheldon, though, are both up in 2014. Tom is in a Dem-leaning suburban district in Bellevue and has certainly has made himself vulnerable to a primary challenge, though the mechanics of the top-two primary increase his odds of survival so long as he gets past the first round (as he'd probably win either a Dem/Tom or Tom/GOP matchup). Sheldon is a tougher nut to crack: He's personally popular in his rural, GOP-leaning district and has survived primary challenges from the left before. (David Jarman)

Senate:

SC-Sen-B: PPP went into the field over the weekend with a quickie poll after South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint announced late last week that he'd be quitting Congress to spend more time with the Heritage Foundation. (I mean, who wouldn't, right?) In turn, that means GOP Gov. Nikki Haley gets to tap a temporary replacement for DeMint, but whom shall it be? So Tom Jensen threw a handful of names into the hopper, called up a bunch of Palmetto State voters, and said "Tell us who ya like!" And the leading contender?

Ladies and gentlemen: I present to you Mr. Stephen Colbert. Now, the truthy-telling talkshow host has dabbled in politics before, hosting rallies in Washington, mucking about with his own Super PAC, and even running for president in his native South Carolina. But would Colbert suit Republicans, who of course want to replace the conservative DeMint with another right-winger?

I think so! Stephen Colbert once described Stephen Colbert as a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot," which if anything makes him overqualified to serve in the Senate as a Republican. But hey, 20 percent of South Carolinians want to see him succeed DeMint—a clear majority, as I'm sure Colbert would understand it.

Recognizing that Colbert might not want to give up his current reality-changing megaphone, though, Tom Jensen tested a few different possible lineups for Haley to choose from. Here's how it all falls out:

Stephen Colbert 20 J. Sanford 17 Scott 19
Tim Scott 15 Scott 16 McMaster 17
Trey Gowdy 14 McMaster 13 Gowdy 15
Jenny Sanford 11 Gowdy 12 Wilson 8
Henry McMaster 8 M. Sanford 9 Mulvaney 7
Mark Sanford 8 Wilson 7 Duncan 6
Jeff Duncan 5 Duncan 6 Other/undecided 28
Joe Wilson 5 Mulvaney 5
Mick Mulvaney 4 Other/undecided 14
Other/undecided 11
As you can see, if Colbert decides to stay in New York City rather than return home, his supporters help boost the cause of ... Jenny Sanford, the former wife of former Gov. Mark Sanford, who himself remarkably still has a few adherents. If you figure that Gov. Haley has no desire to welcome the Sanford sideshow back into town from its current road tour on the Appalachian Trail, and if you also assume she can't handle Colbert's unique brand of truthiness, column three gets you down to the boring "serious" names. All of them are current members of the House, except for McMaster, who is a former state attorney general. Tim Scott, who would be the only African American in the Senate were Haley to tap him, comes out on top.

But will Haley care about any of this? She gets to make the choice free and clear, though of course, there are always political considerations. As Jensen points out, she's one of the most unpopular governors in the nation, with a 42-49 job approval rating—good for just 35th place out of 43 sitting governors PPP has tested. What better way, as Tom says, to restore her standing than to appoint the man 100 percent of 20 percent of South Carolina voters choose? If Stephen Colbert am America, then so can Haley!

Meanwhile, to feel some more serious South Carolina Senate news at you, Haley rather explicitly foreclosed the possibility of tapping a temporary replacement for DeMint who would not seek re-election in 2014. Said Haley: "I do not want to deprive our state’s citizens of the chance to render their judgment on the appointee’s performance by way of their vote."

Gubernatorial:

FL-Gov: I don't know why he didn't do this at the Democratic National Convention earlier this year, when he had a speaking slot and a national audience and could have made more of a splash, but ex-Gov. (and ex-Republican) Charlie Crist has finally completed his transition. On Friday, he signed papers that changed his party enrollment from independent to Democrat, a necessary step if he tries to seek his old job back in 2014—something that's only possible at this point as a Dem.

NJ-Gov: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, more of a longshot possibility among would-be Democratic contenders, says he won't run for governor next year and will instead seek re-election. Meanwhile, Passaic County Dem chair John Currie is trying to tout Rep. Bill Pascrell as a possible "compromise" candidate, even though he just won a bitter member-vs.-member primary against Steve Rothman earlier this year. Interestingly, though, Bergen County chair Lou Stellato agrees with his counterpart, despite the fact that Rothman hails from Bergen and the primary caused a pretty tense Passaic-Bergen split. In a statement from his office, Pascrell refused to rule out a bid, but I would note that he's 75 years old.

PA-Gov: Hmm. This is as thin as you can get, but a local CBS station reports that "sources close to" newly re-elected Sen. Bob Casey are saying Casey's refusing to rule out a run for governor in 2014. In his prior remarks, Casey didn't definitively close the door, but when we last checked in, he didn't sound very interested: "My focus has been and will continue to be the work I'm doing," Casey said in late November. "I'm very content in the Senate." But as CBS's Larry Kane notes, this vagueness on Casey's part will make it a lot harder for other Democrats to ramp up and gain traction with campaigns of their own, so it's really incumbent on Casey to speak his mind clearly one way or the other—very soon.

VA-Gov: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling continues to play footsie with a possible third-party bid. When Bolling unexpectedly "suspended" his campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination at the end of November, he specifically didn't close the door on an independent run, and in a new interview on Friday, he repeated that stance, saying: "I have not ruled that out, and I'm not prepared to rule that out." Bolling did add that he would not wage an indie bid "simply to be a spoiler of some sort," so perhaps he's conducting some polling right now to see if he has a path to victory.

House:

LA-03: The books were finally closed on the 2012 elections with Rep. Charles Boustany's 61-39 victory over fellow GOP Rep. Jeff Landry in Louisiana's redrawn 3rd Congressional District. Last year, mapmakers in the legislature had to eliminate one House seat thanks to the state's relative population shrinkage and Landry, the only freshman Republican in the delegation, saw his district just shredded to pieces. No matter where he might run, he'd face another incumbent, and he ultimately decided his best bet was in the 3rd against Boustany, even though he only represented 24 percent of the district's constituents (and for only a single term).

Landry, though, had socked the establishment hard in his initial victory in 2010, so we were never ready to write him off against the more rank-and-file Boustany. But it looks like geography was once again destiny: In the first round of voting in November, Boustany edged Landry 45-30, meaning he won the vote between the two men 60-40. That's almost identical to his score in the runoff. If anything, that's a little surprising to me, given that I'd expect Landry's high-energy tea party base would be more likely to show up for a low-turnout affair. But Landry did out-perform on at least one level, seeing as Boustany represents 76 percent of the 3rd but only took 61 percent of the vote in the end.

Of course, moral victories don't count for much in politics. But this may not be the last we hear of Landry: He's only 41, and he could potentially run for Senate in 2014. While Louisiana Republicans may well rally around an establishment-type candidate like Rep. Bill Cassidy, on a statewide stage, Landry would be on roughly equal footing in terms of name recognition. So I think it's definitely not impossible that he could ride movement conservative anger to a Senate nomination. And I suspect that Dem Sen. Mary Landrieu might very much be rooting for just that outcome.

NY-11: Lennie Briscoe once famously asked, "How come rich guys always owe a billion dollars?" The same could be asked of the terminally sketchball, though at least in these sorts of cases, the reasons are usually a lot more obvious: New campaign finance reports show that GOP Rep. Mike Grimm, who is under super-duper-investigation, owes his attorneys over $550,000. In fact, that sum actually stood at $678K—until Politico pointed it out and Grimm filed an amended report. (You can almost picture the call to Patton Boggs: "Guys, please do NOT cash that check until Jan. 1! I promise it'll be good then!")

Also interesting is that Grimm still has $242K on-hand in his campaign account, suggesting he felt very confident in his race against Democrat Mark Murphy (which he won 53-46)... though perhaps he preferred to save his pennies to pay his lawyers, rather than wind up even further in hock.

TX-23: GOP Rep. Quico Canseco, who lost to Democrat Pete Gallego 50-46 last month, says he's considering a rematch in 2014. Canseco ran for Congress twice before winning in 2010's tea party wave, and given his personal wealth, he could easily self-fund another campaign. But the possibility still remains that this district could get tinkered with further in litigation, and if it does, it's likely to become more Hispanic, and hence bluer. Meanwhile, the question for Gallego will be what happens to voter turnout during a midterm election, as opposed to a presidential year.

Other Races:

Special Elections: We have our first two state legislative special elections following the November general election coming up on Tuesday, and needless to say, Johnny Longtorso isn't missing a beat:

Alabama HD-30: This is an open Republican seat northeast of Birmingham. The candidates are attorney Beth McGlaughn for the Democrats and businessman Mack Butler for the Republicans. Don't expect anything interesting here as the district straddles deep, deep red Etowah and St. Clair Counties.

Iowa SD-22: This is also an open Republican seat, in the Des Moines suburbs. It was up in November, but the incumbent Senator, Pat Ward, passed away prior to the election, so a special election was scheduled. The candidates are attorney Desmund Adams for the Democrats and West Des Moines city council member Charles Schneider for the Republicans. The Ward/Adams race was still on the ballot last month, despite being nonbinding; Ward posthumously won 56-43.

Grab Bag:

Pres-by-CD: We crunched presidential results for 43 new congressional districts over the weekend, and as always, thanks to everyone who's been sending in the data we need. (A reminder: You can find our complete chart here.) Forty of these districts are split across five new states:

Alabama (1 of 7: AL-01)

Missouri (4 of 8: MO-01, MO-05, MO-07 & MO-08)

Anyone who thought Democrats might have a shot at picking up the seat of resigning GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson will be disappointed by Obama's terrible performance here, dropping to a 32-66 loss to Mitt Romney, versus 38-60 against McCain in 2008.

Ohio (8 of 16: OH-01 through OH-03, OH-07, OH-10, OH-11, OH-15 & OH-16)

The power of the gerrymander really shows through: In the GOP-held districts calculated so far, Romney's performance was in a tight band, from 50.1 percent to 54.7 percent, thus showing that Republican votes were spread as efficiently as possible. Meanwhile, in the two Democratic seats we have numbers for, Obama won 70 percent in one and over 80 percent in the other. Shame on Democrats in the Ohio legislature for going along with this.

Oregon (3 of 5: OR-01, OR-03 & OR-05)

Regardless of how you feel about him, Dem Rep. Kurt Schrader gets credit for continually performing strongly in OR-05. Obama won just 51-47 there, down from 53-44, but Schrader defeated his Some Dude Republican opponent by 11.

Texas (24 of 36: TX-01 through TX-09, TX-14, TX-16, TX-18, TX-20 through TX-22, TX-24 through TX-26, TX-29 through TX-33 & TX-36).

There's a lot here, but it's clear the difficulty we face in congressional races in Texas. Nick Lampson outdid Obama by more than six points in TX-14, but that wasn't quite enough. The wild card, of course, is that the state's map will likely get redone before 2014.

Further, we have updates on two previous states:

California (CA-03)

Dem Rep. John Garamendi's performance (54-46) came just under Obama's (53-43). We'd expected CA-09 to the south to be more competitive (Ricky Gill certainly fundraised more than Kim Vann), but the 9th turned out to be bluer than the 3rd based on 2012 presidential returns, whereas they were quite similar according to the 2008 results. So that probably explains why Dem Rep. Jerry McNerney also wound up winning 54-46 despite the higher quality of his opposition.

Indiana (IN-02 and IN-03)

Democrat Brendan Mullen had quite the headwind in IN-02. The fact that Obama won this district in 2008 really shows his overperformance in the state that year, with a victory measured in decimals turning into a 56-42 Romney rout. That Mullen lost by little more than one percent is pretty amazing.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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