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June 8 Primary Liveblog

10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday

By Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

While the May 18 primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania had their fair share of intrigue, the real Super Tuesday of the 2010 midterm cycle's primary season is June 8. Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg will be making his major league debut for the Nationals just a few blocks down South Capitol Street, but it's a safe bet that many on Capitol Hill will have their eyes glued to the election results in 11 states.

With so many contests to take in, here are 10 highlights and things to watch for as Super Tuesday unfolds:

Harry and the Republicans

While establishment Republicans in Nevada don't agree on Sharron Angle's ability to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, there's little disagreement she's the nominee Reid would prefer to run against. Angle's non-mainstream views on several issues (like shifting Social Security to a free market alternative and calling for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations) worry many of the standard bearers who prefer Sue Lowden, a former state senator and chairwoman of the Nevada GOP.

Angle's endorsement by the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth gave her a boost in the polls, and she took the lead in two separate polls released Thursday. But no matter who wins Tuesday -- Angle, Lowden or Danny Tarkanian, who are the most likely -- that person will enter the general election race with a significant fundraising disadvantage. As of May 19, Reid had more than $9 million, and none of the three Republicans had as much as $300,000.

But the GOP sees a sitting duck in Reid, who continues to straddle 40 percent support in the polls. Anything under 50 percent should be worrisome to an incumbent, but a party leader near 40 percent is far worse.

Continue reading "10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday" »

Super Tuesday? Not For Another Three Weeks

Today's elections in Kentucky, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Oregon certainly have captured the attention of cable news and the political media, to the point where some are calling it a "Super Tuesday" of sorts. And while the plight of incumbents like Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln, the rich intra-party battle in Kentucky, and a potential bellwether special election in Pennsylvania's 12th district are rich storylines, today pales in comparison to the races coming up three weeks from today in seven states. Here's a sneak peak at what we'll be looking to after the results are in today.

** California Senate: If Republicans are going to come close to winning back control of the Senate, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) is one of those marginal incumbents they will have to beat in order to get to 51. On June 8, California Republicans will decide from among three main candidates to challenge Boxer in November. Former Rep. Tom Campbell (R) entered the race last, switching from the gubernatorial race, but is the current frontrunner. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina got a potentially signficant boost just weeks ago when Sarah Palin endorsed her campaign. Running further behind is Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R), endorsed by Mike Huckabee and with a small but fervent following in the tea party movement.

RCP Average: Campbell +6.8 | RCP General Election Rating: Toss Up

** California Governor: Former eBay executive Meg Whitman (R) still appears to have the upper hand in this race, but Steve Poizner appears to have substantially narrowed the gap as we get closer to primary day. At the very least, the race has gotten ugly. Just check out this Poizner ad accusing Whitman of peddling porn. That tightened contest may have forced Whitman to move a bit further to the right than she may have wanted, rolling out this weekend an endorsement from former Vice President Dick Cheney. It's also forcing her to spend more of her immense personal fortune now, while former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) conserves his resources for November. This promises to be a blockbuster race in the fall considering the starpower of current occupant -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and the state's dire fiscal straits.

RCP Average: Whitman +15.7 | RCP General Election Rating: Toss Up

Continue reading "Super Tuesday? Not For Another Three Weeks" »

May Primaries Test Democrats In Red, Purple States

The first major wave of primary elections in 2010 -- beginning today in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio -- features a number of competitive Democratic primaries in purple and red states. Given that the political environment is challenging enough for the majority party nationally, candidates seeking their party's nominations in these states are faced with an additional dilemma: How far can they stray from the center in order to win support from their base?

Of the 10 states with primary elections this month, John McCain carried five by more than a dozen points. Another three - coincidentally the ones voting today - were red states in 2004 that went narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008. Only in two did the Illinois Democrat win by double digits. Now, the president's numbers are under water in all but Oregon, according to available public polling of voters in these states.

Among Democrats who will head to the polls this month, however, support for Obama and his policies remains fairly strong. But that hasn't stopped candidates in the reddest states eyeing the fight ahead in November from drawing distinctions now, even in tough primary races.

Continue reading "May Primaries Test Democrats In Red, Purple States" »

Obama Drops Into Florida's Political Frenzy

President Obama makes his fourth visit to Florida today, one of only a half dozen states outside the Beltway he's visited that many times since entering the White House. He'll find a Sunshine State again rich with political intrigue, where major developments in the gubernatorial, Senate and Congressional races just this week point to an election cycle as busy as any in recent memory.

Obama's visit - to deliver an address on his space policy and to raise money for the Democratic National Committee - of course points to his own political interest in the state. Not since 1976 had a Democratic presidential nominee won 51 percent of the vote in Florida, as Obama did two years ago. But recent polling shows that his standing has slipped there as in many battlegrounds from 2008, something that could affect the entire Democratic ticket this fall.

Democrats had a voter registration advantage of 660,000 in 2008, after the party added 500,000 voters to its rolls between the 2006 and 2008 elections. Republican registration rose by 130,000. However, after a successful election year that also included picking up two Republican House seats, the party has no apparent edge in this year's midterm elections.

"I think it's lining up to be a pretty Republican year in Florida," said Central Florida University political scientist Aubrey Jewett, co-author of the book Politics in Florida. "Florida-specific polls show Obama's approval rating is about where it is around the country. And the average Floridian isn't happy with the health care bill."

Continue reading "Obama Drops Into Florida's Political Frenzy" »

End Of Fundraising Period A Key Campaign Benchmark

Wednesday marked the end of the first quarter campaign fundraising period, and with it comes a better understanding for who the most viable primary and general election contenders are. Both incumbents and challengers made strong pushes for last-minute dough before last night's deadline, and many will likely release their totals before the April 15 Federal Election Commission filing deadline.

With deep minorities in both chambers of Congress, Republican challengers and campaign committees in particular will use their fundraising totals from the first three months to prove they have the financial strength to cut into the Democratic majority. But with many key primaries on tap in the next three months, some of the totals to be announced may be more critical in the short term.

Take Arizona, for instance. Sen. John McCain is facing a competitive primary challenge from conservative former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who has relentlessly attacked McCain's longtime independent streak within the GOP. McCain laid his cards on the table first, announcing Wednesday morning -- with more than half a day left to go before the 1st quarter deadline -- that he'd raised $2.2 million in the last three months and has $4.5 million cash-on-hand.

On the Democratic side, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter made a strong early showing after just announcing his candidacy this month. According to the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, he's set to announce that he raised more than $2 million in just a matter of weeks. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) had reported raising more than $5 million at the end of 2009; both have already been spending big in early TV ad campaigns.

Continue reading "End Of Fundraising Period A Key Campaign Benchmark" »

Reform Battle Goes Beyond Congressional Races

Sunday night's climactic House vote on health care reform will likely go down as the defining vote for many representatives, particularly the Democrats who went out on a political limb to help their party pass the historic legislation. But the repercussions go beyond the Congressional midterm elections this November. Here's a look at some of the other races in which health care may be a dominant focus.

* Florida Governor: Bill McCollum, a former Congressman representing the Sunshine State, has emerged as the leading voice among Republican attorneys general in pledging to fight the implementation of the Democratic-sponsored health care reforms. McCollum says this is about principle, not politics. But this fight comes as the gubernatorial race in Florida is really gearing up, and as the likely GOP nominee, McCollum's fight could sharpen the national spotlight.

"If the president signs this bill into law, we will file a lawsuit to protect the rights and interests of American citizens," McCollum said in a statement after the House approved the Senate bill Sunday. The likely Democratic nominee, Alex Sink, offered this statement -- hardly an enthusiastic one: "Though it is certainly not perfect, these long-overdue reforms are better than Washington continuing to do nothing to improve America's health care system."

McCollum isn't the only attorney general in this fight eying a promotion this fall. Henry McMaster of South Carolina is engaged in a multi-candidate primary in South Carolina. Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is the early frontrunner in his state's open-seat gubernatorial race. Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, running for the GOP nomination for Senate in New Hampshire, came out in favor of a repeal effort Monday.

Continue reading "Reform Battle Goes Beyond Congressional Races" »

New Orleans' Next Mayor? Who Dat?

New Orleans has been in a football frenzy ever since the New Orleans Saints clinched their first-ever Super Bowl birth on Jan. 24. Overshadowed by that "Who Dat" mania is the city's mayoral election, scheduled for the eve of the big game this Saturday.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is the presumptive frontrunner in a crowded field. The brother of the state's senior U.S. senator and the son of the city's former mayor, Landrieu lost a close run-off vote four years ago against incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin, now term-limited. That 2006 election took place only months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; the mood of the city is far different today, with the Saints a focal point of the city's resurgent spirit.

At a time when all anyone can think about is football, candidates are doing their best to capture voters attention. One, Troy Henry, even launched a campaign ad featuring fan favorite Deuce McAllister and New Orleans native Marshall Faulk.

But it's not just the Super Bowl. The city's Carnival season is also about to kick off ahead of Mardi Gras on Feb. 16. Aware of these distractions, city officials and the campaigns have been encouraging voters to cast their ballots early, and those efforts seem to be successful. A record number of ballots have already been cast, surpassing even the total number of early votes in the 2008 presidential race.

The intersection of sports and politics is nothing new, of course. Though he spent more than $100 million of his own money on his re-election bid, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg soaked up some free media exposure during the Yankees' World Series run last fall. In 2008, then-Senator Joe Biden ended his campaigning with a rally with Jimmy Rollins just after the Phillies' clinched a championship. And Fenway Park and former Sox pitcher Curt Schilling proved to be key players in Martha Coakley's collapse in last month's Massachusetts Senate race.

A poll for WWL-TV released in mid-January showed Landrieu just shy of the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff. A final run-off vote would take place March 6, long after Saints-mania - and a Mardi Gras hangover - has worn off.

In Recent Special Elections, Some Victors Seated Quickly

Kyle and I wrote yesterday about a scenario in which the winner of next week's special election in Massachusetts could have to wait until March to be seated. That scenario, as we pointed out, is considered unlikely, but the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office noted that the certification process would likely take at least two weeks. The Senate is unlike the House, we were told, and requires a formal certification from the state before a new senator is seated.

A review of other recent special elections for the Senate shows, however, that past winners have at times been seated rather quickly, some in a matter of days. Since 1990, 14 special elections have occurred as a result of vacancies occurring. Six of those resulted in an appointed senator winning the election to complete the unexpired term. In the other eight there was either no appointment at all, the appointed senator was defeated, or the appointed senator did not run in the special election. Here's how quickly the new senators were seated in those cases:

  • In 2002, Jim Talent defeated appointed Senator Jean Carnahan on November 5, and took office on November 25 -- a gap of 20 days.
  • In 1996, Sam Brownback defeated appointed Senator Sheila Frahm in an August primary, and then won the special general election on November 5. He took office November 7, just two days later.
  • Earlier in 1996, Ron Wyden won a special election on January 30, and was seated on February 6 -- seven days later.
  • In 1994, Jim Inhofe won a special election on November 8 and took office November 17 -- a gap of nine days.
  • Fred Thompson also won a special election on November 8, 1994, but didn't take office until December 2, a 24-day gap.
  • In 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison won a June 5 special election and was seated on June 14, a span of nine days.
  • In 1992, Kent Conrad was elected on December 3 to fill a vacancy. He was already serving in North Dakota's other Senate seat but had not initially sought re-election. He switched to his new seat on December 15, 12 days after the special election.
  • Also that year, Dianne Feinstein defeated appointed Sen. John Seymour in a November 3 election to complete an unexpired term. She took office November 10, a span of seven days.

To sum up, the longest gap in recent history between a candidate winning a special election and being seated was 24 days, while the shortest gap was two. Five of the eight winners were seated in fewer than 10 days -- which is the amount of time Massachusetts cities and towns have to tally local results and send them to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office.

The Week Ahead: Game Changers

Sunday made for a great day of TV -- the Arizona Cardinals topped Green Bay in overtime after combining to score nearly 100 points, and one of our favorite shows of all time turned 20. Now let's take a look at what Monday and beyond holds in store for us in The Week Ahead:

The White House: What happened to the "hard pivot" back to the economy? The Christmas terror plot delayed that somewhat, but it is expected to be on display this week in the White House. At the same time, President Obama will make a visit to Capitol Hill midweek to meet with Democrats on health care. There is sure to be some increased pressure to move quickly, with the yet-to-be-scheduled State of the Union address looming, and perhaps some nervousness about the potential for a Republican upset in the Massachusetts special election next week.

The President's schedule for the week is light on details for the week, but today's rundown includes a meeting with labor leaders. Thursday, he'll speak at a forum on modernizing government. Also on tap: a Tuesday meeting between the president and female golfers. Vice President Biden remains in Wilmington, where services are scheduled Monday and Tuesday for his late mother, Jean Finnegan Biden.

The Capitol: "Vacation" is officially over for representatives in the House, which opens for business again Tuesday at noon. Of course, Democratic leadership has been back for a week continuing the push for a health care reform compromise with the Senate, which doesn't return to session until next week. A few outside factors -- which we delve into in the next section -- have added increased incentive for Democrats to get something done quickly.

As for the year ahead, no matter what happens with health care, the president and Congress have indicated that jobs will be a legislative priority in the second session of the 111th Congress. Another issue to watch for is immigration reform -- 80 House Dems introduced a new resolution in mid-December.

Politics: So much to talk about -- where to begin. The fallout from "Game Change," a new book from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, has rocked the political world with salacious details about the 2008 presidential campaign. Harry Reid is looking to put controversial comments about Obama's race behind him. Politico reported on a claim in the book over tension between running mates Obama and Biden. An excerpt about John Edwards will bring his scandal back to the forefront. And "60 Minutes" featured new-ish details about Sarah Palin's chaotic run as John McCain's vice presidential nominee.

Michael Steele, plugging his own new book, will continue to be in the headlines as well. Reid's troubles made for a convenient distraction from increasingly public concerns from GOP types about his leadership. In the run-up to the RNC's winter meeting in Hawaii next week, look for more talk about his role.

State of the races: by week's end, we should have an official accounting of the fundraising totals for all the candidates for Congress this fall. FEC reports for the final quarter of 2009 should be public by Friday. Open Secrets had a good post this week using some already public numbers outlining some of the races on the House side where challengers had outraised incumbents.

Finally, this is the final week of campaigning in Massachusetts in the special election to finish Ted Kennedy's unexpired term. New polling this weekend showed very different results, but most Democrats will concede that it's closer than they'd like it to be. Make no mistake: if a Republican upset happens here with Scott Brown victorious, it will make the Democratic retirements this week look like the good old days. It also could mean health care never gets approved, at least in its current form. Bill Clinton headlines a Martha Coakley rally Friday. Perhaps Biden will be dispatched, or the president will record a TV ad. The candidates have one more debate tonight at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 48.8 / Disapprove 46.0 (+2.8)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 27.4 / Disapprove 65.8 (-38.4)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +2.8

In Case You Missed It: Last night Fox marked the 20th anniversary of "The Simpsons," and the 450th episode. In honor of the great cartoon show we recall one of its great episodes, and what The Hotline (where both of us once worked) once called one of the greatest political satires ever: the season two show called "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish." That's when Mr. Burns runs for governor. No clips online, but here's a good summary.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Governor Campaign Committees Report Record Hauls

Majority control of governorships does not have the kind of cache as being the majority party in Congress. And yet both the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations will each likely edge their legislative committee counterparts when it comes to funds raised in 2009.

Both the DGA and RGA reported their fundraising totals today, and both report a record amount raised for what should be an active year with 37 governorships at stake. But it's the Republicans who claim bragging rights, ending 2009 with a $7.5 million cash-on-hand advantage heading into state contests.

Committee Raised / Cash On Hand
RGA $30M / $25M
DGA $23.1M / $17.5M

Through November, the DCCC had the highest cash on hand total for Democratic fundraising committees with $15.4 million. The RNC had the most on the Republican side with $8.7 million.

The Democratic Governors Association says it raised $7 million in the fourth quarter alone, including $4 million in December -- after the party lost races in New Jersey and Virginia. Its $17.5 million nest egg for 2010 is 12 times more money than it had in the comparable 2006 cycle, the organization boasts. It spent $14 million that year, when it picked up six seats as part of a national pro-Democratic wave.

For its part, the Republican Governors Association broke its previous fundraising record of $28.2 million in 2006, and now has $21 million more on hand than it did entering that year.

Both parties had support from major surrogates. President Obama held a DC fundraiser for the DGA in October. Former Gov. Sarah Palin has urged her Facebook fans to donate to the RGA, and also offered signed copies of her new book to committee backers.

Governors races in 2010 will have greater national significance because of the role many state executives have in the redistricting process. The role of these party committees in gubernatorial races varies greatly based on state laws, but the impact was surely felt in 2009 races. The RGA, for instance, helped Chris Christie narrow a wide spending gap between he and Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

FEC: Candidates Raised $1.4 Billion In 2008

House and Senate candidates in the 2008 election cycle collectively raised more than $1.4 billion and spent nearly as much, according to a new report from the Federal Elections Commission. Despite a slight decrease from the 2006 cycle, those totals -- 80 percent higher than the 1996 cycle -- illustrate the increasing importance of money in federal elections.

The amount of money successful House candidates raised and spent in the 2008 cycle doubled from 1996, when winners raised $322 million and spent $297 million. During the last cycle, winning candidates raised $636 million and spent $596 million. The same is true in the Senate: winners in 2008 raised $269 million and spent $264 million; winners in 1996 raised $125 million and spent $128 million.

At $799 million, individual donors gave 56 percent of the total amount raised by congressional candidates, while PACs accounted for $380 million in campaign receipts (27 percent). Candidates for Senate raised a higher percentage of money (64 percent) from individuals than House candidates did (54 percent).

The total amount given by PACs is $30 million more than in 2006 and $180 million more than in 1996. Since that year, PACs have accounted for between 24 and 28 percent House and Senate campaign receipts.

The FEC also released lists of the Top 50 House and Senate candidate receipts for the 2008 cycle. At $7.9 million, Doug Ose, a former California congressman, raised more than any other House candidate, but didn't make it to the general election. After mostly self-funding his campaign, Ose lost the Republican primary to now-Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). Freshman Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) raised the second-most at $7.4 million, followed by Republican Sandy Treadwell ($7.0 million), who lost to then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) raised $19.3 million in the 2008 cycle and was topped only by his Democratic challenger, now-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who took in $22.5 million. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised the third-most ($18.7 million) in a challenging re-election campaign.

Lessons To Be Learned (And Quickly For Some)

As everyone tries to explain what the elections last night mean for 2010, there's a cliche in some of the analysis: that the midterm elections are a lifetime away. There's no disputing that the general election is a full year away, but time is not on the side of many candidates as you look at the primary calendar. And two news items just today underscore the problems facing Republicans in particular as they plan for Senate races.

Believe it or not, the first primary election of 2010 is just 90 days away, in Illinois. Given the debate over New York-23 and its implications for the GOP, that may make Mark Kirk the latest test case in just how moderate or conservative a Republican can be to win a primary and, ultimately, the election. Today, Chris Cillizza reports that the Senate hopeful is appealing for Sarah Palin's endorsement. Her support for Doug Hoffman spurred Dede Scozzafava out of the race, but ultimately could not keep the seat from going to a Democrat. Kirk seems convinced that he needs her backing to win on February 2, however, before he can think about November.

A more significant problem for the GOP, however, comes as a result of NRSC chair John Cornyn's announcement today that the committee would not commit any resources in contested primaries. A day after tough Democratic losses, it had to feel like Christmas come early at the DSCC as they mapped out how this could change the entire playing field.

One could make the case that the GOP has primaries or the threats of primaries in every key Senate race except for Delaware. And now, would-be challengers who may have been holding off for fear of the NRSC's organizational might have seen a major roadblock taken away. Cornyn's announcement has local reporters across the country checking in with these candidates as well as the increasingly nervous Washington-preferred challengers (one, Carly Fiorina, announced her candidacy just today). And Democratic state committees and some candidates in these states have cranked out press releases celebrating the decision.

The calendar comes into play here, too, because some of the GOP's most contested primaries take place later in the calendar year, meaning that any major battle, particularly one expected in Florida, and others in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Connecticut, will produce a nominee with less time to recover before a general election campaign.

After the jump, a chronological clip-and-save of the 2010 primary season.

Continue reading "Lessons To Be Learned (And Quickly For Some)" »

DGA Mocks GOP 'Comeback'

The Democratic Governors Association uses the formation of a campaign committee by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) today as an opportunity to mock its Republican counterpart, saying their field of candidates seems more "throwback" than "comeback."

Branstad was first elected in 1982 and served four terms as Iowa's governor, but is exploring a new bid in 2010 against incumbent Chet Culver (D). The DGA web video adds to his resume the founding of the Iowa Caucuses in 1920 and lobbying for Iowa statehood in 1846. Also targeted in his "Band of Breakout Buckaroos" are some well-known GOP gubernatorial candidates who have been on the scene for some time: Florida's Bill McCollum, Ohio's John Kasich, and Rick Lazio and Rudy Giuliani, announced and potential candidates in New York.

The RGA has used as a fundraising and recruiting pitch the idea that the Republican Party's comeback begins with wins in gubernatorial races in 2009, and continues in 2010. The DGA's point here is that the party's candidates suggests more of the same from the party.

Democrats, of course, have some "throwback" candidates of their own. We've noted that three former Democratic governors are looking to win back their old posts: Oregon's John Kitzhaber, California's Jerry Brown and Georgia's Roy Barnes. All three, however, face primaries.

Would Gubernatorial Wins Signal GOP Comeback?

If Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie win gubernatorial elections this fall, some Republicans will be eager to call it the first sign of a comeback for the party. One person who won't be, apparently, is Gov. Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican Governors Association.

Asked specifically about the contest in New Jersey on a conference call today, Barbour said: "Chris Christie is ahead in the polls in New Jersey because people in New Jersey don't like what Jon Corzine's done." It's the Democrats who are eager to nationalize the race, he added, while Republicans like him "think that race, and I hope that race, is decided very much on local and New Jersey issues."

It's not surprising in New Jersey, where Republicans have not won a statewide election since 1997. Christie is hardly calling attention to his partisan affiliation, something national party leaders praised. And even in a blue state, they don't think President Obama will make a difference.

"Barack Obama didn't get Jon Corzine's job approval down to 35 percent," Barbour said. "Christie's ahead in the polls in New Jersey because people in New Jersey look over the four years that Corzine has been governor, and they don't like the results."

This week, the RGA hosted 29 candidates who will be running in 2010 races around the country, as well as nine incumbents. These governors are being encouraged to, like Christie, shape their message not on any national message but based on what are the top concerns in their states.

"I think the Republicans are going to do surprisingly well in 2010 based on the caliber of the people we've been talking with," said Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, herself a Republican governor in a deep blue state.

UPDATE: Check out DGA Executive Director Nate Daschle's response after the jump.

Continue reading "Would Gubernatorial Wins Signal GOP Comeback?" »

FEC Releases Official 2008 Election Results

The Federal Elections Commission released today the official 2008 federal election results. The publication puts all the data into one easy-to-use spot, and includes some cool maps and tables for all you political junkies out there.

Enjoy.

Census Process Begins

The 2010 Census forms entered the printing process today, and the U.S. Census Bureau says it's being done in an eco-friendly way. The printing begins one day after Robert Groves was sworn in as the 23rd Census director.

"The Census Bureau has gone to great lengths to make the printing process as efficient and eco-friendly as possible," Groves said in a press release today. "The printing of 2010 Census questionnaires uses 30 percent less ink than 10 years ago and will be printed on 30 percent recycled paper."

The forms, which Census says is one of the shortest and simplest since the first one in 1790, will begin being distributed in March 2010. More than 13 million of the forms will be bilingual in an effort to improve response rates in areas of high concentrations of Spanish speakers.

As the Census begins, so begins reapportionment of congressional districts and strategizing for redistricting.

Sanford's RGA Outraised Dems

The Republican Governors Association, led until late June by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, announced this morning that it raised $12.2 million through June 30, and boasts $20.4 million cash on hand as the 2009 gubernatorial races get ready to heat up. The DGA announced earlier that it had raised $11.6 million in the first half of the year. Both committees say their tallies are new records; the RGA boasted having four times as much money as it did in the 2005 cycle, while the DGA said it only raised $10.5 million in all of 2005.

As the RGA chair, Sanford had pitched the idea that a Republican comeback would begin with the gubernatorial races this year. "Republican governors are going to have a disproportionate level of influence in determining what comes next," he told donors in February at the committee's annual gala in Washington. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) chaired that dinner, which accounted for at least $10 million of the fundraising total.

"The RGA's ability to outraise the Democrats despite their control of the White House, Congress and majority of governorships, proves that more people than ever believe a Republican comeback begins with the 39 governors' races that are taking place over the next two years," RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-Mont.), chair of the DGA, said the fundraising is "even more impressive given the difficult fundraising climate, and builds on the strong foundation we have already laid to protect our majority."

GOP Governors Reading The Tea Leaves

The Republican Governors Association argued today that the Tea Party demonstrations across the country yesterday signal a growing backlash against the excessive spending policies of the Obama administration so far.

"There's something going on out there in this period of economic angst," Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), the chairman of the RGA, told reporters on a conference call this morning. "If you look at the budget issues, the size of the government budget, the projected deficits over the next 10 years, you look at health care and the cost of going to a single-payer system ... there's some huge pocket book issues that I think are going to give Republican governors in the 2010 election cycle a real leg up."

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), RGA vice chair, said the energy in the conservative grassroots is going to be a key factor not just in 2010, but in the gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia this year. Sanford also said there are real parallels between the environment this year and 1993, when he said Christie Todd Whitman and George Allen won races "after Clinton had overplayed his hand."

"It was sort of a bellwether of what was a gut reaction to what had happened administratively," he said.

The governors were asked if they thought Republicans should embrace the Tea Party movement.

"I think it's always in the best interest of Republicans, whether they're governors, whether they're in the House or the Senate, to talk about the themes that are important to the people they represent," Sanford said. "And what seems to be emerging is a growing consensus that says that the Obama administration is out of bounds with regard to the spending that it is proposing. ... I don't know if it's a question of embracing one individual or one group, but it's embracing themes that we all happen to agree upon."

Barbour put it more bluntly.

"If we're not the low-tax party, what are we?" he asked.

The RGA this morning also issued a statement, arguing that the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act will play out in the states as well as Congress. The statement is after the jump.

Continue reading "GOP Governors Reading The Tea Leaves" »

A Tale Of Two Presidents For Democrats In The Midterms

Democratic strategists said that President Obama has committed to strongly help the party maintain and build its majorities in Congress in 2010. But he's not the only president they expect will play a supporting role.

"President Bush is going to be very much part of the discussion in November 2010," DSCC executive director J.B. Poersch said this afternoon at a panel hosted by The Hotline. "The voters already know full well that the new president was taking on large and, I'll call them ugly, challenges. They had to come from somewhere."

But how can a former president still be used to sway voters? Poersch said it's because the GOP, not the Democrats, who are blaming their woes on Bush.

"There doesn't seem to be from the Republican Party an 'A ha!' moment of accountability, where Republicans themselves say, you know, 'We did this wrong. We screwed up.' Instead, it's the Republicans you hear most often that say, 'Boy, President Bush really made big mistakes," he said.

NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer conceded that tying candidates to Bush was successful in past elections, but won't in the future.

"Nobody's going to Congress to work for or against President Bush now," he said. "In a time we're engaged in two major wars, we're going through a historic economic downturn, we're spending money at an incredible rate, I just don't think anybody cares about that."

He did concede that with a Democrat in the White House, they have a considerable advantage in terms of fundraising ability and a campaigner-in-chief. Both the DCCC and the DSCC say they've gotten strong commitments from the White House to support candidates, and that President Obama will start that with an upcoming appearance on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"The best thing politically, though, that the president could do for Democratic candidates is succeed," Poersch added. "So far so good."

"The most important thing for all us as Democrats is the president's success, of really turning around what happened over the past eight years in this country," DCCC executive director Jon Vogel said. "We can get into tactics much further down the road. But this election is a lot more about our record of progress, what we started to do and what we're going to be able to accomplish over the next two years."

Election Results!

Well, maybe not here yet. Check out the Real Clear Politics blog to follow the latest results. We'll have more in-depth analysis on Politics Nation throughout the night. (Seriously, we're not going to be sleeping tonight. Join us at 4 a.m. if you're still awake)

Court Hits BCRA Again

The Supreme Court didn't stop with guns today, also striking down a key provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, chipping away again at a signature accomplishment for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The Court ruled 5-4, with Anthony Kennedy joining conservatives in the majority, to strip the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment" from the law.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito struck down the clause, which allows opponents of political candidates who spend more than $350,000 of their own money on a Congressional race to raise more than the $2,300 per contributor currently allowed under federal law. The provision, the Court found, violated the First and Fifth Amendments.

The case, Davis v. Federal Election Commission, was filed in 2006 by Jack Davis, a wealthy Democrat who lost two elections to retiring Rep. Tom Reynolds in New York's Twenty Sixth Congressional District. Davis spent more than $1 million on his 2004 race, which he lost 56%-44%, and $2 million on his 2006 race, which he lost 52%-48%.

Davis argued the provision, which allowed Reynolds to raise up to three times the maximum amount from an individual and required the self-funding candidate report more frequently, forced him to reveal campaign strategy and gave the incumbent an unfair advantage. The Court, today, agreed, sending that provision to the dustbin.

Whether the Millionaire's Amendment had any real effect is difficult to say. In recent years, despite a spate of wealthy candidates running for office, only a handful of self-funders actually won. Too, only a few candidates who were able to raise more funds thanks to an opponent who spent heavily actually took advantage of doing so.

Dubbed the McCain-Feingold act for its two prime sponsors, McCain and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, BCRA, as it is also known, has undergone its share of challenges. Some minor provisions were struck down in a 2003 challenge brought by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, while a provision prohibiting third-party ads that do not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate was ruled unconstitutional last year, in a suit brought by Wisconsin Right to Life, ironically for advertisements run against Feingold.

Bruno To Retire

Joseph Bruno is not a household name anywhere outside political circles in New York, but the Senate Majority Leader, seemingly the last barrier standing in the way of total Democratic control over the Empire State, has been a major factor in the state legislature for more than three decades. That reign will come to an end this year, as Bruno announced to colleagues yesterday that he will not seek re-election in November, the Democrat and Chronicle reports today and the New York Times wrote last night.

Bruno, who has presided in the state's upper chamber since 1994 and been in the Senate since 1976, told fellow Republicans at a closed-door meeting yesterday that he believed it is time for him to move on, and time to give his colleagues a chance at new leadership. His announcement was greeted with warm statements from friends and enemies alike, including Governor David Patterson, with whom Bruno had a much warmer relationship than previous executives.

State House Republicans will watch the Senate President go with mixed emotions. On one hand, Bruno held a tenuous majority for the party even as Republicans around the state suffered traumatic losses -- in 1994, the GOP held 14 of the state's 31 Congressional seats; this year, three of the six remaining incumbents have announced their retirements. On the other, the GOP's Senate majority is just a single seat, and recent losses have led to criticism that Bruno's campaign tactics are out of date.

Bruno's seat itself, on the eastern edge of the state stretching from Nassau in the south to Troy and parts of Saratoga Springs, is likely a safe open seat for Republicans this year, but several others will probably go Democratic when longtime incumbents retire. Several Republican members win easy re-election in districts in Queens and Brooklyn, inside New York City, that otherwise vote heavily Democratic. Democrats see the State Senate as one of their best chamber pickup opportunities in the nation.

Already this cycle, the party has won two special elections in Republican-held seats, including one in upstate New York and one on Long Island in a campaign that cost upwards of $5 million. There are now 32 Republicans in the upper chamber and 30 Democrats.

Why should a state legislature be of concern to national parties? In New York, as well as in about three dozen other states, the legislature, usually in concert with the governor, has control over state and federal redistricting after the decennial reapportionment. In New York, the senate majority leader, the assembly speaker and the governor all send a representative to negotiate new Congressional District lines, a process which can severely impact re-election prospects for some incumbents (Each state has its own rules for redistricting).

In 2012, New York is projected to lose two more Congressional seats, dropping its current total of 29 to 27, its lowest number since 1823. Democrats, who control the assembly by a wide margin and presently own the governor's mansion (though Patterson's term expires in 2010, leaving one more chance for Republicans to come back), are salivating over the prospect of winning back the Senate, thus giving them all three seats at the redistricting table. Should they do so, the party can target two Republicans to draw into unfavorable districts, instead of having to oust one member from each party.

Two Republican state senators are likely to run to replace Bruno as head of their party, and each will likely argue that they are capable of maintaining the razor-thin majority. Long Island Senator Dean Skelos and Binghampton Senator Tom Libous met with Bruno after his announcement in hopes of preventing a serious battle that could harm their attempts to keep the majority, the Times reported. Both would have an uphill battle, both in 2008 and 2010, when all the chamber's 62 seats come up for a vote.

Four Primaries Up Today

Voters in four states will head to the polls today to choose party nominees in House and Senate contests, and both parties are paying close attention to several matchups that could offer insights into voters' minds in advance of November.

In Virginia's Eleventh District, Rep. Tom Davis' decision to step down opened another Republican seat in a swing district that has trended leftwards of late. Former Rep. Leslie Byrne, who represented the Fairfax-based district for a single term before Davis beat her in 1994, is running against County Board of Supervisors chair Gerry Connolly for the Democratic nomination, and the race looks closer than it once did.

Connolly, long seen as the local party's favorite choice for the seat, came in with a strong fundraising base and has largely run as the more moderate, bipartisan candidate. Backed by Senator Jim Webb, Byrne is strongly against the war in Iraq, and has run significantly to Connolly's left, aided on the fundraising front by EMILY's List. While Connolly began the race as a serious front-runner, Byrne has hit him for his association with a defense contractor and painted herself as the only real Democrat in the race, making some speculate that the race has tightened.

The winner of today's primary will face Republican Keith Fimian, who despite being largely unknown in the district, has already raised more than $900,000, including more than $300,000 of his own money. Fimian is Davis' hand-picked successor, though he will face an uphill battle in a district that President Bush only barely won in 2004.

In Maine, Democrats are choosing a replacement for Rep. Tom Allen in the state's southern First District. A district that was once at least competitive is now considered solidly Democratic, and former Common Cause President Chellie Pingree, who lost a Senate race to Republican Susan Collins in 2002, is widely viewed as the overwhelming front-runner.

Former State Senate President Mike Brennan and current State Senator Ethan Strimling, who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic Portland-based seat, are also competitive, and District Attorney Mark Lawrence and Iraq war veteran Adam Cote are the other well-funded candidates. Pingree has far outraised the others, pulling in more than $1.3 million, largely with the help of EMILY's List. Two Republicans are running as well, though neither is seen as a serious challenge in a district that re-elected Allen with more than 60% in all but his initial race.

Allen will be on the ballot as well today. The six-term Congressman is expected to cruise to victory by a wide margin over an unknown educator to win the right to take on Collins in November. Polls have showed Collins owning a big lead in the race, though national Democrats have made known they will spend significantly in the state.

Farther south, Senator Lindsey Graham faces a challenge from former RNC committee member Buddy Witherspoon, who has slammed the South Carolina Republican for his involvement in the so-called "Gang of 14," a group of senators who reached bipartisan agreements on judicial nominees, and for Graham's support for a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform. While Witherspoon has gotten some attention, and while Graham is not the most popular Republican in the state, the incumbent is likely to cruise to renomination.

More interesting in the Palmetto State will be Governor Mark Sanford's efforts to target a number of incumbents from his own party in state legislative races. Frustrated with some legislators' spending habits and their attempts to override his vetoes of spending measures, Sanford has actively campaigned against incumbents for months in hopes of winning a new, more cooperative majority.

Finally, though voters in North Dakota get to head to the polls today, the two statewide races have already been decided. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a Democrat, is seeking his ninth term and will face retired Navy officer Duane Sand in November. Pomeroy beat Sand by a wide 60%-40% margin in 2004. And Governor John Hoeven is seeking his third term; he and Lieutenant Governor Jack Dalrymple will face State Senator Tim Mathern and State Rep. Merle Boucher, the Democratic ticket, this Fall.

Dems See Uptick In Fundraising

The national Democratic campaign committees have greatly increased their fundraising compared with the last election cycle, when Democrats took control of both the House and Senate. Republican fundraising, meanwhile, has dipped, though the GOP has still slightly outraised Democrats.

According to the Federal Election Commission, from January 1, 2007, through April 30, 2008, Democrats increased their fundraising by 24 percent in comparison to the amount raised at this time during the last election cycle. Republican fundraising has decreased by 11 percent.

The Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have raised a total of $260.4 million this cycle. Their Democratic counterparts -- the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- have raised a combined $247 million. The $13 million difference pales in comparison to the more than $92 million advantage the GOP held two years ago. Too, Democrats have a wide cash-on-hand advantage this year, a gap they did not enjoy last cycle.

So far this cycle, the RNC has raised $143.3 million -- almost double the DNC's $77.6 million. DNC funding is expected to rise exponentially, however, now that Barack Obama has secured the Democratic nomination. Obama donors who reach their contribution limit to the candidate can also give up to $28,500 to the national committee, as can Republican donors to the RNC.

The DSCC and DCCC, however, have so far outpaced their Republican counterparts, and Democrats are poised to pick up additional GOP seats this cycle. The DCCC has seen the biggest jump in fundraising among the four House and Senate campaign committees since the last election cycle, rising by 53 percent to $92.9 million. The NRCC has raised $69.3 million, a 21 percent decrease from two years ago. The DSCC has raised $76.5 million, a 29 percent rise, while the NRSC has raised $47.9 million, an 11 percent drop.

About one-fourth of the money the DCCC has raised this cycle has come from the campaign committees of Democratic House candidates, who have given some $22 million. The biggest givers include those in majority leadership who have little to worry about come the November elections: Speaker Nancy Pelosi ($935,000), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ($770,000), Majority Whip James Clyburn ($770,000) and Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel ($575,000). Other top Democratic donors include Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel ($785,000) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank ($550,000).

Republican House members have been less generous with their campaign committee, contributing $11.6 million, about half the Democrats' total. Top GOP donors included Minority Leader John Boehner ($845,000), Rules Committee Ranking Member David Dreier ($670,000), Conference Chairman Adam Putnam ($466,000) and Rep. Dave Camp ($530,000). Other notable donors include Minority Whip Roy Blunt ($110,000), NRCC Chairman Tom Cole ($200,000) and Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor ($93,157).

-- Kyle Trygstad

DCCC Up Big, RNC Only GOP Bright Spot

In the wake of a victory in an Illinois special election, and in the run-up to two more special contests in early May, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee again outraised their Republican counterparts in April and widened the already outsized financial disparity between the two parties' House campaign arms.

The DCCC raised $5 million in April -- including $15,000 from Major League Baseball's political action committee -- and spent $4 million, leaving itself a hair under $45.3 million in the bank. The party still owes $700,000 to vendors. National Republican Congressional Committee coffers actually declined in April; the party brought in $4.25 million and spent $4.68 million, leaving just $6.7 million for later contests.

Those numbers don't reflect major spending by both parties in the few days of May leading up to special elections in Louisiana, on May 3, and Mississippi, on May 13. The NRCC spent about $800,000 through May on both specials, while the DCCC spent more than $1 million on both contests this month.

On the Senate side, the National Republican Senatorial Committee outraised Democrats for the first time this cycle, pulling in $4.3 million to the DSCC's just under $4.2 million in April. But Democrats still have a huge cash advantage, with $37.6 million in the bank compared with $19.4 million for Republicans. Democrats are already flexing their muscles, running advertisements in several states; the party spent $4.5 million in April, compared with $2.3 million expended by the NRSC. DSCC spokesman Matt Miller told Politics Nation the party "made investments in 16 states this month as we ramp up the field programs that delivered victories in close states last cycle."

Republicans' one bright spot comes at the national level, where donors are still forking over more money than they are to Democrats.The Democratic National Committee continues to trail the Republican National Committee in fundraising, too, having pulled in just $4.75 million in April and spending $5.6 million. Howard Dean's DNC has just $4.4 million left in the bank, though that number will likely grow in next month's report, after party officials announced joint fundraising agreements between itself and the two remaining presidential candidates.

Mike Duncan's RNC raised an impressive $19.8 million in April, leaving it with $40 million on hand. To put that number in perspective, that's $15 million more in the bank than the DNC has raised, total, during this cycle.

In total, the three top Democratic committees boast $87 million cash on hand, while Republicans have approximately $66.7 million left over.

OH AG Steps Down

After weeks under pressure, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has resigned, the Associated Press reports. Dann, a Democrat in his first term, stepped down just over a year into his job after acknowledging an affair with an aide and after several reports of sexual harassment in the Attorney General's office.

Dann, along with Governor Ted Strickland and other statewide Democrats, swept into office last cycle on an anti-corruption platform, and few had shown any pause in calling for Dann's departure. Strickland and several other elected Democrats had called for Dann to step down, and when he made the announcement last night, the governor was by his side.

Others, including two Democratic congressional candidates, called on Dann to resign, and a resolution passed by the state party stripped him of his party membership. The lesson comes from state Republicans, who after several scandals -- including one in which then-Governor Bob Taft pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts -- lost big in the Buckeye State.

The affair, which Dann admitted earlier this month, led to a climate in which two young women were harassed. Three employees in the office were forced from their jobs as a result of the investigation. At first the incumbent refused to resign, though news reports indicated his attorney was trying to seek a deal with state legislators who were moving forward with impeachment proceedings.

SCOTUS Allows Voter IDs

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld an Indiana law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, a decision that could have wide-ranging implications not only on Hoosier State voters but on residents around the country as more states prepare similar laws. The six-to-three ruling allowed the Indiana law, which remains in force, to stand, drawing criticism from Democrats and civil liberties groups that maintain it will disenfranchise minority voters.

Twenty-five states have some form of voter identification law on the book, the New York Times reports, and in several states the legislature is in some stage of consideration of new measures. Identification laws have been challenged before, and largely because of a Georgia statute, Federal Election Commission nominee Hans von Spakovsky has been held up by Democrats who oppose his view on the subject.

The ruling, said some election law experts, did not validate all voter identification laws, though it did shift the burden of proof to groups who claim to be disenfranchised by such laws. "The court specifically left open the possibility of lawsuits against ID laws that burden specific groups of citizens like older voters, poor voters and students," New York University law professor Wendy Weiser told the Times.

Civil liberties organizations say the Indiana law and those similar to it can hinder minority and elderly voting, as those are the demographics least likely to have state-issued identification. Both groups tend to vote heavily Democratic, a fact not lost on either party; Republicans generally favor voter identification laws, while Democrats oppose them. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out that every Republican in the Indiana legislature voted for the measure, while every Democrat opposed it.

Congressional Democrats reacted harshly to the ruling. "The Indiana law and others like it are roadblocks to democracy - these laws place an unnecessary burden on elderly and low-income voters, not to mention other voters of disparate racial and ethnic backgrounds, among others," Reid said in the statement. "As November approaches, Americans must remain vigilant to protect the right to vote in the face of this and other schemes to depress turnout."

"The Court's decision today places obstacles to the fundamental rights of American citizens -- especially the poor, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities -- to participate in the electoral process," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her own statement. "Requiring American citizens pay for underlying documents needed for an identification card and travel to distant motor vehicle locations for processing hinders -- and diminishes -- their right to vote."

Four opinions in the case took widely different paths to reaching their conclusions. Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts argued the state's right to prevent voter fraud superseded the burden on voters. A concurring opinion said the law was justified and mocked opposition to the measure as irrelevant; Justices Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito joined author Antonin Scalia in that opinion.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter authored the dissenting opinion, while Justice Stephen Breyer dissented on his own.

Changing PA

As independent and Republican voters flocked to Pennsylvania courthouses and county buildings in recent weeks to change their voting registration in advance of the state's April 22 primaries, they managed to also change generations of history: Voter registration in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, both in suburban Philadelphia, has flipped from Republican to Democratic, the New York Times reports.

The Philadelphia suburbs featured some of the most hotly contested battlegrounds in 2006. Democrats made strong bids for three GOP-held seats and beat incumbents Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick, while narrowly missing picking off Jim Gerlach's more exurban district as well. All three districts, the state's Sixth, Seventh and Eighth, voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry, though by very narrow margins, and have been trending increasingly Democratic in recent years.

Of the four counties that ring Philadelphia, Chester and Delaware Counties retain Republican registration advantages. Gerlach's Sixth District includes the outer portions of Chester and Montgomery Counties; Weldon's old Seventh District, represented by freshman Democrat Joe Sestak, is heavily centered in Delaware County; and Fitzpatrick's Eighth District, held by freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy, has all of Bucks County within its borders.

The new boon comes after Democrats lost dozens of seats in the South during the 1990s and needed to find new voters to whom to appeal in order to regain their lost majority. They found early success with appeals to suburban voters, and, in recent years, those efforts have paid off most notably around Philadelphia, the suburbs of Chicago and even exurban New York City, both on Long Island and north through the Hudson Valley.

Opportunities for the party's gains don't stop at the state's borders; along with Gerlach, districts currently represented by New Jersey Republicans Jim Saxton and Frank LoBiondo are increasingly moving Democratic as well, and when Republican Rep. Mike Castle retires Democrats will be heavily favored to take over his Delaware at-large seat.

As Republicans get used to the minority, their efforts will turn more toward searching for their own new voters to reach. Until they find that group, the GOP could see more counties, historically Republican, shift to Democratic columns.

SCOTUS Surprises WA Parties

In a decision that took the Washington State Democratic and Republican Parties by surprise, the Supreme Court reversed an Appeals Court decision to uphold a controversial new method for choosing general election candidates. The move rejected party lawyers' arguments that they retain First Amendment rights of association when nominating a candidate. The 7-2 decision upheld a voter-approved top-two primary system wherein the two candidates with the most votes in a primary would advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The method for choosing candidates, passed by voter initiative after the Supreme Court struck down the previous system, known as the blanket primary, has been tied up in courts since it was passed in 2004. The Court ended the blanket primary, under which a voter could vote for a Republican for governor and a Democrat for Congress in the same primary, as parties argued the process robbed them of control over their own nominating contests.

Under the system, party attorneys argued, David Duke had been allowed to run as a Republican in Louisiana even as the GOP rejected his white supremacist beliefs, and Lyndon LaRouche was allowed to run as a Democrat for president, though party leaders rejected his beliefs as well. It is the domain of the parties, the Court agreed during the blanket primary debate, to control who their nominee is by controlling who votes in their primaries.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for five of the seven-member majority, said the voter-approved method was sound, and that it is the domain of the states to control elections. Therefore, the initiative passed muster as the will of the voters. A top-two system, Thomas wrote, would be constitutional because the primary does not actually nominate candidates from a particular party, it simply advances those who have won. Initiative 872 was widely popular, by Washington State standards, garnering almost 60% of the vote in 2004.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy dissented, saying the rights of the parties were being infringed. "The electorate's perception of a political party's beliefs is colored by its perception of those who support the party," Scalia wrote for the pair. "[A] party's defining act is the selection of a candidate and advocacy of that candidate's election by conferring upon him the party's endorsement."

That view meshed perfectly with the argument Washington State Republican Party attorney John White told Politics Nation after he spoke before the court. "The ability of a political party to select its message and messengers is really what a political party is all about," White said in October. White had voiced optimism given the reactions from justices, as had a top lawyer for the State Democratic Party.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito joined the majority with a concurring opinion, though they helped narrow the scope of the decision. Washington State Democratic Party attorney David McDonald said the ruling maintains that the party keeps the right to bestow its blessings on certain candidates. The ballot voters will actually see will simply list the parties each candidate prefers, instead of adopting a party identifier. "Clearly, they're saying we have a right to nominate our candidates," McDonald said after reading today's opinions. "The existing ballot form [in which candidates are listed along with their party of choice] doesn't work."

McDonald painted that as at least a partial victory for the parties, and said the ruling shows the Court is still skeptical of the state's ability to come up with a ballot design that passes constitutional muster. "Roberts and Alito were skeptical that they could come up with a ballot design," he said. The decision "is actually pretty narrow."

The decision could alter several states' election methods. The Washington State blanket primary was ruled unconstitutional as part of a suit that challenged California's identical system, in California Democratic Party v. Jones, which was argued in 2000. Alaska also lost their primary in the case.

The impact, for California, was minimal: Voters had only been allowed to cast ballots for any primary candidate since 1996. But the Washington State system had been in place since 1935, and the method under which parties have held primaries since the Jones case has stirred voter dissatisfaction with both parties, as they are now required to register by party on the day of the primary.

Now, Washingtonians will again be able to vote for any candidate they choose in the first step of balloting. It will be a rare occurrence in which two members of the same party make it to the general election together, but it's not out of the question: In 1980, now-U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott ousted Democratic Governor Dixie Lee Ray in the primary, then went on to lose the general election to Republican John Spellman. Ray, the second-place finisher in the primary, received 70,000 more votes than Spellman did in the GOP primary.

The "Cajun primary," so-called because it is derived from a system Louisiana still uses, will begin with this year's primary contests, which will happen in August, Secretary of State Sam Reed told the Associated Press. Reed has been an outspoken advocate of the new system, to the chagrin of both his own Republican Party and the opposing Democrats.

Candidates Hit By Bad Weather

FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland -- Sometimes, even the pressure of an impending election can be put on hold when Mother Nature has her way. High winds in the Washington, D.C. area have reaked havoc on last-minute campaigning ahead of the region's primaries on Tuesday, causing cancellations and delays for candidates. At a Hillary Clinton event in Manassas earlier this afternoon, supporters braved heavy gusts and watched more than a few large tree branches come down across the street.

In Fort Washington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, Donna Edwards, a congressional candidate running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Al Wynn, had to cancel an appearance at a local African American festival when the community center in which it was held lost power three times.

Clinton, planning to make stops in southern Virginia before reaching Maryland voters tonight, had to suspend an event planned for Roanoke this afternoon, citing inclement weather. She will attend a rally in Bowie, Maryland later tonight as planned, while husband Bill Clinton will hit Roanoke tomorrow.

Barack Obama campaigned in Alexandria today, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, before heading south to Virginia Beach. He will try the same Roanoke-to-Maryland route Clinton tried today, with a stop in Roanoke planned before a rally tomorrow night in College Park.

Read This

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the political junkie in your life? Look no farther than the Almanac of American Politics, an 1800-page compendium of the national political landscape.

The editor, Charlie Mahtesian, is something of a mentor to Politics Nation, and because he just put together such a comprehensive look at the national political landscape, he knows more about every race around the country than virtually anyone out there.

Check out our extended sit-down interview with Mahtesian, in which he points to some of the freshman members of Congress who have the potential to lead their parties (Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, and Kathy Castor, D-FL), the hottest races to watch next year (Kansas' Nancy Boyda fighting for re-election, Washington and Missouri governors' races and some Senate Republicans who could be in trouble) and the lessons learned from 2006.

Looking Ahead To 2010

New York

Of the freshmen governors elected in 2006, several are doing extraordinarily well. Ohio's Ted Strickland and Florida's Charlie Crist are routinely mentioned as potential vice presidential candidates. Chet Culver has his turn in the limelight as Democratic presidential candidates fawn over him. And even Maryland's Martin O'Malley is getting good press.

For New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, freshman year has been a lot more difficult. Dogged by scandal, held up as a shining example of coddling illegal immigrants. After winning election easily, Spitzer's approval ratings have steadily tanked. A new Siena College poll shows just 33% of the state views his job performance as excellent or good, down from 55% in June. The trend line is getting progressively worse: In July, 46% rated him positively. It was 44% in September, and 41% in October.

Sure, the guy will raise a bijillion dollars for his 2010 re-election bid, and his biggest potential threat, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has said he won't make a bid, but Spitzer had better do something to turn his numbers around. For starters, his party needs him to be popular if he is going to help Democrats re-take the New York State Senate, which would likely kick two Republicans out of Congressional districts after the 2012 redistricting.

Tennessee

He's not going to be president in 2008, but former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said this week that he might be up for a bid for the governor's mansion in 2010. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bredesen is term limited that year, but Frist won't have an easy path to either the nomination or the general election. Reps. Zach Wamp and Marsha Blackburn have said they might be interested in running, and even freshman Sen. Bob Corker refused to completely rule out a run, according to the Knoxville News.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Lincoln Davis is actively contemplating a bid, and one can't rule out a comeback attempt from former Rep. Harold Ford Jr.

The state is somewhat unique in that the Lieutenant Governor, at the moment Republican Ron Ramsey, is the Speaker of the Senate, elected by his colleagues. Ramsey is also said to be considering a bid, but his base would be much less than in other states, where a lieutenant governor faces voters every four years.

South Dakota

Speaking of term-limited governors and their possible successors, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin says she won't rule out a governor's bid in 2010, when Republican Gov. Mike Rounds will not be on the ballot. If Herseth Sandlin runs for the executive post, Rounds might be enticed to replace her in the House. It's not an unprecedented move; former Gov. Bill Janklow left the governor's mansion for Congress before he was forced to resign after a car accident killed a motorcyclist.

A further wrinkle, the Rapid City Journal reports: Herseth Sandlin did not rule out running for any other office in 2010, when Sen. John Thune is up for re-election. Thune, of course, narrowly defeated Tom Daschle in 2004, and Democrats would love to give him a taste of his own medicine. Odds are, though, that if Herseth Sandlin left the House, she would go for the seat Thune doesn't seek.

Dems Win Mississippi!

Sorry, John Arthur Eaves, not your race. As Democrats were on their way to losing every statewide race save one last night, the party got surprisingly good news in this reddest of red states. At the end of the night, the party took three State Senate seats and with them, control of the state's upper chamber.

Democrats had lost the Senate earlier in the year when State Sen. James Walley switched parties. Walley was among three Republican incumbents who went down to defeat, while just one Democratic incumbent lost. The party now holds a 28-25 seat majority, and after picking up one seat in the House, a much wider 76-46 majority in the State House.

The DLCC, which oversees thousands of state legislative races from Washington, cited a grocery tax, which Democrats tried to halve, a move the GOP resisted, as a key issue in this year's election. The wins came as Gov. Haley Barbour easily defeated Democratic challenger Eaves by a 58%-42% margin statewide.

Election Results

Democrats win Kentucky governorship, Virginia Senate, pick up one seat in New Jersey Senate:

Kentucky Governor (Democratic Pickup)
Steve Beshear/Dan Mongiardo (D) -- 59%
Ernie Fletcher/Robbie Rudolph (R-inc) -- 41%
(100% reporting)

Kentucky Secretary Of State (Republican Hold)
Trey Grayson (R-inc) -- 57%
Bruce Hendrickson (D) -- 43%
(100% reporting)

Mississippi Governor (Republican Hold)
Haley Barbour (R-inc) -- 58%
John Arthur Eaves (D) -- 42%
(96% reporting as of 10:35pm)

Virginia State Senate
District 1 (Democratic Pickup)
John Miller (D) -- 51%
Tricia Stall (R) -- 49%
(100% reporting)

District 6 (Democratic Pickup)
Ralph Northam (D) -- 54%
Nick Rerras (R-inc) -- 46%
(100% reporting)

District 27 (Republican hold)
Jill Holtzman Vogel (R) -- 48%
Karen Schultz (D) -- 47%
Donald Marro (I) -- 4%
(100% reporting)

District 34 (Democratic pickup)
Chap Petersen (D) -- 55%
Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-inc) -- 45%
(100% reporting)

District 37 (Republican hold)
Ken Cuccinelli (R-inc) -- 50.02%
Janet Oleszek (D) -- 49.77%
(100% reporting)

District 39 (Democratic pickup)
George Barker (D) -- 51%
Jay O'Brien (R-inc) -- 49%
(100% reporting)

New Jersey State Senate
District 1 (Democratic Pickup)
Jeff Van Drew (D) -- 56%
Nicholas Asselta (R-inc) -- 44%
(93% reporting)

District 2 (Democratic Pickup)
Jim Whelan (D) -- 57%
Sonny McCullough (R-inc) -- 43%
(100% reporting)

District 12 (Republican Pickup)
Jennifer Beck (R) -- 54%
Ellen Karcher (D-inc) -- 46%
(99% reporting)

District 39 (Republican hold
Gerald Cardinale (R-inc) -- 55%
Joe Ariyan (D) -- 45%
(100% reporting)

Ohio 05 Special Election (General Election 12/11)
Bob Latta (R) -- 44%
Steve Buehrer (R) -- 40%
Mark Hollenbaugh (R) -- 7%
Fred Pieper (R) -- 6%
Mike Smitley (R) -- 4%
(100% reporting)

King County Prosecutor (Republican hold)
Dan Satterberg (R) -- 54%
Bill Sherman (D) -- 46%
(99% reporting)

King County Council District 6 (Republican hold)
Jane Hague (R-inc) -- 56%
Richard Pope (D) -- 41%
(97% reporting)

IA Youth Turnout Gets Preview

IOWA CITY -- Far from the hubs where media will cast their attention as polls close tonight, this Iowa college town heads to the polls today to determine whether or not underclassmen will be permitted to go to bars. The measure, to which bar owners adjacent to the University of Iowa campus are showing their opposition in force, could have ramifications far beyond the Thursday night boozing crowd.

While many Iowa students will be home for winter break when the January 3rd caucuses roll around, some see the huge voter turnout in Iowa City as evidence that the youth vote may be interested and engaged enough to actually caucus. As of Monday, when early voting closed, more than 8,000 early votes had been cast, a huge increase over the record high, set at 4500 in 2005, according to the Des Moines Register.

University of Iowa professor David Redlawsk estimates that, while previous city elections featured just a few hundred students, this election may bring more than 6,000 student votes, presumably heavily opposed to the measure, which would prohibit 19- and 20-year olds from entering bars after 10 p.m.

Seemingly every four years, some candidate claims they will outperform others among younger voters. Those forecasts virtually never pan out, as the youth vote has yet to materialize in significant numbers in an Iowa caucus. The Iowa Democratic Party estimates that, in 2004, 18-34 year olds made up just 10% of caucus-goers, while those over the age of 65 made up 32% of attendees.

This year's election in Iowa Falls, in which younger voters are apparently turning out in droves, could foreshadow a stronger presence of younger voters than previous years. Still, many have claimed the mantle of the younger voter's candidate, and almost always at their peril. One former strategist for Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, asked by Politics Nation to chat about the benefits reliance on the youth vote brings, responded with a lesson many campaigns have learned in past years: "What youth vote?"

Tomorrow's Forecast

In The West Wing, as President Jed Bartlett is running for re-election, one character gets nervous because it's raining in Oregon on Election Day. A later scene shows Will Bailey, played by Joshua Malina, precipitously looks to the heavens and asks for rain just hours before the polls close, leaving his candidate, we are led to believe, the winner.

Rain, the theory goes, depresses voter turnout. Other weather can also have a dampening effect on turnout. Here, then, with the Official Real Clear Politics Election Day Weather Forecast, special RCP Weather Correspondent Steve Shepard:

A cold front currently across the Ohio River valley will affect weather conditions in the following areas, bringing with it light precipitation and the coldest air of the season thus far.

Virginia: Mainly light rain showers associated with a cold front should clear out from west to east (overnight across the Blue Ridge, by daybreak in the Northern Va. suburbs of D.C., and by lunchtime in the Tidewater area), and skies will clear by afternoon. It will be breezy, with high temperatures ranging from the mid 40s across the higher elevations, to 55 in the D.C. suburbs, and into the lower 60s south and east.

New Jersey: Morning showers will give way to sun, clouds, and brisk winds in the afternoon. Highs will range from the upper 40s north and west to the mid 50s down the shore.

Mississippi: North: Sunny and cooler, with highs in the mid 50s. Along the Gulf Coast, a slight chance of a shower, otherwise more clouds than sun, with temperatures in the upper 60s to near 70.

Kentucky: Sunny, and much colder, with highs only in the 40s across much of the Commonwealth, which is between 20-30 degrees colder than today. Breezy along the Cumberland Plateau.

Toledo, Ohio [Ed. note: The primary election to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmore takes place in Ohio's 5th District tomorrow]: Cloudy and colder. Scattered rain and snow showers are possible, though there will be no snow accumulation. Brisk west winds will make temperatures feel a bit colder than the lower 40s.

Previewing Election Day

A preview of the races we're watching tomorrow:

Kentucky Governor
Steve Beshear/Dan Mongiardo (D)
Ernie Fletcher/Robbie Rudolph (R-inc)

Beshear is expected to cruise to victory tomorrow. Polls show him leading Fletcher by fifteen to twenty points. The Washington Post on Sunday even spotlighted the race as a sign that Democrats are undergoing a resurgence in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky Secretary Of State
Trey Grayson (R-inc)
Bruce Hendrickson (D)

Grayson has spent close to $1 million on the race, and while former Pineville Mayor Bruce Hendrickson has spent only $18,000, a recent poll showed him trailing Grayson by just 4 points with 24% undecided. In a landslide gubernatorial race, no matter how much of a future Grayson has in state politics, he may be the victim of a Democratic tide.

Mississippi Governor
Haley Barbour (R-inc)
John Arthur Eaves (D)

Eaves has spent a good amount of his own money, but Barbour has spent more, and is likely to cruise to an easy re-election, likely becoming the only governor this year to successfully carry his state for his own party.

Virginia State Senate
District 1 (Republican Open Seat)
John Miller (D)
Tricia Stall (R)

District 6
Nick Rerras (R-inc)
Ralph Northam (D)

District 27 (Republican Open Seat)
Karen Schultz (D)
Jill Holtzman Vogel (R)
Donald Marro (I)

District 34
Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-inc)
Chap Petersen (D)

District 37
Ken Cuccinelli (R-inc)
Janet Oleszek (D)

District 39
Jay O'Brien (R-inc)
George Barker (D)

Republicans admit that the game is being played virtually entirely on their side of the field. Democrats need just four seats to retake the State Senate, and given recent polls showing the party preferred by a majority of Virginians, this year presents their best shot in the eight years since they lost control to Republicans. Major candidates are all up on the air, with the GOP stressing their support for immigration reform and Democrats pointing to popular Gov. Tim Kaine as their model.

New Jersey State Senate
District 1
Nicholas Asselta (R-inc)
Jeff Van Drew (D)

District 2
Sonny McCullough (R-inc)
Jim Whelan (D)

District 12
Ellen Karcher (D-inc)
Jennifer Beck (R)

District 39
Gerald Cardinale (R-inc)
Joe Ariyan (D)

Democrats hold a 22-18 seat advantage in the legislature, and this year brings just a few strong opportunities for parties to pick up a seat or two. Recent Zogby polls showed Van Drew and Whelan leading their Republican opponents 45%-42% and 50%-37%, respectively, where the margin of error was +/- 5%. Karcher is in enough trouble to have merited a weekend visit from State Senate President Dick Codey.

The real theme of this year's races: Unbelievable amounts of money. Van Drew, Whelan and Karcher have all out-raised their opponents, on the order of $3 million, $3 million and somewhere around $5 million, respectively. Their Republican counterparts have scooped up more than $1 million each, but are still facing big funding gaps.

Salt Lake City Mayor
Ralph Becker (D)
Dave Buhler (R)

Running to replace Democrat Rocky Anderson, Becker, the state House Minority Leader, leads Buhler by 21 points in a Mason-Dixon poll conducted early last week. Though it's a conservative state, Becker looks likely to keep the seat in Democratic hands.

King County Prosecutor
Dan Satterberg (R)
Bill Sherman (D)

A local election in which Politics Nation is intensely interested. After long-time King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng passed away, in May, his assistant, Dan Satterberg, is facing off with Democratic activist Sherman in the general election. Maleng was the lone safe Republican in an increasingly Democratic county, home of Seattle, and did not face a serious challenge for decades. Now Satterberg, running as Maleng's successor, promises to make the office nonpartisan. Satterberg enjoys the support of a large number of liberal Democratic elected officials and may just pull off what would be a big coup.

King County Council District 6
Jane Hague (R-inc)
Richard Pope (D)

On the east side of Lake Washington, where Republicans still hold many state legislative and local seats, incumbent King County Councilwoman Jane Hague looked to be cruising to re-election. Even after being charged with a DUI, Hague did not face a serious challenger. Now, though, she is worried enough to have dumped more than $100,000 into her own race.

County Democrats are not backing Pope, though, and most of Hague's Democratic colleagues on the council want her back for four more years. What's wrong with Pope? He's run for office ten times, changed parties three times and been reprimanded by lots of judges throughout the county. If he wins, he will create some great headlines around the county for the next four years.