Morning Rundown: Candidates still matter

Updated
File Photo: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney...
File Photo: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney...
Mark Wilson/Getty Images, File

It’s Monday, May 6, 2013, and the 2016 White House race officially began this past weekend. But races in South Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts are on our radar this morning. Plus: the House is back in session and Republicans are hitting Democrats over member travel. Here’s what we’re reading today:

Is the candidate king? Demographics matter, but so do candidates. In the top 2013 gubernatorial race of the year , a Washington Post poll over the weekend showed Republican Ken Cuccinelli taking a significant 10-point lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Old Dominion among the most likely voters. Virginia’s a swing state, but the former DNC chair is underperforming President Obama’s support last year with young voters, women and minorities. While both candidates may be controversial, the Republican attorney general has done a better job of consolidating his base than McAuliffe has among Democrats.

In Massachusetts, Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling shows the Bay State special contest may well turn into a real race. Republicans were enthused when former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez won the nomination last week, and he’s only trailing Rep. Ed Markey (D) by four points in the automated survey.

And in tomorrow’s high-profile special election in South Carolina’s 1st District, disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) may be on the upswing in his contest against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. A PPP poll also shows him now with a narrow lead, and it may be because Sanford’s embracing his flaws in the race’s closing days. He challenged an NBC reporter over the weekend over his weakness on women voters, and when a Huffington Post reporter asked him about his relationship between his children and his former mistress-now-fiance, he put him on the phone with his son.

But no King-maker in Iowa. GOP Rep. Steve King officially took himself out of the Senate race late Friday, Roll Call reports. “I will not run for Senate in 2014. A Senate race takes me out of urgent battles in Congress that can’t wait until 2015. Many thanks to all,” King wrote from his Twitter account. King is the latest Republican to bow out, and the GOP still desperately needs a candidate to take on Rep. Bruce Braley (D) in the open seat contest.

Sweet 2016. C-SPAN kicked off their “Road to 2016” series this weekend, and with good reason. No politician goes to early primary states by accident, and that was certainly true this weekend, with Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) both speaking in South Carolina.

But can the Canadian-born Cruz really be president? That’s our “Deep Dive” for the day, and the National Journal has more on why his American mother may indeed qualify him.

EXCLUSIVE: With Congress back in session today, the National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting vulnerable lawmakers for voting against the Policy Statement on Responsible Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars, including eliminating taxpayer-funded first-class travel for members of Congress.

An email hitting Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.): “Congress is back in session this week, which means Ron Barber is back from his recess. Makes you wonder: Is Barber flying first-class? After all, he voted to protect first-class travel for him and his colleagues recently. Enjoy the flight, Ron! We hear the food is great!”

Targeted Democratic lawmakers include Bill Owens (NY-21), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Ann Kuster (NH-02), Dan Maffei (NY-24), Nick Rahall (WV-03), Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Jim Matheson (UT-04), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Scott Peters (CA-52), Ami Bera (CA-07), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Pete Gallego (TX-23), John Barrow (GA-12), Mike McIntyre (NC-07), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Bill Enyart (IL-12) and Bill Foster (IL-11).

Update: Barber spokesman Rodd McLeod responded to the NRCC’s claims: “Ron Barber doesn’t fly first class.  Ron spent the past week visiting with small businesses all over Southern Arizona, listening to their concerns. The Washington DC Republicans who run Congress should quit making up stories and focus on rebuilding our middle class, which is what Ron Barber is doing.”

Morning Rundown: Candidates still matter

Updated