• NJ-02: It's really starting to feel like the Republican implosion over the federal government shutdown has yielded some serious dividends for House Democrats on multiple recruiting fronts. The party's newest candidate comes in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, where longtime GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo has pretty much never faced a serious challenge despite sitting in what is now a 54-45 Obama seat. But that may finally change this cycle, as attorney Bill Hughes, Jr., the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes, just launched a bid to unseat the incumbent.
Hughes will certainly have a tough race on his hands, and he may also face a primary, as state Sen. Jeff Van Drew hasn't ruled out a run himself. However, Van Drew is up for re-election next month and definitely won't announce any plans until after Election Day. But either way, if Democrats can put this unexpected seat in play next year, then that speaks positively of the party's chances for real gains nationwide.
• SC-Sen-A: George W. Bush has been very quiet, politically speaking, since leaving office—his selfie painting in the tub was probably the biggest splash he's made since 2008. But he may be taking his first steps back into the arena, since he just donated $5,000 to Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election effort.
It'll be interesting to see how the contribution plays in the GOP primary, where Graham is facing some tea party challengers. Graham looks like he's embracing it, since he issued a statement thanking Bush for the donation (and I'd guess this whole thing was probably arranged at a high level). But is Dubya viewed so fondly by the base that his support could help shore up Graham's right flank? It wouldn't surprise me if so, which means we could see a lot more of Bush in the near future.
• KS-Gov: Two pollsters have asked Kansans how they feel about Gov. Sam Brownback and the consensus is he blows a lot. Fort Hays State University finds only 35 percent of respondents expressing some satisfaction with the governor with 42 expressing at least moderate dissatisfaction and 24 percent neutral.
SurveyUSA also gives us their take on Brownback's (lack of) popularity. They find him with a 34 approval rating, with a horrifying 59 percent disapproving. With President Obama also far underwater at 38 percent approval, it's hard to argue this poll is too favorable towards Democrats. Kansas' dark red nature still makes Brownback the favorite for reelection against Democratic state Rep. Paul Davis, but if he is anywhere near this unpopular a year from now he may just have what it takes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Darth Jeff)
• MD-Gov: Is Doug Gansler kidding? Let me get this straight: He shows up at a house party where a throng of high school seniors are getting trashed—supposedly to see his son—snaps a few photos, gets caught on film himself, and then says he had no obligation to put a stop to things? The guy is Maryland's attorney general. He doesn't get to enforce a double standard like this:
"Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party," Gansler said. "How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people's children at beach week in another state? I say no."Everyone else says yes. (And come on. If it had been in Maryland instead of Delaware, that would have changed the calculus?) Indeed, Gansler helped to arrange this party and promulgate special "rules" about what these kids could and could not drink. (Hard liquor, no. Beer... unmentioned.) As Adam Bonin put it, if Gansler wants to publicly criticize underage drinking laws, he can do that. But he can't help teens do something illegal and try to absolve himself of responsibility as though he's "just another dad." He's not. He's the state's top law enforcement official.
When asked whether clearly visible red cups should have been a tipoff that drinking was going on, Gansler replied, "There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups, but there's probably beer in the red cups. I didn't go over and stick my nose in the cups and see, and maybe I should have."I definitely think it was Kool-Aid. Ohhhhhhhhhh yeah.
• MI-Gov: Wow. You just need to read this exchange between GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and reporters on Snyder's views as to whether it's acceptable for employers to fire workers because they're gay. Unreal.
• RI-Gov: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who has unofficially been gearing up for a gubernatorial bid for what seems like forever, will finally launch his campaign on Monday. Despite the lengthy delay, this will actually make Taveras the first prominent candidate in the Democratic primary, since state Treasurer Gina Raimondo still hasn't announced her long-expected candidacy either. Department of Education official Clay Pell, a grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell, is also considering the race.
• VA-Gov: Thursday morning brought us two fresh polls in the Virginia gubernatorial election, one from this planet, and one presumably from ... elsewhere.
Old Dominion University chimes in with some new numbers, and their numbers are a decent reflection of where the polling community is in this race. ODU sees Democrat Terry McAuliffe at 44 percent, with Republican Ken Cuccinelli at 37, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis at 7. In a sign of why Cooch is so doomed, ODU looked at the candidates' policy positions on over 20 issues. They found that voters side with McAuliffe's view on policy sixteen times, while they only side with Cuccinelli on five issues, which is actually fewer than side with Sarvis (seven times).
Meanwhile, a new poll from Wenzel Strategies, on behalf of the conservative PAC known as "Ending Spending," has McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by a single point (41-40), with Sarvis getting a rather outsized 10 percent of the vote. For those who vaguely recall the name Wenzel Strategies, this brutal tweet-fueled takedown of the pollster by Steve Shepard serves as a solid reminder.
They manage to undercut their own credibility here a bit, too, by declaring in the polling memo that they recalibrated their poll using Quinnipiac's partisan breakdown, and still saw a "smaller lead" for T-Mac in their numbers than the Q poll had (from 7 points down to 5). What better way to show readers that you are confident in your turnout model than to immediately recalculate your poll using someone else's model.
That turnout model, by the way, had nearly half of the electorate as independent voters. For those scoring at home, Indies made up 29 percent of the electorate last year, and 30 percent back in 2009. That would explain the relative narrowing for Cuccinelli, but would also explain the double-digit performance for Sarvis, as well.
Meanwhile, an unlikely ally has popped up to boost Sarvis's chances. A new group called Purple PAC (called that because they prefer candidates who are "red" on economic policy and "blue" on social policy) will be running ads on Sarvis's behalf.
Considering the buy will be "six figures" (meaning even if it's only exactly $100,000, that's still more than Sarvis has raised himself so far), that's a big deal for Sarvis. Obviously it won't be enough to turn him into a contender, but it might be enough to ensure he actually continues in the mid-to-high single digits instead of the usual third-party last-minute dwindle. (Steve Singiser & David Jarman)
• WI-Gov: EMILY's List just announced they're supporting Madison school board member Mary Burke in her bid to unseat GOP Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Along with Russ Feingold's Progressives United, that's Burke's second notable endorsement this week.
• FL-02, MN-02: The House Majority PAC has released two new post-shutdown polls from PPP, but unlike MoveOn's enormous batch of polling, this time we have matchups between actual named candidates on both sides. And as you'd expect, since a Democratic super PAC is publicizing the results, the numbers look positive for the blue team.
In Florida's 2nd, local school official Gwen Graham is beating GOP Rep. Steve Southerland 44-41. That's an excellent place to start for Graham, and a very dicey one for Southerland, who sports an underwater 36-42 job approval rating. Note, though, that the question actually mentioned that Graham is the daughter of "former Governor Bob Graham" (who also served as senator), so that might have juiced things a bit in her favor.
Thanks to that pedigree, Graham is an unusually strong challenger, but it's also worth noting that Dems have a 47-43 on a straight-up generic ballot. That happens to be identical to the generic Dem vs. Southerland margin in MoveOn's poll. HMP's survey also wound up with a redder sample at 49 percent Dem and 40 percent GOP, versus 51-34 for MoveOn. (Voter registration statistics in this Dixiecrat-heavy seat are 52 D, 33 R, and 13 I.)
The other poll is of Minnesota's 2nd District, which MoveOn didn't test. There, state Rep. Mike Obermueller leads Republican Rep. John Kline 42-38, who fares even worse than Southerland with a 32-42 approval score. Democrats also have a wide 46-36 lead on the generic ballot. Those are very pessimistic numbers for Kline, who beat Obermueller 54-45 last year. But the sample's partisan breakdown seems plausible in this swingy district, at 31 D, 27 R, and 42 I. (Minnesota doesn't register voters by party.)
FL-02 and MN-02 are both the kind of seats Democrats need to win in order to have a shot at taking back the House, and at least for now, the party is in the right place.
• IA-01: State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic seems to occupy the "young progressive" space in the crowded Dem primary in the open 1st, though her $37,000 third quarter haul doesn't suggest she's near the head of the pack right now. She's pulled in a few endorsements, though, that might help her gain some more attention: most notably, from the United Food and Commercial Workers. The two locals backing her represent over 2,500 workers in the district. Another one is from former pro football player Tim Dwight (I had to look him up, but apparently he's a big deal in eastern Iowa). (David Jarman)
• MI-11: Democrats finally have a candidate in Michigan's 11th District, though it's not the person you may be expecting. Former State Department official Bobby McKenzie announced a bid on Thursday, though he's someone we hadn't heard of previously. The bigger name still considering is Wayne State law school dean Jocelyn Benson, who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in 2010. The current GOP incumbent is tea partier Kerry Bentivolio, but he's facing a well-funded primary challenge from foreclosure attorney David Trott.
• OH-08: Any discussion of John Boehner's 8th District should begin and end with the fact that not only did the CD give Barack Obama 36 percent of the vote in 2012, but that west central Ohio is one of the most "ancestrally Republican" places in the country. But it's worth noting that Boehner is getting a Democratic challenger who's, if nothing else, more well-connected than the nobodies he usually draws: Tom Poetter, a professor at Miami University and the former director of the university's community outreach office. (David Jarman)
• TX-23: The conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund, a PAC that was only a bit-part player in 2012, suddenly seems to have a lot of money at its disposal, and they're spending $200,000 on a TV ad buy on Spanish-language media in the sprawling 23rd. The ad hits Dem Rep. Pete Gallego over Obamacare costs. (David Jarman)
• WI-01: Businessman Rob Zerban, who lost to GOP Rep. Paul Ryan last year 55-43, just announced that he'll try to unseat Ryan again.
• Boston Mayor: MassINC's first general election poll of this contest gives us our closest race yet, with City Councilor John Connolly leading state Rep. Marty Walsh only 41 to 39 percent. This poll comes a week after a Sage Systems survey also showed a small Connolly lead, with the Councilor up by 4 points.
Another pollster is also offering their first general election survey of the race. The University of New Hampshire offers some dramatically different numbers than MassINC's, showing Connolly up 47 to 38. Outside of a Connolly internal from early October, this is his largest general election lead to date.
But it's still a bit too early to determine whether or not Connolly has lost most of the edge he appeared to have at the beginning of the general election. Suffolk and UMass Lowell each showed Connolly up by 7 and 8 points respectively earlier this month, but they have yet to release a follow-up poll. As a result, we can't tell whether or not Walsh has really cut into Connolly's lead or whether his apparent momentum is only due to differences in the four pollsters' survey methods. The good news is that with less than two weeks to go before the election, it's a good bet we'll soon have a better idea of whether things have changed in Walsh's favor. (Darth Jeff)
• FL State House: Part of the job description for any party leader is to spin away disappointments, but at the very least, the spin has to be minimally credible. Case in point: Florida Republican party chair Lenny Curry, who had to explain the Democratic pickup of HD-36 in a special election last week, and did so by saying the "demographics" of the district made it hard to win there.
HD-36, the coastal part of Pasco County in Tampa's exurbs, is significantly whiter than Florida as a whole, and, maybe most importantly, is a retirement destination; it's one of the oldest places in the entire country. It isn't highly-educated, and it's downscale without being impoverished. In short, it's any Republican demographer's version of utopia.
Consider the district's most populous place, Bayonet Point, which is 88 percent non-Hispanic white, has 11 percent with bachelor's degree or higher, has a median household income of $32,000, and most importantly, is 31 percent 65+ (anything over 20 percent stands out as old). See also Hudson, which is 92 percent white and 34 percent 65+, or New Port Richey, which is 84 percent white and 27 percent 65+, according to the Census. (David Jarman)
• Novoyork Autonomous Okrug Administrator: Comrades! The traitorous Mark Penn has been stricken from our central committees following years of insufficiently pure revolutionary thought. Nevertheless, Penn has his moments of being a useful idiot, so to speak, and he and collaborationists Schoen and Berland now join with our other fellow travelers in announcing that the glorious victory of Bill de Blasiovich will soon be in hand. His latest research, published in petit bourgeoisie agitprop instrument Newsday, finds de Blasiovich crushing the forces of tyrannical oligarch Joe Lhota, 64-23. (David Jarman)
• WA State Senate: I'm not sure if this got the Washington GOP's attention just because it's something they can challenge on a technicality, or if they're truly afraid it's the finishing blow, but they've finally filed a complaint against Tom Steyer with the Public Disclosure Commission (the state's FEC equivalent), after the environmentalist billionaire contributed another three meeelion dollars, muuuuahahaha (yes, $3,000,000) to the NextGen PAC, which is playing heavily in the pivotal SD-26 special election. State law prohibits contributions of over $5,000 in the final 21 days of a campaign, but, of course, NextGen spends money on races all over the country and is registered in Washington as an ongoing committee, not tied to a specific campaign year. (David Jarman)
• DCCC: The D-Trip has added three new candidates to their Jumpstart program, designed to give potential contenders an early boost. Two are recent recruits: former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria in CA-21 and Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen in NE-02. The third has been running for a while, investor and activist Sean Eldridge in NY-19.