Monthly Archives: November 2015

Cruz Gaining Support, Trump Lags;
Louisiana Senate Contenders Jump In

Nov. 30, 2015 — The new Iowa Quinnipiac University poll shows a significant gain for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in anticipation of the Feb. 1 Republican precinct meetings. Dr. Ben Carson recorded a substantial loss in support, while race leader Donald Trump posted an incremental gain.

According to the latest Q-Poll (Nov. 16-22; 600 likely Iowa Republican Caucus attenders), Sen. Cruz attracted an additional 13 percentage points when compared with the university’s Oct. 22 released survey. Their new ballot test finds Trump leading Cruz 25-23 percent, with Dr. Carson slipping to 18 percent (down from 28 percent in October) and Sen. Marco Rubio remaining constant with 13 percent support. Trump gained five percentage points in the last month.

Again we see the familiar separation pattern occurring, as the top four finishers in this poll: Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Rubio, again are firmly distinguishing themselves as the “Front Four”. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a distant fifth at just five percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush drops even lower to four percent.

While Trump continues to lead, though his advantage here is consistently shrinking, he also is tops in another category, which is not good news. A full 30 percent of the sample identified Trump as “the candidate they would definitely not support” in the Iowa Caucus. For a change, and unfortunately for him, Jeb Bush scores high. He is second in this negative category with 21 percent saying he is the one candidate for whom they won’t vote. By contrast, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson score seven, five and four percent figures, respectively, in response to this question.

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New Maryland Polling

Nov. 25, 2015 — In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, this will be the final Update for the week. Enjoy the holiday break.

A recent media blitz appears to have achieved its intended effect in the Maryland Senate race. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) invested funds for a sizable media buy to introduce himself to Maryland primary voters, particularly in the Baltimore metropolitan area. After trailing Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) in earlier polling, a new OpinionWorks survey for the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore finds the race has turned toward Van Hollen.

According to the poll results (Nov. 13-17; 419 likely Democratic primary voters) Van Hollen leads Edwards 45-31 percent when the two are tested, including a 16-point advantage in the Baltimore area. This essentially is the reverse of what we have previously seen. Additionally, as has been the case with much of the 2016 election cycle polling particularly at the presidential level, the sample size is small for a statewide race meaning a large error factor.

But, the most interesting finding is not the projected switch in fortunes between representatives Van Hollen and Edwards. While apparent that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) will not enter the Senate campaign, though he still has yet to officially declare for re-election and doesn’t actively dissuade any further Senate talk, he continues to fare very well when added to the candidates’ list.

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Vitter Loses; Won’t Run in 2016

Nov. 24, 2015 — As a myriad of Louisiana gubernatorial polls correctly predicted, state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) scored a landslide 56-44 percent victory over Sen. David Vitter (R) Saturday night. The result proved a bitter defeat for the Republican after he was cast as a prohibitive favorite when the campaign began.

In his concession speech, the senator confirmed that he will not seek re-election in the 2016 cycle, yielding the sixth open seat US Senate campaign for next year. There was strong speculation when the governor’s campaign began to turn against Vitter that the politically damaged senator would be highly vulnerable if he were to seek a third term after experiencing what would be a crushing defeat. Though the Republicans will now be forced to risk an open seat it is preferable to defending a wounded incumbent.

Saturday’s result was clearly a rejection of Vitter and not necessarily the Republican Party. Despite the Democrats winning at the top of the ticket, Republican lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser, the Plaquemines parish president, recorded his own strong 55-45 percent victory margin against Democratic nominee Kip Holden.

In the double-Republican attorney general’s race, former US Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) unseated incumbent Buddy Caldwell with a similar 55-45 percent spread after strategically positioning himself as the more conservative candidate.

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Media Misses New Polling Story

Nov. 23, 2015 — Reporters from several news publications, such as The Hill newspaper, along with various commentators are mis-reading the latest polls*. They’re trying to craft a premise that Donald Trump is again spiking, and that his improved status is directly related to the France massacre. But, the survey data are consistently revealing a much different point.

Considering that Trump ranges from between 23 and 38 percent support in all of these studies, taking into account their various sampling groups and methodological factors, isn’t much different than where he’s been standing for months. Trump continues to place first in most polls, but is far from the 50 percent majority figure he will need to capture the nomination.

The missed point is that these polls and other research conclusions are beginning to reveal a separation among the candidates. Most recent polling consistently shows that the top tier revolves around Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, with Jeb Bush falling into the second tier but remaining within striking distance of the upper echelon.

While true that the third and fourth place finishers in these studies sometimes do not touch double-digits, the standing order appears consistent throughout most of the survey research that now resides in the public sector.

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Panetta In; Hanna Challenged

Nov. 20, 2015 — The first person to declare his candidacy in the open Monterey, Calif., congressional district has come forward.

On Friday, veteran California Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA-20) announced he would not seek a 13th term next year, retiring from the House at what will be age 75 when the current term ends.

Prior to Farr winning this California coastal seat in 1993, then-Rep. Leon Panetta represented the region since his original election 16-plus years earlier. Panetta would later serve as President Bill Clinton’s Director of the Office of Management & Budget, and then as White House Chief of Staff. Out of public life for almost 12 years, President Obama brought him back to Washington as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and then as Secretary of Defense.

Now, Panetta’s second son, Jimmy Panetta a 43-year-old Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, announced his congressional candidacy yesterday, and will have to be rated a favorite to advance to the general election. The seat’s Democratic nature suggests that two party members could well advance to November.

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Jindal Out of Presidential Race;
Virginia Redistricting Update

Nov. 19, 2015 — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal became the third Republican casualty of this 2016 presidential contest by suspending his campaign Tuesday. He joins Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and ex-Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) on the GOP political sidelines. Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) have already exited stage left for the Democrats.

Gov. Jindal was hoping to make major inroads in Iowa, notching a respectable score there in the Feb. 1 Caucus vote, which theoretically could give him the momentum to become a top-tier candidate. But, his objective simply wasn’t coming to fruition. Though the governor was making some progress in Iowa – at least one poll had him as high as six percent – it was clear that his effort was falling short of what he needed to continue.

Therefore, 14 candidates remain, still the largest of all past Republican presidential fields. The Jindal exit won’t much change the flow of the campaign because he was not a factor anywhere but arguably Iowa. Never making the primetime debate, and his sagging popularity in his home state where even the Republican nominee to succeed him, Sen. David Vitter, is attempting to tie Democrat John Bel Edwards to his faltering Administration combined to place him in an untenable position for the national race. Hence, the obstacles proved too large for him to become viable. Continue reading

Bera Challenged Again in CA-7

Nov. 18, 2015 — Democratic Sacramento Congressman Ami Bera is no stranger to close elections, and it appears he’s headed toward another in 2016.

Three years ago, Dr. Bera defeated then-Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) in a 52-48 percent win, a spread of just under 9,200 votes. His first re-election was even closer, a 1,455-vote margin against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-CA-3) who was attempting a political comeback. In both instances, Bera trailed in the Election Day vote but his strength among the early and absentee ballots, which, in California usually accounts for about half of the vote, brought him the victories.

Now, his presumptive opponent will be Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (R) who officially announced his challenge to Rep. Bera as the week began. Expect this to again be a highly competitive campaign in a congressional district that hosted the most expensive 2014 campaign in the United States. The two candidates combined to spend over $9 million, and there was an additional $13 million expended from outside organizations. This, in a media market that ranks as the 20th largest in the country.

The 7th District is fully contained within Sacramento County, encompassing the eastern and southern portions of the region. In effect, this district claims virtually the entire county except for the city of Sacramento and the small delta agricultural area. It combines the Sacramento suburban area along with rich agricultural lands and contains the cities of Folsom and Elk Grove.

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An Arizona Senate Update; Louisiana Governor Polling

Nov. 17, 2015 — The Rocky Mountain Poll, from the Behavior Research Center (Oct. 24-Nov. 5; 577 registered Arizona voters), brings us the Arizona Senate race’s most recent snapshot both for the Republican primary and Sen. John McCain’s (R) general election pairing.

Though the sample period of 13 days is unacceptably high, therefore creating a large polling error factor, the results at least provide us a reference point from which to begin serious monitoring of this campaign.

According to the results, Sen. McCain leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) by an uncomfortably small margin, 37-31 percent, just a six-point spread. From McCain’s perspective, the poll’s most troubling aspect is his general election support figure topping out at only 37 percent. This could tie back to the large error factor, and because the pollsters gave the uncommitted/undecided response equivalent status to voicing a preference for one of the two major party candidates. In fact, 32 percent of the respondents said they are undecided. Therefore, not choosing a candidate became an easy and acceptable response.

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A Retirement Trio

Nov. 16, 2015 — Three retirement announcements, and how the process of filling the vacancies looks to play out:

CA-20

Twelve-term Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), who represents the exclusive Monterey Peninsula in coastal California, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. The 74-year-old veteran congressman was first elected in a 1993 special election, after serving 12-plus years in the California state assembly.

The district includes all of Monterey and San Benito Counties, and portions of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. The 20th is heavily Democratic, as President Obama’s twin 71 percent victories here reveal. Under California’s top-two political primary system, it is probable that two Democrats will advance from the June primary to the general election.

Rep. Farr came to Congress when President Clinton tabbed this region’s congressman, then-Rep. Leon Panetta (D), to serve as his Director of the Office of Management & Budget. During his tenure in the House, Panetta had been chairman of the House Budget Committee. Now, Panetta’s son, Jimmy Panetta, a Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, is a potential congressional candidate.

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The Other Debate: “Liar”, “Holier Than Thou”

Nov. 13, 2015 — Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate was not the only political forum attracting public attention. In Louisiana, gubernatorial candidates Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) squared off in a televised medium in preparation for the Nov. 21 general election to elect a successor for term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

After both candidates were trying to distance themselves from the unpopular Jindal, to the point where it became Vitter attacking Edwards for supporting five of the Republican governor’s eight budgets, the debate’s end ignited verbal fire. It was then that the candidates tussled over tactics involving political trackers, private investigators, and a particularly controversial ad (above) that Edwards is running against Vitter, claiming he skipped a veterans vote in order to make contact with a prostitute. The negative ad is bold in today’s age of campaigning in that it comes directly from the Edwards political committee and not from an outside organization supporting the Democratic candidate.

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Democracy Corps: Four-State Senate Data

Nov. 12, 2015 — The Democracy Corps, a liberal political research group founded and run by James Carville and national Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, just released their new study on four pivotal Senate races. The organization, Women’s Voices Women Votes Action Fund is a co-sponsor of this particular survey. Though the analysis spin was pro-Democratic Party for the upcoming election, the actual numbers suggest something that’s not quite as conclusive.

The purpose of the four state poll — conducted during the Oct. 24-28 period of 400 likely voters in each domain — Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — was to demonstrate the power of what they are terming the “RAE Coalition” (defined as the progressive “Rising American Electorate”). The demographic groups comprising this subset are unmarried women, people of color, and millennials (those born in the early 80s to the early 2000s). The premise is that this coalition now claims a majority of people in each of these states. The Democrats’ problem is that the aforementioned demographic segments have low voter participation rates.

Interestingly, the Democracy Corps poll, as it relates to ballot questions for each tested state, actually produced better Republican numbers than most other recent polls. This is particularly true in Ohio and Colorado.

The pollsters, Greenberg Rosner Quinlan Research, developed a two-way race in each state and, in two instances (Colorado and Florida), picking potential candidates who may, or may not, be on a general election statewide ballot.

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In Arkansas, Dems Concede Three of Four Races

Nov. 11, 2015 — Candidate filing closed in Arkansas Monday night, the second state to qualify their upcoming slate of political aspirants, and already Democrats have virtually conceded all of the state’s congressional seats for the 2016 election. Three Republican representatives: Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), Steve Womack (R-AR-3), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4), will run without Democratic opposition next fall. This, in a state where the Dems controlled three of the four congressional positions as late as 2010. Republicans captured all four districts only in 2012.

The one incumbent facing general election competition will be freshman Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock), in the 2nd District. Though this seat is marginally Republican today, it has elected many more Democrats than Republicans throughout its history. French likely will face former Little Rock School Board president Dianne Curry (D) in the general election.

Representatives Crawford, Womack, and Westerman face only Libertarian opposition, and all three are therefore guaranteed re-election. Rep. Hill has also drawn Republican primary competition, in the person of educator Brock Olree. Rep. Hill is a prohibitive favorite to win both re-nomination and re-election.

The lack of any Democratic congressional ticket tells us that the party establishment could not convince prospective candidates that former Secretary of State and Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton will be a major draw at the presidential nominee come next November. The lack of a strong undercard also says that the state party leaders, and possibly those at the national level, are conceding former President Bill Clinton’s home state without a fight. The trends in the past three elections have been so strongly Republican that it is unlikely such a swing will begin to sway back to the Democrats anytime soon.

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Pennsylvania’s Rep. Pitts to Retire;
A Rundown of Ala., Ark. Filings

Nov. 10, 2015 — On Friday, veteran Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, first elected to the US House in 1996 after spending 24 consecutive years in the state legislature, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Pitts’ retirement means that 27 seats are now open in the 2016 election cycle — 16 from Republican districts compared to 11 Democratic.

The congressman serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is fifth in seniority and chairs the Health Subcommittee. His 16th District is anchored in the cities of Reading and Lancaster, though the congressman hails from Kennett Square just north of Wilmington, Del. The seat is reliably Republican, though the Democrats could become competitive with the right candidate. Mitt Romney carried the district 52-46 percent in 2012, but then-Sen. Barack Obama slipped passed John McCain here four years earlier, 50-49 percent.

The name most mentioned as a potential successor is Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker. Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin (R) is also a prospective candidate, but reports suggest that he is more likely to seek Smucker’s open state Senate seat should the latter run for Congress.

Alabama, Arkansas Filings

Alabama — With early presidential nomination events occurring in March, some states are holding their 2016 primaries concurrently. Two of those, Alabama and Arkansas, feature the earliest filing periods in the country. Alabama closed Friday, while Arkansas ended Monday.

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Worsening News for Vitter in Louisiana; Webster’s Landing Zone

Nov. 9, 2015 — We’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing and reporting upon the Louisiana governor’s race, and with good reason. It isn’t often that we see a sitting US senator who attempts to run for his state’s gubernatorial office fail to win. Yet that very scenario may occur later this month when Sen. David Vitter (R) attempts to switch offices.

The news got even worse for the embattled candidate yesterday when Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who placed fourth in the jungle primary last week, publicly endorsed Democrat John Bel Edwards. Dardenne’s message was obviously personal. “The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term. David Vitter’s governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign,” he said with Edwards standing next to him at the podium.

As we’ve repeatedly cited, the governor’s race has been trending badly for Vitter during the past two months and the chances of a Democratic upset now appear good. Therefore, with his Senate seat in the cycle next year, what will happen to his federal position should Vitter lose the governor’s race?

It is reasonable to believe that should a Vitter loss occur, the state’s 2016 Senate election will become a more viable Democratic target opportunity. Originally believed to be a safe seat for a Vitter re-election, a new campaign involving the embattled senator would obviously be a difficult one should he seek another term.

To complicate matters, at least two members of the state’s congressional delegation, representatives Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) and John Fleming (R-LA-4), have already expressed interest in running statewide next year. Both, among others, are already vying behind the scenes to replace Vitter by appointment should he actually be elected governor.

Since Vitter is already willing to relinquish the Senate seat in exchange for becoming governor, it is reasonable to assume that, should he be unsuccessful on Nov. 21, he will not seek re-election. Such would actually be the best Republican Party scenario, because the state and national political leaders could then start anew with a fresh candidate, presumably either Boustany, Fleming, or another elected official, who could run free of the negative baggage that Vitter obviously possesses.

FL-10; 11

We have reported on several occasions that representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13), Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), and Daniel Webster (R-FL-10), will be left without seats once the new Florida redistricting plan is formally adopted. The state Supreme Court will likely take final action on Nov. 10.

Jolly is already abandoning his House re-election effort, and instead is running for the state’s open Senate seat. Graham says she will make a decision about her own political future after the new lines are officially adopted. It is unlikely that she will run for the House, and she, too, could hop into the Senate contest, or sit out a cycle and challenge for a statewide position in 2018.

Rep. Webster attracted a great deal of attention in the past few weeks by running for House Speaker even though his 10th District seat is sure to go Democratic, this by his own admission. But now, Webster may be finding a political life preserver. Rep. Rich Nugent’s (R) announcement this week that he will not seek re-election in the 11th District, which the court generally left intact as a Republican seat, is now open for the 2016 election. The 11th borders Webster’s Orlando-anchored district before moving northwest stretching as far as the city of Ocala. It is conceivable that Webster would have a fighting chance to win here in a Republican primary. He does have a home within the confines of this CD, which gives him some background within the region.

Earlier this week Webster confirmed that he is at least considering hopping into the 11th, likely his best option from which to continue his congressional career. But, it is certain that he will attract primary opposition from sitting and former elected officials who either already or previously represent large chunks of the current district.

Odd-Year Election Recap;
Louisiana Governor’s Poll

Nov. 6, 2015 — Looking beyond the vote tallies in Tuesday night’s odd-year election we find that at least two voting patterns reappeared. First, we again see, as has been the case since the beginning of this century, that Republicans have a clear advantage in low-turnout elections while the Democrats do much better when participation factors are higher.

This same situation was evident in the pre-Reagan era of the 60s and 70s, but changed after the 1980 election. During the 80s and some of the 90s, it was Republicans who generally performed better when turnouts went higher.

In Kentucky, for example, Republican Matt Bevin scored a surprising 53-44 percent victory and, even though voter turnout increased by more than 150,000 people when compared to the last gubernatorial contest of four years ago, the participation rate was only 30.4 percent. Tuesday, just under 975,000 voters cast ballots in the race for governor. By contrast, the 2012 Kentucky presidential vote reached near the 1.8 million range, a turnout percentage closer to 60 percent of the registered voter universe for that particular election.

We also saw Republicans perform well in Virginia, where they held their majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates, losing no seats. The Mississippi races went heavily Republican with Gov. Phil Bryant (R) scoring a 67 percent re-election victory, the GOP taking most of the statewide races, and gaining a net one seat on the entire state legislative scorecard, within an aggregate of 174 (52 Senate seats; 122 House districts) electoral contests.

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