• NRSC: Kyle Trygstad's lengthy profile of the NRSC's rebuilding efforts in the wake of their disastrous 2012 campaign really demonstrates just how beleaguered Senate Republicans have become. Notably, the piece is devoted to how the NRSC is supposedly reforming its press shop, once again showing that Republicans think they merely have a communications problem, not a message problem. But the lead quote says it all:
"The campaigns that jumped off message not only infected themselves, they infected all the rest of the campaigns," said Rob Collins, the new NRSC executive director, in his first extensive interview on the job. "So in this age of fractured but continuous, three-dimensional communication, we have to constantly plan for that and train for that and build for that."So Republicanism is a disease, and the NRSC is the vaccine... only, not really. Collins, by saying he has to "plan for" and "train for" outbreaks of GOP coli, admits that the infection can't actually be cured, only contained. But even this analogy fails, because it's not as though the Republican Party host has been invaded by some kind of alien pathogen: Offensive idiocy is woven into the GOP's very DNA. It's a chronic condition, and it's going deliberately untreated. The NRSC's approach is the epidemiological equivalent of trying to quarantine arthritis patients.
But there was also another remark I loved as well:
"We don't have to be the center of the basketball team anymore," Collins said. "We can be the point guard. That's why we're making a massive investment in human beings."Politics has been analogized to sports since time immemorial, but it helps if you actually get your analogy right. Collins seems to think that by "investing in human beings" who will go out and help specific Republican campaigns, the NRSC will no longer have to be "the center." But sheesh. Even casual basketball fans know that point guards run the offense, and devotees of the NBA are well aware that many now think it's well on its way to becoming a "point guard league," meaning that point guards are more important than ever. It's been a long time since Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing dominated the highlight reels. I'm not surprised, though, to see that Republicans are still stuck in the past, whether it comes to the hardcourt or the campaign trail.
• MA-Sen: The League of Conservation Voters, partnering with NARAL, has released yet another poll of the Massachusetts Senate race, though this time they've used Garin-Hart-Yang instead of PPP. But the results are almost identical: GHY has Rep. Ed Markey up 42-28 over fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary, while PPP found Markey ahead 43-28 just a couple of weeks ago. And as most other polling has shown, Markey is better liked among primary voters, with a 40-5 "positive" rating (I'm guessing those are like favorables), versus 27-8 for Lynch.
And as they did last time, LCV includes a bit of message testing, mostly to show that the electorate is overwhelmingly pro-choice and supportive of the Affordable Care Act, two issues where Lynch has come down on the wrong side of things. The race has yet to turn negative, and it may not, but I think these numbers are designed to serve as a warning shot in case Lynch should contemplate going on the attack: Come after our guy, says LCV, and we'll hit you where it hurts.
• NC-Sen: We missed it at the time, but a couple of weeks ago, Republican state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said she will "at least consider my options" when it comes to a possible race against freshman Sen. Kay Hagan. I wonder if her remarks came in response to PPP's most recent North Carolina poll, which was released just a day earlier and showed her leading the GOP pack... albeit with a whopping 18 percent in a hypothetical kitchen-sink primary.
• IL-Gov: Zillionaire businessman Bruce Rauner says he's creating an exploratory committee and will spend two months on a "listening tour" to decide whether he actually wants to run for governor. If both he and Rep. Aaron Schock get in, though, then look out: That could create a seriously nasty GOP primary, since Rauner's publicly crapped all over Schock even though he used to be a supporter, and Schock's fired back vigorously. Back at the plant, we call this a recipe for industrial-strength cat fud.
• TX-Gov: A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll offers better news for Gov. Rick Perry in terms of a potential GOP primary challenge, but this race seems hard to get a read on. The survey was actually conducted by Internet pollster YouGov, which fared well in last year's elections, but perhaps their methodology accounts for Perry's somewhat surprising 49-17 lead in a hypothetical matchup against AG Greg Abbott. A recent PPP poll, on the other hand, showed Perry barely clinging to life at 41-38. Personally, I'm more inclined to believe PPP's numbers just because I think Perry is damaged goods, but I'm prepared to withhold judgment, particularly since Perry came back from the dead (and in convincing fashion) when he faced a primary challenge in 2010.
• CA-07: Damn, how did we miss this? Fresh off what counts as a stunning near-victory for California Republicans—Sen. Dianne Feinstein beat her by a mere 63-38 margin, earning the most popular votes for a Senate candidate in American history—Elizabeth Emken is tanned, rested, and ready to make another run for office! Indeed, she's packing up her carpetbag and preparing to head north, because she wants to challenge freshman Dem Rep. Ami Bera up in Sacramento—never mind the fact that she's from Danville, a town in the outskirts of the Bay Area. Indeed, Emken's already opened up another FEC committee!
But while the 7th District is certainly not quite as blue as California as a whole, it's hard to imagine Emken having much more success there. In 2010, she finished fourth place out of four candidates (so close!) in the GOP primary in Jerry McNerney's old 11th District. It seems like there's something about Emken that leaves voters cold, so if she wants to continue her almost-winning streak, I'm all for it.
• FL-18: Republicans will definitely be hungry to retake FL-18 from freshman Patrick Murphy, who won last November in a stunning upset over tea party firebrand Allen West and now is one of just a handful of Democrats who sits in a district won by Mitt Romney. Several names have already been circulating courtesy of the Great Mentioner, and now we're seeing a little more movement. State Rep. Gayle Harrell, who had previously expressed some interest, now says she "most likely" will wait to decide until the end of the current legislative session in Mary.
Meanwhile, St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery adds that he now has a "a growing interest" in the race and is currently "evaluating" his options. But we also have to scratch one name off the list: The other day, we cited state Sen. Joe Negron as a possible candidate, but he actually took himself out of the running a while back, apparently because he's interested in becoming state Senate president. That has to be a relief for Murphy, since Negron likely would have been his toughest opponent.
• ME-02: If Dem Rep. Mike Michaud does indeed decide to run for governor (something he first mooted publicly just the other day), you can bet there will be a ton of interest from candidates who'd like to replace him, on both sides. That's not mere speculation: Last year, when Sen. Olympia Snowe unexpectedly retired and Michaud considered running for her seat, it was almost impossible to keep up with the catalog of contenders who had designs on the 2nd Congressional District.
It's a little less fevered now, but we already have our first name in the mix: state Sen. Emily Cain, who says she "would very seriously consider running" if Michaud seeks a promotion. Cain actually took out nominating papers last year during the height of Snowe-mania but quickly shelved those plans when Michaud decided to seek re-election. Cain wound up earning a promotion herself, from the state House to the Senate, but now quips: "I've never run for Congress for more than three days before." She may soon get her chance.
• NY-24: Yes, freshman Dem Dan Maffei did just make the DCCC's inaugural frontline list (see our item elsewhere in the Digest), but he's definitely at the outer bounds of vulnerability, particularly given that his district voted for President Obama at a 57 percent clip. Only one Republican in the entire country holds a seat that blue, and it was the result of an utter fluke (thanks to California's absurd top-two primary, GOP Rep. Gary Miller's opponent in November was, amazingly, another Republican). Obviously I'm not saying Maffei should just rest on his laurels—after all, he went down in the 2010 wave by a super-narrow margin to a truly crummy challenger—but I think the GOP is chasing fool's gold if they play here.
But chasing they are. NRCC chair Greg Walden reportedly trekked up to the Syracuse area for recruitment purposes, meeting with three potential candidates. One, believe it or not, is Ann Marie Buerkle, the hack who beat Maffei three years ago only to get turfed out by him in November. You should believe it, though: Back in January, Buerkle herself said she's thinking about a comeback bid.
The other two names on Walden's list were Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Reporter Liz Benjamin seems to think a Mahoney candidacy (she's not ruling it out) would cause some sort of difficulty for Gov. Andrew Cuomo because Mahoney's sucked up to him for years and you know how much Cuomo hates endorsing fellow Democrats. But really, it's a problem for Mahoney, who would have a tough time winning a contested primary given the fact that she endorsed Cuomo when he first ran for governor and has been tight with him ever since. Against a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Buerkle, I think she'd have a tough time.
• PA-10: The conservative purity purge of the GOP will continue apace in many corners of this vast nation, perhaps including Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District. PoliticsPA reports that Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko is "seriously looking at" a challenge to sophomore Rep. Tom Marino, most decidedly from the right. According to various metrics, Marino is one of the less conservative members of his party, though of course, these days, that still means his damn conservative. But voting records are never good enough: If you aren't a firebreathing hater, you don't pass muster with the base, so look out.
• DCCC: The DCCC has released its first list of "Frontline" members for the 2014 cycle, consisting of the House Democrats it ostensibly considers to be most vulnerable for re-election. But the roster is not immutable: For instance, if you compare their initial list for last cycle with their final list, you'll see a lot of changes. And the program also doesn't necessarily include every member in tough shape: For instance, John Tierney (MA-06) barely survived last year but was never on Frontline.
He is, however, part of the program this time, along with 25 others. There are few surprises: Just about everyone on here was involved in a close race last year, and most (18) are freshmen. Twenty-three of the 33 reddest districts held by Democrats are represented, while three seats—Dan Maffei (NY-24), Brad Schneider (IL-10), and Cheri Bustos (IL-17)—are a bit bluer, at around 57-58 percent Obama.
Lois Capps (CA-24) is a bit unexpected, though, since she won by 10 points despite a huge amount of outside spending targeting her. What's more, her 2012 opponent, Abel Maldonado, is probably the only guy who could make it close, but he said just the other day that he's looking at the governor's race. The most notable omission is Nick Rahall (WV-03), who sits in the second-reddest Democratic district at just 33 percent Obama, though perhaps the D-Trip expects him to run for Senate.
• Pres-by-CD: We finally managed to coax results out of Warren County, NJ, which completes NJ-05 and NJ-07. Both districts swung away from Obama by less than one percent; NJ-05 is now 48 percent Obama, and NJ-07 46 percent Obama. These results aren't particularly surprising given what we saw from NJ-11, which is very similar to these two along many dimensions. (jeffmd)
• Special Elections: Why do some states insist on holding some elections on Saturdays? Well, there were a few this past weekend, but all were same-party affairs. Two Republicans defeated a bunch of other Republicans in a pair of Louisiana state House seats, while in Texas, former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia beat fellow Democrat and state Rep. Carol Alvarado 53-47 in a bitter race for the 6th Senate District. Senate seats are actually a big deal in the Lone Star State, since they have more constituents than congressional districts do, believe it or not.