Last night’s primary in Massachusetts set the stage for Ed Markey to face Gabriel Gomez for the seat vacated by John Kerry. My accompanying post later today will dissect that.

My latest installment of Poli-Takes: The Rattling of the Cages focuses on recent developments in upcoming races, one of which is fast upon us, though not fast enough for state and local Republicans.

The general election in South Carolina-1 is next Tuesday and for Mark Sanford and national Republicans, the theme could be Ray Price’s 1950’s hit “Heartaches by the Number.” But most of Sanford’s heartaches are self-inflicted.

Sanford was already going into the race against the backdrop of having left the state to fly to Argebntina to see his mistress (now his fiancee and at the time his “soulmate”) without telling anyone where he was.

In the span of two weeks, Sanford was revealed to have trespassed into his ex-wife’s house, and couldn’t create a feasible, or single explanation as to why (he finally settled on not wanting his son to watch the Super Bowl alone, even though another son was in the house.) Next, Sanford debated a cardboard cut-out of Nancy Pelosi on a public street (the consensus is she won). To top it off, his campaign published the cell phone numbers of everyone who has recently called his campaign. And when Colbert-Busch brought up the flying to Argentina as Governor fiasco and the moderator asked for a response, Sanford claimed he couldn’t hear the question.

Sanford knew he was in trouble when he compared his campaign to the Alamo. Only, as Rick Dunham of Texas on the Potomac pointed out, he “misremembered that also.” The Alamo occurred in 1836. Sanford said it was in 1863.

About the only thing that’s arguably gone right for Sanford is that Larry Flynt has endorsed him, calling him “America’s sex pioneer of our time,” which if true, makes Sanford one impressive guy. A world-wide traveler,hiker, and now, “sex-pioneer.” Maybe space traveler should be next on the docket because, that’s where his campaign is.

It would seem that these misteps would mean a certain loss for Sanford, a two-term Governor whose name was floated as Presidential timber. The district did give Mitt Romney 58% of the vote and South Carolina Republicans obviously wanted Sanford to be their nominee. But things have gone far south since then, and Republicans are abandoning him in droves. The National Republican Campaign Committee has refused to run ads on his behalf (figuring anew candidate in 2014 will provide a fresh state) and Sanford’s would-be “Palmetto State” delegation colleagues have mostly remained silent.
Stephanie Colbert-Busch is positioned to take this, but it could be a bare margin, perhaps as close as five percent.

Turning to House races, recruiting has been the name of the game for Democrats all year, which seems to be giving way to a lively primary In Illinois-13. This may or may not be welcome news. Rodney Davis was a somewhat surprise winner in the fall by over David Gill by a mere 1,002 votes, the closest House race in the country. But Davis has been working hard at both fundraising and compiling a record slightly, but not too far to the right of centrist Republicans.

Democrats have been trying to woo Judge Ann Callis into the race and have apparently succeeded (she can’t talk politics while still on the bench but has announced her departure). But another candidate, physicist George Gollin has clearly made known plans to run. And Gill has not ruled out another try. Democrats had hoped Callis would run last year but passed. But that was when incumbent Tim Johnson was still seeking re-election, and despite a new, much more Democratic friendly district with Champaign the population center, would’ve been favored.

Gill feels he deserves another shot. But even with clever ads, many DC democrats were unimpressed with his campaign. His surprise primary win last year over a party endorsed candidate shows the reach of progressives in primaries in the district. But this time,— may split the liberal vote, which could be good news for Callis. The last thing the Democrats want is a divisive, financially draining primary, but the good news is that it will take place in March, leaving plenty of time for wounds to heal.

The recruitment news for Democrats was not as grand in Iowa and Minnesota In fact, they were clear setbacks. The party lost two highly prized candidates to take on GOP Congressmen Tom Latham and John Kline respectively. Both candidates were businesspeople, Mike Sherzam and Sona Mehring.

Both districts are down the ladder somewhat as far as Democratic opportunities go, unless ether Latham or Kline were to run for the Senate (Kline ruled it out and Latham did the same, though now appears to be reconsidering). But the departures are not welcome for both the enthusiasm, and for creating the aura that Democrats could win. Plus, Sherzam and Mehring were prepared to spend personal money on their respective races. Incidentally, a few weeks after Sherzam dropped out, Democrats lost another potential candidate to face Latham, as ex-State Rep. Staci Appel announced she too wouldn’t run.

In the Iowa Senate race, Tom Harkin announced plans to retire three months ago and the Republican race to replace him is no more closer to being sorted out than the day he announced. Local Republicans had hoped to recruit Congressman Tom Latham, who has already represented nearly 60 of the state’s 99 ounties, but polls showed him losing the primary badly to his colleague, Steve King (who in turn appears positioned badly to lose the general election).

Latham, after surely consulting with his best buddy in the House, Speaker Boehner, decided to stay put, sparing a Republican headache of an open seat in the House. But King’s interest has diminished by the day, and few now see him as likely to run. And it’s not clear how many want him to run.

Governor Terry Branstad said he’d like to recruit a “problem solver,” but his choice, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has said no. Meanwhile, word is Latham is at least reconsidering entreaties to run, and were he to do so, it would give the GOP a candidate, and put him on almost even footing with the expected Democratic nominee, Bruce Braley. But Latham is an Appropriator, meaning a conservative challenger could still make an issue of spending.

One candidate who could provide an early tea-leaf into 2016. Chuck Grassley’s Chief of Staff is reportedly looking into a run but his popularity has slipped. Few expect Grassley to run again at 83, but his Chief of Staff as the standard bearer may be a proxy of sorts for Grassley — and Republican prospects. But first the Republicans have to be concerned with the present, and for “Hawkeye” Republicans, things are messier than a cornfield after a tornado.

Pennsylvania Democrats are also little closer to settling on a candidate to take on Tom Corbett, despite the fact that they now have one, probably two, and perhaps three folks in the race. Congresswoman Alyson Schwartz came out early and with a formidable war-chest, support from women’s groups, and a suburban Philly base, appears to be the front-runner. But Treasurer Rob McCord is very likely to get in. And ex-Congressman Joe Sestak, who just barely lost the 2010 Senate race to Pat Toomey ,is raising oodles of money for something, but won’t say what.

Sestak is from a Philly collar county as well (Delaware), which means he and Schwartz could split the vote, leaving an opening for McCord, of Bryn Mawr. But his name recognition from the near-miss is high. And western Pennsylvania’s votes are not likely to be monolithic, meaning anything can happen.

Meanwhile, Corbett’s numbers seem to get worse with time, so much so that some Republicans are openly fretting about sharing a ballot with him. Those who cover Pennsylvania insist otherwise, but a Corbett retirement wouldn’t shock me.

In New York-18, Nan Hayworth has filed paperwork for a rematch with Sean Patrick Maloney. The freshman Congresswoman was unseated last fall, as Obama took 51.4% in the district, just a tick below his 51.6% in 2008. Maloney was aided by a late endorsement from Bill Clinton, for whom he once worked.

Hayworth is counting on lower turnout to put her back on top. But Andrew Cuomo will be on the ballot, and despite slippage with Republican voters over gun bills, he remains widely popular. And now Maloney has the advantages of incumbency. While Hayworth was a social moderate during her tenure, she closely aligned herself with Paul Ryan and the fiscal rebels, which Maloney is sure to bring up.

Finally, few saw the Senate in his blood but West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall has ended speculation that he’ll make a bid. Democrats must still find a candidate for their uphill quest to take Jay Rockefeller’s seat, but Rahall’s decision is welcome to House Democrats, who can now breathe easier about holding his seat. It’s no guarantee that’ll happen. —- , who held Rahall, a 37 year veteran, to 54% last year, is running again. But Obama won’t be on the ballot and Rahall, while certainly confronting his tightest race yet, may have just what it takes.

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