Monthly Archives: March 2011

2012 Senatorial Candidate Announcements Coming Soon

Although no one has yet officially declared his or her candidacy for the nation’s highest office, several people are moving closer to making an announcement for the Senate. It is being reported from both public and private sources that Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) will announce a Senatorial run as soon as this weekend or early next week. Franks will oppose fellow Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in the Republican primary. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring. Both men running statewide will have a huge effect upon Arizona congressional redistricting. The two have the most over-populated seats in the state (both have more than 261,000 people to shed) and with no incumbent influence for either district, both seats can be disassembled. The result could lead to a radical re-draw. Complicating matters even further, Arizona also gains a new seat.

Turning to the Midwest and Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is sounding more like a Senatorial candidate. He is seriously considering challenging Sen. Richard Lugar (R) next year in hopes of taking advantage of what appears to be a difficult Tea Party-induced challenge for the six-term senator in the GOP primary. That Donnelly is still publicly flirting with the Senate almost assures that he will run. The congressman’s statements to-date already give Republican map drawers the impetus they need to re-craft his northern Indiana congressional district into a more Republican-friendly seat. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to a one-point win in 2010, has confirmed that she will run again, thus pressuring the congressman even further.
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Derailing the Ryan Express in Wisconsin?

Liberal activists are beginning to tout a new congressional candidate who they believe has a chance of unseating House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) next year. The Swing State Project, a national liberal campaign blog, is reporting that Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is taking concrete steps toward assembling a 2012 electoral challenge against the popular Republican incumbent.

Paul Ryan is an up-and-coming national Republican political figure. Now in his 7th term in the House, he was elected in 1998 at the young age of 28. Mr. Ryan was appointed ranking member of the Budget Committee in the last Congress and became the panel’s chair with the Republican sweep back into the majority in the last election. Ryan’s name has popped up as a long shot presidential candidate, and also a possible Senate contestant if Wisconsin’s senior Sen. Herb Kohl (D) decides to retire. For his part, Rep. Ryan is committed only to running for re-election in 2012, saying he wants to finish his allotted terms as Budget chairman in order to make progress toward the goal of reducing the federal deficit before running for another office.

Zerban undoubtedly looks better on paper to the Democratic candidate recruitment team than he does face-to-face against Ryan. Though he is an elected local supervisor, Kenosha County represents only 25 percent of the 1st CD total population, and the Board of Supervisors has 28 single-member districts. Therefore, Zerban’s entire constituency is just short of 5,500 people, only about 7.5% of the total congressional district population.

The liberals also opine that Ryan is too conservative for what should be a marginal congressional district, and that redistricting really won’t greatly affect his seat. They say this because the territory occupies the southeast corner of the state, bordering Illinois on the south and Lake Michigan to the east, so it doesn’t appear much can change.

Both arguments are incorrect. First, WI-1 is a much different district than when former Armed Services Committee chairman and future US Defense Secretary Les Aspin (D-WI-1) represented the seat during his 22-year congressional career (1971-1993). Pres. Barack Obama did carry the 1st in 2008, but only with 51% of the vote. Former Pres. George Bush performed well there in 2004, winning a 54-46 percent victory. Bush also carried the 1st with 51% in 2000.

For his part, Ryan has been a huge vote-getter during his congressional tenure. He has averaged an impressive 64.4 percent through his seven elections, four times breaking 65 percent of the vote. He is a strong fundraiser, too. In 2010, when he romped to victory with 68 percent, Ryan raised more than $3.9 million for his re-election. His year-end 2010 report shows he finished the campaign cycle with over $3 million cash-on-hand, one of the best financial entries for the entire House.

In terms of redistricting, the 1st district must shed 17,169 people. Since Republicans are in total control of the Wisconsin redistricting process, the swing between Ryan’s district and those of neighboring Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2; +40,296 over-populated) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4; -41,858 under-populated) will result in Ryan receiving a few more Republicans and the two Democrats also getting a bit stronger. Thus, the new WI-1 is likely to be even better for Ryan than the current district configuration he has dominated over the past 10 years.

While the controversy over Wisconsin’s public employee labor policy continues toward a political meltdown, thus throwing the state’s politics into chaos, Rep. Ryan appears completely secure for his 2012 election. Though Supervisor Zerban may well be preparing for a run against him, such a battle will likely sputter and become another easy ride for the veteran Republican. National Democrats will likely find more tempting targets in other locations than Chairman Paul Ryan’s southern Wisconsin district.
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Ohio Poll: Obama Iffy, Sen. Brown Stronger

Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest large-sample Ohio poll (March 15-21; 1,384 registered Ohio voters) and found that Pres. Barack Obama receives mixed ratings. The Buckeye State will again be a key battleground region in the 2012 presidential election, and is a place Republicans must win if they are to have any realistic chance of unseating Obama. When asked if they approve of the job Obama is doing, the cell sample split virtually evenly, with 47 percent answering positively while 48 percent provided a negative response. Commenting on whether the president deserves re-election, 45 percent of this Ohio sample believes that he does, but 46 percent disagreed. Paired with a generic Republican placebo, Obama is the choice of 41 percent versus the unnamed Republican’s 34 percent share. The overall numbers show some weakness in Obama’s Ohio political outlook because break-even polling scenarios almost always trend against the incumbent in an actual vote. It the above trend continues, the Republican chances to win Ohio will improve.

Conversely, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who must stand for his first re-election next year, is gaining political strength. While polls at the end of last year showed a potential Senate race to be in the toss-up range, more recent surveys, like this Q-Poll, indicate that Brown’s political position is becoming much stronger. His job approval score is 43:27 percent positive to negative. By a margin of 45-30 percent, the respondents believe the senator deserves re-election and a similar 45-29 percent split indicates they would vote for Brown over a generic Republican candidate.
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Florida’s Mack Won’t Run for Senate

Late last week a story surfaced in Politico that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) would today officially announce a challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for the seat Nelson has held since 2001. Such is not the case.

Understanding that the reporter never discussed Mack’s intentions personally with the congressman, but rather quoted an ‘anonymous source close to the Mack campaign,’ it was written that an announcement of candidacy would be imminently forthcoming. Mr. Mack corrected the story retorting that he would indeed make a statement but only to detail his reasons for not running statewide. He says family concerns and wanting to continue his service in the House influenced the decision not to engage Nelson. Rep. Mack, 43, first won his House seat in 2004 and will seek re-election next year.

This leaves state Senate President Mike Haridopolos as the only significant Republican currently in the race against Nelson. The veteran Democratic senator, commonly viewed to be at least marginally vulnerable in the next election, has confirmed that he will seek a third term. Haridopolos has been active on the fundraising trail and promises to report more than seven figures in receipts on his 2011 first quarter Federal Election Commission disclosure report due April 15. Nelson had over $3 million cash-on-hand according to his year-end 2010 filing.

Mack was viewed as having very strong potential as a statewide candidate, polling atop all preliminary Florida Senate Republican primary surveys. This is likely because of his name familiarity with voters. His father, Connie Mack III, served in the Senate for the 12 years prior to Nelson and spent three terms in the House. Connie Mack, Sr., who shortened his name from Cornelius McGillicuddy, is a legendary Hall of Fame baseball owner and manager.

Without Rep. Mack on the statewide ballot, the Republicans will likely be looking for a candidate stronger than Haridopolos to wage a potentially winning campaign against Nelson. In his two Senate general election victories (2000 and 2006), Mr. Nelson posted winning totals of 51 and 60 percent, defeating then-Rep. and future Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and then-Rep. and former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, respectively. Nelson spent six terms in the House, spanning 1979-1991. He was twice elected as Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner & fire marshal (1994; 1998).

Other potential Republican candidates include former interim Sen. George LeMieux, who had said repeatedly during his 18-month stint in the Senate, filling the unexpired term of Mel Martinez (R), that he planned to challenge Nelson in 2012 but seemed to back away from those intentions upon leaving office. Mack’s decision not to enter the race could now lead to LeMieux becoming a candidate. The ex-majority leader of the Florida State House, Adam Hasner, is also a likely Senatorial contender.

It’s also possible that Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13) may reconsider previous statements saying he was unlikely to run statewide in 2012. The congressman mused recently that being appointed as a member of the important House Ways & Means Committee was quelling his desire to run for Senate, but Mack’s decision could become an impetus for him to re-focus on a battle against the 68-year-old Nelson.

The Florida seat figures prominently in any Republican scenario to gain control of the Senate next year. Down 47-53, the GOP needs a minimum net conversion of four seats to wrest away the Democratic majority. Only having to defend 10 of the 33 in-cycle seats, with three that are open (Arizona-Kyl; Nevada-Ensign; Texas-Hutchison), the Republicans are in strong position to turn several Democratic states, such as the open seats in North Dakota (Conrad) and Virginia (Webb). Democrats are heavy favorites to hold their incumbent retirement seats in Connecticut (Lieberman-I), Hawaii (Akaka), and New Mexico (Bingaman), though the latter two could become highly competitive under the right circumstances.

In terms of incumbent Democratic vulnerabilities, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson tops the list and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Montana’s Jon Tester will also face toss-up re-election challenges. Going hard after Bill Nelson certainly expands the GOP political playing field but, without Mack as a candidate, the Republican task of converting the Sunshine State clearly becomes more difficult.
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Allen and Kaine Likely to Square Off in Virginia

The stage appears to be set in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a 2012 political campaign that could determine the partisan balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) retirement vacancy after a single six-year term likely will be filled by either former GOP senator and governor George Allen or Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair and former governor Tim Kaine. The race promises to pit two candidates who have each won statewide office twice:

  • Allen – Governor, 1993; U.S. Senator, 2000
  • Kaine – Lt. Governor, 2001; Governor, 2005

In this pairing, however, control of the Senate could realistically be the ultimate prize for the victor’s party.

After the 2010 mid-term elections were over, Allen wasted little time in declaring his intention to reclaim the Senate seat he barely lost to Webb in 2006. The former Republican senator and governor announced that he would again run more than two weeks before Webb announced his retirement on Feb. 9. Since becoming an official candidate in January, Allen has been in full campaign mode, traveling the state and staking out positions on issues likely to surface in the general election. He will face only token opposition in the Republican primary.

By contrast, Kaine has been taking a very cautious approach toward a Senate race, only recently letting it slip to a University of Richmond law school class that he was “increasingly likely to run.” Still, the DNC chair insists he has made no final decision on his potential candidacy as of yet.

The former governor would clearly be the Democratic Party’s strongest nominee in terms of name recognition and fundraising capability. If Kaine doesn’t run, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his Fifth District congressional seat in November, seems likely to enter the race, but the ex-representative says he won’t oppose Kaine.

It appears that the pressure on Kaine to become a candidate is enormous. The early 2012 cycle Democratic Senate retirements of Akaka (HI), Bingaman (NM), Conrad (ND), Lieberman (I-CT), and Webb (VA), and the large number of Democratic seats to defend (23 of the 33 in-cycle contests) has put the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recruiting efforts in the spotlight.

Virginia is a critical state from a national perspective. The White House is fully aware of the benefits of a strong Virginia Democratic ticket, as Pres. Barack Obama became the first Democrat since Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to carry the Old Dominion. It is a must-win state for the GOP if the 2012 Republicans are to seriously contest the President’s re-election. Therefore, Obama blunting the GOP offensive in Virginia could clinch his second national victory.

With Kaine as a candidate, the Virginia contest is likely to be one of the most closely watched Senate campaigns in the nation. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Feb. 24-27 of 524 Virginia voters showed Allen and Kaine in a dead heat with 47% support for each. Call this race a toss-up with colossal stakes for now, and it will likely remain as such all the way to Election Day.
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Rand Paul for President?

A new surprise potential presidential candidate is testing the political waters. Newly elected Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) whose father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), is also considering making another run for the nation’s top office, was in Charleston, S.C., earlier this week conducting media interviews. Sen. Paul confirmed that he may form a presidential exploratory committee because he “want(s) the Tea Party to have an influence over who the nominee is in 2012.” Paul said the only decision he has made to date is to defer to his father if the congressman decides he will again enter the national race. Sen. Paul also will soon travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, which, along with South Carolina, are the first states to hold nominating events.

Should Rand Paul run in place of his father and become the Tea Party/Libertarian ideologue in the Republican field, he might be able to quickly crack the top tier of candidates. Ron Paul raised over $35 million in 2008, almost all of it in small contributions. Rand Paul amassed $7.8 million for his victorious Senatorial campaign from many of the same sources. The elder Paul clearly has a base in the party, but was not able to convert his backing and financial support into a significant number of votes. A better campaign, as exemplified by Rand’s winning statewide effort in Kentucky, would likely attract significantly more support than previous Paul presidential campaigns. Kentucky’s junior senator becoming a presidential candidate would certainly change the flow of this slow-starting Republican campaign. Watch for further developments.
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New Polling Shows Interesting Results in Montana, Conn., W.Va.

Three pollsters released a trio of different polls yesterday, all in races of note.

Montana: Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed the Montana electorate (March 14-16; 625 registered Montana voters) for the Lee Newspaper chain and found Sen. Jon Tester (D) to be in a dead heat with at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in the 2012 Senatorial race. The senator clung to a one-point 46-45 percent lead over his future GOP opponent. Tester received 94 percent support from Democrats compared to Rehberg’s 89 percent among Republicans. Independents broke 49-37 percent for the incumbent. Among men, Rehberg held a 53-40 percent advantage; Tester led 51-38 percent among female respondents.

Montana probably will support the Republican presidential nominee against Pres. Barack Obama, though the latter performed well here in 2008. John McCain managed to carry the state by a razor-thin 49-47 percent margin, but Obama led here during most of the ’08 presidential campaign. Assuming an improved Republican performance, Rehberg could get a slight bounce from the presidential race. The strong union presence in Montana, however, could prove to be a counter-balance in Tester’s favor. Union workers are likely to be highly energized due to the collective bargaining controversies happening in several states, which should provide positive synergy for Tester. Thus, the 2012 Montana Senate race will be a difficult campaign for both men. Count on the Tester-Rehberg race to be in toss-up mode all the way to the general election.

Connecticut: Public Policy Polling (March 17-20; 400 Connecticut registered self-identifying Democratic voters), for the Daily Kos national liberal blog, shows a very tight Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary between Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. The eventual Democratic winner will have the inside track to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. According to PPP, Murphy leads Bysiewicz 40-38 percent. The congressman has a favorability index of 51:14 percent positive to negative; Bysiewicz is not quite as strong, scoring 45:27 percent.

In a general election match-up, tested from an enlarged sample of 822 registered Connecticut voters, Democrats win every pairing against well-known GOP potential contenders. The Republicans’ best ballot test featured former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2). He pulled to within 39-42 percent of Bysiewicz and 34-49 percent against Murphy. The Democrats perform much better against every other tested Republican.

West Virginia: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted a study for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates running in West Virginia’s May 14 special primary election. According to this data (March 10-15; 400 registered West Virginia Democratic voters), Tennant has a reasonable chance of denying acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin the Democratic nomination. Tomblin leads Tennant 31-27 percent within the at-large sample but, among respondents who know both individuals, Tennant scores a 34-31 percent advantage. State Treasurer John Perdue follows the leaders with 14 percent; state House Speaker Rick Thompson, who was just recently endorsed by some of West Virginia’s most powerful labor unions, and state Senate President Jeff Kessler each receive 5 percent.

The winner of the May 14 primary will face a Republican nominee in the Oct. 4 special election. The next governor will only serve through next year, but is eligible to run for a full four-year term when the position comes up for regular election in November of 2012. The state house became vacant when then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). Manchin, too, will run for a full six-year Senatorial term in the next regular general election, as the 2010 special election was only for the balance of the existing term. With a long May-October special general cycle, it is clear that anything can happen in what promises to be an exciting governor’s race.
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Pawlenty Announces Exploratory Committee

As expected, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced the establishment of a presidential exploratory committee yesterday, via Facebook video. Mr. Pawlenty, not surprisingly for a candidate trying to positively position himself in the national Republican nomination process, struck a conservative, limited government theme throughout his 1:55 minute address. He pledged to “grow jobs, limit government spending, and tackle entitlements” before committing to “encourage the dreamers, innovators, and the hard workers.”

Tim Pawlenty served as governor from 2003-2011, choosing not to run for a third term, even though he was eligible to do so. He was widely reported to have been on John McCain’s short list for vice president in 2008, when Sarah Palin ultimately was chosen instead. Though twice winning his statewide position, he never came close to scoring a majority of the Minnesota vote. He was re-elected in 2006 on a 47-46% count, a margin of just 22,483 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, defeating then-Attorney General Mike Hatch (D). In 2002, he won a three-way race scoring 44% of the vote against Democrat Roger Moe (36%) and ex-Rep. Tim Penny (16%), who ran as an Independent.

Coming from the upper Midwest should be a plus for Pawlenty in the Iowa Caucuses, the nation’s first official presidential selection event. Typically, as we have seen with Pres. Barack Obama (Illinois), former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (Missouri), and ex-Sen and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (Kansas), all who carried the Hawkeye State at least once, Iowans tend to support candidates from their geographic region. The former Minnesota governor is clearly a dark horse candidate for president, but may have the ability to strike the right chord before an electorate looking for a viable alternative to Mr. Obama. Watch for Pawlenty to fight hard in Iowa. An upset win there could quickly catapult him into the first tier of candidates, thus becoming a factor the rest of the way.
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Special Election Candidates Set in NY-26

Upstate New York Democratic Party county chairmen, in action taken just last night, officially nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to carry the party banner in the special congressional election now scheduled for May 24. The seat was vacated when second-term Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned earlier in the year. Erie County has the largest block of registered voters (149,643) in its portion of the 26th congressional district. Seven full and partial counties comprise the seat.

The Republicans nominated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in late February, giving her a head start in constructing a campaign organization in a district that normally votes for GOP candidates. The 26th, along with Rep. Peter King’s 3rd district, gave John McCain his strongest performance in any New York CD (52%). By contrast, Pres. Barack Obama posted a 62-36% victory statewide.

In recent days, both the New York Conservative and Independence parties have cross-endorsed Corwin. This should give her the necessary right-of-center support to avoid splitting the electorate. The Green Party, now with an official ballot line in New York after posting more than 50,000 votes for their 2010 gubernatorial candidate, did not endorse the Democratic nominee, now Hochul. Rather, the Greens have their own special election candidate, Ian Murphy, who is likely to draw away critical votes from the Democrat, thus further reducing Hochul’s chances of winning.

Jack Davis, the multi-millionaire who sued the federal government over the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold law and successfully overturned the provision in one of his two previous congressional runs, filed as an independent under his own “Tea” label, though he is not part of the actual Tea Party movement. David Bellavia, carrying the Federalist Party label, is the fifth contender and the more genuine Tea Party activist. Davis and Bellavia are independents, but can identify themselves under a party name.

The GOP holds a 241-192 margin in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Retaining the New York seat is important in order to maintain their current House margin. Additionally, with the Empire State losing two seats in
apportionment, the GOP must keep as many seats in the congressional delegation as possible, particularly if the legislative redistricting process cannot produce a final map without going to court. Today, Democrats dominate the New York congressional contingent, 21-7, with the one Republican vacancy.

Now that the Democrats have nominated a candidate, the New York special election campaign is officially underway. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Assemblywoman Corwin should have a relatively easy road to Congress. Rate this seat as “Likely Republican.”
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Angle Running for Congress

A day after Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) announced he will run for the Senate in 2012, two major Nevada Republicans moved toward mounting a congressional race to replace him. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) said he would not challenge Heller for the GOP Senate nomination, but would seriously consider running for the now open 2nd congressional district. Sharron Angle, a former state assemblywoman who became the Republican senatorial nominee in 2010 and lost to Heller in the ’06 Republican congressional primary (by only 421 votes), went further and officially announced her congressional candidacy.

Right now, NV-2 touches all of the Silver State’s 17 counties and must shed 161,424 inhabitants. While all three of Nevada’s current CDs encompass at least some part of Clark County, such will not be the case on the new map and it is likely the 2nd will be removed. At a population of 1.95 million people, Clark County will house just about three full congressional districts. This means the rural 2nd will have Reno/Carson City as its sole population anchor, a place where Angle runs particularly well. Also in the congressional race is Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei and retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold. There is no official Democratic movement on this race, but state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D) is confirming that she is considering running.

NV-2 was designed as a Republican seat in 2001 but has become marginal. George W. Bush scored 57% there in both of his elections, but John McCain carried it by only a few votes in 2008. Heller originally won 50-45%. Expect the 2011 version of the district to be more Republican. With Angle in the race, this will be a campaign to watch.
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Calif. Special Election Called; Ron Klein, Dean Heller In

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has called the special election to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) who resigned at the end of February. The “jungle” primary will be held on May 17 with the general election, if necessary, on July 12. This will be the first test of California’s new election law that allows members of the same party to square-off in a general election. Before, the top vote-getter from each party qualified for the main election. In a special vote, a run-off election is only required if no candidate receives an absolute majority.

In the CA-36 situation, the run-off is a virtual certainty. The two top Democrats, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, are the favorites to qualify for the special general. Republicans are fielding several candidates, but Hahn and Bowen have the name familiarity to punch through a crowded field. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so it would be surprising to see anyone but the two most well-known Dems qualify for the run-off election. The nation’s other special congressional election, with nominees chosen by party caucus, is in NY-26, and will be held May 24. Republicans, in the person of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, are likely to hold this position.

In Florida, it appears that defeated Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL-22) will not seek a re-match with Rep. Allen West (R), as reports are surfacing that Klein will soon announce the acceptance of a lobbying firm position. Klein was first elected in 2006, defeating then-Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R). He was subsequently re-elected in 2008, beating West, but went down 46-54% in the re-match. This south Florida district will be drastically reconfigured in redistricting. The GOP map drawers will need to give West an influx of Republicans since his seat is marginal. It is the only congressional district held by a Republican in both 2004 and 2000, in which President George W. Bush did not perform better. It’s long, craggy north to south design from West Palm Beach into greater Broward County will likely be re-set into a more traditional layout.

In Nevada, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) made official his plan to run for Sen. John Ensign’s (R) open seat. Heller will be the favorite for the Republican nomination. No Democrat has yet stepped forward to announce his or her candidacy, but Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will make her decision about a Senate race by early summer. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller are waiting for the congresswoman to make a decision, but could find themselves entering the race. With Nevada becoming an ever more marginal state and Pres. Obama on the general election ballot in a place he carried 55-43% in 2008, the eventual Democratic nominee will be highly competitive.

Heller vacating the 2nd district, currently a decidedly Republican district that touches all 17 of the state’s counties, will mean a free-for-all occurs in the succeeding primary. Already GOP state chairman Mark Amodei, a former state senator who briefly ran for US Senate in early 2010 before dropping out, says he will run for Congress. Sharron Angle, who became the GOP Senatorial nominee against Majority Leader Harry Reid because of strong Tea Party support, could run here, or against Heller statewide. Angle lost a close congressional primary to Heller back in 2006 before running for Senate in 2010. Depending upon the shape of the re-draw, former Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV-3) is also someone who could jump into such a crowded primary with the ability to do well.

Democrats could find themselves in a similar position if Berkley vacates the safe, Las Vegas-based 1st district. Expect a major Democratic primary there if she decides to run statewide, which could be one reason Masto and Miller are both waiting to see what she does. If districts 1 and 2 are open, and with the state gaining a 4th district, Nevada could see three open seat congressional campaigns next year. Adding the fact that Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd district already has over 1 million inhabitants, the entire Nevada congressional map could easily be re-crafted.

The Silver State is very important in national redistricting and could become even more if the multiple vacancies actually occur.
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Sen. Scott Brown Cruising in Mass.

A new Western New England College Institute poll (March 6-10; survey sample size not disclosed) puts Sen. Scott Brown (R) in a very favorable position for his first re-election next year.

Brown won a special election in Massachusetts in 2010, replacing the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), who passed away before his final term was complete. Originally, a host of Democratic leaders were being mentioned as possible opponents for Sen. Brown, but as he continues to post strong numbers, they are peeling away one-by-one. It is likely that one of the 10 Democratic Congressmen eventually will run, especially with the state losing a seat in reapportionment. The man most often mentioned as a likely Senate candidate, Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-8), still isn’t announcing, however, and this new poll suggests he would fare poorly. According to the Western NE College data, Brown would defeat Capuano 51-38%. When paired with Elizabeth Warren, the assistant to the president and special advisor to the treasury secretary on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Brown leads 51-34%.

But it’s in the favorability ratings where the senator’s strength is underscored, particularly when remembering he is a Republican from Massachusetts. His personal approval is 53:27% and his job approval, surprisingly, is even higher at 57:24%. In comparison, Sen. John Kerry scores 57:34%.

A Republican winning in this most loyal of Democratic states is uncommon, but it’s not unprecedented. Since 1980, Brown is actually the seventh Massachusetts Republican to win a statewide race. Ronald Reagan twice carried the Bay State in his presidential bids, and three gubernatorial candidates won four consecutive elections prior to Brown’s special election victory last year.

Already one pre-2012 election prediction has been proven wrong: we now know the Massachusetts Senate race won’t be an easy Democratic conversion as previously thought.
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House Open Seat Action

With eight U.S. senators (more than 25 percent of the entire 2012 group standing for re-election) already announcing their retirements when the current Congress concludes, another very active campaign cycle is at our doorstep. But the Senate is not the only body that will feature a large number of open seats next year. In 2010, 43 House seats featured no incumbent, a number a bit larger than usual; but it’s possible the vacancy figure will be even higher in the coming election. Counting the dozen new seats from reapportionment, it is conceivable that the current number of 2012 open House races could soon reach 30 (12 new seats, 6 announcements, 12 potential statewide candidacies).

The PDF chart linked below shows the definite and possible open seats, as we know them today. A “possible” vacancy is one in which the incumbent has publicly verified that he or she is at least considering running for another office. No member has yet said they will retire outright.

Click the link below to view the chart re-capping the seats that are open today, and those that soon may be:

House Election Spreadsheet – 2012 Open Seat Chart.pdf
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Senate Contests Already Taking Shape

With announcements from senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Ensign (R-NV) earlier this week that they will retire at the end of the current term, becoming the seventh and eighth such in-cycle senators to do so, it’s time to re-cap who is jockeying for position to succeed all the outgoing incumbents.

Arizona: (Sen. Jon Kyl) – Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is an announced Senatorial candidate. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is considering running, as is ex-Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1). For the Democrats, Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) says he is looking at the race, but has taken no action to begin assembling a campaign as yet. Not much movement yet for the Dems, but they will have a credible nominee and this will likely become a competitive campaign.

Connecticut: (Sen. Joe Lieberman) – Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is an announced candidate and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) will challenge him in the primary. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2), after considering the race, says he will seek re-election. Republican 2008 nominee Linda McMahon is considering running, but the Ds have the inside track in what is a reliable state for them.

Hawaii: (Sen. Daniel Akaka) – Democrats are looking at a crowded field, as this is the first open Senate seat there since 1976. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) and Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are potential candidates. Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and former Honolulu mayor and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann are other possibilities, as is ex-Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2). Republicans have two potential candidates in former Gov. Linda Lingle, who is likely to run, and ex-Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1). Some Democrats are urging Akaka to resign before the term ends and allow Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) to appoint a replacement, thus avoiding what could become a difficult and nasty Democratic primary late in September of 2012. Akaka, however, has given no signal that he favors such an idea. Much action will occur here in the coming months.

Nevada: (Sen. John Ensign) – Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is the key person here. It is expected that he will soon enter the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle are also making statements of interest, but both could also run for Heller’s open House seat if he does in fact vacate. The Republicans will need a clean primary to win in what is becoming a very marginal state for them. Democrats have several options. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will decide over the summer as to what she will do. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is a likely candidate. Secretary of State Ross Miller is expressing interest but says he wants to see what Berkley will do first before he makes a final decision. Should she run statewide, Miller could become a candidate for what will likely be her open safe Democratic House seat. This race will be in the toss-up category all the way to election day.

New Mexico: (Sen. Jeff Bingaman) – Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) is officially a Republican candidate. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is making noises that he might run, setting up the same type of toxic primary that defeated Wilson in 2006 and gave Sen. Tom Udall (D) an easy run in the general election. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM-2), the man who defeated Wilson for that nomination and came back to re-claim his House seat against an incumbent in 2010, hasn’t ruled out another Senatorial run, but he’s likely to seek re-election instead. Democratic state Auditor Hector Balderas is virtually certain to run. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) is a potential candidate. Should Wilson win the primary, this could become a competitive race.

North Dakota: (Sen. Kent Conrad) – Republicans are poised to convert this open seat, just as they did in 2010 with Sen. John Hoeven. The GOP has multiple options, including freshman at-large Rep. Rick Berg, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Public Utilities Commissioner Brian Kalk, among others. Democrats have a weak bench and are unlikely to field a top tier candidate.

Texas: (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison) – Texas will feature a crowded Republican primary and a sure run-off. In the race are recently resigned Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, along with former Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is expected to run but will likely announce after the legislative session concludes in June. Democrats have already coalesced around former state Comptroller John Sharp, who has lost his last two statewide races, to current Gov. Rick Perry and Dewhurst, both for Lt. Governor. Republicans have the inside track to holding the seat regardless of who eventually becomes their nominee.

Virginia: (Sen. Jim Webb) – All eyes are on former Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Clearly a person who could become the party’s consensus candidate, Kaine has still not made any announcement and reportedly is truly undecided about running. The more time elapses, the less likely it becomes that Kaine will become a candidate. Defeated Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5) is someone to whom the Democrats will likely turn without Kaine in the field. Former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA-9) is being mentioned as a potential contender, but he’s unlikely to run. Former Sen. and Gov. George Allen, the man Webb unseated in 2006, is back for another run and should easily capture the Republican nomination. Allen’s numbers are still relatively weak, as he ties Kaine in early polling and leads the others by only small, single-digit margins. This will be another tough Senatorial contest.

To secure a new majority in 2012, Republicans will have to convert at least two of these aforementioned seats and hold all of the ones they are risking. The GOP needs a minimum switch of four net seats to return to majority status. Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 in-cycle races.
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New Missouri Senate Numbers

With the presidential race soon to take the political center stage, it’s clear that we will have an exciting side-show, too. Eight senators already announced their retirement, and as many as 20 of the 33 statewide campaigns could become competitive. One of the races that is sure to be hotly contested is Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D) re-election battle in Missouri. Though some of the more well-known politicians are taking a pass on the race, a new poll continues to show that she is in a dogfight even against opponents who have not fully established themselves as recognizable statewide candidates.

Public Policy Polling (March 6; 612 registered Missouri voters) just released the results of their new Show Me State poll. It shows McCaskill failing to break 46% against any of the Republican candidates taking action to run against her. McCaskill’s lead is tight, already putting the race in toss-up range. Against former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman, the senator leads only 45-42%. When paired with former gubernatorial chief of staff and ex-congressional candidate Ed Martin, McCaskill does better but still can’t break away; she’s ahead 46-40%. PPP also tested Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), who’s tip-toeing around the idea of running, according to reports. There, the McCaskill lead closes to just one point, 45-44%.

The senator’s job approval rating, according to this new data, is also troubling for her. The favorable to unfavorable count breaks down at 45:44%. Though her ratio is virtually even, the fact that 89% have an opinion, and half of that is negative, clearly makes her vulnerable to outside challenge. Expect this race to remain a toss-up until the end.
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