Monthly Archives: March 2015

Reid Endorses Successors;
Duckworth to Run

March 31, 2015 — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) surprise retirement announcement on Friday quickly yielded another unexpected pair of political moves. After saying he wouldn’t run next year, Reid quickly expressed support for former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto as his successor. This, even before Cortez Masto issued a statement of candidacy.

Just a day later, he and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) then both announced their support for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to succeed Reed as the party leader. It was believed that he and Durbin would battle each other for the leadership post, but their action suggests a smooth transition will presumably occur.

Reid’s decision to take a stand in the Democratic primary is within character because he often involves himself in pre-primary Senate races around the country. But, it’s unusual even for him to do so before the candidate is in the race.

This being said, presumably it has been worked out in Democratic circles well behind the scenes that Cortez Masto is the preferred candidate. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-1), however, doesn’t appear part of this deal since she describes herself as “seriously considering” a bid for the Senate. Former Secretary of State Ross Miller (D), who lost the race for attorney general last November to Republican Adam Laxalt, is yet another potential Democratic candidate.
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The Current State of the Indiana
and Pennsylvania Senate Races

Indiana Senate

With the Indiana Senate seat now officially open for just about a week, many elected officials from both parties report themselves to be in a “considering phase” about entering the statewide race.

Three members of the state delegation immediately indicated they will not run for Senate, however. Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN-6), Andre Carson (D-IN-7) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN-8) said publicly that they will not pursue a statewide bid, presumably to remain in the House.

On the other hand, representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2), Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3), Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) and Todd Young (R-IN-9) all confirm they are at least thinking about running. Veteran Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN-1) has not made any public statement about the race, but is expected to remain in the House.

Of this group of congressional Republicans, Rep. Stutzman is most likely to run since he challenged Coats in the 2010 Republican primary before being elected to the House. It would not be surprising, however, to see several House members enter the race, even though they would be relinquishing congressional seats they virtually just won. All of the Hoosier State Republican representatives were elected in 2010 or later.
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NYT: Harry Reid to Retire

The New York Times is running a major story today saying that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made the decision not to seek re-election and will soon announce his course of action.

Reid had been vociferously denying the many retirement rumors that were circulating earlier in the year, and was actively raising funds and taking steps to hire a campaign team. Now, the Times says he is reversing course.

Reid’s departure will naturally change the Senate in a dramatic way, but the decision has major political ramifications, as well. Republicans will be much more competitive in an open seat situation in Nevada, and will now likely see stronger candidates come forward.

Previously, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and representatives Joe Heck (R-NV-3) and Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) have all either said or indicated that they would not challenge Reid in 2016. In an open seat situation, this could all change.

The Reid retirement will fundamentally change the 2016 political picture.

This is a developing story.

Florida Senate Numbers …
Without Rubio

Public Policy Polling released new survey numbers for what appears to be an upcoming open US Senate race, sans incumbent Marco Rubio (R). It appears likely that the senator will soon announce he is not seeking re-election in order to devote his full attention to a presidential run.

The PPP survey (March 19-22; 923 registered Florida voters; 425 self-identified Republicans; 371 self-identified Democrats) tested the Florida Senate race in various configurations late last week and found what most of us would expect to see in politically marginal Florida -– in an open seat situation, the campaign would become a toss-up.

First, Sen. Rubio was tested before the entire respondent universe, and he scored a 45:40 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval. From a firm that normally produces upside-down ratios almost across the board in response to this question, Rubio’s five-point positive is actually a lot stronger than it looks.

Against announced Democratic senatorial candidate Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) and probable contender Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), Rubio fares well considering the state’s 50/50 political nature.
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Open Seat #3: Indiana Sen. Dan Coats

Several weeks ago, Indiana Sen. Dan Coats (R) promised to announce his 2016 political plans before April 5, and on Tuesday kept his word. When Coats announced such an early time frame upon making a re-election decision, it encouraged political speculation that he would retire, thus opening the seat for next year’s election. Such prognostication proved accurate because Sen. Coats announced that he will retire for the second time.

Coats first came to office when he succeeded his former congressional boss, then-Rep. Dan Quayle (R-IN-4). When Quayle defeated Sen. Birch Bayh (D) in 1980, it was Dan Coats who won the Ft. Wayne-anchored congressional seat that Quayle vacated. Coats would serve four terms, and then once again succeed Quayle when he was appointed in 1989 to fill the unexpired Senate term when the latter was elected Vice President. Coats would then win a special Senate election in 1990, filling the final two years of the term to which he was originally appointed. He then claimed a full six-year term in the next regular election. Coats decided to retire from the Senate in 1998, rather than face then-Gov. Evan Bayh (D) in what was expected to be a very tough re-election fight.

Upon his retirement, Coats served as US Ambassador to Germany, and then returned to Washington DC to join a lobbying firm. He rather surprisingly was recruited to return to elective politics in 2010, and this time ironically succeeded Sen. Bayh who himself had decided to retire expressing his disdain for continuing service in the federal legislative body on his way out. Now, it is former Sen. Bayh who is not yet completely ruling out a return to elective politics.

The Coats’ move opens a third Senate seat for the 2016 election cycle. A fourth may soon be coming if Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) decides to forgo re-election in order to concentrate on a presidential campaign, as expected. Earlier in the year, Democratic senators Barbara Boxer (CA) and Barbara Mikulski (MD) announced their respective retirements.
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Murphy Announces in Florida; Schilling on Radar

Florida Senate

As expected, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) formally announced his US Senate candidacy. Accompanying the public pronouncement were targeted Internet ads to liberal political websites indicating that he is running to “stop the Tea Party”.

Murphy’s reach to the left is intended to secure the liberal base for purposes of capturing the Democratic nomination, thus beginning to pinch Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), another potential candidate. Murphy has to walk a tightrope, however, moving far enough left in the short term but not so far as to marginalize himself for the general election in what has become America’s quintessential swing state.

The congressman’s ad features a picture of conservative ex-Rep. Allen West (R-FL-22), who Murphy unseated in 2012, with the word “Stopped” stamped across his picture. Next to West’s image is a picture of Sen. Marco Rubio, with the word “Next” affixed to his photo. The final shot shows Murphy above a US Senate banner, and adjacent to a sign-up box. The inference is that Murphy defeating West “stopped” him, and ostensibly running against Rubio means the senator is next in line for defeat.

Rep. Murphy needs to cover his left flank largely because of his more centrist voting record. The National Journal ranks him as the 10th most conservative Democrat in the House. Though this positions him to the left of every Republican, twisting such a statistic before Democratic primary voters would likely portray him in an unfavorable light irrespective of how he votes in the aggregate.
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Cruz to Run, and Subsequently,
a Likely Constitutional Test Looms

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced the formation of a presidential committee yesterday, and the timing of his move suggests he is preparing for an involved constitutional legal battle. He is the first person to officially declare his national candidacy in either party.

The senator’s campaign will likely endure many legal battles in order to obtain ballot access, since questions surround his eligibility to run for president.

Article II, Section I of the Constitution says the following:

“No person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to the office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”
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IL-18: Becoming Clearer … Maybe

Now that Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R) resignation announcement has been absorbed and understood, the list of those who may or may not join the replacement field of candidates is becoming clearer, but the election system itself is not yet finalized.

State Sen. Darin LaHood (R), son of former US Rep. and Transportation Department secretary Ray LaHood (R), is now officially running in the upcoming special election. He enjoys high residual name ID – largely his father’s recognition, because the younger LaHood represents only part of Peoria County and a total of three of the district’s 19 counties – and establishment Republican support.

State Sen. Bill Brady, a former Republican gubernatorial nominee who lost to then-Gov. Pat Quinn (D) by just a percentage point in 2010, will not run, but his brother, Ed Brady, who operates the family home building business, chaired his brother’s gubernatorial campaign, and who formerly worked for Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential effort, is moving forward with plans to enter the race.
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Jumping the Gun in the Florida Senate

Major action is happening in the upcoming Florida Senate race even without an official re-election or retirement announcement from Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. And now we see that at least two GOP officeholders are possibly leaping ahead to eye Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) re-election bid in 2018.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he would not simultaneously run for president and re-election to the Senate. Since it appears clearer by the day that he will soon enter the presidential contest, waiting for the statement that he will not seek a second term in the Senate appears relegated to mere formality status.

We previously reported that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is expected to officially announce his 2016 senatorial campaign next week. He says he’s running irrespective of what Sen. Rubio decides, but the Florida politicos are all proceeding as if Rubio will not seek re-election to a second term so he can run in an unencumbered fashion for president.

Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) said she will not run statewide next year. Considering her recent flap of troubles with part of her Democratic funding base and a controversy over whether she would politically attack President Obama if removed as Democratic National Committee chair, it is not surprising that she is retreating to the safety of her US House district.
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Schock in Illinios, and a
Re-Match Between Rivals

IL-18

Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL-18) resignation announcement Tuesday, at least for now, ends an impressive upstart political career. Winning a local school board post in a write-in campaign at age 19, Schock became the youngest public official in the state. Four years later, he ran for the state House of Representatives and defeated a long-term incumbent. At age 27, he became the youngest member of Congress in 2009.

However, after a plethora of news stories written consistently during the past two weeks detailed financial reimbursement improprieties over his federal expenses, Rep. Schock announced that he would leave Congress effective March 31. Though his unforced errors have sent him packing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make a future political comeback.

Once Schock officially leaves office, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) will have five days to schedule the replacement election. The nominating and general elections must all occur within a 115-day period from the time of scheduling. This means the special general will likely be placed on or about July 28, with the closed party primary elections somewhere on or around June 23.
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The House Opens With Losses

Not even three months into the new Congress, and already 10 US House members have left office or announced that the current term will be their last.

Below is a re-cap of the seats that will feature no incumbent in the next election:

CA-44:
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) made formal her plans to seek a seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2016. Hahn’s late father, Kenneth Hahn, was a member of that body for 40 years. The Los Angeles County Administration Building is named in his honor. Winning a seat on the local board requires more than one million votes, but few have as strong Los Angeles area name identification as the Hahn family. Identifying her successor appears to be a foregone conclusion. State Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Carson) has Hahn’s endorsement and many other Los Angeles political figures are following suit. No other potential candidate is even mentioned at this point. Safe Democrat

LA-4: Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden) has repeatedly said he plans to run for the US Senate in 2016 if incumbent David Vitter (R) is elected governor later this year. If Vitter becomes the new governor he will choose is own replacement. Rep. Fleming says he wants the appointment, but will run whether or not he is chosen. Nothing substantial will happen here until the governor’s race concludes late this year. Safe Republican
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Harvard to Cruz’s Rescue

Journalist Charles Dudley Warner’s famous quote that “politics makes strange bedfellows” found yet another new example during the past few days.

A new Harvard Law Review article authored by two former US solicitor generals, one who served Pres. George W. Bush and the other in an acting capacity for President Obama, provides surprising support to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) argument that he is eligible to seek the presidency.

The senator is in a unique situation. He must overcome an obstacle that no other candidate need be concerned with merely to obtain ballot access. Born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, there is an argument that Sen. Cruz does not fulfill the constitutional requirement for individuals running for president, that of being a “natural born citizen.”

Neal Katyal, who served briefly as acting US Solicitor General after Elena Kagan resigned to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, and Paul Clement, who President George W. Bush appointed to the position, co-authored their article entitled, “On the Meaning of Natural Born Citizen” for the Harvard Law Review. Their piece directly discusses the Cruz situation and provides ample legal argument to suggest that the Senator does fulfill the basic legal requirements to become a presidential candidate.
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Murphy Poised to Run in
Florida Senate Race

Politico is reporting that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) will announce a bid for the US Senate on March 23, giving us one more clue that Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will likely not seek re-election.

Murphy was first elected to the House in 2012, a post-redistricting upset winner against first-term Rep. Allen West (R) in a seat that should routinely elect more Republicans than Democrats. Last November, Murphy scored a solid 60-40 percent win over former state Rep. Carl Domino. The congressman raised and spent over $5 million in his re-election effort, proving that he has strong appeal within the Democratic donor community.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he will not simultaneously attempt to run for president and re-election. More speculation is building that he will soon announce a presidential bid, thereby retiring from the Senate after one term. An open seat in swing Florida, arguably the most important state on the presidential election map, is a major negative for national Republicans but leaving the Senate is quite probably a strong personal move for Rubio, if his ultimate desire is to be elected president.

It appears the Democratic establishment is poised to support Murphy, whose more moderate record would make him a strong general election candidate but leaves him vulnerable in the party primary. Originally, representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), the Democratic National Committee chair, and Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) were publicly contemplating running for the Senate, but now both appear to be backing away.
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Feingold Up in Wisconsin;
Candidates Swarm to MS-1 Special

Wisconsin Senate

A new Public Policy Polling survey posts former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) to a 50-41 percent lead over first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R) according to just-released data.

The poll, however, (March 6-8; 1,017 registered Wisconsin voters) may be a better indication of what happens to former politicians once they leave office for an extended period of time instead of a clear forecast of the upcoming campaign. Typically, former office holders are viewed more favorably the longer they have been out of office, as Feingold’s 46:35 percent approval ratio attests. Five years ago, the Wisconsin electorate defeated him 52-47 percent, preferring newcomer Johnson.

Irrespective of political history, the polling result certainly doesn’t bode well for Sen. Johnson. His own job approval is an upside-down 32:40 percent, which is not too surprising for a PPP survey. The firm typically finds public officials of both parties holding negative ratings, much more so than other firms.

This latest Wisconsin study is no exception. Of the eight current and former politicians tested, only two, Feingold and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), had positive ratings. The state’s other senator, first-term Democrat Tammy Baldwin, is also in negative territory. The poll respondents rated her performance as 38:42 percent favorable to unfavorable.
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Kentucky Action for Paul;
Without Hillary?

Kentucky Senate

The Kentucky Republican Party Executive Committee members just did Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a big favor. The panel is recommending that the full GOP state committee change the Blue Grass State’s presidential nominating format from a primary to a caucus.

The move would help Sen. Paul because, at least in the short term, it would allow him to simultaneously seek re-election and run for president. But, selling this to the state convention delegates (they meet in August) might not be so easy, since a negative ramification could result from adopting such a change.

Under Kentucky law, an individual may not appear on the ballot for two offices in the same election. By switching to a caucus format, no state ballot would be involved because the caucuses are comprised of an internal party series of meetings and does not involve the state election system.
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