Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why Ashley Judd’s Announcement is Bad News for McConnell

Ashley Judd, Publicity Photo, "Missing"

Ashley Judd, Publicity Photo, “Missing”

Confirming a trend that appeared to be developing over the last two weeks, actress Ashley Judd announced through her Twitter account yesterday that she will not challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) next year.

It was fast becoming clear, including to those leaders of the national and Kentucky Democratic Party apparatus, that Judd would not match up favorably with McConnell, who has proven himself as one of the stronger veteran Republican campaigners in the current political era. Because his victory percentage dropped to 53.0 percent in the Obama presidential year of 2008 from a high of 64.7 percent in 2002, Democrats are feeling more optimistic about their 2014 Kentucky Senate chances.

The state is an interesting one from a political context. Though it now performs as solid Republican territory during presidential contests, Democrats are still more than competitive, if not routinely favored, in statewide and local elections.

While the GOP now dominates the state’s congressional elections, particularly when considering freshman Rep. Andy Barr’s (R-KY-6) upset of incumbent Ben Chandler (D) last November to increase the party’s delegation to a 5R-1D split, Democrats are  Continue reading >

The “Sweet” Sixteen House Races

Continuing our sector review of the 16 most competitive political campaigns reflective of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament’s spirit, we today turn to the US House campaigns:

AZ-1: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) won a similar version of this seat in 2008, lost it in 2010, and reacquired it last November when incumbent Paul Gosar (R) decided to seek re-election in District 4. With a 2012 victory percentage of only 49 percent in a district that Mitt Romney carried, Kirkpatrick can again expect stiff competition in 2014.

AZ-2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) who replaced his former boss, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords upon her resignation, had a closer than expected regular election contest against Republican Martha McSally. With Barber only scoring an even 50 percent of the 2012 vote, expect a strong re-match effort from retired Gulf War veteran McSally.

CA-26: When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission crafted this Ventura County district, they did so with the idea of making a marginal 50-50 seat. The goal was achieved, so freshman incumbent Julia Brownley (D) will continue to face strong competition likely for the rest of the decade. Former state senator Tony Strickland lost to Brownley in November and is considering seeking a re-match in 2014. Rep. Buck McKeon (R) deciding to retire in adjacent District 25, however, could attract Strickland to what would be an open seat.

CA-31: Rep. Gary Miller represents the strongest Obama district in the country (57 percent) that elected a Republican congressman. He was fortunate to draw another Republican in the 2012 general election, but will likely face a Democrat in 2014. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D), who failed to qualify for the general election last year, is looking to run again. This will be a top Democratic conversion target.
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Sanford Leads in Run-off Poll

Public Policy Polling (March 22-24; 1,175 likely SC-1 special election voters; 648 self-described Republican run-off voters) released the results of their first post-special primary survey and found scandal-plagued former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R) to be leading ex-Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic (R) by a 53-40 percent count. The poll suggests that Bostic has so far failed to coalesce the substantial anti-Sanford vote behind his candidacy. In the first election, featuring 16 Republican candidates, the former governor placed first with 37 percent of the vote, while Bostic just grabbed second place with 13 percent.

But the most surprising part of PPP’s poll is how the two Republicans fare against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the special general. Despite SC-1 being a heavily Republican district, the data shows that Busch has a small 47-45 percent lead over Sanford and ties Bostic at 43 percent.

The two results are surprising in different ways. First, many would believe that Busch’s lead over Sanford would be greater considering his heavy personal negatives in conjunction with his highly publicized international extra-marital affair. But Bostic, on the other hand, without carrying such heavy political baggage should actually be in a stronger position than a dead heat when being paired with the Democratic nominee.

The Republicans have had trouble winning special elections during the past few years, even in strong partisan seats such as the one in southeast South Carolina. The April 2 run-off is only a little more than a week away, which now stacks up well for Sanford. Based upon this now available polling data, expect the special general to be much more competitive than originally forecast.

With Sen. Johnson Set to Retire, What’s Next in South Dakota?

Sen. Tim Johnson

Sen. Tim Johnson

As expected, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) officially announced yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term in the upcoming 2014 election. The senator, accompanied by his wife, Barbara, addressed members of the media in a Sioux Falls news conference saying, “I will be 68 years old at the end of this term and it is time for me to say good-bye.”

He indicated after 36 consecutive years in elective office — including service in the state legislature, and combined time in the US House and Senate — that he and his wife are looking forward to returning to life in South Dakota and “doing other things.” When asked if had he decided to run again, would he have won, the senator quipped that he “has never been beaten.” He did concede that the brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2006 has made life more difficult, but emphasized that he never stopped working hard for the people who repeatedly elected him as their representative.

Without Sen. Johnson on the ballot, the Republicans have a strong opportunity to convert the South Dakota Senate seat to their column and must be considered the early favorites to do so. Former governor Mike Rounds (R) announced his candidacy just after the November election and began running full speed ahead and appeared unconcerned about Sen. Johnson’s political intentions.
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The “Sweet” Sixteen Governors

Continuing our sector review of the 16 most competitive political campaigns reflective of the spirit of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, we today turn to the gubernatorial campaigns:

Arizona: Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is ineligible to seek re-election, so we can expect a tight open seat contest in the Grand Canyon State. So far little action is occurred, however. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) says he will run; so does former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, also a Republican. No Democrats have yet stepped forward. Richard Carmona, the Democratic senatorial nominee who held freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to a three-point win last November, publicly announced that he will not run for governor.

Arkansas: This is another state where the incumbent, in this case Democrat Mike Beebe, has reached the limit of his allowed service. Thus, a tough open-seat battle is already commencing. Republicans appear to be headed for a consensus candidate in the person of former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3). Democrats could be headed to a primary between former lieutenant governor Bill Halter and ex-representative Mike Ross (D-AR-4).

Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy (D) won his seat with only a statewide margin of just 7,604 votes, and thus is expected to again face tough competition. The 2010 GOP nominee, former Ambassador Tom Foley, says he wants to run again. Chances are this race won’t be as close as last time. Gov. Malloy has to be rated the early favorite.

Florida: The Sunshine State gubernatorial campaign could become the most interesting in the nation. GOP Gov. Rick Scott is politically weak and former governor Charlie Crist, this time representing a new political party as he as switched from the Republicans to the Democrats, will be his likely opponent.

Hawaii: Incumbent Neil Abercrombie should cruise to re-election against any Republican, but his angering of Rep. Colleen  Continue reading >

The Senate “Sweet” Sixteen

In the spirit of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament that has proceeded to the quarter-final round that they commonly call “the Sweet Sixteen,” it’s a good time to review the 16 most competitive 2014 Senate, House and gubernatorial races. Today, we start with the Senate:

Alaska: Sen. Mark Begich (D) defends his seat in what could become a must-win campaign for the GOP, if they are to have any chance of wresting the Senate majority away from the Democrats. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) is an announced candidate. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (R) is a possible candidate. Begich has the clear, early edge.

Arkansas: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) was unopposed in the 2008 election cycle, but already he has at least one opponent and maybe two. Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) is in the race. Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) is seriously considering becoming a candidate. This will likely be a competitive campaign, particularly if Cotton is the Republican nominee. Pryor must be favored, however.

Georgia: Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R) retirement has led to what will be a major Republican primary battle. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) is already in the race. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) will likely join him toward the end of this week. Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) and Tom Price (R-GA-6) are possible candidates. Democratic Reps. John Barrow (D-GA-12) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2) are potential candidates. It is unlikely that both will run, however. The eventual Republican nominee will be rated as at least a slight favorite in the general election, but this is one race that could lead to a Democratic upset. Rep. Barrow, in particular, is a good fit statewide and could make the general election highly competitive.

Hawaii: This seat will likely remain in Democratic hands, but an ensuing party primary fight is a distinct possibility. Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz could be facing a Democratic primary challenge from Rep.  Continue reading >

Rounds Starting Strong in South Dakota Senate Race

Gov. Mike Rounds

Gov. Mike Rounds

With former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) just completing a series of Washington, DC visits to the PAC community drumming up support for his already announced US Senate run, Public Policy Polling released a survey (March 18-19; 1,069 registered South Dakota voters; 501 Republican primary voters; 390 Democratic primary voters) of the state’s electorate that shows early signs of a GOP conversion race.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D) has promised to soon make clear whether he will seek re-election, originally saying he would do so “at the end of March.” Most local and national political observers believe that he will retire for health reasons.

In a hypothetical ballot test between the senator and Rounds, it is the Republican who already holds the strong early lead. According to PPP, Rounds would defeat Sen. Johnson 52-41 percent in a current contest. If Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL) were the Republican senatorial nominee, she would outpace the incumbent by four points, 49-45 percent.

Should the senator retire, two Democrats are most often mentioned as potential candidates: former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and US Attorney Brendan Johnson, the senator’s son. Herseth Sandlin, who held the at-large House seat for three full terms  Continue reading >

Mark Sanford: Anything but Conventional

Disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford successfully cleared the initial obstacle on his political comeback trail earlier this week, but how will he fare in the fast-approaching Republican run-off?

On the heels of his first-place finish in the special 1st Congressional District Republican primary election, the ex-governor and congressman, who is trying to rehabilitate himself politically from his international extra-marital affair that ended his marriage and soured his final year in office, must now win over a significant segment of Republican voters who supported another candidate.

Curtis Bostic, the former two-term Charleston County councilman who placed a distant second to Sanford, is tasked with converting an even larger portion of that same group. Though both man’s message is identical — each claims to be the strongest candidate in relation to cutting government spending — their campaign strategic and tactical challenges are much different.

On Tuesday, 53,657 Republicans participated in the special primary election. From that group, 19,812 individuals, or 36.9 percent voted for Sanford. Bostic attracted 7,149 votes (13.3 percent). Though placing second by less than one percent over third-place finisher Larry Grooms caused the triggering of an automatic recount under South Carolina election law, the latter conceded defeat, hence the original vote tallies will stand. The remaining 26,696 people, or 49.8 percent, chose a Republican candidate other than the first- and second-place finishers. It is the members of this group who will likely determine the run-off result.

As is the case in all run-off elections, the secondary turnout will be smaller than the original primary voting universe. In South Carolina, the typical drop-off from primary to secondary election tends to only be in the 15 percent range, however. In fact, the last time a run-off occurred in the 1st Congressional District (2010) the drop-off  Continue reading >

What Sanford’s First-Place Finish Means

Mark Sanford (R)

Mark Sanford (R)

Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) easily claimed the top position in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District’s special primary last night, capturing 37 percent of the vote within a huge field of sixteen Republican candidates. He will advance to the April 2 run-off election against former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, who nipped state Sen. Larry Grooms for second place.

The former governor and three-term congressman broke 40 percent in his home of Charleston County, the district’s most populous region. But, in terms of the fast approaching run-off election, even his 41 percent finish in Charleston is light years away from scoring a 50 percent plus one majority vote. District-wide, 63 percent of the Republicans who went to the polls chose a candidate other than Sanford, even though the former governor has universal name identification. Still, considering the hardened negative image after his extra-marital affair with an Argentine mistress became international news, Sanford’s showing last night does indicate that he retains a base of residual support.

Bostic, the man the ex-governor will face in the run-off election, claimed 13 percent of the vote, edging state Sen. Grooms’ 12 percent. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, finished fourth with 8 percent. It was a disappointing night for the  Continue reading >

Sanford’s First Step in S.C. Comeback Attempt

The preponderance of political opinion suggests that disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) will advance into the second round of voting as a result of today’s special primary election in South Carolina. Sanford is among 16 Republicans vying to become the party nominee for the right to replace former Rep. Tim Scott (R), who is now an appointed US senator.

The ex-two-term governor, who spent three terms in the House during the 90s (1995-2001), ended his tenure in statewide public office with revelations of a wild extra-marital affair with a South American mistress. The associated events became national news and ended up costing the governor his marriage as well as a great deal of personal credibility. Now, he’s looking for a political comeback and, if local predictions prove accurate, he may be taking the first step to achieving his goal tonight.

Even if he advances, Sanford will be a decided underdog in the run-off regardless of who becomes the other qualifier. For a person with universal name ID to finish more than 15 points away from majority support in a first election normally dooms said candidate to defeat in the succeeding run-off. In this case, noting South Carolina’s traditionally short run-off periods, the second election is scheduled for April 2.

The strongest candidates, other than Sanford, appear to be state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, former state Sen. John Kuhn, and Teddy Turner, son of media magnate Ted Turner. State Rep. Peter McCoy and Rep. Andy Patrick are also in the field of candidates but neither has made any impact on the fundraising circuit, gathering less than $65,000 apiece.

The Democratic side is also drawing some attention. Though their eventual nominee will be a decided underdog in the May 7 special general election, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, sister of Comedy Central TV personality Stephen Colbert, is poised to capture her party’s nomination. Like the top  Continue reading >

SCOTUS Hears Arizona Voter Law Today

ariz-birth-cert

It appears that the US Supreme Court will soon resolve several election law conflicts. On the heels of hearing Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act, America’s top nine Justices today listen to oral arguments in an important case that could lead to major changes in voter registration procedures. Both cases will likely be decided before the court’s current term adjourns at the end of June.

The Arizona voting public, via a 2004 ballot initiative, approved a measure that instituted proof of US citizenship requirements before beginning the voter registration process. The law differs from what many states have instituted relating to proving identity before voting because individuals in Arizona must document their citizenship even before registering.

The voter-passed law requires all registrants to prove their US citizenship either through presenting a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, naturalization number or tribal card when the individual first registers to vote in the state. Lower courts have partially struck down the measure, ruling that the Arizona law conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act of 1994 because the latter merely requires affirmation of citizenship under penalty of perjury, but does not mandate presenting documentation. Therefore, the lower courts have said that the Arizona requirement cannot apply to federal elections.

The rulings are leading to a system of having separate state and federal registration forms, which has already caused confusion among Grand Canyon State election authorities according to a long Arizona Republic news article describing the situation. The federal registration form,  Continue reading >

Survey Says: Americans Upset With Government

The Gallup organization just reported upon their monthly survey about the issue areas Americans cite as being the most important and, in their analysis reported yesterday, a reading occurred that hadn’t been seen since the Watergate era.

When President Obama took office at the beginning of 2009, according to the regular survey issue project, 86 percent of the respondents said the economy is the “most important problem facing the United States today.” Yesterday, though the economy was still mentioned more than any other issue area, that percentage dropped to 57, the lowest recorded reading since Gallup’s June 2010 polling edition. During the Obama administration, the smallest percentage recorded citing the economy was 55.

The surprising response, however, occurred when the questioners asked the participants to be more specific. The response “economy in general” still topped the charts at 24 percent, down from 25 percent in their February 2013 edition but up from the 21 percent of respondents who answered that way in January. But 20 percent of respondents answered, “dissatisfaction with government” — making it the number two concern; and that type of response factor hadn’t been seen since June of 1974 shortly after Pres. Richard Nixon had resigned. Those answering this way jumped four full points just from last month, and pulled ahead of “unemployment/jobs” (16 percent) and the “federal budget deficit/debt” (13 percent) among the answers most given.

In terms of other issues cited, healthcare dropped to just seven percent and, despite all of the media attention paid to the gun control issue, “guns” was mentioned by just four percent of the respondents, down from six percent in February and returning to its January 2013 level.

Should this trend continue, we could begin to see a new issue discussion come to the forefront in the 2014 election cycle. If — and the Republicans will be the ones most likely  Continue reading >

Booker Cruising in Jersey Senate Poll; Corbett Improves in Pa.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, as part of their March 4-10 Garden State survey (702 registered New Jersey voters; 323 Democratic primary voters), studied the upcoming 2014 open Senate race. Their findings present good news for Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) and suggest that both Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) have quite a bit of ground to close if they intend to enter the race. Of the two, Pallone is likely to run, while Holt’s candidacy is only a possibility.

According to the FDU results, Booker would lead Holt and Pallone 50-7-4 percent, respectively, if a Democratic primary vote were held during the present period. With such a wide spread, either or both of these potential candidates will have to create a negative image of Booker if they are to substantially gain on him. Typically, big city mayors don’t do particularly well in statewide electoral contests normally because the voters not residing in the largest city, and particularly so for rural voters, often have a negative image of big city politics. Therefore, we can expect to see serious questions raised about the city’s government and state of the local economy before Democratic voters go to the polls in June of 2014.

Booker is in equally good shape for the general election. The only potential GOP  Continue reading >

Va., Pa. Gubernatorial Glimpses

Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has decided not to enter this year’s gubernatorial campaign as an Independent candidate. In an email communication sent to his supporters that sounded very similar to one he sent on Feb. 28, Bolling indicated that his decision not to run largely revolved around the ability to raise enough money to run a “winning” campaign for Virginia governor, in addition to his distaste for what he terms the “rigid ideology” of today’s modern politics.

“In many ways I fear that the ‘Virginia way’ of doing things is rapidly being replaced by the ‘Washington way’ of doing things and that’s not good for Virginia. As a result, the political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean-spirited. Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks. This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done,” Bolling wrote as part of his message.

The development should result as a big plus for consensus Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. Though polling generally indicated that Bolling’s entry really didn’t move the race dramatically toward presumed Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, over the course of the campaign that would likely have been the result. Without Bolling in the race trying to chip away moderate Republican support from Cuccinelli, the attorney general will have a better chance of unifying his party’s support for the general election campaign.

Polling has shown that the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race begins as a dead heat and there is a good chance that the campaign will remain in such a mode all the way through Election Day.

Corbett Down

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) appears  Continue reading >

Rogers, Peters Considering Michigan Senate Run; Miller Out

Mike Rogers (R-MI-8) | Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI-8) | Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14)

Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) retirement announcement has already set the Wolverine State’s political wheels in motion, and the succession picture is much clearer today than at the end of last week.

Maybe In – House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI-8) and three-term Democratic Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) top the lists of both parties who say they are “seriously considering” entering the Senate race. Should these two meet in a general election, we can expect a tough, hard-fought contest between a pair of strong, veteran campaigners who have both won tough races.

Potential candidates who won’t yet rule out running are Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, the wife of Rep. John Dingell (MI-12) who is the Dean of Congress, and second-term Republican Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3). Terri Lynn Land (R), a former secretary of state, also is a possible entrant.

Definitely Out – Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI-10), a former two-term Secretary of State who many believe would be the party’s strongest contender, is among a surprisingly large number of potential candidates who have ruled themselves out of joining the open seat contest. In a statement to the Detroit  Continue reading >