Monthly Archives: November 2011

If Cain Departs, What Happens?

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain confirmed he is “reassessing” his campaign prospects in view of another accusation of an extramarital affair. Acquaintance Ginger White claims she had a 13-year liaison with Cain, this on the heels of several women claiming that he had sexually harassed them. Mr. Cain carried on in defiance of the original negative attacks but the fact that he is stepping back from his campaign, at least for a short time, indicates that this latest flap may deal a death blow to his presidential aspirations.

If so, how will his exit affect the Republican campaign, particularly when the candidates are fast approaching a most critical juncture? The Iowa Caucuses, now just five weeks away, could produce a defining result for the remainder of the race. If a candidate other than Mitt Romney wins the Iowa vote, then that person could well become his principal challenger. If Romney is isolated in a one-on-one race where his opponent is commonly viewed as being more conservative, that individual will likely win the nomination. Romney, who repeatedly breaks 25% in Republican primary trial heat polls only in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Nevada despite virtually all of those sampled knowing his name, has yet to solidify the front runner position. He benefits from a crowded field of opponents, each commanding the support of a similar-sized group of voters.

The latest Iowa public opinion polls show a very tight race among Romney, Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14). One recent survey showed the quartet of candidates to be within a four-point spread, with Cain topping the group (Selzer & Company, Nov. 10-12 – 503 self-identified Iowa Republicans planning to vote in their respective Caucus meetings: Cain 20 percent, Paul 19 percent, Romney 18 percent, Gingrich 17 percent). Obviously, an eventual Herman Cain withdrawal would have a significant effect upon the Iowa Caucus result and lead to an even more wide-open contest, if that is possible.

The typical Cain supporter is obviously conservative and clearly agrees with the retired business executive’s call to “shake-up Washington.” Therefore, more than likely, the majority of those Cain supporters sharing this mind-set would be attracted to a strongly conservative, non-Washington candidate. Therefore, the more moderate Gov. Romney is in poor position to attract the average Cain voter. Mr. Gingrich would certainly fit the ideological bill, but he is the consummate Washington insider. Rep. Paul probably strikes an economic chord with the Cain voting segment, but he has also been in politics a very long time and certainly does not share conservative views on foreign policy and many social issues.

Therefore, could this be the opening that Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to restore credibility and return to the first tier of candidates, a la Gingrich’s return from the political ash heap? It’s hard see such a path for Perry right now, but the Texas governor probably blends best with those previously attracted to Cain. And, he still commands the financial wherewithal to communicate such a message.

In a race that has already seen so many twists and turns even before the first votes are cast, it appears that anything is possible. Should Cain retire from the campaign, the Iowa Caucuses become ever more important in determining the final course of this intra-party Republican presidential battle even though, today, the outcome is unclear.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following nine states during the past week: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis’s impeachment saga continues, but it appears to be finally ending. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) still wants to take further action in order to remove Mathis from her position, but the state Supreme Court is issuing clear signals that they will again stop the process. The high court issued a letter indicating that the “substance” of the charges and not the “format of the letter” is an inadequate basis for removing the chairwoman from office. The signal likely means that Mathis will continue to serve and that a congressional map will soon be passed into law. Expect a revised draft map that featured four Republican seats, two Democratic, and three marginal seats likely to trend toward the Democrats to be the final plan.

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The special panel charged with redistricting responsibility is fast approaching its Nov. 30 deadline to release maps. Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who appointed the members, said it would be a “gigantic failure” if the committee again fails to meet the imposed deadline. The target date was previously moved to the 30th from September. Concrete action will be occurring here very shortly.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Facing the most difficult redistricting task in the nation, the Florida state Senate unveiled the first congressional map of the legislative session. The new map would basically keep the current footprint intact while adding a new Republican district in central Florida, the 26th, that includes Lake and Citrus Counties and parts of Marion and Lake. The plan also adds a Democratic district, the 27th, anchored in Osceola County, and including parts of Orange and Polk. There are no political numbers yet released with this map, but it appears to be a 20R-7D cut. The map likely adheres to the Voting Rights Act, but largely ignores the new provisions of the redistricting initiative voters passed in 2010. Rep. Corinne Brown’s current 3rd District, featuring a craggy, meandering draw touching Jacksonville, Gainesville, and the Orlando metropolitan area – which prompted the ballot initiative to draw more compact seats – is again presented in a similar configuration. The state Senate map is simply a proposal. Expect the most difficult legal process in the country to ensue before a final map is put in place for the 2012 elections. Should such a map as proposed by the Senate actually prevail, it would be a huge boon to the Republicans.

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – The judge hearing the Republican redistricting legal challenge has postponed the candidate filing deadline from Dec. 5 to Dec. 27. The court also allowed itself leeway to change the deadline again, saying that if the case is still unresolved by Dec. 21, the date could subsequently be moved once more. The Illinois primary is March 20.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – State legislative leaders have again postponed redistricting action. They now have a target deadline of May 10 to vote on new political maps. The Kansas primary is Aug. 7.

MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel holding Mississippi redistricting responsibilities is indicating that it may impose a new congressional map prior to the new legislature taking office. With the Republican sweep of the 2011 elections, the GOP now controls the entire redistricting process. Since the candidate filing deadline is Jan. 13, however, and the new legislature convenes Jan. 3, little time is available to pass a map. The fast judicial action would be unusual, particularly since a court-imposed map normally only has interim status. It is presumed, based upon legal precedence, that the legislative product would constitute the state’s final action.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – Apparently both sides are close to agreeing on jointly proposing a compromise, “no-change” map to the court with redistricting responsibility. Such a plan would likely keep the lines basically as they are, once adjusted for population change. The 2nd District of Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is the most out of balance. It needs to gain just 22,437 people, however. Even if the Democrats and Republicans agree to a map, the court is not bound to accept the offering. Still, it appears the New Mexico redistricting situation is close to resolution.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – The redistricting legislative panel released its new two-district plan that, if adopted, will easily keep the Ocean State’s pair of seats in Democratic hands. District 1 needs to gain only 7,263 people from District 2, so the changes from the current map are minimal.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The newly-released Texas congressional district court plan has been vetted, and the Democrats will make gains in the Lone Star State in comparison to the now-defunct legislative plan. The original law, struck down by the courts, would likely have returned 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The new map will send three of the four new seats to the Democratic column, but still does not put a Hispanic seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It does add a new Democratic seat in Tarrant County, however, but one that probably won’t elect a Hispanic. Apparently not paying much heed to the US Supreme Court directives in the Bartlett v. Strickland case that better defined minority district drawing criteria, the three-judge panel again favored more minority coalition districts, and these generally produce victories for white Democrats. The court made major changes in the center of the state, from DFW south through Austin and into San Antonio. They basically left east and west Texas in relatively unchanged position, with the exception of Districts 8 (Rep. Kevin Brady), 14, 34, and 36, but the partisan make-up should be the same with the possible exception of Rep. Ron Paul’s (R) open 14th District.

The big winners in the plan are the 20 Republican incumbents who receive safe seats, and the Democrats who should see their nine-seat delegation rise to between 12 and 14, depending upon the 2012 election results.

GOP incumbents who will have more competitive districts are Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), and Quico Canseco (R-TX-23).

It is likely that the court-drawn map will be in place for the 2012 elections, since candidate filing is already underway and the congressional primary is set for Super Tuesday, March 6. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, considering the state’s lawsuit, could issue a different map or directive, but it is unlikely that any course of action will derail the three-judge panel’s map from enactment at least for this one election. The state attorney general reportedly will ask the US Supreme Court to stay the judicial panel’s congressional map. He has already done so for the state House and Senate maps. It is unlikely that the high court will act, however. The legislature could change or replace the plan when it next convenes, as it did in 2003 and was ruled to have such authority by a US Supreme Court vote of 9-0.

With Rep. Frank Retiring, What’s Next?

Yesterday Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), currently serving his 16th two-year term in the House, announced he will not seek re-election in 2012. Previously, he had said he would run again but the Massachusetts redistricting plan gave him a much different seat, one that includes a substantial amount of new territory. The new 4th is more Republican, but nowhere close to the level of making Rep. Frank vulnerable to defeat. The loss of the more liberal towns of Fall River and New Bedford, however, which were replaced with more culturally conservative regions, does change the ideological prism of the district.

Without Mr. Frank in the 2012 picture, several Democrat office holders already are beginning to make moves to enter the race. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter announced his congressional candidacy yesterday on the heels of the Frank retirement statement. Two former US Senate candidates, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and wealthy businessman Alan Khazei, both of whom dropped their bids earlier this year in favor of Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, are also potential candidates. Three women, Democrat state and local officials, likewise are being mentioned: state Sen. Cynthia Creem, and Brookline Selectwomen Jesse Mermell and Deborah Goldberg.

On the Republican side, 2010 nominee Sean Bielat, who held Frank to a 53-43 percent victory in the current district, had previously announced his candidacy as did Elizabeth Childs, a former state Mental Health Commissioner. The Democrats will likely hold the seat, but this campaign becomes more interesting in its new status as an open seat contest.

Update: House Review – Part II

We trust everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Resuming our coverage of the post-redistricting states as it relates to congressional maps, we analyze the remaining 13 states that have completed their drawing process for 2012. Legal action in some states could ultimately change the maps, but odds are strong that the 25 states with plans already adopted through their legislative and/or court processes will stand at least through the next election. To look over Part I of our two-part series, please go to this link: House Review – Part I.

Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA-4) district becomes a bit more Republican, and it appears to be gathering serious general election competition between the two parties now with Frank’s impending retirement announcement at this writing. In a district that looked like the D’s would easily prevail next November with a Frank re-election, things now appear to be not so certain. More on that in another upcoming separate post.

The loss of a district in reapportionment prompted the retirement of Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1). And with Frank joining him in retirement, only eight of the 10 current incumbents are seeking re-election; and all now have a single-member district in which to run. New Districts 1 and 2 are combined into a large western Massachusetts seat covering the Springfield-Chicopee metro area and stretching to the New York border through Pittsfield and Amherst. The new 1st District is safely Democratic, but Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2) is getting a primary challenge from former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo, currently a Berkshire County local official.

Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) has decided to run in the new 9th District, despite his Quincy metro area political base being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s new 8th District. Keating will probably be tested in the Democratic primary, but the eventual winner of that contest holds the seat in the general election.

Michigan

Republicans are in total control of the Michigan redistricting process, so it is no surprise that the Democrats will absorb the loss of a seat from reapportionment. The map pairs veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MA-12) with sophomore Gary Peters (D-MI-9) in a new, safely Democratic 9th District but the latter has chosen an alternative course to re-election. Instead of challenging Rep. Levin, Mr. Peters has announced his intention to run in the new majority black 14th District. Freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) is seeking re-election here, so this seat will host the pairing instead of District 9. Since Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is also in the race, Peters believes that the African-American vote will be split between she and Rep. Clarke. Therefore, he has the potential of building a white voter coalition large enough to win a primary with a small plurality, since the state has no run-off procedure. This strategy is a long shot, and Clarke has to be rated as the early favorite.

The new 11th District of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) continues in a competitive mode. He can expect serious competition in both the primary and general elections of 2012. If the Democrats do well nationally, then the 11th District could be in play. Odds are, however, the partisan swing is likely to be R+1 due only to the collapsed Democratic seat.

Missouri

As in Michigan and Massachusetts, the Missouri Democrats will also lose a seat because of reapportionment. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has had his 3rd District split several ways, forcing him to seek re-election in the open 2nd District now that Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is running for the Senate. MO-2 is a Republican seat, but less so than in the previous draw. Carnahan will have strong general election opposition and is a clear underdog, especially if the top of the 2012 ticket goes Republican. All other incumbents appear to command strong re-election position. The partisan swing is likely to be R+1, with the GOP holding the 2nd District and all other incumbents retaining their new seats.

Nebraska

The Cornhusker State holds all three of its districts for the ensuing decade, and all should remain in the Republican column. Rep. Lee Terry’s (R) NE-2 District, which was becoming more competitive, was strengthened for him somewhat in the new draw. Expect no change in the 3R-0D delegation.

Nevada

The state gained one seat in reapportionment and the legislative process deadlocked, forcing a Nevada court to draw a de novo map. The result should produce one solid Democratic seat – Las Vegas-based District 1 that will be open and features a comeback attempt from defeated Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-3) – one likely Republican seat – District 2 of newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei (R), but he may face a serious primary against 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle – and two marginal seats. Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd District, in Nevada’s southern tail, will continue to see general election competition. The same is likely true for new District 4, which will encompass the northern part of Clark County and travel up through the center of the state. The likely result is a 2R-2D split, with Republicans holding the Amodei and Heck seats, and Democrats claiming the two open seats. Democrats should be in better position as the decade progresses, assuming demographic trends remain similar to present patterns. A 3D-1R split is also possible for 2012 if the Democrats do well in the presidential race and a sweep atmosphere occurs.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State is the Republican counter to the Democrats’ strength in Illinois. The Dem gains likely to be realized in the Land of Lincoln will largely be neutralized here, as the GOP could gain as many as four seats. Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) are paired in a new 4th District that now stretches from Raleigh south to Fayetteville. The winner of this tough intra-party campaign holds the seat in the general election. The new 13th District, now an open seat contest, will heavily favor the eventual Republican nominee. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) are all seriously endangered and each could lose. The final swing here could be R+3 to R+4.

Oklahoma

The state adopted a map that changes very little among the five congressional districts. District 2, now open because Rep. Dan Boren (D) is not seeking re-election, becomes a strong GOP conversion opportunity. All other incumbents are safe. Because of the open seat, the preliminary projected outcome is R+1.

Oregon

Coming relatively close to gaining a new seat in reapportionment but falling just short, Oregon returns with its five districts for the ensuing decade. The new map changes little, so expect a 4D-1R split to continue for the foreseeable future. The 1st District, now in special election (January 31st) due to Rep. David Wu’s (D) resignation, will likely remain in Democratic hands in the person of state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici who has already won the special primary election. Expect no partisan change here.

South Carolina

Reapportionment adds a new 7th District to the Palmetto State delegation. The new seat is anchored in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area and then comes south toward Charleston. The GOP controls the state’s entire political process and drew a 6R-1D map that the Department of Justice recently pre-cleared. All five current Republican members, four of whom are freshmen, should have safe seats as does the lone South Carolina Democrat, House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6). The Republican nomination process, in all likelihood, will choose the new 7th District congressman. Because of the addition of the new seat, expect a partisan swing of R+1.

Texas

The Republicans’ inability to produce a legally sound 36-District map will now cost the party at least three seats. The draw produced from the legislative process would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats, a gain of three Republicans and one Democrat from the current 23R-9D delegation split. With the new, just unveiled court map, which we will detail in tomorrow’s PRIsm Redistricting Report, a 23R-13D result is possible. Democrats will now likely win three of the four new seats and Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is in an even more precarious position for re-election. The districts of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) become more Democratic and could become competitive, but likely in elections beyond 2012 as demographics continue to evolve. If Canseco wins, a distinct possibility next year as the national elections will undoubtedly favor the Republicans in Texas, the delegation count will be 24R-12D, a gain of three Democratic seats, while the GOP increases one. If the Democrats successfully unseat the freshman Canseco, the split will likely result in a net gain of four Democratic seats.

Utah

The Beehive State also gains an additional district from reapportionment and the Republicans have a chance of sweeping the state. The new map could yield a 4R-0D result, but Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) has proven he can survive in strongly Republican districts. If he decides to run for governor, however, a GOP sweep becomes much more realistic. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) get safe seats. Districts 2 and 4 should also elect Republican candidates, but Matheson’s presence in one of those seats could change such an outcome. Expect at least a 3R-1D split for a minimum gain of one Republican seat; two, if they can finally defeat Matheson or he vacates to run statewide. At this point, the congressman has ruled out a challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), but has not closed the door to opposing Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

West Virginia

The legislative process produced a no-change map that basically keeps the current seats intact. The 1st District is still marginal, so expect freshman Rep. David McKinley (R) to have major competition in his re-election battle. The voter history patterns still suggest a Republican victory, however, so it is likely to remain in the toss-up category. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) retains the basic outline of her seat, which she has made relatively solid for herself despite the region’s Democratic overtones. New District 3 remains safe for Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). The 1st District campaign will decide if the state breaks 2R-1D or 2D-1R.

Wisconsin

Republicans control the process here, too, and drew a map that locks in their 5R-3D majority, possibly for the entire decade. Realistically, this is the best the GOP can do in the Badger State. Expect all incumbents to retain their seats. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is vacating her Madison-anchored seat to run for the Senate, but her replacement will be determined in the Democratic primary. Rep. Ron Kind’s (D) 3rd District becomes more Democratic so as to produce a more Republican seat for freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-7). The adjoining districts traded segments of voters to strengthen each for the respective incumbents. This is particularly important for Duffy as he is the first Republican to represent northwest Wisconsin in more than 40 years.

Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez to Retire

Seven-term Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX-20) announced over the weekend that he will not seek re-election next year, a surprise announcement.

The congressman says he wants to return to the private sector for financial reasons. The new court-drawn redistricting map just released prior to the Thanksgiving break makes the 20th District a bit more Republican, but still would have easily re-elected Mr. Gonzalez.

Since this is an unexpected open seat, local politicians will begin making their moves to take advantage of the situation. This development could create another opportunity for former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX-23) who is planning to run next year in a San Antonio-based CD.

Mr. Gonzalez becomes the 22nd member to announce they will not seek re-election to the House in 2012, and the 16th Democrat. He is the eighth member to retire. The others are running for higher office.

Senate Poll Shockers

A series of surveys was just released for key US Senate races in several states. Two studies produced especially surprising results, those in Florida and North Dakota.

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 17; 500 likely Florida voters) now gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) an unexpected 43-39 percent lead over Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). This is the first poll of the election cycle that shows Nelson in a deficit position to any potential Republican opponent.

After saying he would not run in March, Rep. Mack did an about-face late last month and his decision appears to be paying off, at least in the short term. Prior to recent polls showing Rep. Mack within two, six, and now leading by four points, Sen. Nelson posted consistent 15-point margins against the other two main Republican candidates, former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

It was always believed that the Ft. Myers congressman and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III could make this race competitive, and the last three polls certainly confirm that supposition.

In North Dakota, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the results of the Mellman Group poll (Nov. 12-16; 600 likely North Dakota voters) it commissioned for newly announced candidate Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general. The data give Ms. Heitkamp a 47-42 percent lead over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). This is a stunner in that Berg is thought to be the prohibitive favorite to convert the open seat (Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring) for the GOP. North Dakota is projected to be the Republicans’ best opportunity to take a Democratic seat.

Since this tabulation conflicts with other North Dakota polls, it is possible that the survey is an anomaly. In its defense, however, are the presidential numbers. As one would expect, a prospective Republican nominee is ahead of President Obama in the Peace Garden State, even according to these same Mellman Group numbers. Mitt Romney has a 47-33 percent advantage over the President within this polling universe, which is perfectly in line with North Dakota presidential election voting behavior. If further surveys show a similar pattern in this Senate race, a new competitive race could be on the horizon.

According to a brand new Epic MRA poll of the Michigan Senate race (Nov. 13-16; 600 registered Michigan voters), former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) has decreased his deficit against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Their latest survey shows only a six-point 48-42 percent advantage for the two-term Democratic incumbent. This is a net gain of three points for Hoekstra over the firm’s August poll that gave Stabenow a 47-38 percent edge.

The Michigan race is another critical contest for the GOP. Thought to be vulnerable at the beginning of the year, the Republicans were slow to find a credible opponent against the senator, finally convincing Hoekstra to launch a campaign after the former congressman had publicly announced that he would not run.

One of the slower races to take shape is the open Arizona seat of retiring Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl (R). New polling information is now available for the Republican primary in this state and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is off to a big lead, as expected. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 17-20; 400 registered Arizona Republican voters), Flake has a huge 53-7 percent lead over businessman Wil Cardon. Magellan Strategies found a similar pattern. Their latest Arizona study (Nov. 16; 722 registered Arizona Republican voters) gives Flake a similar 55-3 percent margin against Cardon.

Democrats have a large field in the Grand Canyon State, including former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and ex-Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens. Right now, it appears the race is Flake’s to lose.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the past week: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas.

ALABAMA (current delegation: 6R-1D) – The Department of Justice officially granted pre-clearance for the Alabama congressional map, making the enacted map a virtual lock to survive all future legal challenges. The plan protects all seven incumbents and should return the 6R-1D delegation split for the ensuing decade.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court overturned Arizona Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis’ (I) impeachment, thus reinstating her as a member of the panel. This likely means that the Commission will now be able to pass a new congressional map into law. The draft map has now exceeded the required time limit for public comment and is ready for passage. The panel has indicated that some changes will be made based upon input received. Mathis says the Commission will complete its work before Christmas. The map features four Republican districts, two Democratic, and three swing seats that will likely trend toward the Democrats as the decade progresses. For her part, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) who led Mathis’ impeachment drive, indicated she may again pursue an effort to remove her.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The Republicans decided to appeal the lower court action that constructed the new congressional districts. Under the plan, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) is endangered and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) continues to hold a very marginal seat. The state Supreme Court will hear the appeal and have scheduled the first week of December for oral arguments.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Now that the odd-numbered year elections are over, the Kentucky legislature released draft congressional maps. The congressional delegation itself proposed a map and state Assembly Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) also put forth his plan. Both are similar, particularly in the way they protect the 4R-2D current footprint. The Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a strong majority in the Senate. The deal appears to give all four GOP members safe seats but also shores up Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) who had a close call in the 2010 election, winning by just 515 votes. The incumbent protection plan is expected to pass into law.

MASSACHUSETTS (current delegation: 10D; loses one seat) – After a slight delay due to a legislative procedural maneuver, the state Senate passed the House version of the new nine-district congressional map. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed the plan into law yesterday. The map should elect nine Democrats in succeeding elections. With Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1) retiring, his 1st District was collapsed into the Springfield seat of Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2), making one large western Mass district. Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) will run in the new 9th District despite his home city of Quincy being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-MA-9) new 8th District.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – Late last week, the political parties filed their proposed congressional maps with the special judicial panel hearing the redistricting lawsuit. The legislature passed a map, but Gov. Mark Dayton (D) vetoed the plan. Therefore, the court must draw a de novo map. For their part, the Republicans filed the eight-district bill that passed the legislature. The Democrats submitted their own map, but the plan was so partisan that even two of their own congressional members, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), both decried it saying their Democratic Party leaders went too far. The Dem plan pairs Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) with McCollum in a new Democratic 4th District that is only two points below the present MN-4 partisan number. Bachmann, should she choose to seek re-election to the House, could move to a nearby more Republican seat, so it is unlikely that the pairing will ever occur. McCollum’s chief of staff was quoted as saying, “The DFL Chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre.” Peterson stated his belief that both party’s maps are too partisan. The court is taking input from all sides and will put forth its own plan at a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The three-judge panel drawing the new Texas maps released the state House and Senate maps, meaning the congressional plans will soon be made public, probably right before Thanksgiving or the Monday after the holiday. The panel favored the Democratic versions of the submitted legislative plans, and much the same is expected for the congressional plan. The enacted US House plan would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The court plan will likely be closer to a 22- or 23-R, 14- or 13-D map.

Newt Comes All the Way Back

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has soared to first place in two just-released national political polls, cementing his remarkable comeback into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.

According to both the Opinion Research Council for CNN (Nov. 18-20; 1,019 adults; 402 self-identified Republicans) and Gallup (Nov. 13-17; 1,062 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), Gingrich now leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by slim margins. ORC posts Gingrich to a 24 percent stake over second-place Romney, who is at 20 percent. Retired business executive Herman Cain is third with 17 percent. Then comes Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 11 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) trails with 9 percent support.

The Gallup data projects an even tighter race. There, Mr. Gingrich squeezes out a 22 percent share over Romney, who is at 21 percent; Cain has 16 percent, Paul 9 percent, and Perry 8 percent.

Once again we see a familiar pattern in the polling. Yet another candidate has now claimed the top spot in a national poll – Romney, Perry, and Cain have all been first in multiple surveys – and Romney continues to flat-line in the low 20s. This race is as volatile as any presidential campaign in recent history. With actual voting beginning just six weeks from today in Iowa, the campaign will soon start to peak. But as we approach Thanksgiving, the 2012 Republican nomination remains in free-for-all status.

State-by-State House Race Review

With several more states completing their redistricting maps, it is again a good time to take an updated look at the competitive campaigns where district boundaries have been adopted. The first 12 states are covered below. The remaining dozen will be in Wednesday’s report. If the Texas court map is released this week, that analysis will be included, too.

As of now, the aggregate partisan swing pertaining to the states that have completed their maps is negligible. The remaining 14 multi-district states where the process has either not begun or isn’t complete, as well as the new Texas map, could favor the Democrats by the tune of 10 to 12 seats.

Alabama

All incumbents received winnable districts. Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-AL-3) district was greatly improved from his perspective. The Alabama map still awaits Justice Department pre-clearance. Assuming it is granted, no partisan change is expected here.

Arkansas

The new lines most greatly affect the 1st and 4th districts. Freshman GOP Rep. Rick Crawford faces a difficult test in the new 1st District, which was made more Democratic. The retirement of Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) makes the new 4th CD highly competitive in an open seat situation and is a GOP conversion opportunity. The swing will fall between R+1 and D+1.

California

The California Independent Redistricting Commission created a highly competitive map that could produce contested campaigns in as many as 23 of the 53 districts. The change in the state’s election law also adds a new twist to California campaigns. Now, the top two finishers in the June qualifying election advance to the November general regardless of party affiliation.

Among incumbents, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) whose home was placed in new District 32, faces the most difficult re-election situation. He won’t run in CA-32 against Rep. Grace Napolitano (D) because the seat so heavily favors the Democrats. He could run in District 31, assuming Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) does not seek re-election there, or District 26 if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) decides to challenge Rep. Buck McKeon (R) in the new 25th District. Neither scenario is positive for Dreier.

Several members are paired. The most notable are Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) in the new Los Angeles County 30th District, and Reps. Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R) in the new 39th District (Orange County). Should Gallegly and McKeon square-off in the new 25th, then another incumbent pairing will result.

With members still deciding where, or if, to run in 2012, the California situation is still unclear. It appears the statewide swing can go all the way from +3 Democrat to +3 Republican. After only seeing one incumbent of either party lose during the entire last decade, the new congressional redistricting map will make the Golden State one of the more hotly contested states in the country.

Colorado

The new court-produced map changes the competition factor. The plan makes the 4th District of freshman Rep. Cory Gardner (R) more Republican, but endangers sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6). The western slope 3rd District remains in the swing category. The partisan swing could go from even to D+2.

Georgia

The state gained one seat in reapportionment, and Republicans adding that seat to their column is a certainty. Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12) will face a more competitive re-election contest, but the large African-American percentage is his greatest asset and may be enough to save him. The swing could go from R+1 to R+2. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) was given a relatively safe Republican seat, but a much different one than his current district. A primary challenge here is a possibility. Like Alabama, Georgia awaits Department of Justice pre-clearance.

Idaho

The redistricting commission made only cosmetic changes in the state’s two congressional districts. Both Republican incumbents have winnable districts.

Illinois

This is the Democrats’ best state. The partisan swing could be as many as a D+4. Reps. Bob Dold (R-IL-10), Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) all have difficult re-election challenges. Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) are paired in the new 14th CD. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) are paired in the new 16th.

Indiana

Republicans drew the Hooiser State map and are attempting to increase their 6-3 delegation advantage to 7-2. They might be successful, since 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) decided to forego re-election in a more difficult seat and is running for the Senate. Though the 2nd District is more Republican, it is still competitive as President Obama scored 49 percent even within the new boundaries. By making IN-2 more Republican, the 8th District of freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) becomes more competitive. The map improved, from a Republican perspective, freshman Rep. Todd Young’s (R) 9th District. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Iowa

The new four-district map largely displaces all five current House incumbents. The loss of a seat in reapportionment causes the pairing of Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4) in the very different and marginal new 3rd District. This race will be a toss-up all the way to Election Day. The new western Iowa 4th District is also competitive. Rep. Steve King (R) faces Christie Vilsack (D), the wife of former governor and current US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Louisiana

Reapportionment costs the state one district and even though Republicans control the entire process, they will lose a seat. The new map pairs veteran Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7) and freshman Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) in the new 3rd District. Boustany is favored. All of the other incumbents should be safe. With the GOP taking the reapportionment hit, the partisan swing becomes D+1 by default.

Maine

Another two-district state where little change will occur. After an attempt to make the 1st District more Republican, the final plan protects the state’s two Democrats, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2). No change is expected here.

Maryland

The Democrats, in full control of the redistricting process, made the Republicans pay. The resulting plan will very likely increase their 6D-2R delegation split to 7D-1R. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District goes from 57 percent McCain, based upon the 2008 presidential contest, to 62 percent Obama, thus becoming a likely Democratic conversion district. All other incumbents, including freshman GOP Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1), get safe seats. The partisan swing is D+1.

More state reports on Wednesday …

Newt Romps in Iowa Poll

Rasmussen Reports just released the results of their new Iowa poll (Nov. 15; 700 likely Iowa Republican caucus attenders), and it shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be holding a commanding lead over the rest of the field. Gingrich posted 32 percent, followed by Mitt Romney with 19 percent, and then Herman Cain, who has dropped to 13 percent.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), who has recently been on the upswing in Iowa, placed fourth in this survey with 10 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who badly needs a strong performance in the Hawkeye State caucuses, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), winner of the Iowa Straw Poll event in August, are tied with just 6 percent apiece.

Mr. Gingrich continues to show strength in the latest polls, rebounding from his disastrous start that saw his support dwindle to just 3 percent nationally in some surveys, but his resurgence has not been as great as in this new Rasmussen poll. It is doubtful, however, that the former House Speaker has the campaign apparatus in place to deliver thousands of caucus voters to precinct meetings all throughout Iowa on Jan. 3. In low-turnout political events where people must attend an actual meeting in order to cast their votes for president, having a well-oiled organizational turnout operation is essential regardless of poll standing.

Arizona Redistricting Court Ruling

The Arizona Supreme Court late yesterday overturned the previous action that impeached the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission chair, thus reinstating Colleen Mathis as a member of the IRC. The state Senate and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) removed Mathis from office for “dereliction of duty,” but the high court said such petition did not legally demonstrate the charge.

The draft congressional map has now been before the public for the required 30 days, and many boundary changes have been suggested. Now that Mathis is back on the commission, the necessary three votes to pass a map, probably an amended one, will likely be attained. The original map is politically competitive but could elect five Democrats to four Republicans over the course of the decade. The current delegation stands at five Republicans and three Democrats. Arizona gains one seat in reapportionment. The proposed map features four solid Republican districts, two Democrat districts, and three competitive seats – all of which will likely trend away from the Republicans over time.

Poll: Gingrich Leads in California …

… Maybe.

Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of Republican primary voters in California – the country’s most delegate-rich state – during the Nov. 10-13 period, and it shows that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has opened up an 11-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (33-22 percent).

There are at least two important factors to consider here, however. First, the sample size for a Republican-registered voter electorate that exceeds 5.3 million people is only 316 respondents, way too small to accurately forecast macro GOP voting preferences. Second, California’s primary system, like that of Florida and several other states, is winner-take-all by congressional district. While placing first in the statewide popular vote count is worth 10 delegates, each of the 53 congressional districts delivers three apiece. Therefore, a mere statewide popular vote poll does not accurately forecast candidate strength under this particular voting format.

There is no question that Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is ascending. Should the nomination campaign progress through the early states with no apparent winner, then California, with its full complement of 172 delegates, could become a deciding state. The Gingrich campaign will have to focus on more traditional organizational activities if they are to take advantage of their candidate’s current wave of support; something that right now, they are incapable of doing.

20-19-18-17 Percent

Selzer & Company, the polling firm that conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, was in the field during the November 10-12 period, this time for the Bloomberg News Service, asking some unusual political questions of 2,677 adults. Within this large group, they found a subset of 503 individuals who said they were planning to participate in the Republican Caucus meetings Jan. 3.

Among the group of presidential candidates, retired business executive Herman Cain was the choice of 20 percent of the responders; Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was next with 19 percent; Mitt Romney scored 18 percent; and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich registered 17 percent. This suggests that, for this first delegate selection vote that will likely set the tone for the rest of the nomination season, the race is virtually a four-way tie.

The Iowa Caucus is becoming more important than even the most recent past years. The eventual Hawkeye State winner has the very real potential of becoming Mr. Romney’s chief rival. The key to beating the former Massachusetts governor is to isolate him in a one-on-one campaign, and become identified as the more conservative candidate. On the other hand, Romney wins in a crowded field, where his consistent poll standing in the low to mid-twenties might be enough to claim victory if the others rather evenly split the large number of outstanding votes.
Since he enjoys big leads in the New Hampshire primary polls, a victory in Iowa could provide Mr. Romney with enough momentum to wrap up the nomination early. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever won both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sweeping the two could make Romney unstoppable.

On another poll question, 29 percent of those sampled reported that their minds about who to support are set. A full 60 percent said they could still change their opinion, yet another piece of supporting evidence attesting to the volatility of this Republican nomination campaign.

In testing the tax reform ideas of the major candidates, 24% said they would favor a platform that described Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (9 percent corporate and 9 percent personal income tax rates, and a 9 percent national sales tax). This was trumped by an approach that would create three individual personal income tax rates at 23, 14 and 8%, however. Thirty-two percent said such an option would be their top tax reform choice. Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat tax rate was named by 14% of the Republican sample.

As the Iowa campaign begins to heat up, the race is getting closer. Much more will follow before the voters make a final determination right after the first of the year.

Weekly Redistricting Outlook

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court failed to grant impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis (I) a stay over the state Senate and governor’s decision to remove her from office. The Court has agreed to hear Mathis’ motion to overturn her removal, but the judicial body won’t allow her to return to the Commission before the case is heard. Thus, the Arizona congressional map is on hold for an indefinite period of time.

Mathis supporters and the Democratic Party were hoping the high court would reinstate her so the Commission would have time to pass the map that had been previously laid out for comment. The public is allowed 30 days to express opinion after which changes can be made. That period ended just days after Mathis was removed, thus denying the panel a clear majority to enact the plan. Over the course of time, the Mathis map would likely produce a 5D-4R Democratic majority in the Arizona delegation.

Should she lose her legal maneuvering, the process to fill the Mathis vacancy would begin anew as a different chairman would be chosen as defined through the procedures governing commission membership. By law, the IRC must have two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent who becomes the chairman.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The state court drawing the de novo map released its plan and basically adopted the Democratic outline. This is not a surprise, as the Colorado courts have repeatedly favored the Democrats in previous decades. The most endangered member of the delegation now appears to be sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), as his Arapahoe County-based district now wraps around into Adams County, northeast of Denver, and adds a much higher number of Democrats to what was his safe Republican seat. The 6th District goes from 46 percent Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to 54 percent Obama, suggesting that the district will become highly competitive in the 2012 election and likely beyond.

The big winner for the GOP is freshman Rep. Cory Gardner in the 4th District. Formerly a safe Republican seat, the 4th went Democratic for one term prior to Gardner’s victory in 2010. His eastern Colorado seat goes from 49 percent Obama to 42 percent Obama, representing a substantial jump in Republican voters.

The other districts remain in about the same partisan ratio as they were during the previous decade. This means the 3rd District of freshman Republican Rep. Scott Tipton remains as a swing seat. CD-4 changes from 47 percent Obama to 48 percent. The map, which is unlikely to be challenged, will create an even more competitive plan than in the past decade.

The state court was forced to draw the map because the legislature deadlocked over the congressional plan during the regular session.

NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) –
It appears the Republicans will not challenge the lower court-drawn congressional map. Petitioning the state Supreme Court would be the next step in the process. It is unlikely the high court would overturn what the lower court devised, so such action is futile, Republican leaders apparently believe. The court created a 1D, 1R map with two seats rated as competitive.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans are still trying to put a two-thirds coalition together in both houses of their legislature to pass a modified congressional map. At this writing, the chances of forming such a consensus appear slim. Failure to pass a new map means reverting to the previous enacted plan over which Democrats are currently gathering petition signatures to force a ballot referendum. If successful, the map will go to the voters in the general election of 2012, meaning a court will draw an interim 16-seat Ohio map for the current election cycle.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) –
A new Voting Rights lawsuit was filed against the state’s recently enacted congressional map that should return six Republicans and one Democrat to Washington. The lawsuit, brought by a group of African-American voters, claims that too many black voters were packed into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D) 6th District. Because the US Justice Department has already granted pre-clearance to the South Carolina congressional plan, any lawsuit charging illegalities over minority representation is unlikely to succeed.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) –
As expected, now that Republicans will assume control of the state Senate, the new leadership announced they will wait until the next legislative session, when they are officially in control, to move a congressional map. Expect the 8R-3D ratio to be strengthened and remain locked for the ensuing decade. The new session begins in January.

The Re-Birth of Newt Gingrich

A series of new polls confirm what earlier data was beginning to show, that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is back in the thick of the Republican presidential race and is now actually vying for first place. The new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 10-13; 576 US Republican primary voters) posts Gingrich to a 28-25-18 percent lead over retired business executive Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, respectively. Perhaps more astonishing, however, is the former Speaker’s favorability index according to the PPP poll. Always plagued with high negatives due to many controversies while he was in and out of Congress, Gingrich’s positive to negative ratio among the tested Republicans registers a very high 68:23 percent.

The Opinion Research Council, for CNN, also detects a major rise for Gingrich, though not as high as PPP’s conclusion. In their new larger sample survey, but conducted over a weekend (Nov. 11-13; 925 likely Republican primary voters), it’s Romney with the lead at 24 percent, followed closely by Gingrich’s 22 percent. In this poll, Mr. Cain falls all the way to 14 percent. The Polling Company was also in the field during the Nov. 11-13 period, but just in the state of Iowa, previewing the first-in-the-nation Caucus vote scheduled for Jan. 3. Among the 501 GOP caucus attenders tested, a tight race is forecast. Here, Herman Cain has a 20-19 percent lead over Gingrich. Mr. Romney trails at 14 percent.

Though the Gingrich rebound is truly extraordinary, considering he was down as low as 3 percent during the summer, it causes one to speculate about just how long the resurgence will last. Once the attacks start coming his way, will the former Speaker’s revival continue? It won’t take long to find out.