Monthly Archives: June 2013

What They’re Missing

The analyses and coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is typically missing a very subtle but highly important point.

As mentioned in many articles and interviews, now that the official formula determining whether a jurisdiction must adhere to US Justice Department supervision is invalid, the laws previously stayed through the denial of pre-clearance procedure have taken effect. A representative sampling of recent laws that failed the pre-clearance test but are now fully enforceable are several polling place voter identification statutes from various states.

In terms of political district map drawing, there is now another crucial factor present in some places. Most states have what is commonly described as a “county line law.” The statute typically says that a county must be kept whole unless more population is needed to reach the proper district target figure. Often times counties are split between or among two or more districts for purposes of adding more minorities to a congressional or legislative district in order to protect that seat under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that the elimination of Section 4 effectively debilitates Section 5, the county line laws will presumably be stronger than the VRA, the reverse of what had, heretofore, been the usual practice.

Florida could be the state most quickly affected by the county line situation. In 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative that defined new and additional redistricting criteria. One of the included items is the county line provision. Currently, the state is embroiled in live redistricting litigation, and apparently headed for a January trial in Leon County (Tallahassee). The Supreme Court’s opinion this week will likely bear major influence upon the state judge’s ultimate decision, and it is probable that the tables have turned in the plaintiffs favor. If they do in fact win at the lower and upper court levels, new congressional and legislative maps will likely be mandated, and that could happen as early as the 2014 election cycle.

Florida is particularly vulnerable on the county line issue. The state has seven counties that are larger than a congressional district. Within those seven counties is enough population to complete 10 CDs. The  Continue reading >

Montana In Play

Montana

Montana

A new Public Policy Polling survey previews a tight race evolving in the Montana open-seat race. Those eventually becoming candidates will vie for the right to succeed Sen. Max Baucus (D), who is retiring after what will be 40 years in Congress.

The new data seems to poke holes in the prognostication that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) would run away with the open-seat race should he decide to run. Other potential candidates have been hanging back awaiting his decision, but the former governor humorously quipped last week that it might be some time before he ultimately decides his 2014 plans.

Referring to his occupation as a soil scientist, Schweitzer said to a local news reporter, “…the most important thing a soil scientist has an understanding of is time-glacial time … I look at a mountain and I’m able to visualize how that mountain was created over 6 million years. You’re a journalist. You read time as next week, tomorrow. I think of time geologically. When you see me say ‘soon’ you may be thinking days — but I think of time in millions of years sometimes.” Thus, it appears his answer won’t be coming any time soon.

According to the PPP poll, Schweitzer would actually trail former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot (46-47 percent) even though the Democrat’s favorability index is much higher. Schweitzer scores 54:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, while Racicot only posts 43:37 percent, yet Racicot clings to a small lead.

Considering that Racicot is not likely to run, how does Schweitzer do against a more probable candidate? Paired with at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R), a freshman who ran strong in his first statewide campaign,  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Altered; Markey Wins

Voting Rights Ruling

The Supreme Court, ruling for the plaintiffs in the Shelby County (AL) case on a 5-4 decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) saying that the formula determining VRA jurisdiction is no longer applicable. In 2006, Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act for the succeeding 25 years but did not change the triggering election. Until yesterday, dropping below the turnout pattern dictated in the 1972 presidential election would bring a municipality, county, or state under VRA coverage. Had the court not acted, that triggering mechanism would have stayed in place at least until 2031, or almost 60 years.

The high court majority members made clear they are not striking down the Act itself, only the formula for determining which jurisdictions will come under federal supervision. Doing so eliminates the Department of Justice’s power to pre-clear election laws after a covered jurisdiction enacts statutory changes. Because the formula is now declared unconstitutional, all of the laws previously denied pre-clearance now take effect. This could greatly change matters in several states, and very quickly. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), for example, announced that he would immediately begin enforcing the state’s voter identification law that had been previously stayed by the DoJ’s refusal to pre-clear the legislation.

The states that could be most affected by this ruling, even as early as the present election cycle, are the three hearing live redistricting litigation. The trio of states are Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. Depending upon the outcome of the various lawsuits, and yesterday’s ruling that strengthened the plaintiffs hands against their state in all instances, it is possible the congressional and state legislative lines could conceivably be re-drawn before the 2014 election.

Massachusetts

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), as we’ve been predicting for several weeks, successfully claimed Secretary of State John Kerry’s (D) former Massachusetts Senate seat, but his margin of victory was a bit under what a  Continue reading >

Will Gov. Haley Commit?

Gov. Nikki Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley

According to a report in the Florence (SC) Morning News, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is not yet committed to running for re-election next year.

The governor, a former state Representative who was elected to South Carolina’s top post in 2010, is eligible to seek a second term under the state’s election law. But, she told a Florence news reporter in an interview, “… if we look and it’s too much on the family, I could absolutely see (not running again).”

If Haley did not seek re-election, it would not be altogether surprising. First, her husband is currently deployed in Afghanistan and the couple has young children. Second, computer hackers broke into the state revenue department’s online system, thus compromising the state taxpayers’ confidential financial information, which has caused the governor major political problems. Third, her election victory percentage against state Sen. Vincent Shaheen (D) was underwhelming: 51-47 percent in what proved to be a landslide Republican year. Fourth, Shaheen has already announced his 2014 candidacy.

Should Haley run again, and she did stress in the interview that her campaign apparatus is ready to go, the race will be competitive despite South Carolina’s strong Republican disposition. There will be much more to come from the Palmetto State.

Massachusetts Senate Snapshot

The long-anticipated special US Senate election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry (D) is being held today, and the final three polls all favor Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) to carry the vote over Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez.

Suffolk University (June 19-22; 500 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Markey to a 52-42 percent advantage. New England College (June 18-20; 579 likely voters) gives the congressman an even wider 56-36 percent majority. Finally, the Western New England University Polling Institute (June 16-20; 503 likely Massachusetts voters) shows a much closer 49-41 percent spread.

There has been no poll throughout the entire special election cycle that projected Markey to be trailing. One survey, a Republican study from McLaughlin & Associates, showed the congressman in the lead at one point, but that is as close as challenger Gomez has gotten.

The Suffolk U. and Western New England polls are clearly more reflective of each other, and in line with the vast majority of surveys commissioned during the previous weeks. The New England College poll appears to be skewed in favor of the Democratic nominee.

Though Gomez conducted a spirited campaign, it is not likely that the magic surrounding former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in his 2010 special election victory will reappear in this battle. There is simply no evidence to suggest that this Republican is close enough to score an upset victory.

Despite Rep. Markey being poised to win the race, his percentage might be below that of usual Democratic performance in Massachusetts. In such an open seat special election race, a Bay State Democratic nominee should finish in the high 50s. By most accounts, Markey will likely score in the low to mid-50s.

The winner of today’s election will serve the balance of Kerry’s term and be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2014. If Markey does win, as predicted, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will then schedule a new special election for his 5th Congressional District. Already several candidates are actively campaigning for this post, in anticipation of a Markey win today.

Maine’s Musical Chairs

Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage made a surprising public comment Friday that he is considering running for Congress instead of re-election. A little more than a week ago, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee for purposes of challenging the incumbent, thus creating the possibility of an open 2nd District. ME-2 contains about three-quarters of the state’s land mass and includes the cities of Bangor, Lewiston, Auburn, Caribou, and Presque Isle.

The Maine gubernatorial race is an interesting one because it will again be constructed as a major three-way race. In 2010, LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, rode to victory in a similar configuration. Taking advantage of Independent Eliot Cutler’s strong candidacy, the Republican was elected with just 37.6 percent of the vote, but that standing was strong enough for a first place finish. Cutler was a close second with 35.9 percent and the Democratic nominee, then-state Sen. Libby Mitchell, fell way back to 18.9 percent. Cutler has already announced his intention to run in 2014, guaranteeing another three-way race.

But, will the congressional seat be open? Two years ago, when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced her retirement, Rep. Michaud immediately jumped into the statewide race. When former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King then became a candidate, Michaud quickly retreated to his House district fearing that he could not win the developing three-way campaign.

The 2014 Governor’s race looks more winnable for either Cutler or a Democrat because LePage’s approval numbers are low. The last statewide poll that gauged his job approval came from Public Policy Polling back in January when he registered only a 39:55 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Still, even with a low rating, LePage continued to top a three-way field. According to PPP, the Governor led  Continue reading >

Senate Candidate Update

Continuing our periodic reporting about who is currently running for the Senate next year, below is the latest look.

The following 13 senators do not yet have an announced significant opponent:

  1. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
  2. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)
  3. Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  4. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
  5. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  6. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)
  7. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
  8. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island)
  9. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina – special election)
  10. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)
  11. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  12. Mark Warner (D-Virginia)
  13. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming)

And the remaining state match-ups:

Alaska
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Begich (D) – originally elected 2008
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell
Joe Miller – 2010 nominee who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary
Arkansas
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) – originally elected 2002
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4)
Notes: Rep. Cotton is a possible candidate. Lt. Gov. Darr is highly likely to run for a different office than the one he currently holds. He announced his intention to run for the Senate but there is a good chance, should Mr. Cotton enter the statewide campaign, that he would instead run for the Congressman’s vacated 4th Congressional District.

 Continue reading >

Obama’s Ratings

Photo: The White House

Photo: The White House

The Pew Center for the People and the Press just completed their monthly presidential approval survey (June 12-16; Princeton Survey Research Associates International; 1,512 US adults; 758 on landlines, 755 on cell phones, 575 Independents, 487 Democrats, 388 Republicans) and find that President Obama’s ratings are largely unchanged despite the multiple scandals building around him. According to the data, 49 percent approve of the president’s job performance versus 43 percent who do not. In May, the ratio was 51:43 percent.

While he continues to score high on his handling of the terrorism issue, 56:35 percent positive to negative, his worst numbers come, not surprisingly, in the area of privacy and civil liberties (42:51 percent). Considering the revelations surrounding the IRS and National Security Agency (NSA), the results again continue the phenomenon of largely not blaming the President himself for his own Administration’s policies and practices.

Economy

On the economy, the respondents’ outlook is still largely negative but clearly improving. Forty-four percent say they approve of the president’s handling of the economy versus 50 percent who disapprove, but that is up from his 40:56 percent ratio when last asked in Pew’s Feb. 13-16 poll.

Impressions of how the economy will perform in the future is up substantially just since their March 2013 study. Thirty-three percent of the current respondents view the economy as being better a year from now,  Continue reading >

Governors on the Edge

Some newly released polling shows three individual governors in serious re-election danger. Recording poor approval ratings for an extended period of months, governors Rick Scott (R-FL) and Pat Quinn (D-IL) were known to be in obvious trouble, but a Quinnipiac University poll from last week (June 5-10; 1,065 registered Colorado voters) also indicates that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is beginning to teeter. The Q-Poll projects that former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) is pulling to within just one-point (42-41 percent) of the Rocky Mountain chief executive. Such a result puts this governor, who was previously thought to be almost politically invincible, into a potentially competitive race.

In Florida, Republican Scott continues to trail two key Democratic potential opponents, but his standing is improving. To the northwest in Illinois, Democrat Quinn is also behind his top rivals — in this case fellow party members attempting to deny him re-nomination — and, he too, is on the upswing.

Florida

Quinnipiac just published the results of their new Florida poll (June 11-16; 1,176 registered Florida voters). They find that Gov. Scott has fought back to an almost even standing on his job approval rating (43:44 percent favorable to unfavorable), but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and Sen. Bill Nelson, both by a substantial 10-point margin. Crist, the former Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, holds a 47-37 percent lead over the incumbent. Sen. Nelson, fresh from winning election to a third term this past November, scores an almost identical 48-38 percent margin against Scott. The senator claims he’s staying in his current job, but never fully closes the door on the issue of challenging the governor. It is unlikely he will do so, but such rhetoric certainly keeps his name and profile at the political forefront.

Crist is a different story, however. He will almost assuredly run, and his favorables are surprisingly high considering his ignominious temporary exit from Florida politics in 2010. You will remember that Marco Rubio, at the time a former state House Speaker, was building such strong momentum that Crist, even as a sitting Republican governor, was forced out of the Republican Party, and then chose to run for the Senate as an Independent. In the  Continue reading >

NJ Senate Poll; SCOTUS’ Arizona Ruling

New Jersey

Immediately upon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) scheduling the special Senate election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), both Quinnipiac University and Rutgers-Eagleton went into the field to measure the Garden State electorate. Both pollsters produced a similar conclusion — Newark Mayor Cory Booker is opening up a wide lead in the Democratic primary — but their samples sizes of less than 350 respondents were unacceptably low in a larger population state.

Now, Rasmussen Reports (June 12-13; 1,000 likely New Jersey voters) confirms that Booker does indeed have a huge lead derived from a much larger survey sample. Though the methodology does not specifically identify how many people (but undoubtedly larger than 350 individuals and presumably likely Democratic primary voters) were asked to choose among Mayor Booker, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the results were almost identical to what Quinnipiac and Rutgers-Eagleton originally found.

According to RR, Booker would command support from 54 percent of the Democratic voters, followed by Holt with 11 percent, and Pallone at 8 percent. Oliver trailed the pack registering just 5 percent preference.

For the special general election, tested among all 1,000 respondents, Booker leads former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) 50-33 percent.

The special primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, followed by the deciding vote on Oct. 16. The winner will serve the balance of Sen. Lautenberg’s final term, and is eligible to stand for election to a full six-year stint during the regular 2014 election.

Arizona

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court released its ruling on the Arizona v. The Arizona  Continue reading >

Will Ad Tying IRS to Health Care Move Mass. Voters?

As expected, a political entity is taking to the airwaves to highlight the Internal Revenue Service’s role in implementing the Obama healthcare law, but the message delivery needs to be stronger if they expect to move voters.

The organization Americans for Progressive Action, supporting Republican Gabriel Gomez over Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) in the Senate special election scheduled for June 25 in Massachusetts, attacked with an ad that depicts Markey as supporting IRS “control” of “health care reform” and Gomez as an opponent, though making it clear that the Republican supports reforming the healthcare system. (Though the ad says that both Markey and Gomez support “healthcare reform”, it doesn’t specifically say that Gomez supports President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, though the casual viewer will be left with the impression that he does.)

The effectiveness of the ad will be questioned. Though making it clear that the IRS “controlling” healthcare reform is a bad thing, it doesn’t explain why. The spot assumes, most likely incorrectly, that the viewing voter base knows the details of the current IRS profiling scandal.

Survey data will soon tell us if the IRS issue is moving voters in the Massachusetts Senate race, which could be a precursor of how the issue might play in the regular 2014 election. But, the political ad producers will have to tell a better story than the APA’s current effort if they hope to make this issue a deciding electoral factor.

Michigan’s Rogers Won’t Run for Senate

It had been presumed for the past several weeks that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI-8), widely believed to be the Republicans’ best potential US Senate candidate, would not run and he clarified his status on Friday afternoon in an email to supporters. In his message, Rogers said, “I have determined that the best way for me to continue to have a direct impact for my constituents and the nation is to remain in the House of Representatives. For me, the significance and depth of the impact I can make on my constituent’s behalf far outweighs the perceived importance of any title I might hold.”

With that, the congressman made clear his intent to remain as chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a position of even greater importance with the revelations about the National Security Agency conducting warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

The GOP is now left with former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to run against presumed Democratic nominee, Rep. Gary Peters (MI-14), in the open Senate seat campaign. Sen. Carl Levin (D) is retiring after what will be 36 years in office at the end of his current term. Based upon Michigan voting history, Peters and the Democrats will start the campaign in the favorite’s position. But, the Wolverine State has been known to swing Republican from time to time, particularly in mid-term elections as it did in 2010 when the GOP swept the ballot from top to bottom, so the Senate race does have the potential to become competitive.

Land was twice elected Secretary of State, winning her elections with 55 and 56 percent of the statewide vote in 2002 and 2006, respectively. She was not eligible to seek re-election in 2010.

Peters was first elected to Congress in 2008, defeating veteran GOP Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI-9). He won a close re-election (50-47 percent) in the Republican landslide year of 2010, and then, in 2012, won election to a Detroit city congressional seat defeating a Democratic incumbent in the primary after his Oakland County CD became a reapportionment casualty. Prior to his election to Congress, Peters served as the state’s lottery commissioner and in the Michigan Senate.

Michaud for Governor?

Maine 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud (D) released a video (see below) yesterday announcing that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for governor next year. When most people file “exploratory committees,” as Illinois Democrat Bill Daley did earlier in the week for his own Land of Lincoln gubernatorial campaign, it is with the clear intent of running for the office. Here, Michaud has probably not completely decided and is truly using the entity to test the waters for his effort.

You will remember in 2012, just after Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced that she would not seek re-election, Michaud quickly, but tentatively, jumped into the statewide race. When it became apparent that Independent former Gov. Angus King was heading to consensus candidate status for Independents and Democrats, Michaud quickly scurried back to his safe House seat and announced that he would run for re-election.

The Maine gubernatorial contest is similar to the ’12 Senate campaign because a strong Independent will be in the race. Back in 2010, Independent liberal attorney Eliot Cutler placed a close second to Republican Paul LePage, leaving Democrat Libby Mitchell far behind in third place. Many observers credit Cutler’s presence in the race, and his strong campaign, as the main reason LePage won. Since the Republican scored only 37.5 percent of the vote in the three-way contest, such an analysis appears to carry credibility.
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Noem Remains; Brown Up in Massachusetts

In a formal and unsurprising announcement, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL) confirmed that she will not challenge former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) for South Dakota’s open US Senate seat next year. Noem, serving her second term in the House, indicated that she will seek re-election to her current position.

Rumors and speculation had persisted for months that the congresswoman may hop into the Senate race and attempt to challenge Rounds from the right, but she never appeared to be making any tangible moves to prepare for such a race. Meanwhile, as he has done since the 2012 election cycle concluded, the former governor continued to build his Senatorial campaign on a daily basis.

Rounds is definitely the man to beat. Now with a clear shot at the Republican nomination, he will have a united party behind him as he works to convert the open seat to the GOP column. Democrats have only one candidate so far, Rick Weiland a former staff aide to then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D), because stronger potential contenders such as former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) and US Attorney Brendan Johnson both declined to run. Three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D), Brendan’s father, is retiring.

Both the open South Dakota and West Virginia Democratic seats top the GOP conversion list, as Republicans have big leads against weak opponents in both states. In West Virginia, where veteran Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) is retiring, the early leader and prohibitive favorite is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2).

Massachusetts Governor’s Race — Brown Cruising

A just-released University of Massachusetts political survey (conducted by international pollster YouGov; May 30-June 4; 500 registered Massachusetts voters) again projects former Sen. Scott Brown (R) to be in strong position to win next year’s open governor’s campaign. Currently, Brown is testing the waters for a senatorial run in New Hampshire, but his early standing  Continue reading >

Daley for Governor

The Daley family Chicago political dynasty has never produced a governor, but that may soon change if former US Commerce secretary Bill Daley realizes his new quest. Announcing via video the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee, Daley, son of former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of ex-mayor Richard M. Daley, will almost certainly challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

There has been little doubt that the unpopular Quinn would be in a difficult position for renomination, let alone re-election. Most of the attention, however, has been focused upon Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is expected to make the race in 2014 after shying away from a similar challenge in 2010. A three-way contest among Quinn, Madigan, and Daley could produce unexpected results.

The move to run for governor is out of character for Daley in several ways. First, challenging a Democratic opponent is an unusual act for a man who has exemplified party unity throughout his entire political career. Daley is a former US Commerce secretary for President Clinton, chairman of Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, and an ex-chief of staff for President Barack Obama. He also spent time in the banking industry and as a law firm partner.

His video message is interesting in that it clearly reveals his political strategy. Obviously the product of extensive survey research of the Democratic voting base,  Continue reading >