• MI-Sen, MI-Gov: The Michigan Senate seat, left open by Carl Levin's retirement, doesn't get a whole lot of attention. It doesn't have as dramatic a story line as the Dem incumbents trying to hold on in red states, and the Beltway press doesn't live there, which seems to be the only explanation why the Virginia race gets the disproportionate fawning that it does. But polling in the last few months has shown Michigan, too, could become a major thorn in the Dems' side; local pollster EPIC-MRA is out with a poll giving Republican ex-Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land a 41-38 lead, a reversal from their last poll in September, when Democratic Rep. Gary Peters led 38-37. That's also the fourth poll in a row with a Land lead, going back to December (though only one of those pollsters was PPP; the other two were the less-credible Rasmussen and Harper).
The easy response to that is that "well, Michigan is full of terrible pollsters," and to a certain extent, that's true, if you remember the likes of Mitchell Research and Baydoun/Foster from the closing months of 2012. Michigan may simply be a difficult state to poll accurately; every single pollster in Michigan, even PPP, undershot the Obama/Romney margin by at least three points. EPIC-MRA, however, was one of the less bad ones; they, like PPP, had Obama +6 in their final poll, where the final margin was 9.5. (However, they were finding Romney leads as late as June '12, and consistently finding sizable Romney leads during 2011.)
The fact that over 20 percent are still undecided shows that this is still a sleepy race where Land's residual name rec advantage (she was elected statewide, while Peters reps only 1/15th of the state) gives her a temporary edge; another cause for optimism is that the crosstabs from PPP's most recent poll shows undecideds were predominantly Obama voters in 2012. Still, this race is on track to be a low-to-mid-single-digits affair throughout, and getting Peters' name rec up will take a lot of time and money away from the red state races.
EPIC-MRA also has results in the Governor's race, where incumbent Rick Snyder leads Democratic ex-Rep. Mark Schauer 47-39, which is the same margin as the 44-36 Snyder lead in September. The polling in this race has been more consistently in Snyder's favor, including a 4-point lead in December's PPP poll; Schauer led most polls in early 2013, shortly after Snyder's acquiescence to a right-to-work law, but as that recedes from people's memories, Snyder has gradually moved back into the lead.
• KS-Sen: Seems like three-term incumbent Pat Roberts has roused himself from his long nap in his La-Z-Boy and realized he has a problem here; his campaign is out with a one-minute radio ad that goes straight at his primary challenger from the far right, Milton Wolf. Interestingly, it doesn't go straight at Wolf's outrageousness, but uses the 'outside agitators' approach; the narrator leads off with "There's a lot of people from a lot of places outside Kansas trying to tell Kansas who our Senator should be, and those outsiders support Milton Wolf." (Meanwhile, Wolf isn't doing anything to help his credibility with a recent round of tweets Friday that went the full Godwin, jumping on the Tom Perkins "Kristallnacht of the 1 percent" train.)
• TX-Sen: I'm starting to wonder if John Cornyn's other tea party primary challenger, Dwayne Stovall, might manage to rack up more votes than Steve Stockman, who has only managed to make the news lately for being even more absent and erratic than usual. Stovall is out with a TV ad — I'm not sure where the ad will run, or with what money, but it does seem to meet all the disclosure standards for a real ad — that's bound to attract some attention, what with its generous use of animated turtles (because, of course, no one has ever compared Mitch McConnell to a turtle before) and, at the end, a talking dog. I mean, the Beltway press is cackling about it, even I'm cackling about it: maybe he doesn't even need to run it, because he's already gotten all the earned media he could want.
• AK-Gov: Alaska's fundraising reports deadline is Feb. 1, for some reason, but now we have reports from the two main contestants in this year's gubernatorial race. GOP incumbent Sean Parnell raised $407,000 in the period since April 2013, and has $330,000 cash-on-hand. His likely Dem opponent, Byron Mallott, didn't get into the race until October; in that shortened period, he raised $233,000.
• IL-Gov: When a new poll shows your candidacy swirling around the porcelain bowl, and you're already enmeshed in scandal, it is safe to say that headlines like this aren't going to be particularly helpful:
Rutherford will not release independent investigator’s reportWhen confronted with allegations of sexual harassment, Dan Rutherford ordered an independent investigation. The investigation is done, and Rutherford is clutching onto it. His rationale, according to his lawyer, is that a federal lawsuit has now been filed, and "under federal rules, we are not supposed to be talking to the whole world about the case — we are supposed to be talking about it in the courtroom."
Which would be dandy, if it weren't for the fact that Rutherford has ... twice! ... held press conferences where he has defended himself against the allegation, going so far as to present text messages from the accuser. So leaking private texts in an attempt to defend yourself is kosher, but releasing an independent investigation would be "talking to the whole world" about the case? Alrighty then. Don't expect Rutherford to claw his way back to relevance in the GOP gubernatorial primary with this hanging over him. (Steve Singiser)
• MO-Gov: If you're one of those people who are offended by polls of the 2016 presidential race, well, stop reading right here, because a poll of the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial race is likely to make you blow a gasket. It's a poll from Republican pollster Wilson Perkins Allen, and while they don't specifically say they're working for ex-U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway (it's for somebody called Citizens for a Stronger Missouri), it seems clear they're motivated by her recent entry to the distant-future race. They find her leading the likely Dem nominee, AG Chris Koster, by a whopping 35-33.
• NY-Gov: How do you know that you're completely politically toxic? When you poll worse than someone that roughly 7 in 8 voters have never heard of, that's a pretty good indicator. Such is the fate of one Donald Trump, who is losing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by a 63-26 margin, according to new Quinnipiac poll. Little-known Republican Rob Astorino, the county executive of Westchester County, actually polls slightly better on the margin (58-24), despite only having 14 percent of the state recognizing him enough to have an opinion. (Steve Singiser)
• AR-01: Republican Rep. Rick Crawford has gotten by without any real Democratic challenge so far this cycle, but local Democrats are hoping to change that. Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson is reportedly strongly considering a run.
McPherson would have a tough hill to climb here. The ancestrally Democratic district has swung far to the right in recent years, with Mitt Romney carrying AR-01 by a brutal 61-36. Heber Springs is also not a particularly large place (population 7,100), and he would start out with little name recognition. Still, any statewide Democratic victories in the gubernatorial or senate races likely would require a good performance in AR-01, and it wouldn't hurt Mike Ross or Mark Pryor to have a serious Democrat running here. (Jeff Singer)
• AZ-09: There are some dueling Republican pollsters in the 9th district, a swingy district that isn't high on anybody's watch list right now but could pose some trouble for freshman Dem Kyrsten Sinema if things go further south for the Democrats. The campaign of Andrew Walter, an ex-NFL quarterback who's one of the two main GOPers running here, released a poll from FLS Connect, which gave Walter a 52.5-47.5 lead over Sinema (you probably don't need a calculator to see that that means 0 percent undecideds).
However, a different Republican pollster (from Coleman Dahm, which worked with Martin Sepulveda in the 2012 AZ-09 election, but doesn't claim to have a horse in the race this year) decided to try a little unskewing with a poll of his own. He only polled the primary (or if he polled the general, didn't release anything about it), and found Walter trailing the other GOPer, Wendy Rogers, by a 15-7 margin. If you break out your calculator, that's 78 percent undecided, which is probably a more accurate reflection of the current state of the race.
• CA-31: Looks like the Republicans have found the two candidates they need to try to hold the Dem-leaning San Bernardino-area open seat left behind by Gary Miller's unsurprising retirement, which, given the district's 57 percent Obama status, would be doable only if they could game the Top 2 primary by, like in 2012, getting two candidates through while four Dems split the rest of the vote. One is Paul Chabot, a former Navy intelligence officer and mid-level Bush administration official (from the Office of National Drug Control Policy), who said Friday that he "plans to run." Chabot hasn't held office before but had been running for the state Assembly.
Chabot has received endorsements from ex-Rep. Jerry Lewis, (for whom Chabot was at one point an intern, and who, pre-redistricting, used to represent about one-quarter of current CA-31's residents) and Bob Dutton, the ex-state Senator who finished 2nd in the 31st in 2012, but who already declined to try again this time.
The second Republican in the field is San Bernardino City Councilman John Valdivia, who also joined the race on Friday. However, if a third Republican jumps into the fray (even a Some Dude), the odds of two Republicans again advancing to the general in this Democratic-leaning district will be severely diminished, as it doesn't seem like Chabot or Valdivia have the juice to win mano-a-mano against a Dem in a 57 percent Obama district. Acquanetta Warren, the mayor of Fontana (which isn't even in the 31st, though it's close by), just declined, though, so Warren won't be that third wheel.
• CA-33: Add one more name to the list of candidates to replace long-time Rep. Henry Waxman on Los Angeles's west side. Newspaper and radio pundit Matt Miller (who's thoughtful, but sometimes Third Way-ish) announced he's running ... as a Democrat, if there was any uncertainty. His job gives him a certain amount of name rec, but probably not enough to overcome local heavyweights Wendy Greuel and Ted Lieu.
• FL-13: If you've lost track of how much money is pouring into the high-stakes special election in the 13th, Open Secrets helpfully rounds it up. Although Alex Sink has flattened GOPer David Jolly in conventional fundraising, there has also been $1.1 million spending from outside groups on ads in just the nine days prior to this report, most of that accruing to Jolly's benefit.
Much of that comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $800,000 in the last nine days; fellow establishmentarians American Action Network poured in another $240,000. They list Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads as spending $49,000 (which doesn't seem to include Friday's additional $25,000 for mailers), and $75,000 from the NRCC. All totaled up (both candidate and third-party spending), $3.5 million has been spent so far on this election, and with weeks still to go, it's on track to be one of the most expensive specials ever.
Democratic group House Majority PAC is rolling out a new ad on Friday, though (it's part of a $750,000 buy along with their first ad, which will continue to run); it features a testimonial from an elderly couple concerned about Jolly's support for Social Security privatization. On the GOP side, Eric Cantor's YG Network is rolling out a robocall from Marco Rubio, attesting to how Jolly will protect Social Security. The NRCC is also continuing to experiment with hitting Sink on the CBO report (the subject of their most recent ad), though for now just with tweets and press releases, that essentially have them coming out in favor of "job lock."
Why the nonstop drumbeat of TV ads, mailers, and robocalls? For one thing, despite the two polls that dropped last week giving Sink 7- and 9-point leads, David Wasserman drops some hints that, behind the scenes, it's a closer race than that: "both parties' internal polls show the race much closer...." And also, early voting is already underway; in fact, over 39,000 ballots have already been returned, nearly 20 percent of those requested. (The Dem/GOP split in the returned ballots so far is pretty evenly divided.)
• HI-01: The crowded Democratic field in this open seat race just got a little larger, with Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan entering the race. Daily Kos Elections Community Member Skaje gives us some background on Manahan, who is also a former Vice Speaker of the state House of Representatives. The most important thing may be that Manahan's regional base overlaps with socially conservative state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim's. Also running in the Democratic primary are Honolulu City Councilors Ikaika Anderson and Stanley Chang, state Sen. Will Espero, state Rep. Mark Takai, and activist Kathryn Xian. (Jeff Singer)
• OK-05: All the action to fill James Lankford's open Oklahoma City-based district has been on the Republican side, but Democrats have just landed a candidate here. State Sen. Al McAffrey announced Thursday that he will run here. McAffrey made history back in 2006 as the first openly gay member of the Oklahoma legislature. The district, which Romney won 59-41, is the bluest in the entire state. But this is Oklahoma we're talking about, so that's not saying much. (Jeff Singer)
• WA-04: We've got our first major Republican entrant into the dark-red open seat left by Doc Hastings' decision to trade in 20 years of anonymity in the House for even greater anonymity in the private sector. As expected, it's state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake, who's setting up an exploratory committee.
• WV-03: The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity is putting more money into West Virginia's 3rd, where they've already run TV spots; they're out with a new anti-Nick Rahall radio ad, with a $30,000 buy behind it.