Monthly Archives: May 2011

Former Illinois Rep. Foster Coming Back

The “send” button had been barely pushed releasing the new Illinois congressional district map, and former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), defeated in 2010 for re-election by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R), 45-51 percent, says he will run again next year in the newly created 11th district. No present incumbent currently resides in the proposed IL-11 and the inclusion of the city of Aurora gives Foster a base in the new territory. The seat is designed as a Democratic gain.

From Aurora, a western Chicago suburb, the new district meanders eastward to pick up the city of Naperville and then darts even further east, closer to south Chicago. It then juts south all the way to annex the city of Joliet. The current 11th, represented by freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is spilt into no less than eight districts.

Mr. Foster, however, will not likely win the new 11th without a fight. Wealthy insurance executive John Atkinson (D), who had already signaled his intention to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) because he believes the Congressman does not work closely enough with President Obama, now finds his home in the new open seat. Atkinson did not give a firm indication of where he might run, but clearly the Democratic legislative leaders want to avoid the intra-party challenge.

The current Illinois delegation count stands at 11R-8D. In losing a seat in reapportionment, early analyses show that Democrats could come away with a maximum 13-5 split under the new lines, as most of the Republican incumbents find themselves placed in districts with a GOP colleague or more. The map is expected to sail through the legislature and be signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn (D).
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The Angle-less Special Election in Nevada’s 2nd

Nevada's congressional districts. The 2nd extends north over the entire remainder of the state.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed conservative who upset the Republican establishment with her GOP Senatorial primary win last year, abruptly announced that she will not file as a candidate for the Sept. 13 special congressional election in Nevada’s 2nd district. Expressing displeasure toward the electoral system chosen for the early fall vote, Angle said the technical procedures are “…an illegitimate process that disenfranchises the electorate.”

Originally, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election would be open to all, and decided in just one voting contest. Termed a “ballot royal,” Miller copied the system used in Hawaii that features no nomination process. All candidates would have equal access to the special general ballot and the person receiving the most votes, regardless of percentage, wins the seat.

Miller made this ruling for several reasons. Primarily, it is the system that best gives his Democratic Party a chance of capturing the seat. Angle would have been strong within this format because of her solid political base, but so would a unified Democratic Party solidifying behind one candidate. If the Republicans split their votes among several contenders, the analysis showed, the Democrats, limiting their candidates to just state Treasurer Kate Marshall, could successfully steal the Republican-leaning seat.

Republicans objected to Miller’s dictate, saying he wrongly interpreted state election law. The parties themselves, the GOP argued, should be allowed to choose their nominees in caucus, similar to New York’s law, and have just two major party candidates on the ballot. Last week, a lower court judge ruled in favor of the GOP lawsuit saying that Miller’s decision was “unreasonable and absurd.” The Secretary of State and the Democratic Party are appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Candidates were originally to have filed earlier in the week (May 25th), but the judicial ruling forced Miller to extend the candidate declaration deadline all the way through June 30th. The state high court will likely make a ruling before the deadline expires.

It is obvious that Angle believes the Supreme Court will uphold the lower court ruling and allow the state party central committees to choose the special election nominees. She also knows she is not the choice of the Nevada Republican establishment. In her statement, Ms. Angle said she would consider running for public office again and did not eliminate the possibility of competing for the 2nd district in the regular cycle.

Though NV-2 will have a new incumbent before the 2012 general election, it is likely the new 2nd will be more to Angle’s liking. The current configuration in the three-seat state map allows the 2nd to touch all of Nevada’s 17 counties including dominant Clark, home to the city of Las Vegas.

Though the state’s new four-seat congressional map is in limbo today, the basic design seems clear. The Democratic legislature passed a map that had a similar look to the Republicans’ draw, but a far different partisan complexion and it led to a Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) veto. Though further effort was made up until legislative adjournment, the map will end up in court and judges will develop the final blueprint. Since the legislative intent clearly makes two Las Vegas city districts, one rural Clark County seat that stretches to the central part of the state, and a final district, the 2nd, that contains only the northern half of the state with its population anchors of Reno and Carson City, such will likely be the final map’s basis. In the two Democratic maps and one Republican, each used this same fundamental design.

This version will play right into Angle’s hands and may be what’s driving her decision to sit out the special election. Though she will face an incumbent in either the 2012 primary or the general vote, the district will be much different than the one electing the new congressman. So, it is very possible Ms. Angle will come roaring back in the regular cycle.

Republicans should win the seat, but after their party’s recent debacle in the NY-26 special election, it’s clear that anything can happen in these low turnout, irregular electoral contests.
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Draft Rick Perry?

A surprising group of people have formed a presidential draft committee for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Though the Republican four-term chief executive has said he is not running for president, five California Republican state legislators think he should. The group, led by northern California Assemblyman Dan Logue and four of his colleagues, say they want Perry to run because of his strong job creation record. Logue and a delegation of Golden State legislators recently traveled to Austin to meet with Perry and others to determine why Texas is adding employment and California is hemorrhaging business opportunities. The draft committee founders believe the Perry policies that have led to 165,000 new Texas jobs being created during the past three years, while California has lost a commensurate 1.2 million positions, is the type of leadership the country needs nationally.

A “Perry for President” campaign, even starting at this late date, could potentially become serious. With no candidate now being able to lay claim to the important southern states, a southwestern governor with a strong, conservative record such as Mr. Perry would have marked potential. Rick Perry may be yet another individual to watch as the presidential sweepstakes now begin to take shape in earnest.
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Democrats Convert Seat in New York’s 26th

Democratic/Working Families Party nominee Kathy Hochul, who began as little more than a sacrificial lamb in what should be a relatively safe Republican district, won the special election last night to succeed former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Mr. Lee resigned the seat earlier in the year to avoid publicizing an impending personal scandal. Ms. Hochul, the Erie County clerk, defeated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin who held the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party ballot lines, along with Independent Jack Davis. Hochul’s margin was 47-43-9% against Corwin and Davis, respectively.

Turnout appeared to be low, especially in comparison to the previous upstate specials that broke 35 percent in voter participation. Approximately 115,000 people cast ballots, not counting what are likely several thousand yet-to-be-tabulated absentee votes. The turnout rate was hovering around 28 percent.

The two most recent pollsters called the race accurately. The closing surveys, one from Siena College and the other Public Policy Polling, showed Hochul holding four- and six-point leads, respectively, during the weekend directly preceding the election. The final margin, as revealed above, was four points.

The result allows the Democrats to extend their strong performances in special elections and adds to the commensurate Republican woes, particularly in multi-candidate upstate New York contests. The Hochul victory represents the third such favorable Democratic result in the last four New York special elections, even though the Republicans were favored at the beginning of each race.

The focal point of the campaign became Independent Jack Davis who labeled himself with the word “Tea.” New York election law allows qualifying Independents to describe themselves in a similar manner to party designation labels for the major candidates. Davis, however, was not a Tea Party member. He previously ran for Congress three times as a liberal Democrat. The Davis candidacy sparked confusion and controversy, thus causing Republican nominee Corwin to make unforced errors that ultimately cost her the seat. At one point, Davis was polling within just a few points of Hochul and Corwin, topping out at 23 percent. Then, both the Democrats and Republicans unloaded on Davis, ultimately costing him two-thirds of his potential support.

Aligned with the Conservative and Independence parties in a seat drawn for the GOP, this special election should have gone the Republicans’ way. Again, as had been the case in what proved to be a disastrous 23rd district contest (Rep. Bill Owens) two different times for Republicans, a minor party candidate cut against the GOP nominee and cost them the seat.

Total spending among the contenders broke $7 million, but the three candidates themselves contributed over $5 million of that total. Davis is a multi-millionaire who has traditionally self-funded his campaigns. He spent more than $2.6 million for this special election. Corwin dumped a similar amount into her campaign.

Outside entity spending was interesting. According to the latest OpenSecrets.org analysis, $1.99 million, in addition to the candidates’ cumulative total, was injected by independent organizations. A great deal of those expenditures, better than $755,000 worth, were targeted in opposition to Davis. More than $541,000 went against Hochul, and an additional $471,000 targeted Corwin. Both major party candidates also received positive independent expenditures, but those totaled less than $150,000 apiece.

The count in the House is now 241 Republicans and 193 Democrats with one vacancy. The open California 36th district will be filled on July 12th. Democrat Janice Hahn is a heavy favorite in that campaign. The New York delegation will now head into redistricting, where the state loses two seats in reapportionment, with 22 Democrats and seven Republicans.

Democrats will attempt to frame this election as a referendum on Medicare, as they continually attacked Corwin for saying she would support the controversial Ryan budget plan. The Republican never effectively countered the attack. The bigger issue, however, was the repeated Corwin mistakes that once again allowed a New York Republican seat to slip through the GOP’s fingers. In a special election, when turnout is always down and sometimes not reflective of a district’s voting patterns, the candidate running the more competent campaign generally wins. Clearly, Ms. Hochul was the superior campaigner in NY-26 during this battle.
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A Wide-Open Republican Presidential Field

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ announcement over the weekend that he would not seek the presidency means the Republican nomination is completely up for grabs. Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a substantial lead in the New Hampshire primary according to a new CNN/WMUR-TV poll (784 New Hampshire adults, 347 Republicans), the same data shows that 87 percent of those sampled have not definitely decided who they will support for president. In the south, the heart of the Republican nomination voter base, no remaining candidate has the inside track to winning the critical South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia primaries, among others.

With southern favorites like ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and presumably former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin all out of the race, does this open the door for others such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Both have made recent comments suggesting that they could enter the race. Giuliani would jump-start his campaign with a strong New Hampshire strategy, where Perry would be attractive to the base conservative voter, particularly those residing in the south. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now an official candidate, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), a likely one, could hurt each other in neighboring Iowa, since they may negate what could be each other’s regional advantage in the first-in-the-nation caucus. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who usually polls toward the end of the top tier of candidates, has stumbled out of the gate with a series of early gaffes.

This Republican primary is shaping up to become the most wide open race we’ve seen in the modern political era.
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Who Knows in New York’s 26th?

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York’s 26th district and the latest Siena College poll (May 18-20; 639 likely New York-26 voters) tells us that either Democrat Kathy Hochul or Republican Jane Corwin can win. Independent Jack Davis, who has become the focal point of the controversial campaign, has fallen out of contention. The seat came open upon the resignation of Rep. Christopher Lee (R) in order to avoid impending public scandal. Siena College, located just north of Albany, NY, has a history of conducting political polls, particularly in New York State.

According to the data, Hochul leads 32-28-12 percent over Corwin and Davis, respectively. This represents quite a change, particularly for the Independent, from Siena’s last poll. In late April (April 26-27), Corwin held a 36-31 percent lead over Hochul, with Davis polling at 23 percent. The new results show Hochul holding strong with the Democratic base (gaining one point overall) and Corwin dropping eight percentage points, while Davis loses half of his support. In April, 90 percent of the respondents had decided upon a candidate but in this latest survey only 72 percent did so, meaning a full 18% of the two groups making up the pair of diverse sampling universes drifted into the undecided column. Because of the conflicting and confusing messages coming from the candidates during the past month, such a result is not surprising.

This campaign has been one of the oddest in recent memory because both Hochul and Corwin employed virtually the same strategy in dealing with Davis. Both feature him in their negative ads, always portraying him as being in the same camp with their major party opponent. The idea was to align Davis with their most serious competitor in order to steer ideological partisans from both parties toward the Independent, in addition to solidifying their own bases. Thus, voters were seeing double-barreled negative messages about Davis over his seemingly paradoxical philosophical association with each candidate.

Jack Davis, 78, is a multi-millionaire businessman who has run for Congress three times before, all as a Democrat. Previously campaigning from the ideological left, Davis adopted the “Tea” label in his Independent special election bid and is trying to cast himself as being a conservative budget hawk. He attacks both parties as entities that have lost the American people’s confidence. Davis, through his 2006 legal challenge, negated the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that allowed political opponents to raise triple the individual contribution limit if another candidate spent more than $350,000 of his or her own money. The Supreme Court cemented the ruling in 2008.

This special election should have been easily in Assemblywoman Corwin’s column. It is a marginally safe Republican seat and with her earning the Conservative and Independence Party endorsements, the race appeared to be the upstate legislator’s to lose. But a series of gaffes, including having her Assembly chief of staff accost Davis on camera about the latter lacking the “courage” to debate, derailed her campaign. The stunt badly backfired and the Corwin campaign, despite a sizable funding advantage, came unglued and lost the upper hand. Hochul has consistently maintained the Democratic base support and run the more competent campaign. In a close three-way race, these two factors could be enough to steal victory.

The Siena poll shows that both Hochul and Corwin are keeping their party bases, but the former is performing better. The Erie County Clerk gets 76 percent of Democrats compared to 66 percent of Republicans for Corwin. Independents are breaking toward Hochul by a 44-36 percent rate.

Predicting special elections and low turnout voting is extremely difficult, so this poll basically suggests that either Hochul or Corwin can win tomorrow. Turnout is likely to be high, in special election terms, if the two 2009 upstate NY elections are any indication. Both the 20th and 23rd districts turned out just over 161,000 voters when the people filled those respective vacancies. These numbers represent about 35 percent of the registered voters in those particular districts.

The recent New York special congressional elections have been debacles for the Republicans and tomorrow’s election could follow that same pattern. Whichever party can best get their voters to the polls will win. Tomorrow night tells the tale.
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Bowen Concedes in Calif.; Surprise Ruling in Nevada; Hirono for Senate in Hawaii

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) conceded her fate yesterday in the special congressional election, offering her congratulations to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Craig Huey (R) for advancing to the general election. Hahn placed first and clinched position No. 1 for the July 12 special general, but the second and final slot was in doubt as absentee ballot counting continued. Huey surprised everyone by nipping Bowen by just over 200 votes on election night, but more than 10,000 absentee ballots had not been tabulated. Once the post-election counting began, and Huey actually increased his margin over Bowen to more than 700 votes, the Secretary of State announced her concession.

This is a surprise result. Most believed that Hahn and Bowen would advance to the special general and be in a close contest. Under California’s new election law, as approved by voters in a 2010 ballot initiative, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election.

The 36th congressional special election — held after Rep. Jane Harman (D) resigned to accept a position with an international relations think tank — was the first test of the new election law in a federal campaign. But even under this new structure, a Democrat and a Republican will face each other in a one-on-one general election. Because of the heavy Democratic nature of this district, Councilwoman Hahn, previously defeated for this congressional seat in 1998 and then later for lieutenant governor, becomes the prohibitive favorite to win in July.

Nevada’s 2nd:

A Nevada state judge yesterday sided with a state Republican Party legal motion and over-turned Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller’s directive that the Sept. 13 special election in the 2nd congressional district be held in an open jungle ballot format. The judge accepted the GOP argument that the respective state parties have the power to nominate their own standard bearers in a special election. The Democrats will likely appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, a panel more likely to be favorable toward their position. The action was a bit of a surprise because the judge removed the people’s’ ability to choose candidates and put it in the hands of the state political party organizations. Under the ruling, the parties would have until June 30th to nominate their candidates. The original filing deadline for the jungle, winner-take-all, election was May 25th.

The ruling will have a great effect upon 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle who has a strong chance of winning in the jungle election format, but is unlikely to secure the Republican nomination from a panel of state party officials. Democrats believe the jungle ballot approach favors them if they can unite behind one strong candidate and the Republicans remain split. So far, though, more than one strong Democrat is in the race. Much more will happen, and quickly, to finally determine how this election will be conducted.

Hawaii Senate

Across the Pacific Ocean in the 50th state of Hawaii, two-term Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) announced that she will run for the Senate next year. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring. Hirono has high approval ratings and will certainly be a strong candidate in both the Democratic primary and general elections. In fact, a new Ward Research poll (May 4-10; 614 registered Hawaii voters) shows Hirono in the strongest position of any Democrat if former Gov. Linda Lingle becomes the Republican nominee. Hirono would defeat Lingle 57-35 percent according to the data. Former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) is already a Senatorial candidate. Other potential Democratic contenders are Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Because Lingle loses to all of the aforementioned in hypothetical pairings, the Democrats are the early favorites to hold the open seat in next year’s general election.
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It’s Not Over in California’s 36th

The 36th special congressional primary appeared to have placed Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Chris Huey (R) in the July 12th general election, but we now discover that all the votes have yet to be counted. In fact, approximately 10,000 absentee ballots remain to be tabulated. The outstanding votes are certainly enough to propel third place finisher, Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), past Huey and into the final run-off position. California recently changed its election law to allow the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, to qualify for the general election.

Several post-election analyses were suggesting that Huey making the run-off, if it stands, is a major upset but the actual statistics don’t support such a conclusion. In aggregate, the Democrats received 56.7 percent of the vote versus the total Republican 40.9 percent tally. Last November, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) carried the 36th with a 56-41 percent margin over GOP nominee Meg Whitman, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) matched the previous Democratic total (56%) in her race against businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Therefore, last night’s results actually reflect a normal partisan division for this Los Angeles Harbor area district.

Regardless of the final outcome, the Democrats are in the driver’s seat to win in July, most likely in the person of Ms. Hahn.
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Upset City in California’s 36th CD

The late west coast special congressional election ended surprisingly last night. While it appeared that California’s new election law allowing the top two finishers to advance to the general election, regardless of political party, would favor the local Democrats in Rep. Jane Harman’s (D) vacated seat, it didn’t, as Secretary of State Debra Bowen was nipped for second place by conservative businessman Craig Huey. The Republican will move onto the July 12 special general election against first-place finisher Janice Hahn (D), a Los Angeles City Council member.

In all, 16 candidates were on the ballot. Below is the order of finish for the top vote-getters:

Janice Hahn (D) …………. 13,137 ……….. 24.7%
Craig Huey (R) ………….. 11,648 ………… 21.9%

Debra Bowen (D) ……….. 11,442 ……….. 21.5%
Marcy Winograd (D) …….. 5,066 ……….. 9.5%
Mike Gin (R) ……………….. 4,145 …………. 7.8%

It was assumed that Bowen, the Secretary of State and former state senator and assembly member from the Los Angeles harbor area would battle Hahn in the general election. Though Huey snatched second place, the district did perform as one would expect from a partisan context. The Democratic candidates received a cumulative 56.7 percent, while the Republicans garnered an aggregate 40.9 percent. Total turnout was a very low 53,266, for a TO percentage of 15.3 percent.

Hahn becomes a big favorite for the special general election, and then we’ll see what happens to the region in redistricting.

Senate Candidates Coming Forward

The political situation surrounding three U.S. Senate states became clearer yesterday. With Friday’s announcement from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) saying he would not seek a fourth term next year, the Wisconsin political merry-go-round immediately began circling and an old familiar face came forward.

After House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) decided to remain in his current position, former Gov. Tommy Thompson began making it known that he is interested in running for the open seat. Thompson served four terms as governor from 1987 to 2001 and then became Pres. George W. Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. He made an ill-fated run for the presidency in 2008, failing to even get out of the starting blocks. The 69-year-old Thompson’s entry would be a bit of a surprise, since he considered running statewide several times after leaving the state house and then repeatedly stated his disinclination to initiate another political campaign.

Should he get back into the game in 2012, Mr. Thompson may draw serious primary opposition. Former Reps. Mark Green (R-WI-8) and Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), who have both previously lost statewide campaigns, have not ruled out running for the Senate. The state legislature’s brother tandem of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald have also been mentioned as potential Senate contenders.

Wisconsin Democrats will have a strong field of potential candidates from which to choose. Leading the group is former Sen. Russ Feingold who was defeated for re-election in 2010. Before Sen. Kohl announced his retirement, Feingold said he was not considering running in 2012 even if the Senate seat were to open. Now that Kohl is stepping aside, Feingold has a real decision to make. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) and former Milwaukee mayor and congressman Tom Barrett, who lost to Gov. Scott Walker in November, are both potential candidates. Regardless of who ultimately chooses to run, this open seat contest is likely to become 2012’s premier Senate race.

In Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) has finally indicated that he will run for the Senate, ending weeks of speculation. Since two Republicans have already announced they are running for his congressional seat, as if it were already open, Akin’s Senate announcement seems anticlimactic. He enters a primary against former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman of Springfield and possibly healthcare company CEO John Brunner from St. Louis. Steelman has the potential of becoming a strong candidate, so an Akin nomination should not be considered a foregone conclusion.

The winner of the Missouri Republican Senatorial primary will face vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), seeking her first re-election to the post she originally won in 2006. Missouri’s recent voting history plus her failure to pay property taxes on an airplane that her husband partially owns has brought this race into the toss-up zone. Missouri was the closest state in the 2008 presidential campaign as John McCain slipped past Pres. Obama by just 3,903 votes. It was only the second time since 1900 that Missouri failed to side with the winner in the presidential contest. Last election, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO-7) scored an impressive 13-point victory over Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), sister of current Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3). Hence, the last two elections may signal that Missouri voters are moving decidedly to the right.

The open North Dakota seat also saw its first major entry. Freshman Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) announced via video on Monday that he will run for the retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D) open seat. Berg should coast to the Republican nomination and becomes the prohibitive favorite to convert the seat for his party in the general election. Public Utilities Commissioner Brian Kalk had already announced for the Republican Senatorial nomination, but he is expected to drop down to the open House race. Most of the North Dakota political action will now center around Berg’s vacated at-large House district.
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Trump’s Exit: What Effect?

Real estate magnate Donald Trump announced yesterday that he will not seek the presidency next year, but says he could have won. Indicating that his true passion is still business and not politics, Trump decided to take a pass on joining the Republican field of candidates.

His exit is not likely to alter the race all that much since his support, though appearing to be relatively wide, would have proven to be quite shallow. Despite his own favorable analysis about his prospects, Trump had little chance to win the Republican nomination. His polling status was mostly built on name identification from his high-profile business and television exploits over a long period of years. Once the other candidates and news media began attacking his past public positions and business record, particularly as it relates to owning gambling casinos, along with his flamboyant personal life, one can quickly determine that Mr. Trump was not compatible with the Republican primary electorate in most states. Obviously, the departure of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will considerably change the GOP presidential picture, but the never-to-be Trump for President campaign was little more than a blip on the political radar screen.
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Huckabee, McCotter Say ‘No’; Succeeding Sen. Kohl; W.Va. Gov. Results

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee officially took himself out of the 2012 presidential race Saturday night, announcing his decision on the Fox News television program that he hosts. Despite performing very well in preliminary presidential polling, Mr. Huckabee simply stated that his heart was not in another run. Instead, he will devote his time to the “Huckabee” television program and will continue with radio commentaries, speeches, and public appearances. Mr. Huckabee further committed to actively supporting conservative and pro-life candidates for public office.

The decision was not particularly surprising. Though included in virtually every national and early state primary poll, Huckabee had done nothing to operationally construct a campaign apparatus, a sure sign that a candidate is not serious about running. The effect on the rest of the field is unknown, but his sizable base of support will likely disperse to some of the more conservative candidates.

Michigan Senate

As quickly as speculation was beginning to surface suggesting that Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) might challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) next year, the five-term congressman made public his quick and definitive decision. In a statement over the weekend, Mr. McCotter said he will not run for the Senate in 2012. All nine GOP members of the Michigan congressional delegation have now taken themselves out of competition against Stabenow. Though appearing vulnerable, the Republicans have yet to field a strong candidate.

Wisconsin Senate

Turning to Wisconsin, on Friday afternoon Sen. Herb Kohl (D) made public his intention not to seek a fourth term next year. This sets up what could be a very competitive Badger State open seat political campaign. Kohl is the ninth in-cycle senator to announce a return to private life. Eight of these particular seats will be open in 2012. Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) has already resigned with Dean Heller (R) replacing him for the remainder of the current term. Hence, Sen. Heller’s new status for his 2012 political run will be that of an appointed incumbent.

There is likely to be a great deal of speculation surrounding potential candidates for the Wisconsin Senate seat. On the Democratic side, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold will be the person most discussed. Feingold, before Sen. Kohl opted out of another campaign, said he had no intention of running in 2012, even if the seat came open. Now that it has, Feingold will quickly be pressed for a decision. He served three six-year terms, originally being elected in 1992. He was defeated in 2010 by now-Sen. Ron Johnson (R) 47-52 percent.

Should Mr. Feingold not return to elective politics, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) will be a person who attracts noticeable attention as a potential Senatorial candidate. Second District Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is saying she will consider running statewide, too. Likewise for defeated Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Barrett. Prior to his run for governor, Mr. Barrett was mayor of Milwaukee and a former congressman.

On the Republican side, all eyes will preliminarily be on House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), who also is not ruling out a Senatorial bid. The author of the Ryan budget, which the Democrats are excoriating as the vehicle that destroys Medicare, will be a huge political target no matter what office he chooses to seek. Ryan has more than $3 million in his campaign account, so he starts any campaign in very strong financial shape.

West Virginia Governor

The special West Virginia gubernatorial primary was held on Saturday. As expected, Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin easily won the Democratic nomination. He tallied 40 percent of the vote over state House Speaker Rick Thompson who was strongly backed by organized labor and placed a surprising second (24 percent). Secretary of State Natalie Tennant who, early in the race was believed to be Tomblin’s strongest challenger, finished a disappointing third with 17 percent.

An upset occurred on the Republican side, proving again that virtually unknown candidates are still performing better in GOP primaries than more familiar politicians. Businessman Bill Maloney, who polling showed was gaining momentum toward the end of the race, took advantage of the political wind at his back and claimed an easy 45-31 percent win over former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Total voter turnout was only 16 percent of the statewide registered voters pool. Tomblin and Maloney will now square-off in a special general election scheduled for Oct. 4. The nomination of Maloney now turns this contest into a potentially interesting campaign.
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Elections are Right Around the Corner

By this time next week, we will know the results of a special congressional election and two statewide primaries. And, on May 24, in upstate New York, another congressional vote follows. We will present an update report on the NY-26 race when that particular election approaches.

Saturday, May 14 – West Virginia Governor:
When Joe Manchin was elected to the Senate last year, he left the governor’s office with two years remaining on his final term. Under a rather ambiguous state succession law, it was determined that state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D) would become acting governor, but a special election would still be held to fill the unexpired portion of the gubernatorial term. The special election winner would serve the remaining 14+ months of the term but would be eligible to run for a full four years in the regular 2012 election.

Because every West Virginia office holder has a free ride for the special election, both parties drew very crowded fields. For the Democrats, aside from Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state Treasurer John Perdue, state Senate President Jeff Kessler, and WV House Speaker Rick Thompson are all in the field of candidates. When the biggest Republican name, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) decided not to enter the race, a plethora of eight Republican candidates jumped into the race, led by former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Westover Mayor Cliff Ellis and Senate Minority Whip Clark Barnes appear to be among the most serious challengers to Ireland.

Heading into Saturday’s election, it appears that Tomblin has a sizable polling lead among Democrats, as does Ireland for the Republicans. The special general election won’t be until Oct. 4, meaning a rather long special cycle. Should Tomblin win the Democratic nomination as expected, he will begin the special general in the favorite’s position.

Tuesday, May 17 – Kentucky Governor:
While the other elections are all of the irregular variety, the Kentucky vote is regular. The Blue Grass State normally elects its governor and statewide constitutional officers in the odd-numbered years. Tuesday should be a yawner in the governors’ race, however. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is seeking re-election and remains unopposed for his party’s nomination. Republicans feature three sets of candidates, as gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates run as a team, even in primary elections. State Senate President David Williams and his running mate, Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, appear to be the decided front-runners for the GOP nomination.

With a clear financial advantage and the voting history trends decidedly favoring the Democratic candidate in Kentucky governor races, Beshear becomes a prohibitive favorite in the major party match-up with Williams for the Nov. 8 general election. Five other offices: attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and agriculture commissioner, will also being decided during this regular election cycle.

Tuesday, May 17 – CA-36 Special Election
California Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned her seat early in the term to accept a position with a foreign policy think tank, forced the Democrats to risk a congressional seat mid-term. Fortunately for them, CA-36 is safely Democratic and the new election laws now allow candidates of the same party to qualify for the general election, meaning their prospects of retaining the seat are even brighter. Considering the field of candidates and the Democratic nature of this district (Obama ’08: 64; Bush ’04: 40) it is likely that two specific individuals will qualify for the special general.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D), who previously ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat in 1998, losing to Republican Steve Kuykendall who then turned around and lost to Harman two years later, and then subsequently lost a statewide Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, should qualify for the special general election. By bringing in $423,000+ by April 27, Ms. Hahn was the leading fundraising in the race and has significant name identification in the region.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), who was just re-elected to her second and final four-year term as a statewide official, hopped into the race to preserve her long-term political future. Bowen represented large portions of this Los Angeles harbor district during her tenure in both the state Assembly and Senate. Bowen raised $338,000 by the same April 27 disclosure filing deadline. Based upon the strength of the candidates and the CA-36 voting patterns, it would be shocking if someone other than these two ladies moves onto the general election. (There are a total of 16 candidates on the ballot: five Democrats, six Republicans, and five Independents.)

As in the other states hosting gubernatorial elections, the length of this special general cycle is also long. The second election is scheduled for July 12th. A Hahn-Bowen general election will be interesting because both candidates are strong and credible with solid name identification. The summer election will likely become hotly contested because both women possess political strengths. Councilwoman Hahn should place first in the primary and begin the special general election as a slight favorite. In any event, the district will easily remain in Democratic hands, regardless of which of their candidates finally claims the seat in mid-July.
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Wisconsin’s Sen. Kohl To Retire

News reports breaking in Wisconsin say that Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has scheduled a retirement announcement at noon Central time. If this proves accurate, Mr. Kohl will be the ninth Senator elected in 2006 not to seek re-election in 2012.

Open Seats – (8)
1. Arizona (Kyl-R)
2. Connecticut (Lieberman-I-D)
3. Hawaii (Akaka-D)
4. New Mexico (Bingaman-D)
5. North Dakota (Conrad-D)
6. Texas (Hutchison-R)
7. Virginia (Webb-D)
8. Wisconsin (Kohl-D)

Note: Nevada, which was on the open seat list is no longer so. Sen. John Ensign (R) resigned and has been replaced by Sen. Dean Heller (R), so this seat returns to the incumbent column.

Even Newer Virginia Senate Poll: Still Close

Public Policy Polling (May 5-8; 547 registered VA voters) went into the field among Virginia voters on the heels of the recently released Washington Post poll and arrived at virtually the same conclusion: The race between former Sen. and Gov. George Allen (R) and ex-DNC Chairman and Gov. Tim Kaine (D) is a dead heat. According to PPP, Kaine has the slightest of leads over Allen, 48-46 percent. The Post’s poll from a few days before (April 28 – May 4; 1,040 VA registered voters) gave both candidates 46 percent. Each posts rather weak numbers on the PPP favorability scale, however. Kaine scored a 42:41 percent favorable to unfavorable versus Allen’s upside down 36:42 percent. The Post’s numbers were considerably better for both men (Kaine 56:28 percent; Allen 51:26 percent), suggesting that the two pollsters implemented different sample selection methodologies. Interestingly, even with these highly divergent favorability ratings, both sets of respondents reported virtually the same ballot test numbers.

The PPP data shows that 50 percent of the polling sample respondents report voting for President Obama in 2008 compared with 44 percent who said they supported John McCain. This is close to the 53-46 percent Obama margin officially recorded during the election, thus providing another point of verification for the PPP study even though their sample size is much smaller.
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