Noem Remains; Brown Up in Massachusetts

In a formal and unsurprising announcement, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL) confirmed that she will not challenge former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) for South Dakota’s open US Senate seat next year. Noem, serving her second term in the House, indicated that she will seek re-election to her current position.

Rumors and speculation had persisted for months that the congresswoman may hop into the Senate race and attempt to challenge Rounds from the right, but she never appeared to be making any tangible moves to prepare for such a race. Meanwhile, as he has done since the 2012 election cycle concluded, the former governor continued to build his Senatorial campaign on a daily basis.

Rounds is definitely the man to beat. Now with a clear shot at the Republican nomination, he will have a united party behind him as he works to convert the open seat to the GOP column. Democrats have only one candidate so far, Rick Weiland a former staff aide to then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D), because stronger potential contenders such as former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) and US Attorney Brendan Johnson both declined to run. Three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D), Brendan’s father, is retiring.

Both the open South Dakota and West Virginia Democratic seats top the GOP conversion list, as Republicans have big leads against weak opponents in both states. In West Virginia, where veteran Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) is retiring, the early leader and prohibitive favorite is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2).

Massachusetts Governor’s Race — Brown Cruising

A just-released University of Massachusetts political survey (conducted by international pollster YouGov; May 30-June 4; 500 registered Massachusetts voters) again projects former Sen. Scott Brown (R) to be in strong position to win next year’s open governor’s campaign. Currently, Brown is testing the waters for a senatorial run in New Hampshire, but his early standing against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) is not encouraging.

As the incumbent senator, Brown lost a 46-53 percent battle with current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but his popularity ratings remain high in the Bay State despite his loss. In several hypothetical 2014 gubernatorial pairings, Brown again tops all comers.

Two of the three potential candidates tested, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-7), are good bets to run. Rep. Capuano is fueling speculation that he will enter the contest, but he did the same for the 2013 special Senate race, and later changed his mind. Should his standing fail to improve soon, it is possible that Capuano will again retreat to his House seat. The third tested candidate, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, is unlikely to run.

According to the poll results, Brown would defeat Rep. Capuano 45-33 percent. His margin against Grossman is an even greater 55-26 percent. Against former Congressman Kennedy, Brown’s lead drops to one point, 42-41 percent.

Charlie Baker, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee, and ex-state senator and congressional candidate Richard Tisei were also polled. All three Democrats defeat both Baker and Tisei in every scenario. The closest pairing was Grossman leading Baker 27-26 percent. The match-up most favoring the Democrats: Kennedy topping Baker 48-25 percent.

There is no discernible indication that Brown will jump into the Massachusetts governor’s race, but it is apparent his chances of victory in this contest far exceed any other political option in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Though eligible to seek re-election, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is choosing to retire after two terms.

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