Monthly Archives: May 2013

Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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The Bogus Tie

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
  •  Continue reading >

Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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Rep. Bachmann to Retire

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6)

Former presidential candidate and four-term US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced via video that she will not seek re-election next year. Drawing a parallel between the eight-year term limit placed upon the office of president, Bachmann said that such amount of time was appropriate for a House member to serve as well.

Last week, a Public Policy Polling survey showed her trailing her 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves who has already announced his intent to run again, by a two-point 45-47 percent margin. Though saying said she is confident of her re-election next year, even though she scored only 50.5 percent against Graves in ’12 and has no concern over the FEC investigation of her presidential campaign accounts, the congresswoman believes the time is right for her to leave the House.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state (Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 56.5-41.5 percent), so the new GOP nominee will be considered the favorite to defeat Graves, particularly in a lower turnout mid-term election. Bachmann becomes the 14th House member to either announce their retirement or resign from the House since the last election.

NRCC Moving Targets

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.
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Terry McAuliffe’s Risky Strategy

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and current party nominee for Virginia governor, just launched his second general election television advertisement (see link above), but his media strategy should raise questions.

The ad explains and emphasizes that McAuliffe lobbied Democratic legislators on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) controversial transportation bill. The underlying message credits McAuliffe’s involvement as a key factor in passing the legislation. The objective is to show his ability to deliver within the legislative process, while simultaneously proving that he reaches beyond partisanship in order to achieve the common good.

The ad graphics include a singular still photo of McDonnell and newspaper headlines that allude to “GOP infighting”, while an announcer mentions that “Tea Party Republicans refuse to support the plan.” The scene then fades to a banner illustrating that McAuliffe and McDonnell “congratulate each other” over achieving legislative success.

In our opinion, the ad is evidence that the McAuliffe campaign may be making some key strategic errors. First, they target “Tea Party Republicans” at a time when certain members of the Obama Administration are coming under intense fire for targeting Tea  Continue reading >

Gary Miller’s Wild Ride

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

After the 2011 California congressional redistricting maps were unveiled, it appeared that Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) would not be a member of the 113th Congress. But, he defied the odds and, in a rather stunning turn of events, won “re-election” from a district containing none of his previous constituents. Now representing a San Bernardino County seat that is the most pro-Obama district (57.2 percent) to elect a Republican congressman, it looks like unfolding developments may again play to his good fortune.

On the surface, Rep. Miller was dealt a bad hand in redistricting because he was originally paired with Rep. Ed Royce (R) in the new 39th District. But, in the adjacent new 31st CD where then-representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) and Joe Baca (D-CA-43) were paired, things began transpiring that would later open the door for Miller.

First, Rep. Baca rather surprisingly announced he would run in new District 35, a seat where he represented about 61 percent of the constituency but a place containing none of his home base of Rialto, a city of just under 100,000 people who had elected him to the state Assembly, Senate, and, for 13 years, Congress. Baca went to the 35th even though he knew state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D) would oppose him. She is his bitter political rival, and someone who represented more of the new district than  Continue reading >

South Dakota Dems: Going, Going . . .

The Politico newspaper ran a story yesterday detailing a strategic political difference between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) over who should be the South Dakota Democratic senatorial nominee. The party is battling to hold retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat. We analyze a number of points related to this contest below.

First: Polling shows, and most people believe, that former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate. Sen. Reid was clearly in this camp, but Daschle was apparently a major force behind his former aide, Rick Weiland, entering the race. Last week, soon after Weiland’s announcement, the former congresswoman made public her decision not to run.

Analysis: While Herseth Sandlin showed best against GOP former governor Mike Rounds in early ballot test polling, she was still consistently trailing. Though she successfully served three terms, the ex-member did lose her House seat as a sitting incumbent. The fact that she fails to lead a poll in what could well be the apex of her candidacy is a good indication that she may not be the ideal 2014 Democratic standard bearer, and probably made the right decision in bypassing the race.

Second: The prevailing wisdom suggests that the Democrats should field a more conservative candidate who would have greater appeal to the South Dakota electorate. Conversely, Weiland argues, “You run a Republican against a Republican, you’re going to elect a Republican.”

Analysis: The record since 2006 seems to back Weiland’s assessment. Moderates of both parties have not fared well during this four-election period, as their ranks in both houses have become badly depleted. Particularly in 2006, ’08 and ’10, an anti-incumbency strain that affected both parties became more of a driving factor than  Continue reading >

Poll: Bachmann Already Trailing

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ran a boisterous campaign for president last year, but after losing the Republican nomination she retreated to her House district to quietly run for re-election … and barely won. Against first-time Democratic candidate Jim Graves, a local Twin Cities area businessman, Bachmann only captured a scant 50.5 percent majority to secure a fourth term in the House.

Often times a US Representative reaching for a higher office, particularly president, and failing in the quest, leads to a less than stellar re-election performance. Such was the case for Rep. Bachmann. A new Public Policy Polling flash survey (May 15; 500 registered MN-6 voters) suggests that the congresswoman’s political troubles are not over.

According to the PPP results, Graves, who previously announced that he will seek a re-match, has jumped out to an early 47-45 percent lead. This, in a district that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried 56-41 percent. The 6th CD is the strongest Republican district in Minnesota, which is typically a reliable blue state. Romney carried only two of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Not surprisingly, since this poll shows Bachmann trailing in a partisan district that should be strongly in the Republican column, her personal favorability index is upside down. Forty-four percent have a positive opinion of Bachmann, while 51 percent expressed holding negative feelings toward her. Graves recorded a 39:33 percent favorable to unfavorable score, which isn’t particularly good either.
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Georgia Senate Race Now Defined

On the heels of representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12) and Tom Price (D-GA-6) both making public their decisions not to run, it appears that a set open-seat field of Georgia Senate race contenders is in place, some 14 months before the 2014 primary election.

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who was expected to run for the Senate once Price made clear that he will stay in the House, and businessman David Perdue now join representatives Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Paul Broun (R-GA-10), and Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) in vying for the Republican senatorial nomination and the right to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

Handel and Perdue entering the race greatly changes the campaign. Now with five strong candidates, the Georgia Republican senatorial primary will likely be the most interesting nomination battle in the entire country.

Handel began her career in the private sector before landing a position on Marilyn Quayle’s staff when Dan Quayle, was vice president. Handel later became deputy chief of staff to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA). Her first elected position was as Fulton County commission chair. From that office, she launched a successful bid for secretary of state in 2006.

Four years later, Handel joined a similarly crowded field in the open governor’s race. She placed first in the primary, capturing 34.1 percent of the vote, topping her six opponents. Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) slipped into the second run-off position, gliding past insurance commissioner John Oxendine, who had been the early front-runner. But things did not go as well for her in the August run-off. She and Deal basically fought to a draw, but the former congressman (Deal had resigned his House seat prior to the primary election) nipped her at the end and claimed a 50.2-49.8 percent win, a margin of just 2,519 votes of just under 580,000 cast.

David Perdue is the former Chief Executive Officer of both the Dollar General and  Continue reading >

Polls: VA and MA are Real

Mass-VA

Two new polls were released yesterday, one for the looming battle in the Virginia governor’s race and the other in the Massachusetts Senate special election. Both continue to show a high degree of competitiveness.

In the Old Dominion, Quinnipiac University released their new study (May 8-13; 1,286 registered Virginia voters) that contradicts both last week’s Washington Post poll and the one from NBC News/Marist College showing Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leading Democrat Terry McAuliffe among likely participants. The new Q-Poll gives the former Democratic National Committee chairman a 43-38 percent advantage among registered voters.

To the north, Public Policy Polling (May 13-15; 880 likely June 25 Massachusetts special election participants), surveying for the League of Conservation Voters, shows Democratic Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) expanding his lead over Republican private equity investor Gabriel Gomez to 48-41 percent. PPP’s first post-primary survey projected only a 44-40 percent split in the congressman’s favor.

The Quinnipiac poll may have over-sampled Virginia Democrats, however. Their analysis does not identify the number of individuals questioned by political party segmentation, but the responses suggest that many more Democrats than Republicans were included.

Here’s how we know: According to their statistical report, McAuliffe is winning the Democratic segment 83-5 percent. But Cuccinelli is scoring just about the same  Continue reading >

Shaheen Cruising While Brown Lags in NH

The New England College recently polled (May 2-5; 807 registered New Hampshire voters) the Granite State electorate and one of the office holders they tested was Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). She is preparing for her first re-election, possibly against former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R).

About three weeks ago, Brown made public his consideration of launching a campaign against the senator in New Hampshire. He justifies the move by reminding voters that he was born in the state. Since making his statement, he has been actively exploring this potential political opportunity.

The NEC poll is the second publicly released survey since a Shaheen-Brown race became a possibility. The first, from Public Policy Polling (April 19-21; 933 registered New Hampshire voters) gave the New Hampshire senator a 52-41 percent advantage, but that was better than any bona-fide Granite State Republican fared against Shaheen.

New England College portends an even stronger incumbent than did PPP. They forecast a 54-35 percent ballot test, with a Shaheen favorability index of 61:29 percent positive to negative. Her approval among Republicans is 31 percent, 63 percent from Independents. Brown scores an overall 41:29 percent favorability index rating.

Delving further into the NEC poll, we find that Shaheen would command the support of 89 percent of self-identified Democrats, while Brown attracts 71 percent of Republicans. Independents break a solid 57-31 percent for the incumbent.

In the meantime, however, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of Massachusetts voters (May 1-2; 1,539 registered Massachusetts voters) and found that Brown is the strongest candidate in the upcoming open governor’s race from either party and enjoys a 53:35 percent favorability rating among Bay State voters.

Tested against four major Democratic office holders, Brown would beat them all in hypothetical races for the state’s chief executive position.
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Senate Questions

capitol

Within the last week, no fewer than four major potential senatorial candidates have decided not to run. Three sitting members of the House, representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Steve King (R-IA-4), and Tom Price (R-GA-6), and one former congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin from South Dakota, each announced that they will be doing something other than running for the United States Senate in 2014. With so many potential candidates content to allow their current opportunity to evaporate, what now is the status of the various Senate races?

Both the Republicans and Democrats have, so far, experienced recruitment failures. Democrats see two seats that they currently hold, Jay Rockefeller’s post in West Virginia and Tim Johnson’s position in South Dakota, going by the wayside. Currently, they have no candidate willing to challenge GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) in the Mountaineer State, and their two strongest South Dakota potential contenders have taken a pass. While they do have a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle (Rick Weiland) now in the race, it is apparent that he is no match for Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate in Iowa where Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.  Continue reading >

Another Declines a Senate Run

On the heels of representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Steve King (R-IA-4), and Tom Price (R-GA-6) all declining to run for the US Senate just within the last week, former South Dakota representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) followed the trend yesterday by announcing that she, too, will remain on the political sidelines next year.

Though the Democrats are in an underdog position in trying to save retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) Senate seat, survey research and local political activists and analysts alike projected the former congresswoman to be the party’s strongest open seat candidate.

But the person viewed as the Democrats’ second-best contender, US Attorney Brendan Johnson, the retiring senator’s son, may also decline to run. More information is forthcoming that suggests Johnson, in fact, will not enter the race. Should such conjecture prove true, the Democrats will be without a top-tier candidate to protect a seat they currently possess.

The party’s one announced candidate, Rick Weiland, a former staffer for Sen. Tom Daschle (D), gave further indication that Brendan Johnson will not make the race. Telling reporters that he would not be running if he believed Johnson would become a candidate, Weiland faces a major challenge just to be considered viable.

On the Republican side, former two-term governor Mike Rounds has been running since the 2012 election ended. Rounds quickly made his intention clear, and declared for the seat months before Sen. Johnson made his decision to retire. Now that the senator is out of the race, and Herseth Sandlin and Brendan Johnson are declining to run, Rounds is in an even stronger position.

Clearly the South Dakota seat is one of two Democratic states that the Republicans, in the early going, are becoming prohibitive favorites to convert. The other is the open West Virginia, where Rep. Shelley Moore  Continue reading >

Price a No-Go in Georgia

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6)

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6)

Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R-6), who at one time was viewed to be a sure open seat Senate candidate and even a potential primary challenger to incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, announced late Friday that he will not run statewide next year.

In retrospect, Price’s decision is not particularly surprising because he delayed so long in making a public pronouncement. Soon after Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) entered the race — the first person to declare for the retiring Sen. Chambliss’ open seat back in February — Rep. Price said that, because of his duties on the Budget Committee, he would postpone any political decision until May. Clearly not committed to the Senate race, he now has officially chosen to remain in the House.

Price, originally elected to Congress in 2004, maintains House leadership desires. A former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and the Republican Policy Committee, he lost a race for conference chairman to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) at the beginning of the current Congress. During his career in the state legislature, Price became the first Republican Senate majority leader in Georgia history.

Money certainly would not have been an issue for five-term congressman. He raised  Continue reading >