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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: California Republicans' lone rising star quits party (April 4, 2012, 08:00 AM)

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Leading Off:

? San Diego Mayor: You might remember a widely-circulated article from February about the California GOP's decline, as best seen in their utter lack of a statewide bench... though in that piece, moderate young Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was heavily touted as their one possible rising star. So what does it say about your party when your most highly-regarded up-and-comer just up and leaves?

Indeed, that's exactly what just happened, with Fletcher bolting the GOP, becoming an independent and offering a bunch of Americans Elect-style nonsense about the failure of partisan politics. It got him the praise from the usual suspects you'd probably expect he was after (like David Brooks), but it may just be a canny play designed to help him in the San Diego mayoral race. This move lets Fletcher differentiate himself out of the clutter of other Republicans running (Carl DeMaio and Bonnie Dumanis), to hopefully win a spot in the top-two primary against Dem Bob Filner. (David Jarman)

Daily Kos Elections April 3 liveblog thread #2 (April 3, 2012, 09:29 PM)

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Results: Wisconsin | DC | Maryland: Pres | Sen | House

6:38 PM PT: For some reason, the AP is showing more precincts counted in the Dem primary in MD-06 than the GOP primary, but anyhow... with 12% reporting on the Dem side, John Delaney is beating Rob Garagiola pretty hard, 51-30. On the R side, Roscoe Bartlett has moved out to a more comfortable 40-23 lead over David Brinkley.

7:00 PM PT: We're up to 18% reporting, but both MD-06 primaries are looking like total blowouts. Delaney is now up 53-27, while Bartlett is up 45-23.

7:23 PM PT: 55-27 Delaney, 45-21 Barlett with 41% reporting. Seems inescapable.

7:48 PM PT: With 65% reporting in MD-06 (R), the AP calls it for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who prevails over state Sen. David Brinkley by a 45-21 margin. Not the most impressive, but he got what he needed.

7:53 PM PT: At 69% reporting, it's a brutal 55-26 for Delaney. Why hasn't the AP called it?

8:03 PM PT: MD-06 (D) finally called for financier John Delaney, who is stomping state Sen. Rob Garagiola 55-27 with 73% reporting.

8:05 PM PT: Gonna call it a night, folks. Thanks for tuning in!

Daily Kos Elections April 3 liveblog thread #1 (April 3, 2012, 08:00 PM)

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Results: Wisconsin | DC | Maryland: Pres | Sen | House

5:13 PM PT: The first trickle of votes is showing up in the Maryland Senate race.

5:23 PM PT: Heh. The AP has already called MD-Sen (D) for Sen. Ben Cardin.

5:34 PM PT (David Jarman): We've got some early results in MD-06. And I mean early... literally only hundreds of votes, with 0% of precincts reporting. But, things are looking closer than expected. On the Dem side, it's Delaney 44, Garagiola 38, Pooran 7. On the GOP side, it's Bartlett 43, Brinkley 36.

5:46 PM PT (jeffmd): In the Senate race, a dump of votes from Prince George's County has brought Muse into the double digits; while in MD-06, Delaney is out to a 49-37 lead over Garagiola with 6 precincts reporting.

5:57 PM PT: The toughest thing for Rob Garagiola is that he's trailing badly in every county so far.

6:00 PM PT: I wonder if Rep. Roscoe Bartlett will get saved by the clown-car effect in MD-06 (R). He's at just 37% right now, but the anti-Bartlett vote is getting split among many candidates, the nearest of whom (state Sen. David Brinkley) is at just 23.

6:09 PM PT: We're up to 5% reporting now in MD-06, and while Bartlett's doing a bit better (39%), Garagiola's doing worse (33%).

6:29 PM PT: The liveblog continues in thread #2.

Know your caucuses: breaking down the House budget votes (April 3, 2012, 05:02 PM)

U.S. Capitol (1846)
U.S. Capitol (1846)
If it's April, that means the House's budgetary process has sputtered to its conclusion, leaving us with a variety of votes on competing budget proposals that lets us take a closer look at the fissures within each party's caucus. For instance, last year's votes were particularly revealing, in that there were clear divisions within the GOP caucus over both the GOP-on-steroids Republican Study Committee budget, and over the continuing resolution that had it not passed would have resulted in a government shutdown. (That gave us our first real look, before any of the aggregators could weigh in, at the newly elected GOP class of '10, to help us see which of them were moderates, which were establishment foot soldiers, and which were off-the-reservation tea partiers, whom we at DKE took to calling the 'dystopians.')

There isn't as remarkable a distinction in the budget votes this year, and, at any rate, we've gotten much more familiar with the GOP freshmen and their intra-party allegiances. There are still a lot of interesting defections, though, so let's look at them budget-by-budget:

First, there's the GOP establishment's Ryan budget, which was the only budget to actually pass, 228-191. While Dems were unanimous against it, 10 GOPers also voted against. You might assume that it would be a list of the most moderate and/or fearful about re-election, but it really isn't:

Chris Gibson (NY), David McKinley (WV), Denny Rehberg (MT), Ed Whitfield (KY), Joe Barton (TX), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Justin Amash (MI), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Todd Platts (PA), Walter Jones (NC)
The only moderates here are Jones, the retiring Platts, and the freshman Gibson; Gibson does double-duty as the only GOPer here facing a tough fight in November (though Justin Amash's race may heat up). Rehberg probably also refused to walk the plank, given his tight Senate race in Montana (and that he also voted against the Ryan budget last year, probably for the same reason). Instead, we have some of the dystopian caucus voting against it, presumably for it not going far enough (Amash, a reliable "no" vote on just about anything, plus the strongly Club for Growth-oriented Huelskamp, and Duncan, an occasionally Ron Paul ally). Speaking of Paul, he was one of the three GOP non-voters, along with Paul Broun, another potential no vote from the right, and Connie Mack, who's not only busy on the Florida Senate campaign trail but probably also desperately wanted to avoid taking a stand one way or the other.

The main competing alternative from the Democratic leadership was the Van Hollen budget. This failed 262 to 163, with 22 Dems joining the Republicans.

John Barrow (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Ben Chandler (KY), Jim Cooper (TN), Jim Costa (CA), Peter DeFazio (OR), Joe Donnelly (IN), Gene Green (TX), James Himes (CT), Kathleen Hochul (NY), Ron Kind (WI), Larry Kissell (NC), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Daniel Lipinski (IL), David Loebsack (IA), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Collin Peterson (MN), Mike Ross (AR), Kurt Schrader (OR), Heath Shuler (NC), Peter Visclosky (IN)
As you can see, most of the "no" votes were from the core Blue Dogs, many of whom are either retiring (Boren, Ross, Shuler) or are highly vulnerable (Barrow, Chandler, McIntyre), as well as a few other Dems who aren't Blue Dog members but on the right flank of the Dem caucus and facing trouble in November (Hochul, Kissell). There were also a few purity votes from the left (Kucinich, naturally, and perhaps De Fazio as well, though he's become irascible enough lately it's hard to tell what angle he's coming from; Loebsack, though a member of the Progressive Caucus, is probably the least progressive Progressive and may be a vote against from the right), and a couple surprises from ambitious New Dems (Himes, Kind).

More over the fold...

NV-Sen: Dean Heller takes three-point lead over Shelley Berkley in new PPP poll (April 3, 2012, 04:05 PM)

Las Vegas strip
Las Vegas strip (Matthew Field/CC BY 2.5)

Public Policy Polling (PDF). 3/29-4/1. Nevada voters. MoE: 4.2% (10/20-23/2011 results):

Shelley Berkley (D): 43 (45)
Dean Heller (R-inc): 46 (45)
Undecided: 12 (10)
A lot of folks had been clamoring for PPP to go back into the field in Nevada, where they hadn't tested the Senate race since last October. And in the end, what did they find? Pretty much the same story they always have: a super-close race between Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley. There is a note of caution, though:
One thing worth noting since PPP's last poll of the race is that Berkley's favorability numbers have taken a bad turn. 33% of voters say they have a positive opinion of her to 40% with a negative one. The 3 previous polls had found her at 38/35, 33/33, and 34/31. Berkley's had some not so great press coverage and it does appear to be impacting her image.
On the flipside, though, Tom Jensen says the presidential numbers they'll release on Wednesday show Barack Obama "at his greatest strength" in Nevada since he was elected all the way back in 2008. That's very heartening, and if the president can run up numbers anywhere close to what he did the first time, I think Heller will have a very tough go of things. As Tom further points out, Berkley underperforms Obama considerably among blacks and Hispanics, but it's not like Heller ought to have any particular crossover appeal to those group. And once the state witnesses the firepower of the Obama campaign's fully armed and operational battle station, it's doubtful Heller will retain that sort of edge.

Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race a Tossup.

Daily Kos Elections Maryland primary preview (April 3, 2012, 01:54 PM)

There are only a few congressional primaries worth watching tonight in Maryland, and even those don't look like they'll be all that exciting. But we're nothing if not thorough at Daily Kos Elections, so here's our primary preview. First up, though, is a map of the state's new congressional districts:

And now, off to the races:

? MD-Sen (D): Freshman Sen. Ben Cardin is being challenged by state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who hasn't even filed a single fundraising report. Muse has said that he's running because there are no blacks in the Senate; his most prominent public difference with Cardin is that he opposes same-sex marriage, and he even spoke at a rally against Maryland's new marriage equality law. Cardin ran a couple of very well-produced TV ads as insurance and is set to cruise.

? MD-06 (D): State Sen. Rob Garagiola seemed to have it made: As a legislator, he was heavily involved in the redistricting process and helped redraw the 6th Congressional District into a seat that's much more favorable to Democrats?and himself in particular. He also earned heavy labor support, and thanks in part to his recent leadership on the state's aforementioned marriage equality law, his progressive credentials looked strong. But a funny thing happened on the way to the nomination: Super-wealthy financier John Delaney carpet-bombed the race with his own money, spending at a seven-figure level that Garagiola simply couldn't compete with. A late (and unanswered) internal from Delaney had him up 49-23, suggesting this race might not be close in the end. Garagiola's best hope is that union boots on the ground, plus a last-minute endorsement from Gov. Martin O'Malley, edge out Delaney's paid media campaign, but it's hard to be optimistic.

? MD-06 (R): At one point in time, it was pretty easy to believe that if Rep. Roscoe Bartlett wasn't doomed in the general election, he might very well get whacked in the primary. But I just can't see the latter happening now. An entire clown car's worth of challengers piled into the race, and all of them raised very feeble sums?and that includes two state legislators. What's more, even though a lot of the turf in the redrawn 6th is new to Bartlett, the new areas mostly contain Democratic voters, so the GOP primary electorate is one that's still very familiar with old Roscoe. He's still going to have a hell of a time in November, running in a district that went from one Obama lost 58-40 to one that he won 56-42. But it looks like Bartlett'll live to fight another day.

Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 4/3 (April 3, 2012, 11:09 AM)

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8:19 AM PT: FL-26: I really feel like this is all for the better: State Rep. Luis Garcia, who in recent months had proven himself to be the absolute worst Democratic House recruit we've seen in quite some time, finally pulled the plug on his campaign against GOP freshman David Rivera. Given his constant, open feuding with the DCCC (which he said stood for "double-crossers, connivers and cowards") and the fact that his top staffers all left, this comes as no surprise. Instead, he'll run for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission, something he said he might do just the other day.

But since this is Garcia, that ain't the end of it. On his way out of the congressional race, he also declared that he'd probably leave the Democratic Party, and he said that Dems would try to recruit replacements by "reviv[ing] a couple of political cadavers that have lost other elections." An interesting bit of projection, because if there's a dead man walking anywhere in South Florida politics, it's surely Garcia. So, yeah, we're back to square zero when it comes to having a candidate to take on Rivera, but at this point, Garcia would have been worse than nothing.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Dave Spence busted for lying about repayment of bailout money (April 3, 2012, 08:00 AM)

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Leading Off:

? MO-Gov: Republican businessman Dave Spence has long had a serious problem on his resume: He served on the board of directors of a local bank which accepted $40 million in federal bailout money, and I'm not sure there's any worse sin in GOP politics these days that being on the wrong side of TARP. Indeed, the story was actually a good bit worse, because that same bank also refused to pay back the money it owed to the government?though Spence claimed he had nothing to do with that decision:

Spence resigned from the holding company and the board last March and says he did so, in part, because he objected to Reliance's decision not to make the $2.2 million payment to TARP. [...]

"What I wanted to do, and what the board wanted to do, are two different things," Spence said.

Now that problem has gotten much, much worse. From a new AP report:
Spence said he voted with the rest of the bank board in early 2011 to forgo payments to the U.S. Treasury" and that he now says he resigned because "the bank board was taking too much of his time."
I believe there's a word for a guy like Spence: liar.

Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap: Mitt Romney has a problem with women (April 2, 2012, 09:15 PM)

Anyone who thought that the Fluke/Limbaugh thing (or the sudden GOP preoccupation with the "evils" of contraception) haven't had a direct impact on Election 2012 got a real wake up call this weekend, and they got it from one of the most amenable pollsters for the GOP in this cycle thus far.

It was Gallup, of all people, who noted not only a large swing in the direction away from Mitt Romney in the past several weeks, but also noted that much of that swing came from shifting allegiances among women. If only men voted in the 2012 presidential election in the dozen anointed "swing states", Mitt Romney might squeak out a win (he leads by one point). President Obama, thanks to an 18-point edge among women, actually has his biggest lead of the cycle so far in those swing states (51-42).

A thought or two about that poll, and others, awaits you in this, the only Polling Wrap of this week (owing to the fact that this is the first Spring Break in five years where my children and I have been on the same schedule, we are taking advantage. I'll be back to recap the week in polling during Saturday's Weekend Digest).

But, first, the numbers:


NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney 43, Santorum 25, Gingrich 11, Paul 10

MARYLAND (PPP): Romney 52, Santorum 27, Gingrich 10, Paul 9

WISCONSIN (PPP): Romney 43, Santorum 36, Paul 11, Gingrich 8

WISCONSIN (We Ask America): Romney 39, Santorum 31, Paul 16, Gingrich 15

NATIONAL (Gallup): Obama d. Romney (49-45); Obama d. Santorum (51-43)

NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama tied with Romney (45-45); Obama d. Paul (43-40); Obama d. Santorum (47-42); Obama d. Gingrich (48-38)

"SWING STATES"+ (Gallup): Obama d. Romney (51-42); Obama d. Santorum (52-41)

MASSACHUSETTS (Univ of New Hampshire): Obama d. Romney (49-33)

(+): Swing States defined by Gallup as the following twelve states--Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin

MA-SEN (Univ of New Hampshire): Sen. Scott Brown (R) 37, Elizabeth Warren (D) 35

WA-GOV (Grove Insight for SEIU): Jay Inslee (D) d. Rob McKenna (R) (38-34)

WI-GOV (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner--D): Tom Barrett (D) d. Gov. Scott Walker (R) (48-47); Walker d. Kathleen Falk (R) (48-47)

WI-GOV (Rasmussen): Recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) 52, Don't Recall 47

A few thoughts, just past the jump...

IN-Sen: Looking for Richard (Lugar's Indiana residence) (April 2, 2012, 03:03 PM)

Monopoly card

Richard Lugar's much-publicized residency issues?that he lives in Virginia rather than his nominal home state of Indiana?have caused him a lot of grief of late, but they also raise another question. Lugar claims he moved to Virginia when he was first elected because he couldn't afford to keep two separate houses?yet he owns a farm in suburban Indianapolis that would have to be worth at least $10 million if he developed it. So why has he been pleading poverty? That's what we're wondering, too.

The story so far: Lugar, Indiana's Republican senator for nearly 36 years now, is facing his toughest competition in decades, from both sides. First, he has to survive a tea party-fueled challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, and then, if he clears that hurdle, he faces a stronger-than-usual challenge from a Democrat in November, in the form of Rep. Joe Donnelly. (Donnelly apparently felt that the chance at running against a tea partier instead of the popular-across-the-aisle Lugar was enough justification to give up his House seat, although the bad hand dealt him in redistricting also no doubt motivated him.)

What's not helping matters for Lugar, though, are the charges that he's "gone Washington." That began with allegations in the Republican primary that he's guilty of being insufficiently conservative, a silly attack in that he's always had a conservative voting record; what that really means is that he's guilty of the charge of actually trying to legislate and working cordially with Democrats, as opposed to playing the GOP's new game of mindless monkeywrenching. However, the charges that really seem to be sticking are the ones that he's simply not in present in the state, even less than usual for a senator, but perhaps not even enough to qualify as a senator from Indiana at all.

Lugar lives primarily in a residence that he owns in affluent Beltway suburb McLean, Virginia. However, Lugar has been registered to vote for many decades at a home on Indianapolis's west side, and also uses that address on his driver's license. There's just one catch: Lugar sold that house in 1977, not long after his election to the Senate, citing the financial expense of having two residences.

That had somehow never been an issue until this cycle, but responding to citizen complaints, the Marion County Elections Board (the county where Indianapolis is located) decided in March that, having not owned that property for more than 30 years, no, Lugar couldn't remain registered to vote there. However, an easy fix presented itself: Lugar also owns a farm in Marion County, which, though he hasn't lived there, he has at least consistently owned. Previously, though, he's said conditions at the farm are "rustic" and not suitable for living?and he also said it wouldn't be "truthful" to declare that he lives at the farm because, well, he doesn't live there. (He didn't live at the other residence either, though, so it's strange that he cares about truthfulness all of a sudden.)

Lugar reversed course though, and decided the best course of action was to try to register to vote at the farm. And he finally got some sorta good news last Friday from the Marion County Election Board: He can register to vote in Indiana using the farm's address. The news is only "sorta good" because it just keeps underscoring the problem that threatens to swamp him, if not in the primary, then in the general: that he's an absentee senator who doesn't own anywhere in the state where he can live, and who just stays in hotels on his occasional returns to the state that elects him.

Not just that, but he apparently has trouble properly billing those same hotel expenses. After initially cutting a check to the government for $4,500 after Politico busted him for improperly billing taxpayers for hotel visits on trips "home" to Indiana, Lugar has admitted that his repayment wasn't large enough. (Senators aren't allowed to recover expenses for overnight stays in the area they're allegedly from when the chamber is not in session.) So now he's copping to a bill that, at nearly $15,000, is three times as large.

So while Lugar can at least continue voting for himself, this latest development just brings the bad optics back to the forefront. And his campaign hasn't helped matters, with their recent admission that he's spent 1,805 days in Indiana, treating that like it's a large number. But that's spread out over 36 years in the Senate, around 50 days per year. (Democratic opponent Donnelly picked up on that theme and recently announced that since his election to the House, in 2006, he's somehow managed to spend 1,151 days in Indiana, in six years.)

But that's not the end of the story, at least for us here at Daily Kos Elections. Lugar's farm isn't some small stretch of land?it's an enormous 604 acres, which is almost one square mile. And it isn't out in the boonies, either: Don't forget that Marion County is where Indianapolis is (and has a population of 903,000), and in fact for the most part is coterminous with the city of Indianapolis. So we're talking suburban at best, and where could such a huge "farm" fit? It turns out it's in the southwestern corner of the county:

Marion County map
(click for larger)
It's pretty much all of those brown fields and woodlands to the south and east of the "A" flag, between the road and the river. You can see why Lugar's calling it "rustic"; why, he'd have to drive almost a mile to get to the nearest Domino's Pizza!

But there's actually a second punch line here. Lugar's long claimed that he moved to Virginia when he was elected to the Senate in the late '70s because it was "too expensive ... to maintain two houses." And indeed, Lugar also ranks near the bottom of the Senate in terms of personal net worth. But that's because this supposedly "rustic" farm has an assessed value of "only" $280,200, probably thanks to an exemption for agricultural land (the farm is used to grow soybeans, corn and nursery stock).

Now, suburban Indianapolis is not downtown Manhattan, but this is still a gigantic and well-situated tract which would be worth many, many millions if it were developed as subdivisions. Look at the image below, zoomed out to show the greater context: It's an area that's about the size of downtown Indianapolis and yet only about five miles away from downtown Indianapolis.

Marion County map
(click for larger)
If you look at Zillow, you'll see that in the subdivisions across the street from his farm, houses on quarter-acre lots are listing for between $60K and $100K. Now think about how many quarter-acre lots you can cram into 604 acres ... and also that you're going to get a much better rate on the lots with river frontage. (That, of course, doesn't mean he'd actually get $100,000 per quarter-acre, since much of the value lies in the buildings, not the land, and there are many hidden costs in subdivision development; it also doesn't mean that he'd have 2,416 building sites, since you need to allow for streets, utilities and green space. But even allowing for conservative estimates of each lot having a site value of $10,000, and there being only 1,000 sites, that's still $10 million right there.)

Lugar may have sentimental reasons for not doing developing the land, or perhaps environmental concerns (just kidding about that last one). But whatever the reason, he's sitting on a massive, untapped cash cow and any attempt to plead poverty to justify his peripatetic lifestyle should ring just as hollow as his claims that he's still a genuine Hoosier.

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