Monthly Archives: April 2013

Massachusetts Primary Today

Massachusetts

Bay State voters go to the polls today to choose nominees for Secretary of State John Kerry’s vacant US Senate seat. Since the Democrats are in an overwhelming political position in Massachusetts, it is apparent that the winner of their party contest tonight will become the next senator. The special general election is scheduled for June 25.

The man favored to win is Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) who was first elected to the House in 1976. If victorious, he will be the longest-serving House member ever to enter the Senate. All polls show Markey leading his congressional colleague, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8), posting double-digit margins in all surveys with the exception of some Lynch internal polls. It will be a major upset if Lynch manages to eke out a close win. In all likelihood, Markey wins tonight and again on June 25.

For the Republicans, three individuals are vying for a nomination that will immediately cast the standard bearer as the underdog position for the special general. Former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, state Rep. Dan Winslow, and businessman/Navy veteran Gabriel Gomez are the three candidates. Polling, though most of the available data features unacceptably low sample sizes, has shown both Sullivan and Gomez in the lead during the closing days.

Once nominees are secured tonight, the money battle will begin for the special general. Scott Brown’s upset victory in a 2010 Senate special election notwithstanding, proving that a Republican can win under certain circumstances, it is unlikely such a configuration will occur in this situation. In fact, it will even be a surprise if the national and state Republican Party leaders decide to wage a serious fight. Democrats will not allow their candidate to  Continue reading >

Rehberg’s Return? Two Say No

At the end of the 2012 election cycle, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) said his Montana political career was at an end. Losing to Sen. Jon Tester (D) by three points, 45-48 percent, even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was racking up a 55-42 percent Montana margin over President Obama, the six-term congressman and former lieutenant governor said he would not again seek political office.

Now, with Sen. Max Baucus (D) announcing that he will not run in 2014, Rehberg may be changing his tune. “As to what the future holds, ever since Max (Sen. Baucus) announced his retirement two days ago my phone has been ringing off the hook,” Rehberg said. “The encouragement I’ve been getting from Montanans to take a serious look at this race has been overwhelming. I owe it to them, and to all the folks who I’ve served over the years, to keep listening and see how things develop. I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

The top potential candidate is former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer. If he decides to run, with his high favorability ratings that have continued into his retirement, it will be very difficult for Republicans to beat him. Conversely, should Schweitzer not enter the race and Rehberg run for the Republicans, he would likely become the decided favorite and the GOP would be in strong conversion position.

The Baucus retirement has clearly changed the outlook for the Montana Senate race. Until the candidates identify themselves, however, this race will remain in a state of flux.

Schock, Pingree Say No

Two US House members who have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates in their respective states each publicly removed themselves from further talk about a 2014 statewide campaign. Republican Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Democrat Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) both confirmed that they will seek re-election to  Continue reading >

Markey Looking Strong; “Governor” Nelson?

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5)

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5)

As we turn into the home stretch for the special Democratic primary election to fill John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts on Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) continues to appear well positioned for claiming his party’s nomination over fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8).

A new Public Policy Polling brushfire survey (April 23-25; 563 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) conducted for the League of Conservation Voters, an organization supporting Markey, continues to show the 36-year congressional veteran with a substantial lead. According to the PPP data, Markey posts a 50-36 percent margin over Lynch. The winner of the Democratic primary becomes the prohibitive favorite in the June 25 special general election.

Both candidates scored strong favorability ratings from the sampling universe. Markey registers 66:23 percent favorable to unfavorable; Lynch 50:32 percent.

Earlier in the week, the Western New England University Polling Institute released their survey (April 11-18; 480 registered Massachusetts voters; 270 Democratic primary voters) that showed  Continue reading >

Brown’s First NH Numbers

Public Policy Polling (April 19-21; 933 registered New Hampshire voters) went to New Hampshire to test former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown’s (R) electability in the Granite State. Two weeks ago, Brown, who was defeated for re-election in Massachusetts last November, indicated that he is considering challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in 2014. Since publicly confirming that the idea is at least a possibility, he has made several appearances in the state.

The early PPP numbers, however, don’t look particularly promising for Brown, but he does fare better than any other Republican against Shaheen. If the election were in the current time frame, the senator would lead him 52-41 percent. Though being 11 points down early in the cycle is not the worst of positions for a challenger, it was believed Brown might fare better because of being so well-known throughout the entire New England region.

But, it’s not the ballot test results that suggest the former senator begins in relatively weak political position in New Hampshire. When asked if the respondents think that Brown should run for Senate in the state next year, only 32 percent said they believe he should as compared to 54 percent who said no.

Turning to whether those in the sampling universe consider Brown a New Hampshirite, only 18 percent said that they did. A full 63 percent said they did not.

As previously stated, Brown does fare better than any other Republican against Sen. Shaheen. Former US congressman Jeb Bradley (R-NH-1), who now is the state Senate Majority Leader, trails the senator 39-54 percent. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas (R) is behind 34-53 percent; ex-congressman Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) comes up 18 points short at 37-55 percent. Finally, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), the son of former governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and brother of former senator John E. Sununu, would lose to Sen. Shaheen 39-53 percent.
 Continue reading >

Montana’s Sen. Baucus Retiring

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

As was widely reported yesterday, six-term Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) announced his decision not to seek re-election next year. The decision appears to be a significant change of course for the senator, who was showing every early sign of jump-starting his political machine.

Baucus was actively raising substantial campaign money and, even as late as last week, voted against his party leadership and President Obama on the gun control bill; before that, the Democratic budget. The intent of his gun vote was to correctly position himself before an electorate that is highly sensitive toward 2nd Amendment restrictions.

He also just recently described implementation of the Obamacare legislation, a bill he co-authored and took the lead in passing the bill through the Finance Committee that he chairs and the Senate itself, as a “train wreck.” This move looked to be an effort to distance himself from the new healthcare system that is highly unpopular in Montana.

The Baucus about-face brings the total number of senators either leaving the body since the 2012 election, or saying they will, to 11 (Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away; John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State; Jim DeMint resigned; Saxby Chambliss, Tom Harkin, Carl Levin, Mike Johanns, Frank Lautenberg, Tim Johnson, Jay Rockefeller, and now Max Baucus are all retiring at the end of the current term). This obviously is a  Continue reading >

The Return of Anthony Weiner?

Last week, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) who resigned from the House in disgrace in 2011, said publicly that he is at least contemplating a 2013 run for mayor of New York. This week, Quinnipiac University released their current poll of the race (April 15-18; 1,161 registered New York City voters; 740 Democrats) that shows Weiner in second position even though his popularity index is an upside down 33:41 percent favorable to unfavorable.

According to the data, Weiner scores support from 15 percent of the Democrats polled, compared to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s 28 percent. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former city comptroller William Thompson, and current City Comptroller John Liu follow with 11, 10, and 9 percent, respectively. Of the entire group, Thompson has, at 32:9 percent, the strongest favorability ratio but it is not as yet translating into stated support.

Days earlier, the Marist Poll (April 11-15; 873 Democratic New York city voters) showed almost identical results. According to this data, Quinn leads with 26 percent; Weiner was again second with an identical 15 percent, and Liu, de Blasio, and Thompson follow with 12 percent, 11 percent, and 11 percent, respectively.

Weiner still has some time to decide whether to run. Mandatory “designating petitions” can be circulated beginning June 4, with the requisite number being returned no later than July 11. The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 10. If no candidate receives 40 percent plus one vote, the top two will participate in a special run-off election scheduled for Sept. 24. The municipal general election is Nov. 5.

The leading Republican candidate is Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board chairman Joe Lhota. It is clear from the polling, however, that the Democratic primary and likely run-off will determine the identity of the next mayor. Lhota is substantially behind all of the Democratic candidates, even Wiener though the Republican does perform best against him. According to the Quinnipiac survey, Weiner is the choice of 51 percent of those tested  Continue reading >

Dingell — Debbie Dingell — Won’t Run

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell (D)

Debbie Dingell, in a posting on her Facebook page over the weekend, said she will not seek retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) open seat next year. She had been actively testing the waters for such a race ever since Levin made known his 2014 political intentions. Dingell is the wife of venerable Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) who, first elected in a 1955 special election, is the dean of the House of Representatives.

In an email Mr. Dingell sent to supporters relaying his wife’s statement, Debbie Dingell said in part, ” … when Carl Levin announced he would not seek reelection, those plans (working for Sen. Levin’s re-election and other Democrats’ such as her husband) changed. Close friends, complete strangers, political allies and business colleagues encouraged me to take a long, hard look at running for the Senate myself — and that’s what I have done.”

She then goes onto say, ” … but I think it is critical that Democrats unite behind one candidate for what will be a difficult and expensive race, and it’s one of the reasons I have concluded that now is not the time for me to run for the United States Senate. We have good candidates like Gary Peters already running, and a primary would be divisive at a time that cries out for unity. As someone who has spent much of my career working to bring people together, it just  Continue reading >

Hickenlooper, Udall Cruising in Colorado

Public Policy Polling just completed a survey of the Colorado electorate (April 11-14; 500 registered Colorado voters) and found both Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall in strong position for re-election.

PPP surveys tend to produce more negative numbers of the various politicians tested than most polling firms. The Colorado results are no exception, as all eight tested Republicans registered upside down personal favorability ratings when the respondents were queried about whether they had favorable or unfavorable opinions about each individual. When testing Gov. Hickenlooper and Sen. Udall, the question only pertained to their job performance. On that scale, both men performed well: Hickenlooper scored 53:44 percent positive to negative (though his negative jumped up from 26% as recorded on PPP’s November ’12 Colorado poll); Udall 50:33 percent.

Despite all of the Republicans registering poor favorability ratings, their ballot test standing when paired with either Hickenlooper or Udall are better than one might expect after perusing the initial data.

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7), who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 after serving two terms in the House from a marginal suburban Denver district, comes within seven points of Hickenlooper, 43-50 percent, in a hypothetical general election. Attorney General John Suthers (R) scores 39-49 percent against the governor. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) tallies exactly the same result as Suthers. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) also registers in the same range, behind 40-50 percent. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) does a bit worse, trailing 41-52 percent.

If these same Republicans were to challenge Sen. Udall, the results prove similar. Despite Beauprez scoring a 15:34 percent personal favorability index and Udall registering a 50:33 percent job approval rating, the Republican trails the senator only 41-48 percent. Suthers is down to Udall 38-50 percent; Gardner 39-49 percent; Tipton 37-50 percent; and Tancredo 39-51 percent.  Continue reading >

Sanford Does it Again!

Mark Sanford (R)

Mark Sanford (R)

Mark Sanford is in trouble again. Allegedly violating his divorce agreement with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, the former South Carolina Republican governor now faces a trespassing hearing two days after the May 7 special election. In response to the latest controversy, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a statement saying they will not fund the special election. This all but assures Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch will now win what should be a safe Republican seat.

Though it appeared Republican voters were willing to give Sanford the second chance he requested, it is highly unlikely that they will award him a third such opportunity. Thus, the string of bad Republican luck and performances they have experienced in special elections during the past few years looks to be continuing.

If Busch Wins

Let’s turn the clock ahead to the regular election next year, when Republicans should be well positioned to reclaim the seat from a Congresswoman Busch. With many potential candidates such as former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, and businessman Teddy Turner, among others waiting in the wings, it appears the GOP will field a strong opponent to Busch in the regular election.
 Continue reading >

Money Talks

The first quarter financial disclosure statements have been filed for House incumbents and challengers and, as always, the fundraising amounts tell many tales. Naturally, the most prolific fundraisers are elected partisan leaders or committee chairmen, but this report is more indicative about those in marginal districts or who are committed to, or considering, a bid for statewide office. The axiom of the most committed candidates being the best early fundraisers again rings true during the current period.

Looking at the rank-and-file House incumbents and candidates, particularly those newly-elected congressmen, it appears that $300,000 raised for the quarter beginning Jan. 1, 2013 is the benchmark. Grading on a curve, anyone attaining or exceeding this level has earned first tier political status.

Best Fundraisers

The top fundraising House district can be found in the Denver suburbs, where 6th District Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff (D), the former state House Speaker and defeated Senatorial candidate (2010; losing the Democratic nomination to then-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet), both exceeded $500,000 in recorded campaign receipts for the first quarter.

Coffman raised $510,000, just behind Romanoff’s $514,000. The challenger has about a $100,000 edge in cash-on-hand. The court-drawn redistricting map presented Coffman with a much more Democratic district than the one to which he was originally elected in 2008. He was victorious in 2012, obviously, but did not reach the 50 percent plateau, winning re-election with 48 percent of the vote. The mid-term turnout pattern should help Coffman, but Romanoff is likely a stronger opponent than former state Rep. Miklosi, the congressman’s opponent last November.

The runner-up district is New York’s 11th CD, where Rep. Michael Grimm (R)  Continue reading >

Pew Study Shows Federal Government at All-Time Low

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released the results of their new regular study (from surveys conducted on March 13-17, 1,501 adults; and March 28-31, 1,001 adults) that questioned respondents on their views and impressions about the federal, state, and local governments. The favorability response hit a new low for the federal government, but the sentiment did not carry over to state and local public sector bureaucracies.

According to the data, only 28 percent of the respondents now have a favorable opinion about the federal government. In contrast, 57 percent have a positive impression of state government and an even higher 63 percent maintain an affirmative opinion about local government.

State and Local Attitudes

There are partisan divisions within the data, but they are almost solely reserved for the federal government. For the first time since Barack Obama became president more Democrats view the national authority in negative terms: 41 percent positive compared to 51 percent negative. Republicans continue to be almost unanimous in their unfavorable opinion about the US public sector. Only 13 percent of GOP respondents, according to the current Pew data, view the federal government approvingly.

But, these partisan splits are not evident when examining attitudes toward the states or localities. In fact, Republicans have a slightly better view of state government than do Democrats (57 percent versus 56 percent). Independents hold the best opinion, recording a 59 percent positive rating. Regarding local government, the respondents’ sentiments are even more positive. Here, it is the Democrats who rate the locals the highest (67 percent), followed by Republicans (63 percent), and Independents (60 percent positive).
 Continue reading >

A Tale of Two Governor’s Races

Rep. Charles. A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D) | Gov. Chris Christie (R)

Rep. Charles. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D)                       Gov. Chris Christie (R)                    

Maryland

Late last week, Rep. Charles. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD-2) confirmed that he is considering a race for governor next year. Incumbent Martin O’Malley (D) is term-limited, and the open race already is attracting a great deal of attention, particularly from Democrats. Virtually all of the strong candidates hail from the Washington, DC suburbs, while Ruppersberger would, at this point, be the only contender from the Baltimore metropolitan area. The geographic split would give him a clear advantage if the DC-area vote becomes split.

Ruppersberger won election to his sixth US House term last November. He represents the largest portion of Baltimore County of any Maryland congressman, in addition to having more than 83,000 residents from Baltimore city. His district also covers significant portions of Anne Arundel and Hartford Counties, with a sliver of Howard County.

The congressman defeated state Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) 65.6-31.1 percent in November, but the Republican spent less than $300,000 on her challenge.

Other Democratic likely candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who already has scheduled his formal announcement for early May, Attorney General Doug Gansler, state Del. Heather Mizeur and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. The Democratic primary will almost assuredly  Continue reading >

Baca May Challenge Gary Miller in California

Former representative Joe Baca (D-CA-43), who lost his 2012 re-election campaign to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod in the post-redistricting 35th CD (California’s new election law now allows two members of the same party to qualify for the general election under certain circumstances), said last month that he would seek a re-match. Now, he may change targets. Instead of again battling Rep. McLeod, Baca might launch a challenge to Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) in the adjoining district.

Under the 2011 redistricting map, California’s 31st Congressional District, fully contained within San Bernardino County, already possesses the most interesting voting history of any new Golden State seat. Despite it being heavily Democratic (Obama ’12: 57.2 percent, making it the most Democratic seat represented by a Republican in Congress), CA-31 qualified two Republicans for the general election. Rep. Gary Miller, coming into the seat from his redistricting-collapsed 42nd District, won a 55-45 percent victory over Republican state Sen. Bob Dutton last November. Miller’s performance in the 2012 election is rather extraordinary considering he literally represented no one in this new district during his previous service.

Originally, the 31st paired Baca with then-Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41), in what was viewed as a “lean Democratic” seat. With Hispanics constituting 49.3 percent of the population base, the seat appeared to be designed for a Democrat, but its previous voting history suggested a Republican could win. In addition to representatives Baca and Lewis, former Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) also represented a significant portion of the new 31st and it, for a time, was considered a potential landing district for him, too.

Baca’s decision to run in the new 35th CD, a district where just under 61 percent of the constituency hails from his old 43rd District, was a surprise. Despite him representing a large chunk of the new district, it was clear he would have to oppose  Continue reading >

Governorships in the Balance

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

In the current 2013-14 election cycle, 38 of the 50 gubernatorial campaigns will occur. Though the Republican Party did poorly in the 2012 national election, they still claim their largest stable of governors in modern political history. Today, the Republicans control 30 state houses as compared to 19 for the Democrats. One state, Rhode Island, features an Independent governor. Lincoln Chafee was originally elected to the Senate as a Republican but, after his defeat from federal office, he chose to run for governor in 2010 as an Independent. Earlier in the year speculation grew that Chafee might seek re-election as a Democrat, bringing him full circle through the political party process if he follows through.

One state, Virginia, is among five states that elect chief executives in odd-numbered years. The Commonwealth also invokes a one-term limit, meaning an open race for the position every four years. Two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, maintain two-year terms for their respective governors. The other 48 states award four-year terms.

In looking at the 38 races, Republicans must defend 24 of the gubernatorial seats to the Democrats 13, in addition to the one Independent. Only six of the seats are open, five due to term limits. Massachusetts Gov.  Continue reading >

New McConnell Polling

Public Policy Polling (April 5-7; 1,052 registered Kentucky voters) tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) as he prepares for re-election. The poll was taken after actress Ashley Judd (D) stated that she would not challenge the senator in 2014.

As has been detected in other polls, McConnell’s job approval is poor. According to this study, only 36 percent of the sampling universe approves of his performance as the state’s senior senator, versus 54 percent, who do not. By contrast, fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s approval index is 46:39 percent. When asked whether the respondents hold a higher opinion of Sen. Paul or McConnell, by a 42-24 percent split the group responded Paul.

Right now, the Democrats do not have a viable candidate to challenge the Republican leader. If first-term Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes were to run — an alternative that she has not ruled but is not likely to pursue — McConnell would lead her 45-41 percent. If defeated representative Ben Chandler (D-KY-6), for example, were to become the Democratic nominee, the senator would lead him by a similar 46-41 percent margin. Chandler also gives no indication that he will enter the race.

Though McConnell is unpopular, he still fares reasonably well in ballot tests against the most viable potential Democratic opponents. Unless a top-tier challenger comes forward, McConnell must still be rated as a clear favorite for re-election.