8:44 AM PT: Specials Elections: Oof! Johnny Longtorso recaps that Alabama special election that got delayed a week due to weather:
Alabama HD-104: It's hard to get more one-sided than this. Republican Margie Wilcox defeated Democrat Stephen Carr by a 91-9 margin, keeping this seat in Republican hands.
9:04 AM PT: CA-33: A smart move by Sandra Fluke: The progressive activist has decided to run for state Senate instead of Congress, a race that offers a young, first-time candidate a much better chance of success. The fight for retiring Rep. Henry Waxman's House seat, which Fluke had been considering, already features two heavyweight candidates in former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and state Sen. Ted Lieu. Fluke, however, has now opted to seek the seat Lieu is leaving open, which will be a much more wide-open affair. She's also already landed some big endorsements, including one from Rep. Janice Hahn.
And on the subject of endorsements, Greuel has earned the backing of the man she unsuccessfully sought to succeed last year: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
9:33 AM PT: NC-02: For some time, it had looked like singer and activist Clay Aiken was serious about running for Congress, and on Wednesday, he indeed made it official. He also released a well-produced welcome video evincing a genuine level of humility and thoughtfulness. But as we've noted before, Aiken will have a devilishly tough time unseating GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in this heavily Republican district. However, he has an unusual level of celebrity and an extremely devoted fan base. Combined with Ellmers' regular bouts of foot-in-mouth disease, that gives Aiken a non-zero chance of pulling off a major upset. For that reason, we are moving this race from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
9:43 AM PT: Maps: This is cool: New York Times graphics editor Mike Bostock has created an interactive map that allows you to select a congressional district, then highlights all the other districts adjacent to it. I'm curious to know which district has the most adjacent seats, and which (in the lower 48) has the fewest.
9:55 AM PT: MN-Gov: Republican state Sen. Karin Housley, who had been considering a bid for governor since late last year and would have been the only woman seeking the GOP nomination, has decided against running.
10:25 AM PT: AK Ballot: It looks like Alaskans will have a very interesting primary this year, thanks to the various measures piling up on the August ballot. Organizers just cleared the 30,000-signature hurdle that ensures their proposal to make Alaska the third state to decriminalize and regulate marijuana will go before voters this summer. And there's a good chance it will succeed, as PPP's timely new poll shows 55 percent favoring the idea to just 39 percent opposed.
PPP also finds that voters support a measure to repeal an extremely controversial tax cut for oil companies by 43-31 margin. Organizers are also trying to get a minimum wage hike on the ballot, too; while their question wording doesn't perfectly track with the actual proposal, PPP sees 60 percent backing a $10 minimum wage to only 33 percent against. And though this issue isn't up for a vote, for the first time, a plurality of Alaskans support same sex marriage, with 47 percent in favor and 46 opposed. A year ago, opponents were in the majority at 43-51.
10:35 AM PT: OK-Gov: Democrats have landed a candidate to take on Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin: State Rep. Joe Dorman, who'd been exploring the race since late last year, made his challenge official this week. Needless to say, this is the longest of longshots.
10:41 AM PT: GA-12: Republicans may have finally landed an upgrade in their never-ending quest to unseat Rep. John Barrow. State Rep. Delvis Dutton, who has reportedly met with the NRCC, announced his candidacy on Wednesday. First he'll have to win the GOP primary, but the two other retreads running have looked very unimpressive. Businessman (and unsuccessful 2012 candidate) Rick Allen raised just $78,000 in the fourth quarter, while 2008 nominee John Stone took in only $67,000. Barrow, by contrast, raised over $300,000 and has $1.2 million in the bank.
11:25 AM PT: CO-Gov: Quinnipiac's new Colorado poll has some better numbers for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper on the horserace front, though the dramatic jump in his job approval score merits a bit of skepticism. After three straight polls last year featuring middling approvals (47-43, 48-44, 48-46), Hickenlooper's now shot up to a 52-39 rating—a shift Quinnipiac's memo doesn't even try to explain. So bear that in mind as you scrutinize the incumbent's performance versus the GOP field (with November trendlines in parentheses):
• 48-39 vs. ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo (46-41)If you do believe that Hick's approvals have rebounded, why does he still perform around 5 points worse in the head-to-heads compared to the 52 percent who like the job he's doing? This has been a strange artifact of Quinnipiac's Colorado polling from day one; by contrast, PPP's December poll found Hickenlooper's approvals and vote share in much tighter alignment. So it's hard to know what to make of Quinnipiac's numbers, but inexplicable gyrations like this should always inspire caution.
• 46-40 vs. Secretary of State Scott Gessler (45-40)
• 47-37 vs. state Sen. Greg Brophy (44-38)
• 47-38 vs. former state Sen. Mike Kopp (44-40)
11:36 AM PT: LA-06: Republican Garret Graves, who until recently served as an advisor to Gov. Bobby Jindal in his role as chair of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, says that he's considering a bid for Louisiana's open 6th Congressional District. Right now, the field is a desultory mess, with only one candidate even posting a fundraising report this quarter, so Graves could have as good a shot as anyone.
11:46 AM PT: VA-10: Nothing says "highly qualified for office" like "Kerry Bentivolio chief of staff," and nothing says "good fit for Northern Virginia" like "ran in Republican primary for rural Kansas House seat," so good on Rob Wasinger for not letting his résumé be an obstacle. Wasinger just quit as Bentivolio's top aide to seek Virginia's open 10th District, and he's emphatically planning to run to the right of the current Republican frontrunner, Del. Barbara Comstock. Four years ago, Wasinger took just 9 percent in the GOP primary when Kansas' 1st District became open, despite somehow raising over $700,000. Better luck this time?
12:19 PM PT: NH-Sen: The League of Conservation Voters is joining in the "dissuade Scott Brown" brigades with a reported $220,000 ad buy attacking the former Massachusetts senator as a tool of the energy industry. The cleverly produced spot features a Brown stand-in (complete with infamous barn coat and pickup truck) tracking an oil slick wherever he goes, while a narrator castigates him for taking "thousands from Big Oil just weeks before voting to give them billions in special government handouts."
12:59 PM PT: AR-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is out with two new ads, each featuring a woman sitting at her Mac laptop (in kitchens with similar cabinetry) who attacks GOP Rep. Tom Cotton for supporting a program to turn Medicare into a voucher system. (That would be our old friend the Ryan Plan.)
1:38 PM PT: NE-Sen, Gov: Republican pollster Harper Polling has a new survey of the GOP primaries for Nebraska's two major open seats. In the race for Senate, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn narrowly edges Midland University President Ben Sasse 30-29, while wealthy banker Sid Dinsdale is in third with 13 percent. For governor, state Attorney General Jon Bruning would start off leading with 35 percent, if he actually decides to make the race. Businessman Pete Ricketts takes 16, with state Auditor Mike Foley just behind at 14 and several other candidates in the mid-to-low single digits.
1:49 PM PT: IA-03: Throw one more Republican into the mix in the primary for Rep. Tom Latham's open seat: Businessman Robert Cramer, who sounds like he may have some personal wealth to burn, kicked off his campaign on Wednesday. Cramer is very much a social conservative and until recently served as chairman of Family Leader, the Christian conservative organization run by none other than Bob Vander Plaats, who is considering a bid for Senate. Also participating in Cramer's launch was incendiary right-wing radio host Steve Deace.
Cramer's entry means that there are now something like half a dozen Republicans competing for their party's nomination, which heightens the chances that no one will get 35 percent of the vote, thus throwing the battle to a convention. As we've discussed, the same thing might also happen in the Senate race, so things could get very interested indeed.
1:55 PM PT: IL-Gov: Billionaire businessman Bruce Rauner has long had the airwaves to himself in the fast-approach March 18 GOP primary, but that's finally about to change. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he's about to go up with a $1.34 million buy over the next five weeks, though his initial ad is not yet publicly available. Also according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rutherford's denying rumors that he might drop out of the race. These rumors may have been totally bogus (who knows?), but it's never good when you have to deal with that kind of thing.
2:18 PM PT: FL-Gov: Heh, Bill Nelson fanboys won't like this one. A new poll from the University of Florida finds ex-Gov. Charlie Crist leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott 47-40, while Nelson—whose partisans like to think he's somehow more electable than Crist—has a smaller 46-42 edge. A small difference, to be sure, but if Nelson is still truly considering a run, numbers like this don't help him make the case.