The parties will have their answer tonight in Florida's 13th District special election, a race that has drawn national attention as the first testing ground for the parties' respective messages this cycle. Neither Democrat Alex Sink nor Republican David Jolly has shown a clear lead in the polls, so this is one that could be a nail-biter. Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.
WHAT TO WATCH TONIGHT:
The early vote: Watch who breaks ahead when polls close and the early vote is tabulated — it’s a key vote for Sink, who’s banking on winning a plurality of independents and drawing some Republican voters away from Jolly. As of Election Day, 43 percent of early ballots were cast by Republicans, 38 percent by Democrats and 19 percent by independents. Democrats expect Republicans to turn out in higher numbers on Election Day, so they need to snag a plurality of the early vote to offset any day-of GOP advantage.
The spin: A Democratic win will be touted as evidence Democrats can compete in the districts they need to win to take back the House: swing districts held by Republicans but won by President Obama. A Republican win will be touted as evidence opposition to ObamaCare is as damning as ever for even the most well-funded Democrats. But watch how the parties write off their losses, and whether they express any hopes of re-litigating the district in the general election. For many reasons, this race wasn’t the perfect battleground the parties had hoped for, and we could see them dive back in for another fight come November.
The margin: If it’s a squeaker, as it has been in public polling leading up to Election Day, the race could go to a recount, a not entirely unusual outcome for Florida elections (See: then-Rep. Allen West’s (R-Fla.) defeat in 2012; the 2000 presidential election). Under Florida election law, if the win margin is under 0.5 percent, a machine recount is ordered; if the margin narrows to .25 percent or less, all ballots need to be counted by hand.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK. President Obama is in New York City this evening for a joint fundraiser between the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
HOT OR COLD? The Senate’s all-night talkathon on climate change became a political liability for vulnerable Democrats on Monday as the National Republican Senatorial Committee knocked senators — both in attendance and absent — on some of the Obama administration’s controversial energy policies, tied to the 14-hour session.
Vulnerable Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) didn’t participate in the all-nighter, but the NRSC hit Begich anyway with a release that accused him of supporting “job-killing energy legislation,” and it launched a new Web ad against Landrieu charging she “never delivers results” on energy issues. It also hit Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who did attend the talkathon, as one of Obama’s “most important soldiers in the War on American Energy.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) campaign also got in on the action, calling it “very disappointing” that his main Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hadn’t made clear whether she’d have supported the session, “could not muster a word against her liberal allies in Washington who were pulling an all-nighter to shut down the coal industry and left open the possibility that she would join them.”
NC-SEN (HAGAN): Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon (R) and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), the establishment favorite, are tied at 14 percent apiece in a new automated poll from North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. The two are neck-and-neck with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in the general election, according to the poll.
CO-SEN (UDALL): The Colorado Democratic Party hit Rep. Cory Gardner (R), Sen. Mark Udall’s (D) main Republican threat, with a new Web ad that charges he’s “reckless, rigid, wrong for Colorado,” highlighting his record on women’s issues, immigration and the economy.
AZ-SEN (MCCAIN): Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto that a recent poll revealing he has a 30 percent job approval rating is “bogus.” “I can sense the people of my state,” he said. “When I travel around, which I do constantly, they like me, and I am very grateful.” McCain hasn’t yet indicated whether he plans to run for reelection in 2016.
GA-SEN (OPEN): Businessman David Perdue (R) is out with a new ad, touting his ability to bring ”outsider’s perspective” to Washington like he did as CEO of Reebok and Dollar General. Perdue is in a crowded primary field.
IA-SEN (OPEN): Businessman Mark Jacobs (R) is out with another ad, saying he has “the right tools” to fix the economy. Jacobs is trying to leverage his cash edge into a primary win against three other candidates. Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), meanwhile, won the endorsement of the GOP women’s group RightNOW PAC.
MI-SEN (OPEN): It turns out the cancer patient in an Americans for Prosperity ad ripping Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) for backing ObamaCare will actually save money on her new plan. Peters’s campaign was quick to pounce, sending out a memo accusing the AFP of airing “widely discredited” ads.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
CALL THEM HCF? The Senate Conservatives Fund is taking aim at the House, endorsing five Republican candidates in competitive primaries, including attorney Bryan Smith (R), who is challenging Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).
IL-10: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will headline a Chicago fundraiser for former Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), who is in a rematch against freshman Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).
MS-04: Party-switching former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor may have trouble wooing Republicans to his side now that he’s running in the GOP primary. Rep. Steven Palazzo, who defeated Taylor in 2010, just released endorsements from all the state’s Republican congressional leadership and many of the state’s other GOP leaders.
NJ-03: Republican Toms River Councilman Maurice "Mo" Hill, one of a handful of Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for retiring Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R-N.J.) seat, said he’s “not going to give up without a fight,” despite receiving no establishment backing in his bid. During a convention later this month the Ocean County GOP committee is expected to vote to give the party line, or endorsement, to former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur.
PA-13: Former President Clinton will headline a fundraiser for former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-Pa.) in April. Margolies, who’s in a crowded primary for the Philadelphia-area seat Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) is vacating, lost her seat after one term in 1994, largely because she was a loyal Clinton supporter and helped him pass his budget. She’s now in-laws with the Clintons — her son is married to Chelsea.
WV-03: House Majority PAC launched a new ad defending Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D-W.Va.) record on coal, just days after he was named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s program for vulnerable incumbents. And a new GOP survey, conducted for the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican candidate Evan Jenkins’s campaign, seems to indicate that designation is appropriate: It shows Rahall lagging Jenkins by 14 points.
HUCK’S BUCKS. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will keynote the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual fundraising luncheon, the latest sign he’s looking to build connections throughout the party ahead of a potential 2016 White House run.
HAWKEYE HITTER. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is heading back to Iowa — this time, to campaign for one of his top 2012 surrogates, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), who is running for retiring Rep. Tom Latham’s (R-Iowa) seat. He’ll also be in New Hampshire on Friday for the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
READY FOR WHO? Ready for Hillary, the super-PAC laying the grassroots groundwork for Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential run, is working to elect Democrat Mike Cryans in a special election for a seat on New Hampshire’s Executive Council, an executive branch that advises and oversees the state’s governor. The group also relaunched its website on Tuesday. The new site, designed by former Obama campaign staffers working at 270 Strategies, is meant to integrate digital and offline organizing for the group.
HILLARY AND THE GREENS. Hillary Clinton’s silence on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline has given some big Democratic donors pause on whether to back her potential presidential candidacy. Bloomberg News reports that some of those donors want her to take an outspoken stand in opposition to the pipeline, which environmentalists have protested, and that they won’t open up their pocketbooks for her until she does.
ME FIRST! ME FIRST! Utah’s state House passed a measure that would allow the state to hold its presidential primary a week before any other state in the nation, via an entirely online system, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The sponsor of the bill admitted it’s a play for relevance in a process that favors voters in the earliest states — but if it succeeds, Utah could face steep penalties from the national parties, which have taken steps to maintain an orderly primary calendar.
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