Monthly Archives: February 2012

Texas Redistricting Map Released

The three-judge federal panel in San Antonio yesterday released the latest version of the Texas congressional map, along with those for the state House and Senate. It is clear the panel adhered to the mandate the US Supreme Court delivered when the body rejected the original court map because the population was not equally dispersed among the 36 districts, and some of the minority districts did not meet previous federal directives.

The Texas Legislative Council released partisan numbers for the new seats, but not minority counts. Once the complete data is available, a full analysis can be provided.

At a cursory glance, it appears Republicans will fare much better with this map than under the previous court plan. Because the three-judge panel was forced to give deference to the legislatively passed map, the elected body’s original footprint has been restored.

The map appears to improve the seats of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), both of whom were given marginal districts in the first court plan. Freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) will continue to battle in a marginal 50/50 district, but has a better draw now than previously.

In the East Texas 14th District, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), the Galveston-Beaumont region is again together, which favors former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 and 22), but is even more Republican than in past versions. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25) is placed in the 35th District, a seat that stretches from Travis County, the Congressman’s home, into Bexar County. It will be a heavily Hispanic district. The new 25th District then becomes an open Republican seat that begins in western Travis County and meanders northward toward Ft. Worth.

It appears the GOP would be favored in 25 seats and the Democrats in 10, with the Canseco district being in toss-up status. A more detailed analysis will be conducted once the full demographic and political data becomes public.

Snowe’s Retirement a Blow to Republicans

In perhaps bigger news that Mitt Romney’s Tuesday wins in Michigan and Arizona, three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) sent shock waves through the political world by announcing that she has decided not to seek re-election in the fall. Despite high favorability and poll ratings, Snowe indicated she is leaving the Senate at the end of the term rather than serve in a Republican caucus that is trending far to the right of her individual ideological perspective.

The retirement is a blow to Republican chances of regaining the Senate majority, as the Maine seat appeared secure. Without Snowe in the race, Democrats become the favorites in an open seat race.

Expect Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to give serious consideration to running, as might former Gov. John Baldacci (D). Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has to be considered a strong potential candidate, but he has given no early indication that he will run.

Because Maine has a penchant for electing Independents in statewide contests, one also must consider who could run without being associated with a major party. Former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King would top this list of potential contenders.

Sen. Snowe becomes the 10th Senator to retire at the end of this Congress, meaning that 30 percent of the 2012 in-cycle seats will be open. Of the 10 upcoming vacancies, six are currently held by Democrats, one by an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman), and three Republicans.

What Do Mitt’s Tuesday Wins Mean?

Mitt Romney won a close victory in Michigan last night and a landslide victory in Arizona, but his performance still doesn’t knock out Rick Santorum. Because of what appears to be only a three-point victory in the Wolverine State, Romney probably will score only two more delegates from this state than does his chief opponent.

Arizona, on the other hand, is setting itself up as a winner-take-all state (29 delegates due to penalty), but that format is in defiance of Republican National Committee rules. Expect a major challenge here if the race goes all the way to the national convention.

With splits predicted for the upcoming Super Tuesday states, including the Washington caucuses this Saturday, the outcome of the GOP nomination battle will likely not be settled even after those states pass. Much more to come in this presidential race.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.

Is Kerrey In After All?

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), who hasn’t lived in Nebraska since leaving office in early 2001, may be reconsidering the decision he made two weeks ago to jettison a political comeback attempt in the Cornhusker State. Kerrey is reportedly now telling Democratic leaders that he has changed his mind and will enter the race as a candidate for the Senate. The former Senator served two terms from 1989 through 2001. Prior to his service in Washington, Mr. Kerrey logged one term as Nebraska’s governor. In 1992, he ran an ill-fated campaign for president.

The Kerrey decision may be more than simple equivocation, however. This could be a well-planned and shrewd move. Under Nebraska’s candidate filing law, current office holders must file for re-election or another office by Feb. 15 during this particular election cycle. Non-office holders have until March 1. The unique law allowed Kerrey the luxury of standing back to see what popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) actually decided about his own Senatorial candidacy. Heineman never appeared serious about running for federal office, but he also failed to publicly close the door on a bid. Polling showed that the governor would be the strongest candidate in either party.

With Heineman out and no strong Democrat on the horizon, the way is clear for Kerrey to return to political action. Should he run, he will face either Attorney General Jon Bruning or state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the general election. Even against Kerrey, the Republicans still might have a slight edge. With Sen. Ben Nelson (D) retiring, the GOP is in prime conversion position as President Obama, at the top of the ticket, is not projected to run strong here. The Nebraska seat is critical for both parties in terms of winning majority status.

Super Tuesday: Ohio Races

Super Tuesday marks not only an important day for the Republican presidential campaign, but also kicks off the 2012 congressional elections. Ohio holds its statewide vote on that date, making it the earliest congressional vote in the nation. Originally Texas also was scheduled for March 6, but legal wrangling over redistricting has postponed that primary to much later in the year.

Of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, a trio of Ohio US House primary contests will, for all intents and purposes, elect new members for the 113th Congress next week:

OH-2: The Schmidt Challenge

In the Cincinnati-anchored 2nd District, four-term Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faces surgeon Brad Wenstrup and two other minor Republican candidates. Wenstrup challenged Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in 2009 and managed to score 46 percent of the citywide vote. He has not been particularly aggressive in this race against Rep. Schmidt, however, raising slightly under $245,000 for his primary challenge according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing that was due Feb. 15. As revealed in the report, he had only $103,000 left to spend for the final drive. Schmidt, on the other hand, had raised just under $600,000 for the race.

Though Wenstrup has an apparent base in the eastern part of Cincinnati, an area he carried in the mayoral race and which is part of the new OH-2 congressional district, he has little presence in the six rural southwestern Ohio counties that comprise the remainder of the seat. Though Schmidt has never fully solidified her hold on the 2nd District since her original 2005 special election victory when she replaced Sen. Rob Portman (R) as he departed Congress to become President George W. Bush’s US trade ambassador and then budget director, she should comfortably turn back the Wenstrup challenge.

OH-3: Will Kilroy Return?

Turning to the new 3rd District in Columbus, former one-term Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is attempting to return to Congress in this newly created, heavily Democratic district. In the 2001 redistricting plan, there was no planned Democratic seat in the Columbus area, an odd situation for a major city that has, as the state capital, a large government employee population and hosts a major university (Ohio State). As a result, two seats that were originally intended for Republican incumbents were becoming highly competitive. The 2011 Republican redistricting plan to concede a new open Columbus seat to the Democrats allows the GOP to protect both the 12th (Rep. Pat Tiberi) and the 15th CDs (Rep. Steve Stivers) for the ensuing decade.

Such being the case, next Tuesday’s election will choose the new 3rd District member. Kilroy is being challenged by former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, now in an administration position at Ohio State, and state Rep. Ted Celeste, the brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste.

Kilroy released an early poll giving her a huge lead, but Beatty countered last week saying her internal Public Policy Polling survey places her just one point behind the former congresswoman 34-35 percent. Beatty did not release the actual PPP study, however, so it is difficult to determine its methodology and questionnaire. Celeste is a distant third in all scenarios.

Ms. Beatty, an African-American in a district where blacks account for more than 28 percent of the population and a much greater percentage in a Democratic primary, is a substantial candidate and a threat to derail Kilroy’s comeback attempt. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, himself once mentioned as a possible candidate for this congressional seat, has endorsed Beatty, which may prove important in terms of turning out the primary vote.

OH-9: Kaptur vs. Kucinich

The new 9th District, which stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline, features a Democratic paired-incumbent contest between Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich.

Kaptur represents at least 100,000 additional constituents in the new 9th than does Kucinich. While keeping the larger Cuyahoga communities of Parma (population 77,274) and Lakewood (50,251), Kucinich loses North Olmstead (31,053), Westlake (30,331), and Garfield Heights (27,479). Kaptur, on the other hand, retains her entire Toledo (316,238 inhabitants) base. She also keeps Ottawa and Erie Counties, as well.

Though Kucinich has raised more money during the current election cycle than did Kaptur ($965,000 to $370,000), she has a very large cash-on-hand advantage, due to her many years of service on the important appropriations committee.

Endorsements favor Kaptur. Never representing any part of the Cleveland metropolitan area, the congresswoman has won the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper endorsement. This is likely due more to Kucinich’s unpopularity than Kaptur’s positive image but, regardless, this is an important endorsement in a Democratic primary. She also receives public support from Republican former senator and governor George Voinovich. This carries some weight, even in a Democratic primary, because Voinovich was the Mayor of Cleveland before running statewide. His imprimatur provides her one more Cleveland credential. Conversely, Kucinich has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga Democratic Club, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, singer Willie Nelson, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), thus indicating the flavor of the campaign.

Kucinich also is drawing flack about his foray into running from another state. When the national reapportionment was announced and it became known just how poorly Ohio fared, Kucinich, knowing that his seat would become a redistricting casualty, stated that he would not run against another incumbent and actually started searching for open seats in Washington and Hawaii. He said he had done well in those two states during his presidential campaign, and thus had a base of support in each place. This bizarre idea quickly faded, and he “returned” to Cleveland to challenge another Democratic incumbent, after all. But the locals haven’t forgotten.

Now, in his first advertisement of the campaign, a radio ad running only in Cleveland, Kucinich actually attacks “Toledo politics” inferring that the city is corrupt – the place that is now the largest community in his new district.

With the March 6th primary election fast approaching, there is nothing to suggest that anything other than a convincing Kaptur victory will result. Considering Kucinich was only able to muster 50.32 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary vote against four opponents in his own CD-10, it becomes evident that even his Cuyahoga base is weak. It is already becoming clear that Dennis Kucinich will become the first incumbent electoral casualty of the 2012 election season.

Wisconsin Poll: Good for Obama, Bad for Baldwin

The Marquette Law School polled voters on the presidential race and upcoming open US Senate contest in what will be a pivotal 2012 political state. The survey (Feb. 16-19; 716 likely Wisconsin voters) finds President Obama faring well in at least one of several Great Lakes states that could foretell the final national election result.

According to the Marquette survey, Obama would lead former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who does best among the Republican contenders, by a 51-40 percent margin. He enjoys a 53-38 percent edge over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and even larger spreads when paired with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (56-33 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (52-36 percent).

Zeroing in on the Republican primary, it is Santorum who has a big lead in a state that will likely matter greatly in the GOP nomination contest (primary: April 3). The Pennsylvanian leads Romney 34-18 percent. Rep. Paul attracts 17 percent support and Gingrich 12 percent. Since the state has same-day voter registration and an open primary, all Wisconsinites will have the opportunity to participate in the Republican selection process. In sampling those who self-identify as Republicans, Santorum’s lead over Romney is even greater. Among this group, support for Santorum more than doubles over that for Romney, 44-20 percent.

Turning to the Senate race, the news is not overly good for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who is the consensus Democratic candidate. Though Baldwin actually leads two of the three announced Republican candidates (she slips past former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) 44-40 percent and enjoys a bigger edge, 45-37 percent, over state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald) her level of consistent support in all scenarios suggests a stagnant candidacy. When paired with former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, she trails. The former Wisconsin chief executive holds a 48-42 percent lead over Ms. Baldwin.

Notice that in all instances, even against Mr. Fitzgerald who has a low statewide name ID and fares the worst of all GOP candidates on the ballot test, the congresswoman falls within the same 42-45 percent support range. Opposing an extremely well-known Republican, but one with relatively high unfavorable ratings (Thompson), she scores 42 percent. Against an opponent with a hard name ID factor of less than 50 percent (Fitzgerald), she moves only to 45 percent. Paired with a former congressman and statewide candidate (Neumann) who hasn’t been on a general election ballot since 1998, she notches just 44 percent.

Her static performance against a rather diverse group of Republican candidates suggests that she may have an early support ceiling far below what will be necessary to win a general election.

Adding the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker (R) that will occur sometime between April and June, depending upon the resolution of several legal challenges to the presidential and senatorial contests, Wisconsin promises to be the hottest political state in the Union this year. How Wisconsin goes, so could the country.

Bachmann’s New District: Good News and Bad News

The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a least-change map of the state’s eight congressional districts this week, and in doing so dealt Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) – who, of course, came to fame in the presidential race – some very good news sprinkled with a little bit of bad.

The good news is that her 6th Congressional District, which needed to shed a whopping 96,487 people (this in a state that came within 15,000 individuals of losing a congressional district) becomes four points more Republican on the Obama 2008 scale, and she already represents 94.8 percent of the new seat. The bad news is that her home is in the 5.2 percent of the previous territory not included within the new CD. Therefore, she is technically paired with liberal Rep. Betty McCollum (D) in the new 4th District. This is a minor problem for Bachmann as federal law does not require a member of Congress, or candidate, to reside in the district in which they represent or seek election, and she has already publicly laid claim to the new 6th.

Though Minnesota has a primary, its strong party convention system generally designates the partisan nominees. Assuming Ms. Bachmann is in good standing with the 6th District state convention delegates, she should have little trouble in winning re-nomination. Since John McCain carried the new district by a 55-43 percent margin, she will be the odds-on favorite to rather easily secure a fourth term in November.

The Super Tuesday Scorecard

It’s quite possible that Super Tuesday, designed to give one presidential candidate a boost toward the eventual party nomination, may not be particularly definitive in 2012.

Initial polling has been published, or trends are clear, in nine of the 13 states hosting caucuses or primaries on or before Super Tuesday; the preliminary information suggests that the race will move toward the next group of states in close fashion.

Currently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds definitive leads over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Ohio (66 delegates – 42-24 percent, Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 15), Oklahoma (40 delegates – 39-23 percent, The Sooner Poll, Feb. 8-16) and Washington (53 delegates – 38-27 percent, Public Policy Polling, Feb. 16-19). He also has a close lead in Michigan (30 delegates – 38-34 percent, Rasmussen, Feb. 20). The grand total of delegates apportioned in the aforementioned Santorum states is 189.

Romney has no published polling data for the states where he commands a definitive advantage with the exception of Virginia, but the outcomes are unquestioned. He will win his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates), along with Vermont (17 delegates) and Virginia (49 delegates). He has a close lead in Arizona (29 delegates – 36-33 percent, PPP, Feb. 17-19).

The Old Dominion is becoming more important than originally projected. Christopher Newport University conducted a poll of Virginia Republican primary voters (Feb. 4-13) and found Romney leading Rep. Ron Paul 53-23 percent. Remember, only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot, meaning one of the candidates will win a majority of the vote – almost assuredly Romney. Breaking 50 percent is important because under Virginia delegate apportionment rules, any candidate receiving a majority of the vote receives unanimous support from all 49 delegates. Therefore, the inability of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to recruit enough petition signatures to participate in the Virginia primary will cost them dearly.

Adding the delegate contingents from the aforementioned Romney states produces an aggregate count of 136.

Georgia is now becoming extremely interesting. With the delegate penalty sanction assessed to Florida for its defiance of Republican National Committee rules, the Peach State now becomes the fourth-largest contingent with 76 delegates. According to a survey from the Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (Feb. 20), Gingrich leads his GOP opponents with 26 percent, but he is followed closely by Romney and Santorum with 24 and 23 percent, respectively. Therefore, it is clear that Georgia is anyone’s game. But, if the vote stays this evenly divided, the candidates will likely split the pool of delegates almost evenly, thereby giving no one a clear upper hand.

There is no available polling for Tennessee (47 delegates), or the caucus states of Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32 delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates). Combined, states total 134 delegates – so far unaccounted for. The aggregate number of delegates contained in the universe of Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday cusp states is 535, or 23.4 percent of the entire Republican National Convention delegate universe.

It is reasonable to expect momentum to shift toward one candidate should either Santorum or Romney sweep the pre-Super Tuesday states of Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. If this happens, then Super Tuesday itself could become definitive after all.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 35 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, less significant action is occurring. During the past week, however, action occurred in the following five states:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the Florida congressional map legislation, and the legal wrangling has already begun. Several lawsuits were filed. The Florida Supreme Court has approval authority over the process, so the court must determine if the legislature and governor enacted a legal plan. The unique problem with the Florida map concerns the wide criteria differences between the voter initiative passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. The two measures appear to conflict in certain areas. The legal procedure will take some time and the plan just enacted will likely undergo at least some change. Still, this new 27-seat map will almost assuredly be the footprint for the final plan.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4D-4R) – The state court with redistricting jurisdiction, having to take action because the legislature and governor failed to agree upon congressional and legislative plans, is scheduled to unveil the final map later today. The big question concerns how freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) will fare since he represents a seat designed for Democrats. The other point of interest concerns Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 6th District now that she has exited the presidential race and announced her intention to seek re-election. More on this to come when the court makes their map public.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – A federal court judge has assembled a three-judge panel to begin redistricting consideration. The legislature has so far failed to produce any map, and a serious deadlock between the Democratic Assembly and the Republican state Senate remains unbroken. The map is difficult to draw from a partisan perspective. The greatest population loss is in the upstate Buffalo area, where Democrats must not only try to protect two veteran members, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), but also must find a way to strengthen freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY-26) seat that was won in a special election last year.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Though the congressional map has been enacted, a court has struck down the state legislative maps. It now appears that the April 24 primary, including the vote for president, could be endangered. If new legislative maps are not completed in time, this primary, too, may have to be moved to a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As time passes and it appears there is no agreement in sight between Texas Democrats and Republicans on a new congressional map, the prospects of moving the primary to May 29 increases. Originally, the nominating vote was scheduled for March 6, and then moved to April 3 because of delays in configuring a legally acceptable final map. The May 29 date means the Texas run-off election will move to sometime in July or possibly August. It also remains to be decided if the state will hold two primaries, one for the presidential, statewide and possibly county races, and another for all elections involving districts. The expense of holding the two separate votes will likely be the key reason that keeps the primary unified.

Doing the Delegate Math: Exactly Who’s Right?

In tracking the delegate count for the Republican presidential nomination, it is clear that no “official” tabulation exists. In fact, virtually all major media organizations and political websites have different totals for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, and with wide divergence.

Below are the latest published delegate counts from key media and political outlets. Notice that only ABC News and the New York Times agree, which probably means they are using the same source.

   • ABC News: Romney 105; Santorum 71; Gingrich 29; Paul 18

   • CBS News: Romney 111; Santorum 44; Gingrich 30; Paul 15

   • CNN: Romney 127; Gingrich 38; Santorum 37; Paul 27

   • Fox News: Romney 107; Santorum 45; Gingrich 32; Paul 9

   • The Green Papers: Romney 107; Santorum 43; Gingrich 43; Paul 35

   • NBC News: Romney 84; Gingrich 29; Santorum 14; Paul 11

   • New York Times: Romney 105; Santorum 71; Gingrich 29; Paul 18

   • Real Clear Politics: Romney 99; Santorum 47; Gingrich 32; Paul 20

To recap, the eight entities don’t even show a consistent order of candidates – CNN and NBC have Gingrich in second place and the others project Santorum in the runner-up position. Romney ranges from a low of 84 pledged delegates (NBC) to a high of 127 (CNN). Santorum’s spread is from 14 (NBC) to 71 (ABC/NYT). Former Speaker Gingrich appears to be most consistent, tallying in a range from 29 (ABC/NYT) to 43 (The Green Papers). Finally, Rep. Paul runs the gamut from 9 (Fox) to 35 (The Green Papers).

Why the differences? First, even some states where voters have already participated – Iowa, Nevada, Missouri, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota – won’t actually apportion their delegates until convention events later in the year. Some of the aforementioned trackers are estimating what these states will eventually do based upon the public votes already cast.

Secondly, the media and political sources either are, or are not, projecting unpledged delegate votes. Many of the unpledged delegates themselves aren’t even chosen yet.

Third, at least two states’ delegations, Florida and Arizona, will likely be challenged at the Republican National Committee Convention. Both are apportioning their delegates under a winner-take-all option in defiance of RNC rules. Only states that vote after Super Tuesday (March 6) are entitled to use the winner-take-all format. Therefore, the Florida count (50 delegates for Romney) could change. The same with Arizona (29 delegates), which votes Feb. 28.

Considering that no official delegate count actually exists, it clearly means we will continue to see a very fluid situation that could lead to a surprising conclusion. Keep in mind, regardless of the apportioned delegate count’s accuracy, or lack of it, only 11 percent of the 2,286 delegates have been assigned. The mathematics continue to show that this race is still very much undecided.

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates Underwhelming

The Pennsylvania candidate filing deadline closed this week (Feb. 14), and the word to describe the new crop of congressional candidates may just be “underwhelming.” It appears that both parties have left opportunities to capture districts on the table.

Surprisingly, just one state legislator throughout the entire Keystone State is running for congress: York County Rep. Scott Perry (R) has declared for the lone open seat, that of retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the 4th CD. This, in a state featuring four freshmen Republicans (Reps. Mike Kelly, PA-3; Pat Meehan, PA-7; Tom Marino, PA-10; and Lou Barletta, PA-11), one Democrat member serving slightly more than a term (Rep. Mark Critz, PA-12) and a Republican who had previously been defeated only to rebound in 2010 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8).

No particularly strong Republican challenger stepped forward in the Senate race, where first-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is seeking re-election. After the last election, with a victory in the governor’s race, the addition of five congressional seats, and converting the state House to majority status, the Republicans had high hopes of bringing down Casey. However, with little in the way of political fire power for the 2012 Senate race, Pennsylvania must go down as the Republicans’ biggest national recruiting disappointment.

But it is the Democrats who appear to have failed at the candidate recruiting game for House races. Against Rep. Mike Kelly, who defeated freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper 56-44 percent less than two years ago, only a college professor, an attorney and a defeated candidate are coming forward to run. That’s not to say one of these men couldn’t transform themselves into a strong contender, but the first impression suggests that Kelly is in the driver’s seat.

A bright spot for the Republicans is Lou Barletta, who knocked off veteran Rep. Paul Kanjorski by a full 10 points in a district where the President notched 57.5% two years earlier; Barletta now sees his seat improve tremendously. Under the new PA-11 lines, Mr. Obama would have scored only 47.7 percent. Two Democrats, a pharmacy wholesale store owner, and a defeated state representative candidate are the only ones to file against the new congressman and former Hazelton mayor.

But District 12 is a Republican recruiting disappointment. With Pennsylvania losing a seat in reapportionment, the GOP legislature combined Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into a new 12th District that a Republican could win (Obama: 45.2 percent). After recruitment overtures were turned down by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, and a local county official, the Republicans will have to settle for 2010 nominee, Keith Rothfus, to go against Altmire. Rothfus only lost 49-51 percent in the last go-around, but his campaign was less than stellar. We’ll see if he steps it up this time around.

Finally, though Rep. Charlie Dent’s Allentown-Bethlehem 15th District improves 3.5 points in the Republicans’ favor, the President still gained an outright majority here, registering 52.8 percent. Dent racked up his largest career re-election percentage in 2010 (53-39 percent) against strong competition, John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem. This largely explains why the Democrats are fielding only the Lehigh County Democratic chairman and a former congressional aide.

For a place with so many marginal seats, and one that will be a key presidential battleground state, the congressional elections now appear much tamer than originally anticipated. In the current Pennsylvania political world, this ultimately means good news for the Republicans.

Santorum Leading in Ohio

On the heels of the Public Policy Polling survey showing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum leading the Republican presidential field in Michigan, Quinnipiac University released the results of their Ohio poll (Feb. 7-12; 1,421 registered Ohio voters) that likewise places him first. According to the data, Mr. Santorum has a 36-29-20 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively.

Ohio is the key state for Santorum on Super Tuesday (March 6). Emphasizing a resurgence in American manufacturing as one of his key campaign themes, Santorum must score well in states such as Ohio to boost his performance nationally.

An interesting Q-Poll question gives us insight into just how well Santorum’s economic message is resonating in the Midwest. In asking the question, “Would you say that (candidate’s name) cares about the needs and problems of people like you or not?”, the pollsters are attempting to determine how well each candidate transcends class distinctions.

When President Obama’s name is inserted into the question, 58 percent of those sampled said “yes” and 39 percent replied “no.” Conversely, both Romney and Gingrich fared poorly. For Romney, only 40 percent answered affirmatively compared to 48 percent who responded negatively. Gingrich’s numbers were even worse: 37:53 percent.

Santorum scored best. When this question is asked about him, 53 percent said “yes” and only 29 percent said “no.” The results of this question support the overall poll’s conclusion that today, Rick Santorum, is the man to beat in Ohio.

New Senate Numbers in Hawaii, Massachusetts

Hawaii

The Hawaii US Senate campaign is turning crazy. Now, another new poll reports starkly different results to some others already in the public domain. Ward Research, a Hawaii-based survey research firm, conducted a new poll with an abnormally long sampling period for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper (Jan. 26-Feb. 5; 771 registered Hawaii voters) and found Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) to be enjoying a huge lead in both the Democratic primary and the general elections.

This contrasts with the latest Merriman Group independent study (Jan. 18-19), which showed only a six-point split between Hirono and former Gov. Linda Lingle (R). It further depicted the congresswoman trailing former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) by two points in the intra-party vote.

The Ward numbers give Hirono a huge 57-37 percent lead over Lingle when the two are matched in what many predict could become a hotly contested general election. Additionally, the Democratic congresswoman maintains a 56-36 percent lead over Case, according to this latest survey. For her part, Hirono’s own pollster, The Benenson Strategy Group, released a survey in November posting her to a similar 54-36 percent lead over Case.

But the Merriman poll is not the only one reporting a much different result than Ward. Public Policy Polling’s October survey showed Hirono besting Lingle 48-42%, and the Republican former governor leading Case 45-43%. Hirono’s Democratic primary advantage was just five points over Case, 45-40%.

With so much discrepancy already existing among the pollsters, it is difficult to get a true read on this race. Since President Obama will run extremely well in Hawaii, the Democratic nominee will likely get a boost in the November general election. On the other hand, Lingle’s huge $1.767 million fourth quarter in fundraising puts her ahead of any other candidate, financially. It is clear she will have the monetary backing to run a strong campaign to compliment her almost universal name identification. Expect this race to become competitive, but the intangibles still favor Ms. Hirono and the Democrats.

Massachusetts

The MassInc Polling Group conducted a statewide Senatorial survey (Feb. 6-9; 503 registered Massachusetts voters) for WBUR radio in Boston, a National Public Radio station. They find former Obama Administration Consumer Affairs Advocate Elizabeth Warren (D) leading Sen. Scott Brown (R) 46-43 percent. Several previous polls have also shown Warren to be ahead, and by more than two points.

The data again illustrates how difficult it is for any Republican to win in the Bay State. Despite trailing, Sen. Brown’s favorability ratings are quite high. A full 50 percent of those interviewed say they have a positive opinion of Sen. Brown versus just 29 percent who registered an unfavorable comment. By contrast, Ms. Warren’s ratio is 39:29 percent.

The poll asked eight preference comparison questions about the candidates’ backgrounds, their views toward the middle class, who would perform better on economic issues, etc. Brown scored below Warren on only one substantive issue question, and on that by just one point. By a margin of 32-31 percent, the sampling universe said that Ms. Warren would better relate to the middle class. An additional 21 percent indicated the two candidates were equal in understanding the needs of middle class families.

The only question where Brown trailed by a relatively large percentage (34-24 percent) was in response to which candidate seems to have campaign momentum.

Therefore, despite the favorable reviews, Brown still trails on the ballot test question. These results are similar to those found in Florida, where Rep. Connie Mack IV is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D). There, Nelson’s personal numbers appear to be as good as Brown’s, but he too finds himself pitted in a close election battle.

With both candidates being heavily funded – Brown has already raised $8.6 million with $12.9 million in the bank; Warren has gathered slightly more, $8.9 million, but has considerably less, $6.14 million, cash-on-hand – it is clear this campaign will play out over a long course of time. The intangibles definitely favor Warren because a candidate uniting the Democratic Party will be very difficult to derail in one of the most Democratically-loyal states in the entire country. Sen. Brown is the right candidate to hold the seat for his party, but even he may not have enough ability to stem what could possibly be a very strong tide against him.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week:

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The Connecticut state Supreme Court adopted the “least-change” map it ordered their special master to construct. The new congressional plan cements the Democrats’ 5-0 advantage in the delegation.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – With the new congressional map awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature, Florida law mandates that the state Supreme Court approve all district maps, and the high court already has announced a hearing schedule. The state will present its legal arguments regarding the congressional and legislative maps on Feb. 2. The Supreme Court must either approve the maps or send them back to the legislature for re-drawing purposes. If the re-map fails to pass legal muster, then the Court itself can re-draw the plans. Under Florida law, the governor does not approve or reject the state House and Senate maps. Upon passage, those go to the Florida attorney general who then presents them directly to the Supreme Court. This process has already occurred, hence the Court’s action in announcing the hearing schedule. Under the congressional plan, it appears that the Republicans will have 14 seats that can be considered safe to the Democrats’ eight. At the very least, this map will yield a Democratic gain of two seats.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – The state House, over the objection of the body’s most conservative members, passed the congressional map and sent it to the state Senate. The main sticking point was moving the Democratic city of Lawrence, home of Kansas University, wholly within the 2nd District (Rep. Lynn Jenkins-R). It is unclear if the Senate will accept the map. Because of the change, the 2nd will become more Democratic, but freshman Rep. Kevin Yoder’s 3rd District gets a bit more Republican. Chances remain strong that the GOP will hold all four of the districts. Should the Senate fail to concur, the process will head to court if the legislative session ends without agreement.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Both houses of the Kentucky legislature passed an incumbent protection map that will likely re-elect the state’s five incumbents standing for re-election (3R-2D) and give the Republicans the inside track to holding retiring GOP Rep. Geoff Davis’ 4th District. The map is basically a “least-change” plan, with no district gaining more than a 1.5% partisan boost for either Democrats or Republicans.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed the redistricting bill the Democratic legislature sent him last week. The plan increases freshman Rep. David Cicilline’s (D) Democratic voting base. Thus, by process of elimination, Rep. Jim Langevin’s seat becomes a bit more Republican. Both districts, however, will likely continue to send Democrats to Washington for the rest of the decade.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – It appears likely that the Virginia primary will move. In order to give the state more time to handle the upcoming litigation over the recently passed congressional map, the state House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to move the congressional primary from June 12 to Aug. 7. The Senate is expected to quickly follow suit. The state’s presidential primary will continue to be held on Super Tuesday, March 6.