Monthly Archives: October 2015

Already Nasty in Louisiana

Oct. 30, 2015 — Just two days after the Louisiana gubernatorial jungle primary, run-off participants Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) and their allied Super PACs, are wasting no time launching hard-hitting attack ads in anticipation of the Nov. 21 general election.


It was clear the secondary campaign period was going to yield a nasty political affair, and the first ads may have already exceeded expectations. Edwards, knowing that Vitter would have to hit him hard because the latter has such poor approval ratings, comes out of the gate with an offensive defense of his record (above), predicting that Vitter will lie about him while simultaneously harpooning the senator throughout script.


But, the Super PAC ads go for the jugular. Gumbo PAC, a local trial lawyer financed anti-Vitter committee, features a well-conceived ad (above) comprised of clips from losing Republican gubernatorial candidates, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, with a two-fold purpose.

First, it shows Republican candidates viciously attacking a top GOP office holder in order to cement Vitter’s negative image, and second, reminding Angelle and Dardenne of their strong public anti-Vitter sentiments makes it more difficult for both to now endorse their Republican colleague, something that the sitting senator needs to better unite his party.


The Republican Governors Association immediately took to the airwaves to attack Edwards with the predicted strategic point of tying the Democratic gubernatorial nominee to an unpopular President Obama (above). They extend the political assault to include Edwards’ vote in the legislature to increase his own pay, what they say is cutting education funding, and then adding a new issue, that of the Democrat supporting “welfare for illegal aliens.”

The pre-election polling suggested that Edwards held what could be a substantial advantage over Sen. Vitter in the gubernatorial general election. But, those polls were taken before Edwards became an attack target. Shortly, we shall see what kind of an effect the ad messages are having upon the two-man race.

This governor’s contest could also change the 2016 US Senate campaigns, as we have previously discussed. Vitter’s seat is in-cycle next year and, should he become governor, the new chief executive will appoint his own successor. Such an individual will then be able to seek election to a full term as an appointed incumbent, an advantage that should negate most Republican opposition.

Should Vitter lose, which is now a distinct possibility, the senator will be faced with a tough decision whether to seek re-election. Seeing him fumble the governor’s race, the Democrats will come back with a strong campaign, thus possibly putting the seat in play. For Republicans to retain Senate control, the last thing they need is making what should be a safe seat competitive in a hotly contested national election cycle.

Hillary Storms Back; Kentucky Close

Oct. 29, 2015 — The first Democratic debate is proving to be an early turning point for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to that event, Clinton was reeling and facing looming challenges ahead. Her strong performance may have at least partially contributed to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to not enter the race. Her performance before the Benghazi Committee also helped her, and its momentum is a contributing factor to now launching her to a commanding lead in the latest Iowa polls.

Loras College, which released their Republican Iowa results earlier in the week, now reports a huge Clinton advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. According to this data (Oct. 19-22; 500 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) the former First Lady is now taking a massive 62-24 percent lead over Sanders among those questioned in the Iowa poll. This is quite a reversal of fortunes considering that the Vermont self-proclaimed socialist had been leading in Iowa polling before the debate.

Monmouth University, in the field just after Loras (Oct. 22-25; 400 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders), confirms the latter’s result, finding even a slightly better 65-24 percent split in Clinton’s favor.

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Iowa: Trump Falling

Oct. 28, 2015 — Several new Iowa Republican polls — the most stark examples coming from a pair of surveys released yesterday — project Donald Trump now falling behind in preparation for the Hawkeye State’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucus meetings scheduled for Feb. 1.

According to Monmouth University (Oct. 22-25; 400 likely Iowa GOP Caucus attenders, each of whom has voted in at least one of the last two primary elections), Dr. Ben Carson has opened a significant lead over Trump, topping him 32-18 percent in their October study. Looking back at their August poll, the two were tied at 23 percent. The swing represents a net 14-point gain for the retired neurosurgeon and first-time political candidate.

But, Monmouth is not the only pollster to detect a major switch among Iowa Republican poll respondents. Loras College (Oct. 19-22; 500 likely Iowa GOP Caucus attenders), polling just days before Monmouth, arrived at a similar conclusion. They find Carson ahead of Trump by an almost identical 31-19 percent.

The CBS News/YouGov survey (Oct. 15-22; 529 likely Iowa GOP Caucus attenders), again in the field during the same basic period, arrives at a much different result, however. This data finds Carson and Trump tied at 27 percent, but still points to the fact that latter is losing steam while the former is gaining within the Iowa Republican cell samples.

Interestingly, the three polls also detect similar second-tier findings. All show significant increases in support for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Monmouth finds Rubio and Cruz tied for third with 10 percent apiece. Loras also has Rubio at 10 percent, but Cruz following with six percent. CBS/YouGov predicts Cruz doing better than Rubio, leading him 12-9 percent. All three studies find Jeb Bush in a like position, still lagging in single-digits as he has been beginning in early summer, recording eight percent (Monmouth), seven percent (Loras), and six percent (CBS/YouGov).

The Iowa swing toward Carson again reveals the early volatility in the Republican race. From a national perspective, current events have not yielded a drastic change in the campaign but this shows us that what may be happening on the ground in small states can be different than what we see in the national media.

These results again reinforce that the there is no candidate, including Trump and Carson, anywhere close to dominating the field to the point where he or she can attract majority delegate support. Therefore, the race culminating in a brokered convention remains a distinct possibility.

Additionally, it is important to remember that in the Iowa system, individuals attend evening precinct meetings to cast their ballots in the middle of a cold winter; it is difficult to poll and the actual results could be much different than pre-election polling might indicate.

Vitter Barely Advances

Oct. 27, 2015 — Sen. David Vitter (R) who at one time appeared to be the early favorite to easily win the open Louisiana governor’s race, managed to advance to the general election Saturday night, but just barely.

As the polls had predicted, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards took first place with 40 percent of the statewide vote, compared to only 23 percent for Vitter. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), showing strength in Cajun Country, placed a close third with 19 percent preference. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) secured 15 percent and fourth position. Five minor candidates combined for three percent.

Edwards, a Baton Rouge state legislator, placed first in 45 of the state’s 64 parishes, Louisiana’s designation for counties. He scored an outright majority in seven parishes, including Orleans, which hosts the major city of New Orleans. Here, the lone major Democratic candidate garnered 72 percent of the overall vote. Edwards took between 40 and 49 percent, inclusive, in 20 parishes. He finished first with a plurality of 39 percent or less in 18 parishes.

By contrast, Vitter placed first in only 10 parishes, several from the 1st Congressional District where he used to represent, four in the central part of the state, and another in Bossier Parish, home to Bossier City just across the Red River from Shreveport.

Angelle proved strong in the southwestern Louisiana, as well as taking small Caldwell and West Carroll parishes in the northeast.

Vitter was the subject of a slew of negative attacks, political assaults that obviously took their toll when seeing his poor performance. A sitting US senator who has twice won statewide campaigns outright should have commanded better than 23 percent of the overall vote, understanding that more than three-quarters of those who cast a ballot chose another candidate.

It became apparent that Edwards would finish first, largely because he was the consensus Democrat against a fractured field of three Republicans. The polling correctly reflected that if all of the candidates ganged up on Vitter and emphasized his negatives – Washington politician, previous sex scandal, etc. – that it would work to a great degree. In the general election campaign, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21, it will be Vitter’s turn to strike back against a lone opponent.

The voters here can expect a very negative and nasty general election campaign. For Vitter to win, he will have to make Edwards such an unacceptable figure that voters will choose the Republican senator because he is more conservative, not because they like, or hold a positive image of him.

Despite the fact that Democrats have a 46-28 percent partisan registration edge among the state’s almost 2.9 million voters, the GOP has been dominant here in many recent campaigns and Vitter will need to draw upon this type of support if he is to carry the day in the next vote.

Largely, the rest of Saturday’s voting held true for Republicans. Though the consensus Democrat barely placed first in the lieutenant governor’s race, again against several GOP candidates, the Republicans re-elected outright the secretary of state, treasurer, and agriculture and insurance commissioners. In the attorney general’s campaign, former US Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3), finished a close second to incumbent Buddy Caldwell (R), and has a good chance of winning the position in the double-Republican general election.

Voter participation was 38.5 percent of the qualified registrants, or slightly over 1.1 million individuals. This is actually a bit higher than the 1.022 million who voted in 2011, when the Louisiana electorate re-elected Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) outright. The turnout was 1.264 million when Vitter won his second Senate term in the regular 2010 election.

The pre-primary polls suggesting that Edwards is ahead of Vitter in the general could well prove true. Democrats are clearly in position to score an upset, but despite being less than a month in duration, this race has a very long way to go.

The Numbers Behind Dr. Ben Carson’s Upward Move in the Polls

Oct. 26, 2015 — Two new state polls released at the end of last week find Dr. Ben Carson breaking Donald Trump’s stranglehold on first place. The Quinnipiac University Iowa survey (Oct. 14-20; 574 likely Iowa Republican Caucus attenders) and the Norbert College Strategic Institute results for Wisconsin (Oct. 14-17; 600 Wisconsin state residents) reveal Carson snatching first place, though the latter poll has a questionable methodology.

Iowa, holding 30 proportional Republican delegates, is the first state to host a nominating event and will do so on the first day of next February.

According to the new Q-Poll, Carson has opened up a 28-20 percent advantage over Trump, with Sen. Marco Rubio jumping to third place (13 percent), and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz landing in fourth with 10 percent preference. Sen. Rand Paul follows at six percent, with Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina each attracting five percent support. And in a disappointing performance for a Midwestern regional candidate — a prototype that normally fares well in Iowa — Ohio Gov. John Kasich falls to just a three percent standing.

Dr. Carson has been inching closer to Trump for the past few weeks, so it’s not altogether surprising to see him beginning to move past the flamboyant international businessman. Now, Dr. Carson faces a staying power test. Thus, the upcoming Oct. 28 Republican debate may be this first-time candidate’s most important early campaign appearance.

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Vitter’s Louisiana Gubernatorial Election Tomorrow

Oct. 23, 2015 — Tomorrow’s jungle primary election will begin the process of replacing term-limited Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and it appears that the lone Democrat in the race and Republican Sen. David Vitter will advance to the Nov. 21 general election. In the unlikely event that any candidate secures an outright majority, such a person would be automatically elected.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) is leading in all polls, and for two reasons. First, as the unified Democratic candidate, he has solidified his party vote as opposed to the Republicans, who are dispersing their support among three candidates.

Second, Sen. Vitter has been absorbing a multitude of attacks, from being labeled a “Washington politician”, to continuing the unpopular Jindal’s policies, to past sexual scandals, to being called aloof and out of touch with the Louisiana voting base — all have taken their toll upon him. Originally leading the race, it now appears he will finish a distant second, but still far enough ahead of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne to advance.

An Edwards-Vitter run-off election will be nasty and bitter. It is likely the Democrats have saved their toughest attacks on Vitter until the run-off, knowing that a secondary election is a virtual certainty. Sen. Vitter, whose personal approval ratings are poor, also will go negative, understanding that will be his easiest path to victory. Therefore, expect many attacks on Edwards — often linking him with an unpopular President Obama and the national Democratic Party — to be launched from the Vitter campaign, the national Republican Party organization, and Super PACs supporting the GOP nominee.

Webb Out; Jolly Crashes

Oct. 23, 2015 — Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb, the former US senator (Virginia) who spent most of last week’s debate time complaining that he wasn’t getting enough attention, has dropped his bid for the party nomination. He leaves the door open to enter the general election campaign as an Independent.

The move does little to affect the race. The three most irrelevant presidential participants in this 2016 contest are the trio of Democratic minor candidates: Webb, former governor and senator, Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), and ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. None of them have moved the political needle one iota since joining the race months ago.

Webb running as an Independent is also likely to have little impact. Qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states as an Independent presidential candidate is not an easy task. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the former Democratic presidential candidate will be able to raise the money and develop a national organization strong enough even to obtain ballot position.

Should he qualify, he is unlikely to become a major factor, and not the type of Independent candidate that will take a large share of the vote away from a particular candidate. Because he has straddled the ideological spectrum, first as a Republican US Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration, and then all the way to becoming a Democratic senator, it is plausible that Webb’s few general election votes could potentially be evenly split between the two major party nominees.

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Biden Out; Hillary Wins

Oct. 22, 2015 — Despite media reports predicting that Vice President Joe Biden would enter the presidential race early in the week, yesterday he officially announced that he will not, saying his “window of opportunity had closed.”

As we had stated here earlier, Biden had three obstacles to overcome, none of which appeared easy to traverse. First, to which he referred in his Rose Garden announcement, the time was fast elapsing when he could reasonably develop a campaign from the ground up, in terms of building both a fundraising and grassroots political organization.

Because of his longstanding career in national politics, Biden wouldn’t have been starting a national campaign at political ground zero, but would have been uncomfortably close. The vice president already realized that he was likely past the point of no return to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire, thus leaving South Carolina as the state where he could make his first stand against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT). This would have made generating any serious momentum very difficult when already two highly publicized voting events would be completed before a Biden campaign even realistically began.

Second, constructing an organization that could raise millions of dollars quickly in $2,700 maximum increments during such a short time frame would also have been an arduous task regardless of his current political position. Yes, Super PACs would have quickly formed to support him and could have bundled large sums in short order, but he would still need a sizable amount of funding to directly control. As we know, candidates and their staffs can have no say in how Super PAC money is spent.

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Biden: Not Quite Yet

Oct. 21, 2015 — Twitter has been chirping recently with “insider” tweets that Vice President Joe Biden had decided to enter the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post even ran a draft article quoting unnamed sources denoted with a notation of “XXX” that Biden had made his final decision. It wasn’t long before the editors quickly withdrew the piece, claiming it had been inadvertently placed. Hours later it was determined that the VP is not yet launching his official presidential effort.

The decision is a tough one because Biden is clearly not in a position to simply announce for president and expect everyone to flock to him. In fact, he has several major obstacles to overcome to win the nomination and it is doubtful that he can.

First, all of the early national polling suggests his entrance in the race would only earn him support in the high teens to low 20s, slightly trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), and about 20-plus points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The Monmouth University poll results, for example, released only Monday and fielded after the first Democratic presidential debate (Oct. 15-18; 1,012 adults, 340 self-identified Democrats or Democratic Party leaners), is typical of the numbers we see.

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The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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The Ohio Senate Race:
A Strange Beginning

Oct. 16, 2015 — So far, the Ohio Senate campaign has begun as the new election cycle’s most peculiar contest. Sen. Rob Portman (R), seeking a second term, is leading in every aspect of the campaign but the polls. According to the last four surveys, former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) has a small edge over the Ohio senator, who was previously the Director of the US Office of Management and Budget, and a Cincinnati congressman.

Just last week the Harstad Strategic Group, polling for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, released early September data giving Strickland a 46-43 percent lead over Sen. Portman. Interestingly, Quinnipiac University, polling at the end of September and into early October, found exactly the same split: again Strickland topping Portman, 46-43 percent.

But, that’s not all. In Quinnipiac’s August version, they posted Strickland to a 44-41 percent advantage following their late June study that gave the former governor an even larger 46-40 percent margin. It was commonly viewed at the time that this first data finding Strickland with the edge was potentially an anomaly, but seeing other findings that supported the original result requires further examination before such a conclusion could be drawn. The last public poll to show Portman ahead came in early June from Public Policy Polling. In that survey the senator held a 43-41 percent lead.

The ballot test tilting toward Strickland makes little sense when we see that the same polls reported the incumbent’s personal favorability and job approval scores as being good. While the June Q-Poll found Strickland up six points, Portman scored a job approval of 49:28 percent and a personal rating of 43:21 percent.

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Louisiana’s Vitter in Trouble

Oct. 16, 2015 — The latest Louisiana gubernatorial campaign survey, from KPLC Television/ Raycom Media and released Wednesday, projects Sen. David Vitter (R) to be in real trouble in his quest to become the state’s chief executive, which is reflected in the above negative ad (see the Vitter campaign response below).

The 2015 governor’s race – voters will go to the polls to decide the jungle primary on Oct. 24, with the top two advancing to a Nov. 21 general election – has been extensively polled. Sen. Vitter, despite winning two previous statewide elections and both without run-offs, has never polled particularly well but excelled when the actual votes were counted. He wasn’t projected to win the 1999 special congressional election, nor did surveys predict his outright win in the 2004 Senate race. But, these latest numbers appear to reveal tangible problems for the incumbent Senator in attempting to transfer to state office.

The KPLC/Raycom survey (Oct. 7-13; 602 registered Louisiana voters, 400 likely gubernatorial primary voters) finds Vitter trailing state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) in jungle primary ballot tests. This is not particularly unusual because four other September statewide primary election studies from three different pollsters also find the senator trailing his chief Democratic opponent.

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Dems Debate While Biden Postpones

Oct. 15, 2015 — While the announced Democratic candidates faced each other in their first official forum at the Wynn Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Tuesday night, Vice President Joe Biden continued to indicate that he won’t commit to making a decision about whether to enter the presidential contest until at least month’s end.

The continual postponing of the eventual candidacy decision suggests that Biden won’t enter the race. While he does have people around the country who would quickly come to his aid should he begin to construct a campaign, he is simply running out of time to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot separately in all 50 states if he were to begin from scratch in November. Though it would not be impossible for him to qualify, his task becomes immeasurably more difficult.

Waiting until next month to get in the race, when the first vote would be just three months away in Iowa followed by a string of primary and caucus participants casting ballots in non-stop fashion in 56 additional entities through mid-June, would add tremendous pressure to a Biden for President effort. The timing would force the vice president to immediately overcome major campaign logistical obstacles, such as the aforementioned ballot qualification process, hiring staff, developing a fundraising operation, crafting a campaign theme and message, etc. Additionally, he would have to spend virtually all available energy and staff time attempting to take down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), both of whom are well entrenched in Democratic primary polling.

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Hillary’s Rebounding Numbers

Oct. 14, 2015 — Several new polls were released at the beginning of this week displaying national and individual state Democratic primary results. All find former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton improving her position within the party nomination framework. Conversely, the cumulative data’s biggest surprise is Vice President Joe Biden’s relatively poor standing.

Biden’s deficit may be large enough to possibly preclude his entrance into the race. With him trailing even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) in more places than not, according to this recent wave of publicly released polling, it seems the late-starting Biden would have a difficult time eclipsing Clinton if he were to officially launch his candidacy.

The new national CBS/New York Times poll (Oct. 4-8; 1,251 adults; 1,038 registered voters, 343 Democratic primary voters) finds Clinton leading Sen. Sanders and the vice president 46-27-16 percent, respectively. Clinton still falling below the 50 percent mark notwithstanding, Sanders dropping under 30 percent and Biden failing to even reach 20 percent is a clear indication of her relative strength.

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Florida Redistricting Lines
Almost Complete

Oct. 13, 2015 — The Republican troubles in the US House look to be getting worse as the long-awaited Florida redistricting process is at last taking shape. The state Supreme Court struck down portions of the map back in early July and, with the state legislature not passing new legislation in their abbreviated special session, the high court returned the plan to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to serve as the redistricting special master. The original lawsuit was filed in Lewis’ court.

On Friday, Judge Lewis released his map, choosing one of the Democratic plaintiffs’ submissions, saying this plan best fulfills the Supreme Court’s sated objectives. The new map now goes to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The partisan numbers figure to favor Democrats by one to as many as four seats. Most likely, assuming no additional retirements among incumbents, the Democrats will probably gain one or two seats. There is a scenario, however, where Republicans could still break even. The Florida delegation splits 17R-10D under the current map.

The members likely to lose under the new configuration are representatives Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) and Dan Webster (R-FL-10) the latter of whom, ironically, is currently a candidate for House Speaker. Rep. David Jolly’s 13th District will also go Democratic, likely to former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) who said he would run if his St. Petersburg home was drawn into the district.

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