Monthly Archives: June 2012

Major Swing State Polling Figures Show Obama Support

A series of new polls from three major swing states -Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania – reveals that voters basically support President Barack Obama’s immigration policy, but are split on his handling of the economy.

Quinnipiac University released their research data this week from polls simultaneously conducted in those critical swing states, and the results reveal that the president has a discernible advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the three places, the culmination of which could decide the election. The polls, all from the June 19-25 period, report the following ballot test findings:

• Florida: Obama 45 percent – Romney 41 percent (1,200 Florida voters)
• Ohio: Obama 47 percent – Romney 38 percent (1,237 Ohio voters)
• Pennsylvania: Obama 45 percent – Romney 39 percent (1,252 Pennsylvania voters)

Since 1960, history dictates that no one has won the White House without taking at least two of the three aforementioned states. In comparing these results with the similar May 3 Q-Poll findings that gave Obama an eight-point lead in Pennsylvania with Florida and Ohio in virtual dead heats, suggests that the president has gained recent momentum. Today, Obama has clear leads over Romney in the three critically important states and, if such a pattern continues throughout the summer and into autumn, he stands in good position to secure a second term. Keeping in mind that voter disposition over a four-month time period in the modern campaign era can quickly change, this new data again suggests that the 2012 presidential contest will be tight in these three major battleground states.

The polls yield several basic conclusions. Initially, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania polling respondents support President Obama’s new immigration policy and are divided over whether he or Romney would be better for the country’s economy and their personal finances.

In Florida, on the heels of the President’s recent decision to prevent deportation of younger Illegal immigrants, Mr. Obama holds a sizable lead among Hispanic voters. Specifically, the Q-Poll indicates an Obama support factor within the Florida Hispanic cell segment at 56-32 percent, compared to 49-39 percent in the May Quinnipiac University poll. The earlier survey was in the field prior to Obama and Romney each making their respective immigration policy speeches. Increasing Republican share of the Hispanic voting block is crucial to a Romney win formula.

Furthermore, Obama leads in other demographic group cell sectors as well, including 85-6 percent support among black voters, which actually could be a low number when compared with voter history from 2008. White voters in Florida back Romney 50-35 percent. Obama also leads among Sunshine State women, 47-40 percent, while men are evenly divided with 43 percent for Obama and 42 percent for Romney.

In Ohio, we find similar results as the Buckeye State Q-Poll reveals 52-38 percent support for the president’s immigration policy. By a margin of 45-38 percent, respondents say he would do a better job than Romney in handling immigration. Obama currently possesses a discernible lead among Ohio Independents, which historically have proven to be a bellwether in determining which way the state will swing.

Pennsylvania women are strongly backing the president according to the Keystone State Q-Poll (48-36 percent), with men tipping 42-41 percent toward Romney. Voters in Pennsylvania don’t necessarily approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling his job as president, split 45-47 percent favorable to unfavorable, but his numbers are better than Romney’s upside down 34:39 percent personal image ratio.

In conclusion, the Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania polls provide strong indications about which way the country will swing this fall. Today, it is fair to say that this race is still up for grabs, but the president clearly maintains the easier path to ultimate victory in November.

Polling on Healthcare Shows Intriguing Results

On the eve of the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision announcement, Public Policy Polling (June 21-24; 1,000 registered voters) conducted a national survey of attitudes and impressions regarding the political leadership associated with the healthcare issue. The results are interesting, and potentially disheartening for President Obama and his party.

In answering the question about which candidate the respondents trusted more pertaining to healthcare issues of the greatest importance to they and their individual families, by a surprisingly close 45-44 percent count, the polling sample favored presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Perhaps even more stunning, by a margin of only 47-43 percent, the cell group said they trusted the president on healthcare more than the congressional Republicans. For the better part of time since the 2006 election campaign, congressional Republicans in particular, have been scoring poorly on favorability index questions. So, it is unusual to see them virtually at parity with the President on his signature issue.

But, perhaps the most surprising response of all came to the question as to which candidate had the most clear stance on healthcare. Despite the passage of his healthcare plan being the president’s most significant domestic agenda accomplishment and Romney being less defined, Obama only tops the Republican by a slight 45-42 percent margin when claiming that one candidate or the other has the more clear stances on the healthcare issue.

As one more indicator that the healthcare issue will be one that helps determine the outcome of this presidential election, the PPP survey sample would vote for the president over Romney by a 48-45% margin, quite in line with their specific healthcare answers.

Sullivan Loses in Okla.; Other Incumbents Fare Well

The big story of yesterday’s Oklahoma primary voting is the defeat of six-term Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK-1), who fell to military reserve pilot Jim Bridenstine by a substantial 54-46 percent margin. Sullivan becomes the fourth non-paired incumbent to fail in a renomination bid during this election cycle. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), Tim Holden (D-PA-17), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) are the other three.

In the open 2nd District of Oklahoma, both parties will feature Aug. 28 run-off elections. The Republicans will battle between businessman Markwayne Mullin (42 percent) and state Rep. George Faught (23 percent). Democrats will likely have a close contest between former district attorney Rob Wallace (46 percent) and Tulsa County Farm Bureau President Wayne Herriman (42 percent). Rep. Dan Boren (D) is retiring. This may be the Republican’s best conversion opportunity in the country.

Turning to South Carolina, the general election candidates are now set in the Palmetto State’s new 7th District. Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice was a strong 56-44 percent winner over former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer in the Republican primary. Rice is a prohibitive favorite now in the general election. In the run-off campaign that lasted just four official days after the Horry County court ruled that the Democrats must hold a secondary vote, former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu easily beat back attorney Preston Brittain, 73-27 percent. The run-off was challenged because votes for a withdrawn candidate were not originally included in the final tally.

In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch, as expected, was an easy 67-33 percent winner in his Republican primary battle with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Hatch will now cruise to re-election to a seventh term in November.

Another incumbent turned back a serious primary challenge with ease. Three-term Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5) repelled self-funding opponent Robert Blaha by a strong 62-38 percent margin despite the challenger spending more than $720,000 of his own money. Lamborn, who has had trouble solidifying what should be a safe Colorado Springs district, appears to be building the kind of strength one would expect to see from a now veteran incumbent.

Finally, in New York, a series of primaries produced no surprises. Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), challenged by four Democrats, again survived the onslaught but with only 45 percent of the vote. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was his closest challenger with 40 percent; former Clinton Administration official and 2010 congressional candidate Clyde Williams only recorded 10 percent of the vote.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D) was a 58-31 percent winner over New York City Councilman Erik Dilan. Velazquez will now represent the new 7th District, which contains 71.2 percent of her current constituency. Neighboring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9) was an easy winner in her primary with a huge 88 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, two individuals won open-seat New York City races that effectively punches their ticket to Congress. State Assemblywoman Grace Meng was an easy Democratic primary winner and will succeed retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman in the new 6th District. In Brooklyn, Democratic state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will replace retiring Rep. Ed Towns in the new 8th District.

New York City attorney Sean Mahoney won the right to challenge freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) in the new 18th District. Mahoney won despite the district being anchored in Westchester County. As expected, Rep. Bill Owens (D) will defend his marginal district against 2010 nominee Matt Doheny (R). And, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R) will face Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in a new district that heavily favors the Republicans.

Finally, in the US Senate race, conservative Wendy Long easily defeated New York City Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9), who had no legitimate chance of remaining in the House post-redistricting. Long, also officially carrying the Conservative Party line, will face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in a long shot November challenge effort.

Voters Choose Candidates Today in Utah, S.C., N.Y., Okla., Colo., Primaries

Voters in five states go to the polls today to nominate US Senate and House candidates.

• In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is encouraged by a new poll (June 12-19; 500 eligible Utah voters) from Key Research, a local Utah-based firm, in conjunction with the Utah Data Points research and information blog. According to the data, Hatch leads former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R) 51-22 percent among eligible GOP primary voters and 56-25 percent among those self-described “likely” voters.

South Carolinians in the new 7th Congressional District will choose both a Republican and Democratic nominee in the run-off vote. The Democrats now have an official run-off election after a local Horry County court judge ruled that votes cast for a withdrawn candidate do count, meaning candidate Gloria Tinubu, who was originally declared the victor, is now forced to a run-off with second place finisher Preston Brittain. The Republican race is between former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice, the latter of whom Gov. Nikki Haley (R) just publicly endorsed.

• In New York, Democrats are looking at eight contested primaries, including those for incumbents Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13). Republicans have just one seriously contested primary, that in the new 27th District for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D).

• Both Democrats and Republicans in Oklahoma will vote in the first round of polling in the open 2nd District (Rep. Dan Boren (D) retiring). Run-offs, to be held on Aug. 28, are likely for both parties.

• Finally, Colorado will also hold a primary. The only race of any significance is the Republican intra-party challenge to Rep. Doug Lamborn in the Colorado Springs-based 5th District. Wealthy businessman Robert Blaha is running a major self-funded effort against the incumbent, dropping more than $700,000 of his own money into the race even before the end of March.

We will provide results and analysis on Wednesday morning.

Assessing Congressional Decisions Facing S.C., Ill.

SC-7: A Horry County court judge finally ordered the South Carolina Election Commission to conduct a Democratic run-off election in the state’s new 7th Congressional District, just days before the secondary election is to be held. The ruling came down Friday and the run-off election will be held as originally scheduled, tomorrow. Controversy arose on primary election night over whether to count the votes cast for withdrawn candidate Ted Vick, whose name appeared on the ballot because he officially left the race after the ballots were printed.

Relying on past Election Commission procedure, votes, for the purposes of determining whether a candidate obtained majority support from the participating electorate, were not typically counted for withdrawn contestants. Eliminating Vick’s votes in this instance allowed former Georgia state representative Gloria Tinubu to exceed the 50-percent mark and clinch the Democratic congressional nomination. Democratic officials objected to the commission ruling and asked a judge to overturn their decision not to conduct a run-off.

Since the court agreed with the plaintiffs, and Vick’s 2,341 votes now have officially been added to the aggregate total, Tinubu’s final tally drops from 52.5 percent to 48.8 percent. Second-place finisher Preston Brittain’s now scores 36.7 percent.

With a run-off campaign that will last just four official days, it remains to be seen if the Democratic vote will change much in such a short pre-election campaign period. Republicans Andre Bauer, the state’s former lieutenant governor, and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice continue to compete for the GOP nomination.

IL-12: Democrats now have a new nominee in Illinois’ 12th District. Local party county chairmen interviewed prospective Democratic candidates on Saturday and chose Illinois National Guard adjutant general and attorney William Enyart as the party standard bearer. He replaces Brad Harriman, the man who won the March 20 primary, but was forced to withdraw from the campaign due to health reasons.

IL-12 is a sleeper campaign on the national scene in that Republicans have an improving chance to win this election. The 12th, in open-seat status because veteran Rep. Jerry Costello (D) is retiring, is the only Democratically held district that did not precipitously improve it’s Obama-McCain 2008 score (new IL-12: 55 percent; current IL-12: 54 percent) under the Illinois congressional redistricting map. The Illinois plan is clearly the one in which Democrats can make their most significant national gains. The district ranks 13th of 18 Illinois seats on the Obama scale and is the weakest of the new Democratic seats. To put the Obama home-state performance in perspective, in only two Land of Lincoln congressional districts did the president fail to secure a majority in his 2008 race.

The new 12th CD begins in East St. Louis, encompassing St. Clair County. It then covers southwestern Illinois, including the area between the St. Louis metropolitan area and the Missouri and Kentucky borders at the southern tip of the state.

Gen. Enyart was the unanimous choice of the fourteen Democratic county chairmen who had authority to choose the replacement candidate. Seven prospective nominees were interviewed, including former representative David Phelps (D-IL-19), who served for two terms before losing a paired incumbent contest to Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in 2002, and state Rep. John Bradley. Obviously, having to launch a congressional campaign from ground zero three months after your general election opponent officially begins is a major disadvantage and one Enyart must quickly overcome in order to reach parity and ultimate victory.

The GOP features, as its 12th District congressional candidate, 2010 lieutenant governor nominee, Jason Plummer, who together with gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady came within one point of defeating Gov. Pat Quinn (D). The Brady-Plummer ticket carried the new 12th District two years ago. Since the Republicans are clearly on defense in the rest of the state, CD 12 represents one Illinois GOP conversion opportunity that the party can use to blunt what is otherwise a strong Democratic offensive.

Florida Senate Race Changes Shape

Things are heating up in the Florida Senate challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). Former interim Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican race earlier in the week and, in a statement released early Wednesday, indicated that he believed the national Republican Party had thrown its support behind Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14).

Former governor Charlie Crist (R-I) appointed LeMieux to the Senate in 2009 to fulfill the unexpired term of Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after his abrupt resignation. Crist went on to run for the seat in 2010 without party affiliation and lost to freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The developments again reveal the power political establishment backing has over candidates, even those with relatively high familiarity with voters. The other late breaking development here, and the two are related, is the emergence of former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL-15), who just recently and surprisingly indicated that he is entering the Senate race. While Mack is still heavily favored over Weldon, the campaign is just now reaching the cusp of the stretch drive for the Aug. 14 primary when many things change. Aside from Weldon, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister is also in the Republican race.

In a poll released yesterday, Quinnipac University found that Sen. Nelson has a slight 43-39 percent edge over Rep. Mack, but the young Republican congressman appears to be the prohibitive favorite for his party nomination. The poll, conducted June 12-18, prior to LeMieux’s departure, surveyed 1,697 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points. Mack polled the strongest among the GOP contenders, with the others trailing Nelson in double digits: 47-32 percent (LeMieux); 45-34 percent (McCalister); and 47-31 percent (Weldon).

Nelson’s slight lead over Mack is a net five point increase for the senator compared to the virtual tie Quinnipiac found in their May 24 poll (Mack leading 42-41 percent).

In the Republican primary, the Q-Poll shows Mack posting 41 percent, LeMieux in second with 8 percent, and McCalister following with 5 percent, while the late arriving Weldon registered only 3 percent among the 698 self-identified Republicans tested.

Though Mack and Nelson are running close in both private and public polling, it is Nelson’s major financial war chest that has most GOP operatives concerned. The senator has compiled an almost $8 million financial edge over his competitors and even with so many hot races taking place in Florida this cycle, he will still have the wherewithal to position himself strongly in the most expensive of television markets. Now with LeMieux out of the primary and Mack now clearly the GOP favorite, some Republican resources that otherwise would have gone towards winning the mid-August election can now be saved for the general.

The senator, who won his 2006 re-election with 60.3 percent of the vote, faces new economic challenges in the Sunshine state and, while he remains as the favorite in the race, the contest will definitely come down to the wire. This is a bona-fide contest with national implications.

Polls Show Kerry Down in Neb.; Dems Close in Ariz.

Two new Senatorial polls hit the public domain this week, with both good news and bad news for each party. In Nebraska, Public Opinion Strategies for the Deborah Fischer (R) campaign (June 17-19; 500 likely Nebraska voters) posts their client to a whopping 58-33 percent lead over former senator Bob Kerrey (D). Fischer, a Nebraska state senator, was the upset winner in the May Republican primary. Kerrey served two terms in the Senate but has been living in New York City over the past dozen years after he retired from politics the first time. This data is consistent with what was produced in immediate post-primary polling.

The surprising poll comes from Arizona, where Public Policy Polling surveying for the group Project New America (June 4-5; 791 likely Arizona voters), finds GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) clinging to only a two-point, 43-41 percent, lead. This represents an 11-point net swing in Democrat Richard Carmona’s favor since their May 17-20 poll (Flake 48; Carmona 35).

The other point that should trouble the GOP brain trust, assuming this poll is not an outlier (a distinct possibility since the swing is large despite a political climate featuring seemingly little change), is a sampling universe slanting more Republican than the state as a whole. Prior to the last election, Republicans held a 36-32-32 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats and Independents. According to this PPP poll, the universe was comprised of 42 percent who self-identified as Republican versus 30 percent who called themselves Democrats, while only 23 percent professed their Independent status.

Do Dems Have a Shot at Gaining Calif. House Seats?

After the June 5 California primary, most observers were stunned to see two Republicans, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R), qualify for the general election in San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District. Considering that this new seat should normally vote Democratic in at least six of every 10 elections, the double Republican primary outcome had not been foreseen. His party’s San Berdo setback did not deter Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY-2) from continuing to declare that his team will gain at least four to five California House seats, however.

A look beyond the Obama-McCain 2008 numbers on the newly crafted California Citizens Redistricting Commission congressional map tells a different story. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe in 28 California seats and Republicans’ 13, with 12 seats in competitive Democrat vs. Republican situations. If these numbers are correct, then the D’s would have to win 10 or 11 of the dozen most competitive districts to reach Israel’s projection of leaving California with 38 or 39 Democratic seats.

Though President Obama carried all 12 of the marginal seats in 2008, he did so under his statewide 61 percent winning percentage in every district. Looking beyond the surface of the presidential race, we find that the Republican attorney general nominee, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ended up losing statewide by less than one percentage point, actually carried all 12 of these CDs. Additionally, and possibly even more telling, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), a 52-42 percent winner statewide two years ago, lost nine of the 12 districts to Republican Carly Fiorina. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a 54-41 percent victor over Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, won eight of the competitive dozen.

Therefore, with Republican performances such as these, what are Israel and other Democratic partisans looking at when they predict lofty Golden State gains, numbers they must attain to have any chance of competing for the House majority?

One argument is that the turnout model will certainly be different from the one that came to fruition in 2010 because, as the theory goes, President Obama will energize the electorate and increase Democratic turnout. That the voter participation rate will exceed the 2010 mid-term performance is almost certainly true, but with a virtually uncontested presidential race in California and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) facing little credible re-election opposition, will the turnout drive be as strong as the national Democrats believe? Conversely, with a public employee pension reform measure on the statewide ballot and considering the cities of San Jose and San Diego already passed similar propositions in June, could this issue actually provide more juice for Republicans and right of center Independents as opposed to Democrats? The answer is, quite possibly.

Turning to some of the individual races, in order to achieve their statewide goal Democrats would have to beat at least three of the four following incumbents: Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52).

But only in San Diego, despite Republicans outnumbering Democrats 36-33 percent in the new 52nd District, is there a legitimate crack at a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Rep. Bilbray received only 41 percent in the jungle primary but new Democratic opponent Scott Peters, who placed second with only about 23 percent, has vulnerability from his previous controversial service on the San Diego City Council. So, even here, which seems to be the Democrats’ best chance to unseat an incumbent, their conversion bid is far from secure.

Republicans also look to have the upper hand in Districts 21 with Assemblyman David Valadao reaching almost 60 percent in the open seat Central Valley primary, the marginal 26th where they have the stronger candidate, Ventura County state Sen. Tony Strickland, and even in Democratic leaning District 41 (Riverside County), where the combined Republican primary vote formed a majority. Additionally, the Democrats feature a general election candidate there who has already lost three previous congressional campaigns, while the Republicans are promoting a powerful county Supervisor.

Right now, the Democratic victory total is nowhere close to winning 10 or 11 of these 12 seats, as the realistic sum appears closer to five. Instead of gaining four or five California districts, it’s more feasible that the parties will remain constant in their 34D-19R delegation ratio, or quite possibly lose a seat. Such a result virtually guarantees the continuance of the House Republican majority.

King Leading in Maine Poll

A new MassINC Polling Group political survey (June 13-14; 506 likely Maine voters for television station WBUR) gives Independent former governor Angus King a huge 50-23-9 percent lead over newly nominated Republican candidate Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill, respectively.

The Maine Senate race could become nation’s most important, because there are two scenarios where King alone would decide if Republicans or Democrats control the majority in the next Congress, should he be elected. To date, the former governor, though a liberal, has not committed to joining either party. Should President Obama be re-elected and Senate Republicans reach 50, King caucusing with either side would make that party the majority. The same would be true if Mitt Romney unseats the President and the Democrats claim 50 seats.

State Sen. Dill has the most difficult path to victory in the three-way scenario. According to the MassINC data, Democrats choose King 60-17 percent over the now-official Democratic nominee. Interestingly, his mark among Democrats is even better than within the Independent sample cell. Of those claiming to affiliate with neither party, King records 57 percent. Though his margin is strong, it is not insurmountable, particularly in a three-way race. Gov. Paul LePage (R) was elected from a similar configuration two years ago with just 37.6 percent of the vote. If the Senate majority truly reverberates on Maine’s outcome, then expect the race to become heated as Election Day nears.

The Dispute Continues in SC-7

Reapportionment awarded South Carolina a new 7th District for the ensuing decade, and the seat’s first election is already featuring some unusual occurrences to say the least.

The new 7th CD was placed in the northeast corner of the state anchored by the city of Myrtle Beach within fast-growing Horry County. Freshmen Reps. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC-5), and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6) currently represent the region. The GOP nominee should have the inside track to winning the general election.

The candidates appear headed to a June 26 run-off election – or are they? It’s clear on the Republican side that former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer (32 percent in the June 12th primary election) and Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice (closely trailing Bauer with 27 percent) will square off a week from tomorrow, but it is the Democratic result that remains unclear. The fact that South Carolina has the tightest run-off schedule in the nation, just two weeks between the primary and secondary vote, makes post-election problem solving all the more difficult.

The Democratic Party troubles began when their establishment-backed candidate, state Rep. Ted Vick, ended up in jail less than a month before the primary election on DUI and gun charges. He immediately dropped out of the congressional race, but not in time for election authorities to remove his name from the ballot. The party establishment then transferred their support to young attorney Preston Brittain.

The development made another individual with an unusual history the party’s leading candidate. Up until the new district lines were finalized earlier this year, Gloria Tinubu was a state representative … in Georgia. Upon seeing the South Carolina map, Tinubu resigned her seat in the Peach State and moved to Myrtle Beach, declaring her congressional candidacy along the way. Obviously, being from another state is a major negative in trying to win an election before a brand new constituency; however, in a rapidly growing area with an influx of new residents, deep community roots sometimes don’t matter.

The dispute centers around the South Carolina Election Board’s decision not to count ballots cast for Vick, which totaled 8 percent of the total Democratic congressional vote. The ruling changes the end result. Without Vick recording any votes, Tinubu exceeds 50 percent and wins the nomination. If Vick’s votes are counted, the total vote cast figure is large enough to deny Tinubu the majority, thus forcing a run-off election.

Understanding that featuring a Democratic nominee who is really from another state is not the strongest of positions from which to launch a competitive general election campaign in a largely Republican district, the second-place candidate, Brittain, and SC Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian challenged the Election Board’s decision not to count Vick’s votes. The Board membership sought legal advice from Attorney General Alan Wilson, son of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2), in order to make their final ruling, which they did on Friday. Wilson backed the members’ original judgment to not count Vick’s votes, and thus the 7th District Democratic nomination was officially awarded to the former Georgia state representative.

In response, Brittain and Harpootlian filed a legal challenge, and the local Horry County judge will hear the case and make a ruling on Thursday. Even if he overturns Wilson and the Election Board, the ensuing run-off campaign time will last only five days, since the run-off election date will still remain June 26.

Regardless of the how the dispute finally unfolds later in the week, the big winner is the eventual Republican nominee. Whether Bauer or Rice wins the run-off, next Tuesday’s GOP result will likely choose the first congressman from this new 7th District.

GOP Congressmen Endorse Democrat Berman

The unusual effects of California’s new top-two primary law are already coming to light.

Since the June 5 primary, two southern California Republican congressmen, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) and retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), have both issued formal public endorsements of Democratic Rep. Howard Berman in his Democrat vs. Democrat general election contest with fellow Congressman Brad Sherman. Redistricting threw the latter two members into one district and now they must battle each other in what will be a year-long campaign.

As we have covered here repeatedly, the new California election law allows the top-two finishers in what is termed their “jungle primary” – that is where all candidates are placed on the same ballot and each voter chooses just one combatant – to advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation. Voters adopted the new system through a 2010 initiative vote and it was in effect for the first time on a statewide basis less than two weeks ago. As a result, six Democrat on Democrat congressional general elections have evolved and two Republican versus Republican.

The California business community was largely responsible for qualifying and financing the top-two initiative and did so because they believed it would create greater competition in Golden State elections. During the entire past decade, for example, California voters unseated only one congressional incumbent in their 53 US House districts. Additionally, the movement organizers believed the new system would begin to elect more moderate candidates from both parties. The first results suggest that they might be right on both counts, and Issa and Gallegly’s immediate post-primary action provides evidence to support their second conclusion.

The Berman-Sherman battle in the new San Fernando Valley’s 30th Congressional District is a race of epic proportions. Already featuring a combined spending figure of over $6 million just among the two major incumbent candidates, CA-30 will clearly be the most expensive US House race in the country. Additionally, it will show just how different campaigning in the general election will be when one candidate faces a member of his own party before the entire electorate.

The reason that Berman is beginning to enlist Republican support from people such as Issa and Gallegly is that the hybrid district has 95,432 registered Republican voters, another 8,487 people who affiliate with the conservative American Independent Party, 2,088 Libertarians, and an additional 77,042 voters who state no party preference. Democrats are the largest contingent at 177,638 registered 30th CD members, but even this large number represents only 47.9% of the entire voting universe.

Along with a competitive redistricting map, the top-two primary law is changing the face of California politics. Expect to see more of this cross-endorsement and involvement activity in the 30th and the other districts featuring intra-party general elections. Berman’s Issa-Gallegly move is merely the first salvo in what is sure to become a fascinating game of cross political pressurization.

Warning Signs in Va., N.D.

Two GOP Senate candidates who are probably re-assessing their respective post-primary campaign strategies are former Virginia senator George Allen and North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg (R-AL). Both easily won their nomination elections on Tuesday night, but even their individual landslide victory margins are arguably under-performances. Both men finished with 66 percent of the vote on June 12, but for two consensus party candidates, their base support number should have been higher. A better position from which to launch each general election campaign would have been in the 75th percentile.

Allen faces former governor Tim Kaine (D) in the Old Dominion, and the race has been in the toss-up category since the middle of 2011 and continues to languish with neither candidate showing any signs of breaking out. The Republican primary vote tells us that Allen still needs to tack right to completely firm up his GOP base for what promises to be a bruising general election in a presidential battleground state.

Rep. Berg, whose North Dakota electorate will likely support Mitt Romney over President Obama by a substantial margin, also needs to cement his political base to the maximum level in order to take advantage of what should be a regional GOP tide.

Berg’s 66 percent of the vote in his battle against frequent candidate Duane Sand also warrants attention, because in addition to the primary result, we now see a third general election poll that projects him to be trailing former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp. The latest survey, (Mason-Dixon Polling & Research; June 4-6; 625 registered North Dakota voters) gives the new official Democratic nominee a one point, 47-46 percent, razor-thin November edge. Additionally, the primary prediction done by Mason-Dixon actually placed Berg further ahead of where he finished on Tuesday. The poll showed him beating Sand 73-16 percent, but the actual result was 66-34 percent.

Warning signs, indeed.

A Look at Key June 12 Results

In addition to the Arizona election noted in our previous blog post, several key states hosted primary and run-off elections last night. Two Democratic run-offs were held in Arkansas, and freshman incumbent Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) and open-seat nominee Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) now have official Democratic challengers.

In the 1st District, a seat made even more Democratic in redistricting, District Attorney Scott Ellington slipped past state Rep. Clark Hall 51-49 percent, despite the latter having the financial advantage. This will be an interesting contest since the 1st District is even more Democratic, but Arkansas figures to be one of President Obama’s worst states. The evolution of this campaign will be worth watching.

In retiring Rep. Mike Ross’ 4th District, state Sen. Gene Jeffress romped to an easy 61-39 percent win, despite primary first place finisher Q. Byrum Hurst outspending him. Jeffress will now face Cotton in the general election. Despite the lopsided run-off win last night, this district is a prime GOP conversion opportunity.

In Maine, state Sen. Cynthia Dill (D) scored a strong 45-35-12 percent victory over former secretary of state Matt Dunlap and state Rep. Jon Hinck, respectively. Dill will face the GOP winner, former secretary of state Charlie Summers, and Independent former governor Angus King. In Dill, the Democrats have a candidate who will run a credible campaign, which, ironically, will help Summers. The only way the Republicans have a chance in a Maine statewide race is to win a close three-way race, and the groundwork is now laid for such a contest. King is still the overwhelming favorite, but it is the Dill campaign that will now help determine how this race progresses in November. This campaign has the potential of becoming quite interesting.

The North Dakota Republican electorate chose a congressional nominee different from the party-endorsed candidate. Former at-large congressional nominee Kevin Cramer upended public service commissioner and Republican convention-endorsed candidate Brian Kalk by a 55-45 percent score. Cramer will face former state representative Pam Gulleson who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. He now becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the open seat in the November election.

In South Carolina’s new 7th District, as expected, former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Commission Chairman Tom Rice advanced from the primary and will decide the Republican nomination in a June 26 run-off election. Bauer placed first with 32 percent of the vote as compared to Rice’s 27 percent, but the former’s margin may not be enough to hold the lead in the secondary campaign. On the Democratic side, former Georgia state representative Gloria Tinubu scored an outright 52 percent win over attorney Preston Brittain and three others. Tinubu resigned her seat in the Georgia legislature earlier in the year to come to South Carolina and run for the state’s new congressional district, an unusual situation to say the least. The Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite to win the seat in November.

Finally, in Virginia, former senator George Allen (R) was renominated with a somewhat disappointing 66 percent of the vote for the right to reclaim the seat he lost six years ago. The ex-senator defeated three minor GOP candidates. Allen will now face former governor Tim Kaine (D) in a general election campaign that promises to go down to the wire.

Barber Wins the AZ-8 Special

Democratic candidate Ron Barber, the former district director to resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) won the right to serve the balance of his ex-boss’ term as he upended GOP nominee Jesse Kelly 52-45 percent in an election that saw a voter participation rate of more than 200,000. The Barber victory was an impressive one in what has proven to be a marginal southeastern Arizona district. Barber also was wounded in the January 2011 shooting rampage that killed six and left Ms. Giffords with debilitating wounds, a condition that eventually forced her to leave the House.

Though Barber won last night, he likely has not seen the last of Kelly. The two will now face competition for their respective party nominations in the Aug. 28 primary election for new District 2. Martha McSally, who like Kelly is an Iraq War veteran, placed second in the special election primary and figures to be the former nominee’s toughest challenger. Barber faces state Rep. Matt Heinz in what could be an interesting primary for the newly elected representative. The winners will advance to the general election in a district that is slightly more Democratic than the current District 8, but still very winnable for a Republican candidate. On the eve of his first election, Barber has to be viewed as a decided favorite certainly in the Democratic primary, and also for the general election.

Weekly Redistricting Update

The federal three-judge panel in Kansas adopted and released the state’s new congressional plan, meaning all 43 multi-district states have now completed the redistricting process.

Litigation drags on in Florida and North Carolina, but it is likely that both of those enacted maps will be in effect for the 2012 elections, meaning the national political stage is set for November. Changes for 2014 and beyond could occur in Florida and North Carolina, however, in addition to Texas and West Virginia, where new maps will be drawn after the 2012 election due to previous legal rulings.