Monthly Archives: January 2015

Anti-McCain Strategy Builds in Arizona

Sen. John McCain, first elected in 1986 after spending four years in the House and then rising to the peak of political party politics by winning the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is likely headed for a competitive re-election next year. And, his strongest opponent may not even be a Democrat.

This week, Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) held a meeting; one that could prove to be of great importance fast forwarding to their state’s August 2016 Republican primary. Both members have said publicly that they are considering launching an intra-party challenge to Sen. McCain.

The session apparently produced at least one major point of agreement. That is, both will not enter the race. They correctly reason that two congressmen jumping into the contest will guarantee McCain victory. This is particularly true in a plurality nomination state like Arizona, because the anti-incumbent vote will be split several ways, allowing the target to win with a mere base vote sometimes far under the 50 percent threshold. The pair has not yet agreed upon which man will run, only that it will be one.

The history of right-of-center challenges to more establishment political figures suggests a narrow path to victory, but part of the long odds calculation is that the conservative activists rarely coalesce to form a cohesive election strategy.
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Democrats Reeling in NY

NY-11

Things continue to go badly for Democrats in the upcoming special election to replace resigned Staten Island/Brooklyn Rep. Michael Grimm (R).

Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) still has yet to schedule the election date, it is clear that Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan will be the eventual Republican nominee in this New York congressional district. The latest developments suggest he is now becoming a prohibitive favorite to win the seat, too.

Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick was commonly viewed as the likely Democratic nominee. With polling showing him already 20 points behind Donovan, Cusick announced that he will not run for Congress after all. This leaves the Democrats with second-tier choices.

Coming into view is New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile, who is reportedly seriously looking at the race. But, Gentile is part of a continued losing Democratic formula in this district.

The 11th CD, formerly numbered 13, captures all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. The Staten Island portion represents two-thirds of the district’s population, and therefore candidates hailing from there have the upper hand. Previous Brooklyn Democratic candidates such as 2014 nominee Domenic Recchia, a former NYC councilman, fared poorly in general elections … Continue reading >

Walker’s First Ad Inaugurates 2016 Presidential Campaign Season

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) appears to be the first unofficial national candidate to release a video promoting what looks to be the underpinnings of a 2016 presidential campaign; and, the piece is not your typical soft bio ad.

Gov. Walker’s affiliated “Our American Revival” political organization is promoting a two-minute film that challenges President Obama and presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The attack message also appears to include the Republican congressional leadership when railing Continue reading >

The GOP’s Precarious Dependent Senate

It appears continuing the new-found Senate majority could well turn on the 2016 presidential election, and that puts Republicans in a precarious position.

When the GOP captured the Senate in 2014, much was made that their fledgling majority could be short-lived. Seeing that 24 of the 34 in-cycle 2016 seats are Republican-held means that Democrats need a minimum net conversion of only four states to re-claim control. That is, if the Ds – presumably in the person of former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton – hold the White House upon President Obama’s exit. Otherwise, they would need to gain five.

In looking at the Senate players for the coming campaign we see not only a Republican Party forced to protect two dozen seats, but 10of those 24 can already be considered as highly competitive complete with a pair (IL-Kirk; WI-Johnson) in the toss-up category.

Of the vulnerable 10 states, seven (Arizona-McCain; Florida-Rubio, New Hampshire-Ayotte, North Carolina-Burr, Ohio-Portman, Pennsylvania-Toomey and Wisconsin-Johnson) are high-level presidential campaign targets. Likely putting the Republicans in even greater peril for the next election, President Obama twice Continue reading >

And Now, Florida …

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is now promising a final decision about his presidential aspirations in only a matter of weeks. Currently, his political moves suggest that he is moving toward a national run.

With Rubio repeatedly saying he will not run for two offices simultaneously, an open Florida Senate seat would build even more intrigue into the 2016 election cycle. Sensing this, budding Senate candidates are beginning to float their names as his possible statewide successor.

As in California and Illinois, where a large number of federal, state, and local politicians are testing the waters for individual Senate runs, yesterday’s Sunshine State musings from several political figures are indicative that Florida may soon see a similar parade of office holders positioning themselves for an open US Senate campaign.

Sen. Rubio, himself, began the debate by saying in an interview, when asked who might be lining up to succeed him if he were to run for president, that Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and former House Speaker Will Weatherford would be two potential Republican candidates.

Yesterday, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) indicated that he would seriously consider seeking the Democratic senatorial nomination. Most often mentioned as potential senatorial candidates are Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz Continue reading >

Is Illinois Another California?

Much of the early Senate political coverage has been devoted to the open California Senate race, but now the Illinois contest is about to make an equivalent amount of news.

For several weeks, speculation, not denied by her staff, that Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) is seriously considering challenging Sen. Mark Kirk (R) came true last week when the congresswoman herself confirmed the sentiment. She had recently given birth towards the end of 2014 and had previously not been granting interviews.

Sen. Kirk, representing a highly Democratic state after his tight 48-46 percent win over then-state treasurer Alexi Giannoulius (D) in the Republican landslide year of 2010, later suffered a serious stroke that put him on a long road to recovery. The presidential year turnout model in a reliably Democratic state against a weakened Republican incumbent sets this race as the party’s best 2016 conversion opportunity in the nation.

Duckworth is the first female double-amputee of the Iraq War. She sustained severe injuries to both legs when an enemy rocket struck the helicopter she was co-piloting. After a long recuperation, she decided to embark on a career in public service. She challenged Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL-6) in a marginal district in the heavily Democratic year of 2006. Backed as one of the strongest Democratic challengers in the nation that year, she still fell short, losing 51-48 percent.
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Louisiana Polling

Louisiana Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat and US Senate candidate, hired the North Star Opinion Research firm to help guide his political ambitions. Kennedy is reportedly considering running for governor or attorney general in 2015. His name is also mentioned in conjunction with the 2016 US Senate contest.

The North Star survey research (Jan. 10-13; 600 registered Louisiana voters) tested Kennedy within a field of candidates first for governor, and then for attorney general as well as for US Senate.

Currently, with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) ineligible to seek a third term later this year, Sen. David Vitter (R) has jumped into the off-year gubernatorial race. Also considering running are Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, State Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Kennedy. State Rep. John Bel Edwards is the lone Democrat to express interest in running. Should Kennedy decide on the attorney general’s race, that impending field so far consists of incumbent Buddy Caldwell (R), who is politically weak, and former Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3). Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy is the one Democrat tested.

The 2016 US Senate picture will largely be dictated by what happens in the governor’s race. Should Sen. Vitter win, and he’s the early favorite, an individual will be appointed to fill the unexpired Continue reading >

DCCC SHOCK POLL: NY-11

Why is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) releasing a poll that underscores their already weakened situation in the upcoming NY-11 special election? It’s unusual when a major party campaign committee allows a poll unfavorable to one of their candidates to reach the public domain, but that’s exactly what the DCCC has done.

Could it be to lower expectations in what, on paper, should be a competitive special election but doesn’t seem so at this particular time? Quite possibly.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to schedule the special election, but it will likely be at the end of March. This is consistent with the allowable time frame under New York election law, based upon the time of the office formally becoming vacant.

The Global Strategy Group (GSG), polling for the DCCC, (Jan. 16-18; 404 registered NY-11 voters) just completed an exhaustive survey in the Staten Island/Brooklyn congressional district and their findings play very well for all-but-official Republican nominee Dan Donovan, the Richmond County district attorney.

According to the results, Donovan is off to a commanding 48-28 percent (including “leaners” for both candidates) advantage over state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, the man who most believe will win the Democratic nomination. This result is even stronger when understanding that Republicans hold only a 43-42 percent edge in Continue reading >

New Senate Polling Begins

Pennsylvania Senate

Last year, a record number of publicly released polls led us to tracking what proved to be an extraordinary set of US Senate races. For the 2016 election cycle, we can expect more of the same.

Public Policy Polling commences the off-year campaign with a survey from what promises to be one of the more competitive of the in-cycle US Senate states, Pennsylvania. Here, first-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey begins a drive for re-election before a presidential year electorate that normally backs a Democratic candidate in the national vote. Sure to be a top presidential campaign target state, Pennsylvania voters can expect to witness an onslaught of political communication about both the presidential campaign and their important US Senate contest.

Though viewed as a swing entity, the Keystone State has voted Democratic in the presidential race consecutively since 1992, inclusive. But, during that same period, Pennsylvanians have elected and/or re-elected three Republican US senators and two GOP governors.

According to this new PPP survey (Jan. 15-18; 1,042 registered Pennsylvania voters) Sen. Toomey registers tepid numbers, relatively commonplace at this point in time for a senator who belongs to the state’s minority party. And, as typical for a Public Policy Polling survey, almost every political figure tests with a negative favorability image.

While President Obama’s job approval is a poor 42:51 percent in a state where he received 52 and 54 percent in 2012 and 2008, respectively, Sen. Toomey registers a 28:35 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D), who doesn’t again face the voters until 2018, does much better at 41:33 percent. The only other political figure to score a positive rating is former Gov. Ed Rendell (D), and he can only muster a 43:42 percent score.

Also typical of a PPP poll, is the testing of many well known politicians who will not be candidates in this particular Senate race. Among the six scenarios polled, only former Gov. Rendell, surely a non-candidate, out-polls Sen. Toomey. According to the results, Rendell would lead the incumbent, 44-41 percent. Against all others, the senator leads by margins of four to eight percentage points, but never breaks the 43 percent support level.

The one pairing that matters most, however, is with the only announced 2016 senatorial candidate, and the man who Toomey beat 51-49 percent in 2010, former US Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7). Here, Toomey has a 40-36 percent advantage.

Sestak, a former Navy Admiral who was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council, served two terms in the House from a Philadelphia suburban district after unseating 20-year veteran Rep. Curt Weldon (R) in 2006. Sestak was re-elected in 2008, and then ran for Senate two years later. Already announcing his statewide candidacy last year, Sestak has raised $1.6 million for the race through last September, with $1.28 million on hand. By contrast, Sen. Toomey had more than $5 million in the bank during the same time frame.

The Pennsylvania race promises to be one of the most polled during the 2016 election cycle. The fact that an incumbent senator registers numbers only in the low 40s under all scenarios is not necessarily a harbinger of a poor re-election performance, but it clearly indicates Sen. Toomey’s support must grow. In the last cycle, Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) each found themselves mired in the low 40s for more than a year, and all lost. It remains to be seen if a similar pattern ensnares Sen. Toomey, or whether he expands his appeal.

McConnell Opponent Floundering

We all remember Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), the Kentucky Secretary of State who ran a close race against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) … until the end.  In that campaign, Grimes continued to consistently poll within two to three points of the veteran senator, but fell by 15 points when the votes were actually counted.
 
Kentucky is one of five states to hold its statewide elections in odd-numbered years – Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia being the other four – so she must defend her current office later this year.  Yesterday, Grimes said she will be running for a statewide post but apparently has still not decided upon a specific race.  Candidate filing for the 2015 election closes Jan. 27, so she will quickly be forced to decide.
 
Grimes is apparently considering a campaign for governor and attorney general, in addition to a bid for re-election.  A further complicating factor came forth for her yesterday when Gravis Marketing released a statewide poll of Kentucky voters that indicates even a run for re-election as secretary of state may be fraught with peril.
 
Though talking about running for the other positions, the fact that she has yet to enter the race for governor or attorney general puts her at a major disadvantage should she actually decide to venture forth in either of those directions.  Current Attorney General Jack Conway (D), a 56-44 percent loser to Rand Paul (R) in the 2010 Senate race, is Continue reading >

An Odd Poll Leaves Some Clues

California Senate
 
The open California Senate race has dominated recent political news coverage, and yesterday a rather strange event unfolded.  It has now come to light that Public Policy Polling surveyed the California electorate at the end of the year (Dec. 29-30, 869 registered California voters) testing what appeared to be a potentially open Senate race, but is just now releasing the data as reported in The Hill newspaper.  
 
Though it is interesting to see how the candidates stack up in the early going, the tested field isn’t particularly representative of the individuals who now appear ready to jump into the race.  Hence, eyebrows are raised as to why PPP would come forth with data now when several key components are obsolete.
 
Already, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) has announced her Senate candidacy and she is included in the survey, but former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared to be moving toward a run, is not.  The latter exclusion is not particularly surprising because, at the time this poll was conducted, Villaraigosa was talking about running for governor in 2018 and not for the Senate in two years.  

Additionally, the current Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti (D), is tested but he formally pulled himself away from further consideration for the statewide office.  In the second questionnaire, Garcetti is then Continue reading >

The Democrats Have Problems Beyond Redistricting

The Democratic federal elected officials are gathered in Baltimore right now, discussing the future of their party and ways to recapture much of the political territory they lost in the 2014 elections. A clear theme settling around their US House predicament is redistricting, and how the Republican-drawn boundaries, they say, in what are typically Democratic states have unfairly cost them large numbers of seats.

North Carolina Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) spoke at length about redistricting and how it affects the party. According to an article on Yahoo News, Price said, “Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia display the most egregious examples of gerrymandered districts for congressional and state legislative races.” His solution is to continue the process Democrats are using in several states, which is to sue over the current congressional boundaries contending that the district boundaries are “racially biased”. Except for Virginia, where a court has already declared the map unconstitutional for this reason, it will likely be difficult to make such a case in places where the minority districts have actually been maximized.

The 2014 electoral statistics cast a different light on the situation, however. Let’s take the case of freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2). She won a Republican-leaning seat in what was the worst of years for Democratic congressional candidates. The fact that she Continue reading >

The Candidates Start Lining Up

It’s already been a busy political new year. Two days ago we witnessed several potential candidates for various offices around the country quickly quelling speculation about their specific individual political plans. Yesterday, we see the opposite as several potential candidates confirmed they will seek different positions.

California Senate

The daily open Golden State Senate report includes an announcement from Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) that she will run for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) office. The development was expected after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made public his intention to remain in his current job, and then attempt to succeed incumbent Jerry Brown (D) when the latter is ineligible to seek another term in 2018.

But, the Harris decision to enter the Senate race is apparently not dissuading other contenders. Both former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) immediately issued separate statements reaffirming that they are both individually “seriously considering” becoming Senatorial candidates. Twenty-two Democrats and twelve Republicans confirm publicly that they have not yet ruled out running for the California Senate seat, the first such open contest in 24 years.
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Candidates Who Choose Not to Run …

Several prospective candidates for various offices made official yesterday their plans not to seek another position.  
 
President
 
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, confirmed that he will not run for president in 2016.  Always mentioned as a potential candidate, Ryan was not making the preliminary campaign moves one who is serious about running for president would typically execute.  He showed no overt signs of building a national political and financial operation necessary to becoming a major political party’s presidential nominee.
 
Now ensconced as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Ryan says he will devote his attention and political acumen toward that particular job.
 
In another report, speculation is changing around Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) presidential plans.  Now a train of thought suggests that Sen. Rubio will run for re-election instead of the presidency, and then possibly take a shot at the open governor’s office in 2018.  Then, as a sitting public chief executive from arguably the most important state on the Republican map, Rubio would have the option of running for President in 2020 or 2024, depending upon whether a Democrat or Republican wins in 2016.
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Reverberations From Boxer’s Retirement Continue

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) retirement announcement, as we mentioned in previous columns, has set off a political firestorm in the Golden State. An open Senate seat for the first time in what will be 24 years has given aspiring statewide officeholders, particularly among Democrats, their first glimpse of attaining a major federal office. More than 30 people have been mentioned as potential candidates, but events of the last few days have begun to clarify the picture.

The state’s relatively new jungle primary law (2016 will mark the third election since its institution) makes this a much more interesting race. Before, particularly in a place that has trended so heavily toward one party in the last two decades, winning the June Democratic primary would have been tantamount to a general election victory. No more.

Now, with all candidates on the same primary ballot and the top two advancing to the general election irrespective of party affiliation with no ability to win outright on the first vote means a number of general election configurations could result. Typically, a Democrat and a Republican advance. But, if the GOP doesn’t have a capable candidate – a possibility in this overwhelmingly expensive state in what will be a long shot for them at best – two Democrats could qualify. On the other hand, if we see a large number of strong Democrats entering the race, which is a distinct possibility, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that two Republicans could actually advance if the Democratic vote is Continue reading >