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The Daily Kos Great Mentioner takes stock of the Republicans stampeding Marco Rubio's Senate seat (April 20, 2015, 02:45 PM)

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.
Retiring Republican Sen. Marco Rubio
Potential candidates are constantly getting "mentioned" for higher office, but who's doing all that work? Why, the Great Mentioner, of course. In this new ongoing series, Daily Kos channels the Great Mentioner and catalogs all the notable candidates who might run in 2016's most important races.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio surprised no one last week when he announced that he would forgo re-election to run for president. Democrats have been preparing to fight for this seat regardless of what Rubio did, and Rep. Patrick Murphy had launched a challenge even before Rubio bailed for his White House bid. Murphy is a tough candidate and a great fundraiser who managed to pull off a decisive win in his light red House seat during the 2014 GOP wave, and he's quickly emerged as a favorite of national and state Democrats. But Murphy has a reputation as a moderate, and some Sunshine State Democrats are unhappy with him as their potential standard-bearer.

Fellow Rep. Alan Grayson sounds likely to run, and he could complicate Team Blue's chances here. Grayson is wealthy and has a massive donor list, and his outspoken liberalism would be an asset in a primary against Murphy. But Grayson is not exactly the most disciplined candidate. In 2010, he ran a spot utilizing an out-of-context clip to equate his Republican opponent with the Taliban, a move that badly backfired and contributed to his outsized loss that year. (He returned to Congress in a safer seat in 2012.) Grayson also just settled a divorce lawsuit in which he'd accused his wife of 25 years of bigamy so that he wouldn't have to split his $30 million fortune with her. That gives him more time to focus on a Senate race, but the GOP would still have plenty of ammunition to use against him.

As unsettled as the situation is among Democrats, the GOP side of the field is even more wide open. Now that state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and ex-state House Speaker Will Weathford have chosen not to run, there is no obvious primary frontrunner, and a ton of dudes?yep, all dudes?are in the mix. (Rep. Tom Rooney also just took his name out of contention.)

We'll start with Rep. Ron DeSantis, who sounds the most likely to jump in. He's already emerged as a favorite of anti-establishment groups, including the well-funded Club For Growth, as well as FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express. DeSantis's ties to movement conservatives should be a big asset in a primary, though he'd have a more difficult time winning over more moderate voters in swingy Florida in a general election.

But plenty?plenty?of other Republicans are eyeing this seat. Head below the fold for the complete rundown.


Supreme Court, in flushing North Carolina GOP maps, may upend some of the most extreme gerrymanders (April 20, 2015, 01:45 PM)

Map of North Carolina's congressional districts (113th Congress)
North Carolina's current congressional districts (click to enlarge)
On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling from North Carolina's highest court that had upheld Republican-drawn maps of the state's congressional and legislative districts. While we don't yet know what the final outcome will be, the court's decision could have a real impact on one of the most aggressively partisan gerrymanders in the nation.

Democrats had argued that the new lines were unconstitutional because they'd improperly taken voters' race into account; while this line of attack did not receive a receptive audience in state court, the SCOTUS decreed that in light of a recent decision of theirs in a similar case out of Alabama, the North Carolina Supreme Court had to reconsider its decision.

So what did that Alabama decision say? In that case, plaintiffs claimed that Republicans?who had their hands on the cartographer's pencil there as well?had packed black voters into too few districts, "bleaching" surrounding districts and thus diminishing Democratic voting strength in those areas (because African-Americans almost always vote heavily for Democrats). There as here, a lower court sided with the defendants, but the Supreme Court disagreed and sent that case back down for a re-hearing last month. We're still awaiting the results, and may yet for a while.

Opponents of North Carolina's maps raised very similar arguments?take a look at the skinny, snake-like 12th District, which crams in a black majority running along a hundred-mile stretch of I-85 from Greensboro to Charlotte. They now find themselves in the same place as their peers in Alabama: waiting to see how a lower court decides the second time around. However, as legal scholar Rick Hasen explained when the Alabama decision was handed down, the Supreme Court's ruling may only offer plaintiffs a "small" and "temporary" victory.

That's because Republicans are free to draft new maps that maximize the number of seats they can expect to win, so long as they don't rely on race as a proxy for voting behavior (or can at least do a better job of hiding their intentions). In other words, they can be as partisan as they want to be?they just need to be crafty about it.

But that's a lot easier in dark red Alabama than in swingy North Carolina. Indeed, the Tarheel State is currently home to some of the most extreme gerrymanders in the entire nation. Even though Barack Obama carried the state by a point in 2008 and lost it by only two points four years later, just three of the state's 13 members of the House?23 percent?are Democrats, and only 36 percent of legislators are Democrats as well. For a 50-50 state, that's breathtaking.

So if North Carolina Republicans are forced to go back to the literal drawing board (well, laptop running fancy software), they'll have less room to maneuver than their counterparts in Alabama. They're a wily bunch, though, so the upside for Democrats may not be dramatic. (And sometimes these wins turn out to be pyrrhic, as we saw in a different case last year in Florida.) But it's possible we'll see some GOP seats grow more competitive, and at the very least, the Supreme Court is intent on forbidding Republicans from impermissibly turning voters' race into a partisan cudgel.


The richest 0.01 percent of Americans gave 42 percent of political donations in 2012 (April 20, 2015, 10:00 AM)

 photo Crowdpac1_zpsdfqohppr.jpg

Forget the top one percent, the top 0.01 percent of Americans gave nearly 42 percent of all political donation dollars in the 2012 election cycle. Just over 30,000 individuals contributed nearly half of all money. It is no coincidence that this proportion has increased steadily as economic inequality has increased. In 1990 when I was born, the figure was just under 13 percent. If we expanded the scope to the full one percent, you can be damn sure they gave the overwhelming majority of dollars in recent years.

Candidates devote 80 percent of their time to begging rich people for money. Any extremist Republican can get a billionaire sugar daddy. The world's eighth richest man can summon the entire Republican primary field to kiss his ring. Millionaires are now complaining about being ignored in favor of billionaires. The average member of Congress is a millionaire.

It should come as no surprise that policymakers look after the ultra-wealthy instead of the rest of us. This trend of increasing economic and political inequality shows no sign of abating. Inequality is incompatible with democracy and it has created a plutocracy. Republicans like Marco Rubio are even proposing abolishing capital gains taxes in an all-out assault on those who actually earn their income.

 photo Wall Quotes - Abraham Lincoln - Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could n_zps6xzkpcop.jpg

Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, brought to you by the Supreme Court. Honest Abe must be spinning in his grave over what his party has become.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 4/20 (April 20, 2015, 09:00 AM)

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? KS-01: On Friday, physician Roger Marshall announced that he would challenge Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the GOP primary. However, Marshall doesn't exactly seem to be hitting the ground running, since the website listed in his FEC filing is not currently operative. (Jeff Singer)

? WV-Gov, Sen: On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would seek re-election to the Senate in 2018 rather than run for his old job as governor next year. The move comes as a surprise: Manchin was not subtle about his unhappiness in Washington, and he appeared to be gearing up for a gubernatorial bid.

Manchin's decision will comes as welcome news to the DSCC. West Virginia has been growing increasingly Republican in the last few cycles, and it would have been tough for a Democrat without Manchin's personal popularity to hold onto this seat. The Republican state legislature has also been working on a bill that would have prevented a Gov. Manchin from appointing someone to the Senate for the final two years of his term. It only takes a simple majority of each chamber to override a gubernatorial veto, so there was little Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could have done to stop this from becoming law. Now, assuming Manchin sticks by his plans to run again in 2018, Democrats should have an easier time keeping this Senate seat in the blue column, though nothing is assured this far out.

But without Manchin on the ballot next year, it will be a lot more difficult for Mountain State Democrats to hold the open governor's mansion. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler created an exploratory committee even before Manchin made his plans clear, and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin didn't rule anything out earlier this month. Team Blue still has a decent bench here, so there are other politicians who may take a look at this post now that they know they won't need to face Manchin in the primary. But none of them have Manchin's name recognition or popularity, and they'll need to work hard to win in this conservative state.

Three notable Republicans have expressed interest in succeeding the termed-out Tombin. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey quickly released a statement after Manchin made his plans clear, saying that, "West Virginia needs bold leadership to help create new jobs, fight against EPA overreach, and build a strong economy." While Morrisey hasn't announced anything yet, it sounds like he very much wants to be that leader. Rep. David McKinley and state Senate President Bill Cole have also floated their names. It's possible that more Republicans will eye this seat now that they don't need to worry about Manchin. The senator's announcement will definitely reshape next year's gubernatorial contest, and we'll be watching all the developments closely. (Jeff Singer)

8:06 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MI-01, NE-02: The Roll Call team takes a look at some fundraising highlights (or lowlights) for House and Senate candidates, and two competitive districts stand out. In the Northern Michigan 1st District, Republican incumbent Dan Benishek brought in a pretty weak $115,000. Benishek may face a credible primary challenge from state Rep. Peter Pettalia, and Democrats are looking to target this district again.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Brad Ashford hauled in  $200,000, not a great sum for a freshman in a Romney 53-46 seat and short of his own self-proclaimed goal of $250,000. The congressman indicated back in March that he wasn't going to focus on fundraising, and he wasn't lying. Ashford managed to unseat unpopular GOP incumbent Lee Terry even in the midst of the red wave, but he can't count on Team Red nominating another dud.

8:12 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IN-Sen: On Monday, GOP Rep. Susan Brooks ruled out a bid to succeed retiring Sen. Dan Coats. Plenty of other Republicans are eying this seat, but only former Coats' chief of staff Eric Holcomb is currently running.

8:17 AM PT (Jeff Singer): GA-Sen: Over the weekend, 2014 Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn announced that she would head up the Atlanta-based relief organization CARE USA. It always looked extremely unlikely that Nunn would challenge Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who looks completely safe, and now we can cross her name off for good. But we may very well see Nunn's name on a ballot again before too long. Peace State and national Democrats were impressed by her campaign last year, and they're eying her for a 2018 run to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

8:30 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Fundraising: Last year, a leaked memo from Georgia Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn's campaign noted that she would need to spend between 70 and 80 percent of her time fundraising. While money has always been vital in politics, this statistic was still quite startling. But it shouldn't be: In a new post, Stephen Wolf tells us that the richest 0.01 percent of Americans were responsible for 42 percent of political donations in 2012. In a world where one billionaire can drop tons of dollars on any race at a whim, candidates like Nunn will need to spend more time than ever amassing their own resources.

8:37 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IL-12: Democrats have been looking for a candidate to face freshman Republican Mike Bost in this swingy St. Louis-area seat, and they may have a taker. Earlier this month, labor lawyer C.J. Baricevic formed an exploratory committee, and sounds very interested in jumping in. Baricevic has no electoral experience but he comes from a powerful local political family: His father, Judge John Baricevic, is a former St. Clair County Board chair, and the Belleville News-Democrat describes him as a "key player in metro-east Democratic politics." Bost unseated incumbent Bill Enyart 53-42, but Democrats are hoping that a better political climate will give them a chance to beat Bost before he can become entrenched.

8:51 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NC-02: Last year, perennial candidate Frank Roche performed surprisingly well against Rep. Renee Ellmers in the GOP primary, holding her to only a 59-41 victory. Chatham County GOP chair Jim Duncan has announced that he'll try to unseat Ellmers this time, but if was hoping Roche would stay out, he'll be disappointed. Last week, Roche kicked off his second bid for this seat, and already began hitting Ellmers as a "progressive."

A Roche victory is very unlikely (he's promising to have "a powerful national team," to help him fundraise, which we'll definitely need to see to believe.) But Roche may be well-known enough to take some votes from Duncan, which could allow Ellmers to sail to renomination with just a plurality. North Carolina requires candidates to take at least 40 percent in the primary to win outright, so Ellmers can still be forced into a runoff. Still, tea party groups infuriated with Ellmers occasional flirtations with pragmatism would be pissed if Roche's presence allows her to win renomination with something like 41 percent of the vote.

9:01 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Houston Mayor: On Friday, Republican Councilor Oliver Pennington dropped out of the contest, saying he couldn't continue given his wife's poor health. Pennington was banking on mobilizing the city's conservative minority to advance to a runoff, though he would have had a difficult time winning in the end.

A few other candidates are going to try appealing to Pennington's old supporters now that he's out of the contest. Fellow Councilor Stephen Costello also identifies as a Republican, though his support for a drainage fee doesn't exactly help him with right-leaning voters. Former Kemah Mayor Bill King and 2013 candidate Ben Hall will also make a play for Pennington's people. Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez might also be able to capitalize if he gets in, but that's still a big if.


Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Joe Manchin chooses the Senate over another gubernatorial bid (April 20, 2015, 08:00 AM)

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin
Leading Off:

? WV-Gov, Sen: On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would seek re-election to the Senate in 2018 rather than run for his old job as governor next year. The move comes as a surprise: Manchin was not subtle about his unhappiness in Washington, and he appeared to be gearing up for a gubernatorial bid.

Manchin's decision will comes as welcome news to the DSCC. West Virginia has been growing increasingly Republican in the last few cycles, and it would have been tough for a Democrat without Manchin's personal popularity to hold onto this seat. The Republican state legislature has also been working on a bill that would have prevented a Gov. Manchin from appointing someone to the Senate for the final two years of his term. It only takes a simple majority of each chamber to override a gubernatorial veto, so there was little Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could have done to stop this from becoming law. Now, assuming Manchin sticks by his plans to run again in 2018, Democrats should have an easier time keeping this Senate seat in the blue column, though nothing is assured this far out.

But without Manchin on the ballot next year, it will be a lot more difficult for Mountain State Democrats to hold the open governor's mansion. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler created an exploratory committee even before Manchin made his plans clear, and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin didn't rule anything out earlier this month. Team Blue still has a decent bench here, so there are other politicians who may take a look at this post now that they know they won't need to face Manchin in the primary. But none of them have Manchin's name recognition or popularity, and they'll need to work hard to win in this conservative state.

Three notable Republicans have expressed interest in succeeding the termed-out Tombin. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey quickly released a statement after Manchin made his plans clear, saying that, "West Virginia needs bold leadership to help create new jobs, fight against EPA overreach, and build a strong economy." While Morrisey hasn't announced anything yet, it sounds like he very much wants to be that leader. Rep. David McKinley and state Senate President Bill Cole have also floated their names. It's possible that more Republicans will eye this seat now that they don't need to worry about Manchin. The senator's announcement will definitely reshape next year's gubernatorial contest, and we'll be watching all the developments closely.


Joe Manchin's decision to stay in the Senate may have effects for years to come (April 19, 2015, 03:44 PM)

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVa) departs after a classified intelligence briefing with members of Congress on the crisis in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin
On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would seek re-election to the Senate in 2018 rather than run for his old job as governor next year. The move comes as a surprise: Manchin was not subtle about his unhappiness in Washington, and he appeared to be gearing up for a gubernatorial bid.

Manchin's decision will comes as welcome news to the DSCC. West Virginia has been growing increasingly Republican in the last few cycles, and it would have been tough for a Democrat without Manchin's personal popularity to hold onto this seat. The Republican state legislature has also been working on a bill that would have prevented a Gov. Manchin from appointing someone to the Senate for the final two years of his term. It only takes a simple majority of each chamber to override a gubernatorial veto, so there was little Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could have done to stop this from becoming law. Now, assuming Manchin sticks by his plans to run again in 2018, Democrats should have an easier time keeping this Senate seat in the blue column, though nothing is assured this far out.

But without Manchin on the ballot next year, it will be a lot more difficult for Mountain State Democrats to hold the open governor's mansion. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler created an exploratory committee even before Manchin made his plans clear, and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin didn't rule anything out earlier this month. Team Blue still has a decent bench here, so there are other politicians who may take a look at this post now that they know they won't need to face Manchin in the primary. But none of them have Manchin's name recognition or popularity, and they'll need to work hard to win in this conservative state.

Three notable Republicans have expressed interest in succeeding the termed-out Tombin. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey quickly released a statement after Manchin made his plans clear, saying that, "West Virginia needs bold leadership to help create new jobs, fight against EPA overreach, and build a strong economy." While Morrisey hasn't announced anything yet, it sounds like he very much wants to be that leader. Rep. David McKinley and state Senate President Bill Cole have also floated their names. It's possible that more Republicans will eye this seat now that they don't need to worry about Manchin. The senator's announcement will definitely reshape next year's gubernatorial contest, and we'll be watching all the developments closely.


If the 2016 GOP presidential field is so deep, why is Donald Trump beating so many of their 'stars'? (April 19, 2015, 11:55 AM)

Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he arrives onstage to address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler  
Donald Trump: in the top half of the GOP field, both nationally and in pivotal New Hampshire.

Much has been made of the field of prospects expected to vie for the Republican presidential nomination. Words like "deep" and "strong" are getting bandied about with a fair amount of regularity.

One of the earliest hymns of praise about the GOP field of contenders came over a year ago, courtesy of a March 2014 CPAC post-game column in the Daily Beast by former Bush ad-man Mark McKinnon:

Contrary to conventional media wisdom, this week?s CPAC proved Republicans are likely going to put a formidable team on the presidential field in 2016?and they?ll have at least one advantage going into the election: Their primaries are going to be much more interesting, dramatic and entertaining than the Democratic primaries.
McKinnon's second point may well be true?it is undeniable that, unless something dramatically changes, the GOP primary fight will get infinitely more attention than the Democratic one, and could give the eventual nominee a great deal more attention.

(Of course, Mitt Romney proved in 2012 that being at front and center in the public whirlwind of a competitive primary fight is not always an asset).

Jump below the fold for more.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 4/17 (April 17, 2015, 09:00 AM)

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: How is Russ Feingold like Han Solo? We're stoked to see him back (April 17, 2015, 08:00 AM)

Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold
I have a good feeling about this
Leading Off:

? WI-Sen: Sweet merciful Moses! Run, don't walk, to Marquette's new poll of their home state of Wisconsin, which finds that former Sen. Russ Feingold would beat the man who unseated him in 2010, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, by an astounding 54-38 spread. Crazy as those numbers may seem, they're not that far from the 50-41 margin for Feingold that PPP saw last month, so yeah, we have real confirmation that Johnson is in real trouble.

(It's also worth noting that Marquette was the most accurate pollster in last year's gubernatorial race in the Badger State. Their final survey predicted GOP Gov. Scott Walker would beat Democrat Mary Burke by 7 points; he won by 6. Everyone else had it as a 1- or 2-point race.)

The only problem here for Democrats is that Feingold isn't actually running yet. He did recently step down from a post at the State Department, which hopefully presages a political comeback bid, but he's a quirky, unpredictable guy, so we can't be sure of his intentions. And if he does return to the fray, his standing with voters is likely to droop once the GOP starts taking shots at him (sort of like what we've seen with another former State official, Hillary Clinton). But if Feingold is having any doubts, how can polling like this not excite him about righting an old wrong?


GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, confronted with huge gaffe, has the solution. He won't talk about race anymore. (April 16, 2015, 03:20 PM)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois speaks to supporters after beating Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias for the Senate seat formally held by U.S. President Barack Obama, at an election night rally in Wheeling, Illinois November 2, 2
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
At a time when race relations in America are a rapidly growing element of our public conversation, Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is not having a very good week. Last week, the freshman Senator, really stepped in it when, while hailing his commitment to spurring African-American entrepreneurship in a wide-ranging interview with the Peoria Journal-Star, he offered an exceptionally horrible coda to his answer (emphasis mine):
I want to make sure we have elected people constantly looking at helping the African-American community. With this state and all of its resources, we could sponsor a whole new class of potential innovators like George Washington Carver and eventually have a class of African-American billionaires. That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through.
Kirk took, unsurprisingly, no shortage for grief for those fateful thirteen words. The DSCC, which has made the defeat of Kirk in 2016 one of their highest priorities, jumped on the statement, which was one of several recent Kirk verbal soilings of the bed.

On Wednesday, Kirk offered a follow-up to the Chicago Sun-Times. He probably shouldn't have:

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., up for re-election, told the Chicago Sun-Times he won?t be talking about race or ethnicity in the future.

?I would say that whenever a targeted member talks about race or ethnicity, it is impossible for him to get it right. So I?ll leave it at that,? Kirk said.

On first blush, it reads like Kirk is arguing that, as a 50-something powerful white dude, he is a "targeted member" of society. It's not hard to think of it in this context, given that the patron saint of right-wing television basically insisted as much earlier this week. Therefore, it is not hard to think that Kirk probably watched the O'Reilly Factor this week.

But defenders rushed in, arguing that he meant as a "targeted member" of Congress (electorally), he couldn't say anything on the subject safely. But even viewed through that lens, this is an ill-advised comment. The right play here (not that I feel like counseling Mark Kirk on political rhetoric) was abject contrition, not "you meanies are twisting my words."

It was a horrifically bad comment, on multiple levels. First of all, who is "we"? I am a white guy who is not dramatically younger than Senator Kirk. I drive through black neighborhoods all the time, and I don't find myself mashing the accelerator. I suspect there are lots of folks like me. Are there white folks who do speed through black neighborhoods? Or avoid them altogether? Of course, but a responsible member of the U.S. Senate should be mournful, or condemning, of that behavior. Not justifying it indirectly by saying that the only way to fix it is by creating black billionaires through more government largesse to the business community.

(For now, because it's too easy, we'll set aside the absolutely moronic implication that a handful of black billionaires somehow will eradicate income inequality. Maybe he is looking at means instead of medians, or something.)

Which brings up the other problem: is he serious when he suggests that the only way for his imperial "we" not to fear black communities is if more members of the African-American community become billionaires?

Someone needs to ask Senator Kirk this question?does he drive faster through lower-income and working-class white neighborhoods?!


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