1. GOP JITTERS IN FLORIDA: The special House election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is Tuesday, but many plugged-in Republicans there are predicting defeat – and are already finger pointing.
It’s a competitive district, but the seat has been in GOP hands for decades, so a win by Democrat Alex Sink would sting the GOP, and no doubt set off a round of debate about the party’s midterm election strategy – despite the fact history suggests the results of special elections often say very little about what will happen come November.
Again, let’s await the results. But already many Republicans involved in the race are complaining the party is falling short of its promise to make dramatic improvements in its use of data and technology to identify and turnout voters.
2. GOP OUTREACH: Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times made note of another Republican promise being called into question. Remember after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss, there was a pledge for much more aggressive GOP outreach to younger voters, women, African Americans and Latinos.
Maeve noted that at this weekend’s big Conservative Political Action Conference “there was strikingly a lack of a message still at this point to these voter groups that they have had such a tough time with...They are going into all of these communities but they are still figuring out what they are going to say and so I think we need to watch very closely as to whether there is any evidence that they are making progress on that front.”
Breakdown of the CPAC straw poll vote by gender:
3. CRUSHING HIS CRITICS: Audie Cornish of National Public Radio noted the dramatic shift from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell: usually silent about his primary opponent and conservative groups that attack him, now suddenly he vows to “crush them everywhere.”
In a new radio ad, McConnell specifically attacks the Senate Conservative Fund, which had made a name for itself the last few cycles by supporting primary challenges to GOP establishment figures.
“So the gloves are not just off, they are in another room, they are under the bed,” is Audie’s take on the McConnell shift. “It just seems that they are going to go hard.”
4. THE RIGHT STUFF?: Look for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to highlight his anti-abortion views as part of an effort to show the conservative GOP base it’s unfair to dismiss him as just another Northeast moderate.
Robert Costa of the Washington Post shares a conversation with Christie’s top political operative. “All he was telling me about was Chris Christie's pro-life record and at CPAC we heard that from Chris Christie,” Robert said. “My predictions is in the coming months as Christie continues to travel ... he's going to emphasize that pro-life record, looking ahead to Iowa and South Caroline in the 2016 campaign.”
5. DEEP CHILL: One person Christie apparently isn’t interested in persuading is fellow Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. And vice versa.
CNN’s Peter Hamby took us behind the CPAC curtain to show how the deep chill between the two 2016 prospects continues. Christie is chairman of the Republican Governors Association; Jindal is the vice chairman. Both spoke at CPAC.
“I'm told that these two didn't even cross paths backstage, there was no time set up to meet - even say hello in this green room where all these stars were crossing paths,” Peter reports. “Jindal spoke right after Chris Christie and they didn't even talk afterward.”
A flashback to Jindal's frosty defense of Christie over Bridgegate a month ago:
6. HAMLET ON THE MERRIMACK?
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and key allies are suddenly sending signals he intends to jump into the 2014 Senate race in New Hampshire. Brown has been debating for months about whether to challenge Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, torn, friends say, about whether he should instead run for president in 2016, or just forgo running for elective office again.
Well a number of GOP sources in New Hampshire report receiving calls in recent days from Brown or his top allies, and there’s word from GOP operatives that there are conversations about building a Senate campaign staff.
So all systems are go?
Not so fast. Because Brown has been pondering this for months, the GOP activists I spoke to say they won't believe it until he makes a public statement or files candidacy papers.
The wait for Brown’s final answer may be short.
“I will make an announcement sooner, rather than later,” he told Neil Cavuto of Fox News on Thursday. “Obviously, it's a very, very big decision –a very, very big decision for me and my family. And I'm going to make sure that I cross all T's and dot all I's. So it will be sooner, rather than later, and I'll certainly let everyone know.”