Dems coming up short in Senate recruiting

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QUICK FIX

— Democrats have lost out on top-tier recruits in a number of battleground Senate races they need to win in order to take back control of the chamber.

Story Continued Below

— Republicans will likely need a runoff to pick their nominee for the special election in NC-03 to replace the late GOP Rep. Walter Jones.

— Former Vice President Joe Biden saw a sizable bump in support in two more national polls following his entrance into the race. Plus, at least two more hopefuls passed the polling threshold for the first Democratic debate — but methodological questions remain for candidates on the fringes.

Good Wednesday morning. Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) died Monday. Here’s more from POLITICO California’s Carla Marinucci. Email me at zmontellaro@politico.com or DM me at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the Campaign Pro team at sshepard@politico.com, dstrauss@politico.com, jarkin@politico.com and lbarron-lopez@politico.com. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @DanielStrauss4, @JamesArkin and @lbarronlopez.

Days until the NC-09 primary election: 13

Days until the Kentucky gubernatorial primary and PA-12 special election: 20

Days until the Louisiana gubernatorial primary election: 164

Days until the Kentucky and Mississippi general elections: 188

Days until the 2020 election: 552

THE TOPLINES

EMPTY HANDED — With Democrat Stacey Abrams’ announcement Tuesday that she will not run for the Senate in Georgia, Democrats’ recruitment problems for the upper chamber are crystalizing.

“So far, a number of the party's high-profile recruits have said no to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the party's campaign arm,” POLITICO’s James Arkin and Burgess Everett reported. “Former astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona was a huge get in a critical battleground state. But three Democrats in other key states have passed on Senate bids to run for president despite the crowded field.”

"The Senate is not an appealing place for smart, talented candidates because it's a broken institution. And Democrats have not yet offered a vision for how to fix it, aside from wringing their hands and wishing things were different," Adam Jentleson, a longtime aide to former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told them. "What's the pitch? 'Come here, do nothing and let Mitch McConnell eat your lunch every day?"

Abrams wasn’t the only Democrat to take a pass on a Senate run on Tuesday. Freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) won’t challenge GOP Sen. Joni Ernst and will instead seek reelection in her key swing district, James reported.

IN THE TRENCHES

THE RESULTS ARE IN — We're likely headed to a runoff in NC-03. State Rep. "Greg Murphy finished first in a special election primary but fell well short of the 30 percent-plus-one threshold to clinch his party’s nomination outright. Murphy finished with 23 percent, with pediatrician Joan Perry in second place at 15 percent," Campaign Pro's Steve Shepard wrote (Perry has to formally request a runoff). The primary saw several outside groups wade into the race. Perry was backed by Winning for Women Action Fund and Susan B. Anthony List's Women Speak Out PAC, while a candidate backed by the Club for Growth finished a distant ninth. If Perry formally requests a runoff, it will be July 9, with the general on Sept. 10.

Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, won his primary outright by capturing 50 percent of the vote. But "Republicans will be heavily favored to keep the seat. President Donald Trump won the eastern North Carolina district by 24 percentage points in 2016," Steve wrote.

—Democrat Pat Ryan cruised to a commanding victory in a special election for Ulster County executive, per the Daily Freeman’s Patricia Doxsey.

PRESIDENTIAL BIG BOARD — Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is spinning its wheels. “More than a month after she was brought on, O’Rourke campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon … has yet to start on the campaign full-time,” BuzzFeed News’ Molly Hensley-Clancy and Ruby Cramer reported. “That’s left O’Rourke’s operation in El Paso in a kind of holding pattern, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people inside or close to the operation, while O’Malley Dillon spends part of her time wrapping things up at her Democratic strategy firm in Washington.” The campaign also hasn’t publicly announced a communications director.

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg released 10 years of tax returns, per POLITICO’s Elena Schneider.

— Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris are having the most success in picking up donors that previously gave to one of their opponents, with many former big donors to O’Rourke’s past campaigns now chipping in elsewhere, according to an analysis from McClatchy’s Ben Weider and Adam Wollner.

— Sen. Cory Booker has two senior hires in Nevada: Eric Taylor as senior adviser and Phil Kim as state director.

POLLS POLLS POLLS — A new CNN national poll showed a big bump for Biden following his official launch. Biden had 39 percent in the poll, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders at 15 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent, Buttigieg at 7 percent, O’Rourke at 6 percent and Harris at 5 percent (411 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, April 25-28). Both Reps. Eric Swalwell and Tulsi Gabbard broke one percent in the poll, the third qualifying poll they have done so on (Gabbard previously said she has also passed the donor threshold for the first debate). A Campaign Pro analysis has found that 16 candidates have now qualified for the debate stage.

A Quinnipiac national poll also has a bump for Biden. He has 38 percent in this poll, followed by Warren’s 12 percent, Sanders’ 11 percent, Buttigieg’s 10 percent, Harris’ 8 percent and O’Rourke’s 5 percent (419 Democrats and Democratic leaners, April 26-29). Warren is up eight points from the March Quinnipiac national poll.

Plus, a methodological note on how we are tracking who has crossed the qualification threshold for the first debate. The DNC laid out rules on which pollsters count but did not otherwise give any methodological requirements. This creates two wrinkles. The first is a pair of ABC News/Washington Post polls that asks voters whom they support, but in an open-ended question as opposed to a list. The second is a Reuters/Ipsos poll from last week, that itself has two unconventional methodology decisions: It is an online-only poll, and the poll breaks out independents into their own category, instead of lumping them in with Democrats.

Score has asked the DNC repeatedly for guidance on how to treat these polls (both this week and in the past), and the DNC has declined to comment. Absent any clarity from the DNC, we have not been including these polls when we say a candidate has qualified. If all three of these polls count (and the Reuters poll includes Democrats and independents instead of just Democrats), both Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock have qualified for the debate stage.

HELP US OUT — Former Attorney General Eric Holder wants 2020 Democrats to focus on redistricting. “Holder, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said ‘it felt a little lonely’ when he went to Wisconsin to campaign for the liberal judicial candidate who lost [a state Supreme Court election] in April, and he called on the Democrats running for president to draw attention to other races up and down the ballot over the next two years to fuel a rebuild of the Democratic Party,” Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss reported.

— Arena, Run for Something and Swing Left launched a program to flip state legislative seats that could be key in redistricting battles, per Rolling Stone’s Andy Kroll.

JUST SUPER — Colorado will hold its primaries on Super Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis announced. “All voters — including unaffiliated voters — will receive a primary ballot in the mail,” The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia and Justin Wingerter noted.

IN KENTUCKY — The Democrats vying for the party's gubernatorial nomination met for another debate Tuesday night. "Democrats Andy Beshear and Adam Edelen touted their abortion-rights credentials, while Rocky Adkins expressed his anti-abortion credentials," the AP's Bruce Schreiner and Dylan Lovan wrote.

— Donors for Kentuckians for a Better Future, a super PAC supporting Edelen, have close ties to his running mate Gill Holland. "Of the PAC’s $682,000 of monetary and in-kind contributions since the beginning of the year, $500,000 came via one huge check from the philanthropist Christy Brown — Holland’s mother-in-law," Insider Louisville's Joe Sonka reported. "Two of the remaining large donors to Kentuckians for a Better Future have close business ties with Edelen himself."

THE HOUSE MAP — Republicans are lining up behind Young Kim, in her bid for a rematch with now-Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros in CA-39. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed her, as did Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who is trying to recruit more GOP women, Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman reported.

— Shaniyat Chowdhury, a 27-year-old DSA member, is launching a bid to primary Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks in NY-05, per City & State’s Jeff Coltin.

THE AWARD SHOW — DSPolitical, a Democratic advertising technology firm, won the “best use of data” award at The AdExchanger Awards, an advertising industry-wide award.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them.” — White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on how Trump will emphasize the economy during his reelection battle, per the AP.