• Electoral College: Well, the Virginia state Senate is already at it again. Just two days after their underhanded maneuvering to force through a new, mid-decade redistricting plan, Republicans in the chamber began advancing a bill that would award the state's electoral votes by congressional district. According to Daily Kos Elections' analysis, Mitt Romney won seven districts in Virginia versus four for Barack Obama, even though the president carried the state (and all 13 of its EVs) by four percent last year.
Even more dastardly, from the text of the legislation, it appears that the two "extra" electoral votes (which correspond to the state's U.S. senators) would go to whomever won the most CDs, not the overall winner of the statewide popular vote (as is currently the case in Maine and Nebraska). That means Romney would have nabbed nine EVs versus just four for Obama. Democracy! The only good news is that one Republican senator, Jill Holtzman Vogel,
sided against abstained from voting for the legislation in a subcommittee vote. While the measure is still likely to head to the Senate floor for a full vote, if Holtzman continues to defect (or any other Republican joins her), the scheme is doomed, since the chamber is evenly divided between the two parties.
Still, I would never want to place any faith in the GOP doing the right thing. And ultimately, I think community member Chachy summed up this chilling development best:
Imagine the 2016 campaign unfolding with Nate Silver putting up posts about how the Democrat could only get 270 EVs if they won the national vote by, say, 4%? And even if they were favored in Virginia and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin...? The whole campaign would be tinged by futility. It really would amount to a repeal of the popular election of presidents.Really stark—and really sobering.
How would the public react to that? How would the media react? It would approach the level of constitutional crisis, and is the sort of thing which, I really think, would have the potential to unravel our system of government.
It's also worth considering that all but one Republican member of that committee is willing to take this risk.
• NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac is the latest pollster to show Newark Mayor Cory Booker beating Sen. Frank Lautenberg in a hypothetical primary, this time by a margin of 51-30. That's less brutal for the incumbent than the 59-22 Booker edge PPP saw in November, but roughly in line (at least in terms of the spread) with FDU's 42-40 lead for Booker earlier this month.
Meanwhile, a separate new poll from Merriman River, for the pro-Booker group PowerPAC, more or less splits the difference, putting Booker ahead 48-21. After harping on voter concerns about Lautenberg's age, they also test a multi-way affair in the event he retires. In this four-candidate scenario, Booker still dominates with 48, while Rep. Rob Andrews takes 10, Rep. Frank Pallone 8, and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney 6, with 28 percent undecided.
And speaking of Sweeney, he just confirmed that he is indeed also looking at a Senate bid; previously, he'd only publicly mooted this year's gubernatorial race, but he's always seemed very unlikely to pull the trigger.
• WV-Sen: The new Republican kid on the pollster block, Harper Polling, is offering up their first-ever horserace numbers, in this case, for West Virginia. They have results for both some hypothetical primary matchups, as well as potential general election head-to-heads, all to the hundredths of a percent (extra accurate!). The writeups come complete with snarky comments and pie charts with color coding that makes as much sense as my dad's iconoclastic sock pairings.
In any event, on the GOP side, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito takes over 70 percent in separate pairings against Rep. David McKinley (who's already ruled out a run) and brand-new ultraconservative state AG Patrick Morrisey. In a three-way Dem affair, Rep. Nick Rahall leads with 38 percent while state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis takes 17 and ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin just 8. As for the direct matchups, Capito beats Rahall 50-32, Goodwin 53-28, and Davis 51-24.
P.S. On a methodological note, does anyone else have issues with this ideology question: "On political issues, do you consider yourself to be Very Conservative, Somewhat Conservative, Moderate or Liberal"? I realize this is West Virginia, but two conservative options versus just one liberal choice? Hrm. Harper also wound up with a sample that was just 9 percent liberal; even in 2010, WV voters clocked in at 15 percent liberal (and 18 percent in 2008).
• MN-Gov: Al Franken isn't the only Minnesota Democrat who looks like he's in good shape for re-election: Gov. Mark Dayton starts off 2013 in strong form, too, according to PPP. With 53-39 approval ratings, Dayton leads a variety of potential GOP contenders by wide margins:
• 52-39 vs. ex-Sen. Norm Coleman
• 52-29 vs. state Rep. Kurt Zellers
• 53-30 vs. ex-state Rep. Keith Downey
• 53-29 vs. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson
• 52-27 vs. state Sen. Julie Rosen
T-Paw's already said he won't run, so I suspect PPP included him simply to discern the GOP's high-water mark—and it ain't all that high. What's interesting is that Dayton secures a healthy 52-53 percent against all comers, whether they are well-known (and disliked) like Norm Coleman with his 35-43 favorability rating, or unknown (like everyone else).
And if Coleman wants his party's nomination, as Tom Jensen says, it's probably his for the taking. In a hypothetical GOP primary with all the names listed above, ol' Pruneface takes 57 percent, with no one else even registering over 5. While I'd guess Dayton would prefer to face a relative Some Dude who lacks Coleman's access to national donors, he has to be feeling pretty good about the fact that he begins the race in a solid position against even his strongest hypothetical opponent.
• NJ-Gov: Quinnipiac also has some fresh gubernatorial numbers, but they're still just as brutal for Democrats as they and every other pollster have found since Hurricane Sandy. Click through if you need to directly experience how painful Chris Christie's 30-to-40-point leads over Stephen Sweeney, Richard Codey, and Barbara Buono actually are.
• VT-Gov: Considering he retired voluntarily several years ago, I never imagined ex-Gov. Jim Douglas would be interested in running for office again. But the Vermont GOP has no bench, so his name keeps popping up, particularly since the state elects its governor every two years rather than every four. (Next-door neighbor New Hampshire is the only other state that still does it that way.) And indeed, Douglas confirms once more that he's not making a statewide bid this cycle.
• CA-17: It's easy to conclude that Ro Khanna made a major miscalculation last year. The former Obama official raised a million bucks for a possible run in California's 15th District almost overnight ... but then opted to bide his time, perhaps waiting for veteran Dem Pete Stark to retire. But Dublin city councilor Eric Swalwell's insurgent campaign wrecked those plans with his stunning upset of Stark—and at just 32 years of age, Swalwell (also a Democrat) definitely isn't going anywhere any time soon. So what are Khanna and his huge FEC account to do?
Well, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci suggests that Khanna might shift his gaze one district to the south, to CA-17—something he explicitly did not rule out when asked. The 17th, though, is occupied by six-term Dem Rep. Mike Honda, and he certainly would be no pushover. In fact, I can't imagine he'd be an easier target than Swalwell: As Marinucci points out, he's the party's senior whip in the House, and he's also a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee. Yes, Khanna has friends in very high places, like Nancy Pelosi, but would they really turn against Honda?
It's hard to picture, so Marinucci hints at one more (purely rumorsville) scenario: Honda, who is 71, could get tapped for a post in the Obama administration, which would of course free up his seat. But the last time Khanna sat around waiting for senior Democrats to play out their chess games, he got upstaged by a younger, hungrier politico. He may not be so eager to cool his heels much longer, lest something similar happen again.
• IA-03: The DCCC reportedly feted three potential 2014 recruits at an Inauguration Day luncheon earlier this week; two of them we've mentioned before (Andrew Romanoff in Colorado and Erin Bilbray-Kohn in Nevada), but a third name is new to us: Iowa businessman Michael Sherzan. He's a top executive at an investment firm called Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp., so I'm guessing he probably has some personal wealth and also ought to be pretty well-connected. GOP Rep. Tom Latham performed very well last year, but Obama carried Iowa's 3rd by a 51-47 margin; with a stronger opponent this cycle, he should be a top target for Democrats.
• MO-08: Local Democrats will pick their candidate this weekend for the June 4 special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who officially resigned on Tuesday. Republicans, meanwhile, are supposed to choose a nominee within two weeks of the vacancy's creation. This dark-red seat (even Todd Akin carried it last year) is an all-but-certain GOP hold.
• TX-St. Sen: On Wednesday, Texas state senators drew lots to determine which members would serve two-year terms and which would serve four—an unusual process necessitated by the way the state conducts decennial redistricting. Why is that? Well, ordinarily, senators are elected in staggered fashion, with half the chamber up every two years. But in order to avoid problems that plague states like California, where some citizens literally go without representation for two years each decade, all senators are up for re-election following the drawing of new maps. To return to their standard staggered system, lots are then drawn as described above; those who get stuck with two-year terms have to run again for a full four-year term in 2014.
A full list of who lucked out and who didn't is available here. The most prominent name on the short-straw list belongs to Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who will now be up for re-election in 2014 (and sounds like she intends to run again). That means she won't be able to run statewide, and it also means Davis, who was first elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, will now have to go before voters in midterm years. Both of Davis's victories in this difficult district came by narrow margins, so her prospects will likely be even tougher without presidential turnout to motivate Democratic-leaning voters. But she's a dedicated fighter and one of the most prominent Democrats in Texas. If anyone can pull it off, she can.
• NYC: Well, this would be interesting. City-wide primaries in New York City have traditionally been cockamamie affairs not just because they are held so late (September) but because they also require expensive, low-turnout runoffs two weeks later if no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote. While the runoffs were originally well-intentioned (you can read about their genesis here), staging three elections in the space of two months is obviously an absurdity. Even the epically dysfunctional, banana republican NYC Board of Elections is finally acknowledging reality and has begged the legislature to move the primary up to June.
But the even-more-lunatic legislature has refused to accommodate this request—no surprise, seeing as they insisted on having two separate primaries last year, after a judge forced the state to conduct federal primaries in June. (In a colossal waste, legislative primaries still took place in September.) So now the city board, confronted with yet another September election, is thinking outside the box: They're considering adopting instant-runoff voting for the primary. That would be a big change, and probably cause some confusion, but it would be a major improvement over the current state of affairs. And for that reason, I'm holding out very little hope that IRV actually gets implemented.
• VA Redistricting: Here's some interesting backstory to Virginia Republicans' re-redistricting plan for the state Senate, which shows you just how dastardly they behaved. All party-line votes (as this was sure to be) in the evenly-divided chamber require Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to break ties, but Bolling, who lately has grown very alienated from his party, told GOP leaders he wasn't on board with their scheme. So Republicans deliberately waited until one Democrat was absent, giving them a momentary 20-19 edge. That happened on Monday, when civil rights hero and state Sen. Henry Marsh traveled just two hours north to Washington, DC to witness President Obama's second inauguration.
And in public comments since, Bolling has been very negative toward his colleagues. Through a spokesperson, Bolling says he has "grave concerns about the adoption of a revised redistricting plan at this point in the process, and it is not something that he supported" and adds that these kinds of legislative shenanigans "could set a dangerous precedent for future redistricting actions." Bolling has definitely gone rogue at this point, so that sounds like he'd pretty much have been a "no" to me—and that's exactly why the GOP made sure to go around him. If Republicans were looking for ways to avoid alienating Bolling further and dissuade him from an independent gubernatorial bid this year, they sure as hell screwed that one up.
• Votes: I'm not seeing a lot of patterns in Wednesday's roll call to eliminate the debt ceiling for the next three months, which passed by a wide 285-144 majority but saw 33 Republicans vote "no" and 86 Democrats vote "yes." There are plenty of your usual dystopian crazies among the GOP dissenters (Justin Amash, Michele Bachmann), but also some folks in much more moderate districts (Joe Heck, Pete King). The Dem ayes seem to include a lot of freshman and/or more vulnerable members, but when you're talking about over 40 percent of the caucus, it's harder to identify clear trends. However, Xenocrypt suggests that more liberal members tended to vote against, something confirmed by VoteView.