Monthly Archives: March 2012

Conflicting Polls in Ohio, Florida Senate Races

New polls are in the public domain from Ohio and Florida with some very divergent results, particularly relating to Ohio.

Within the same timing realm, Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports sampled Ohio voters and questioned them about the upcoming US Senate race between first term incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) and newly chosen Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer. Quinnipiac conducted their survey during the March 20-26 period and interviewed 1,246 registered Ohio voters. Rasmussen launched a one-day poll, March 26, and questioned 500 likely voters. Quinnipiac gathers its responses through live telephone interviews. Rasmussen Reports employs an automated system.

Therefore, the two methodologies are quite different. Many polling analysts question Quinnipiac’s long sampling period, while believing Rasmussen is not in the field long enough. Most pollsters attempt to complete their surveys in three calling days. This allows for a compact “three-day track,” which can help detect sudden movement relating to particular happenings. Both pollsters weight their answers to bring samples in line with demographic complexion, political party disposition, and voting trend history. Yet, as you will see, their results are diametrically different.

The latest Q-Poll shows Brown leading Mandel 46-36 percent, which is similar to their Feb. 7-12 poll that posted the incumbent to a 48-35 percent advantage. But Rasmussen Reports reveals a totally different finding, placing the two candidates in a 43-43 percent tie. Several other polls have shown this race to be close, but most have reported margins closer to the Q-Poll. Since both candidates are well-funded and Ohio will be such a battleground for the presidential election, expect this race to be close by Election Day regardless of how the two candidates are positioned today.

In Florida, after a series of polls revealed the race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) to be close, Quinnipiac’s March 20-26 poll (1,228 registered Florida voters) is posting the Democrat to a 44-36 percent lead. This is a seven-point swing in Nelson’s favor when compared to the January Q-Poll (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) that gave the senator only a one-point lead, 41-40 percent.

There are a couple of reasons explaining the swing. First, the January Q-Poll sampling universe was more favorable to Republicans. In that sample, 35.1 percent of the respondents self-identified as being members of the GOP, versus only 26.6 percent saying they were Democrats. The remainder, 38.1 percent, claimed to be Independents or “other.” The March sample was more in the Democrats’ favor. In this group, 31.0 percent described themselves as Republicans and 31.9 percent as Democrats. Independents and others comprised 40.3 percent of the respondent pool. The actual breakdown of Florida registered voters is 36.1 percent Republican; 40.5 percent Democrat; and 23.3 percent Independent and “Other.”

But the sample pool is only one reason why Nelson may be gaining support. Former interim Sen. George LeMieux, opposing Mack in the Republican primary, is on television and radio with attack ads, attempting to distinguish Rep. Mack from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R), and likening the former to renegade actor Charlie Sheen because of reported bar fights in the younger Mack’s past and episodes of what the LeMieux ads call the congressman’s “road rage.” The swing toward Nelson in the latest Q-Poll can be at least partially attributed to the LeMieux ads.

As we know, a poll is merely a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and many times anomaly results do occur. To get the best understanding of campaign movement, it is important to consider many polls over a long period of time. What is important is the trend toward election day, and not necessarily the individual numbers themselves.

Since there have already been several inconsistencies in both of these states, we can reasonably expect greater movement in the coming months as the Nov. 6 election nears. Count on both the Ohio and Florida Senate races being among the most interesting in the country.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.

Analyzing Shocker Senate Polls in Ohio and Nebraska

Two polls hit the public domain yesterday that give the Democrats reason to pause. According to Rasmussen Reports, Ohio GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who many political professionals have long believed possesses the best candidate skills of all Republican contenders, has pulled into a 43-43 percent dead heat with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Mandel scored 63 percent of the Republican vote in the March 6 primary, so he is already the official GOP nominee.

This new Rasmussen Reports poll, (March 26; 500 registered Ohio voters) is not the first to show Mandel getting close to Brown, but certainly is the survey turning in the best Republican numbers to date. Fifteen polls have been commissioned here since March 2011, and the only other one showing the campaign even in the realm of a toss-up was Rasmussen’s Feb. 8 survey that put Mandel within four points of Brown, 40-44 percent. Another study that had Mandel even within ten points of the senator was Public Policy Polling’s Oct. 13-16 survey that revealed a 48-40 percent spread.

The one finding that all 15 polls have in common, however, is that none show Brown over, or even at, 50 percent. A polling axiom has always been that incumbents are in political trouble when they fall below the majority mark. Such does not always prove to be the case in practice, but it is interesting that Sen. Brown’s poll numbers remain stagnant between a relatively small 43-49 percent segment in 15 polls from four different pollsters over a 12-month period. This data, coupled with Mandel’s strong fundraising ability (he had raised $5.8 million to Brown’s $6.5 million by year’s end, clearly the best of any Republican challenger nationally) does suggest that the Ohio Senate race will become more competitive as the campaign progresses.

Many Democrats claim that Rasmussen Reports, largely because of their small sample draws and employing an automated questionnaire model, tend to skew their results toward their own conservative bias. Comparing RR polls, however, to actual results generally does not support such criticism. The Democrats certainly howled when Rasmussen released the first Nebraska poll after former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) returned from New York to enter the 2012 open seat Senate race. The RR data (March 5; 500 registered Nebraska voters) gave GOP Attorney General Jon Bruning, the leading Republican senatorial contender, a 55-33 percent lead over the former Democratic senator.

Yesterday, the Democratic survey research firm Public Policy Polling (March 22-25; 1,028 registered Nebraska voters via automated calls) surveyed the Cornhusker State electorate and actually found a similar result to the Rasmussen study. According to PPP, Bruning enjoys a 54-37 percent advantage, certainly within the same range as the RR conclusion. Obviously, this is not good news for former Sen. Kerrey and the Democrats, who know the former statewide office holder is their best chance of keeping the seat in the Democratic column.

Compounding Kerrey’s problem is that he trails even lesser known and lightly supported Republican primary candidates. Against state Sen. Deb Fischer (R), who is unfamiliar to more than 60 percent of the electorate, Kerrey trails 38-48 percent. When paired with state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who himself trails Bruning 18-46 percent in the commensurate GOP nomination poll of Nebraska voters, the former senator is behind 38-52 percent. On top of that, he is viewed favorably by just 36 percent of the people as compared to 51 percent who possess an unfavorable opinion of him.

At least in the early going, the Kerrey re-entry into the Nebraska Senate race has certainly not tipped the balance of power toward the Democrats.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that almost all of the 43 multi-congressional district maps are legally in place, little is occurring on the redistricting front, meaning that the election year 2012 political playing field has basically been established. This notwithstanding, some action did occur in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate committee of jurisdiction passed a new state Senate map to replace the one the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down. Full Senate action is expected shortly. Expect the legal challenge to the congressional map to drag on until election timing forces a decision, a similar pattern to what has occurred in many other places. Regardless of how the lower courts rule, the congressional plan will eventually come before the Florida Supreme Court. The most difficult issue to resolve is whether the congressional map complies with the voter-enacted redistricting initiative and the measure’s inherent conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – Looks like it’s back to the drawing board yet again. The state House, which previously approved the congressional map, now has voted it down, sending it back to committee for re-drawing. The state Senate and House are still miles apart on a four-district map, meaning the process could still find its way to court for a judicial draw. Kansas will likely be the last state to complete redistricting. The Sunflower State primary is Aug. 7.

LOUISIANA (current delegation: 6R-1D; loses one seat) – The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Louisiana may not proceed with its reapportionment lawsuit this year. The state was arguing that the reapportionment formula should only be allowed to count legal residents. Louisiana lost one seat in 2010 reapportionment. The high court’s ruling means any eventual ruling on the merits of the state’s case will not affect the 2012 elections.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The Granite State, with the easiest redistricting job in the country (the current lines are only 254 people out of balance) will soon pass a new congressional map, as its state legislative leaders indicated this past week. The final version will be a “least change” plan, since so little is required to bring the lines into reapportionment compliance. The approach is bad news for Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), whose western district is much more Democratic than its eastern counterpart. Bass is again being challenged by the woman he beat only 48-47 percent in 2010 – Ann McLane Kuster (D).

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – After losing their legal challenge to the new South Carolina congressional map last week, the Democratic plaintiffs have decided to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. So far, the high court has postponed action on such lawsuits (e.g., the SCOTUS decision regarding the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuits), thus keeping the legally processed maps intact for the current election cycle. It is reasonable to believe this appeal will be handled in a similar manner, and that the Palmetto State map will stand for at least the 2012 election.

Energy Policy and Presidential Politics

The energy issue, as it often does in national elections, will again be front and center in the 2012 presidential election, especially with gas prices assured to be at an all-time high. The Gallup organization just released a report about Americans’ attitudes and impressions of energy-related issues. The results suggest a movement toward the Republican position of increasing domestic energy production and reveals President Obama to be on the short side of the Keystone Pipeline controversy.

In relation to Keystone, by a margin of 57-29 percent, the respondents favored building the oil transport structure that would begin in Canada and extend to refineries in Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and export terminals along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Even a plurality of self-identified Democrats (44-38 percent) support the pipeline construction.

But the swing within the electorate, and a potential electoral problem for the President, is decidedly toward energy production versus concern for the environment. For only the second sustained time since 2001, more people (47-44 percent) favored energy development than environmental protection. The swing in this direction has been marked since 2001. Today, the gap among Republicans on this question has swung 29 points in favor of production. Independents have gone from a +24 for environment to just a +8. Even Democrats have moved 10 points closer to development from a +32 pro-environment gap in 2001 to a +22 today. Continuing these trends could give the GOP a boost as the November election draws near.

Santorum Win Louisiana; Argues Delegate Count

Rick Santorum accomplished his goal Saturday night in Louisiana, easily outdistancing Mitt Romney 49-27 percent, with Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) posting 16 and 6 percent, respectively. Of Louisiana’s 46 delegates, only 20 of them were at stake in the primary and Santorum stands a good chance of capturing 14. The remainder will be chosen at the state Republican convention to be held June 1st and 2nd.

Louisiana was the type of victory Santorum needed to re-establish momentum before going to the April 3 primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Of the three, DC, where Romney is expected to easily romp, is a Winner-Take-All entity, so all 17 delegates should go his way. Wisconsin and Maryland both use the same allocation system. Delegate votes are awarded for winning statewide and for carrying each of their respective eight congressional districts. Wisconsin has 42 total delegates and Maryland 37. The Wisconsin vote will likely to be close, while Romney has a chance to sweep Maryland and convert all 37 delegates.

Again we saw a familiar pattern in Louisiana. Though Santorum swept all the parishes except one, Mr. Romney placed first in the state’s most urban area – New Orleans. Such a result has been consistent throughout the campaign. Romney does well in the most urbanized areas of a state, but poorly in the rural regions and very poorly in the south. Having a Republican nominee weak in the party’s base areas is not an enviable position for the GOP when they face President Obama later this year. Romney will not be able to count on commensurate urban support against the incumbent Democratic nominee.

But, it’s the overall delegate count that is the subject of much discussion and fraught with misconception. The CNN number is a good benchmark for the media counts. The broadcast organization shows Romney with 549 delegates through Illinois and Santorum with 249, Gingrich 137, Paul 69, and 137 delegates unallocated from the 33 states and territories already voting.

The Republican National Committee official count, however, tells a much different story. Factoring out those delegates who the individual states have not yet chosen nor bound for at least a first ballot vote, Romney would have 339 delegates, Santorum only 95, Gingrich 107, and Paul 22 with 300 unallocated. Using the official RNC accounting, Romney is 805 votes away from committing the 1,144 delegates required to clinch victory, rather than 595 as the media depicts.

The pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Super PAC has an even different count. Where the RNC does not yet add recent Santorum victory states because their delegates still must be officially chosen at convention, the inclusion of states like Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas changes the picture greatly. According to Red, White, and Blue, the count is: Romney 344; Santorum 193; Gingrich 160; Paul 33; Unallocated 411. Therefore, the Santorum Super PAC projection, in similar fashion to the RNC, shows that Romney is still a whopping 800 committed votes from the magic number.

So, despite all of the aforementioned entities, and then some, looking at exactly the same results, highly diverse accounting results continue to emerge. It again proves that this Republican nomination campaign still has a very long way to go.

Illinois Congressional Match-ups

Now that Tuesday’s Illinois primary produced a slate of nominees for both parties in the 18 congressional districts, the general election cycle officially begins. Illinois is the Democrats’ most gerrymandered state in the nation and the one place where they can make significant gains in House races.

To re-cap, the current delegation stands at 11R-8D. The state loses one seat in reapportionment, which forced GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) into the same district. Kinzinger, the freshman, proved to be the surprisingly easy 54-46 percent winner Tuesday night and faces only an Independent in the general election. The pairing of the two Republicans in the down-sized state, however, cost the GOP at least one seat.

    The safe Democrats, based upon voter history and quality of GOP opponents are:

  • District 1: Rep. Bobby Rush (D) – Obama ’08: 80.8%
  • District 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) – Obama ’08: 81.1%
  • District 3: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – Obama ’08: 58.3%
  • District 4: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) – Obama ’08: 80.5%
  • District 5: Rep. Mike Quigley (D) – Obama ’08: 69.8%
  • District 7: Rep. Danny Davis (D) – Obama ’08: 89.4%
  • District 9: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – Obama ’08: 68.6%
    The safe Republicans, based upon voter history and quality of Democratic opponents are:

  • District 6: Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – Obama ’08: 51.3%
  • District 14: Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – Obama ’08: 50.6%
  • District 15: Rep. John Shimkus (R) – Obama ’08: 42.8%
  • District 16: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) – Obama ’08: 50.0%
  • District 18: Rep. Adam Schock (R) – Obama ’08: 44.1%

Six districts will set the tone for the general election. The Democrats believe they can make a net gain of four seats. Originally, they thought a fifth seat was in their grasp, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) drew little in the way of primary opposition and the man who Democrats’ believed to be their best candidate appears to have lost Tuesday’s primary. With 2010 nominee David Gill clinging to a lead of 143 votes, now with 100 percent of the vote counted, it appears Johnson will face an opponent he has twice beaten. The 13th is much more Democratic than his previous 15th CD, but the 54.6 percent Obama score is one of the lesser in the state. Johnson now becomes the decided favorite in this new district that stretches from him home region in Champaign to the southwest through Decatur and Springfield.

But the real battles will come in the Chicago suburbs and western Illinois. In the new 8th District, probably the most difficult seat for the Republicans to hold, freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) is taking his chances in a tough general election instead of running this past Tuesday against fellow GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in the 14th CD. In a district where President Obama scored 61.5 percent, Walsh will face former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq War veteran, who challenged Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District back in 2006 when the seat was open and took 49 percent of the vote. Tuesday, Duckworth notched an impressive 67-33 percent win over former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi who spent over $1 million in the Democratic primary race. Ms. Duckworth begins the general election as the favorite to unseat Walsh.

In the new 10th CD, a district that encompasses the Chicago suburban territory north of the city and hugs Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin border, freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) must defend his seat that gave 63.0 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008. Dold is a strong campaigner and had the advantage of seeing the Democrats fight it out in a tough primary that produced attorney Brad Schneider as the nominee. Schneider scored a 47-39 percent win over activist Ilya Sheyman and two others. Sheyman was the liberal base candidate, so the Democratic turnout drive in the general may be lessened a bit. It is unlikely Obama will score as well here as he did four years ago, so Dold has a chance to survive despite the gaudy Democratic political numbers.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will face former Rep. Bill Foster (D) in the new 11th District that stretches from her home area in Hinsdale southeast to include Joliet, the latter region brand new to the seven-term congresswoman. The general election will be a major fight here, but the political numbers give Foster and the Ds a clear advantage. Obama scored 61.4 percent under the new district confines. Foster, who lost his 14th District in 2010, has his own weaknesses, so this general election begins as a toss-up with a tilt toward the Dems.

The new 12th CD, anchored in the Democratic stronghold of East St. Louis and moving south all the way to Kentucky, is very much in play for November. Without incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello (D), who is retiring, the Democrats must now rely on former St. Clair County School Superintendent Brad Harriman in a district where the President received 54.7 percent of the vote. This is the only Illinois Democratic seat where the Obama percentage lessened significantly from the previous draw. The Republicans nominated their former lieutenant governor (2010) candidate Jason Plummer. With a strong campaign, the GOP could conceivably steal this seat, thus off-setting some of their other likely Illinois losses.

Finally, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) must defend his new 17th CD against East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos, who scored a 58 percent win Tuesday night against two Democratic candidates. The 17th was made more Democratic and now actually reaches into the city of Rockford from its traditional population anchor in the Quad Cities region. Obama posted a flat 60 percent here in 2008, meaning Schilling has tough sledding in 2012 with the President again leading the ticket. Still, this is a competitive race and with a strong campaign, Schilling has a chance to win a second term.

What’s Next for Santorum?

After sustaining a predicted 35-47 percent loss in Tuesday’s Illinois primary, but securing a minimum of 12 delegates under the state’s loophole rule (the people directly vote for individuals running for delegate), Rick Santorum now proceeds toward two critical states, Louisiana this Saturday and Wisconsin on April 3.

Magellan Strategies, in a Louisiana poll conducted on March 19, posts Santorum to a 37-24-21 percent advantage over Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, respectively. Winning Louisiana is a must if Santorum is to regain some of the momentum he lost in Illinois this week. He will then have to rebound for a win in the Great Lakes State of Wisconsin, where his blue-collar manufacturing/traditional values message should resonate well within the GOP voter base. Romney is likely to cruise to easy winner-take-all victories in Maryland and the District of Columbia on that same day, thus increasing Wisconsin’s importance for Santorum.

Another state on the May 8 horizon where Santorum appears strong is North Carolina, with its large base of 55 delegates. A new Survey USA poll (March 16-20; 403 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) gives the former Pennsylvania senator a 34-26-18 percent edge over Romney and Gingrich.

Though the delegate spread is growing in Romney’s favor, there are still many opportunities for Santorum to close the gap and force an open convention.

Illinois Primary Answers

Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary last night finishing exactly as the late polls predicted, 47-35 percent over Rick Santorum. Delegate-wise, it is more difficult to project this soon into the post-election process because Illinois is a “Loophole Primary” and voters were actually choosing individuals on the ballot to fill 66 of the 69 delegate positions. Romney will very likely exit Illinois with more delegates than the other candidates; but will he have enough to stay on track to reach the 1,144 committed delegates prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa? It still may be too early to answer that question.

The congressional primaries brought few surprises, though the margin of veteran Rep. Don Manzullo’s defeat at the hands of freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) raised more than a few eyebrows in the new 16th District. Polling had forecast an even race and it appeared Manzullo had the forward momentum toward the end of the campaign, but this clearly proved to be a misconception. Kinzinger won a 56-44 percent victory, a raw vote total of more than 9,000 votes. Since the Democrats did not file a candidate in the 16th District, Kinzinger is a lock in the general election. The county chairmen do have the power to meet and choose a nominee, but such a person would start in a major deficit position after this victory performance in what should be a reliable Republican seat.

In the lakeside 10th District, attorney Brad Schneider won a 47-39 percent win over political activist Ilya Sheyman, a favorite of the liberal “Netroots” organizations. He will oppose freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in what will be a highly competitive general election race.

To the southwest in the new Chicago suburban 11th CD, Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will attempt to convert the marginal seat intended as a Democratic pick-up. Former Rep. Bill Foster, who lost his 14th District seat in 2010, won the Democratic nomination with 59 percent of the vote against two other opponents. This also will be a race to watch in the fall.

In the western Illinois 17th District, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos cracked the 58 percent mark against two other candidates and will give freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) all he can handle in the general election.

It is reasonable to expect heavy competition in six of the state’s 18 congressional districts. Democrats hope to net four seats when the dust settles in November. It is unclear how many they will actually win, but Dem gains are expected in the Land of Lincoln especially with favorite son Barack Obama again leading the top of the national ticket.

Today’s Illinois Primary

The state of Illinois now begins the process of deciding how their 69 delegates will vote at the Republican National Convention. Polling consistently shows Mitt Romney leading Rick Santorum, but not by such a margin as to close out the latter’s candidacy.

Illinois is one of two “Loophole” primary states. Voters will actually vote twice for president today. They will first choose one of the national candidates, and then directly vote for individuals running for delegate from their particular congressional district. The popular vote has no bearing on the delegate selection process. The Loophole primary got its name because this particular system allowed a candidate to theoretically take all of a state’s delegates even though the entity did not adopt the winner-take-all format. The only other Loophole primary state is Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.

Illinois will also choose its congressional nominees today. The House race attracting the most attention is the nip and tuck battle between veteran Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) and freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) for the newly configured 16th CD. Polling shows a virtual tie, so expect this one to be decided by a very close margin.

The new Chicago suburban 8th District will choose a Democratic nominee, as former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth battles ex-Deputy state Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The winner faces freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) in the general election, and will likely be favored because redistricting has significantly changed the political complexion of this district.

Along Lake Michigan north of Chicago in the 10th District, Democrats are sparring to find a nominee to challenge freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in a race that also promises to be competitive.

The Dems will also be selecting nominees to face Reps. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) in campaigns that also have the potential of becoming highly competitive.

Finally, both parties will choose their candidates to square off in the open 12th District, a seat left open because Rep. Jerry Costello (D) chose not to seek re-election. This district, too, has competitive possibilities for the fall.

Another interesting political night is again in store. Many questions will be answered and several new ones will undoubtedly be asked.

Romney Takes Puerto Rico; Delegate Projection Math

Mitt Romney steamrolled to victory in Puerto Rico’s primary last night, getting just over 83 percent of the vote. Turnout was on a pace to break 135,000 voters. Four years ago the Puerto Rico Republicans held a closed caucus, so there is nothing to compare the 2012 participation result. The win will likely net Romney 20 delegates. According to our PRIsm Information Network delegate tracking project, last night’s addition puts Romney seven delegate votes ahead of the minimum post-Super Tuesday commitments he needs to secure the nomination.

Tracking Republican presidential nomination delegates is no easy task. Great misconceptions abound as to whether or not Romney can secure the 1,144 delegates necessary to clinching the party nomination before the Republican National Convention begins in late August.

Simplistic delegate projection analyses, such as that of political pundit Dick Morris in his March 14 article on Dick Morris.com, are incorrect. Morris argues that Romney will clinch the nomination in early June because he will win the winner-take-all states of Puerto Rico (23 delegates), District of Columbia (19), Maryland (37), Connecticut (28), Delaware (17), Rhode Island (19), Oregon (28), California (172), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40). Morris goes onto say that Romney is also best positioned to claim the following “winner-take-all” states: Wisconsin (42), Indiana (46), West Virginia (31), Nebraska (35), and South Dakota (28). He then argues that Romney’s share of the remaining proportional states would give him a total of 1,298 delegates, or 154 more than the minimum target figure of 1,144.

The flaw in Morris’ calculations is that most of the states he cites as “winner-take-all” have rather stringent conditions to meet before a candidate is awarded all the entity’s delegates. In certain places becoming winner-take-all means a candidate must capture a majority of the votes cast (Connecticut, Puerto Rico), while others organize as winner-take-all statewide and then in congressional districts.

In the latter grouping – Maryland, Wisconsin and California on Morris’ list – a candidate is awarded a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote, usually 10, and an additional three for each congressional district carried. Thus, for a contender to win all of the state’s delegates in these places, he would have to win the statewide vote and every congressional district.

While it is mathematically possible to achieve this difficult victory scenario, in 2012 it has been rare when a candidate breaks the 50 percent mark. In fact, only nine times has a candidate received a majority vote and in two of those a full complement of candidates failed to qualify for the ballot. Romney scored majorities in Nevada, Idaho, Massachusetts, Virginia (only he and Ron Paul were on the ballot), Guam (only candidate on ballot), Puerto Rico and the Marianas Islands. Rick Santorum recorded majority wins in Kansas and Missouri (a “beauty contest vote” not determinative of delegate selection).

Of those states Morris previously mentioned, only Delaware (17 delegates), the District of Columbia (19), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40) are true Winner-Take-All states. Thus, the projection that Mr. Romney will secure the nomination after the mega California primary on June 5 is more than likely inaccurate.

New York, New York

Now that it is apparent that the three-judge panel’s congressional map for New York will in all likelihood be instituted for the 2012 congressional elections, action is happening in all four corners of the state.

First, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5), after basically having the field cleared for him in the new 6th District, surprisingly announced last night that he will not seek re-election. Ackerman was first elected to the House in 1982 after serving one term in the NY Senate. He becomes the 42nd member not to be standing for re-election. One of those, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), was defeated in her primary. Including the Schmidt seat and the two vacant US House positions, those of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), the open seat count rises to 55.

The Ackerman retirement decision is a surprise for several reasons. First, it is incredulous that he waited until after redistricting was complete to make his intentions known when such knowledge would have made the legislators’ and court’s task easier in collapsing a seat, particularly since the Queens/Long Island area was targeted for district reduction. Second, GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) had already announced that he would launch a long-shot senatorial campaign rather than oppose Ackerman in the new, and highly Democratic, 6th District. Third, sate Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D), who had been planning to challenge Turner, said he would not run for Congress when the Republican and Ackerman were paired, and publicly endorsed his Democratic colleague for re-election. Now, with all of this breaking his way, Ackerman calls it quits.

But, it’s possible that Turner may soon be back. A very late entry into the Senate race, the congressman, like all of the other candidates, must garner 25 percent of the delegate vote at the New York state Republican Convention beginning today in Rochester. Attorney Wendy Long, who also is getting the Conservative Party ballot line, is estimated to be around the 23 percent mark; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appears to have more than 28 percent in delegate commitments. But, Turner, just entering the convention race, is barely over 8 percent, a long way from the minimum 25 percent needed for primary ballot placement. Should he not make the statewide ballot, Turner could pivot back into what is now, at least temporarily, an open 6th District seat.

In Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY-3) Nassau-Suffolk County seat, now labeled District 2 and much more Democratic than his current CD, opposition party leaders are attempting to recruit a strong candidate. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice appears to be the party’s first choice.

Upstate, the collapsing of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D) 22nd District has sent several candidates who were running for what they thought was an open seat scrambling to other districts.

Leslie Danks Burke, the Ithaca Town Democratic Party chair will now challenge freshman Rep. Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The same is true for Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa. The seat is more Democratic than Reed’s current 29th CD, but he begins the race as a strong favorite for re-election.

Democrat Wall Street attorney Sean Maloney, who was originally looking at challenging freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the Finger Lakes district will now run against freshman Nan Hayworth (R) in the Westchester County CD. For his part, Gibson will run in the new more Democratic 19th District. Matt Doheny, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) will opt for a re-match in the new 21st District, which will be more to the Republican’s liking if he can get the incumbent into a one-on-one battle. In the Buffalo area, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who was placed in a heavily Republican 27th District and speculation became rampant that she might challenge Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) in the new Buffalo center city district, says she will fight it out in the new 27th.

Expect much more to come next week when the GOP state convention ends and the Senate field of candidates is set.

Romney’s Reality and Other Struggling GOP Candidates

Now that the dust has settled and the final results have been recorded from the Tuesday night vote, it is clear that Mitt Romney slightly underperformed on the aggregate delegate count. With his win in Hawaii and the sweep of American Samoa’s nine delegates somewhat off-setting his third-place finishes in Mississippi and Alabama, Romney looks to have secured approximately 42 delegate votes on the evening. This is four to five short of his projected bare minimum pace necessary to secure 1,144 delegates before the Republican National Convention begins. Since he will more than likely continue to fare poorly in the remaining southern states of Louisiana (March 24), North Carolina (May 8), Arkansas (May 22), and Texas (May 29) the Midwestern trio of states – Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3), and Indiana (May 8) – are must-win landslides if he is to maintain his victory chances.

In other races, several Republican incumbents claimed renomination on Tuesday night with uninspiring percentages against weak opposition. Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1), House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6) and freshman Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) all won their primary elections outright, but with percentages between 55 and 60 percent. This is hardly a normal result since such efforts against under-funded opponents usually find the incumbent exceeding 75 percent. Tuesday’s congressional vote, coupled with the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2) and former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH-15) last week in the Ohio primaries, could be an early indication that voters’ anti-incumbent sentiments, so prominent since the 2006 election, have yet to subside.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Major redistricting action occurred in only two states during the past week, New York and South Carolina.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The three-judge panel that has assumed redistricting responsibility released the congressional map this past week, and unless the legislature takes quick action, the court plan could shortly be instituted. Candidate filing is scheduled for March 24, so every day that passes without a new legislative proposal, the more likely it becomes that the court map will stand.

The legislature, of course, is more concerned with its own plans, particularly that of the state Senate. The congressional map takes a back seat to the Senate and Assembly unless it becomes a bargaining chip in negotiations between the Democratic state Assembly and the Republican Senate.

The court plan makes sizable changes to the New York congressional map, not surprisingly since the state loses two seats in reapportionment. The casualties are, first, freshman Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) whose district is split into seven parts. He will now face Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5) in the new 6th District, a seat where President Obama captured 63 percent of the vote. Turner represents 46.0 percent of the new CD and Ackerman only 37.7 percent, but the district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Turner is certain to fall.

The collapsed upstate Democratic seat is that of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22). This territory is spread among four new districts, with the largest share going to Republican Rep. Chris Gibson’s new 19th District. Equal parcels (about 23 percent apiece from the old 22nd) go to Reps. Nan Hayworth’s (R-NY-19) new 18th CD and Richard Hanna’s (R-NY-24) new 23rd District. The dispersing of the heavily Democratic territory to Republican districts clearly weakens each of those GOP districts.

The Long Island districts will see major change. Though the 1st District of Rep. Tim Bishop (D) remains virtually intact, 96.8 percent of the territory remains because he is surrounded by water on three sides, the political number actually gets one point more Republican. Remembering that Mr. Bishop survived in the nation’s closest race last election (593 votes against businessman Randy Altschuler who is running again in 2012), this one point adjustment could become significant.

But it’s the districts of Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY-2) and Peter King (D-NY-3) that are truly torn apart. First of all, the two will swap district numbers for the next decade, and King inherits 52.7 percent of Israel’s district. He keeps 47.3 percent of his own territory. The swap increases the Obama percentage by four points, and commensurately takes the McCain number down four. This will undoubtedly cause political problems for Mr. King. Though Mr. Israel only keeps 38.8 percent of his current territory, the new 3rd CD is highly Democratic, so the unfamiliar territory should not cause him much trouble.

Carolyn McCarthy’s 4th District sees a swing of six points toward the Republican side of the ledger, but she will still be in strong political position. Mr. Ackerman’s 5th District is split into five pieces, but he becomes the beneficiary of the pairing with Mr. Turner, as described above.

In the city, all incumbents should fare well. Upstate is a different story, though. Rep. Chris Gibson’s 20th District is changed greatly. He retains only 44.1% of his current district in new CD 19 and gains more than one-third of Hinchey’s Democratic seat. Gibson’s political number swings five points more Democratic, yielding to a 53 Obama percentage. Conversely, while Rep. Bill Owens’ (D-NY-23) new 21st District remains constant in terms of voting history, he adds 32.6 percent from Gibson’s current district in the Finger Lakes region. This addition will likely spell bad news for Owens and makes him highly vulnerable if the Republicans can ever coalesce around one candidate. A split vote between Republicans and Conservatives has led to Owens winning two terms.

The Buffalo area had to change greatly. It is this section of the state that experienced the greatest overall population loss. The big winner under this new draw is Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), whose new 26th District is a center city Buffalo seat. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, on the other hand, is in deep trouble. Her already heavily Republican district becomes even more so under this plan, as the new 27th CD actually becomes the best John McCain district in the state (54-44 percent over President Obama).

Other freshman Republicans Tom Reed and Ann Marie Buerkle get altered territory as well. Reed only keeps 54 percent of his current district, and it becomes more Democratic (about five points more so), but he should hold the district. Buerkle keeps 79.6 percent of her Syracuse-anchored CD, but she will be highly vulnerable as former Rep. Dan Maffei (D) is gearing up another run against her. The new 24th holds its Obama rating of 56 percent.

All totaled, 19 current incumbents retain a majority of their current territory and 10 do not. Expect some highly competitive 2012 congressional campaigns. In a delegation split 21D-8R, it is clear the Democrats will retain a huge edge in the next New York congressional contingent, but the Republicans do have a fighting chance to hold eight seats of the new 27.

It remains to be seen if the map described above actually becomes the electoral footprint for this election and those to follow.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – The three-judge federal panel hearing what many believe is a frivolous lawsuit brought against the new seven-district plan ruled against the plaintiffs and for the state. The Democratic plaintiffs will now have to decide whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court. This ruling virtually clinches that the legally adopted map will be used for the upcoming election and almost assuredly stand for the entire decade. Expect the GOP to capture the new Myrtle Beach district and expand the delegation to 6R-1D.

Here We Go Again: Santorum Takes Alabama, Mississippi

Mitt Romney’s fundamental weakness as a Republican presidential candidate again came to the forefront in last night’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries: He fares poorly in the south and in rural areas, the heart of the Republican vote base. His third-place finish in both states is a surprise considering several polls suggested he would either win or finish a close second in both places.

Looking at the Alabama map in particular, it again clearly illustrates the problems Romney has in an eventual face-off with President Obama. His only Alabama regional wins came in the state’s three largest urban metro areas: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. This was exactly the same pattern we saw in Ohio, where his strong performance in the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati metropolises were enough to propel him to a razor-thin statewide victory. In a general election format, however, the city vote disappears to the Democratic nominee – President Obama – and his weakness within the Republican base regions becomes even more of a factor.

Consistently in the Republican nomination race, it has been Rick Santorum who has far exceeded his polling performance. Claiming first place in Mississippi and Alabama gives the once obscure GOP “also-ran” candidate now nine victories from the 28 states that have held nominating events (Santorum’s strong win in the Missouri primary did not carry any delegates and is omitted from this summation). Romney has won 16 states and territories, Newt Gingrich two, and Rep. Ron Paul one (a tight win in the little-noticed Virgin Islands caucus where only 384 people voted).

Hawaii and American Samoa, in the far western time zones, also held caucuses last night; Romney won both of these Pacific Rim entities.

Turning to the delegate count, we again remind our readers that every projection is a mere estimate. No single accurate accounting actually exists and won’t until the delegates themselves are chosen. Therefore, the most important number to follow is a “guesstimate” of Romney’s delegate total. Even with his two victories last night, it is probable that neither Santorum nor Gingrich can commit the 1,144 delegate votes needed to score a first ballot victory when the Republican National Convention convenes in late August. But Romney is not particularly close to getting there either.

In the four nominating events held last night, by our calculations, Mr. Romney needed to secure 46 delegate votes, and he appears to have come up short. In Alabama, where 16 delegate votes were required to keep pace in order to achieve just the bare minimum majority number, it looks like his total will be closer to seven. Needing 12 delegates from Mississippi, he may have notched 11. He will probably reach or exceed the combined number of 18 for Hawaii and American Samoa, once those votes are fully tabulated.

Still, even with a strong showing in those two places (Hawaii 20 total delegates; American Samoa nine), Mr. Romney will likely fall short of the 46 that would keep him on the trajectory to barely hit the 1,144 necessary votes. He is likely to come closer to 36 total delegates from last night’s voting, rather than the projected 46. Since the delegate forecasts are based upon achieving the absolute minimum number to claim the nomination, the margin for error is non-existent.

In an interview with Fox News last night, Gingrich predicted that Romney would fall short of committing the 1,144 necessary delegate votes once all 56 states and territories have voted. Gingrich went on to say that he would stay in the race all the way to the convention in Tampa, thus remaining alive in an open convention where anything might happen.

The Missouri County Caucuses are next to begin their voting process and will do so tomorrow. The results will likely codify Santorum’s previous primary victory. Missouri delegate selection (52 votes) comes via the caucus procedure. The Puerto Rico primary (23 delegates) is scheduled for Sunday, March 18, followed by the important Illinois primary (69 votes) slated for Tuesday, March 20.