POLLING ROUNDUP: DISMAL NUMBERS FOR GOP’S MOST VULNERABLE. New polls out this week show the most vulnerable Republican Senators already starting from behind. Following a poll in Ohio showing Portman starting 9 points behind Ted Strickland, this week’s polls are bad news for Republicans facing an already bleak map in 2016.
In New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte has underwater approvals and trails a potential Democratic candidate in a head-to-head matchup.
Ron Johnson also trails a potential Democratic opponent by a whopping 16 points in Wisconsin.
RUBIO OUT, AND THE GOP MAP SHRINKS FURTHER. Marco Rubio announced his presidential bid this week and further complicated the 2016 map for national Republicans. Analysts are abandoning the idea that Republicans have an advantage in the race, and this week Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Cook Political Report and Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report all moved the race to tossup.
Republicans are staring down a potentially messy primary in their struggle to retain the seat, and a former NRSC senior official is already on the record calling the race “a problem” for the GOP.
“With a shaky majority and an unforgiving electoral map this go-round, the GOP was counting on Rubio — a proven fundraiser with name recognition and some cross-party appeal — to win re-election in one of the nation’s few true swing states.”
“Instead Republicans now seem destined for a contested primary and competitive general election that will force them to spend extravagantly to keep the seat. “It’s a problem,” says a former senior official with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). “The challenge that Rubio presents is that there’s a $20 million hole that was just blown in the NRSC budget.”
“But the GOP Senate campaign arm may struggle to recruit a candidate of comparable strength. Already two top potential candidates, state chief financial officer Jeff Atwater and former state House speaker Will Weatherford, have passed on the race.”
KIRK’S INFLAMMATORY RHETORIC, DRIVING FASTER THROUGH BLACK NEIGHBORHOODS EDITION. Mark Kirk has started off his re-election bid with a bang, but not in a good way. Each week seems to bring a new offensive and over-the-top comment, and this week was no different. Kirk has already suggested that Republicans build coffins outside each Democratic office as a response to the near shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, compared Democrats protecting women’s health access to slavery apologists and likened the Iran deal to Nazi appeasement while name-checking Hitler.
But the grand slam came this week when Kirk said in an interview with the Peoria Star Journal that people drive faster through black neighborhoods, and that more African-American billionaires was the solution.
Huffington Post: Mark Kirk Says People Drive Faster Through Black Neighborhoods
Chicago Sun Times: Mark Kirk, On Driving ‘Faster Through’ Black Communities
Kirk’s remarks prompted one Chicago news anchor to ask “What was he thinking?”
IN THE STATES
OHIO – OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY GETS BEHIND STRICKLAND. The Ohio Democratic Party endorsed Ted Strickland for Senate last weekend. The Plain Dealer notes that Strickland also has the support of “former President Bill Clinton.”
COLORADO – BENNET’S STRONG FUNDRAISING. Politico named Michael Bennet a first-quarter fundraising winner. While Bennet’s strong numbers show grassroots support, Politico notes that his potential Republican opponent Mike Coffman raised just $356,000, a number “mocked as paltry for someone trying to show strength heading into a potential Senate run.”
ARIZONA – MCCAIN’S PRIMARY CHALLENGER FIELD. John McCain faced a frosty reception after announcing his reelection bid last week, and his field of potential primary challengers is growing. The Hill reports that conservative groups and House members have been reaching out to Rep. Matt Salmon to encourage him to run against McCain in the primary.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: This week’s tweet comes from Salon’s Luke Brinker, who tweeted “Mark Kirk vows to stop talking about race and ethnicity; afraid he’ll say something stupid otherwise http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/522239/mark-kirk-race-ethnicity”