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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Renegade Democrats hand control of New York Senate to GOP
Leading Off:

NY-St. Sen: Gaze upon the horror: Renegade Democrats in the New York state Senate have, at last, come to an appalling power-sharing agreement with the Republicans, handing control to the GOP even though they represent a minority in the chamber. Power will formally rotate back and forth between Republican Sen. Dean Skelos and "Independent" Democratic Sen. Jeff Klein, whose band of rogues just added a fifth member in the form of Sen. Malcolm Smith. Remarkably, Smith used to be the Senate majority leader until he was deposed after two now-extinct Dems were bought off by the GOP. Indeed, disgust at Smith's leadership was allegedly why Klein formed the IDC in the first place; the fact that they're letting him into the clubhouse now sure looks like proof that Klein is only interested in power.

In any event, Colin Campbell has Skelos's press release, which contains the precise details of this arrangement:

Under the unprecedented agreement, the Independent Democratic Conference will be formally recognized as a third, permanent Senate conference. Senator Klein and Senator Skelos will assume the roles of Conference Leader for their respective conferences and will administer joint and equal authority over (1) the daily senate agenda (a/k/a the "Active List," which lays out which bills will be voted on each day), (2) the state budget, (3) appointments to state and local boards, and (4) leadership and committee assignments for their respective conferences.

Under the agreement, coalition leaders will need to work together to lead the Senate forward. The new agreement will also provide for a process by which the title of Temporary President will alternate between the two conference leaders every two weeks. Therefore, the role of the temporary president will be constitutionally fulfilled at all times.

As a reminder, candidates with a "(D)" after their names won 33 seats this November, while Republicans only won 30. But the five members of the IDC, as well as a sixth conservative Democrat (Simcha Felder), have all elected to side with the GOP, even though I doubt that's what they were elected for. Once again, Felder aside, this isn't about ideology: Klein describes himself as a "progressive." Well, there's a ton of progressive legislation that mainstream Dems want to pass. Klein claims this is about ending dysfunction in Albany. Let's see if he bothers pushing for a floor vote on a single Democratic priority.

And let's not forget the blame supposedly Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo bears here, too. Cuomo not only endorsed Republican senators for re-election but he also refused to say which party he preferred to see control the Senate—even after Dems won a surprise majority on election day. And a report in Crain's even claims (according to an unnamed source) that Klein "has been running ideas past Mr. Cuomo before moving forward." I certainly believe it.

It's all further proof that Cuomo, despite occasional departures like gay marriage, is deeply anti-progressive and has little interest in being a Democrat. And if there's a silver lining, it's that abandoning your party (and progressive ideals) at a moment of extreme need like this ought to badly hurt Cuomo with presidential primary voters, should he make the mistake of seeking the brass ring.

Senate:

GA-Sen: PPP has a broad variety of different numbers based on various what-if scenarios pertaining to a primary challenge of GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but the bottom line is that he's vulnerable. He only sports a 45-36 approval rating among Republican primary voters, and by a 43-38 margin, the same people prefer "somebody more conservative"—aka Republican Jesus—as the party's 2014 Senate nominee.

Of course, the problem is always finding that savior, but would you believe that the person who most resembles Republican Jesus is... Herman Cain? Yep, it's true! The Hermanator has a gaudy 68-20 favorability score with Republicans and would beat Chambliss 50-36 in a direct head-to-head. Unfortunately, Cain recently said he wouldn't run, but hey, there's a sketchy report on Twitter saying PPP's numbers have him reconsidering, so yeah, awesome!

Incidentally, PPP also tested a whole variety of other figures in two-ways with Chambliss: Reps. Paul Broun, Tom Price, and Allen West, as well as former SoS Karen Handel and conservative blogger Erick Erickson, who, like Cain, has already said he wouldn't run. (West has also said he has no desire to move from Florida back to his native Georgia.) Chambliss crushes each of them with 50 percent or more except for West, whom he beats 47-26. In a never-gonna-happen kitchen sink primary, though, Cain still leads with 36, versus 23 for Chambliss, and pretty much bupkes for everyone else.

As for the general election, Chambliss does pretty well against a variety of hypothetical Democrats despite an overall 38-41 job approval score—but I should caution that all of these names are extremely hypothetical:

45-45 vs. ex-Sen. Max Cleland
48-40 vs. ex-Gov. Roy Barnes
50-37 vs. Rep. John Barrow
52-37 vs. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
52-34 vs. state Sen. Jason Carter (grandson of Jimmy)

None of these candidates have expressed any interest, and indeed, Barrow (who just won a tough re-election fight) has specifically said he won't run. Cleland is 70 and turned down the opportunity to avenge his 2002 loss once before. Barnes was persuaded to come out of retirement to run for governor in 2010 but hey, it was 2010 and so he lost, something that probably doesn't make him eager for another bid. Reed or Carter could be interesting, but it seems doubtful that either would take the plunge.

But what if... what if Chambliss lost the primary? Tom Jensen tested Price, who seems like the toughest realistic insurgent, against this same suite of Dems as a possible stand-in for what a post-Saxby world might look like. Thanks to his lower name rec, Price indeed performs much worse:

39-47 vs. Cleland
40-46 vs. Barnes
40-38 vs. Barrow
43-38 vs. Reed
42-36 vs. Carter

The Democrats, though, don't perform much better (just looking at their raw shares, not the margin), so I think Price would still be the favorite, thanks to the state's Demographic lean. But a nasty GOP primary could badly damage the eventual victory, even Chambliss. And hell, if Herman Cain somehow won, I'd say anything would be possible in the general election. So note to Tom: Please test Hermano against some Dems next time! I'll even buy you a pizza!

P.S. Scratch one more name off the list: Newt Gingrich says he has "explicitly no interest" in running against Chambliss.

MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren's victory was about as big a get as liberals could hope for, but now here's the cherry on top: Harry Reid will reportedly name Warren to the Senate Banking Committee, an appointment that progressive organizations like Daily Kos had pushed for. Warren of course rose to prominence thanks to her tough stance on Wall Street corruption, so it's hard to imagine a more ideal perch for her to continue her advocacy on behalf of ordinary consumers.

Gubernatorial:

IA-Gov: No kidding: Former Dem Gov. Chet Culver, who swept into office with an almost 10-point victory in 2006 then was promptly swept out in 2010 by a similar margin, is apparently considering a comeback bid. That's according to his former communications director, who says "I don't think it's any secret he's looking at it." Well, while it may not be a secret to everybody, it's at least news to me, since I had no idea Culver was thinking about a rematch against the guy who beat him four years ago, Republican Terry Branstad.

That's because Culver seemed to leave office deeply unpopular—a June PPP poll (PDF) from that year had him at a painful 28-56 job approval rating. I'd be curious to see if his numbers have rebounded since then, but I'm thinking we may want to go with another option for 2014.

OH-Gov: Not sure why this is surfacing only now: Dem Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13) was arrested in August for public intoxication in Lexington, Virginia, though the charges were dismissed on Tuesday (which is obviously how some enterprising someone found out about it). Ryan confirms the incident, but no further details are available. While not exactly the greatest thing you can add to your resume, this hardly seems like a disqualifier for a further run for office, and indeed, Ryan has said he's considering a bid for governor.

But Shira Toeplitz notes that in a story she wrote in early September—shortly after the arrest, but long before it was made public—sources told her that Ryan "started to notify Democrats a couple of weeks ago that he doesn't want to run statewide next cycle." So perhaps this factored into his thinking? Like I say, though, this is pretty small potatoes, unless there's more to it that we don't know.

House:

AZ-09: Two also-rans in the GOP primary are saying they are interested in making another go at Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema in 2014: businessman Martin Sepulveda and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers. Rogers took 21 percent in the primary and Sepulveda 20, while the ultimate winner, Vernon Parker, only scored 22, so it's easy to understand why they both want to take another shot. But the district is going the wrong way for Republicans: Obama improved about half a point here from 2008, even though statewide he dropped almost two percent. With a full term under her belt and no primary of her own to worry about, Sinema (who defeated Parker by about four points) should be tougher to beat two years from now.

MO-08, MO-LG: The National Journal mentions a couple Republicans who could succeed soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, attorney John Tyrrell and Cape Girardeau Sheriff John Jordan, in addition to the big pile of bigger names that's already swirling about. So to get a field for the full state of play, you'll want to check out this piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which features quotes from a number of prominent figures, like Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and state party executive director Lloyd Smith, who both say on the record that they are interested in the job.

Amusingly, there's also one guy who says he isn't interested—on the Democratic side. That would be outgoing Rep. Russ Carnahan, who lost a redistricting-induced primary earlier this year. Carnahan's only virtue is a modicum of name recognition, since he'd be a lousy fit in what is a basically hopeless district anyhow. (Believe it or not, Rusty made his first bid for office in the 8th, all the way back in 1990. He got stomped by Emerson's late husband, Bill, 57-43.)

And one side-note: If Kinder were tapped as the GOP nominee by local Republican officials (there's no primary), and presumably went on to win, that would leave the LG spot open. In that scenario, it looks like Dem Gov. Jay Nixon would be able to appoint a replacement (though that's not 100% certain), which would give Democrats every single statewide office in Missouri.

House: Shira Toeplitz scans the horizon for potential 2012 House candidates who might be interested in trying again, based on a mixture of public statements, unnamed sources, and speculation. For Republicans, she suggests Martha McSally (AZ-02), Allen West (FL-18), Bob Dold (IL-10), Bobby Schilling (IL-17), Richard Tisei (MA-06), Frank Guinta (NH-01), and Mia Love (UT-04). On the Dem side, she points to Jose Hernandez (CA-10), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Val Demings (FL-10), Christie Vilsack (IA-04), Brendan Mullen (IN-02), and Mark Critz (PA-12). Most of these folks lost by very small margins, so rematch attempts would (at least on paper) make a certain amount of sense for at lease some of them. Hernandez has specifically said he's looking at another bid, but he might wait until 2016, when presidential-year turnout will hopefully maximize the Democratic vote.

Grab Bag:

Census: Every ten years, tons of municipalities challenge the Census Bureau's population counts, always arguing that tons of people were missed. These claims are rarely very successful, but the city of Houston did just score a win, after a fashion. Saying that the bureau had used incorrect boundaries when it ran the numbers, Houston managed to get a grand total of 812 people added to its rolls. Why even mention something like this, in such a large city? Because those 812 citizens formally pushed Houston past the 2.1 million mark, which means that under local law, the city council can now be expanded to include more seats. Every vote—and every person—really does count!

DNC: While the Democratic Party won't formally pick its leadership until January, President Obama has asked Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stay on as DNC chair—and DNC members pretty much always go along with the president's wishes.

DSCC: Senate Democrats have gotten their man: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet will serve as the chair of the DSCC for the very challenging 2014 cycle, while Guy Cecil will remain as executive director for another two years. Bennet's name was at the top of a short list of possible chiefs, but he won't have an enviable job: Democrats are defending 20 seats, many on very difficult turf, while Republicans only have to protect 13, which are all safe or close to it. But Bennet, who was first appointed to the Senate in 2009 after Ken Salazar resigned to become Interior Secretary, proved to be an adept fundraiser and squeaked out a narrow win against exceptionally difficult odds in 2010. Now, though, he doesn't have just one race to worry about—he's got 33.

FreedomWorks: Well whaddya know: Ex-Rep. Dick Armey, the public face of the Koch brothers' front group FreedomWorks, has resigned his post—and it sure doesn't sound amicable, seeing as he wants to the organization to stop using his name in any way. According to Politico, Armey apparently was unhappy with Matt Kibbe, FW's president, whom he alleges tried to pad his pockets by using the organization's resources to write a book, then claiming he'd written it all himself, a shenanigan Armey reportedly feared might jeopardize the group's tax-exempt status.

But don't feel too bad for ol' Dick: He's somehow getting an absurd $8 million payday out of all this—a remarkable sum for a group that spent all of $19 million on actual elections in 2012. And it's not just Armey who's leaving: Several other top staffers are bailing as well. It makes you wonder if a mostly grafty shop like FreedomWorks will even continue to exist in the future. Not that I think it would matter much either way: In 2010, they spent a paltry half a million, leading me to wonder why anyone ever pays attention to them in the first place. It's starting to look like fewer and fewer people will in the future.

Pennsylvania: Here we go again. Last year, you may recall that some Pennsylvania Republicans, led by state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, tried to push through a scheme that would award the Keystone State's electoral votes not on the basis of the popular vote (as has been done since time immemorial) but instead by congressional district. It was a naked power grab, seeing as the GOP had a free hand in drawing the state's new congressional map to its exact liking. That would have cut badly into the electoral votes Obama was sure to win, since he was always expected to carry Pennsylvania.

Now Pileggi is back with a new plan—with a twist. Instead of dividing up the state's EVs by CD, he wants to award them based on the statewide popular vote, with an extra two for the winner. As PoliticsPA's Keegan Gibson observes, that would have given Obama 12 electoral votes and Mitt Romney eight, as opposed to the 20 which all went into the president's pocket. This wouldn't have affected the national outcome, but in a tighter race, it's easy to see how it might. And seeing as Republicans haven't carried Pennsylvania since 1988, there's no question about which party this move would benefit. Hopefully, though, Pileggi's latest hijinks will go about as far as his last effort did: nowhere.

Pres-by-CD: We have fourteen more districts for you today, including all nine from the state of Arizona. Note that for CA, IL, and IN, we've already calculated a bunch of districts, so the seats listed in parentheses only refer to those which are new in this update:

Arizona (statewide)

California (CA-11, CA-15)

Illinois (IL-15)

Indiana (IN-04, IN-05)

Arizona gives us a nice insight into the different trends of minority-heavy districts vs. heavily white districts. Obama saw some improvement in the two Hispanic-majority districts (Grijalva's AZ-03 and Pastor's AZ-07), including a whopping seven-point bump in the central Phoenix-based 7th (from 65 percent Obama to 72 Obama now). The other three Democratic seats held about even, with AZ-01 (Kirkpatrick) and AZ-09 (Sinema) swinging slightly towards us and AZ-02 (Barber) swinging slightly against.

We've also got results from California's Contra Costa County (alliteration!), which provides no surprises; both CA-11 (George Miller) and CA-15 (Eric Swalwell) remain strongly Democratic (as is characteristic of the Bay Area) at more than two-thirds Obama. On the flipside, we have two Indiana districts, both of which are solidly Republican (and represent a sizeable downturn from 2008 for the president). Also on that note is IL-15, where a combination of the ebbing of Obama's home state effect and the Republican trend in of downstate Illinois made for an 8.6 point swing away from the POTUS, the second largest swing we've calculated thus far (after UT-01). (jeffmd)