Welcome back to Hotline Sort. An under-the-radar Congressional special election wraps up tomorrow, as the date for a closely-watched one has been set. The Republican establishment rallies around a Casey challenger, but Pennsylvania Republicans aren't united yet. And Romney surges in Florida ahead of Tuesday's primary. Here's today's rundown:
11) The New York Times scrutinizes the last-minute pardons issued by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and finds "a significant share contained appeals from members of prominent Mississippi families, major Republican donors or others from the higher social strata of Mississippi life."
10) A brewing scandal for Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.? The freshman congressman raised over a half-million dollars last cycle with the help of a rabbi, who is now being investigated for embezzling millions from his congregation.
9) Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has slated April 17 for the date of the special primary election for former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's, seat, with a special general election on June 12.
Meanwhile, election results will be tallied tomorrow night in the special election to succeed former Rep. David Wu, D-Ore. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici is the favorite to defeat GOP businessman Rob Cornilles, who lost to Wu in 2010.
8) The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and National Republican Senate Committee have tapped two familiar hands to direct their independent expenditures efforts this cycle - former DSCC political director Martha McKenna and the NRSC's Mike DuHaime, who led the committee's IE strategy last cycle.
7) Businessman Steve Welch won a big victory on Saturday, earning the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Republican Party in the GOP Senate race. Welch, a former Democrat who voted for President Obama in 2008, was favored to snag the backing in the lead-up to Saturday's meeting and had earned the endorsement of Gov. Tom Corbett.
6) Former congressional candidate Tim Burns
is staying in the race
, despite a poor showing in the state GOP vote. And while Welch has received a big boost from his first place showing, there is still second-place finisher Tom Smith
(who also has a Democratic past) and his $5 million to contend with in the primary.
The early read: Advantage Welch. But the race is far from decided and the endorsement could mean a backlash -- some tea party organizers have already expressed unhappiness
with the process. Former state Rep. Sam Rohrer
, a more conservative candidate who stood against the party's decision to endorse will press on in the race, further complicating matters.
5) Former Rep. Ed Case
's first ad in the Hawaii Senate race was a strictly positive spot. His second ad
makes mention of frontrunning Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono
. "Choosing between Mazie and Ed, that's an issue. The next Senator that gets in is gonna be in there a long time," says a man in Case's ad. The underdog Case's willingness to step up to an ad that mentions his opponent this early in the race suggests the it might not be long before he runs an ad that goes directly after Hirono.
4) Some very good news: Rick Santorum
says his youngest daughter Bella has made a "miraculous turnaround
" after being hospitalized for pneumonia over the weekend.
3) Newt Gingrich
has lost ground to Mitt Romney
in the polls in the lead-up to Tuesday's Florida primary, but he's not easing up with his rhetoric against the former governor. The Washington Post
Despite slipping in Florida's polls, he has vowed a "wild and woolly" primary battle that will end with his victory. And on Sunday, he and Mitt Romney traded their harshest attacks yet, with Romney telling Gingrich to "look in the mirror" if he wants to understand his slide in the polls, and Gingrich slugging back, calling Romney a "pro-abortion, pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase moderate."
2) Mitt Romney's campaign, even with the election 24 hours away, is already boasting about its successful strategy against Gingrich in Florida. Romney adviser David Kochel described
the strategy to the New York Times as "let's go rush the quarterback."
Romney responded to his advisers' braggadocio on NBC's "Today Show" this morning: "You can expect advisers to think that the work of advisers is very, very important."
1) Two new Florida polls out Sunday show that Romney holds a commanding lead over Newt Gingrich in Tuesday's Florida primary. Romney leads Gingrich
42 percent to 27 percent in a new Marist poll of the Florida GOP primary and 42 percent to 31 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll of conducted for five Sunshine State news outlets.
Both polls also tested general election matchups against Obama, with divergent results. They showed Obama comfortably leading Gingrich, but the Mason-Dixon survey showed Romney with a four-point lead over Obama, 48 to 44 percent. The Marist poll, however, showed Obama with an eight-point advantage over Romney.