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Leading Off:

NJ-Sen, NJ-Gov: After seemingly endless speculation, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has made it clear he won't run against GOP Gov. Chris Christie in 2013, depriving Democrats of their strongest possible candidate, at least judging by poll numbers. (He's also made an announcement video, which is where I've taken the quotes below from.) It's not too surprising: Booker had long been cozier than average with Christie, and on top of that, Christie's sky-high approval numbers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, while perhaps fleeting, making him look like an incredibly tough opponent at the moment.

Instead, Booker says he'll complete his second term as mayor (which runs until July 1, 2014), and that he'll "explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate." The difficulty there is that the Senate seat in question is already occupied by Democrat Frank Lautenberg, and Booker doesn't sound especially interested in primarying him—or at least, he doesn't want to come off sounding that way, for now, saying he "looks forward to consulting" with Lautenberg about his plans and adding that it would be a "privilege and honor to continue his legacy of service."

But Lautenberg is very old (88), and many New Jersey Democrats seem eager for him to retire. Booker's "exploratory" move may pressure Lautenberg to hang it up: If the flattery doesn't work, then the prospect of a bruising campaign against a much younger, energetic, and well-connected politician might convince Lautenberg he's better off handing things over to Booker than going out with a loss. And should Lautenberg look unexpectedly strong, Booker can always back down and bide his time, seeing as he's only 43.

Right now, though, Garden State Dems are going to be focused on defeating Christie, and at the very least, Booker's decision will give other candidates who've been considering a gubernatorial bid more certainty and allow them in turn to make up their minds. So far, only one person has declared (state Sen. Barbara Buono), but Booker's move may open the floodgates for other contenders. And while Christie looks formidable now, things can change a lot between now and next November.

P.S. If Lautenberg does retire—and you can examine the tea leaves of his campaign's response to Booker's announcement—then it's no sure thing Booker would have the primary field to himself. Max Pizarro at PolitickerNJ reports that, according to unnamed sources, Rep. Frank Pallone is also letting his network of supporters know that he, too, would be interested in a Senate run in the event the seat comes open. Pallone doesn't have Booker's high profile, but he's a very adept fundraiser and is quite well-connected, so a race between the two could prove to be a titanic clash.

Senate:

HI-Sen: Hawaii Democrats are moving fast to pick a replacement for the late Sen. Dan Inouye. The party is currently accepting applications from interested candidates and intend to present a list of three names (as required by law) to Gov. Neil Abercrombie by Dec. 28. One party official says he hopes a successor can be appointed in time for the January 3rd congressional swearing-in ceremony.

KY-Sen: This is pretty damn amazing. I'm sure you recall last week's freakout from the Mitch McConnell campaign, over a PPP poll that put the senator up just 47-43 on several different potential Democratic candidates, including actress Ashley Judd. Grunted McConnell's campaign manager:

On the first day of Republican Campaign Manager School, they teach us to ignore PPP polls. You see, PPP is a partisan Democrat polling firm, and they make their living giving the Democrat Party numbers they want to see.
Well guess what? McConnell himself just put out his own internal poll from Voter/Consumer Research in an effort to combat these obviously phony PPP numbers (yes, I'm rolling my eyes)... and what did he find? That he's up... 47-43 over Judd! Holy lord! Did they teach this in Republican Campaign Manager School, too? You know, screeching about unfair partisan polls, then being stupid enough to release private numbers that are identical? It sure seems so.

I definitely wouldn't have published this data if I were McConnell, though. If he's leading by only four points in a poll from a Republican firm, then that's certainly not good news for him. Also note that he didn't release head-to-heads against any other candidate, which can only encourage speculation that his performance is worse against other potential contenders. (I mean, if the numbers were "good"—at least by McConnell's warped definition, then he'd share them, right?)

The only positive news here for the Senate minority leader is that he holds a 51-40 job approval rating in this survey, compared to the abysmal 37-55 score PPP found. But even that silver lining comes with a touch of gray, because if he's ahead by four points with a -18 net approval (according to PPP), shouldn't his head-to-head advantage be even bigger if he actually sports a +11 net rating? Using PPP numbers, he can at least say, "Well, despite my awful approvals, I'm ahead by four points." With V/CR's data, he has to gulp and acknowledge, "Wow, I'm only up four points despite some pretty good approvals."

All that said, I'm not hugely optimistic about Democrats' chances to unseat McConnell. But I think he's in weak shape and is going to have to seriously grind this one out if he wants to serve another term. And win or lose, making Mitch McConnell's life miserable definitely counts as a success.

MA-Sen: John Kerry hasn't even been nominated for Secretary of State, let alone confirmed by the Senate, which is why I've studiously avoided almost all MA-Sen stories. If I were to start chasing down every speculative ghost out there, sooner or later I'd find myself fighting Stay Puft. But Thursday, for some reason, brought two polls on a hypothetical special election, and I guess I don't have it in me to ignore actual polling data. So, to wit: First we have a survey from MassINC on behalf of WBUR, focused mostly on how outgoing Sen. Scott Brown would fare against a variety of potential Democrats. Here are the results:

• 47-40 vs. Gov. Deval Patrick

• 47-28 vs. Rep. Mike Capuano

• 48-30 vs. Rep. Ed Markey

• 49-30 vs. ex-Rep. Marty Meehan

• 51-36 vs. AG Martha Coakley

• 51-24 vs. Rep. Steve Lynch

On the one hand, you can look at these numbers and say, "Wow! Scott Brown leads all these Democrats!" On the other hand, you could observe that Brown has 100 percent name recognition and only two of these potential candidates are comparably well-known: Patrick and Coakley. Coakley, of course, brings baggage from her disastrous 2010 special election run (though she still sports a 47-27 overall favorability rating), while Patrick—who almost certainly won't run—holds Brown to 47 percent. If that number looks somewhat familiar, it's not just because of Mitt Romney: Brown took 46 percent against Elizabeth Warren in his unsuccessful bid for re-election this year, and in this poll, he prevails against Generic D 47-39. So is that his ceiling against a well-liked, strong Democratic opponent in the state of Massachusetts?

Maybe, maybe not. On the one hand, Brown wouldn't have to contend with presidential-year turnout in another special. On the other, there is literally no way Democrats will get caught sleeping like they did three years ago, and Team Blue will move heaven and earth to make sure Scott Brown doesn't pull off yet another victory—if he even runs at all. (And remember, even if he were to run in a special and somehow win, he'd be facing another general election in 2014... and then in 2016. Yikes.) Anyhow, it's a question I'll worry more about if this all comes to pass—and we're at least two if not three "ifs" away.

MassINC also tested a kitchen sink-style primary among Dems, though the results are not too surprising:

Patrick: 36
Coakley: 21
Capuano: 8
Lynch: 5
Markey: 5
Meehan 3
Other: 3
Undecided: 19

For what it's worth, Meehan's already said he won't run (phew), but he's virtually a zero. More important is that Patrick's made it pretty clear he wants to return to the private sector (though his public statements have left him a narrow, lawyerly out). That means his support would have to go somewhere... but who knows? Tons of potential candidates (Joseph P. Kennedy III! Ben Affleck! Vicki Kennedy! Honey Boo Boo!) still lurk out there who were not included in this poll, so it's hard to gauge how strong they'd be in a primary, if there even were one. See, again with the "ifs": I don't mind a little speculation now and again, but this story already has too many question marks.

Oh, and as for that other poll, from Emerson College? Well, it found completely different results! Patrick leads Brown in that survey, 48-43, and he edges Vicki Kennedy (the widow of Ted) 46-40. (For what it's worth, both Dems also beat ex-Gov. Bill Weld.) And in a different primary array, Patrick takes 20 to 16 for Kennedy, 13 for Capuano, and just 11 for Coakley.

What this all says to me is that the picture is far too unsettled for anyone to get a good handle on it—and if anyone does say with certainty that they can predict the future here, well, I'd just like to know if Amazon Prime carries the same model of crystal ball that they're using.

NH-Sen: This is the kind of "no" that Chuck Schumer would never take as an answer: Outgoing Gov. John Lynch is once again insisting that he has "no interest in going to Washington" and therefore won't take on freshman GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. But Chuck has years to work on him, so we'll see if Lynch's will holds out. And while it's not like Lynch is any progressive's favorite Democrat or anything, he would nevertheless be the highest-profile potential challenger Team Blue could field.

Gubernatorial:

AR-Gov: According to Arkansas Talk Business, local Democrats seem pretty burned by AG Dustin McDaniel's admission that he had an affair and are interested in finding a new top-tier standard-bearer. As soon as the McDaniel news broke the other day, I wondered whether and how much it might affect his bid for governor, and I guess the question will be whether anything comes of chatter like this, or if it just winds up petering out. But as for now, that chatter is reportedly focused on outgoing Rep. Mike Ross, who unexpectedly decided to retire from Congress last year—and has said he doesn't want to run for governor.

If McDaniel were to step aside (or look badly weakened), though, perhaps Ross might change his mind. But he's got a lobbying gig already lined up, and he hasn't made any public remarks since the McDaniel news broke, so I'm skeptical. Meanwhile, though, some Republicans are starting to feel friskier in the wake of the McDaniel story: State Sen. Johnny Key says he may throw his hat into the gubernatorial ring, and it sounds like he wants to decide by "the summer of 2013."

WA-Gov: Since the bench of Republicans who can run a competitive statewide race in Washington state pretty much begins and ends with Rob McKenna, you might be wondering whether he's going to try again after losing this year's gubernatorial race by three points. For now, it's sounding like a 'no' -- he told the Yakima Herald Republic that "I want to take a break from public service" and, accordingly, is heading off to private law practice to cash in. Of course, it might only mean a few years of cashing in, as McKenna didn't explicitly rule out another run for office in the future. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

Florida: It's hard to imagine Florida legalizing gay marriage any time soon—or even any time in the distant future—given the GOP stranglehold on the state legislature, but at least according to Quinnipiac, the trends are in the right direction. By a very narrow 45-43 plurality, respondents say they are opposed to gay marriage, but that's down from 50-40 against the last time Quinnipiac asked the question here—and that was just in May! Also, by a 52-42 margin, Floridians are opposed to legalizing marijuana outright, but with numbers like that, I bet you could find support for medical marijuana.

Pres-by-CD: We have two new districts for you, both from Ohio. We're adding OH-06 and OH-13, the first the site of a failed comeback attempt by former Dem Rep. Charlie Wilson, and the second a vote-sink constructed for Dem Tim Ryan. The presidential numbers bear that out, as the Appalachian-tinged OH-06 dropped a few points for Obama (to 43 percent from 45, making the district a tough haul for Wilson) and OH-13 even improved fractionally for the President, to 63 percent from 62. (jeffmd)

Redistricting Roundup:

KY Redistricting: One of the most pathetic redistricting debacles of 2011 took place in Kentucky, where courts threw out new maps for the state legislature because too many counties were split—and then legislators failed to pass acceptable maps in time, forcing the state to use badly unconstitutional, decade-old lines with serious population imbalances this fall. Well, the legislature is heading back into session in early January for about a month, and lawmakers will once again try to tackle this serious problem. The November elections didn't change anything, though: Democrats still control the House and the governor's mansion, while the GOP remains in charge of the Senate. So either we're talking compromise, or a court-drawn plan.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    Political Director, Daily Kos

    by David Nir on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:00:10 AM PST

  •  Big article on my front page (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv, Larsstephens

    regarding that gay marriage poll.  In only 7 months the opposition has dropped and the support has increased.  Could have knocked me over with a feather on that one!  Great news -- gives me hope for my state.

    Another interesting development is the race for the Dem Party Chair here in FL:

    Wednesday brought this: Allison Tant was lobbyist for firm that purged african-americans from voter rolls in 2000

    Allison Tant, current candidate for Florida Democratic Party Chair, was one of only three lobbyist for a company called DBT Online in 1999 and 2000. DBT Online was hired by Katherine Harris and was responsible for purging the voter rolls in the 2000 election, in which Al Gore narrowly lost to George W. Bush. Many feel that Vice-President Gore lost the election because over 57,000 African-Americans were purged from the voter list due to DBT Online.
    Thursday brought this: Tant Donated to Candidacy of Christian Conservative Leader
    What concerns us more, and should concern Democrats across Florida, is a contribution Tant made much more recently to a candidate who can rightfully be described as a poster-child for radical conservatism. In 2007, Allison Tant gave $250 to Republican State House candidate Apryl Marie Fogel, who was running in a special election in Brevard County. Ms. Fogel lost the election in spite of having support from the NRA and other conservative organizations. The seat was won by Democrat Tony Sasso.
    So it's no surprise today to see this: Democratic Environmental Caucus Endorses Alan Clendenin for FDP chair
    The Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DECF) proudly announces its full support and endorsement of Alan Clendenin for the position of Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy

    by JaxDem on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:14:10 AM PST

  •  Please, not Coakley. n/t (8+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:15:19 AM PST

  •  I hold a grudge (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paleo, LordMike, wishingwell, Sylv

    I usually understand the needs of politicians to do and say things that aren't purist.

    But Booker hit my grudge button when, on national tv as an official spokesperson for Obama, he stabbed Obama in the back by ciriticizing his approach to Romney.  

    All politicians are ambitious - they wouldn't get much accomplished otherwise.  

    But they're not supposed to wear that label in blazing neon lights the way Booker does.  He's in his own category.  Packing the city council?  Check.  Tweeting his every move in a blatant political campaign?  Check.  Stabbing Obama in the back if it might make him look better? Check.

    Me voting for absolutely anyone else?  Check.

  •  Not sure what Booker gains by a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    formal public pronouncement of his plans.

    It's the kind of thing a career politician would say.  And sort of disrespectful of Old Man Lautenburg.

    What do you think?

  •  Christie smarter than Romney (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    Not only does Christie have.high approval ratings, he seems much more savvy than empty suit Romney.

    I can understand Booker's reticence.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:53:59 AM PST

  •  Impressed by Booker (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    I was surprised to be impressed by him when I saw him on the Daily Show. He's got some good talking points - and was especially good, I thought, at describing how improving the lot of the less well off improves the economy. Sad that we have to take that tact for something with such an obviously Kantish moral imperative, but it is how things are today in our world.

  •  Lautenberg (5+ / 0-)

    already retired once, then gotdraged out of mothballs when the NJ Democratic party needed a late replacement after the Bob Toricelli debacle.  Frankly, I was surprised he ran for re-election in 2008. I think he's done.

  •  NJ Gov other possibilities (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, Sylv
    Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said Thursday he’s "very seriously" considering a run. "I am very serious. It’s been serious," he said.

    State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), a former governor, said he’ll announce his own decision by Jan. 1.

    . . . .

    Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8th Dist.), Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage — all talked about as potential candidates — have not yet said whether they’ll run.

    http://www.nj.com/...

    Let all the Bush tax cuts expire

    by Paleo on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:59:12 AM PST

    •  just throw a sacrifice out there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brooklynbadboy, Sylv

      Christie isn't getting beaten this year. He is popular in his state but if he ran for president NJ would still vote for the democrat.
      Unless something unforeseen happens Christie will win easily this year.

      •  A serious candidate (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wishingwell, Sylv, sebastianguy99, jncca

        State Senator Barbara Buono is already in the race.  No need for a sacrifice.  Always a puncher's chance in NJ.  Buono is fine with me.

        White Male, 36, New FL-14 (Castor), proud father of a 4-year-old daughter. "This is Wendy's guys! This is Wendy's!" - Mitt Romney, October 9, 2012.

        by spiderdem on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:20:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  A lot can change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sylv

        Christie Whitman was supposed to be unbeatable in 1997, but barely won.  It's still a Democratic state and Christie has pissed a lot of people off.  The state's unemployment rate is 2 points higher than the national average.  And Christie may not have some disaster, natural or otherwise, to exploit.

        Let all the Bush tax cuts expire

        by Paleo on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:21:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wish we had someone (0+ / 0-)

          with the gravitas to send Christie back to Cutter Gap, but even if that person exists, he/she will likely be scared off by his approvals.

          At least he's one of the less-offensive Republicans (not that that's saying much...)

  •  As a New Jerseyan, I'd like to see Frank... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederik, Sylv, sebastianguy99, JBraden

    ...Lautenberg retire after long and meritorious service, if only because people don't live forever, and I shudder at the thought of Christie appointing his replacement.

    The person I most want as my Senator in lieu of Frank would be Rush Holt, who is my congress critter.

    I believe he wants the position, and as one of the best politicians in New Jersey, would make an excellent Senator, but I'm not sure that he'll run, or if he does, that he'll win the nomination, which is a shame.

  •  Does any one know about Paula Hawkins? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    After a thread yesterday regarding how no woman senator was elected on her own right before 1980, I did some research.  Paula Hawkins was the first republican woman, well only woman in general, to be elected to the Senate in Florida.  Was she a die hard conservative?  I saw she supported child welfare, so I thought she might have been at least econmically liberal.  Were social issues that pressing then?  How was she on abortion or gay rights?

    27, male, gay, living and voting in IN-7. Joe Donnelly for Senate and John Gregg for Governor!

    by IndyLiberal on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:06:28 AM PST

  •  I'll take Pallone over Booker any day. nt (5+ / 0-)
  •  Booker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv, sapelcovits

    I have never really liked Booker very much, but I would have respected him immensely if he took on Chris Christie. Now, I am back to disliking him.

    http://www.snappac.org/ Students for a New American Politics!

    by redrelic17 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:28:51 AM PST

    •  Agree if he softened up Christie would redeem self (0+ / 0-)

      Instead, ducking Christie is likely to reinforce concerns about his judgment and loyalty.  

      Booker forcing Christie to declare his positions in violation of more Republican litmus tests would have helped the next Democratic Presidential candidate.

      Because of NJ's off-year timing of Governor's race, it should have been possible for Booker to pivot from losing that race to running for Lautenberg's seat.

  •  The MA poll is kinda hilarious, they had Patrick (4+ / 0-)

    having an approval of 60% higher than Brown then losing to Brown by 7pts, Yeah right lol

    "Rick Perry talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans." --- James Carville

    by LaurenMonica on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:50:34 AM PST

  •  NJ Senate election not for 2 years (0+ / 0-)

    This election is 2 years away.  If Booker had any class, he'd give us a break from politicking and also let Lautenberg finish up his work with Hurricane Sandy storm relief and also the work he wants to do with gun control.  This would all be done by this Spring, and in the meantime, he could dialog with Lautenberg and let him retire on his own.

    Of course, no one owns these Senate seats, but, if Booker is going to be this classless at the outset, he won't be making much of a positive impression on the other 99 US Senators that he wants to serve with, and you don't anything done in the Senate if you don't form some good personal and working relationships.  

    Booker might also take this time to figure out what, if anything, is his record of achievement as Mayor of Newark.  A lot of people really don't know what he has actually accomplished.  He also needs to mend his relationships with the various groups that vote in the primary, for example labor unions.  

  •  Won't get any help from me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBraden

    As far as I'm concerned, Wall Street has enough representation in the Senate.

    Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

    by Big River Bandido on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 10:51:14 AM PST

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