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Off to the races: RNC considers calendar changes

“For Republicans yearning for a less front-loaded, more orderly presidential nominating contest, the long national nightmare may be over,” Beth Reinhard writes. “The Republican National Committee is poised this week to enact its toughest crackdown yet on states that try to infringe on the special, first-in-the-nation status afforded to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Florida, this means you.” Instead of 99 delegates, “under the new rules to be voted on by RNC officials meeting in Washington on Thursday and Friday, Florida's clout would be reduced to only 12 delegates if it scheduled a primary before March 1. Smaller states that break the rules would get only nine delegates.”

“To reduce long election day voting lines, a presidential panel recommended on Wednesday that states explore the possibility of expanding ways that Americans can vote early, an increasingly popular way to vote,” Reuters writes.

FLORIDA: Is Sean Hannity thinking of running for office?

ILLINOIS: Political Wire: “Illinois congressional candidate Susanne Atanus (R) told the Chicago Daily Herald that she ‘believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.’”

KENTUCKY: Mitch McConnell’s up with his first two ads of 2014. Roll Call: “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released his first two TV ads of the election year on Wednesday — positive spots emphasizing that he has utilized his position on Capitol Hill to help Kentuckians in need. Facing a competitive re-election, the Kentucky Republican’s new ads tout his efforts on behalf of workers who got cancer after being exposed to high levels of radiation at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in southwestern Kentucky. One of the workers, Robert Pierce, who suffered from throat cancer, is featured in both ads and can only speak in a whisper.” 

Boss Mitch Tweed? McConnell challenger Matt Bevin tells Politico that people have been trying to force him out, and he’s not happy about it: “It is thuggery,” Bevin said. “It’s literally like something out of Tammany Hall. It’s dusting off Boss Tweed. I say bring it on.” 

MASSACHUSETTS: Political Wire: “A new WBUR poll in Massachusetts finds Martha Coakley (D) has the early advantage in the governor's race and leads Charlie Baker (R) by double-digits, 39% to 29%.”

MISSISSIPPI: “Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-Miss.) Tea Party challenger is off to a quick fundraising start, raising $500,000 in his first 10 weeks in the race,” The Hill writes. “Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who has the backing of many conservative groups including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund, could be Cochran's toughest foe in decades.”

NEW YORK: Welcome to the big leagues… so you wanted to be mayor of the biggest city in the country? You better get snow removal right. The New York Post front page: “Mayor Culpa: De Blasio admits he blew snow job.” Earlier: “Shambles: Turmoil as Blas botches ‘early’ snow.” 

The Daily News: Looks like Mayor de Blasio has snow on his face. 

VIRGINIA: “Following a seismic political shift in Virginia's top elected offices, the new attorney general has concluded that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits, his office said Thursday,” AP reports. “Virginia, widely considered a battleground state in the nationwide fight to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, will instead side with the plaintiffs who are seeking to have the ban struck down, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring said in an email to The Associated Press. ‘After a thorough legal review of the matter, Attorney General Herring has concluded that Virginia's current ban is in violation of the U.S. constitution and he will not defend it,’ spokesman Michael Kelly wrote." 

The GOP state convention is June 7. Roll Call looks at Ed Gillespie’s chances of getting the Republican Senate nomination there. It notes he likely has a better chance given recent Republican statewide losses.

A controversial candidate for Frank Wolf’s VA-10 seat dropped out, clearing the way for Barbara Comstock. (That’s very good news for the GOP.)

The Hill: “Comstock, a top Republican lawyer, former Wolf staffer and lobbyist, has been racking up endorsements from across the party. She has the backing of Mitt Romney, who she worked for in 2012, as well as conservative radio host Mark Levin and Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips. Comstock may still have a battle for the nomination on her hands, though Virginia Republicans say Black posed the biggest threat to her in a convention battle because of his fervent following.”