Monthly Archives: May 2015

Pennsylvania Democrats in a Quandary Over 2016 Senate Race

May 29, 2015 — The Senate majority will again be up for grabs next year, and the important Pennsylvania race is putting Democratic Party leaders in a precarious position. With the Keystone State voting history of favoring Democrats in presidential election years -– the last Republican presidential nominee to win the state was George H.W. Bush back in 1988 –- failing to convert the Pennsylvania Senate seat could well dampen any hopes the party has of recapturing the majority they lost in 2014.

Despite holding winning 2010 Republican candidate Pat Toomey to a 51-49 percent margin, Democratic leaders are open in their desire for a different 2016 nominee than former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7). But, two new occurrences only deepen the hole they seem to be digging for themselves.

Wednesday, their top recruiting prospect, Montgomery County Commission chairman Josh Shapiro announced he would not be running for the Senate, saying that he “didn’t want to come Washington or be a legislator.” On top of that, a new Public Policy Polling survey (May 21-24; 799 registered Pennsylvania voters) finds Sestak doing best against Toomey among six Democrats tested, trailing him only 42-38 percent.
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The Hidden Reason Why McCain is
Being Challenged in Arizona

May 28, 2015 — A surprising story broke in Arizona Tuesday. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) announced that she will forego her re-election bid and instead challenge Sen. John McCain (R) next year. The congresswoman was included on most “possible candidate” lists, but was not viewed as someone overtly planning to make the jump into the statewide contest. Her move, however, may be a precursor to another decision that will soon enter the public domain.

With McCain’s approval numbers dropping into the dangerously low category (36:51 percent favorable to unfavorable according to Public Policy Polling), Kirkpatrick’s move is not without political reason. The latest PPP survey (May 1-3; 600 registered Arizona voters) finds her trailing the senator only 36-42 percent, certainly suggesting that such a general election pairing would yield a competitive contest.

But, the driving force behind Kirkpatrick may not be McCain’s perceived vulnerability. Rather, since the US Supreme Court is poised to soon render a decision on the Arizona redistricting challenge, it may be this issue that is actually motivating Kirkpatrick to move forward.

The Arizona Republicans are challenging the state’s congressional map on the grounds that the US Constitution only gives federal redistricting power to state legislatures. Before the 2000 reapportionment, voters adopted a ballot proposition that created a redistricting commission empowered to draw congressional and state legislative lines. The crux of the suit argues that a citizens’ commission has no authority to draw congressional lines.
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The Debate Game

May 27, 2015 — With yet another Republican ready to announce his presidential campaign tomorrow, last week’s declaration from two media sources saying they are going to limit the number of televised debate participants to 10 will soon ignite a firestorm of protest. It is probable that the question surrounding who is and is not invited to participate will probably create more intense political fireworks than the formal debates themselves.

It’s clear that Fox News and CNN want to have manageable television programs, hence the arbitrary limits placed upon who can attend. The fact that they want to base their exclusion on inexact national polls, using a mathematical formula that no pollster would deem legitimate (averaging diverse surveys), in order to produce an imaginary top 10 will certainly lead to extensive discussion and dissent, and possibly even legal challenges.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki is set to become the next official presidential candidate, and he would likely be one of the people excluded from the televised debates, assuming his effort does not catch fire between now and summer. Pataki is a three-term governor of New York, one of only three Republicans to hold this position since the early 1920s. The other two are Nelson Rockefeller, who would later become vice president, and Thomas E. Dewey, winner of the 1948 Republican presidential nomination but loser to President Harry Truman (D) in what was one of the more memorable campaigns of the 20th Century.
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Early Senate Rankings

May 26, 2015 — It’s not too early to begin handicapping the 2016 in-cycle Senate races, and projecting whether the Republicans’ can hold their hard-fought majority. Having to defend 24 of the 34 states hosting a Senate race, the Democrats have ample opportunity to convert the four GOP seats they need to re-claim control; or, five if presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton fails to keep the White House.

Beginning in easy fashion, the following Republicans and Democrats appear, at this time, safe for re-election:
Safe Republicans:
• Richard Shelby – Alabama
• John Boozman – Arkansas
• Johnny Isakson – Georgia
• Mike Crapo – Idaho
• Chuck Grassley – Iowa
• John Hoeven – North Dakota
• James Lankford – Oklahoma
• Tim Scott – South Carolina
• John Thune – South Dakota

Safe Democrats:
• Richard Blumenthal – Connecticut
• Brian Schatz – Hawaii
• Chuck Schumer – New York
• Ron Wyden – Oregon
• Patrick Leahy – Vermont
• Patty Murray – Washington
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Winner Take All States Loom Large

May 22, 2015 — Florida’s political and legislative leaders, who acted earlier this week to slot the Sunshine State presidential primary on March 15, could have begun a scheduling trend as states move toward finalizing the 2016 election calendar.

As more Republican prospective contenders enter the race –- we could see as many as 18 candidates — the voting schedule gains in importance. With no clear front-runner, the chances of the GOP nominating in an open or “brokered” convention become greater. Therefore, the critical factor in projecting whether any candidate will be able to secure a majority of the delegates before the Republican National Convention begins in the middle of July will be the number of winner-take-all (WTA) states.

The WTA format merely means that victorious primary candidates collect all of the particular state’s delegate allotment. States still have through most of this year to make a final decision about their primary/caucus schedule and how they will apportion their delegates. But, right now, it only appears that six states are opting for the WTA format.
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Pence Opts In — and Out — of Race;
Florida Makes a GOP Primary Move

May 21, 2015 — On Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) announced both that he will compete in a political contest, yet he won’t. After speculating about running for president, Pence formally declared that he will seek re-election as governor. Therefore, he is out of the presidential contest but he certainly remains in the political arena.

So far, the preponderance of prospective Republican candidates have either officially jumped into the race or appear headed in that direction. Two, Pence and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, have decided not to enter the national campaign.

This means the Republican field could still reach as many as 18 candidates. Eleven have either become candidates or, in the case of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will enter the race soon. Two major potential contenders, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also have yet to formally declare, but will reportedly do so sometime in June.

This will be a record large presidential field and, with no one performing as a clear front-runner, the race may not be finally decided until the very end of the nominating cycle.
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No Clear Winner in Kentucky
GOP Gubernatorial Race

May 20, 2015 — Yesterday the highly contentious Blue Grass State Republican gubernatorial was decided … sort of. With no run-off system in Kentucky election law, the three major candidates who were in a virtual three-way tie in polls before the election wound up with about the same result after the election.

State Agriculture Secretary James Comer was viewed to be the early leader in the race, but accusations from former Louisville Metro Councilor Hal Heiner that Comer physically abused a girlfriend while in college effectively turned the race upside down. Charges and counter-charges flew between the two men for weeks, even including the appearance of the former girlfriend, and the after-effects weakened both candidates. And while the campaign turned nasty, businessman Matt Bevin, the wealthy investor who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Mitch McConnell in last year’s Republican primary, crafted a positive strategy designed to propel him above the fray created between the other two. You may remember that in the 2014 race, polling showed Bevin running close to the veteran senator but, in the end, the nomination contest evolved into a McConnell landslide.

But this time, the businessman’s plan clearly worked, and it may well have carried him to the nomination. From more than 214,000 Republican votes cast last night, Bevin clings to an 83-vote lead with 100 percent of the precincts reporting. Each man attracted approximately 33 percent of the vote. Heiner, who placed third with 27 percent, conceded. Former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott finished a distant fourth at seven percent.
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How the Senate is Stacking Up

May 19, 2015 — The 2016 cycle hosts 34 Senate races and, at this point, it appears 16 of them will feature significant competition. From these in-cycle seats, the current majority Republican party must defend 24 positions. To re-capture the majority, Democrats will need to convert four Republican states if the party wins the presidency, and five if it does not.

Below is a major candidate listing within the currently contested 16 states:

ALASKA
• Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)
Possible
• Mike Dunleavy (R) – State Senator
• Joe Miller (R) – Attorney; 2010 US Senate nominee
Unlikely
• Mark Begich (D) – former US Senator

ARIZONA
• Sen. John McCain (R)
Likely
• Kelli Ward (R) – State Senator
Possible
• Fred DuVal (D) – Former Statewide Candidate
Unlikely
• Richard Carmona (D) – Former US Surgeon General
• Ann Kirkpatrick (D) – US Representative, District 1
• Matt Salmon (R) – US Representative, District 5
• David Schweikert (R) – US Representative, District 6
• Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative, District 9
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The Two Latest Senate Candidates

California Senate

May 18, 2015 — The on-again-off-again Loretta Sanchez for Senate campaign finally became official. Earlier in the cycle, Rep. Sanchez (D-CA-46) told supporters she would announce for the Senate, only to put her statewide plans on hold.

Earlier last week a statement came from her political headquarters saying that a special announcement would be made Thursday. Immediately, that comment was withdrawn, with Sanchez saying she was only considering the race. She then reversed direction yet again, and this time did formally declare for the Senate.

With the campaign beginning in bungling fashion, Sanchez finds herself in the role of major underdog to a fellow Democrat, Attorney General Kamala Harris. But, coming from far behind in a race few thought she could win is exactly how she began her political career back in 1996. That is when she upset then-Rep. Bob Dornan (R) by a mere 984 votes, and has not been seriously challenged since. Now at 55, Rep. Sanchez will risk what will be a 20-year House career to venture toward a statewide contest.
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Continuing Senate Action

May 15, 2015 — One place where the early campaign has gone poorly for Senate Democrats is Pennsylvania. With state and national party leaders in an open feud with former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), the 2010 Senate nominee who held Republican Pat Toomey to a 51-49 percent victory, the race has the potential to spin out of control.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party leaders and those from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in Washington are attempting to recruit Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro to oppose Sestak. In addition, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (D) has announced his candidacy. Pawlowski entered the 2014 gubernatorial race but didn’t fare well, and dropped his bid even before the candidate filing deadline expired.

A new Harper Polling survey (May 6-7; 503 registered Pennsylvania voters) adds to the Democrats’ problems, as Sen. Toomey appears to be in strong shape at the beginning of the race. Harper finds his personal favorability index to be a strong 54:32 percent positive to negative.
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Nevada Senate Outlook

May 14, 2015 — Because they are defending so many states in the 2016 Senate elections (24 of the 34 in-cycle seats are Republican-held), the open Nevada seat could be one of the few available national offensive opportunities for the majority party. Therefore, Republican leaders have been working hard to field a strong candidate to fight to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D), and they may have found him.

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is the party leaders’ first choice and, based upon his 71 percent re-election performance last November, the Silver State chief executive is clearly the individual best positioned to convert the seat. But Sandoval is committed to serving his second term and consistently says he has no interest in a 2016 Senate race. That being the case, Republicans are turning to Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), and late reports suggest their courting efforts are working.

After originally saying he would not challenge Reid when it looked like the senator would seek re-election, Rep. Heck now appears to be moving toward entering the open-seat race. With most other Republicans appearing ready to yield to him, Heck having a clear path to the GOP nomination is highly realistic.
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Mississippi Special Election Results

May 13, 2015 — A group of 87,302 individuals went to the polls yesterday to choose a replacement for the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) who passed away in early February. Featuring 13 candidates, none with a particularly huge advantage over the others, a close result was expected. Proceeding to a secondary run-off election was viewed as a certainty. Both prognostications proved true.

Former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn, the only Democrat in the huge field, placed first, even though he spent only $9,000 on his campaign and has no base in the district. The city he served, Mississippi’s capital city, is located in the 3rd Congressional District. Attracting just over 15,000 voters (17 percent), which may represent the last vestiges of the partisan group once described as “yellow dog Democrats”, Zinn was able to top the field. But, this means advancing to a June 2 run-off and what will likely be almost certain defeat at the hands of a Republican candidate.

Zinn’s opponent will be Alcorn County District Attorney and Iraq War veteran Trent Kelly (R), who finished 896 votes behind, equivalent to a 16 percent preference. Kelly ran very strong in the seven counties he represents as District Attorney, which was enough to propel him to second place, some three percent ahead of his next closest rival, state Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert (R). Because of the recent Republican voting history here, Kelly becomes a prohibitive favorite next month. Though Democrat Zinn placed first before this crowded field, 83 percent of the voters chose a Republican candidate.

The 1st District covers 22 northern Mississippi counties. The three population centers are the Memphis suburban communities just south of the Tennessee border, Tupelo, and Columbus. The region gave Mitt Romney 62 percent of its votes in 2012. Rep. Nunnelee, first elected in 2010 defeating incumbent Travis Childers (D), scored a 68 percent re-election victory last November.

Stutzman Declares in Indiana;
MS-1 Special Notes

May 13, 2015 — Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3), who began talking about running for Senate even before Sen. Dan Coats (R) announced that he wouldn’t seek another term, officially declared his candidacy Monday. He joins former Indiana Republican Party chairman and Coats’ aide Eric Holcomb in the field of candidates.

Though Sen. Coats made public his intention to retire at the end of March, the field of potential successors has been slow to form. Immediately, all but three of the nine-member House delegation indicated interest in the race but, until yesterday, none had moved into the statewide contest.

At this point, most of the delegation members have declined to run. The two who have not yet closed the door on a potential Senate bid are representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), who is unlikely to enter, and Todd Young (R-IN-9), who well could oppose Stutzman and Holcomb.

No Democrat has yet come forward. Party leaders hope to recruit former senator and governor, Evan Bayh, back into elective politics, but this is likely wishful thinking on their part. Upon leaving office five years ago, Sen. Bayh made public statements about being less than enamored with the way Congress was operating, and it is fair to say the situation has deteriorated since.
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New Hampshire Poll Shows 2016 Republican Candidates Even Tighter

May 12, 2015 — A new Bloomberg Politics/St. Anselm’s University survey (May 2-6; Purple Strategies consulting firm; 500 registered New Hampshire voters; oversampled to attain 400 Democratic primary voters and 400 Republican primary voters) projects that the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary is a virtual multi-candidate tie. The general election figures are also tightening, uncovering further weakness in presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The pollsters tested 13 Republican candidates or potential candidates, four of whom broke into double-digits. At 12 percent support are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Just one point behind loom former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sunshine State Sen. Marco Rubio.

Businessman Donald Trump makes an appearance in this poll, and does reasonably well, capturing eight percent preference. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie follows with seven percent, just ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (six percent) and Dr. Ben Carson (five percent). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), ex-Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) all follow in a range between four and one percent.
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Unreliable Poll Shows Bush Leading

May 11, 2015 — The University of New Hampshire is routinely among the most unreliable of public polling entities, and the institution’s new release in partnership with WMUR-TV in Manchester is no exception to that characterization. The poll is attracting attention because it is the first one in months to project former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as leading his fellow Republican competitors in any early voting state.

The survey, conducted during the very long sampling period of April 24 – May 3, interviewed only 293 “likely GOP primary voters.” The 10-day questioning period is seven days longer than the optimum timetable, and the sample size is only half as large as what one would typically see in a state the size of New Hampshire.

The pollsters will argue that because they are testing only likely Republican primary voters, the sample size will be smaller than a poll studying the entire electorate. While this is true, not even reaching 300 people taints the results with a very high error factor. By the pollsters’ own admission, the error rate in this study is greater than plus or minus 5.7 percent, which means the results could vary by as much as 10 points per individual.
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