• ME-Gov: Confirming recent Democratic internal polls, PPP's new survey of Maine finds Rep. Mike Michaud shooting into the lead in next year's gubernatorial race. In a three-way matchup, Michaud holds a 39-35 edge over GOP Gov. Paul LePage, with independent Eliot Cutler at 18. Cutler's fade has coincided with Michaud's surge: In January, PPP saw the race at 34 LePage, 30 Michaud, and 26 Cutler.
In the interim, Michaud has started to consolidate Democratic support, upping his share among members of his own party from 47 percent to 63 percent. Michaud wasn't a candidate the last time PPP went into the field, so his increased visibility has likely played a big role here. And while both Michaud and Cutler have seen their favorability ratings drop about a dozen points, but the former remains broadly popular at 53-30 while the latter is now underwater at 32-35.
There's also no doubt that Cutler is taking votes almost entirely from Michaud: In a direct head-to-head with LePage, Michaud beats him soundly, 54-39 (though that's actually down some from Michaud's earlier 57-36 advantage). Cutler's presence on the ballot is the only reason LePage has any shot at victory, but if Cutler can only reach the teens, as Tom Jensen suggests, that's not likely enough to save LePage's bacon. And obviously, it also means Cutler can't win. If he has any sense, he'll recognize that "at best" he'd be a spoiler and drop out instead.
• LA-Sen: Hah! Remember when Republicans nominated the least-credible critic of Obamacare they could possibly muster, Willard Mitt Romney? Looks like they're about to do something similar in Louisiana, because it turns out that back when he served in the state Senate, GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy authored a number of bills that contained striking resemblances to the key components of the Affordable Care Act. One piece of legislation would have even established a health insurance exchange!
Of course, once upon a time, the plan known as Romneycare was considered a conservative, "market-based" approach to insurance reform (authored by the Heritage Foundation, no less), but as soon as Barack Obama adopted it, it became Kenyan-socialist. Criticism of the implementation of the ACA seems to be the main issue Republicans are running on these days, but Cassidy just handed Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu a great way to defuse and parry his attacks on that front. (Click through for Cassidy's weak response to these revelations about his past legislative efforts.)
• IL-Gov: Local tipsheet Capitol Fax commissioned a survey from conservative pollster We Ask America to see how an entry into the Democratic primary by state Sen. Kwame Raoul might affect the two candidates already running, Gov. Pat Quinn and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley. The conventional wisdom says that Raoul, who is black, would hurt Quinn and hand the race to Daley, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
In a three-way field, where the contenders are identified by their profession (and Raoul is specifically described as "an African-American attorney from Chicago"), Quinn leads Daley 27-23 with Raoul taking 13. Last month, in a direct matchup, Quinn was up 38-33, a very similar spread, so it seems like Raoul takes from both equally. And if this poll is anywhere near accurate, it shows that even the little-known state senator could potentially win the Democratic nomination.
• NC-Gov: Well, it's hella early, but I guess Republican Gov. Pat McCrory already has his first opponent for 2016. Former state Rep. Kenneth Spaulding, who is described as "a member of one of Durham's most prominent families" and whose father once ran one of the largest black-owned companies in the country, says he plans to run against McCrory and wants all this extra time to build up a campaign organization. Still, this kind of super-advance planning has a way of changing, so always view announcements made this far out with some skepticism.
• FL-15: Former television reporter Alan Cohn says he'll kick off a bid against GOP Rep. Dennis Ross this Thursday in Florida's 15th Congressional District. A career as a TV reporter can be a good launching pad for a run for office, since it guarantees you start with a measure of name recognition. But as a Democrat, Cohn will face stiff odds in this district, which went for Mitt Romney by a 53-46 margin in 2012.
• GA-01: Former Jack Kingston staffer David Schwarz is abandoning (technically "suspending," he says) his bid to replace his old boss, who is running for Senate. Several other Republicans are still running, including state Sen. Buddy Carter, state Rep. Jeff Chapman, and surgeon Bob Johnson.
• VA-02: Rep. Scott Rigell, one of just 17 Republicans who sits in a district carried by Barack Obama in 2012, just picked up a noteworthy Democratic opponent on Tuesday, retired Navy Commander Suzanne Patrick. Virginia's 2nd has a large military population, concentrated at Virginia Beach, so Patrick, who served as a deputy undersecretary of defense under George W. Bush, offers a good profile for this district.
Rigell, though, is very wealthy and has shown a willingness to spend a lot of his own money. And even though the president narrowly won here last year, this is not easy turf for a Democratic challenger. Still, it's the kind of seat Democrats have to contest to have any shot at winning back the majority.
• CO Recall: In a last-minute decision spurred by a request from Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that voters do not have to vote on both questions on the two-part recall ballot in order to have their choices count. Colorado law had required voters to first say whether they wanted to recall the candidate in question, then separately choose a replacement (who would be elected if the recall succeeded).
But federal courts found this structure unconstitutional in California a decade ago during the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. That's because it precludes voters from casting ballots on part two if they didn't vote on part one, and Colorado's high court apparently agreed with that reasoning.
However, the practical impact of this ruling appears to be limited, if not almost nil. In California, Democrats had a backup plan, urging citizens to vote "no on recall, yes on Bustamante" (Cruz Bustamante, then the lieutenant governor)—a hedge in case Davis got recalled. Democrats have no such Plan B in either of the Colorado recalls.
What's more, aside from the two Republicans already challenging each state senator, it turns out that only one other candidate wound up taking advantage of an earlier court ruling that extended the filing period (and scotched all-mail voting). Libertarian Jan Brooks will appear on the ballot alongside Republican Bernie Herpin in state Sen. John Morse's SD-11, but in state Sen. Angela Giron's SD-03, only George Rivera will be listed.
All in all, I can't figure out why Hickenlooper rushed to court with just two weeks to go, to seek a procedural change that would have almost no impact on the outcome either way.
Meanwhile, Morse and Giron have demanded that an ad from an outside conservative group, Freedom Colorado, get taken off the air for containing falsehoods. The minute-long spot histrionically attacks both Democrats, Morse for quoting Bobby Kennedy on how violence is a "sickness" (which the narrator claims was a reference to gun owners), and Giron for allegedly paying "political thugs to harass recall supporters." Even in a straight news piece, reporter Eli Stokols calls the former claim "a misleading and context-free interpretation" that was simply "not the case." As for the latter, I have no idea where that even comes from.
• NYC Mayor: It seems like stop-and-frisk—the controversial police tactic that involves stopping and searching tens of thousands of New Yorkers a year, most of them black or Latino, for contraband or weapons, and often without the "reasonable suspicion" required by the constitution—has emerged as the biggest issue in this fall's mayoral election. The actual battle lines over how to deal with the program, which a federal judge recently ruled unconstitutional as currently practiced, are fairly complex, though. Among the major Democratic candidates, only Comptroller John Liu wants to end stop-and-frisk entirely; the rest differ on how to how to fix it.
Helpfully, the Huffington Post has put together a chart outlining where each hopeful stands on the three main proposals to increase police oversight. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is the only contender who supports all three, which, combined with his public rhetoric and advertising, has anecdotally opened a "perception gap" between himself and former Comptroller Bill Thompson among black voters in particular (and, I'm sure, the electorate in general) as to which Democrat would most effectively reform stop-and-frisk.
It's an unusual situation because Thompson, who is black, is viewed as having the squishier position, while de Blasio, who is white but whose biracial son Dante has figured prominently in his campaign, is perceived as the sharper critic of the current regime. As we noted in the previous Digest, it's a state of affairs which has Thompson deeply frustrated (he's even accused de Blasio of telling "lies"), but it's a good illustration of how perceptions—and how you go about creating those perceptions—matters in politics.