Off to the races: Perry back to Iowa

Charlie Cook notes that GOP brand damage and Cuccinelli’s socially conservative views hurt him more in Virginia than Obamacare helped him: “In the end, these social issues hurt Cuccinelli in the rapidly growing suburbs of Northern Virginia. Conversely, McAuliffe was very strong among the Democratic Party establishment but less popular among the more ideological Left in the party. The 2008 split between supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama is an apt comparison for describing the internal division that McAuliffe faced early on. But liberals’ antipathy toward Cuccinelli repaired that rift. Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe had a natural claim on voters in the ideological middle.”

More: “McAuliffe ran up slightly higher margins among Democrats and liberals than Cuccinelli did among Republicans and conservatives, the fact that Cuccinelli could win the independent vote by 9 percentage points yet lose the election by 3 points is a reminder that the gap between self-identified Democrats and self-identified Republicans is getting so wide that, in many races, winning the independent vote isn’t enough for a Republican candidate to bridge the gap. Remember that Mitt Romney won the independent vote last year by 5 points but still lost the election by almost 4 points. Brand damage has hurt the GOP in party identification, and that, in turn, is hurting Republicans on Election Day.”

National Journal: "If you think Tuesday's elections convinced Republicans that abortion is a losing issue, think again. Sure, anti-abortion crusader Ken Cuccinelli fell short in the Virginia governor's race while the pragmatic governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie, won re-election in a landslide. But just two days later, anti-abortion leaders rallied around Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as he introduced a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. By tapping into widespread discomfort with late abortions, the bill aims to flip the political script and frame Democrats as outside the mainstream."

NBC’s Alex Moe: “For the first time since finishing fifth in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) returned to the state that was the beginning of the end of his initial presidential endeavor, reintroducing himself to Iowans and vowing to do things differently if he were to run again. ‘If I was making a plan for 2016, coming to Iowa early and often would be part of it.’”

AP: “As he weighs whether to run for president again, Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned Thursday to this leadoff presidential caucus state for the first time since his flameout during his first White House bid last year. His arrival was much more muted than before. ‘I would do a number of things differently,’ Perry told a group of mostly local reporters at the start of a two-day trip. He planned to meet privately with political leaders and business groups, the quiet work typical of more successful presidential campaigns. Reminded he was in Iowa far earlier than he was the first time he ran, Perry quipped: ‘That would certainly be one of the things I would do differently.’”

Politico notices that while Perry praised several governors in his speech in Iowa, he left out one – Chris Christie.

FLORIDA: The Hill: "The widow of the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) says her husband asked on his deathbed for David Jolly to run for his seat."

KENTUCKY: Sen. Mitch McConnell sits down with Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan to discuss his re-election and the growing war within the GOP. "But [McConnell] says he isn't worried about his own race: 'I don't wanna be overly cocky, but I'm gonna be the Republican nominee next year.' Are members of the tea party on the ground being fooled by operators, profit makers and cynics? "Yes," he said, followed by a brief silence. He declined to say more, but emphasized again that "I make a distinction between the leaders and the followers. I mean, I think a lot of well-meaning people are sending money to organizations having no idea they're gonna spend all that money against Republicans. Because they're being misled.'"

MONTANA: Washington Post; "Former Montana lieutenant governor John Bohlinger (D) officially announced his bid for the Senate Wednesday, comparing the tea party's recent actions to the Taliban and the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese."

NEBRASKA: Omaha World Herald: "Another big endorsement for Republican Ben Sasse. Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax organization, has endorsed Sasse’s bid for U.S. Senate in Nebraska."

NORTH CAROLINA: NBC's Jessica Taylor: "Longtime Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) will retire in 2014 after 15 terms in the House, he announced at a press conference Thursday in his Greensboro district. Coble, 82, had been plagued by health problems in recent years, and his decision not to run hardly comes as a surprise....Once a swing area, the 5th District is now reliably Republican after redistricting. A crowded GOP primary will likely pick the next congressman"

VIRGINIA: Washington Post: "The Fairfax County Electoral Board is investigating a possible irregularity in the number of absentee ballots cast in Virginia’s largest jurisdiction that Democrats say could shift votes in the still-unresolved race for Virginia attorney general."

VERMONT: Vermont’s been having their own problems with its health-care marketplace website. And it hired the same contractor as the federal government – CGI. Vermont Gov. Peter “Shumlin (D) said he has wanted to `strangle’ CGI executives for their failures, and has been on the phone frequently with the company’s top executives,” the Boston Globe writes.