Monthly Archives: May 2012

Reyes’ Defeat in TX-16: An Analysis of How it Happened

Former El Paso City Councilman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke defeated eight-term veteran congressman Silvestre Reyes in the Texas Democratic primary on Tuesday night, yet he had only one-third of the incumbent’s campaign budget and spent a comparative fraction of his funds on electronic media.

While Reyes was running ads touting how much money he was bringing back to El Paso for various local projects and detailing negative attacks about O’Rourke that made him appear to be a Republican, the challenger emphasized more positive themes such as the economic opportunity that exists in the local US-Mexico border community. Driving home his optimistic themes, he simultaneously brought inconsistencies in Reyes’ record to light. While the incumbent was running a traditional media campaign, O’Rourke heavily targeted past primary voters and adeptly used the state’s early voting system. O’Rourke led the congressman 51-43 percent in votes cast prior to the May 29 Election Day. When the traditional ballots were added to these totals, O’Rourke’s victory percentage fell to 50-44 percent. This, in an election that featured a voter participation rate of well under 20 percent.

Considering that Reyes had four primary opponents, the worst projection for the incumbent assumed a resulting run-off election. The fact that O’Rourke not only exceeded Reyes’ vote total but still claimed an outright majority is quite a political feat, and his insurgent political tactics should be studied in greater detail.

Reyes becomes the third non-paired incumbent to lose in this primary season; representatives Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2) and Tim Holden (D-PA-17) are the other two. The 527 organization, Campaign for Primary Accountability, was active in all three of these races. Though O’Rourke advertised little in the media, the CPA spent about $100,000 on hard-hitting anti-Reyes television ads that clearly helped influence the outcome of the race. The Reyes defeat means there are now 59 open House seats in the current election cycle.

Dewhurst, Cruz in Run-off; Other Texas Results

The delayed Texas primary was finally held last night and featured a voter participation rate of approximately 20 percent. The vote was originally scheduled for March 6, but had to be twice postponed because of litigation over the state’s redistricting maps.

In the much-anticipated Republican Senate race, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who began the race as the prohibitive favorite, did in fact place first but fell about four points below the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a run-off election. Therefore, he and second-place finisher, former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, will square off in a July 31 secondary vote. Placing far behind these two were former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN college football analyst Craig James. Leppert and James are eliminated from further competition.

Dewhurst was spending wildly at the end of the race in hopes of attaining the majority plateau in order to make an outright claim upon the nomination. Overall, the lieutenant governor’s primary spending will likely top $20 million, of which $12 million came from the candidate himself in the way of a loan. In contrast, Cruz only spent in the neighborhood of $5 million. Forcing Dewhurst into a run-off was Cruz’s only hope at winning the nomination, since it was never feasible he could top the lieutenant governor for first place. In a one-on-one battle where turnout will be even lower than in the primary leads to a political situation where anything can happen.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and psychologist Grady Yarbrough will head for a second election. The winner becomes the sacrificial lamb to either Dewhurst or Cruz in the general election.

In the district congressional races, it appears, when all of the votes are finally counted and released, that eight-term veteran Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) may have lost the Democratic nomination to former El Paso city councilman Beto O’Rourke. The challenger was hovering around the 51 percent mark, which will be enough to win the nomination outright. Late votes could force a run-off if both fall just below the majority mark. O’Rourke was supported by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which concentrates on defeating long-term incumbents in both parties. This would be a major upset; Reyes will be the third non-paired incumbent to already lose in his or her own party primary.

In other congressional races, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX-4), at 89 the oldest member of the House, stared down two GOP opponents to secure renomination. Hall garnered 59 percent against a pair of opponents. In the Dallas area, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) easily avoided a run-off by scoring 64 percent of the vote against two opponents. Reps. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) also easily avoided run-offs against opponents who originally appeared to have the wherewithal to organize credible campaigns.

All other incumbents easily won their nomination battles including freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) who was a surprise winner in 2010. Because redistricting added 46 percent new voters, most of whom are Republican oriented, Farenthold has a strong chance of keeping this seat the rest of the decade now that he is the bona-fide incumbent in this newly constructed seat. He scored an impressive 80 percent of the vote last night. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25), who redistricting placed in the new heavy Hispanic 35th District between Austin and San Antonio defeated two opponents with 71 percent of the vote. He will now go onto an easy re-election campaign in the fall.

In the open seat races, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the San Antonio-based 20th District that retiring Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) is vacating, took one major step toward winning in the fall as he now becomes the official party standard bearer. He will easily win election in November.

In the new 14th CD, the seat presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, Republicans will feature a run-off election between state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris. The winner faces former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in what will be an interesting general election. The eventual Republican nominee should win here, but Lampson has proven strength in the Beaumont-Galveston area.

Turning to the four new seats that population growth awarded the state, former Secretary of State Roger Williams placed first in a field of 12 GOP candidates and will now face retired Army officer and Tea Party activist Wes Riddle. The winner of the 25th District Republican run-off, probably Williams, will claim the seat in November.

In the new Dallas-Ft. Worth-based 33rd District, as expected, former Dallas city councilman and state representative Domingo Garcia and ex-congressional aide (to then-Rep. Martin Frost, D-TX-24) Marc Veasey will also head to a secondary election, with the latter placing first by more than 10 points.

In the Brownsville area in South Texas, attorney Filemon Vela, the son of former US District Judge Filemon Vela, Sr. and Brownsville Mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela, placed first in the 34th District primary. He will face former Edinburg city manager Ramiro Garza. The run-off winner, very likely Vela, takes the seat in November.

In the new Republican 36th District, a three-way battle is still being finalized among financial advisor Stephen Takach, former US representative Steve Stockman, and state Sen. Mike Jackson. Takach seems poised to finish first. Because of the outstanding vote in Harris County, the only place Jackson showed real strength, he will probably edge the former congressman for second. The run-off winner claims the seat in November.

Turning to the state’s one strong general election challenger race, in the San Antonio-based 23rd District, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX-23) who has won and lost two different House seats, is very close to capturing the outright majority that would clinch yet another party nomination for him. State Rep. Pete Gallego is second hovering in the mid-30s percentile, and he will either lose or barely qualify for a run-off when all ballots are finally counted. The new Democratic nominee will now face freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R) in the general election. The 23rd is a tight district, so expect a highly competitive race in the fall.

McCotter to Run Write-in; Key Dem Drops Out in Ill.

It’s now official: Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) failed to submit the requisite number of petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, and the five-term congressman announced that he will seek the Republican nomination via write-in. Already on the Republican ballot is Tea Party activist Kerry Bentivolio. Two individuals thought to be potential candidates, former congressional contender Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski and businessman David Trott both say they will not run. Trott is officially backing McCotter. State Sen. Mike Kowall, originally in the race when McCotter announced his presidential campaign, is reportedly considering a write-in effort of his own.

In Illinois, Brad Harriman the 12th Congressional District Democratic nominee, is withdrawing from the race because of a recently diagnosed neurological condition. IL-12 is the state’s southwestern seat represented by the retiring Rep. Jerry Costello (D). Democratic county chairmen in the affected area will caucus and choose a replacement nominee. Republican Jason Plummer, the party’s 2010 lieutenant governor nominee, is the GOP candidate. This seat is competitive and already in the Democratic column, so the special committee of local chairmen will have to quickly recruit and support a strong replacement candidate.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Last week we reviewed the North Carolina congressional political situation, the state where Republicans are best positioned to make multi-seat 2012 election gains. Today, we look at the Democrats’ best potential state – Illinois. Originally designed to swing four or even five seats in the Democrats’ favor, will the map live up to those rather lofty expectations?

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – Because 2010 was such a Republican year in state legislative races nationally, pressure was on the Democratic legislature and governor to make major gains for their party in redistricting. Illinois is the only big state where Democrats have full control over the process. There is no question that Republicans will take a significant hit in the Land of Lincoln, especially with favorite son Barack Obama again leading the national Democratic ticket, but stretching the swing to five seats may be unrealistic. On the other hand, the Republicans’ limiting their losses to only two is also a major task.

Two-thirds of the 18 seats appear safe for one party or the other, now that the 16th District Republican incumbent pairing has been decided. As you will remember from the March 20 Illinois primary, freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger defeated 10-term veteran Don Manzullo. Kinzinger has no Democratic general election opposition.

We’ll focus on key districts that are either “toss ups” or “likely” to go to go one way or the other:

District 8: Rep. Joe Walsh (R) – In addition to Reps. Kinzinger and Manzullo getting difficult redistricting draws, freshman Joe Walsh did so, too. Originally paired with Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) in new District 14, Walsh decided his chances of political survival were better by fighting it out in a new Democratic seat than by challenging a fellow Republican for a safe seat. Though one can understand a member wanting to fight against a member of the opposition party rather than his own, Walsh’s task in the new 8th appears daunting.

Facing former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, who easily won the Democratic primary in March, Walsh must be categorized as a decided underdog. Duckworth, a wounded decorated war veteran, came within three points of defeating Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R) when the much more Republican-leaning 6th District was open in 2006. The outlook here must be rated as: LIKELY DEMOCRATIC

District 10: Rep. Robert Dold (R) – Another freshman Republican incumbent getting a bad draw is Rep. Bob Dold. Though the seat is equal to the previously mentioned 8th District in presidential vote, Mr. Dold at least keeps 61 percent of his current constituency intact. He will face attorney Brad Schneider in the general election. Schneider defeated national liberal activist Ilya Sheyman, who had previously been a moveon.org organizer. The result was a mild surprise as late-race primary polling had projected Sheyman to some rather substantial leads.

Though the numbers craft this seat as a Democratic district, Dold has proven himself to be a very strong candidate and has the ability to win this most difficult race. IL-10 must be rated as a TOSS-UP.

District 11: Rep. Judy Biggert (R) – Seven-term veteran congresswoman Biggert is yet another GOP incumbent with re-election trouble. Though the new 11th CD is Democratic on paper (Obama 61-37 percent), the candidate match-up gives Biggert the advantage in terms of people previously represented. In this race, former 14th District Rep. Bill Foster (D), who was defeated for re-election in 2010, is Biggert’s general election opponent.

While Biggert currently represents 48 percent of the new 11th’s constituents, Foster’s carry-over from his previous seat is only 26 percent. So, while Foster has a clear partisan advantage here, Biggert begins as the more well-known candidate. The 26 percent of the district that is new to both political contestants, the Joliet area, is where this race will be decided. In a presidential year, especially with President Obama on the ticket in Illinois, the partisan advantage is greater than in the mid-term years. Therefore, this race could be categorized as Lean Democratic but, at this point, a TOSS-UP rating is more realistic at least until the general election campaign becomes better defined.

District 12: Rep. Jerry Costello (D) – The retirement of veteran Democratic Rep. Costello gives the GOP an unexpected opening in this southwestern Illinois congressional district. The Obama number here is 55 percent, making it identical with Republican-held District 13, which is discussed below. Ninety-three percent of the territory is consistent with current IL-12 but, without Costello in the race, this Democratic advantage is negated. The Republicans nominated their 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer for this House seat, and the party chieftains believe they have a legitimate chance at converting the open seat and thwarting the Democratic gain potential. The Democratic nominee is St. Clair County former Regional Schools Superintendent Brad Harriman, who has not before run in a multi-county campaign. This race is one to watch as it develops. The seat was drawn to elect a Democrat, but it is clearly the weakest such seat in the state. Right now, the historical voting trends suggest a Democratic victory, but a TOSS-UP is possible should Plummer catch fire.

District 13: Rep. Tim Johnson (R) – Originally, Reps. Johnson and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) were placed together in new District 15, a safe Republican seat that encompasses southeastern Illinois. When Johnson moved instead into marginal District 13, the pairing problem was resolved and everything looked to be cutting the GOP incumbent’s way for victory in November.

After winning the March 20 primary, however, Rep. Johnson surprisingly decided to discontinue his re-election campaign and retire. The party leaders have now chosen former congressional aide and GOP state party executive director Rodney Davis as the replacement nominee. The Democrats, in a primary election so close that it took several weeks to decide as late overseas ballots could have altered the outcome, chose 2010 nominee David Gill, a physician who twice lost to Johnson. The seat is marginal and both candidates are off to a slow start because of the Johnson retirement and the Democratic primary deadlock. Right now, the race appears to be a toss-up, but headed toward the LEAN REPUBLICAN rating due to overall historical election trends. More must develop here before painting a true picture of this race.

District 17: Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) –
Another 2010 upset winner, Republican Bobby Schilling, is also in a difficult re-election situation under the new redistricting map. Though his current western Illinois 17th District went 56-42 percent for President Obama in 2008, the new 17th increases his swing by a net eight points, 60-38 percent. This is principally because the city of Rockford was added to IL-17, bringing it over from the Manzullo-Kinzinger pairing in CD 16. So, what would have been a difficult Schilling re-election scenario under the current lines, is even tougher now.

Rep. Schilling’s general election opponent is East Moline Alderwoman Cherie Bustos, a public relations executive who won an impressive Democratic primary election. With only 46 percent of Schilling’s territory remaining consistent in the new seat, this race will play closer to an open seat than a challenger campaign. With Schilling already proving he can win a tough race with his 2010 upset of Rep. Phil Hare, this race is a difficult one for both sides. This campaign is a pure TOSS-UP.

Rep. McCotter May Not Qualify for Michigan Ballot

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) is in danger of being disqualified from the Michigan ballot because he apparently has failed to submit the required number of valid petition signatures as part of the candidate filing process. Under Michigan law, congressional candidates can submit no more than 2,000 petition signatures, at least one thousand of which must be from authentic registered voters of the particular district. Reports, likely to be confirmed today, will show that McCotter is far short of the minimum required number because of significant duplication within his signature base.

Since candidate filing is closed, McCotter’s only recourse would be to run as a write-in candidate in the Aug. 7 Republican primary election. Tea Party activist Kerry Bentivolio is already properly qualified for a GOP ballot position, so McCotter would be forced to overcome the insurgent challenge from the outside. It remains to be seen if the party leaders automatically line-up behind their incumbent now that he has put himself in a less than advantageous position, or if they consider an alternative candidate.

MI-11 should be a relatively safe Republican seat, but mistakes like the one McCotter just made could lead to a highly competitive fall campaign. Dr. Syed Taj is the likely Democratic nominee, originally not expected to be a serious challenger. Should McCotter’s Republican primary write-in attempt fail, however, a Taj-Bentivolio match-up would present the Democrats with a real opportunity for victory.

Incumbent Pairing in N.J.’s 9th CD Too Close To Call

One of the nation’s hardest-fought intra-party incumbent campaigns will be decided on June 5 – a fierce battle between New Jersey Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9). Reapportionment and redistricting have created 13 sets of congressional incumbent pairings, three of which are decided. All but two feature members of the same party opposing each other. New NJ-9 polling data, disputed by one campaign brain trust, suggests a very tight outcome between the two congressmen.

The new 9th District of New Jersey lies to the north and east of Newark, capturing some of the communities directly opposite New York City across the Hudson River including Fort Lee, Secaucus, Englewood, Palisades Park, and Cliffside Park. It’s largest city is Paterson (population: 146,199), where Mr. Pascrell presided as mayor before his election to Congress in 1996. While serving as the city’s chief executive, he simultaneously represented part of Paterson and Passaic counties in the state House of Representatives.

The new 9th will elect a Democrat in the general election, but the party primary is becoming very interesting to say the least. Rothman is from Bergen County, but his home community of Fair Lawn was placed in District 5, where he would have been forced to challenge incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R) in a GOP-friendly seat. Rothman represents 54 percent of the new 9th CD constituency versus 43 percent for Pascrell. The remaining three percent comes from Garrett’s current district.

Just two days ago, a Pascrell internal poll was “leaked” to the media showing that Rothman clings to only a one-point, 44-43 percent margin. The Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group poll (May 7-8; 406 likely NJ-9 Democratic primary voters) also indicated that Pascrell leads 46-41 percent under a slightly different turnout model. If the overall share of the Bergen County vote drops to 51 percent or below and the Passaic County voter participation share tops 38 percent, the race flips to Pascrell.

The intriguing part about this poll is not so much its finding, which is assumed accurate since Garin-Hart-Yang is a well-known, credible, Democratic polling firm but, rather, the Rothman campaign’s reaction to the numbers. Actually scoffing at the Pascrell team for leaking their numbers to the press – “winning campaigns do not leak their polls” – and saying the survey is wrong without offering their own countering data, suggests that this race is as close as Pascrell says and either man does have a chance to win the primary.

To differ with the unidentified Rothman spokesman who said that “winning campaigns do not leak their polls,” the exact opposite is true. A clearer sign of a campaign in trouble is one where the managers claim to have strong survey data, as Rothman’s people do, but then refuse to release the numbers.

On paper and in practice, Rep. Rothman has a slight advantage but the 75-year old Pascrell has been tenacious in defense of his redrawn seat. Rothman won the official Democratic Party endorsement in Bergen and Hudson counties, giving him preferential ballot placement in those two localities, which is a major plus in a close election. Though Pascrell has the Passaic County line, several prominent elected officials such as Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones and Passaic City Council President and state Assemblyman Gary Schaer have announced their support of Rothman.

It remains to be seen if Pascrell’s planned public push of an earlier endorsement by former president Bill Clinton changes the electorate in any significant way, but the move certainly won’t hurt his standing among these most loyal of northern New Jersey Democratic voters.

On a major primary night featuring voting in six states, including the 53 House Districts in California under a new election law, one of the most engrossing results will be found in this urban northern New Jersey congressional district. The final week fireworks here will be well worth watching.

It’s Neck and Neck in Massachusetts and Virginia

A Hartstad Research poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (May 8-10; 502 likely Massachusetts voters) was just released into the public domain and it again shows a dead heat emerging between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Harvard Law School professor and Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (D). The Hartstad results project the two to be tied at 46 percent. In fact, the data reveals that the race is even closer than the final tabulation says. Both candidates have 44 percent support with an additional 2 percent leaning their way.

The results here are almost identical to those in the Virginia Senate race where former senator George Allen (R) and ex-governor Tim Kaine (D) continue to fluctuate only a point or two through multiple polls.

Both of these races are ridiculously close. For example, since March 6, 2011, 18 Massachusetts Senate polls have been publicly released. Brown was forecast to be leading in nine of them, Warren seven, and two – like the Hartstad survey discussed above – returned a tie score.

In Virginia, 24 polls have appeared in the public domain starting from right after the 2010 election to the present. Kaine leads in 12 of those polls and Allen seven, with five ties. Since the end of April, three Virginia polls have been released. One shows Allen ahead 46-45 percent; another has Kaine up 46-45 percent; and a third has the two candidates tied at 46 percent. It doesn’t get any closer!

These two races, probably to be decided by just a handful of votes, could determine which party controls the Senate next January. The recount legal teams are already reserving hotel rooms in Boston and Richmond.

Interesting Details in Arkansas and Kentucky

Presidential and congressional primaries were held in Arkansas and Kentucky last night without major surprises. As predicted, President Obama won two tepid victories in the pair of states, failing to break 60 percent in either place. He opposed an unknown Democratic candidate in Arkansas and was pitted against an uncommitted slate in Kentucky.

John Wolfe Jr., a Chattanooga, Tenn. attorney, scored 42 percent against Obama in the Arkansas Democrat primary. This is the strongest race Wolfe has run. Prior to entering the presidential contest, he twice ran for Congress, and once each for the offices of Tennessee state senator and mayor of Chattanooga. Prior to last night when facing the President of the United States, Wolfe never could top 34 percent in any of his multiple political endeavors.

In Kentucky, Obama also scored an anemic 58 percent of the vote. Here, 42 percent of the Blue Grass State’s Democrats chose an uncommitted slate of delegates to go the party’s national convention in Charlotte.

The results don’t mean much from a national perspective; only that the president will not be re-elected in a 50-state sweep. This is the second and third primaries where an alternative to Obama received substantial votes. West Virginia was the other state where that occurred. It is unlikely that the President will be competitive in any of these places in November, since better than four of six of his own party’s primary voters failed to support him.

In the KY-4 Republican congressional primary race (Rep. Geoff Davis-R, retiring), Lewis County Judge (county executive) and engineer Thomas Massie defeated state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge Gary Moore. The margin was 45-29-15 percent in what was a poor finish for Moore, who represented more people through his local office than did the other two. It is a boon for the Paul family because both Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsed the hard-charging winner. All three of the candidates were approaching financial parity. The Republican nature of the district means that Massie will be the new congressman. He faces Grant County Democratic Chairman Bill Adkins in the fall and what stands to be a non-competitive election.

The closest race of the evening was in Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District where Second Circuit Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington came within less than one point of winning the Democratic nomination outright. He will face state Rep. and Marvell ex-mayor Clark Hall in a June 12 secondary vote. The winner will oppose freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R) in a newly configured 1st District that now has an even higher Democratic baseline than under the current lines, though President Obama could only score 39 percent under each version. This could become a competitive general election battle.

In the south-central 4th District, polling correctly suggested another outcome, as Afghan War veteran and businessman Tom Cotton, who raised more than $1 million for the primary campaign, won the Republican nomination outright with an impressive 57-37 percent win over 2010 congressional nominee and former Miss Arkansas Beth Anne Rankin.

Cotton must now wait until June 12 to see if he will face state Sen. Gene Jeffress or attorney Byrum Hurst, the latter of whom, as the underdog, made a very strong run for the top spot. At the end of the evening, Jeffress totaled 40 percent to Hurst’s 36 percent.

While the 1st District race could be headed to toss-up territory, Cotton figures to be the 4th District general election favorite. AR-4 is a Republican conversion seat because Rep. Mike Ross (D), a Blue Dog Coalition co-chairman, is retiring.

Weekly Redistricting Update: Spotlight, North Carolina

Today’s spotlight takes us to North Carolina where we review the state’s 13 congressional districts after the dust has settled from the May 8 primary. The run-off date for several of the races is July 17.

NORTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 7D-6R) – The Tar Heel State is one of the most important of the 2011 redistricting process. Along with Illinois, and possibly California, North Carolina will likely see greater change in their congressional delegation than any other state. While Illinois is likely to see a three- to four-seat Democratic gain, it’s probable that North Carolina will see the same level of change but in the Republicans’ favor.

We’ll focus on key districts that are either “toss ups” or “likely” to go to go one way or the other:

• District 2: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) – With 71 percent new territory, freshman Rep. Ellmers’ biggest test was winning the Republican nomination, which she did with 56 percent of the vote against three GOP opponents. The 2nd District was changed greatly to give Ms. Ellmers a much better chance of sustaining her congressional career. The previous 2nd, the one in which she upset Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) in 2010, went for President Obama in 2008 in a 52 percent count. The new 2nd supported John McCain with 56 percent, a swing of eight full percentage points. This being said, Rep. Ellmers is a heavy favorite now to defeat Democratic businessman Steve Wilkins. LIKELY REPUBLICAN

• District 7: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) – This is a seat greatly changed in redistricting, and Rep. McIntyre now has a difficult road to re-election. The district has 36% new territory, most of it unfriendly for the incumbent. The McCain score went from 52 percent in the current NC-7 to 58 percent within the new boundaries. McIntyre will face state Sen. David Rowser in the general election, a former staff member to the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC). Rowser defeated 2010 congressional nominee Ilario Pantano, who held McIntyre to a 54-46 percent re-election victory. This has the makings of a top tier general election campaign. TOSS-UP

• District 8: Rep. Larry Kissell (D) – Rep. Kissell is another of the Democratic incumbents who fared poorly under the Republican redistricting plan. In this instance, the district swings a full ten points toward the Republicans on the Obama scale. In 2008, the President carried the current 8th District with 53 percent of the vote. Under the new boundaries, John McCain would have scored 57 percent. Kissell then tallied a 53 percent re-election win two years ago in the mid-term election. Additionally, only 54 percent of Kissell’s current constituency carries over to the new 8th. The congressman will also have to wait until July 17 to learn the identity of his general election opponent. Republican business consultant and former congressional staff member Richard Hudson and ex-Iredell County Commissioner and dentist Scott Keadle face each other in the GOP run-off. Hudson garnered 32 percent of the Republican primary vote against four opponents, but still eight points away from winning the nomination outright. Keadle posted 22 percent. This should be a highly competitive run-off campaign and one of the best Republican general election conversion opportunities in the country. TOSS-UP

• District 9: Rep. Sue Myrick (R) – The July 17 Republican run-off will decide the next congressman in this Charlotte suburban seat. The 9th is solidly Republican, and Democratic nominee Jennifer Roberts, a Mecklenburg county commissioner, is not expected to be competitive in the fall for this open seat. The original 11 Republican candidates have now winnowed down to two. The run-off features former state Sen. Robert Pittenger, a favorite of the national conservative movement, and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph. In the primary, Pittenger placed first with 32 percent of the vote and Pendergraph was second with 25 percent. LIKELY REPUBLICAN

• District 11: Rep. Heath Shuler (R) – When redistricting made the new 11th the most Republican district in the state, Rep. Shuler decided to call it quits and announced his retirement. Now that the 11th is an open seat, his chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, is attempting to keep it in the Democratic column, but he has a very difficult task to do so. Republicans are in a run-off featuring two non-elected officials, one of whom is running for his first time. Businessman Mark Meadows obtained 38 percent of the vote, just two points away from winning the nomination outright. He will face businessman and former congressional candidate Vance Patterson. Meadows looks to be the favorite for the July 17 vote and in the general election against Rogers. LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Doubling Down in Washington’s 1st CD

When Washington Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1) resigned from Congress last month to fully concentrate on his gubernatorial campaign, the state scheduled the special election to fill the unexpired portion of his term concurrently with the regular November vote. The winner would simply serve the remaining two months of the current Congress.

What makes this situation different from others in similar position is that redistricting changed the 1st District in a substantial way. More than half – 52 percent to be exact – of the voting base is different in the new 1st. So, why would all the regular election candidates now file for the special, too, when they have to run before a much different electorate for the privilege of serving only two months? The answer is money. Because there are two separate elections, even though they are being held the same day, the candidates are effectively doubling the contribution limits that a person may give.

The state Democratic Party chairman tried to convince all of their candidates not to run for the short stint, deferring instead to Snohomish County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan who agreed to serve as a caretaker for the two months. But, Democratic candidate Darcy Burner, seeing that likely Republican nominee John Koster had already entered the special and understanding why, broke from the party dictates and jumped in the race. The other four Democratic candidates quickly followed her lead. This will likely lead to Sullivan abandoning his effort, because he has already endorsed Suzan DelBene, the former Microsoft Vice-President who ran unsuccessfully in District 8 (against Rep. Dave Reichert) two years ago.

More Primaries Tomorrow: Arkansas and Kentucky

Tomorrow, voters in Arkansas and Kentucky go to the polls to decide a few key open seat and challenger nominees.

In Arkansas, two races will likely be decided tomorrow, or will at least give us a clue as to who will be the general election participants. A run-off election June 12 is the next step, should no candidate secure a majority vote in the original primary.

In the 1st District, where freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R) stands for re-election in a much more difficult district for him politically, Democrats may choose their nominee. The favorite is state Rep. Clark Hall, who raised just over $254,000 for the May 2 pre-primary filing period. Steve Ellington, the local prosecuting attorney, who was thought to be a strong challenger originally, has raised just under $55,000 suggesting that his effort has not taken hold. The third candidate, and the man whose presence on the ballot could potentially deny Hall a majority tomorrow night, is Arkansas State University business professor Gary Latanich. He has, likewise, raised money in the $55,000 range and had just $30 cash-on-hand at the pre-primary reporting period deadline. Though he is no threat to make the run-off, Latanich could steal enough votes to deny Hall an outright majority.

In the open 4th District, both parties are engaged in a primary fight for the right to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D). As the 1st District became more Democratic with the inclusion of a greater number of African-American voters who reside in the state’s delta region, the 4th became more Republican because of the shift. Without Ross running for re-election, AR-4 becomes one of the Republicans’ best conversion opportunities in the country.

The Republican race, which likely will be decided tomorrow, is between 2010 nominee Beth Anne Rankin, a former Miss Arkansas in the Miss America beauty pageant and businesswoman, and management consultant and Afghan War veteran Tom Cotton, who is gaining notoriety as one of the better GOP congressional candidates in the nation. Though Rankin enjoyed some national conservative support in her 2010 campaign, a race she lost 57-40 percent to Ross, Cotton is gaining greater local and national backing in this primary campaign. The latest Arkansas Talk Business poll, released last week, gives him a 51-39 percent lead in the primary, just weeks after the same survey sponsor showed the two tied. A third candidate, police officer John Cowart, is on the ballot, but it is unlikely that he will attract enough votes to deny one of the two an outright victory. In terms of fundraising, Cotton has already raised over $1 million versus just under $400,000 for Rankin.

On the Democrat side, in a field that disappoints the national party, a three-way race among state Sen. Gene Jeffress, who has raised only $25,000 for the race, attorney Byrum Hurst, and 2010 Senate candidate D.C. Morrison make up the pool of Dem candidates. While Jeffress was supposed to be the top candidate, it is Hurst who has raised the most money. But even he hasn’t done all that well, as his campaign treasury has yet to exceed $155,000.

In Kentucky, the GOP primary for retiring Rep. Geoff Davis’ (R) open seat is the race of major interest. Davis is leaving the safe Republican seat after four terms for personal reasons and the winner of tomorrow’s party primary, since Kentucky features no run-off election, will succeed him in the House next year.

Seven Republicans are vying for the position, but the race appears to be narrowing to three serious candidates. With no candidate exceeding the $350,000 mark in funds raised, this campaign will be decided by ground efforts. The leading contenders are Lewis County Judge (commonly called the county executive in other states) Tom Massie, Boone County Judge Gary Moore, and state Rep. Alecia Webb-Eddington.

The race has been marked by the entry of 21-year-old Texas resident John Ramsey, who formed a Super PAC called Liberty for All. He has invested more than $500,000 of his own money to involve himself in this race, on behalf of Massie. He has recently run negative ads criticizing both Moore and Webb-Eddington, so it remains to be seen what effect this has on tomorrow’s vote. It is likely that a new congressman will emerge from this race tomorrow night.

Polls In Sync

We often bring polling inconsistencies to light and analyze why a particular survey may be more accurate than another. Right now, however, four diverse pollsters all are showing virtually the same result in the presidential race. The conclusion: The presidential campaign, in mid-May, between President Obama and Mitt Romney, is a virtual tie.

Our first comparison is between the two polling firms that track the national race on a daily basis: Gallup and Rasmussen Reports. The latest published Gallup numbers (April 15-May 6; 3,050 registered voters grouped in five-day tracking segments) show Obama and Romney with the exact same level of support, 45-45 percent. Rasmussen, which calls 500 people every night and then groups them in three-day tracking segments, arrives at virtually the same conclusion as Gallup, but their data has Romney grabbing the smallest of leads, 46-45 percent.

Next comes TIPP, the regular polling partner of Investor’s Business Daily and the Christian Science Monitor. TIPP is the acronym used for the polling section of the TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence corporation, which claims the mantra of “America’s most accurate pollster” based upon their presidential track record in 2004 and 2008 as compiled by Real Clear Politics. According to their traditional polling interview method conducted during the May 9-16 period of 778 registered voters, the President has a slight 43-40 percent lead, certainly consistent in margin of error terms with the other pollsters just cited.

Finally, Zogby Analytics, which has in the past been criticized for being among the least accurate of pollsters, and in this case polling for the Washington Times, also returns current data that agree with the rest. According to their traditional live interview survey May 11-12 of 800 likely voters, Romney has the one-point lead, 44-43 percent. Zogby also went one step further. They asked this particular sampling segment a second ballot test question that included Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico Republican governor, who will likely be on the general election ballot in many states. When adding Johnson to the mix, the result slightly changed the Romney-Obama split; the returned result showed a consistent 44-43-2 percent division, but this time in the President’s favor.

What this tells us – because the results from four such different pollsters each with their own methodological approach pertaining to sample selection and interview philosophy – is that at the present time, the national race deserves an unequivocal toss-up rating.

Why Nebraska’s 2nd District Matters So Much in 2012

The 2nd District of Nebraska, which is basically the Omaha metropolitan area, might matter more than any congressional district in the country during the 2012 election. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that split their Electoral Votes – both states award two votes for winning statewide and one each for every congressional district carried – and, for the first time in the modern political era, the division actually occurred in 2008. Four years ago, President Obama scored a bare one-point win in NE-2, which gave him one extra Electoral Vote and allowed him to gain from a state he lost.

After this past Tuesday’s Nebraska primary, this district proved it will again be important because both newly crowned Republican Senatorial nominee Deb Fischer and Rep. Lee Terry (R) will need to run well here, as will presidential nominee Mitt Romney. If Romney fails to win this lone congressional district, it could mean carrying another entire state just to compensate. There is one plausible election scenario that gives Romney all four of the top priority conversion states – North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio – in addition to taking New Hampshire. Should he lose NE-2 in this mix, as John McCain did – the race could end in a tie. Therefore, the voters of this district could very well be choosing more than a congressman and US senator on Nov. 6; they could ultimately decide the presidency.

Fischer Surges to Win Nebraska Primary

font size=”2″>It seemed like a 20-plus point swing in less than 10 days was too much to possibly be true, but the We Ask America poll that detected Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer moving ahead of Attorney General Jon Bruning in the Republican Senatorial primary proved accurate. Despite leading all the way until the very end of the campaign, Bruning fell to Fischer 41-36 percent, with 19 percent going to state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

The victorious state legislator will now face former senator Bob Kerrey, who won the Democratic primary with 81 percent of the vote. Both will vie for the right to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in November.

Once again, conservative outside groups and individual Super PAC backers were able to bring down a front-runner who they deemed unacceptable. Yet, this election campaign is different. In the 2010 and early 2012 primary elections, in places like Nevada, Colorado, Alaska and Indiana, the incumbent or perceived favored candidate failed because they were to the left of the preferred candidate; but not last night in Nebraska.

Clearly the onslaught of ads aimed at perceived front-runner Bruning, probably totaling over $1 million in a small media market state, took their toll against him. The killer attack point was the charge he gained ownership in companies that he regulated in his official position and, as a result, became personally wealthy. With all sides pounding Bruning, the issue stuck, though he vehemently argued that all of his actions were completely legitimate.

And with Fischer gaining the endorsements of Sarah Palin, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and former governor Kay Orr, she got the credibility she needed not only to overcome Bruning, but also Stenberg, as well. Stenberg, a perennial candidate who won a statewide election in 2010, attracted the support of Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, which accounted for more than $700,000 of the outside money infused into the race. The Senate Conservatives goal was to boost Stenberg ahead of Bruning. While we now know that Bruning fell, Stenberg moved little.

Democrats will now make the argument that since the GOP early favorite again failed their party is now in better shape to make a run in the general election. Clearly, with former senator Kerrey as their official nominee, they have a credible candidate. But, in actuality, because the ethical issues dogging Bruning proved lethal to him, the attorney general coming through this campaign, damaged, and limping across the finish line with a close win would have been the least favorable position for Republicans. Now, with the most conservative nominee in this most conservative of states, Kerrey and the Democrats no longer have the issues they had against Bruning.

Oregon and Idaho also held congressional primaries last night, and the results produced no surprises as all incumbents easily won their renomination contests.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Today’s spotlight takes us to southern California to underscore just how much difference redistricting and election law changes can make in campaign strategy. The new CA-26 was deliberately designed as a 50/50 seat, and the state’s novel primary law is forcing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) into making some rather unorthodox spending decisions.

CALIFORNIA (current delegation: 34D-19R) – The new 26th District is fully contained within Ventura County, which sits between cities and counties of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to the latest census count, Ventura has 823,318 residents, which makes it a major political division. The new 26th was designed with the idea of creating a marginal district that would remain competitive throughout the decade. As an open seat, because Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) is retiring, the district appears to be performing as intended.

Sixty-four percent of the district’s territory comes from Gallegly’s 24th District. Thirty-five percent is added from Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd CD, with just a sliver from Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) current 30th (1 percent). Though President Obama captured 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, the 2010 numbers tell a completely different story. In the governor’s race, Democrat Jerry Brown, the eventual winner, came up one point short in the 26th, as Republican Meg Whitman nipped him 47-46 percent. Republican Carly Fiorina came in ahead of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by an almost identical 47-45 percent spread. Finally, to counterbalance the Obama double-digit win, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Steve Cooley, notched a 49-38 percent score against Democrat Kamala Harris, the statewide winner by less than half a percentage point.

In addition to redistricting, the other major California electoral change concerns how the state nominates candidates for the general election. Instead of featuring a closed primary election system that sends one Democrat, one Republican, and multiple Independent candidates to the general election, the new system puts forth only the two top vote-getters regardless of political party affiliation. The new procedure is creating havoc in District 26.

The Democrats were solidly behind their Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bennett, early in the race. Both the local and national party felt Bennett gave them their best chance of attaining victory in the marginal seat. After officially entering the race, Bennett decided to return to local government instead, and withdrew from the congressional campaign. This left the Democrats without a strong candidate until they were able to recruit three-term state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley; but the heart of her current legislative district is in Santa Monica and not Ventura County. For their part, Republicans coalesced around state Sen. Tony Strickland, who had twice been a statewide candidate.

It is the second supervisor in the race, Republican Linda Parks, who will test just how the new law works. Instead of running as a Republican, knowing that Strickland would take the majority of the GOP primary votes, she decided to declare herself as an Independent, thinking that this would be her best chance of snatching a run-off position away from the Democrats. Parks is a major Ventura County political figure, serving her third term on the Board of Supervisors after winning election as mayor of Thousand Oaks after serving on the locality’s city council. This contrasts heavily with Brownley, though representing some of Ventura County, who actually hails from Santa Monica in Los Angeles County – a point that Parks consistently reiterates.

The set-up here is forcing the DCCC to involve itself in the June election because they fear that both Strickland and Parks could qualify for the general, thus leaving them without a candidate in a seat that they can certainly win.

The DCCC is therefore actively communicating with voters, sending mailers that “Photoshop” Parks into a setting with Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin and former president George W. Bush. Others drive home the point to Democratic voters that Parks is actually a Republican. But Parks counters by highlighting other campaign messages from her previous opponent, ironically Sen. Strickland’s wife, Audra, who challenged her for the board two years ago, that identified her as a liberal and being too aligned with the Democrats. Parks is cleverly juxtaposing both mail messages to prove that she is, in fact, independent because both parties have launched similar attacks against her.

Redistricting and the election law process were done to change the voting system in California, and it appears those goals have been accomplished. The developments in the 26th District until the June 5 qualifying election will be very interesting to watch. It is clear we are seeing unusual happenings here, which are expected to continue.