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Monday Miscellany

— Recruitment efforts are becoming seriously problematic for the Democrats. Take North Carolina, for instance, where former State Senator Cal Cunningham now says he won’t run to challenge Richard Burr, the latest in a long line of Democrats to do so. Democrats still have a reasonably decent candidate in Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, but this a big step down from Roy Cooper or possibly Heath Shuler, neither of whom were tempted to enter the running. Even if there’s some late swing of “momentum” back toward the Democrats next summer as a result of an improving economy or whatever else, they will probably have squandered a couple of opportunities based on fears about the 2010 environment that emerged earlier in the process.

— Another disappointment for the Democrats: Kay Bailey Hutchison is not going to resign her seat to run for governor, at least until/unless she wins the primary. This is a defensive, and probably smart move for KBH, who appears unlikely to defeat incumbent Rick Perry — but for all intents and purposes it takes another second-tier pickup opportunity off the board for the Dems.

— Bill Belichick is not dumb, provided that his goal is to help the New England Patriots win football games. Instead, much of the NFL’s conventional wisdom on when to go for it on fourth down is horribly, horribly wrong — teams are way too conservative and punt way too often. This is the one case where 9-year olds playing Madden — it’s no fun to punt in a video game — quite literally make better decisions than most NFL head coaches. With that said, since the same flawed conventional wisdom can govern hiring and firing decisions, there may be a price to be paid for unconventional (if statistically correct) playcalling; see also Marty Mornhinweg.

— Never, ever, for as long as you live, rent a car from Thirfy, who are every bit as cheap as their name implies. Our rental car here in San Francisco got broken into over the weekend and — while fortunately all of our luggage was out of the vehicle — the GPS unit that we’d rented with the car was taken. Even though we were paying something like $200 in insurance coverage, the GPS unit was apparently not covered. Not only that, but the replacement cost they want to charge us for the unit ($500) represents something like a 100% markup off what it would cost to buy an equivalent device at Best Buy, which they say we can’t do since it won’t contain their “custom” software. So these guys are turning burglary into a profit center. Skip over the Thrifty counter the next time you’re at the airport rental counter. And by the way, think twice before you buy insurance for your rental car — the coverage will often be duplicative of what you’re already getting through your credit card company or through your existing auto insurance.

— More on Sarah Palin later today, as I’m preparing my rebuttal to Tom’s piece.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.