• ME-Gov, -02: Aww yeah! Rep. Mike Michaud, the strongest possible Democratic candidate for governor, just launched an exploratory committee, something I have to say I really didn't think he'd do. If he runs, Michaud would face a doubly tough race because he'd have to beat both GOP Gov. Paul LePage and independent attorney Eliot Cutler, a former Democrat who is eager to play spoiler once again and divide the left-leaning vote. But Michaud, a formidable campaigner who has held a light-blue congressional seat with ease for years, must think he's capable of smacking both opponents down at once. If he can do it, victory would taste twice as sweet.
And assuming Michaud goes for it, interest in his 2nd Congressional District will be high on both sides. Barack Obama carried this seat by a 53-44 margin, so Democrats would have a slight advantage, though the race would definitely be competitive. Last year, after Sen. Olympia Snowe retired and it looked like Michaud might run to replace her, several names popped out of the woodwork. Undoubtedly more will do so again, and as always, we'll be keeping track.
• MA-Sen: Oh god, this is just too awesome:
"It might as well have been written in crayon," Dayspring said of the poll. "Ed Markey and his Democratic friends in Washington aren't outspending Gabriel Gomez 7:1 because they are confident. Ed Markey isn't begging Bill and Hillary Clinton to save him because he thinks he's doing well."That's hapless NRSC spokesbot Brad Dayspring, and the poll he's referring to is, hilariously, from hapless Republican pollster Harper Polling. Harper's new survey actually shows Markey with a 49-37 lead over Gomez, which is pretty rough news for Republicans, seeing as it comes from a conservative outfit that has in the past shaded results in favor of the GOP, and even apparently put its thumb on the scale on one occasion. But it also happens to be in line with other polling, so who knows? Maybe Harper got it right this time.
So you can understand why Dayspring, desperately pacing in his bunker of denial, is lobbing Crayolas right back at an erstwhile ally, and it's immensely enjoyable. But the best part is that Dayspring's counterparts at the NRCC have started relying on Harper lately, even releasing a strategy memo touting the results of several new polls they recently commissioned from the firm. That means every time the NRCC touts a new Harper survey, Democrats can retort that the NRSC thinks the results "might as well have been written in crayon." That prospect is so delicious, I can practically taste the burnt umber.
And even if Harper happened to hit the mark on the toplines, how is it possible that they have Barack Obama with a job approval rating somewhere in the low 40s—and probably under water—in Massachusetts? That would be considerably lower than his national average, which is just impossible, especially with Markey up 12. Annoyingly, it isn't even possible tell what Obama's score is exactly in Harper's survey, since they only provide crosstabs, not the actual numbers, and they also don't provide the sample composition. If you assume a 50-50 male-female split, though, that would give Obama 43-45 job approvals. No way, no how.
P.S. And as for that questionable new group that supposedly was planning to back Gomez with a $700,000 ad buy, it turns out that Americans for Progressive Action has only bought $127,000 worth of air time so far. It's possible they'll spend more, but they haven't filed any independent expenditure reports yet. And with Election Day on June 25, time is running short.
• NJ-Sen: Another day, another poll showing Newark Mayor Cory Booker crushing in the Democratic primary. Monmouth's sample (PDF) is unacceptably small (just 205 respondents), but Booker's performance is so far outside the margin of error that it doesn't really matter, and the results are in line with numbers earlier this week from Quinnipiac and Rutgers-Eagleton. Booker leads with 63 percent, while Rep. Rush Holt takes 10, Rep. Frank Pallone 8, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver brings up the rear with 6.
Monmouth also checked in on the general election and found Booker dominant there as well. He leads former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan 53-37 while the other three Democrats all have narrower leads (Pallone 45-40, Holt 44-41, Oliver 44-42). Lonegan has a surprisingly good 34-20 favorability rating, but he, like everyone but Booker, is largely unknown. Given his extreme conservatism, the exceptionally short timeframe for this race, and Booker's popularity, it's hard to see Lonegan gaining traction.
• SD-Sen: Oy.
• CO-Gov: Oof. A new Quinnipiac poll of Colorado offers some very tough numbers for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, but there are a number of reasons to treat them cautiously, which I'll get to shortly. Hickenlooper sports a narrowly positive 47-43 job approval rating, but he barely edges three different Republicans in head-to-head matchups:
• 42-41 vs. ex-Rep. Tom TancredoOn their face, those are some pretty "ouch" results, but there are a few odd things about them. For one, why does Hick perform worse than his job approvals—and worse than his re-elect figure, which stands at 45 percent (versus 44 percent who do not want to see him re-elected)? By contrast, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett performs better than his re-elects, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich performs identically. Usually if you think someone deserves to be re-elected, you'll also actually say you'll vote for them.
• 42-40 vs. SoS Scott Gessler
• 43-37 vs. state Sen. Greg Brophy
For another, these numbers are very different from PPP's April survey, which showed Hickenlooper up 50-40 over Gessler and 52-41 over Tancredo. Now, there have been some newsworthy developments in Colorado since that time, in particular Hickenlooper's decision to offer an indefinite reprieve to convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap, who is on death row. By a 67-27 margin, respondents say they disapprove of the governor's choice, and Quinnipiac is convinced the issue has become a major negative for him.
But Quinnipiac hasn't polled Colorado all that much, and their work there last year left something to be desired. In August, they found Mitt Romney up 50-45, which not only was one of very few public polls to give Romney the lead in Colorado, but in fact was the most optimistic poll he ever saw in the state. And their final poll had Romney +1, while PPP had Obama +6; the president carried Colorado by 5.4 percent.
In fairness, they did much better in 2008 (though again, in the summertime, they were one of the only pollsters to find a lead for John McCain). So perhaps Quinnipiac is right. But unless and until we see confirmation from another pollster, these results should be viewed with the same skepticism you'd give to any data that differs so sharply from everything seen to date.
• NV-Gov: Jon Ralston reports that Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto will not run for lieutenant governor (something she's said on the record), and likely will not run for governor, either (according to Ralston's sources). Given her high profile, Cortez Masto likely would have made a strong candidate in either race, and seeing as she's term-limited, it seems plausible she'd want to run for another office, but it looks like it's not to be. That apparently leaves Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak as the only Democrat eyeing a bid against GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose standing appears quite solid despite Nevada's bluing trend in recent years.
• AL-01: Could Regina Benjamin actually be preparing for a run for Congress? Benjamin announced on Wednesday that she would step down next month as U.S. Surgeon General, a post she has held since 2009. Her name came up as a possible Democratic candidate for the special election that will take place after GOP Rep. Jo Bonner resigns this summer, but given the district's sharp red bent, the idea seemed like a pipe dream. But given the timing of Benjamin's departure, and the fact that she so far has refused to comment on whether she might seek the seat, it seems like a bid could be a possibility. It's also worth noting that she said she's return to Alabama after she leaves D.C., so she's someone to keep an eye on.
• CA-07: Elizabeth Emken, the California GOP's failed 2012 Senate nominee, has been sniffing around the 7th Congressional District since wintertime. Now she's gone ahead and formed a campaign committee, though she isn't officially declaring her candidacy against freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera. Other Republicans are also still considering the race, including ex-Rep. Doug Ose.
• FL-26: I just noticed something about that NRCC memo touting a whole bunch of recent internal polling, most of it conducted by Harper Polling. The NRCC said they commissioned surveys in five districts, but only released toplines in four: CA-36, IL-10, IL-12, and UT-04 (the last of which looks to be very sketchy indeed). The seat they left off was Democrat Joe Garcia's FL-26. About that, all they revealed is that Garcia has a 38 percent approval rating, which they call "low" but I call "misleading" because Garcia is a freshman and likely isn't well-known. (Note how they left off his disapproval score.)
Now, Garcia suffered some very bad news recently with the resignation of his chief of staff amid voter registration fraud allegations, and as the NRCC notes, their poll was in the field before that story hit. But the lack of any ballot tests pitting Garcia against actual Republicans is notable.
• MN-06: Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah just became the second Republican to announce a run for Michele Bachmann's open seat, joining ex-state Rep. Tom Emmer. One thing to bear in mind is that Minnesota uses a caucus system to pick its nominees, which would tend to favor the crazier options. But the conventions aren't binding, so a primary by disgruntled candidates is always possible. And sometimes, they fail to produce a nominee altogether (as happened in MN-01 last year), making a primary necessary.
As almost everyone has acknowledged, without Bachmann seeking re-election, this seat is well-nigh unwinnable for Democrats. But the GOP could very easily wind up picking the next Michele Bachmann, which means there could potentially be an opportunity here somewhere down the line. At the very least, though, a contest like this ought to be fun to watch.
First off, the nation's non-Hispanic white population has entered the realm of "natural decrease"; in other words, deaths now exceed births. This came about sooner than expected, attributed by researchers primarily to the recession and the resulting drop in birth rates. The number of non-Hispanic whites, nevertheless, still increased, thanks to immigration: 188,000 non-Hispanic whites immigrated between July 2011 and June 2012, a much greater number than the 12,000 net deaths among the same demographic. Asians were the fastest-growing group by percentage (up 2.9 percent) while Hispanics had the largest numeric gain (1.1 million, with 76 percent of that coming from natural increase, not immigration).
In another first, the Census Bureau reports that among the 5-and-under set, non-Hispanic whites will, within the next year, no longer be the majority. Within five years, that should extend to the entire 18-and-under set. Thirteen states (plus DC) already have an under-5 population that's majority-minority, up from only five at the 2000 Census. In addition, 343 of the nation's counties are now majority-minority overall (not just among the wee ones), with six counties newly added to that list. Four are dinky, but two are very large: Mecklenburg in North Carolina (location of Charlotte), and Bell in Texas (location of Temple/Killeen and Ft. Hood). Both did so thanks to Hispanic growth. (David Jarman)