Monthly Archives: August 2011

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part II

In concluding our two-part series about House members who will face serious 2012 re-election challenges, below we list 22 more competitive incumbents from states where redistricting has been completed or which is pending but clear.

IN-8 – Larry Bucshon (R) – In attempting to gain a 7R-2D advantage for the delegation, the 8th district of freshman Rep. Bucshon was weakened, from the Republican perspective. Expect competition here, but the new incumbent remains the favorite.

IA-3 – Leonard Boswell (D) / Tom Latham (R) – In the only intra-party pairing of the new election cycle so far, veteran Reps. Boswell and Latham square-off in a marginal district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the new district, but the voting patterns tilt a touch toward Mr. Latham. This race begins as a pure toss-up.

IA-4 – Steve King (R) – The new western-based 4th district is mostly comprised of Rep. King’s current 5th district and part of Mr. Latham’s old 4th. Christie Vilsack (D), wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack who serves as President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, already has announced her intention to challenge Rep. King. This will be a competitive race because of Vilsack’s fundraising capability. However, King begins with the decided advantage.

LA-3 – Jeff Landry (R) / Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat pits freshman Rep. Jeff Landry against veteran Charles Boustany in a Republican primary battle. The winner retains the seat. Boustany is the early favorite.

MI-9 – Sander Levin (D) / Gary Peters (D) – Michigan’s loss of a district pairs 15-term Rep. Levin against two-term Rep. Peters. Levin, who will be 80 at the time of the next election, is a retirement possibility. Peters has also tested the waters to run for Oakland County Executive. The winner of this primary battle, should it occur, holds the seat.

MO-2 – Russ Carnahan (D) – The loss of a seat in Missouri has forced Rep. Carnahan either to challenge Rep. Lacy Clay in the 1st district Democratic primary or try to survive in the neighboring Republican 2nd district seat, in open status because Rep. Todd Akin is running for the Senate. Carnahan is competitive here, but will be the underdog.

NH-2 – Charlie Bass (R) – The 2nd district is now more like Vermont than New Hampshire in terms of voting patterns. This means the seat is decidedly Democratic. Rep. Bass regained the position he lost in 2006, but by just one percentage point over Democratic lobbyist Anne McLane Kuster. Redistricting must move only 254 people between the two districts, so Bass’s hopes for a more Republican seat are gone. This is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

NY-25 – Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – Though redistricting won’t be completed well into next year, we can count on a competitive race in this Syracuse-based district. Chances are the city will remain intact, meaning it will anchor a seat in the Upstate region. Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D), the man Ms. Buerkle unseated in 2010, has already announced his intention to run again next year.

NC-3 – Rep. Walter Jones (R) – Though Rep. Jones has a safe Republican seat in which to run for re-election, the district has vast new territory for him. Already, retired New Bern Police Chief Frank Palumbo (R) has announced a GOP primary challenge to Mr. Jones. Others could follow suit.

NC-4 – David Price (D) / Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan placed two Democratic incumbents in a seat that now stretches from Raleigh to Fayetteville. This will be a difficult primary as each man represents about one-third of this new district. The winner retains the seat for the Democrats.

NC-7 – Mike McIntyre (D) – Redistricting also threw Rep. McIntyre into a difficult district. This will be a top Republican conversion target. Both 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano and state Sen. David Rouzer (R) have announced their intentions to run.

NC-8 – Larry Kissell (D) – Rep. Kissell loses a great number of Democratic votes in this new redistricting plan, making him a tempting GOP target. Three local officials, including one who isn’t from the district, have announced for the seat. Expect more candidates to soon enter the fray.

NC-11 – Heath Shuler (D) – Rep. Shuler may have received the most difficult draw of all, as he now represents the most Republican congressional district in North Carolina. Local District Attorney Jeff Hunt and several local officials already are officially running.

OR-4 – Peter DeFazio (D) – The seat became a touch more Republican in redistricting and Rep. DeFazio raised eyebrows with his comment earlier this week that he is thinking about retirement. Could be competitive in an open situation. Republican Art Robinson, who received 44% of the vote against DeFazio in 2010, is running again.

RI-1 – David Cicilline (D) – Negative stories about Rep. Cicilline’s financial management of Providence when he was mayor has made the freshman congressman potentially vulnerable. Two strong Republican candidates, including 2010 nominee John Loughlin and former state police chief Brendan Doherty, are running. Chances appear high that Cicilline could draw Democratic primary opposition, too.

TN-3 – Charles Fleischmann (R) – Though redistricting is not yet finalized in Tennessee, freshman Rep. Fleischmann in the Chattanooga-based seat will likely face primary opposition. Robin Smith, the local county Republican Party chair who lost to Fleischmann by less than 1,500 votes in 2010, is considering a re-match.

TN-4 – Scott DesJarlais (R) – Mr. DesJarlais, who unseated then-Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) by more than 30,000 votes last November, could see a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Bill Ketron (R). Sen. Ketron is on the legislative committee in charge of redistricting, which presumably allows him to draw the 4th district to his liking.

TN-8 – Stephen Fincher (R) – Though redistricting is not completed, the 8th district, by virtue of its geographic location in the northwest corner of the state, will likely be competitive in 2012. Mr. Fincher is the first modern-day Republican congressman from this region.

TX-35 – Lloyd Doggett (D) – If the Texas map survives its legal challenges, Rep. Doggett will face a stiff Democratic primary battle in the new 35th District that includes parts of Austin and San Antonio. Already, state Rep. Juan Castro (D), twin brother to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), has announced he will challenge Doggett.

UT-2 – Jim Matheson (D) – Redistricting will likely put Rep. Matheson in another strongly Republican seat. He already represents the most Republican district held by a Democratic member. Matheson is also a potential statewide candidate. The Republicans will win the seat if he vacates.

WV-1 – David McKinley (R) – Redistricting kept the 1st district largely intact, which is a seat Mr. McKinley can hold, despite it being in Democratic hands for generations before 2010. Ex-Rep. Alan Mollohan, who was defeated in the Democratic primary after 14 terms in office, is a possible candidate in 2012. The Democrats will field a strong challenger here, and this race will be competitive.

WI-7 – Sean Duffy (R) – Mr. Duffy won a seat that was in former Rep. David Obey’s (D) hands for more than 40 years. The district gained Republicans in the re-draw, but Rep. Duffy can expect a stiff re-election challenge from a strong Democrat.

In these two reports (go to our Part I report) we already have isolated 44 incumbents who will face a competitive re-election challenge in either the primary or the general election. Keep in mind that no less than 13 major states still have not completed their redistricting, including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Add in at least 26 more open seats and it is conceivable that as many as 90-100 House seats could be contested as the 2012 election hits its stride.
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New Poll Confirms Big Perry Lead

Last week, Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21; 663 “usual” GOP primary voters) gave newly announced presidential candidate Rick Perry a substantial 33-20-16 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). All other candidates scored only in the single-digit percentile. This week, the Opinion Research Council, polling for CNN (Aug. 24-25; 1,017 adults; 927 registered voters; 467 Republican primary voters), confirmed those results in almost identical fashion.

According to the new ORC/CNN data, Perry’s lead for the GOP nomination is 32-18-12 percent over Romney and Bachmann, respectively. Both the PPP and ORC/CNN studies are small-sample polls and carry high error factors, thus the exactness of the two conclusions becomes even more significant. Perry gained 14 points from the ORC/CNN’s early August survey (Aug. 5-8); Romney dropped five, and Bachmann increased her standing by three percentage points.

The ORC/CNN poll then included both former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom could still conceivably become candidates, in their secondary presidential preference question. With the additions, Perry’s lead drops to 27 percent, Romney falls to 14 percent, and Palin places third with 10 percent. Bachman dips to 9 percent, which is the same number as Giuliani posts. It remains to be seen if the Perry juggernaut is long-standing, or just a bounce from his long-awaited and highly anticipated announcement speech.
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Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part I

Though it is still difficult to forecast the complete US House political picture next year, mostly because redistricting is only about half finished, we already see that more than 40 sitting members will draw serious competition in either the 2012 primary or general election.

Below is a list of 22 incumbents who will be in competitive campaigns next year from states where redistricting is complete. The second half of the overall group will be featured in our Wednesday report.

AR-1 – Rick Crawford (R) – Redistricting added more Democrats to what already was a highly Democratic seat. Crawford will be in a toss-up situation.

CA-3 – John Garamendi (D) – The new 3rd district could conceivably elect a Republican. Watch for a serious GOP challenge to Rep. Garamendi, who is serving his first full term.

CA-9 – Jerry McNerney (D) – Potential challenges in both the Democratic primary and general election await Mr. McNerney, who has chosen to run in a seat that doesn’t include his Bay Area political base.

CA-10 – Jeff Denham (R) – Though Rep. Denham will be the heavy favorite in this new district, it is not as Republican as his current CA-19.

CA-16 – Dennis Cardoza (D)/Jim Costa (D) – The redistricting commission greatly altered the Fresno area. Rep. Costa announced for CA-16 even though his home is in the new 21st, which is much more Republican. Rumors persist that Cardoza may retire.

CA-24 – Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara seat is a 50/50 district now, so former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) is a very strong challenger here.

CA-25/26 – Elton Gallegly (R) – Rep. Gallegly can either run against fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) or in the new marginal 26th district (Ventura County). Keep a retirement watch on Gallegly who even announced such before the 2008 election, only to change his mind.

CA-30 – Brad Sherman (D)/Howard Berman (D) – This will be a tough primary and general election for the two veteran Democratic congressmen. One will not return to the next Congress.

CA-31 – Joe Baca (D) – Rep. Baca does not like his new, and more competitive, 31st district and may hop over to the more Democratic 35th CD, created as an open seat.

CA-32 – David Dreier (R) – Congressman Dreier’s current 26th district seat was broken up into six different parts. He will not run in District 32, as this seat is highly Democratic. Most of his options are poor. If Elton Gallegly does not run in District 26, then that seat is a possibility for Dreier. He could also swing down into District 31 if Rep. Baca moves to CA-35.

CA-38/47 – Linda Sanchez (D) – There is a good possibility that Rep. Sanchez will face strong primary opposition either from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 38th district, where both of their homes reside, or in the Long Beach-based new 47th district. There, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) has already said he will run. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) is also a potential candidate. This seat is also in play for the Republicans. Former Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36), is saying that he, too, will run here next year.

CA-39 – Ed Royce (R)/Gary Miller (R) – This is a Republican pairing. The winner retains the seat for the GOP, but one of the two will not return. Most of the territory currently belongs to Royce, who has to be regarded as the favorite in this new configuration.

CA-44 – Janice Hahn (D) – Newly elected Rep. Hahn will likely draw a challenge from fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) and state Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D). The seat is heavily minority, so facing either a strong African-American or Hispanic opponent in the general election could doom Hahn’s re-election chances.

CA-52 – Brian Bilbray (R) – Rep. Bilbray was paired with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) in new district 49, but will run in the new 52nd. The seat should elect a Republican, but the Democrats are competitive. Former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D) has already announced her candidacy.

GA-12 – John Barrow (D) – Assuming the current Georgia redistricting map passes the Georgia Senate and is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R), Rep. Barrow will find himself in a much more competitive district. The new 12th will go from a mid-50s Obama district to one in the mid-40s. The African-American population drops precipitously, as well.

IL-8/14 – Joe Walsh (R)/Randy Hultgren (R) – Another Republican pairing. Rep. Walsh’s current 8th district was eviscerated in redistricting. His best chance at winning re-election to a second term is to challenge fellow GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in new District 14. A child support payment scandal surrounding Walsh puts Hultgren in the early favorite’s position.

IL-10 – Bob Dold (R) – Redistricting makes the marginal 10th even more Democratic. Freshman Rep. Dold has already announced he will run for re-election here.

IL-11 – Adam Kinzinger (R)/Judy Biggert (R) – Rep. Kinzinger, like Mr. Dreier in California, saw his current district split multiple ways. He will have several choices of where to seek re-election. New district 11 is certainly one of his options, but none are particularly appealing unless Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) decides to retire. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) could also seek re-election here, though the new 11th is much more Democratic than her current seat. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14) has already announced his candidacy in this newly configured seat as has a strong chance to convert it to the Democratic column, particularly with President Obama leading the ticket.

IL-13 – Tim Johnson (R) – Originally paired with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in the new 15th District, Rep. Johnson has chosen to seek re-election in the marginal 13th District. He can expect serious general election competition.

IL-17 – Bobby Schilling (R) – Though redistricting brought the seat back toward Schilling’s base in the Quad Cities region, the new 17th will be even more Democratic than the previous district. Several strong Dem challengers are already running. Schilling finds himself in a toss-up situation, at best.
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Interesting Wisconsin Senate Numbers

Now that ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has made his decision not to enter the 2012 open US Senate race in Wisconsin with Sen. Herb Kohl (D) retiring, the real campaign will now get underway. In particular, potential Democratic candidates were deferring to Feingold and holding back officially announcing their own campaigns in order to determine if the former senator would again enter the electoral fray. Now that he is officially out of the race, we can expect a series of people to soon announce for the seat.

In anticipation of the building candidate field from both parties in what will be a highly competitive campaign, Public Policy Polling released the results of their latest Wisconsin survey that handicaps the field in both party primaries.

For the Republicans, all eyes are on the 69-year-old former governor, Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four consecutive terms beginning in 1986. He left midway through his final term to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration. Though he still has not officially announced his Senatorial campaign, Mr. Thompson has openly talked about getting into the race. He is likely to be opposed by former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), who was first elected to the House for two terms in 1994 and ’96 before challenging and losing to Sen. Feingold in 1998, 48-51 percent.

On the Republican side of the ledger, PPP (Aug. 12-14; 362 “usual” Wisconsin GOP primary voters) tried a different approach, actually asking voters a “push” question after they indicated which candidate they would support. Predicting some of the attack points Neumann, and even the Democrats, will likely use against Thompson, the study produced interesting results.

In the straight ballot test question, Thompson leads Neumann 47-39 percent. The former governor’s personal approval rating among the Republican respondents is 74:17 percent positive to negative. Neumann’s is a sound 43:14 percent.

When PPP asked their loaded push question against Thompson, however, the results sharply turned. The question posed to the respondents was:

While Tommy Thompson was governor, he more than doubled state spending and increased government bureaucracy. Then he endorsed Obamacare, President Obama’s $1-trillion-dollar government takeover of health care. Given this information, would you vote for Mark Neumann or Tommy Thompson if the primary for Senate was today?

After hearing this question, Thompson dropped almost half of his previous support, from 47 percent all the way down to 26 percent. Neumann shot up from 39 percent to 59 percent. Thompson will have to respond hard to neutralize what are sure to be negative attacks of this type in both the primary and general elections.

Looking at the Democrats, the three most likely candidates are Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who will likely announce within days, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3), who is not necessarily going to enter the race, and defeated Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI-8).

When PPP tested these names before 387 “usual” Wisconsin Democratic primary voters, Ms. Baldwin captured the decided advantage, leading 37-21-15 percent over Kind and Kagen, respectively. If Kind does not become a candidate, Baldwin then enjoys a 48-19 percent edge over Mr. Kagen.

Regardless of the outcome of both primaries, the Wisconsin Senate race will be one of the most hard-fought political battles in the 2012 election. The outcome of this race could conceivably decide which party will control the Senate majority in the next Congress.
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Perry Leads in Polls; Paul Gains – Romney, Bachmann Fall

The Gallup organization released a new national poll of Republican primary voters yesterday (Aug. 17-21; 1,040 self-identified Republicans and Independent-leaning Republicans) that finds Texas Gov. Rick Perry soaring into first place by a double-digit margin, obviously detecting a large bounce from his official announcement of candidacy. Mr. Perry leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 29-17 percent, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) claiming third place at 13 percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), apparently gaining no polling momentum from her Iowa Straw Poll victory, fell to 10 percent.

The brand new Public Policy Polling national survey (Aug. 18-21; 663 GOP voters) confirms the Gallup numbers. They show Perry climbing to 33 percent, followed by Romney at 20 percent, and Bachmann performing better at 16 percent. Ron Paul only pulls 6 percent according to this data.

This is the second national Gallup poll that included Perry, but the first since he officially joined the campaign trail. He gained 11 points from the pollster’s July 2011 survey. The other gainer was Rep. Paul, who popped up three points and moved ahead of Bachmann into third place. Mr. Romney, now second, dropped six points. Ms. Bachmann lost three and essentially became the mirror image of Mr. Paul.

Perry leads in all geographic regions except the East, where he trails Romney by only one point. He also has the edge among all age categories except the 18-29 year old sector, which is dominated by Rep. Paul. He commands the advantage among church-goers and non-church-goers alike, while trailing Romney by a surprisingly small four points among self-identified Moderate/Liberal Republicans.
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Conflicting Data in Nevada’s 2nd District Special Election

Two surveys covering the Sept. 13 special election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district were just released, producing very different results. Magellan Strategies, polling for Americans for Prosperity, went into the field Aug. 15-16 (656 registered NV-2 voters via automated phone calls) and found Republican Mark Amodei to be leading Democrat Kate Marshall by a hefty 48-35 percent margin. Two days later, Public Policy Polling began testing 600 NV-2 voters, also with automated calls (Aug. 18-21), and found Amodei’s advantage to be only 43-42 percent.

One reason for the large swing is the make-up of the two polling samples. Magellan’s consisted of 48 percent registered Republicans, 38 percent Democrats, and 14 percent Independents. PPP’s included 41 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat, and 22 percent Independent respondents. According to the latest registered voter statistics (July 2011), NV-2 Republican registration is 43.1 percent; Democrats post 35.4 percent; and Independents (American Independents, Greens, Libertarians, Non-Partisan, and Other are the choices in Nevada) capture 21.5 percent of the district’s voters. Therefore, the PPP sample draw is the more accurate of the two, though they slightly discounted the Republican number. Magellan has the right number of Democrats, but their Republican composition is seven points high while the Independent is seven points low. Notice that the two polls differ by about those same margins. Magellan’s results are five points higher for the Republican candidate and seven points lower for the Democrat than PPP’s.

Though the 2nd District, which touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties but has its population anchor in Reno and Carson City, was originally drawn as a Republican seat in the 2001 redistricting plan, it has strayed much closer to the Democrats as the decade progressed. In 2004, then-President George W. Bush scored a 57 percent victory here over John Kerry. Four years later, Barack Obama and John McCain fought to a 49 percent draw. On the congressional front, in the open seat race of 2006 when Dean Heller (R) defeated Jill Derby (D), the GOP scored a 50-45 percent win. Two years later the same candidates finished 52-41 percent in favor of incumbent Heller. In the 2010 Republican landslide election, without strong opposition, Rep. Heller’s re-election margin was 63-33 percent.

Expect the current special election to be close. Both candidates are now airing television ads and neither are timid about going negative. The National Republican Congressional Committee has already dropped approximately $400,000 into the race, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to counter. Outside organizations for both sides are also expected to participate. In a special election, turnout is everything and the Democrats, as proven in the 2010 Senate campaign that re-elected Majority Leader Harry Reid 50-45% when polling was suggesting a different result, seem to have the superior ground apparatus.

The PPP data released the results of their long questionnaire and that produced interesting results too, mostly favoring the Republicans. Though Amodei’s favorability ratio is only 43:42 percent positive to negative, Marshall’s is 43:47 percent. President Obama’s job approval score is a weak 41:55 percent, and Reid’s is even worse at 39:56 percent. On the other hand, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval posts a strong 55:32 percent score.

Testing former NV-2 Rep. Heller, who is now the state’s interim Senator running for a full term against Las Vegas Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), his job approval number as a statewide federal official is 48:41 percent favorable to unfavorable, and he would defeat Berkley 52-40 percent in the current 2nd District if the US Senate vote were today.

The NV-2 special election is now kicking into high gear, and these combined polling results suggest a tough road for both candidates down the closing stretch. Waiting in the wings is Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee who will enter the regular election in the new 2nd District, no matter what the final result of this campaign. Therefore, the new incumbent will face plenty of competition next year. The new 2nd District redistricting draw is expected to be very different from present. The Las Vegas portion of the district will no longer be included, as the new seat will be concentrated in Nevada’s northern sector. This plays right into Angle’s hands, so this current race merely begins what will likely be more than a year of steady political activity.
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Utah’s Chaffetz Won’t Run

Ending months of speculation, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) held a news conference in Salt Lake City yesterday to announce that he will not challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) for the Republican nomination next year. Though Mr. Chaffetz was polling well against Sen. Hatch, the price of relinquishing a safe House seat at 44 years of age after only two terms in office was more than he wanted to risk.

Conventional political wisdom suggests that Chaffetz could easily garner enough Utah Republican Convention delegates to force a one-on-one primary against Utah’s senior senator, but the statewide election format would likely favor Hatch. Already raising $2.088 million for the new election and having $3.428 million in his campaign account, the senator would clearly dominate the political resource game. Chaffetz, by contrast, only raised $235,000 during the first six months of 2011, and had $227,000 cash-on-hand. For his 2010 congressional re-election campaign, Chaffetz raised only $647,194, but he was virtually unopposed for re-election. When he ousted six-term Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT-3) in 2008, he attracted only $443,396, and was out-spent 2:1. In that race, it was Chaffetz’s superior grassroots effort that swept him to victory over a veteran incumbent. In a statewide race, particularly against an incumbent who is running hard, such an approach is much more difficult.

Now that Jason Chaffetz won’t be in the Senate race, Orrin Hatch’s road to re-election has become much smoother.
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Feingold is a No-Go in Wisconsin

Defeated Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who lost his seat to Republican Ron Johnson last November, officially closed the door Friday on an imminent return to elective politics during this current election cycle.

With Sen. Herb Kohl (D) saying he will not seek re-election in 2012, all eyes in both parties turned toward Feingold, since he is the most logical Democrat to attempt to keep the seat in his party’s column. Early polling was suggesting that the former senator would defeat all potential Republicans and Democrats if he were to enter the field of candidates. Though Feingold said in his public statement that he may again seek elective office, he will not do so in 2012. Instead, he wants to continue in his teaching duties at Marquette University and chairing the issue advocacy group that he founded, Progressives United.

The Wisconsin open seat Senate race has been unique because of the lack of early activity among potential candidates. The others reportedly considering the race, particularly among Democrats, seemed paralyzed as they waited for Mr. Feingold to make a decision; most unusual for a political figure who only months ago lost a major election when in the incumbent’s position.

With the former senator now out of the 2012 race, expect the candidate announcements to soon be forthcoming. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is now a virtual sure entrant. Though she hasn’t committed to the statewide race in deference to Feingold, she has been actively raising money in her congressional account, which is transferable to a Senate race because both are federal campaigns. Through June 30th, Ms. Baldwin raised over $601,000 but has more than $1.1 million in the bank.

Polling suggests that Rep. Baldwin assumes the position of early leader for her party’s nomination. Back in July, Magellan Strategies (July 12-13; 627 Wisconsin Democratic primary voters) gave the Madison congresswoman a 41-19 percent lead over 3rd District Rep. Ron Kind, and a 45-21 percent advantage over defeated 8th District Rep. Steve Kagen.

But the recent Public Policy Polling survey (Aug. 12-14; 830 registered Wisconsin voters) tells a much different story as it relates to the general election. Upon Sen. Kohl’s announcement, former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, now 69 years old, said immediately that he was serious about entering the race as a candidate. Former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) who lost 48-51 percent to Sen. Feingold in 1998, also said he would likely hop into the race. Neumann had even been actively considering a challenge to Kohl. The latest PPP data actually shows both Republicans to have slight leads over the potential Democratic field, in what now has to be considered a top GOP conversion opportunity.

According to the Public Policy Polling data, Thompson would lead Baldwin 50-42 percent and Neumann would enjoy a 44-40 percent edge over the congresswoman. If Kind were to win the Democratic nomination, Thompson would lead him 48-41 percent, while Neumann clings to a 43-40 percent margin. Should Kagen rise to the top of the Democratic field, he too would trail both Republicans. In the latter case, Thompson is up 49-41 percent; Neumann 45-38 percent.

The Wisconsin electorate, possibly because of the negativity surrounding the state’s public employee labor unrest and subsequent recall elections, view all of the potential candidates unfavorably, with the exception of Thompson. Former Sen. Feingold was also in positive numbers.

Thompson scores a 44:42 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Feingold did better than anyone else tested, but even his numbers weren’t overwhelming. He posted 49:43 percent.

All others are in an upside down position. Neumann registers 25:27 percent; Baldwin, a similar 26:28 percent. Rep. Kind is down 18:26 percent, while Kagen has the worst numbers by far, 12:23 percent.

In what will likely become a similar Wisconsin story in the presidential race, expect this Senate campaign to be difficult, hard-fought, and close. Though the action has been slow to start, it will soon become fast and furious. The Wisconsin Senate will likely be in the toss-up category all the way to the November 2012 Election Day and could very well be the deciding state in determining which party assumes the US Senate majority in the next Congress.
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Potential California Candidate Pairing Snapshots

Now that the California redistricting map is law, we can examine the various incumbent pairings and potential pairings that could exist. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission clearly did not pay heed to incumbency, since a huge number of sitting incumbents were placed in districts with a colleague.

District 4: Dan Lungren/Tom McClintock – Since the map was finalized Aug. 15, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) indicated that he may hop over into the new District 4 to challenge Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) in the Republican primary rather than stand for re-election in new District 7, where his home was placed. This would be a curious move, since District 7, which contains the majority of Lungren’s current territory, could certainly elect a Republican but likely would be at least moderately competitive throughout the decade.

New District 4, which begins in South Lake Tahoe and travels south down the Nevada border all the way to Yosemite National Park, is comprised of a preponderance of McClintock’s current CD. The fact that Lungren would even suggest such a move indicates he likely feels more comfortable doing battle against a Republican than facing a Democrat in a competitive general election, especially when winning the 2012 battle against McClintock would likely yield a safe seat until 2022. The new CA primary law that qualifies the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of party means that the pair would likely face each other in both June and November, adding yet another caveat to the northern California political picture.

It is probable that Lungren will stay in District 7, because he would be a decided underdog to McClintock in District 4. The fact that Lungren would suggest taking on his Republican colleague in this configuration is quite surprising, however.

District 16: Dennis Cardoza/Jim Costa – This is another surprising situation. The commission map was not particularly kind to the Central Valley incumbents. Technically, three sitting members, Cardoza (D-CA-18), Costa (D-CA-20), and Republican Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) were all placed in new District 16. Each, however, has an adjacent seat in which to run. Denham will choose the new District 10, which is more competitive than his current district, but still one that he can win.

Since the map was enacted this past Monday, retirement rumors began swirling around Cardoza, suggesting that he would rather leave the House than run against his friend and fellow Democrat, Costa. The new 21st district, however, is a place where Costa could run – in fact, in contains the bulk of his current CD – but apparently the congressman does not want to face another close general election in a seat that is even more Republican. Costa only squeaked through in the last election 51-49%. Should Cardoza retire and thereby leave the new 16th district to Costa, the latter would become the favorite, though competition from a Republican is still a real possibility. This is another curious situation that has yet to be resolved. The GOP has a chance to gain at least one seat, probably the 21st, in this region.

District 25: Buck McKeon/Elton Gallegly – This is yet another situation where it appears a member would rather face a competitive primary than go hard against a candidate from the other party. The homes of Reps. McKeon (R-CA-25) and Gallegly (R-CA-24) were both placed in new District 25, which is comprised largely of McKeon’s current district. Gallegly also could run in the new Ventura County-based 26th district, which is a 50/50 D-R seat that only slightly tilts Republican.

Reports from the Gallegly camp, however, indicate he is looking more favorably at challenging McKeon than running in the marginal district, even though he would be the lone incumbent in the latter and currently represents a large portion of the territory. Based upon the draw in the new 25th, it is hard to classify Gallegly as anything but a decided underdog to McKeon, which makes it surprising to see him suggest he might take that option. Gallegly retiring, as he almost did two terms ago, is also a distinct possibility.

District 30: Brad Sherman/Howard Berman – The San Fernando Valley will see a major pairing as the area’s two veteran Democratic members will square-off. This is another of the California situations that could witness a major battle between the two in the qualifying primary and then in the general election, as the most likely scenario points to both Democrats moving into November under the state’s new election law. Sherman already represents about 50% of the new 30th District, as compared to Berman’s 20%, and he begins with more than $3.6 million in the bank, but that doesn’t guarantee victory. Berman is the more experienced campaigner and should command greater internal party support than Sherman. This race could turn into an epic political battle.

One other possibility, however, is for Sherman to hop over into the marginal 26th district. Particularly if Rep. Gallegly chooses to bypass the district, the 26th might become attractive to Sherman, if he thinks he can’t beat Berman. But, Sherman represents only a sliver of the current 26th, and he would be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. Thus, he has two difficult options.

District 38: Grace Napolitano/Linda Sanchez – The commission map drawers were also not kind to Rep. Linda Sanchez (R-CA-39). Regardless of where she chooses to run, she is likely to face a Democratic incumbent. Her home is placed in new District 38, but this seat is predominantly composed of Rep. Grace Napolitano’s current 38th CD. Napolitano has already announced her intention to seek re-election in the new 38th, thus forcing Sanchez into a difficult decision. She must either challenge Napolitano where she will be a decided underdog, or run in another seat. Her most likely option would be new District 47, the Long Beach seat, but she will face both state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) and probably a significant Republican challenger. It is possible that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) could move here, too.

District 39: Ed Royce/Gary Miller – Something’s got to give in Orange County. The now-official map places the homes of Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) and Gary Miller (R-CA-42) in new District 39, a seat that largely favors Royce in terms of current territory. Royce could choose to move south and challenge Rep. John Campbell (R-CA-48) in new CD 45, but this would still subject him to a pairing with a Republican incumbent. For his part, Miller says he won’t run against Royce or any other incumbent, meaning he could be headed toward retirement. If Royce does move into CD 45, then Campbell would be forced into a pairing either against the former or moving into new District 48 to take on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46). In any event, among the quartet of Orange County Republican congressmen – Royce, Miller, Campbell and Rohrabacher – expect one of them not to return.

District 44: Janice Hahn/Laura Richardson – The situation involving the minority-weighted new 44th District is also surprising. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36), who just won her seat in a July special election, has already announced she will seek re-election in the heavily Hispanic 44th District rather than face Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) in the district that contains the bulk of her current seat. In this Compton-Culver City-South Gate CD, Hahn will have a white population that tallies only 9 percent, meaning she is vulnerable to a challenge from a minority office holder such as Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D), who has already announced his intention to run for Congress, and probably Rep. Laura Richardson, since she currently represents a large portion of the territory.

The new primary law cuts poorly for Hahn. She very well may be able to qualify for the general election by at least placing second in June, but in November she will be one-on-one against either a black or Hispanic opponent. In this situation, particularly since she currently represents such a small portion of the 44th, she becomes a decided underdog.

California is likely to dominate the 2012 US House picture because as many as 20 seats could become competitive either in the primary or general election, and in many cases, both. Watch in the coming days for even further developments.
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Gov. Christie Rumors Gain Momentum

Despite repeatedly denying that he will run for President during this election cycle, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is again the subject of intense speculation that it is imminent that he will throw his hat into the ring. Interestingly, this time the rumors are flying from both the left and the right. Yesterday on his national radio program, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said sources were telling him that Christie is making moves to enter the race. Back in Trenton, New Jersey’s capital city, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said that the governor’s recent budgetary actions suggest that he is running for President.

If Gov. Christie entered the race, it would add yet another surprising twist to an already unpredictable presidential election cycle. With his strength in the Northeast, a Christie candidacy would be most detrimental to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who must capitalize on his strength in the north and east in order to neutralize what appear to be sure losses in the south. Since New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are all winner-take-all Republican primary states, and represent a grand total of 173 delegates, a Christie sweep of his home turf would immediately make him a formidable force.

If Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin all were to run for President, in addition to Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the race would be thrown into absolute chaos. Moves by any non-candidate entering the race will have to occur within the next month if any of them are to have a realistic chance of winning.
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Rep. Hahn Won’t Challenge Waxman in California

On Monday, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved the final version of the Golden State’s congressional and legislative maps. Surprisingly, a resulting electoral situation that appeared likely to occur apparently won’t.

One of the many congressional incumbent pairings looked to feature Democratic representatives Henry Waxman and Janice Hahn squaring off against each other in the new 33rd CD. Though Hahn’s home was placed in the new 44th and Waxman’s in the new 28th, it is CA-33 that contains the preponderance of both of their old districts. Though Hahn would not be paired in the 44th district, the territory is overwhelmingly minority and a good bet for either an African-American or Hispanic state legislator or local official to win.

Waxman was placed with fellow Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff in a district that is largely comprised of the latter’s political base. Thus, it seemed that the best scenario for Hahn and Waxman was to oppose each other in the district where both were more familiar to area voters. Yesterday, Rep. Hahn announced she will stay in the 44th district and seek re-election there, ending speculation that she and Waxman would tangle.

Ms. Hahn, just elected to Congress in a July special election, has no easy path to re-election next year. The district she has chosen is heavily Democratic, but not an area that she has previously represented. The racial complexion suggests an Anglo candidate will have difficulty. The non-Hispanic White percentage of those over 18 years of age is only 9.02 percent. Hispanics dominate the district, registering 64.5 percent of the eligible voting population. Blacks are a full 18.5 percent.

Already, African-American Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D) has announced his intention to run for Congress. Rep. Laura Richardson, another Los Angeles-area Democratic congresswoman who did not receive a favorable redistricting draw, could also run in the 44th.

Rep. Hahn has made a rather eye-opening choice. The state’s new primary law that advances the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of political party means that Hahn is likely to face a minority opponent one-on-one in the November election, should she get that far. Pure mathematics suggest that such a match-up would likely be unfavorable to Ms. Hahn and will limit her congressional tenure to less than one full term.

The candidate filing deadline is still months away, so decisions made now can certainly change. Today, however, Janice Hahn has likely made herself an endangered political species.
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The Democrats Win in Wisconsin – Round II

The second stage of the Wisconsin state Senate recall elections was held last night, and the challenged Democratic incumbents held both contested seats. State senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch won their respective recall elections with 55 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively.

The Holperin victory was the more impressive of the two since his northern Wisconsin district is far more conservative than Wirch’s Racine/Kenosha seat. The 12th state Senate district gave Supreme Court Justice Bob Prosser (R) a solid victory in his hotly contested re-election battle held earlier this year. In 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker easily carried the region with both scoring victory percentages in the high-50s. But the string of GOP victories did not carry over to the recall election.

In the Wirch race, SD-22, the result was much easier to predict. This region is solidly Democratic and polling never indicated that Sen. Wirch was in serious trouble.

Now that all eight recalls have been run, six incumbents held their seats. The only two senators to lose, both last week, are Republicans Dan Kapanke, who represented a strong Democratic seat, and scandal-tainted Randy Hopper. The Republicans retain control of the Senate chamber, however, but with a much smaller 17-16 margin.

In the end, the Democrats boycotting their duties and running away to Illinois did not hurt them, since none were recalled. On the other hand, the Republicans, led by Gov. Walker, made fundamental change in the state’s public employee collective bargaining structure and then took the Democrats/unions hardest retaliatory punch and survived.

It will be interesting to see if the entire controversial process brings about any further national ramifications.
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More Senate Chaos in Michigan

When former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) announced that he had reversed course and decided to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) after originally saying he wouldn’t, it appeared the Republicans finally had the candidate they wanted to make a run at what should be a vulnerable incumbent. But such is apparently not the case. Clark Durant, a prominent Detroit attorney and Republican stalwart in addition to becoming private school entrepreneur, is likely to enter the GOP primary.

Further complicating matters for Hoekstra is the type of support that Durant can bring to the race. Already, former Republican National Committeewoman Betsy DeVos, wife of former GOP gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos (who is also the son of billionaire Amway founder Richard DeVos), says she will back Hoekstra’s opponent. So will former US senator and energy secretary Spence Abraham and ex-state Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis.

Should Durant actually enter the race, the nomination will be contested, meaning that serious Republican resources will be spent in the primary instead of against Stabenow. Such a situation would further insulate the senator for the general election and be yet another intangible that has gone her way since the beginning of this year. Continue to rate the Michigan 2012 Senate race as Likely Democratic.
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Saturday: The Turning Point

Clearly the most important day of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination campaign occurred Saturday. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN-6) victory at the Iowa Straw Poll sent former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty packing, while 1,200 miles away at the Red State Gathering event in Charleston, SC, Texas Gov. Rick Perry formally joined the race.

Rep. Bachmann’s preliminary Hawkeye State victory was no surprise. It had been clear for weeks that she and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) had the strongest vote-gathering potential within the regular universe of Straw Poll attendees. Ironically, it was Pawlenty who had the best campaign organization and spent more than any other candidate – far above $1 million. The fact that he finished a distant third (2,293 votes to Bachmann’s 4,823 and Paul’s 4,671) caused him to officially end his campaign on Sunday.

The high Straw Poll turnout proved to be the event’s biggest revelation. Many political pundits and outside observers were predicting a lower than average rate of participation in the days approaching the carnival-style political affair held at Iowa State University in Ames, saying that none of the candidates were exciting the rank and file GOP voters.

In 2008, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Straw Poll, more than 14,000 people voted, with as many as 20,000 on the grounds. At its historical high point in 1996, more than 30,000 individuals cast ballots but that was when candidates were allowed to bus and fly people in from all over the country. Beginning in 2000, participation was limited to Iowa registered voters. Some predicted that overall turnout for the current event could be as low as 10,000. But on Saturday, 16,829 people cast ballots.

Aside from Pawlenty, the event’s biggest loser could well be Mr. Romney. Making the decision to bypass the Straw Poll and participate only in the pre-event debate held last Thursday evening, Romney scored just 567 votes. Though he and two other candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman, refused to participate in the Straw Poll, the Iowa Republican Party officials still added their names to the official ballot. Gov. Perry and former V-P nominee Sarah Palin, neither of whom were candidates at the time of the state party ballot deadline vote, were not placed on the ballot.

Though Perry’s name was not on the Straw Poll ballot, an independent expenditure group supporting his running for President, called Americans for Rick Perry (AFRP), did organize for purposes of convincing Perry supporters to attend the event and write-in the governor’s name. Because AFRP is not officially tied to the candidate, obtaining tent space on the event grounds was not allowed. With no ability to work inside the gates and not even having a candidate, AFRP still was able to deliver 718 write-in votes. This total was better than what was recorded by three campaigns whose candidate actually participated in the Thursday debate and were on the official ballot: Romney, Gingrich (385 votes), and Huntsman (69).

Certainly Saturday’s biggest winner was Michele Bachmann. The biggest loser was Tim Pawlenty. But the underlying story is Perry and Romney. Gov. Perry, via a write-in campaign organized solely from the outside by an unconnected group in just three weeks, scored a respectable number of votes by all accounts. Romney, by finishing under Perry, creates a greater image of vulnerability and poses questions about his strategic decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll. He has made past comments that he would also bypass the significant straw poll events in Florida and Michigan. It will be interesting to see if the Iowa results prompt a change of plans from the Romney camp.
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The Iowa Debate and Vote

Last night, the eight announced Republican presidential candidates faced each other in the third nationally televised debate – a largely mundane affair interspersed with a clever line or two – this time on the campus of Iowa State University. The forum is part of the Iowa Straw Poll (ISP) event scheduled to culminate with actual citizen voting on Saturday.

The ISP has become a major media event on the presidential campaign trail because it is the first time that thousands of people actually participate in a voting event. Though straw polls are commonly held at organizational and state political party meetings, the Iowa function is unique because actual GOP voters have the opportunity of attending and casting a ballot for the candidate of their choice. In the past, as many as 30,000 people have come to the state fair-like event, where candidates have large outdoor promotion areas and provide food and entertainment to the masses, to register their vote.

At its high point, when previous campaigns were running on all cylinders in the early phase of the race – unlike this time where as many as three potential top-tier candidates haven’t even yet formally declared – candidates would actually fly voters in from all around the country to participate. Now the party rules prohibit such acts, limiting voting eligibility to Iowa registered voters.

The Straw Poll event is the first real test of the candidates’ organizational ability. Charging the candidates thousands of dollars to participate by buying Iowa Republican Party lists of previous Caucus and Straw Poll attendees and entry fees for every person coming to the event (in virtually all cases, paid for by the campaigns) the fundamental purpose of the Iowa Straw Poll is that of a major fundraiser for the state GOP. The money is then used for general election party building activities that the eventual Republican presidential nominee will need to capture the state in the general election. Iowa, as one of four true swing states for the general election – New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada are the others – could be a deciding state in November 2012 even though it only carries six Electoral Votes.

The result of this particular Iowa Straw Poll event is likely to be inconclusive. With attendance projected to be closer to 10,000 than 30,000, the event is missing the participation of the early front-runner and 2007 Straw Poll winner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Though Mr. Romney participated in last night’s debate, his campaign decided to bypass actively participating in the actual ISP voting. As mentioned, he won the event in ’07 but fell in the actual Iowa Caucuses to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in what proved to be an upset. The Romney campaign never recovered from his Iowa Caucus loss because expectations, largely drawn from his Straw Poll performance, were set too high.

Some question the Romney strategy for the 2011 ISP. Not participating means a sure loss at the event, and possibly a poor performance, though his campaign apparatus is still quietly organizing supporters to attend and vote since the Iowa Republican Party leaders included his name on the ballot anyway; but he will be able to brush off any such result by simply saying he didn’t participate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making his first public indication that he will become a candidate at the Red State Gathering event earlier Saturday in Charleston, SC, will also steal some of the luster from whichever candidate wins the Straw Poll later that afternoon.

The emergence of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) as a top-tier candidate and favorite to win the straw poll may damage Romney and prove his strategic decision to skip the event was a mistake. Bachmann is becoming a national presence and a victory at the ISP will codify her standing as a top-tier presidential candidate. The other favorite and potential straw poll winner, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), is a second-tier candidate who is not positioned to go very far in the national campaign. Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was once viewed as the early favorite for the ISP and the actual Iowa Caucus vote, is probably a distant third-place finisher at best.

The Iowa Straw Poll event does signify the official beginning of the presidential campaign. With Saturday crowning a straw poll winner and another major candidate making it clear that he is in the race, the 2012 presidential campaign is beginning to take shape. Tomorrow, the official starting gun sounds.
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