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Leading Off:

RI-Gov: "Path to victory" is a phrase we use a lot around here, as in, does candidate X in race Y have any remotely plausible way of earning that brass ring? When you take a look at independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee's new poll numbers from PPP, though, you'll be hard-pressed to find one. Chafee, a former Republican, benefitted from a split field in 2010, where he was very probably to the left of an unlikable Democratic nominee and barely edged out the GOP candidate.

Now, like many other governors nationwide, Chafee's seen his job ratings drop precipitously (down to 59 percent disapproving and just 33 percent approving), thanks in part to years of a challenging economy, stubbornly high unemployment, and budget cuts—in other words, classic gubernatorial malaise. A man without a home, he's openly talked about joining the Democratic Party, but really, he's got nowhere to go. Tom Jensen summarizes:

• In four different scenarios testing four candidates—either Gina Raimondo or Angel Taveras on the Democratic side, either Brendan Doherty or Allan Fung on the Republican side, Chafee running as an independent, and Moderate Party candidate Ken Block—Chafee finishes third in every single one, running behind both the Democratic and Republican candidates.

• In two scenarios testing Chafee as the Democratic candidate, he finishes second, running 4 points behind the Republican candidates we tested, Brendan Doherty and Allan Fung.

• It would be difficult for Chafee to become the Democratic candidate anyway though. 35% of Democratic primary voters want Gina Raimondo to be their candidate next year to just 22% for Chafee, 19% for Angel Taveras, and 11% for Ernie Almonte.

(continue reading below the fold)

PPP polled something like a dozen different configurations for this race, so I'm going to eschew our usual habit of laying them all out. (You can analyze them all in PPP's PDF.) But there's absolutely no good news in here for Chafee, which in a way is too bad, since Raimondo, the state treasurer and Democratic front-runner, seems to occupy ideological space to Chafee's right. She's made her mark cutting union pensions and is at the forefront of the austerity movement, even encouraging the creation of a shadowy "pension overhaul" group called EngageRI that won't release the names of its donors.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras seems like the more progressive choice, and in a primary matchup without Chafee, he trails Raimondo 44-35, with former state Auditor Ernie Almonte at 9. So while Raimondo is tight with big-money interests, these numbers suggest Taveras could pose a real threat to her if he makes the race.

P.S. There's been strong movement in favor of gay marriage in Rhode Island, with voters now supporting it 57-36. To show you how fast the issue has moved, when PPP asked two years ago, the margin was 50-41 in favor. Hopefully these numbers will buttress marriage equality supporters as legislation to legalize same-sex marriage makes its way through the legislature (it's passed the House but conservative Democrats in charge of the Senate are making things very uncertain).

Senate:

KS-Sen, -Gov: Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he'll seek re-election to his current job in 2014, which is noteworthy only because it means he won't be issuing a primary challenge to either Gov. Sam Brownback or Sen. Pat Roberts, both of whom go before voters again next year.

MA-Sen: Well, blargh. After hemming and hawing and even contradicting published reports saying he'd run for Senate, conservative Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch finally launched his campaign in the special election to succeed John Kerry. And Lynch's preferred campaign message is exactly as chip-on-the-shoulder as you'd expect. Indeed, seeing as he begins the race way behind in the polls against fellow Rep. Ed Markey, Lynch's only hope is to go negative. He's off to a fast start:

"It will be an uphill fight for me, but the fight is worth fighting. Shame on us to allow someone to clear the field, box out all the other candidates, and buy the election," said Lynch, in an apparent reference to Markey....
Lynch says Markey is an "insulated person" after 38 years in Congress.@mlevenson via Twitter for iPhone
"People don't like the Democratic establishment... And I think that helps me," lynch says.@mlevenson via Twitter for iPhone
Lynch says Markey backed by "the Washington crowd" and won't "shake things up."@mlevenson via Twitter for iPhone
In addition to attacking Markey, Lynch undoubtedly will try to run to his right. Here's the first taste:
Lynch says Brown "appealed to a certain group that I might appeal to as well."@mlevenson via Twitter for iPhone
Never mind that Elizabeth Warren handily beat Scott Brown without trying to clone his most cloying attributes, as Lynch prefers to do. In any event, the person Lynch is appealing to most right now is Brown himself, since the Republican former senator has to be licking his chops at the prospect of a nasty primary between the two Democrats. Brown still hasn't announced a decision, but surely this development can only make his entry more likely.

So what should Markey do now? Fortunately, he has two advantages: He's got a lot more money than Lynch, and he's got a terrific progressive profile. I don't think he necessarily has to respond in kind to Lynch. Rather, he can and should tout his credentials loudly in order to lock down the liberal vote, which still constitutes the majority of the primary electorate, despite what Lynch may believe. Lynch of course will have his union allies, but in a statewide primary like this, there are lots of votes out there for Markey to unearth.

Oh, and put up your freakin' website already. That would help.

P.S. Lynch also picked up the endorsement of the Iron Workers union—but seeing as he once was an iron worker himself, this is like Rudy Giuliani endorsing the Yankees. Still, it'll be worth watching to see whether any labor groups back Markey (this is the first union endorsement in the race), or whether Lynch will lock them all up.

NJ-Sen: There was nothing in Al Capone's vault... but it wasn't Geraldo's fault. However, if the gasbag TV clown actually follows through and runs for Senate in New Jersey, it most definitely will be his fault. The most amazing thing? Geraldo, long berated as a lunatic liberal by FOX News types, wants to run as a Republican!

Gubernatorial:

WY-Gov: I have to admit that while I can probably name the governors of all 50 states, I struggle to remember the name of the guy in charge of Wyoming. But (god bless Wikipedia) that would be Republican Matt Mead, elected in a landslide in 2010. Assuming he runs again, will he be re-elected next year? In ruby red Wyoming, you'd have to bank on it—unless, of course, he faces a primary challenge. And it looks like he's just earned one, though it's hard to tell how serious it is.

It turns out Mead just signed a bill that strips State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill "of leadership of the state Department of Education, reassigning those duties to a person appointed by the governor." Hill is challenging the move in court, but I'm guessing the fact that Mead was able to shunt her aside via legislative maneuvering means Hill doesn't have a whole lot of friends in the establishment.

Other Races:

OH-Treasurer: It's the news you've all been waiting for: DKE's least-favorite Republican of the 2012 cycle, Josh Mandel, says he'll seek re-election as state treasurer next year. Mandel, of course, was solidly thumped by Sen. Sherrod Brown, despite being the beneficiary of eleventy-zillion moneys spent on his behalf by outside groups. Of course, after first winning his current post in 2010, Mandel promised he wasn't looking for an immediate promotion, so I definitely won't trust his current pronouncement until the filing deadline passes. Hopefully we'll get to beat him again, though!

Grab Bag:

DCCC, NRCC: Despite being deep in the minority, House Democrats outraised their GOP counterparts by a wide margin in the 2011-12 cycle: The DCCC took in $184 million versus $156 million for the NRCC. That probably helped the Democrats pick up seats, though of course the majority remains as elusive as ever. In any event, both parties started the year with $1.5 million in cash, while the D-Trip had slightly higher debt ($13.5 mil vs. $12 mil).

Polltopia: If you're a careful poll-watcher, you've probably noticed what I've noticed over the last couple months, which is Rasmussen putting up strangely positive numbers for the Democrats, on presidential approval and especially on the generic House ballot. As far as the latter is concerned, they've been putting up take-back-the-majority type numbers with Dem leads in the high-single-digits, usually notably better than what other pollsters like PPP are finding. Well, Harry Enten has noticed too, and he takes Rasmussen to task for it.

You might be thinking that Rasmussen is consciously overcompensating for its overly-Republican results over the previous few cycles by putting a thumb on the scales in the Dems' direction, but it's not that simple; instead, it looks like they're just committing the same methodological problems that have always plagued them, but in the wake of a solid 2012 election for the Dems, that leads Rasmussen down the same screwed-up path but in the opposite direction.

Instead of weighting based on demographics using Census data like good pollsters usually do, Rasmussen continues to weight based on party ID in the last election (a bad idea, because party ID isn't an immutable characteristic but one that fluctuates easily based on who's up and who's down politically). Dems had a six-point edge in 2012 exit polls in 2012. So, now we've got a weighted sample in Rasmussen polls that's 38 D, 32 R: maybe right for a presidential election, but overly rosy for a midterm. (David Jarman)

Texas: PPP has some Lone Star State miscellany, asking their usual gay marriage and sports questions. (Did you ever imagine there'd be a pollster with an equal interest in both topics? This is why Tom Jensen is awesome.) GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's first job approval ratings are pretty meh, at 36-30, but that actually gives him the highest net approval of any statewide elected official PPP's tested there. Meanwhile, as you'd expect, most Texans are opposed to same-sex marriage, by a 55-35 margin, but 61 percent support some form of legal recognition once you include civil unions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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