Monthly Archives: October 2013

Is Cuccinelli Suddenly Narrowing the Gap in Virginia?

Two just-released polls suggest that Virginia’s embattled Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli is making strides in his battle against Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, but even this data still portends that the latter will win the race next Tuesday.

The least credible of the two surveys comes from Zogby-Newsmax (dates and sample size not released). The results reveal a McAuliffe lead of only 35-30 percent, with nine percent headed for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis. No other poll has shown such a low determined number of voters. Zogby then removed all of the undecideds and the adjusted report gives McAuliffe a 43-37 percent advantage, with Sarvis posting 11 percent.

Two additional sector reports also initiate skepticism. First, the pollster suggests that Libertarian Sarvis “hitting double-digits is very doable.” Often times third-party candidates poll well during a race, normally when both major party candidates are negatively viewed as in this Virginia race. Rarely, if ever, do they exceed the 10 percent figure, however. The Zogby statement about Sarvis’ potential performance ignores virtually all previous trends.

In the most recent race where the Independent candidate was a potentially serious factor occurred in New Jersey back in 2009. Then, Chris Daggett was polling far better against Chris Christie and then-Gov. Jon Corzine than Sarvis is against McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, but finished with just under 6 percent of the vote.

Second, the Zogby poll projects that approximately one-third of African-American voters are still undecided. Based upon voting history and turnout projections, this is an unrealistic and clearly incorrect conclusion. Factoring in the typical African-American share of the electorate added to their traditional overwhelming support of the Democratic candidate would then allow McAuliffe to claim a much bigger lead than the five points illuminated in the spread above.

The second poll, from Quinnipiac University (Oct. 22-28; 1,182 likely Virginia voters) – an organization that regularly surveys the  Continue reading >

Senate Conservatives Tackle McConnell

It didn’t take long for at least one conservative organization to begin launching an air attack against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) for his role in failing to stop the funding mechanism for the Affordable Care Act, now commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” The Senate Conservatives Fund, through its Senate Conservatives Action issue organization, originally founded by then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), has launched a $300,000 Kentucky television ad buy to claim that the five-term senator has “let us (Kentuckians) down” (above). The context directly relates to the healthcare issue.

The message is clearly intended to rile the Kentucky conservative base against Sen. McConnell to an even greater degree than previously noted. Already, investment executive Matt Bevin is actively pursuing a primary challenge against the Republican leader, a candidacy that the Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed. Early polls show McConnell to be holding an overwhelming lead over Bevin, but data posted for the general election tells a different story.

The Kentucky Senate campaign is shaping up to be one of the 2014 bellwether races, and one of two key Republican must-holds (Georgia is the other) if the party is to have any chance of gaining the majority for the next Congress.

In the general election, Democrats have  Continue reading >

Is this the Death Knell for Cuccinelli We’re Hearing?

The Washington Post’s latest survey portends good news for Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and the rest of his ticket, and signals what could be the figurative death knell for Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s gubernatorial contest. All of the various pollsters who have been studying the Virginia governor’s race will be releasing their final numbers in the next few days, meaning we will be exposed to a continual stream of Virginia political data.

According to the Post figures (Oct. 24-27; 1,061 registered Virgnia voters; 762 likely Virginia voters) McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 51-39 percent, which is the largest Democratic lead recorded in any Virginia poll to date. Dozens of surveys have been conducted in the past eight weeks, reporting remarkably consistent results, with all of them posting McAuliffe to leads but within a five- to eight-point range.

The Post results are both believable and unsurprising. McAuliffe has overwhelmed Cuccinelli with late campaign advertising and continues to feature prominent Republicans around the state who have endorsed him over their own nominee. This has helped achieve McAuliffe’s goal of splitting the Republican base wide open, and thus exacerbate the rift between the Virginia conservative and moderate base Republicans.

According to the Post, the Cuccinelli collapse is likewise beginning to affect the rest of the ticket; in the lieutenant governor’s race, their data shows state Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk/Virginia Beach) running ahead of Republican nominee E.W. Jackson by a 52-39 percent margin. In the attorney general’s race between two sitting state senators, in which Republican nominee Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) has led Mark Herring (D-Loudon County) by small margins for weeks, the Post forecasts a change here, too. The poll yields Herring a slight 49-46 percent advantage.

The Washington Post survey also underscores that McAuliffe’s success in this race is less due to voters’ positive feelings about him than their negative views toward Cuccinelli. Asking people who earlier said they intend to vote for McAuliffe: “is your vote more for McAuliffe or more against Cuccinelli”, only 34 percent of the McAuliffe  Continue reading >

Dems Eye House Takeover

Considering the events of the past few weeks, Democrats are now buoyed over their improved chances of wresting the House majority away from the Republicans next year. Most of the early election cycle analysis has been about the Republicans’ chances in the Senate, but the Democrat’s offensive in district elections certainly deserves further attention.

First, a series of MoveOn.org government shutdown polls in Republican-held congressional districts, 61 to be exact, showed most of those particular GOP incumbents to be already trailing a generic Democrat candidate.

Second, the death of Rep. Bill Young (R-FL-13) opens one of 16 seats that in 2012 voted both for President Obama and a Republican congressman. The special election format could further aid the Democrats in their quest to win this seat.

Third, the surprise retirement announcement from sophomore Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) puts a “Lean Republican” seat into play that had previously elected a Democrat in every term since 1982, consecutively, until the current incumbent won in 2010.

Fourth, the Democratic Party leaders report that their House candidate recruitment has substantially improved.

Though the cumulative effect of these recent events has, at least for the short term, improved the Democrat’s prospects, substantial hurdles remain to be overcome if they are to gain the net 17 seats needed to claim a one-seat majority.

The Dems’ top impediment is the small number of open seats (20), which feature only four currently competitive Republican incumbent-less seats. Therefore, the number of realistic conversion opportunities is modest. In the last cycle, by comparison, the number of open seats was a huge 62.

Second, the Democrats must defend at least 18 of their own seats where Republicans themselves have strong, or relatively strong, conversion opportunities. Realistically, the Dems will have to sweep this category to have any real chance of regaining chamber control.
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Poll on Government Shows its Parts are Greater than the Whole

The Pew Center for the People & The Press released their “trust in government” poll (Oct. 9-13; 1,504 US adults) during the past week, and the results cause analysts to question what the conclusions really mean.

According to the Pew data, people’s trust in the US government “to do what is right just about always or most of the time” has fallen to tie an all-time low of 19 percent, and those who say they are angry with the government has risen to a record high of 30 percent, exceeding the 26 percent barrier recorded for this same question in late September.

But when asked their feelings about the individual government agencies only one, the Internal Revenue Service, draws negative ratings. Federal employees are well thought of, too. The percentage of respondents expressing a favorable view of government workers reached 62 percent in this poll.

To review, taken as a whole the government is poorly viewed but its parts are rated positively, and the people implementing the programs well liked. For example, the Center for Disease Control draws the best reviews, scoring a 75:14 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. NASA is a close second, registering 73:15 percent positive to negative. Next, and somewhat surprisingly so, is the Department of Defense (72:23 percent). Following are the Veterans Administration (68:25 percent), Department of Homeland Security (66:30 percent), and the Food & Drug Administration (65:29 percent).

As mentioned previously, it is the IRS that scores upside down ratings, largely due to a vast amount of negative publicity surrounding the agency in the past few months. According to these respondents, 44 percent have a positive view of the IRS as opposed to 51 percent who express a negative opinion. But, even this ratio is not particularly bad. More surprisingly, the National Security Agency, regularly in the news for conducting extensive monitoring of the citizenry still enjoys a respectable 54:35 percent positive ratio. Though the NSA ratio  Continue reading >

Senate $$$ Snap Shot

Since Senate candidates still file their financial disclosure reports on paper, the numbers always take a longer time to publish. Thanks to the Roll Call newspaper staff who tracked down the key, but unofficial, monetary figures, we have an early picture of the third quarter fundraising.

Alaska

As we know, Republicans need to convert six Democratic seats to wrest the majority away from the controlling party. One of their key targets is Alaska, where first-term Sen. Mark Begich (D) is on the ballot next year. With Sarah Palin continuing to lurk in the background as a long-shot potential candidate, Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell needs to show campaign strength. Though he is polling within low single digits of Sen. Begich, his financial take is underwhelming. According to the Roll Call report, Treadwell raised only $196,000 for the quarter and has just $155,000 cash-on-hand. This compares unfavorably with Sen. Begich, who banked $813,000 and commands more than $2.433 million in his campaign account.

Arkansas

One Republican challenger who had a strong dollar-producing quarter after officially announcing his senatorial campaign, is Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) who is challenging two-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton attracted $1.073 million for the quarter, just ahead of Sen. Pryor’s $1.068 million. But, the senator has a huge cash-on-hand advantage, $4.419 million to $1.806 million.

Iowa

An open seat race where Republicans are very slow to initiate their campaigns is in Iowa. The consensus Democrat candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) topped $900,000 in receipts for the quarter and holds $2.323 million in his campaign account. State Sen. Joni Ernst led the Republicans, bringing in $252,000, and has $224,000 in the bank. David Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) and is expected to be one of the stronger candidates, only attracted $112,000 for the  Continue reading >

Bradley Byrne’s Blistering Ad Raises Concerns in AL-1 Race

DeanYoung

It looks as if the proverbial gloves are coming off in the AL-1 Republican special run-off election (Nov. 5), because presumed front-runner Bradley Byrne, a former Alabama state senator and gubernatorial candidate, has unleashed a rather surprising television attack ad against opponent Dean Young.

Citing that Young started a political action committee called the Christian Family Association PAC, the ad accuses Young of “fooling Christians for profit.” According to the Byrne ad, 95 percent of the money contributed to the organization – over $168,000 – went to Young’s company. The ad claims that Young “can’t be trusted” and says he is “the last guy we need in Washington.” The ad, which was on YouTube, has been pulled down.

The Byrne campaign’s frontal attack strategy is curious. By all measures, he leads this race and his headed for victory on Nov. 5. Such a position normally dictates a more passive campaign action plan.

On the money front, Byrne had out-raised Young by a ratio of almost 10:1 through the Sept. 4 pre-primary campaign disclosure filing ($317,245 to $36,713).

Since the Sept. 24 primary, where Byrne placed first with 35 percent in a 12-person Republican field as compared to Young’s 23 percent, the third and fourth-place finishers have each endorsed the former state legislator. The National Rifle Association soon followed suit. After that, resigned incumbent Jo Bonner (R), who left office in August to accept a position with the University of Alabama, also publicly put his political capital behind Byrne.

Additionally, an early October Wenzel Strategies poll (Oct. 6-7; 412 registered AL-1 voters), gave Byrne a 44-37 percent lead over Young.
 Continue reading >

Griffin to Retire in Arkansas; New NH Polls

As was widely reported yesterday, sophomore Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) announced that he will not seek a third term in the House, saying that he needs to spend more time with his young children, whom he described as being in their “formative” years.

With Griffin’s retirement, a 20th open seat will now be present in the 2014 election cycle and this one has a good chance of becoming competitive. Though Rep. Griffin and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney each garnered a healthy 55 percent of the vote in this Little Rock metropolitan district, Democrat Rep. Vic Snyder represented a similar configuration of the 2nd District for 14 years.

Recognizing that the Griffin retirement announcement came as a major surprise, names of potential candidates in both parties are quickly beginning to surface, nonetheless. For his fellow Republicans, who Griffin said he wanted to help by announcing his decision early, state senators David Sanders, Jeremy Hutchinson, Jason Rapert, ex-Senate Minority Leader Gilbert Baker, former state Rep. Ed Garner, and businessman French Hill are the most prominent names mentioned.

On the Democrat side, former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays is expected to announce his candidacy today. Considering forming a campaign committee are former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, state Sen. David Johnson, state Rep. Tommy Thompson, former state Rep. Linda Tyler, and Conway Mayor Tab Townsell.

The campaign’s early sector should yield a “Lean Republican” rating, but it would not be surprising to see this contest tip toward “Toss-up” territory once campaigning becomes heavy.

New Hampshire

Over the past few election cycles the University of New Hampshire has conducted political polling, but their reliability factor has proved questionable. The new UNH release is not likely to engender improvement because the  Continue reading >

Senior-Most Republican House Member, Rep. Young, Dies; Surprising LA-5 Primary Results

Rep. Bill Young

Rep. Bill Young

Last week, the House Republicans’ most senior member, Florida Rep. Bill Young, announced that he would retire at the end of the current term and not be on the congressional ballot for the first time since 1970. On Friday, the 82-year-old congressman passed away due to complications from a serious back operation. Young had endured chronic back problems ever since surviving a small plane crash the year he was first elected to federal office.

In the entire House, only representatives John Dingell (D-MI-12), John Conyers (D-MI-13), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), had more seniority than Young. The late congressman was the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chairman. He served as full Appropriations Committee chairman from 1999-2005.

Young’s western Tampa Bay peninsula district now becomes the House’s fourth vacant seat. Gov. Rick Scott (R) soon will call a special election to fill the position for the remainder of the term. Political musical chairs were already beginning to move due to the incumbent’s retirement announcement, but now potential candidates will be forced to quickly make decisions as we head toward a special election.

All eyes will be on former state chief financial officer and gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D) who last week expressed interest in running for Congress, a month  Continue reading >

Three Real Primary Dust-ups

Though the government shutdown delayed filing of the candidates’ quarterly disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission, some of the dollars and cents information has already started flowing into the media. Of all the data being reported, three specific campaigns are noteworthy because challengers to incumbents within their own party are already reporting more money raised and in the bank than for their respective opponent.

MI-11

The first salvo has been fired in Michigan in attorney David Trott’s (R) challenge to freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R), and it is a serious blow. According to published reports, the challenger is going to post raising over $648,000, including a substantial contribution from himself – although the exact amount was not released – with $452,000 cash-on-hand. Bentivolio had a very poor second quarter, raising only $39,000, and reporting approximately $59,000 in his campaign account. We will soon see the extent of his third quarter take.

Rep. Bentivolio is often described as an “accidental congressman” because he entered office under unusual circumstances. Filing as a Tea Party challenger against then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R), Bentivolio became the only qualified Republican candidate on the ballot when the incumbent failed to submit enough valid nominating petition signatures. He then went on to win the general election with strong help from the Liberty for All Super PAC, which spent more than $600,000 as an independent expenditure on his behalf.

It is unclear if the congressman will receive such support this time around, but it is becoming apparent that he will need major assistance in order to compete against Trott. Armed with heavy establishment Republican Party support, Trott will soon be sporting the type of campaign resources usually reserved for an incumbent. A primary challenger victory is highly possible in this suburban Detroit district.

TN-4

Another Republican congressman who might be denied renomination is Tennessee sophomore Rep. Scott DesJarlais. A scandal broke late in his first re-election bid, one  Continue reading >

Booker Wins in NJ; Sink Heading to Congress?

New Jersey

For the past three weeks virtually all the pollsters surveying the special New Jersey Senate campaign projected an 11-point victory for Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), and that’s exactly what happened.

Last night, Booker defeated former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) by a 55-44 percent margin. The electoral result allows him to fill the remaining portion of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) final term in office. He will be eligible to run for a full six-year term in November 2014.

Booker began the special election as the heir-apparent to this seat, and commanded early polling leads that exceeded 20 points. His advantage then decreased to low double-digits, and that’s where it stood until the end of the campaign. Republicans never put up much of a fight for the seat, virtually conceding the race to Booker from the time Gov. Chris Christie (R) decided to call a special election to fill the remainder of the term. He could have made an interim appointment that would have lasted through the 113th Congress, but decided to allow the people to choose Lautenberg’s successor.

Christie did appoint then-state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa (R) to serve in the Senate on an interim basis. He will depart when Booker is officially sworn into office. Last night’s election results return the Senate Democrats to a 55-45 advantage.

More than 1.3 million individuals cast ballots in the special general election, just about 24 percent of the registered voter base. Turnout was about average considering there was little suspense or competitive excitement associated with the campaign.

FL-13

The retirement of Florida’s 43-year congressional veteran Bill Young (R) opens his politically marginal 13th Congressional District for the first time in more than four decades, and a new development likely makes it the best Democratic conversion opportunity in the country.

At the beginning of the week, 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Florida Chief Financial Officer  Continue reading >

Results From MA-5; Major New Senate Polls

MA-5 Special Election

The race for the Democrat nomination last night, tantamount to special election victory in the Boston suburban 5th Congressional District, was projected to finish within a razor-thin margin. It didn’t.

State Sen. Katherine Clark, riding a large turnout from her Malden-Melrose political base, pulled away from Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian when the last quarter of the vote was counted to clinch the Democratic nomination with 32 percent of the vote. Koutoujian finished 10 points behind at 22 percent. In third, exceeding his polling expectations, was state Rep. Carl Sciortino notching 16 percent. State senators Will Brownsberger and Karen Spilka brought up the rear with 15 and 13 percent, respectively. Spilka was the most disappointing performer based upon previous polling releases. Her own two Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Group surveys both showed her in second place, just a single point behind the leader.

Not only did Sen. Clark prove to be the strongest candidate, her polling firm, GBA Strategies, turned in the most accurate data. In their released poll of voters over the Sept. 23-25 period, GBA correctly projected Clark’s lead to be far greater than one point, as she led Spilka 27-18 percent with Koutoujian a close third posting 16 percent.

On the Republican side, attorney Frank Addivinola easily claimed his party’s nomination, securing 49 percent of the vote as compared to physicist Mike Stopa’s 26 percent, and former US Marine Tom Tierney’s 25 percent. Sen. Clark and Addivinola now advance to the Dec. 10 special general election, but that vote will not likely be much of a contest as Clark is now the prohibitive favorite to win the seat.

Democrat turnout dwarfed that of Republicans, as 69,525 members of their party cast ballots within the crowded field of candidates. The GOP turnout only reached just 9,692 voters, a testament more to the low number of registered Republicans as opposed to an abnormally low participation rate. The grand total of 79,217 voters is  Continue reading >

Special Election Today in MA-5

Continuing our coverage of this week’s special elections, voters go to the polls today in Sen. Ed Markey’s (D) former Boston suburban House district to begin the process of choosing a new member for the first time in almost 37 years. Markey, who originally entered the House in 1976, was elected to the Senate in June replacing former Sen. John Kerry (D) who President Obama appointed as Secretary of State.

It is likely that the first-place finisher in today’s Democratic vote will also win the special general on Dec. 10. Massachusetts’ 5th District is heavily Democratic: Obama ’12, 65 percent; Obama ’08, 66 percent; Markey ’12, 71 percent; Markey ’10 (District 7), 64 percent; Markey ’08 (District 7), 75 percent. Therefore, tonight’s Democratic victor becomes the prohibitive in December.

Seven Democrats vie for the party nomination, and internal campaign polls have shown five of those candidates to be within single digits of each other, meaning any one could conceivably win.

Four of the five strongest competitors are currently state legislators, three from the Senate. Katherine Clark, Karen Spilka, and Will Brownsberger are the senators; Carl Sciortino is a member of the state House of Representatives; and Peter Koutoujian is sheriff of Middlesex County.

The campaign polls made public, all from reputable survey research firms, have shown Sen. Clark holding the lead, but her margins have almost all been within a single point or two over both Sen. Spilka and Sheriff Koutoujian. Rep. Sciortino, by virtue of running a clever ad featuring his Tea Party member father that captured many voters’ attention thus causing his numbers to spike, and Sen. Brownsberger are within striking distance.

As is the case in all special elections, turnout will be key. Whichever of these candidates does the best job of getting their voters to the polls will be the winner. It is probable that less than 20,000 votes will crown a nominee. Since Massachusetts has no run-off system, a plurality of votes is all that’s necessary to win a party nomination.

On the Republican side, attorney Frank Addivinola, physicist Mike Stopa, and former Marine Tom Tierney are battling for their party’s nomination. The Republicans  Continue reading >

Special Elections Are Preeminent This Week

Action is now occurring in three separate special elections: New Jersey, Louisiana and Alabama. In two of those states, voters will cast ballots this week.

New Jersey

On Wednesday, the New Jersey Senate special election will be decided as Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) face each other in the final vote. The winner of Wednesday’s electoral contest serves the remaining portion of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) term and will be eligible to seek a full six-year term next November.

The race has yielded rather extraordinary polling numbers in that several diverse survey research firms all agree over the race’s status. In the past week alone, four pollsters all projected Mayor Booker to have a low double-digit lead; two, Rasmussen Reports and Quinnipiac University, found exactly the same margin, 53-41 percent. Most other pollsters have been around this same range for the better part of two weeks.

The numbers still strongly suggest a Booker win, but a closer result than originally projected – an analysis that we have been reporting for the better part of a week. Such unanimity of exact polling results from multiple sources is quite unusual, however.

Come Thursday morning, it is more than probable that Mayor Booker will be a senator-elect and the chamber’s party division will return to 55D-45R.

LA-5

The special election not attracting much national attention is scheduled for this coming Saturday in northeastern Louisiana.

Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) resigned mid-term to accept a position as director of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Upon Alexander’s announcement, the governor quickly scheduled a new election so that the winner would be able to serve the entire second session of the 113th Congress, which begins in January.

Saturday’s election features all of the candidates appearing on the same ballot,  Continue reading >

Battleground Michigan

There’s a great deal of news affecting Michigan politics this week.

First, Republican senatorial nominee Terri Lynn Land announcing that she will report more than $2 million raised in the quarter ending Sept. 30 is clearly a positive sign for her campaign. Irrespective of the fact that $1 million of the money came as a self-funding donation, the aggregate figure suggests that her campaign is off the ground in a significant way. This, coupled with relatively recent polling data projecting that she and Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14), the consensus Democratic candidate, are virtually tied, is making the GOP leaders’ case that the open Michigan Senate race will become a highly competitive national campaign.

At the end of the previous quarter, Rep. Peters had already banked more than $1.7 million. His third quarter entry is expected to top $3 million in aggregate dollars raised. The combined Democrat and Republican monetary amounts is beginning to boost this race into the top national tier.

Second, earlier in the week Public Policy Polling, surveying for the MoveOn.org PAC, examined 24 Republican congressional districts in order to test GOP incumbents against the charge that they are solely responsible for shutting down the government. Though the timing of the polling and slanted questionnaires skews the data, some tangible information did come forth. Of the 24 tested Republican House members, seven found themselves trailing a generic Democratic placebo by nine points or more. Three of the seven hail from Michigan.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI-7), who scored a strong but not overwhelming 53-43 percent win last November in his post-redistricting 7th CD, trailed the generic Democrat 42-51 percent.

Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI-11), who is already facing a strong Republican primary challenger, placed 15 points behind the generic D, 39-54 percent.

The member faring the worst of all 24 tested, sophomore Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI-1), drops behind a Democratic placebo by 22 full points, 35-57 percent. While these numbers come from polls  Continue reading >