Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Next Campaign: RNC Chairman

Late this coming January the members of the Republican National Committee will again choose an individual to lead them into the next election cycle. There is no question that the reign of current chairman Michael Steele has been controversial. The Committee has not reached the fund-raising plateaus found in previous election cycles; Steele has been at the center of many ill-advised comments; donors were disrespected; and the exiting political director leveled public charges of mismanagement at him. Still, the Republicans had one of their most successful elections in history while Steele was in control and it is under this backdrop that the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee will make their leadership decision.

The Chairman himself has not officially announced a re-election bid, but indications point to him seeking another term. Two challengers already are officially opposing him. Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan chairman who ran two years ago, is back for another go and Ann Wagner, the ex-national committeewoman from Missouri and US Ambassador to Luxembourg, announced her candidacy yesterday. Others who might join the fray are Maria Cino, a former Republican National Convention director and ex-RNC chief of staff, and former Political Director Gentry Collins, the very man who wrote the highly publicized missive against Steele as he departed the Committee. The race is on! Expect major fireworks.

The House in 2012: The Vulnerables

Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.

Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?

One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.

If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.

Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.

Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.

The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.

California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.

Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.

Two More House Races Conceded; One Remains

As expected, two more U.S. House seats were finalized yesterday, as Reps. Dan Maffei (D-NY-25) and Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) ended recount action and conceded their seats to Republican challengers.

In Upstate New York, former Syracuse city councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) is now the official winner of her state’s 25th congressional district, returning the seat to the GOP column after one term of Democratic Party representation. Together, Republican former Reps. George Wortley and Jim Walsh represented the district for a combined 26 years before Maffei won in 2008. Buerkle’s final, but still yet-to-be certified margin is 567 votes. Depending upon how New York redistricting unfolds in 2012, expect Mr. Maffei to again become an active candidate, if not for Congress, then for another office.

In southeast Texas, Rep. Ortiz also ended his recount operation, thus more than likely bringing an end to his 28-year congressional career. The 73-year-old veteran politician telephoned Republican Blake Farenthold to officially concede and congratulate him on his victory. Since TX-27 is a Voting Rights district, it would be expected to return to the Democrats in 2012, but redistricting and the fact that Texas is likely to gain four new congressional seats could give Farenthold a more Republican district and a place to land. Though Rep. Ortiz is unlikely to run for Congress again, watch for his son, soon-to-be ex-state Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. to test the waters. Like his father, the south Texas voters also defeated the younger Ortiz.

Back in New York, the count continues in NY-1, now the only congressional district in the country that remains unresolved. There, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) has climbed back into the lead with all ballots counted. His advantage is 235 votes, but more than 2,000 votes have been challenged by one of the candidates. Republican Randy Altschuler issued official challenges to 1,261 votes, while Bishop objects to 790. It would take quite a swing for Altschuler to overcome this late lead.

Assuming NY-1 stays in the Democratic column, the Republicans will have gained 63 seats in the 2010 election and the party division for the 112th House of Representatives will be 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats.

Early Poll Shows Obama in 2012 Dogfight

As we know from this past election, two years is a lifetime in modern-day American electoral politics but a new Quinnipiac University poll does indicate weakness in a proposed President Obama re-election drive. The national survey, conducted November 8-15 of 2,424 registered voters throughout the United States shows the President below 50% against all tested Republicans and having only a nine-point lead over a candidate whom 81% of the people could not identify.

Ex-Massachusetts Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney fared the best against the President in the national poll, leading him 45-44%. Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee trailed Mr. Obama 44-46%; ex-Alaska Governor and ’08 Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin finds herself in a 40-48% deficit situation; and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is behind only 36-45%. It is Daniels whom over 80% of the sampled individuals could not identify.

The poll is of little significance because the election is two years away and will be decided by voters within individual states as opposed to a simple national vote. While national public opinion polls certainly provide clues as to how voters view the presidential candidates, which is helpful in gauging a campaign’s progress, it does not translate into predicting whether a challenger can successfully obtain the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the White House.

Best news for Obama in the poll: Democrats want to see the President run for re-election by better than a 2:1 spread (64:27%). Worst news for him: by a margin of 43:49% the aggregate sampling universe does not feel he deserves re-election.

The Republicans Take Another Race

It appears the Republicans have won another congressional race. With counting now complete, but unofficial, GOP challenger Ann Marie Buerkle now leads Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY-25) by 567 votes, 104,374 to 103,807. There likely will be a recount, and trailing candidate Maffei is likely to challenge what he believes are questionable ballots, but his chances of overturning these results are slim.

Should this margin hold for Buerkle, the Republicans will have gained 63 seats in the House, bringing the total to 241 Rs and 193 Democrats. One race, NY-1, is still outstanding. Of the ten closest campaigns, only two remain in recounts (KY-6 and TX-27), not counting such eventuality in NY-1 and 25. The KY-6 and TX-27 races will soon become official, with Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) being re-elected and Republican challenger Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27).

The other races, AZ-7 (Grijalva), AZ-8 (Giffords), CA-11 (McNerney), CA-20 (Costa), IL-8 (Walsh), and NC-2 (Ellmers) have all been decided. The two listed last saw Democratic incumbents Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) and Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) conceding defeat last week.

NY-1, located on the eastern-most part of Long Island, may end up as the closest race in the country. Originally, it appeared that Rep. Tim Bishop (D) had won a 51-49% victory on Election Night, but a major voting machine error changed the outcome and placed GOP challenger Randy Altschuler in the lead by just under 400 votes. With the slow New York absentee ballot counting process continuing, and a smattering of military and overseas votes still eligible to be received through tomorrow, the race has now closed to a 15-vote margin, with Bishop now back in the lead. The town of Brookhaven is the only place not completely reporting. It is the only Long Island town that stretches all the way from the north to the south shore. Its population is close to 450,000. Brookhaven broke closely for President Obama in 2008, which actually might be a good sign for Altschuler considering the region significantly under-performed the Democratic statewide total (62.2%) in that year. Considering the 2010 turnout pattern in the rest of the state, the final absentee ballots in this area could easily break for Altschuler. With the race being a virtual tie, however, either candidate still can win.

Regardless of the final result in NY-1, a recount will follow. Likewise in NY-25, though Buerkle’s 500+ vote margin will undoubtedly be greater than the final difference in the Long Island seat.

With Maffei’s defeat, 24 first-term incumbents (22 Democrats; 2 Republicans) did not survive their first re-election effort. It remains to be seen just how many of these defeated freshmen maintain hopes of re-capturing their seat and run again in 2012.

2012 Senate Polls – Already!

Public Policy Polling is already releasing new and rather interesting data on proposed 2012 U.S. Senate match-ups. The firm is testing two first-term Democrats, both of whom appear vulnerable because they are from states that tend to vote Republican in national elections. Though the polls certainly show incumbent vulnerability and foretell close races, each Democratic Senator is in better political shape that one might guess considering the results of our most recent election.

In Virginia, the clear choice among Republicans to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D) is none other than the man who lost the seat in 2006, former Senator and Governor George Allen (R). When asked of 400 “usual” GOP VA primary voters, 46% answered that Allen would be their choice. Eighteen percent prefer soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), though there is no indication that the Congressman would entertain a statewide race since he will already be one of the top congressional leaders. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli places third with 16%, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA-11) are tied with 4% apiece.

In hypothetical general election match-ups (11/10-13; 551 registered VA voters) Webb leads Allen 49-45%; the Senator has a 49-38% advantage over Bolling; and the margin is 49-39% in a Webb-Cuccinelli pairing.

Since Sen. Webb has been somewhat circumspect when answering questions about whether or not he will run for re-election, PPP tested former Gov. and current Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in his stead. The Democrat leads each of the potentially serious Republican contenders. Kaine’s advantage over Allen is 50-44%; 48-41% against Bolling; and 50-40% when paired with AG Cuccinelli.

The third Democrat tested was Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his seat to Rep-Elect Bob Hurt on November 2nd. In these trial heats, two of the three Republicans lead the outgoing Congressman, but even here the margin is very tight. Allen tops Perriello 47-42%; Bolling leads him by a single point, 42-41%; but Perriello manages to maintain a slight 44-41% advantage over Cuccinelli.

This particular small-sample poll does not have very positive opinions about any of the contenders. Kaine scores the best with a 43:40% favorable to unfavorable personal approval ratio. All of the others are hung with negative ratings above their positive scores.

Considering that the Republicans just gained three House seats in the Virginia delegation, these results are basically welcome news for the Democrats. Since Virginia, along with New Jersey and New York, each led the nation in turnout drop-off from 2008 (each state registered more than 47% drop-off; that is, 47% of the people who voted in the 2008 presidential election did not return to cast a ballot in 2010), still suggests that the Democrats are more than competitive in a high turnout election, such as would be expected in the next presidential election. It looks like a long Senate campaign ahead for Old Dominion voters and it appears that either side can win.

The other state PPP tested is Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) faces the voters for the first time after unseating three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R) back in 2006. Here, Tester does not fare as well as his colleague Sen. Webb, but is certainly in position for a strong re-election bid.

According to the Public Policy Polling results (10/11-13; 1,176 registered MT voters), at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) leads Sen. Tester 48-46%. The Senator leads former Lt. Gov. nominee Steve Daines (R) 48-37%, but trails former Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot 42-49%.

This early data suggests that Montanans, too, can expect another close, rough and tumble campaign season in 2012. Protecting only 10 of 33 seats in the next cycle, the GOP would need a net gain of four to secure a new majority. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Montana are top states on the potential Republican conversion list.

Murkowski Wins in Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) officially has been declared the winner of the marathon Alaska Senate contest. With only 700+ ballots remaining to count, she is beyond the margin of error even when including all of opponent Joe Miller’s (R) challenged ballots. The Senator’s lead has grown to over 10,000 votes, exceeding the number of outstanding absentee ballots plus the 8,153 votes Miller is challenging. Thus ends the saga of one of the strangest political campaigns in recent memory. Murkowski lost the primary to Miller principally because she lacked a strong ground-force turnout mechanism but quickly rebounded to form a general election political apparatus to produce a win via write-in — an operation that requires intense organizational ability. This victory certainly ranks among the greatest comebacks in American political history.

Now, all 37 Senate races are official. The new Senate will stand at 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 campaigns in 2010 versus the Democrats’ 13, four short of the minimum requirement to claim the majority. Next we move to 2012, where Democrats must defend 23 seats versus just 10 for the Republicans. Lisa Murkowski is only the second person to win a Senate seat without officially being on the ballot. South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond was the other to accomplish the feat, way back in 1954.

Bean Concedes in Illinois; Progress on Other Races

Add one more new Republican seat to the completed House totals. Educator Joe Walsh, enjoying strong support from the Tea Party movement, has successfully unseated Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) as the remaining absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted yesterday. Walsh leads by only 282 votes of almost 200,000 cast, yet Rep. Bean decided to forego a recount and conceded the race, telephoning Walsh to offer her congratulations.

The IL-8 race may be the biggest surprise outcome of Election 2010 because Bean appeared on no one’s major target list, even though the 8th district is heavily Republican. She first won the seat in 2004, defeating 35-year Rep. Phil Crane (R). Ms. Bean consistently repelled mediocre opponents in 2006 and 2008 until Walsh came from almost complete obscurity this year to score the upset victory.

Overall, the House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two New York races still undetermined. Two others, TX-27 (Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz; 799 vote margin) and NC-2 (Renee Ellmers unseating Rep. Bob Etheridge; 1,489 vote spread) are subject to an official recount, but the respective outcomes are not expected to change.

Adding Walsh means Republicans gained a total of four seats in Illinois and actually took control of the congressional delegation by an 11-8 count. Redistricting, however, is exclusively in Democratic hands next year, so expect the delegation complexion to drastically change when the new lines are drawn. Walsh will certainly be a prime Democratic target. The state is likely to lose one seat in the 2010 apportionment.

More will soon be known about the New York races since absentee ballot counting finally began yesterday. In NY-1, where GOP challenger Randy Altschuler leads incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) by 383 votes, more than 11,000 Suffolk County absentee ballots were opened. We hopefully will get a clue today as to those results. In the Syracuse area, the count is again finally moving. Votes from the smaller, more rural counties have been tabulated and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle’s lead over freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) has grown to 729 votes. More than 6,000 votes remain from Onondoga County, an area that tends to favor Democrats. In Election Night counting, Maffei scored 54% of the vote here. Among the ballots remaining, however, the Congressman will have to exceed that total in order to surpass Buerkle. To reclaim the lead, Maffei will have to break 56% among the outstanding votes. Both of these elections are still too close to call.

Regardless of the outcome of this latest round of counting on Long Island and in the upstate region, no winner will be declared until all the military and overseas ballots have been received. Under New York law, the acceptance deadline is Nov. 24th, still a week away. It is likely, though, that the candidates leading the race at the end of the current respective count will hold on through the end, as the ballots still to come will be few in number.

Turning to Alaska where the trends continue to favor a write-in victory for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), counting laboriously moves forward. For the first time, however, Murkowski is officially leading.

It was long believed the trends — she was receiving 98% of the write-in votes — would allow her to overcome challenger Joe Miller (R), but now she has actually done so. At the end of counting yesterday, Murkowski had 92,164 votes to Miller’s 90,448. Miller, however, is challenging 7,601 ballots that have already been counted for the Senator but, so far, he is succeeding in actually removing only a handful of votes from the official tabulation. He is challenging the entire process in court, however. It now appears to be a virtual certainty that Murkowski will end the election with more votes than Miller, and the long-shot lawsuit will likely be his last hope of turning around the outcome. Eventually, Sen. Murkowski will be certified as the winner of this race.

Outstanding House Races Nearing Decisions

There are three congressional campaigns still possessing uncounted ballots. Two more are now headed to official recounts.

Recounts:

  1. In Texas, Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) is paying to have recounts conducted in six counties of the Rio Grande Valley district. He officially trails Republican Blake Farenthold by 799 votes after all ballots have been recorded.
  2. In NC-2, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) has officially requested a recount of his losing result versus Republican Renee Ellmers. Election officials there have also counted and canvassed the entire ballot universe and Ellmers leads by 1,489 votes. Both of these margins will likely vary by only a few votes through a recount because no new ballots will be added to the process. Considering the original counts were verified by a canvass process means the ballots have already effectively been counted twice.

The three races where more ballots could still arrive are in IL-8, NY-1, and NY-25.

Uncounted:

  1. In the suburban region north of Chicago in IL-8, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) trails GOP opponent Joe Walsh by 350 votes. According to election officials, “hundreds of provisional votes” remain to be counted and absentee ballots can still come in from overseas. Today is the final deadline for the latter category.
  2. In NY-1, where a voting machine counting error has flipped the election night result in favor of challenger Randy Altschuler (R) by 383 votes, Rep. Tim Bishop (D) has already gone to court to request a hand count of the entire district. Less than 10,000 ballots remain to be counted, and the clerks are reporting that 4,200 are from voters in parties supporting Altschuler and 3,900 carry labels from parties that endorsed Bishop. New York law allows military and overseas ballots to be counted as long as they arrive prior to Nov. 24.
  3. A similar situation exists in the Syracuse-based NY-25. A count of the 7,000+ absentee ballots already received began yesterday, but the process won’t be completed until Nov. 24, as explained above. GOP challenger Ann Marie Buerkle leads freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) by 659 votes.

Thus, the 2010 election continues …

The 2010 Election Turnout

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, we often mentioned that campaigns are always decided by the turnout model, especially in mid-term voting. Since a lower number of people participate in non-presidential elections, and 2010 was no exception, the groups of voters coming to the polls then determines which party wins and loses.

The preliminary 2010 turnout patterns, remembering that ballot counting in some states is not quite finished, clearly points to the fact that Republicans were in fact way more energized to vote, as the pre-election polling continually predicted.

The landslide, particularly at the U.S. House and state legislative level, occurred because Republicans did very well in states that have either been trending toward their opposition in the last two elections, or are normally reliable Democratic performers. The fact that many of these states turned out fewer voters in 2010 than they did in 2006, despite population gains, provides us clear evidence.

Of the Democratic states where Republicans made strong inroads, we see the same turnout pattern occurring. The Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter participation rates show unmistakable evidence that the Democratic voter base was demoralized. Since the results in these states, by and large, heavily favored the GOP and turnout was down from 2006, it is clear that the turnout dip was disproportionately felt on the Democratic side.

In Michigan, turnout was down a whopping 19.7% from 2006. This also translates into a 36.7% drop-off from 2008. With Republicans winning the Governorship, two US House seats, and both houses of the legislature, it is clear that the lower turnout was very likely exclusively within the Democratic voting sector.

Pennsylvania also was down, again indicating that Democrats simply were not voting at a normal level. The Keystone State saw turnout drop 2.7% from ’06, with a 35% drop-off rate from the presidential election. Here, the Republicans gained the Governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, five congressional seats, and the state House, while holding the state Senate. In Wisconsin — where the GOP won the Governorship, defeated a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator, gained two congressional seats and both houses of the legislature — turnout fell into a similar pattern as the aforementioned states, but not to the same degree. There, it dropped just 1% from 2006, and was off 28.5% from 2008.

Though a small state, South Dakota is also in this category. They elected a Republican Governor and defeated a popular Democratic at-large U.S. Representative. Total turnout was down 5.8% from ’06, but with only a 17% drop-off from the last presidential election.

Ohio, though not traditionally a Democratic state but which has performed as such in both 2006 and 2008, also fit the lower turnout pattern. There, the Republicans defeated an incumbent Governor, held an open U.S. Senate seat, gained five congressional districts, the state House and held the state Senate. 2010 turnout was off 6.1% from ’06 and 37% from the presidential election.

Another reason for the GOP landslide was that turnout experienced a boost in the more traditional Republican states. Arizona, which witnessed a strong Republican comeback when compared to 2006 and 2008 with wins at the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+2) and state legislative levels, saw a huge increase in turnout when compared with the last mid-term election of 2006. There, turnout rose a huge 24.8% over 2006, but the drop-off from 2008 was still significant at 33.3%. This shows a disproportionately low turnout in ’06, thus proving that demoralization among the Arizona Republican voter base of that year was severe.

Two states that didn’t fit the pattern were the more Republican state of Tennessee and the Democratic state of Illinois. Though GOP gains were major in TN, turnout actually dropped a huge 15.7% from 2006, and was off 39.6% when compared to the presidential race. In Illinois, Democratic in nature and a state that one would expect to fit the lower turnout pattern, saw voter participation increase 7.9% from 2006. Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here, but did not convert the Governor’s office as was expected prior to the election. The GOP went on to gain three congressional districts.

More definitive answers will be determined when all of the 2010 voting numbers become final and official.

Counting Continues in Alaska; Three House Races Remain

Alaska: Election authorities are finished counting about 89% of all ballots, including the write-in and absentee votes, in their unfinished U.S. Senate race. If current trends continue, it appears that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be re-elected. Republican Joe Miller defeated Murkowski in the August 24th Republican primary, but a strong grassroots write-in campaign coupled with Miller’s political implosion apparently will combine to make the Senator only the second person in history to win a seat by write-in. The only other such instance in a Senate campaign was Strom Thurmond’s victorious effort in South Carolina back in 1954.

Murkowski is capturing 98% of the write-in tallies. More than 160 people are qualified to receive write-in votes, and it was obvious that the Senator would record the overwhelming majority of them, but it was unclear until the counting began whether she would get virtually all of them. That appears to be the case.

Numbers-wise, Miller is sitting with 82,180, but Murkowski has now surged ahead of him with 92,979. Miller has challenged about 10% of the Murkowski write-in votes, but has successfully disqualified only 1.52% of the disputed votes. Democrat Scott McAdams is way back with 54,147 and is eliminated from having any mathematical chance of winning.

Two More House Races Decided: Absentee ballot counting laboriously continues in California, but we have two more campaigns finally decided. Democratic incumbents Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) have both declared victory as the post-election counting is now putting them comfortably ahead of their very competitive Republican challengers.

There are approximately 11,700 ballots left to count in the 11th district and GOP challenger David Harmer would have to win 57% of these to overtake the incumbent, a number that is almost assuredly out of reach; 700 of these ballots are from Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, two heavily Democratic regions that will overwhelmingly favor McNerney. Given that, Harmer is forced to win more than 60% of the San Joaquin and Contra Costa County votes, which simply won’t happen.

In California’s 20th district in the Central Valley, the tabulated Fresno County absentee ballots have wiped out challenger Andy Vidak’s small lead and put Rep. Costa in front by more than 1,200 votes. The remaining ballots are predominantly from Fresno and Kings Counties, two areas that heavily favor the Democratic incumbent. It is very likely that the Costa margin will increase as the final tallies become known in the next few days.

Still TBD: The resolution of the two California races means there are only three House campaigns left to be called.

  • Two New York races, NY-1 and NY-25, both feature Republican challengers who are leading by small margins. Military and absentee ballots will be counted next week, as the deadline for submitting such votes was extended past the election. Republican challenger Randy Altschuler leads by 383 votes in NY-1; former Syracuse City Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle has an official 659-vote lead over Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei.
  • In the IL-8 contest between Rep. Melissa Bean and GOP educator Joe Walsh, the challenger continues to cling to a 553-vote margin. This one will likely end in Walsh’s favor, with a full recount procedure to follow.

Adding the two California Democratic victories, the House count now stands at 240 Republicans and 192 Democrats. GOP wins in the final three races would push their total to as high as 243.

Of Note: Recounts are underway in KY-6 and NC-2, but it is unlikely that the final results will change the outcome. Unless a major error is found in the previous count, Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) will retain his seat and challenger Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) will defeat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D).

Today is the deadline for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) to decide if he will pay for a recount in his race against attorney Blake Farenthold. The incumbent trails by just about 800 votes with everything counted.

Our State-by-State Scorecard

The following is a list as to how the state congressional delegations will divide based upon party preferences and their individual structures for redistricting. The red states highlight the places where Republicans have a majority in the congressional delegation; the blue where Democrats control:

  • Alabama: 6 Rs – 1D – GOP in total control of redistricting
  • Alaska: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Arizona: 5Rs – 3Ds; Independent commission; state will gain one seat
  • Arkansas: 3Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • California: 33Ds – 19Rs – 1 undecided; new commission for redistricting
  • Colorado: 4Rs – 3Ds; split control with Rs taking state House by one vote
  • Connecticut: 5Ds; Dems in total control
  • Delaware: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Florida: 19Rs – 6Ds; Rs in control, but new ballot initiative places severe restrictions on drawing redistricting maps; state will one or two seats
  • Georgia: 8Rs – 5Ds – Rs in total control; state will gain one seat
  • Hawaii: 2Ds – Dems in total control
  • Idaho: 2Rs – Independent commission
  • Illinois: 10Rs – 8Ds – 1 undecided; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Indiana: 6Rs – 3Ds – Rs in total control
  • Iowa: 3Ds – 2Rs – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Kansas: 4Rs – Rs in total control
  • Kentucky: 4Rs – 2Ds – Split control
  • Louisiana: 6Rs – 1D – Split control; state loses one seat
  • Maine: 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Maryland: 6Ds – 2Rs; Dems in total control
  • Massachusetts: 10Ds; Dems in total control; state loses one seat
  • Michigan: 9Rs – 6Ds: GOP in total control; state loses one seat
  • Minnesota: 4Ds – 4Rs; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Mississippi: 3Rs – 1D; Split control
  • Missouri: 6Rs – 3Ds; Split control; state could possibly lose one seat
  • Montana: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Nebraska: 3Rs; GOP in virtual control
  • Nevada: 2Rs – 1D; Split control; state will gain one seat
  • New Hampshire: 2Rs; Split control
  • New Jersey: 7Ds – 6Rs; Independent commission; loses one seat
  • New Mexico: 2Ds – 1R; Split control
  • New York: 20Ds – 7Rs – 2 undecided; Split control; state will lose one or two seats
  • North Carolina: 7Ds – 6Rs; GOP controls; Gov has no veto over redistricting
  • North Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Ohio: 13Rs – 5Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose two seats
  • Oklahoma: 4Rs – 1D; GOP in total control
  • Oregon: 4Ds – 1R; Split control; could gain one seat
  • Pennsylvania: 12Rs – 7Ds; GOP in total control; state will lose one seat
  • Rhode Island: 2Ds; Dems in total control
  • South Carolina: 5Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • South Dakota: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Tennessee: 7Rs – 2Ds; GOP in total control
  • Texas: 23Rs – 9Ds; GOP in total control; could gain as many as four seats
  • Utah: 2Rs – 1D; GOP in total control; state gains one seat
  • Vermont: 1D; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor
  • Virginia: 8Rs – 3Ds; split control
  • Washington: 5D – 4R; Independent commission
  • West Virginia: 2Rs – 1D; Dems in total control
  • Wisconsin: 5Rs – 3Ds; GOP in total control
  • Wyoming: 1R; at-large; congressional redistricting not a factor

Notes: Republicans have the majority in 33 states; Democrats 16; with one split delegation (MN).

Because of their off-year calendar for legislative elections, New Jersey and Virginia will be the first two states to begin redistricting, and will do so shortly after the new year.

California is listed as having only one outstanding congressional race because Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) has now pulled ahead of Republican attorney David Harmer by more than 2,200 votes and trends suggest that the incumbent will retain this seat.

Some Interesting House Stats

The new House of Representatives will feature at least 94 new faces in the 112th Congress. Right now, it looks as if 430 races are either decided, or just about done.

Republican Keith Fimian conceded to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), so the total of uncalled campaigns drops to seven. NC-2 – Renee Ellmers (R) defeating Rep. Bob Etheridge – will go to a recount but the spread there (almost 1,700 votes) appears to give the challenger enough of a cushion to secure victory. In TX-27, challenger Blake Farenthold (R) is almost 800 votes ahead with everything counted. Incumbent Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) has until Friday to request a recount, a procedure that he must finance. The chances that Ortiz will overturn the outcome of this election are slim. Virtually the same situation exists in KY-6, where Rep. Ben Chandler (D) holds a 600+ vote lead with everything counted. Challenger Andy Barr (R) will likely fall short, but is already suggesting that he seek a re-match in 2012.

The races that are legitimately still undetermined begin in California where districts 11 and 20 still are not finished with the initial ballot count. Democrats Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa appear fairly well positioned to hang on, however, when projecting the number of outstanding votes and overlaying from where they are coming. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) is now less than 400 votes behind, so this one is still in doubt. Additionally, the two New York districts, 1 (Rep. Tim Bishop (D) vs Randy Altschuler (R)) and 25 (Rep. Dan Maffei (D) opposing Ann Marie Buerkle (R)) are still very much undecided, though the two GOP challengers lead both campaigns.

Let’s look at some of the new House statistics (all are unofficial until the outstanding races are decided):

  • Number of incumbents re-elected …………………… 336
  • Number of pure freshmen ………………………………… 91
  • Number of ex-members returning ………………………. 3
  • Incumbent running in a different district …………….. 1
  • Freshmen who are previous office holders ………… 54
  • Freshmen never holding public office ……………….. 40
  • Freshmen Republicans …………………………………….. 85
  • Freshmen Democrats ………………………………………… 9

Republicans Win Hidden Election, Too

Now that the numbers in all gubernatorial races and most of the legislative contests are known, it appears that the Republicans are in their best-ever shape for congressional redistricting.

Looking at the configuration of multi-district states, the GOP will draw the 2011 maps – meaning they have total control of the process – in 17 states, representing 195 US House seats. Democrats now maintain only six such states, meaning they will draw just 44 districts. Fourteen states, containing 101 CDs, have divided government, suggesting that each party commands at least one leg of the redistricting stool. The three “legs” are the governorship, a state Senate, or state House. Six states, now led by California (53 districts) – Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and New Jersey are the others – are controlled by various redistricting commissions, members of which will draw a total of 88 districts. Finally, seven states: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, are at-large and each elects only one member of the House. Thus, redistricting is not a factor in these places.

Some people refer to the zero-numbered election years as “hidden elections” because in many cases the people winning gubernatorial and legislative offices will draw maps that elect congressmen for the next decade. Hence, winning last week’s hidden election may allow the GOP to sustain the House majority for not just this current term, but for the next 10 years.

Several Races are Done; New Close Ones Emerge

Since Friday the electoral picture has become both clearer and cloudier. It is still unclear whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has won her write-in campaign after being defeated in the Republican primary, but it is obvious that either she or GOP nominee Joe Miller will win the race because Democrat Scott McAdams is too far behind to be a factor. This means the new Senate will feature 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 of the 2010 Senate campaigns and lost 13, a strong win percentage of .650, but not enough to take the majority. The Republicans converted six Democratic states and lost none of their own.

The Governors are virtually done, too. With the Connecticut race now being officially called for Democrat Dan Malloy, it appears the GOP will end the election cycle controlling 29 Governorships versus 20 for the Democrats. Former Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island governor’s race as an Independent.

The House still has nine races where questions abound. Two were called over the weekend: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) was declared the winner in a close contest over former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, and local official and 2000 congressional nominee John Koster (R) conceded to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the hard-fought WA-2 campaign. A sizable number of ballots still remain in Washington, but with Larsen actually gaining as the new votes are being counted, the obvious conclusion is that he would win the final tally.

Conversely, two new campaigns joined the question-mark category. An accounting error in New York has apparently allowed NY-1 challenger Randy Altschuler to grab a several hundred vote lead over Rep. Tim Bishop (D), after the latter was projected to be the victor. In North Carolina, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) is claiming that enough ballots still remain to change the outcome of that campaign, despite mathematical projections awarding the race to challenger Renee Ellmers (R).

Four races are close to being over but will undoubtedly go through a recount process. It appears that Democratic incumbents Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) will survive by the barest of margins, but certification still has not been sanctioned in either case. The same appears true for Republican challengers Joe Walsh (IL-8; versus Rep. Melissa Bean) and Blake Farenthold (TX-27; against Rep. Solomon Ortiz). Both of these campaigns could conceivably turn around (each is in the 6-800 margin range), but the candidate leading at this juncture usually wins the race.

Three of the battles feature large numbers of absentee and provisional ballots to count, possibly as high as 100,000 in the CA-20 race between Rep. Jim Costa (D) and challenger Andy Vidak (R). Costa leads 51-49%, but only about 65,000 votes have been counted. Up toward the Bay Area, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is barely clinging to a 400+ vote lead against attorney David Harmer (R). Finally, some 8-10,000 absentee ballots remain uncounted in the Syracuse-based NY-25, where freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) now trails former city Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) by a little over 650 votes, so this outcome is clearly still in doubt.

Right now the current trends suggest that Democrats hold with Chandler and Connolly, and probably carry McNerney. Republicans have the edge with Walsh, Farenthold, and possibly Vidak, though it’s hard to get a good reading on the trends with so many ballots outstanding. The Maffei-Buerkle race is legitimately too close to call, but Buerkle has rebounded strongly to take the lead after it looked like she would go down to a close defeat. The NY-1 situation is a mystery, but it is clear that neither candidate has a lock on victory at this writing.