Monthly Archives: October 2011

Florida’s Sen. Mack Makes a Move … Again

On Friday, Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) again reversed his political course and declared his candidacy for US Senate. Back in March, when he scheduled a news conference that even his own aides were saying was a Senatorial announcement address, the 44-year-old, four-term congressman abruptly changed his mind and instead said that he would not run statewide.

Late last week, Rep. Mack made another 180-degree pirouette and officially entered the race to challenge two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). With polls remaining stagnant for the better part of a year – Nelson leading either former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner by consistent 13-15 point margins (Nelson is almost always in the 47-49 percent range while the Republicans scored 33-35 percent), Mack believes he still has the opportunity to close that margin and put the state in play for the GOP.

He might be right, but it won’t happen overnight. Because of his father, Sen. Connie Mack III who held the seat for two terms before Nelson won in 2000, the Fort Myers congressman has substantial statewide name ID. Sen. Mack was originally elected in a very close 1988 election, and was easily re-elected in 1994. He retired with high job-approval ratings and appeared to be a cinch to win a third term had he so desired.

So, despite being behind both LeMieux and Hasner in campaign resources (LeMieux has over $1 million cash-on-hand according to the Sept. 30, 2011 campaign disclosure filing, while Hasner has $785,000; Mack starts the race with $347,000 in his congressional account), Mack’s name ID will very likely put him atop the Republican primary polls when they are next released. In the last Quinnipiac University poll of Florida Republicans (released Sept. 22nd), both LeMieux and Hasner were only in the teens or single-digits (LeMieux leading his rival 17-5 percent, with businessman and college professor Mike McAllister registering a surprising 11 percent).

Though he has created a rocky political road for himself in getting into the Senate race, his decision may prove to be the right move.

It is clear that several major factors cut against the senator. First, there’s the overall political climate to consider, in which voters may have the highest anti-incumbent fever ever. The right track/wrong track directional polling questions designed to detect a respondent’s optimistic or pessimistic view of the country’s future are reaching all-time negative lows, as we covered in our Friday edition of the PRIsm Political Update. Nationally, the wrong track answer tops 80%. Among Republicans, that score, in some places, is incredibly high – up into the mid- to high-90s.

Secondly, with President Obama’s approval ratings trending upside down nationally and in Florida, and the poor economy unlikely to improve substantially before the next election, the Democrats’ ability to carry the state is questionable. In order to defeat the President, the eventual Republican nominee will have to carry Florida, and that could bring a strong US Senate candidate over the finish line, too.

Third, while Sen. Nelson’s ratings are good, in fact strong when compared to many other senators standing for re-election, they are not stellar, and plenty of time remains to turn the race.

Therefore, Rep. Mack’s decision to launch his candidacy, even after repeatedly changing his mind, is understandable. Despite losing seven months of fundraising and campaigning, he does have a chance to win the GOP nomination and defeat Nelson. It is clear that Rep. Mack is betting on the long-term now, but his gamble might pay off.

Wrong Track for Incumbents

Incumbents who are accustomed to success at the ballot box are generally nervous and watchful of potential electoral trends by their very nature. They know that this week’s teapot can become next week’s tempest and the spate of recent “change elections” has proven that incumbency is anything but a guarantee of lifetime employment in the U.S. Congress.

While the outcome of individual races can be predicted with a high rate success using modern opinion research tools, it remains a much more daunting task to determine national or even regional trends.

Overall congressional approval ratings and generic ballot test questions become virtually meaningless in the effort to determine trends in congressional races because each race is run locally rather than nationally. The old political saw that says, “The Congress is composed of 434 scoundrels and ‘my guy'” still holds sway more often than not.

However, there is one national indicator to which incumbent politicians should pay close attention, particularly in a presidential election year such as 2012. The well-tested “right track/wrong track indicator” has been a largely reliable indicator of incumbent satisfaction/dissatisfaction and next year is likely to be no exception.

The alarming news for incumbents planning to face the voters again in 2012 is that as of last week, only 16 percent of likely U.S. voters say that the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, Oct. 23.

The latest finding is up a point from the previous week, but down a point from a month ago and down a whopping 16 points from this time last year.

Since mid-July, the number of voters who feel the nation is headed in the “right direction” has virtually mirrored the levels measured in the final months of the administration of George W. Bush, with voter confidence bobbing slightly up and down in the narrow range of 14 percent to 19 percent.

Perhaps even more disturbing news for incumbents is the fact that the “wrong track” number in last week’s Rasmussen survey was 77 percent. Since mid-July, the “wrong track” has stayed in the 75- to 80-percent range. When the ratio of likely voters who think that the nation is on the “wrong track” and is not moving in the “right direction” is nearly 5 to 1, that is a reliable sign that voters are planning to make big changes on Election Day.

Massachusetts Rep. Olver Announces Retirement

The Massachusetts redistricting situation just became clearer yesterday as 75-year-old, 11-term Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1) announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Because the state grew at only a 3.1 percent rate during the past 10 years, far below the national rate of growth rate of 9.7 percent, Massachusetts loses a seat in reapportionment. With 10 Democrats in the delegation, it was clear that an intra-party pairing would have to occur in a new nine-district map unless one member vacated his seat.

Rep. Olver’s western-most 1st district had been talked about as the top prospect for collapsing. His retirement had been rumored for months, though the congressman publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would run again.

MA-1 needs to gain the most number of people in the state, (82,558 individuals), though all 10 districts are under-populated. Now, without an incumbent, it is clear that this is the territory that will be melded into another district.

The Olver decision solves a major problem for the rest of the delegation. Originally, when Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-8) was looking to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R), it was assumed that his Boston-Cambridge seat would be eliminated. There were also discussions about pairing freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) with one of the Boston-area members. But now, all will survive because the lost seat will be Mr. Olver’s. The congressman becomes the 22nd member to make public his intention to leave the House at the end of the current Congress, and the eighth to retire from politics. The other 14 are seeking higher office.

New Wisconsin Poll Shows Weakness for Romney, Thompson

A new Public Policy Poll of Wisconsin Republicans (Oct. 20-23; 650 Wisconsin Republican primary voters) provides even more evidence that retired business executive Herman Cain is continuing to gather serious momentum in his quest for the Presidency. The results give Mr. Cain a 30-18-12-12 percent Badger State lead over Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, respectively.

As further evidence of Cain’s strong standing, he even leads on the follow-up question about being the respondents’ second choice. When asked, “Who would be your second choice for President?”, it is again Cain who places first, this time with 18 percent. Gingrich is second at 16 percent; Romney scores 14 percent; Perry 12 percent; and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) 10 percent.

Turning to the upcoming open Wisconsin Senate race, it is former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson who is not faring quite as well among the Republican faithful as one might expect. The ex-governor and former US Health and Human Services Secretary leads former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, but by a rather unimpressive 35-29-21 percent margin.

What may be most troubling for Thompson, is that it is within the party’s dominant conservative wing where his weakness is greatest. When asked if the respondents would prefer Mr. Thompson or a more conservative candidate, the latter was preferred by a 51-35 percent margin. When paired with Neumann on a one-on-one basis, Thompson’s lead shrinks to just four points, 43-39 percent. If the race came down to a Thompson-Fitzgerald battle, the former governor’s edge is a more substantial 47-35 percent margin. Even this is not a particularly good sign for Thompson, however, because the former governor is known by 86 percent of those questioned versus just the 50 percent who could identify Fitzgerald. Mr. Neumann’s name ID is 61 percent. All three men have strong favorability ratios.

The Wisconsin presidential primary will be held April 3, and will distribute 42 delegates to the GOP candidates. The state employs a winner-take-all by district and statewide system as is used in seven other states, two of which are mega-delegate California and Florida. (Though the latter will likely lose half of its delegation as a penalty for moving their primary before Super Tuesday in violation of Republican National Committee rules.)

The Wisconsin system awards 10 delegates to the candidate who wins the statewide vote, regardless of percentage garnered. Three delegates apiece are given for carrying each of the state’s eight congressional districts. A sweep at the district level would yield one candidate 24 more delegate votes. The remaining eight are party officer and bonus delegates who can vote as they please. As in the vast majority of states – there are only seven winner-take-all places under the new party rules – multiple candidates will likely win some Wisconsin delegates. The primary is open to all voters.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the most important statewide contests in the country. With majority control of the body possibly coming down to one state, Wisconsin could be that one, and both parties are placing the highest priority upon this open-seat campaign. Four-term Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring. The consensus Democratic nominee is becoming Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). The race is expected to have a “toss-up” rating all the way to Election Day.

Nevada Restores Calm

Nevada Republicans have now officially chosen a caucus voting schedule that appears to break the January logjam and restores a sense of order to the GOP presidential nominating process.

Under Republican National Committee rules, the only states allowed to hold a delegate-selecting nomination event (primary or caucus) prior to Super Tuesday (March 6 in 2012) are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. However, Florida upset the apple cart earlier this month by moving to Jan. 31 and is willing to accept the consequences of a party-imposed penalty that forces them to relinquish half of their delegates. But the Nevada Republicans, under the reasoning that they are still the first event in the west, may have brought sanity back to the process by choosing Feb. 4 as their caucus date. This allows New Hampshire, featuring their first-in-the-nation primary, to choose Jan. 10. Iowa has already laid claim to Jan. 3. South Carolina will hold their party-run primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

The action finally means that the campaigns can now enter the home stretch of the early nominating events with a defined calendar. Expect activity to quickly become heavy in Iowa and New Hampshire, in particular. The Hawkeye State may be the site of the more intense interest because Mitt Romney already has a healthy lead in the Granite State, and Iowa is close. It is clear that the latter state may become a do-or-die venue for Gov. Rick Perry. Now languishing in the polls, Perry does have strong financial backing, on par with Romney, and must prove he can deliver votes in the first contest to be taken seriously. Retired business executive Herman Cain continues to show strong support and is certainly still the campaign wild card.

New Poll in Oregon

The special election in Oregon’s 1st District primary – scheduled for Nov. 8 – now has two distinct leaders according to the latest public poll. Survey USA (Oct. 17-20; 522 likely OR-1 Democratic primary voters; 403 likely OR-1 GOP primary voters) gives state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici a huge lead in the Democratic Party contest, while GOP 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles enjoys an even bigger edge for the Republicans.

According to the S-USA data, Bonamici has a 52-14-9 percent lead over Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt. Cornilles has a huge advantage over marketing executive Lisa Michaels and radio talk show host Jim Greenfield on the Republican side. The numbers in the latter contest are 66-7-4 percent. The winners of the two primaries will meet in a Jan. 31 special general election. The eventual winner, likely the Democratic nominee, will replace resigned Rep. David Wu (D), and will then stand for a full term in the regular election cycle.

The Ohio Senate Race Tightens

For months, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has enjoyed close to a 20-point lead against all potential 2012 Republican challengers. A new Public Policy Polling survey (Oct. 13-16; 581 registered Ohio voters) now shows that Brown’s margin has suddenly regressed into single digits. According to the data, the senator leads GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel 48-40 percent, a loss of seven points from the previous PPP poll conducted in August. Mandel has closed the gap despite his poor 12:21 percent favorable to unfavorable personal popularity rating. Sen. Brown’s job approval ratio has dropped to 40:35 percent positive to negative.

Up until recently, the Ohio senate race had been a disappointment for the Republicans. Failing to convince a more senior party office holder to enter what should be a competitive race against Sen. Brown, who was originally elected in 2006, the GOP may be moving this race back into the top tier. Mr. Mandel, only 34 years of age, was just elected state treasurer last November. He has impressively raised $3.8 million for the Senate race according to the latest financial disclosure (Sept. 30, 2011) and has $3.2 million cash-on-hand. Sen. Brown has raised $4.1 million and has an equivalent amount in his campaign account.

Because of the competitive political nature in the state, this race was destined to tighten, but the fact that a major movement was made this early suggests the campaign could quickly become seriously contested. Much more will happen here in the coming year.

Jindal Re-elected in Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), as expected, romped to a second-term victory on Saturday night in the statewide primary election. Because the governor garnered 66 percent, well over the minimum majority requirement of 50 percent plus one vote, he was elected outright and will not face a Nov. 19 run-off election.

The Republicans swept the statewide ticket, which was expected, because Democrats only fielded candidates in the governor’s, agriculture and forestry, and insurance commissioner offices. All of the statewide elections were decided, so the only contested run-off races will be at the district level. Little change as it relates to party division occurred in the legislative races.

Jindal, for all intents and purposes, won the race at the candidate filing deadline because Democrats were never able to recruit a credible challenger, thus leaving the governor virtually unopposed. The runner-up in this race was Democratic educator Tara Hollis, who could only pull 18 percent. Turnout was light, 1.022 million voters participating, or 35 percent of those registered. Four years ago when Jindal was first elected in an open seat election, the turnout was 1.27 million people.

Iowa Looming Large for Presidential Candidates

Irrespective of the states continuing to jockey for early primary or caucus calendar positions, it is clear that the Iowa Caucuses will command the premium amount of attention from the Republican presidential nomination contenders during the coming weeks.

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN-6) campaign is focusing her diminished resources solely on the Hawkeye State contest. Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) weak early performance has dealt his campaign a crippling blow, and he needs a strong Iowa finish to breathe new life into his presidential effort. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is hoping his campaign’s grassroots followers will be out in force to work the caucuses, an exercise that can be a daunting task for even the most vociferous of supporters. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) all dampen expectations for Iowa, but secretly hope a third-place or even fourth-place showing might spark renewed interest in their presidential aspirations. Furthermore, it has become apparent that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who previously downplayed his interest in the Iowa contest, is now making heavy organizational investments there in the hope that conservatives may so fractionally split their votes that a mid-twenties finish might place him at the top of the GOP field.

The newest Republican frontrunner, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, has been spending more time on his national book tour than at Des Moines pork chop cookouts, but he now appears to have vaulted ahead of the field among likely Iowa caucus goers in a new poll released just yesterday.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Iowa caucus-attendees shows that Cain is now in front with 28 percent, followed by Romney who registers 21 percent. Rep. Paul comes in a distant third at 10 percent followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who posts 9 percent. Congresswoman Bachmann is next with 8 percent, and Gov. Perry scores a disappointing 7 percent. The sixth-place finish for Perry in this poll illustrates his sharp decline from early September when he was the frontrunner both nationally and in Iowa.

Former Sen. Santorum picks up 4 percent and Mr. Huntsman claims only 2 percent. Another 4 percent would prefer some other candidate and 8 percent are not sure.

Only one-third of the caucus-goers (32 percent) are certain of their vote and don’t expect to change their mind. Among these voters, Cain again does well; 30 percent of this subset prefers the former business executive as compared to Mr. Romney’s 22 percent, and 17 percent say they are committed to Rep. Paul.

Among those absolutely certain that they will attend and participate in the caucus, Cain widens his lead even further over Romney to 31-18 percent.

Rasmussen Reports conducted the survey of 800 likely Iowa Republican Caucus Participants on Oct. 19, 2011. Its margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Many have criticized the Cain campaign for not having a strong organization in Iowa, which is seen as an essential component to successfully turning out the vote. Cain’s supporters, however, are quick to caution those who apply a conventional political analysis to an unconventional candidate in an unconventional political year.

We are now in prime time for the Iowa Caucus campaign. With the official meeting date now set for January 3rd, we are just over 11 weeks away from this first delegate selection event. It is now no longer early, and the trends we are currently seeing have to be taken much more seriously than during the preceding months.

The Cain Surge

Two days ago we covered presidential candidate Herman Cain’s climb to overcome even President Obama in the latest Rasmussen Reports national survey (43-41 percent; Oct. 14-15; 1,000 likely voters), but now even more data is coming up roses for the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO. A series of new Public Policy Polling Republican primary surveys shows him not only leading the GOP race nationally, but he now places first in six different states. Our premise in the last piece was that even if Mr. Cain continues to poll well, his lack of financial support could still leave him on the outside looking in. Such analysis may in fact prove correct, but these new results certainly give one reason for pause.

According to PPP, Cain has substantial leads over Mitt Romney in Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. His highest plateau is attaining 36 percent in Hawaii. His biggest spread over Romney is 15 points in delegate-rich Ohio, also a critical swing state in the general election. The other surprise mover, as we also noted on Tuesday, is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Without an organization or strong financial backing, it is Gingrich who is now placing second in three states; tied with Romney in North Carolina, and surpassing everyone but Cain in Nebraska and West Virginia. Even nationally, at least according to the PPP findings, Gingrich has captured third place, with 14 percent, equal to or better than when he started the race. On the other end of the spectrum: Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have dropped all the way down to mid-single digits.

This race has a long way to go, but already the wild twists and turns have been enough for an entire campaign. What can come next?

Candidate Debates Do Matter

The latest Republican presidential debate was held last night in Las Vegas and, at least among the candidates themselves, it appears that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are still the top two contenders. They, with their podiums next to each other on center stage, dominated the evening’s responses and personal confrontations.

Even though retired businessman Herman Cain is surprisingly atop many current state polls, he appeared to retreat somewhat into the background of this forum as the candidates actively engaged each other more so than in previous debates. CNN host and debate moderator Anderson Cooper allowed the candidates more freedom in engaging their opponents and provided adequate time to answer the questions, leading to what became a lively evening.

Perry, coming into this debate with his back against the wall after performing poorly in two previous sessions, came on strong, particularly against Romney, over several issues. He was much more articulate and confrontational than in the past, and appeared to have a greater presence on stage. Whether this translates into positive momentum before the GOP primary voting public is yet to be determined.

Polls have already shown major ebbs and flows for Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-6), Perry, and Cain throughout the course of the fledging campaign. Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll in August and then immediately began tumbling downward, landing solidly in the single-digit second tier.

Cain has experienced the opposite course. Largely due to his debate performances, he has gained considerable strength and risen to the top echelon. How long he will stay there is anyone’s guess.

Gov. Perry had a meteoric rise as soon as he entered the race, but fell quickly back after two sub-standard debate performances and a lack of taking any overt action to reverse his slide.

Therefore, the statistical data as reflected in state and national political polls, makes It apparent that the eight debates, only one of which appeared on a broadcast network, are nonetheless having a clear effect upon the early stages of this race.

So far, there is only one candidate who has appeared to rebound after falling into oblivion. And, it is only through his superior debate performances to which his rise can be traced, since the public forums are the semblance of his campaign. This man is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Driven to the 3 percent range nationally after a disastrous start that saw most of his top campaign staff bolting to the Perry campaign, Gingrich is now coming back to the low double-digit mark — right around where he started. It is doubtful, however, he will ever leap back into serious contention because of a lack of a campaign organization and a fundraising machine that is badly in need of repair (Gingrich has only $353,000 cash on hand as of the latest Sept. 30, 2011 campaign financial disclosure report). In the latest Public Policy Polling national survey (Oct. 7-10) the former Speaker has climbed into third place, behind Cain and Romney, with a surprising 15 percent of the Republican primary vote.

Can Perry follow a similar course to that of Gingrich? He needs to, and his challenge last night was to launch himself on such a trajectory.

The polls have told us two things. First, Mr. Romney, despite always placing near the top in every survey, has a ceiling in the low 20s that he can’t seem to crash through. This makes him vulnerable to a candidate who can break out of the pack and contest him in a one-on-one battle. Of all the candidates, Perry is still the only one who has the financial resources to land in such a position, particularly if he successfully portrays himself as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney.

The second finding is that debate performances can tangibly send a candidate spiraling — either up or down, as Gingrich, Perry, and Cain have all proven. With the Iowa Caucuses now set for Jan. 3, 2012, and New Hampshire possibly moving to December, Phase I of the election cycle has officially drawn to a close. Now, they begin playing for keeps.

Does Money Matter in Presidential Campaigns?

While presidential candidate Herman Cain is vaulting up the polling charts – the latest Rasmussen Reports poll (Oct. 14-15; 1,000 likely voters) actually puts him ahead of President Obama 43-41 percent – his campaign is lagging behind in spendable resources. According to the just-filed FEC financial disclosure reports, the retired business executive only has $1.34 million cash-on-hand with $675,000 in debt. This contrasts with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s $16.46 million and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s $15.08 million. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is next with $3.67 million in the bank.

It is often said that political money is least important in a presidential race because of the extensive earned media coverage the candidates receive. This is true to a point, but Cain’s financial shortcomings, should they continue, might be felt in places like Iowa, the site of the nation’s first delegate selection event. The fact that the campaigns must convince their supporters to attend an actual political meeting instead of just going to vote, means a stronger organization requirement is necessary.

Immediately after Iowa, the campaigns will pivot to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida, all within the month of January. Feeding such a mobile political machine will be expensive, so Cain will need to command greater resources if he is to fulfill his current standing. Failing to produce in the early states will be seriously problematic for Mr. Cain, since the expectation level surrounding his campaign has grown exponentially.

Ohio Democrats: Somthing’s Got To Give

Ohio will again be one of the most important states with regard to the upcoming congressional elections.

There may be a record number of Ohio re-runs in 2012. Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-OH-6), who was defeated 45-50 percent by freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH-6), has filed a congressional exploratory committee for the purposes of seeking a re-match. The race will occur in the newly created far eastern Ohio 6th District, which is less Democratic than the seat that Mr. Wilson held for two terms, but is still very competitive, particularly in a presidential election year.

Under the new Ohio map that has two fewer seats than in the previous decade, there is a logjam of defeated Democratic representatives looking to run again. In addition to Wilson, former eastern Ohio representatives John Boccieri (D-OH-16) and Zack Space (D-OH-18) are at least considering running in 2012. Also, don’t forget gadfly former Rep. Jim Traficant (D/I-OH-17), either. Traficant represented the Youngstown seat for nine terms before being expelled and forced to serve a seven-year prison sentence for accepting bribes and related crimes. He has also not ruled out running next year but, even if he does, it will be as a minor Independent candidate. Add current representatives Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Tim Ryan (D-OH-17) to the equation and you have five strong candidates forced to vie for only four seats.

Boccieri could be the swing man in this scenario and will likely face a major Democratic primary wherever he might decide to run. His old 16th District touches the new 6th, 7th, 13th, and 16th CDs. If he wants a shot at the man who defeated him last year (41-52 percent), freshman GOP Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16), he will likely have to wrest the Democratic nomination away from Rep. Sutton, whose current district is now also spread among several new seats. The most logical place for her to run is in District 16, against Renacci. A tough, divisive Democratic primary between Boccieri and Sutton, however, would certainly give the Republican a huge advantage in the general election, an edge that in and of itself might be enough to make the ultimate difference.

Boccieri could also run in District 6 against Rep. Johnson, but now he’ll have to oppose Mr. Wilson in the primary. He could also dip to the south and challenge freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH-18) in the new 7th District, but there he would likely draw former Rep. Space, who lost 40-54 percent to Gibbs. Lastly, he could theoretically challenge incumbent Rep. Ryan in the new 13th District, but such a move is highly unlikely to occur.

But Ms. Sutton is the area’s sitting incumbent with major problems. With downtown Akron now in the new Cleveland-dominated 11th District, she could conceivably challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) but, another elected official, state Sen. Nina Turner, is already in that race. Under the theory that the two African-American candidates could split the majority demographic voter base, Rep. Sutton’s entry in the race could allow her to construct an alternative Democratic coalition and take advantage of the split between the two candidates. Ms. Sutton is unlikely to choose this option, however.

Most of the Akron congresswoman’s current 13th CD is in the new 16th, meaning taking the aforementioned general election incumbent pairing with Renacci, or hopping over into the Youngstown seat to challenge Rep. Ryan in the party primary. Finally, her last option would be to move south and seek a confrontation with Gibbs, but there she would likely have to face Space first.

Though the Ohio Democratic candidate pool appears deep for 2012, the inevitable intra-party fights will weaken their standing in several of these central-east Buckeye State seats.

A December New Hampshire Primary?

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner indicated that he might consider setting a Presidential primary date as early as Dec. 6 unless Nevada moves back the date of its caucuses to January 17th or later.

Gardner, who has set the date of New Hampshire’s “first-in-the-nation” primary since 1976, issued a memo on Wednesday calling both Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Tuesday, Dec. 13, “realistic options” unless Nevada agrees to its nomination contests after Jan. 17.

Florida’s recent rescheduling of its primary to Jan. 31, which we reported in our Oct. 3 edition, is the action that set the dominoes in motion. As a result of the Sunshine State’s action, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina have all moved up the dates of their primaries to maintain their status — in that order — as the first nominating contests in the 2012 cycle. Gardner has sent an early signal that the New Hampshire date will be significantly earlier by moving up the Granite State’s candidate filing period to open on Oct. 17 and close 11 days later on Oct. 28.

South Carolina has set its primary for Jan. 21, and Nevada officials have already set its caucus for Jan. 14. Iowa officials have indicated that Jan. 3 is going to be the date of the nation’s first caucus.

Gardner is bound by a New Hampshire state law requiring the Secretary of State to set their primary at least one week before any other nominating contest that would undercut the state’s much cherished “first-in-the-nation” primary status.

Gardner’s memo clearly states, “If Nevada does not adjust its caucus date to a later time, I cannot rule out the possibility of a December primary.”

Gardner subsequently told news organizations that he will not set the presidential primary date until sometime after Oct. 17.

“When I set the date, I will explain all the reasons why it ends up on that date. It’s not my preference to put it in December. The problem is all of our choices are bad choices. I just want to be pick the best of the bad,” he told NBC News last Friday.

As we reported on Oct. 3., Florida’s move, which set off this chain reaction, to change its primary date to Jan. 31 in violation of Republican National Committee rules looks to drastically alter the GOP presidential nomination fight. Under RNC rules, the only states permitted to conduct a delegate selection event prior to the March 6th Super Tuesday date are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Florida is willing to accept penalties that will reduce their 99 member Republican National Committee delegation to approximately 50, coupled with other sanctions, in order to make the move.

But accepting intra-party punishment is not the only factor involved in altering their election schedule. Under the Voting Rights Act, all or parts of 16 states are subjected to federal approval of all electoral moves, including primary/caucus date selection. Therefore, it is the Obama Justice Department that will have to grant Florida, New Hampshire, and South Carolina “preclearance” or, in this case, permission to schedule a nominating event in January 2012. Only Iowa and Nevada, in this group of five states, may move unencumbered because they are not part of the group of 16.

At this stage, it’s anybody’s guess how this calendar hopping might affect the outcome of these early nominating contests, but clearly the present front-runners, especially Mitt Romney, who polls show has now opened up a large lead over the rest of the Republican field, might like the nominations to be held sooner rather than later. This way, the vote will occur before the recently fickle GOP primary electorate has a chance to change its mind again.

Ben Nelson’s “Independent” Ad

A year away from the 2012 election, embattled Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) already has embarked on a rather interesting strategic course. If the logic behind his new television ad ultimately prevails, a new chapter in campaign finance law could be opening. If the Republicans directly counter-attack, Nelson may have prematurely opened a door that he would have preferred kept closed.

The Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee is paying for an ad that attacks all three of Nelson’s Republican opponents, graphically portraying them as three peas in a pod. The Senator’s campaign claims that this ad is part of an independent issue expenditure and should not count against the coordinated expenditure limit between party and candidate. What’s different about this “independent” ad – one that cannot be coordinated with a campaign – is that the senator himself appears in the spot and says he approves of its message. If this is considered “independent,” then we could have a whole new approach to all other independent expenditure campaigns.

In the body of the ad, Nelson and his party claim the Republican candidates want to cut Medicare and Social Security and that he (Nelson) will protect them both. Yet, when the senator became the deciding vote on the Obama healthcare plan that led to the infamous “Cornhusker Kick-back” attack, now the source of Nelson’s current political trouble, he himself supported a $500 million cut in Medicare by voting for the bill. The counter-argument to this point seems an easy one for the GOP candidates to make.

The new party ad, independent or not, may prove to cause Sen. Nelson more trouble than it might be worth. His taking such bold action at this time clearly confirms the public polls that show him trailing his Republican opponents.