Tag Archives: Bill Nelson

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The Stretch Drive Begins for Senate, House Races

October is here and the political stretch drive is beginning, so it is appropriate to examine where the Senate and House campaigns stand from an aggregate party division perspective.

For most of the election cycle, Republicans appeared to be on the precipice of capturing the Senate majority, taking it away from Harry Reid and the Democrats. But, new swings in momentum show a more Democratic trend.

Recently, Democratic incumbents in Florida and Ohio have gained strength and open seat contender Tammy Baldwin has seized the initiative in the open Wisconsin campaign. Sunshine State polls have been erratic, but Sen. Bill Nelson now seems to have built a consistent and sustained advantage. First-term Sen. Sherrod Brown has also seen the polls ebb and flow, but his mid to high single digit edge over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel is stabilizing, at least for the short term. Baldwin’s ad offensive and Republican former governor Tommy Thompson’s recent comments about dismantling entitlements has posted the Democratic nominee to a slight lead.

After some flirtation with breaking toward the Democrats, the pure toss-up campaigns in Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg), and Virginia (ex-senator George Allen and former governor Tim Kaine) have re-established themselves as dead heat campaigns. All three of these races will likely go down to the wire.

Additionally, there is movement toward Republicans in at least two long shot states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while Democrats are making Arizona a race. By most polls, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) still leads Republican Linda McMahon, but the gap is closing and the latter has gained the offensive.

The sleepy Pennsylvania Senate race has finally arisen, and Republican Tom Smith’s recent ad blast appears to be bringing him to within a single-digit deficit of first-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. Democrats are still likely to prevail here and in Connecticut, but there is no question that Republican candidates in both places have created some current positive momentum.

Democrat Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General, is pulling much closer to Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in their open seat battle according to most polls. As in Connecticut and Pennsylvania for the Democratic candidates, Flake still must be considered the favorite to prevail.

The Missouri campaign between Sen. Claire McCaskill who, at the beginning of the cycle appeared to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent standing for re-election, and the mistake-ridden Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is still in toss-up territory. Most believe, however, that activity in the final stretch will favor the Democratic Senator.

Republicans were thought early to be clear favorites in North Dakota and Indiana, but polling is still indicating that both of these campaigns remain close. The GOP appears to be a lock to convert Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) open Nebraska seat, and Independent Angus King continues to maintain the inside track in retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine, though the numbers are closing.

Today, Democrats look to be ahead in enough states to give them a 49-47 aggregate lead in the Senate, with four races in the toss-up column; three of which are currently Democratically held. Hence, the majority remains in abeyance.

The House has been the most stable of the federal political entities in the 2012 cycle. Post-census redistricting will prove to be the determining factor here and that favors the Republicans. It appears the partisan swing will deviate between a +/- three seat margin in terms of aggregate gains and losses for the two parties, but Republican control seems secure.

Democrats could be gaining as many as three seats in Florida and potentially the same or more in Illinois. Republicans are positioned to score similarly in North Carolina. New York and California remain as wild cards.

While the GOP appeared to be in position to gain seats up until the last two weeks, Democrats are enjoying a swing in some House races, too. The best estimate indicates Republicans will comfortably retain control, but Democrats could make an aggregate gain in the low single digits.

Today, it appears that 233 seats are safely or trending Republican as compared to 186 headed to the Democrats. Sixteen seats are considered too close to call, with 11 of the 16 being in GOP currently held districts.

Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida Wavering

Sen. Bill Nelson

From Florida, the nation’s quintessential swing state, who would expect anything but close political contests? Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Sunshine State Senate race is again rendering new survey data suggesting yet another hotly contested statewide campaign.

Two polls were just released yesterday, each projecting very different results in the US Senate contest, which is also nothing new for this race. Much as we saw in the Hawaii Democratic primary, almost every publicly released survey shows a radically different result when compared with the study released directly before.

Often times, conflicting polls will indicate a very close race because the electorate is volatile. In this case, we have individual polls showing a very different cumulative Senate race result, but consistent patterns within their own particular sampling universes when testing other races and individual approval ratios.

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 31-Sept. 2; 1,548 likely Florida voters) gives Sen. Bill Nelson (D) a 45-38 percent lead over Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). But Gravis Marketing, on a one-day (Sept. 2) automated survey of 1,288 likely Florida voters, reveals a much tighter race. According to Gravis, Nelson’s lead is only one point, 43-42 percent.

The PPP sample projects a decidedly negative impression of Rep. Mack, suggesting that the adverse attacks against him have taken their toll. By a ratio of 27:45 percent, the respondents voiced an unfavorable impression of the Ft. Myers congressman, who is the son of a popular former Florida senator. But, incumbent Nelson doesn’t fare much better. Asked whether the sampling universe approves or disapproves of the job he’s doing in office, the respondents registered a 35:42 percent overall negative impression.

Gravis didn’t test job or personal approval, but they did assess the presidential race. According to their sampling universe, Mitt Romney leads President Obama 48-47 percent. The firm also tested presidential preference within the two gender groups. The sample stated that Florida men favor Romney 54-42 percent. Women break for the President 51-44 percent. All of these numbers are in range with other polls, though the Romney share of the female vote projection is a bit higher than typically reported from other surveys. The fact that Gravis is consistent with the others on the presidential race and in range on the gender segmentation gives greater credibility to their conclusion suggesting that the Nelson-Mack contest is a dead heat.

The PPP survey did not test the Obama-Romney campaign, but they did ask other questions. Many had to do with former governor Charlie Crist and his impending switch from being an Independent to becoming a Democrat. You will remember Crist was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and attempted to seek the GOP nomination for Senate in 2010, but when it became evident he could not overtake Marco Rubio for the party nomination, he bolted and ran unsuccessfully as an Independent.

Now, it is likely that Crist will become a Democrat and oppose GOP Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. The survey data pertaining to the party-switching former governor does little to verify PPP’s Senatorial numbers, because voting trends are not relevant with the Crist situation due to the impressions and attitudes expressed about him being personal in nature. Therefore, with the supporting data that is available it is difficult to gauge the PPP Senate ballot test reliability.

Sen. Nelson may very well hold a lead beyond the margin of error against Rep. Mack, but verifiable indications still point to a race that will get much closer before it is finally decided in November.

Scott Brown (R-MA)

Missouri Aside, Senate Polls Break Toward GOP

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)

A spate of new US Senate polls is giving Republican Party leaders some solace in the face of the Todd Akin debacle in Missouri.

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 16-19; 1,115 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Sen. Scott Brown (R) to a 49-44 percent lead over consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren (D). This is the senator’s largest lead in months. Most recent polls showed him either trailing by a point or two, or tied.

Rasmussen Reports (Aug. 20; 500 likely Montana voters) gives Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) a 47-43 percent edge over Sen. Jon Tester (D).

Michigan-based Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 16; 1,733 likely Michigan voters), for the first time, posts challenger Pete Hoekstra (R) to a 48-46 percent advantage against two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).

PPP also released data for the Wisconsin Senate race, as did Marquette University Law School. According to the former (Aug. 16-19; 1,308 likely Wisconsin voters), Republican ex-governor Tommy Thompson has the upper hand over Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) by a five-point, 49-44 percent, spread. The latter survey (Aug. 16-19; 706 registered Wisconsin voters) shows Thompson with an even larger lead, 50-41 percent.

And, as we reported yesterday, Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 17; 1,503 likely Florida voters) gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) his largest lead of the campaign, 51-43 percent, over two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

If the patterns in each of these campaigns were to hold, the Republicans would surely capture the Senate majority and see their conference grow to 52 members and possibly beyond. Much will change, however, between now and Nov. 6.

Several Stunning Polls

Across the nation, some eye-opening new polls have cast several races in a different light. Except for the Missouri debacle involving Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) and his quest for the US Senate seat, which has blown up on the Republicans over their candidate’s rape-related abortion comments, some other recently released data is decidedly breaking the GOP’s way.

In Florida, Foster McCollum White & Associates, in conjunction with the public affairs firm Douglas Fulmer & Associates, surveyed 1,503 registered Florida voters on Aug. 17 and found not only Mitt Romney leading President Obama by a heretofore unheard of 54-40 percent count, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his strong Aug. 14 Republican primary victory, also jumped out to a 51-43 percent advantage over his opponent, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Mack has proved to be a stronger than anticipated candidate, thus paving the way for what is becoming a highly competitive campaign. This is the Republicans’ best Florida poll to date.

From an internal campaign survey taken over a month ago (OnMessage; July 16-17; 400 registered Colorado 7th District voters) for candidate Joe Coors Jr. (R) but just released now, the Republican challenger leads veteran Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) 45-36 percent. No data has shown anything close to this margin so far and the spread here doesn’t fit the district’s normal voting patterns. More data showing a similar trend will have to be released before such a result is confirmed as being accurate. Expect the Perlmutter campaign to shortly counter with a different set of numbers.

In Nevada’s new 4th District, another seat created via reapportionment, Public Opinion Strategies (Aug. 7-9; 400 likely NV-4 voters) polling for the American Action Network, gives GOP nominee Danny Tarkanian a 46-35 percent lead over state House Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D). Like the set of numbers mentioned above in Colorado, these numbers seem to paint a more rosy Republican picture than how the region normally votes. A Democrat candidate should have the advantage in this northern Las Vegas area CD, so more will have to be learned before such a result is fully accepted.

Finally, countering last week’s internal campaign poll from New York GOP nominee Chris Collins, which showed the Republican jumping out to a double-digit lead, Siena College (Aug. 12-14; 628 registered NY-27 voters) finds the former Erie County Executive to be leading freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) 47-45 percent. Since the new 27th CD is the safest Republican seat in New York, it is plausible that the Democrat incumbent would be trailing here. This race is a hotly competitive campaign and a must-win for New York Republicans.

The Senate Scorecard

With most of the primary season now behind us and all of the Senate match-ups in place, sans Arizona and Wyoming, it’s time to examine the national outlook.

After seeing several competitive primaries decided in the past several weeks, we now sit on the cusp of the final short sprint to Election Day with Senate control still considered to be in “toss-up” mode. As we know, 33 Senate races are standing for election in November with 11 of those seats being open due to retirement and defeat, thus giving more conversion opportunities for each side. Of the 33 Senate races, a little under half of them are considered safe for the respective incumbent and, according to our count, six of the races are rated as toss-ups (Ind., Mass., Mo., Mont., Va., and Wis.).

If the Democrats were to win all of the “lean Dem” and toss-up races, and Independent former governor Angus King clinches the Maine race and decides to caucus with them, the Senate Democrats would actually add a net of three seats to their conference, bringing the total majority number to 56. Early in the election cycle it looked extremely unlikely that the Democrats would pick up any seats, however, as this year has unfolded, more Republican-held seats have come into play and some of the Democratic seats initially thought to be potentially vulnerable like Connecticut, Washington, and Pennsylvania are all trending more solidly leftward. Democrats also are in much better shape in North Dakota, as former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp continues to perform well against at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), who began the race as a big favorite.

Conversely, if Republicans sweep the toss-ups and “lean R” races they would have a net gain of eight seats, bringing their total to 55 seats, even if King wins and caucuses with the Democrats. Thus, 56D to 55R appear to be the extreme swing parameters for the two parties.

While most political pundits still can’t say with any certainty who is going to control the Senate come January, it is becoming obvious that the ratio will be close. Neither party has so far broken out with the kind of drive to create a sweep, and several other campaigns have unfolded differently than originally predicted. It seems when one party makes a gain or falls behind, the other experiences a similar action, thus keeping the balance between the two in check.

For example, the political climate has become better for Republican candidates in Nebraska and Florida, while Democrats are approaching lock-down positions in Connecticut and Washington.

In the Cornhusker State we see that former senator Bob Kerrey’s return to politics after a 12-year absence while living in New York City has not been well received. GOP nominee Deb Fischer consistently holds polling leads that exceed the 18-20 point range. The best poll, from a Nebraska Democratic perspective, is the June Garin Hart Yang survey that put Kerrey within 12 points of his Republican opponent.

Turning to the Sunshine State, two-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who has a substantial campaign resource advantage over his new official Republican opponent, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his solid primary victory earlier in the week, has failed to establish a firm lead. Polling consistently shows this race moving much closer to toss-up status, and while Sen. Nelson maintains a slight advantage, his edge is minimal and this campaign is quickly becoming as hot as a typical Florida summer.

In Connecticut earlier this week, GOP primary voters, by an overwhelming 73-27 percent margin, again fielded their losing 2010 candidate, former wrestling company executive Linda McMahon, this time to compete against newly nominated Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). The two are vying for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s open seat. In recent polling, Murphy has opened up a strong lead when paired against McMahon. Former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) consistently polled better in general election match-ups with Murphy, but he fared poorly in his nomination battle. With President Obama sure to run well in Connecticut and thus setting the tone for the entire Nutmeg State Democratic ticket, Rep. Murphy has established himself as the clear front-runner. Seeing him fall would now be considered a major upset.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, who serves the Evergreen State of Washington, has historically not been the most popular of incumbents. Her re-election prospects have improved considerably, however, since drawing a second-tier opponent in the person of state Sen. Michael Baumgartner. The senator placed almost 26 percentage points ahead of Baumgartner in the jungle primary earlier this month. While Washington originally had the potential of becoming a competitive race, Sen. Cantwell has considerably strengthened her position and this contest is virtually out of reach for the GOP.

As Election Day draws nearer, we continue to see a Senate that is still very much in play for both parties. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe, likely, or lean winners in 18 states, while Republicans have that same status in nine. This means the Democrats are hovering around the 48 mark and the GOP is closer to 46. Of the six toss-ups, Democrats currently hold four states and Republicans two. Remember, Democrats must defend 23 of the in-cycle seats versus just 10 for their counterparts.

Poll Results: Fla., Wis., Conn., Minn.

Voters in four states went to the polls yesterday and two more congressional incumbents were denied renomination.

 Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6), who was placed in Florida’s new 3rd District as a result of redistricting, was upended in a crowded primary, losing 34-33 percent to veterinarian Ted Yoho who spent less than $400,000 to win the race. The new 3rd, which stretches from the Gainesville area all the way to the Georgia border, is safely Republican so it is a virtual certainty that Yoho will be joining the freshman class. Rep. Stearns, who ranks third in seniority on the Energy & Commerce Committee and chairs its Oversight & Investigations subcommittee, was originally elected in 1988 and was running for a 13th term. He becomes the 12th incumbent to lose renomination and fifth in a non-paired situation.

Just to the south in the new 7th District, Rep. John Mica (R) easily defeated freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL-24) despite representing fewer constituents than she in the newly configured CD. Mica’s winning percentage was 61-39 percent. Polling had been predicting a big Mica win for weeks, which clearly came to fruition last night.

Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) turned back a late challenge from ex-representative Dave Weldon (R-FL-15) and two others, securing a strong 59 percent of the vote. He wins the right to challenge two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in what looks to be a very competitive political battle.

Former state Senate minority leader Al Lawson who came within two points of defeating then-Rep. Allen Boyd in the 2010 Democratic primary, won the party nomination last night and will now square-off with 2nd District freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R). The nature of the district favors a Southerland re-election. In the new open 6th District, attorney and Iraq War veteran Ron DeSantis, backed with Club for Growth support, won a big Republican primary victory in the Daytona Beach seat and will claim the safe GOP region in November. An upset occurred in the Orlando area’s 9th District as Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones lost the GOP nomination to attorney Todd Long. Quinones was being touted as a Republican challenger who could defeat former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-8), who is attempting a comeback in this largely Hispanic and Democratic district.

Other Florida primary winners are Rep. Allen West (R-FL-22) in the new 18th District, and radio talk show host and Club for Growth-backed Trey Radel in Connie Mack’s open seat (the Mack family had also endorsed Radel). Chauncey Goss, son of former Rep. and CIA Director Porter Goss, placed second in a crowded field. In the new 22nd District, also as expected, former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel (D) will face former state House majority leader Adam Hasner (R) in a race that will favor the Democrat. In the new 26th District, former two-time congressional candidate Joe Garcia won a decisive Democratic primary victory and will again face freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-FL-25).

Turning to the hotly contested Wisconsin Republican Senatorial primary, as expected by most, former governor Tommy Thompson won the nomination even though almost two-thirds of the Republican primary voters chose another candidate. As is often the case in crowded fields, the best-known candidate often wins without majority support. Thompson defeated businessman Eric Hovde, former representative Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald by a 34-31-23-12 percent margin. The former four-term governor and US Health and Human Services secretary will now face Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) in a highly competitive general election that could conceivably determine which of the two parties controls the Senate in the next Congress.

• Connecticut voters also chose nominees in their open Senate race. As expected, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) easily defeated former secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz 67-33 percent. On the Republican side, 2010 nominee Linda McMahon crushed former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4), 73-27 percent. Murphy is rated as a clear favorite in the general election. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) is retiring.

In the House, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty upset state House Speaker Chris Donovan who was besieged with problems over campaign finance irregularities in the open Democratic primary. Esty will be favored against the new Republican nominee, state Sen. Andrew Roraback in what has the potential of developing into a competitive campaign. The winner replaces Rep. Murphy.

Finally, in Minnesota, state Rep. Kurt Bills won the Republican nomination and essentially the right to lose to first-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) in November. On the House side, all incumbents won renomination and former Rep. Rick Nolan (D), who left office in 1980, will challenge freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) in the Iron Range 8th District. Nolan won a 39-32 percent victory over former state Sen. Tarryl Clark who actually was the 2010 Democratic nominee in the 6th District against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). It was clear that Iron Range Democrats rejected Clark’s carpet bagging maneuver. The Cravaack-Nolan race will be hotly contested in November.

Four More States Vote Tomorrow

Voters head to the polls on Tuesday in four states with each featuring some close primary elections.

Connecticut voters will determine nominees for their open Senate seat (Sen. Joe Lieberman retiring). On the Republican side, 2010 Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon looks to top her opponent, former representative Chris Shays (R-CT-4). The Democrats feature Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) who is favored over his intra-party opponent, former secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz. The Democrat nominee becomes the decided general election favorite on Wednesday morning.

In the Connecticut congressional races, Murphy’s open 5th District features a tough battle among Democrats as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan has been bloodied by all sides in this campaign but is still rated as the favorite. He battles PR executive Dan Roberti and former state representative Elizabeth Esty. For Republicans, 2010 lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and moderate state Sen. Andrew Roraback appear to be the top contenders. The Democratic nominee will have the inside track in November.

• Turning to the Sunshine State of Florida, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is the prohibitive favorite to secure the GOP Senatorial nomination and oppose two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the fall.

Redistricting has changed the shape of many races across the state, and several competitive races will be decided tomorrow. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) is trying to repel a challenge for the new 3rd District, of which he currently represents only 66 percent of the new territory. Opponents include state Sen. Steve Oelrich, veterinarian Ted Yoho, and Clay County Clerk of Court James Jett. Because of his overwhelming financial advantage, Stearns is favored. The new FL-6, which contains 72 percent of Rep. John Mica’s (R-FL-7) current constituency, is currently open and features a competitive Republican primary. The stronger candidates include state Rep. Fred Costello, attorney Ron DeSantis, chain restaurant former CEO Craig Miller, and Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark.

In the Orlando area’s 7th District, another incumbent pairing is occurring, this time between Mica and freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL-24). Though Adams represents a bit more of the new district (51 percent of the constituency to 42 percent for Mica), the veteran congressman and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman is likely to prevail. In the new 9th District, Republicans are fielding four candidates but most of the hype centers around Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones, who is expected to give former representative Alan Grayson (D-FL-8) a strong challenge in November despite this being a Democratic district.

Another open and safely Republican Ft. Myers area seat yields a formidable list of Republican candidates, including state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, Chauncey Goss, son of ex-representative and CIA Director Porter Goss, state Rep. Paige Kreegal, and conservative radio talk show host Trey Radel. Tomorrow’s winner will become the new 19th District congressman. Finally, in District 26, the “lean Republican” seat of freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-FL-25), several Democrats are competing for what could become a valuable nomination. The two strongest candidates are businesswoman Gloria Romero Roses and former two-time congressional nominee Joe Garcia.

• The most interesting Minnesota race comes in freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack’s (R) 8th District. The strongly Democratic nature of the seat makes this a highly competitive race in the fall, and is currently considered as a “toss-up.” Cravaack is challenged to his left by three viable candidates, including former 6th District nominee Tarryl Clark, former US representative Rick Nolan, and Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson. Clark is the best funded candidate but lacks any local Iron Range ties as her previous congressional attempt was against Rep. Michele Bachmann in a Twin Cities suburban district. Nolan, who left Congress in 1980, enjoys local Democratic establishment support but hasn’t run for public office in 34 years.

Wisconsin is a state that has gotten plenty of attention during the past few days because of Rep. Paul Ryan’s, (R-WI-1) selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee. The Badger State features a highly competitive Republican Senate primary to be decided tomorrow in plurality fashion, featuring former four-term governor Tommy Thompson. A “toss-up” general election will begin for the winner on Wednesday morning against Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), the consensus Democratic candidate.

Top Wisconsin congressional races occur in the 2nd District and the northern 7th and 8th CDs. Rep. Baldwin vacating her seat leaves the Democratic primary to decide her successor. The battle is between two state representatives, Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys. Freshmen Rep. Sean Duffy (R), defending his marginal WI-7 seat, will be challenged by former state senator Pat Kreitlow (D). The contest favors the Republican by only a slim margin. Freshman Rep. Reid Ribble defends his WI-8 seat against business consultant Jamie Wall. Voting history makes the new incumbent a decided favorite. Keep an eye on these two races as the general election draws closer.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Several Races Tighten: Fla., Ohio, Calif.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Four new polls were released on Friday and each showed developing races that are becoming close. In yet another study that depicts Rep. Connie Mack IV
(R-FL-14) performing very well against two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Survey USA produces numbers reflecting a hot Florida Senate race. According to S-USA (July 17-19; 647 likely Florida voters), Mack actually leads the incumbent Democrat 48-42 percent. The same sample gives President Obama a 48-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney, telling us there is no Republican skew in the respondent sample.

Since May 1, eight public polls of this Florida race have been released from six different pollsters (Quinnipiac University conducted three of the surveys as part of their monthly polling program). In five of the eight Nelson leads. In the other three, challenger Mack has the advantage. The swing goes all the way from 49-36 percent in the senator’s favor (Public Policy Polling; May 31-June 3) to Mack leading 46-37 percent (Rasmussen Reports, July 9). This provides us a net curve of 22 points. Such a large polling variance often reveals an extremely volatile campaign with an electorate willing to change course on a dime. There has been enough polling to tell us that the Florida Senate race features true competition and the thought that Sen. Nelson would have a relatively easy ride to re-election has now been firmly dispelled.

Staying in the Senate, Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Ohio voters) projects that the Ohio race is continuing upon a competitive path. The latest RR data gives first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 46-42 percent lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The senator has maintained at least a small lead for most of the previous 12-month period. In the presidential race, this Rasmussen sample returned a 47-46 percent spread in the president’s favor.

Other polls have shown much stronger leads for Sen. Brown. Seven surveys have been taken of the Ohio Senate race since the beginning of May, from four different pollsters. All show Brown ahead. His advantage ranges from the four-point lead in the current Rasmussen poll all the way to sixteen (50-34 percent; Quinnipiac University, June 19-25).

Polling also indicates that two southern California congressional campaigns are very close. In the new 24th Congressional District, in what appears to be a pure 50/50 toss-up seat for incumbent Rep. Lois Capps (D), Public Opinion Strategies, polling for Republican Abel Maldonado’s campaign (June 26-28; 400 registered CA-24 voters just now released), projects a two-point race with the incumbent leading 48-46 percent. In the jungle primary, Capps received 46.4 percent, Maldonado obtained 29.7 percent, and Republican Chris Mitchum, son of late actor Robert Mitchum, garnered 21.5 percent. With the combined Republican primary vote exceeding a majority of the ballots cast (51.2 percent), the general election battle is clearly becoming a toss-up.

To the southeast in Long Beach, another survey indicates a close race developing in a newly created open seat, numbered District 47. Here, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong qualified for the general election with the former scoring 33.8 percent to the latter’s 29.4 percent in a field of eight candidates.

Though this district sets up well for the Democrats, a Probolsky Research survey for the DeLong campaign (June 28-July 3, 400 registered CA-47 voters – released just now) gives Lowenthal only a 44-41 percent advantage as the general election campaign begins in earnest.

This race merits attention and should be considered a lower-level upset opportunity for Republicans. Lowenthal has been underwhelming on the fundraising front, raising just over $511,000, which pales in comparison to DeLong’s $862,908. Gov. Jerry Brown carried this seat 50-41 percent; Sen. Barbara Boxer won it 49-41 percent; and Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris lost the district 39-45 percent. The Democrats’ voter registration advantage is a little over 10 percent more than Republicans. This campaign carries a Lean Democratic rating with movement toward the toss-up column.

Conflicting Polls in Ohio, Florida Senate Races

New polls are in the public domain from Ohio and Florida with some very divergent results, particularly relating to Ohio.

Within the same timing realm, Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports sampled Ohio voters and questioned them about the upcoming US Senate race between first term incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) and newly chosen Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer. Quinnipiac conducted their survey during the March 20-26 period and interviewed 1,246 registered Ohio voters. Rasmussen launched a one-day poll, March 26, and questioned 500 likely voters. Quinnipiac gathers its responses through live telephone interviews. Rasmussen Reports employs an automated system.

Therefore, the two methodologies are quite different. Many polling analysts question Quinnipiac’s long sampling period, while believing Rasmussen is not in the field long enough. Most pollsters attempt to complete their surveys in three calling days. This allows for a compact “three-day track,” which can help detect sudden movement relating to particular happenings. Both pollsters weight their answers to bring samples in line with demographic complexion, political party disposition, and voting trend history. Yet, as you will see, their results are diametrically different.

The latest Q-Poll shows Brown leading Mandel 46-36 percent, which is similar to their Feb. 7-12 poll that posted the incumbent to a 48-35 percent advantage. But Rasmussen Reports reveals a totally different finding, placing the two candidates in a 43-43 percent tie. Several other polls have shown this race to be close, but most have reported margins closer to the Q-Poll. Since both candidates are well-funded and Ohio will be such a battleground for the presidential election, expect this race to be close by Election Day regardless of how the two candidates are positioned today.

In Florida, after a series of polls revealed the race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) to be close, Quinnipiac’s March 20-26 poll (1,228 registered Florida voters) is posting the Democrat to a 44-36 percent lead. This is a seven-point swing in Nelson’s favor when compared to the January Q-Poll (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) that gave the senator only a one-point lead, 41-40 percent.

There are a couple of reasons explaining the swing. First, the January Q-Poll sampling universe was more favorable to Republicans. In that sample, 35.1 percent of the respondents self-identified as being members of the GOP, versus only 26.6 percent saying they were Democrats. The remainder, 38.1 percent, claimed to be Independents or “other.” The March sample was more in the Democrats’ favor. In this group, 31.0 percent described themselves as Republicans and 31.9 percent as Democrats. Independents and others comprised 40.3 percent of the respondent pool. The actual breakdown of Florida registered voters is 36.1 percent Republican; 40.5 percent Democrat; and 23.3 percent Independent and “Other.”

But the sample pool is only one reason why Nelson may be gaining support. Former interim Sen. George LeMieux, opposing Mack in the Republican primary, is on television and radio with attack ads, attempting to distinguish Rep. Mack from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R), and likening the former to renegade actor Charlie Sheen because of reported bar fights in the younger Mack’s past and episodes of what the LeMieux ads call the congressman’s “road rage.” The swing toward Nelson in the latest Q-Poll can be at least partially attributed to the LeMieux ads.

As we know, a poll is merely a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and many times anomaly results do occur. To get the best understanding of campaign movement, it is important to consider many polls over a long period of time. What is important is the trend toward election day, and not necessarily the individual numbers themselves.

Since there have already been several inconsistencies in both of these states, we can reasonably expect greater movement in the coming months as the Nov. 6 election nears. Count on both the Ohio and Florida Senate races being among the most interesting in the country.

New Senate Numbers in Hawaii, Massachusetts

Hawaii

The Hawaii US Senate campaign is turning crazy. Now, another new poll reports starkly different results to some others already in the public domain. Ward Research, a Hawaii-based survey research firm, conducted a new poll with an abnormally long sampling period for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper (Jan. 26-Feb. 5; 771 registered Hawaii voters) and found Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) to be enjoying a huge lead in both the Democratic primary and the general elections.

This contrasts with the latest Merriman Group independent study (Jan. 18-19), which showed only a six-point split between Hirono and former Gov. Linda Lingle (R). It further depicted the congresswoman trailing former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) by two points in the intra-party vote.

The Ward numbers give Hirono a huge 57-37 percent lead over Lingle when the two are matched in what many predict could become a hotly contested general election. Additionally, the Democratic congresswoman maintains a 56-36 percent lead over Case, according to this latest survey. For her part, Hirono’s own pollster, The Benenson Strategy Group, released a survey in November posting her to a similar 54-36 percent lead over Case.

But the Merriman poll is not the only one reporting a much different result than Ward. Public Policy Polling’s October survey showed Hirono besting Lingle 48-42%, and the Republican former governor leading Case 45-43%. Hirono’s Democratic primary advantage was just five points over Case, 45-40%.

With so much discrepancy already existing among the pollsters, it is difficult to get a true read on this race. Since President Obama will run extremely well in Hawaii, the Democratic nominee will likely get a boost in the November general election. On the other hand, Lingle’s huge $1.767 million fourth quarter in fundraising puts her ahead of any other candidate, financially. It is clear she will have the monetary backing to run a strong campaign to compliment her almost universal name identification. Expect this race to become competitive, but the intangibles still favor Ms. Hirono and the Democrats.

Massachusetts

The MassInc Polling Group conducted a statewide Senatorial survey (Feb. 6-9; 503 registered Massachusetts voters) for WBUR radio in Boston, a National Public Radio station. They find former Obama Administration Consumer Affairs Advocate Elizabeth Warren (D) leading Sen. Scott Brown (R) 46-43 percent. Several previous polls have also shown Warren to be ahead, and by more than two points.

The data again illustrates how difficult it is for any Republican to win in the Bay State. Despite trailing, Sen. Brown’s favorability ratings are quite high. A full 50 percent of those interviewed say they have a positive opinion of Sen. Brown versus just 29 percent who registered an unfavorable comment. By contrast, Ms. Warren’s ratio is 39:29 percent.

The poll asked eight preference comparison questions about the candidates’ backgrounds, their views toward the middle class, who would perform better on economic issues, etc. Brown scored below Warren on only one substantive issue question, and on that by just one point. By a margin of 32-31 percent, the sampling universe said that Ms. Warren would better relate to the middle class. An additional 21 percent indicated the two candidates were equal in understanding the needs of middle class families.

The only question where Brown trailed by a relatively large percentage (34-24 percent) was in response to which candidate seems to have campaign momentum.

Therefore, despite the favorable reviews, Brown still trails on the ballot test question. These results are similar to those found in Florida, where Rep. Connie Mack IV is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D). There, Nelson’s personal numbers appear to be as good as Brown’s, but he too finds himself pitted in a close election battle.

With both candidates being heavily funded – Brown has already raised $8.6 million with $12.9 million in the bank; Warren has gathered slightly more, $8.9 million, but has considerably less, $6.14 million, cash-on-hand – it is clear this campaign will play out over a long course of time. The intangibles definitely favor Warren because a candidate uniting the Democratic Party will be very difficult to derail in one of the most Democratically-loyal states in the entire country. Sen. Brown is the right candidate to hold the seat for his party, but even he may not have enough ability to stem what could possibly be a very strong tide against him.

New Florida Poll Numbers

Quinnipiac University just released the results of their latest regular Florida poll. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) shows extremely close races for both President and US Senate. President Obama, whose job approval rating registers a poor 42:54 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio in the Sunshine State, actually trails former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, 43-46 percent. Tested against Pennsylvania ex-Sen. Rick Santorum the President rebounds into the lead, but not by much. He claims only a 45-43 percent advantage in that pairing.

The Obama ballot test results are not particularly surprising given his upside-down favorability index. What’s more surprising is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D) performance when measured against Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). The new Q-Poll shows Nelson holding only a 41-40 percent margin over the Republican challenger. But, Nelson’s personal ratings are actually quite good. By a margin of 41:23 percent, the Florida sample has a positive view of the senator. His job approval rating stands at a respectable 47:30 percent and, by a span of 44:35 percent, the respondents believe he deserves re-election. This compares with the President’s inverted re-elect score of 44:52 percent. When paired opposite Rep. Mack, however, Nelson’s numbers rather inconsistently tumble.

The Quinnipiac poll confirms the results of all the Nelson-Mack studies save one Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 28-Dec. 1: Nelson 46 percent, Mack 35 percent). They collectively project a spread between the candidates of only a point or two. Therefore, one must conclude that the Florida Senate race is certainly in play. Despite the mixed signals, it does appear that Sen. Nelson is in for a serious fight as this election year progresses.

Senate Poll Shockers

A series of surveys was just released for key US Senate races in several states. Two studies produced especially surprising results, those in Florida and North Dakota.

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 17; 500 likely Florida voters) now gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) an unexpected 43-39 percent lead over Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). This is the first poll of the election cycle that shows Nelson in a deficit position to any potential Republican opponent.

After saying he would not run in March, Rep. Mack did an about-face late last month and his decision appears to be paying off, at least in the short term. Prior to recent polls showing Rep. Mack within two, six, and now leading by four points, Sen. Nelson posted consistent 15-point margins against the other two main Republican candidates, former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

It was always believed that the Ft. Myers congressman and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III could make this race competitive, and the last three polls certainly confirm that supposition.

In North Dakota, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the results of the Mellman Group poll (Nov. 12-16; 600 likely North Dakota voters) it commissioned for newly announced candidate Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general. The data give Ms. Heitkamp a 47-42 percent lead over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). This is a stunner in that Berg is thought to be the prohibitive favorite to convert the open seat (Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring) for the GOP. North Dakota is projected to be the Republicans’ best opportunity to take a Democratic seat.

Since this tabulation conflicts with other North Dakota polls, it is possible that the survey is an anomaly. In its defense, however, are the presidential numbers. As one would expect, a prospective Republican nominee is ahead of President Obama in the Peace Garden State, even according to these same Mellman Group numbers. Mitt Romney has a 47-33 percent advantage over the President within this polling universe, which is perfectly in line with North Dakota presidential election voting behavior. If further surveys show a similar pattern in this Senate race, a new competitive race could be on the horizon.

According to a brand new Epic MRA poll of the Michigan Senate race (Nov. 13-16; 600 registered Michigan voters), former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) has decreased his deficit against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Their latest survey shows only a six-point 48-42 percent advantage for the two-term Democratic incumbent. This is a net gain of three points for Hoekstra over the firm’s August poll that gave Stabenow a 47-38 percent edge.

The Michigan race is another critical contest for the GOP. Thought to be vulnerable at the beginning of the year, the Republicans were slow to find a credible opponent against the senator, finally convincing Hoekstra to launch a campaign after the former congressman had publicly announced that he would not run.

One of the slower races to take shape is the open Arizona seat of retiring Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl (R). New polling information is now available for the Republican primary in this state and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is off to a big lead, as expected. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 17-20; 400 registered Arizona Republican voters), Flake has a huge 53-7 percent lead over businessman Wil Cardon. Magellan Strategies found a similar pattern. Their latest Arizona study (Nov. 16; 722 registered Arizona Republican voters) gives Flake a similar 55-3 percent margin against Cardon.

Democrats have a large field in the Grand Canyon State, including former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and ex-Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens. Right now, it appears the race is Flake’s to lose.

Florida’s Rep. Mack Within Two Points of Sen. Nelson

On Friday, Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest regular large-sample Florida poll (Oct. 31-Nov. 7; 1,185 registered Florida voters; 513 self-identified Republicans), the first public statewide survey fielded since Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) announced his challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D). The results are quite promising for the Ft. Myers/Naples representative. According to the Q-Poll, Sen. Nelson holds only a two-point (42-40 percent) lead over Rep. Mack.

Late last month the congressman reversed his previous Senate decision, doing an about-face on his March decision not to run. After state Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos dropped out of the race and it became clear that former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner were showing no signs of exciting the GOP electorate, Mack began reconsidering his decision. With his party still needing a strong Senatorial candidate, and with the Republicans currently looking relatively strong in Florida against President Obama, suggesting a potential positive GOP push for the down-ballot elections, Mack felt his best chance to win statewide is in the current election.

With the new Q-Poll supporting the assertion that Mack would be Nelson’s strongest challenger, the numbers are indeed encouraging for the GOP because the Democratic senator has positive approval ratings. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed approve of his job performance. Just 27 percent disapprove, which is one of the better ratios of all senators standing for re-election in 2012. Florida’s other senator, freshman Republican Marco Rubio, has a similar rating. His ratio is 49:29 percent favorable to unfavorable. Therefore, if Mack is within two points of Nelson when the incumbent’s favorability is high, then the challenger’s ability to grow will be substantial once the contrast strategy begins to take hold.

In previous polls testing LeMieux and Hasner against Nelson, the senator enjoyed a substantial lead. Usually, the spread was in the 15-point range with the incumbent hovering around the 50 percent mark. The latest Q-Poll results already bring Mack within two points, and place both candidates in the low 40s, which casts this race in a new competitive light. For the GOP to recapture the Senate majority and reach even a moderate level of strength within the body, the Florida seat will have to move into the highly competitive realm.

While Mack’s late start puts him behind in the money contest, he is clearly the strongest Republican both in the GOP primary and against Nelson. The candidates’ financial standing, however, should be of concern to Mr. Mack. The senator has more than $7.5 million in his campaign account. LeMieux has raised $1.3 million and Hasner just over $1 million. Rep. Mack has $347,000 in the bank, by contrast. His long period of deciding to run has certainly hurt him in fundraising.

If this poll is an accurate depiction of the Florida electorate, and Quinnipiac has a reliable record in the state, then it looks like this Senate race is on the precipice of becoming as competitive as many believed it would when the election cycle begun.

Florida’s Sen. Mack Makes a Move … Again

On Friday, Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) again reversed his political course and declared his candidacy for US Senate. Back in March, when he scheduled a news conference that even his own aides were saying was a Senatorial announcement address, the 44-year-old, four-term congressman abruptly changed his mind and instead said that he would not run statewide.

Late last week, Rep. Mack made another 180-degree pirouette and officially entered the race to challenge two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). With polls remaining stagnant for the better part of a year – Nelson leading either former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner by consistent 13-15 point margins (Nelson is almost always in the 47-49 percent range while the Republicans scored 33-35 percent), Mack believes he still has the opportunity to close that margin and put the state in play for the GOP.

He might be right, but it won’t happen overnight. Because of his father, Sen. Connie Mack III who held the seat for two terms before Nelson won in 2000, the Fort Myers congressman has substantial statewide name ID. Sen. Mack was originally elected in a very close 1988 election, and was easily re-elected in 1994. He retired with high job-approval ratings and appeared to be a cinch to win a third term had he so desired.

So, despite being behind both LeMieux and Hasner in campaign resources (LeMieux has over $1 million cash-on-hand according to the Sept. 30, 2011 campaign disclosure filing, while Hasner has $785,000; Mack starts the race with $347,000 in his congressional account), Mack’s name ID will very likely put him atop the Republican primary polls when they are next released. In the last Quinnipiac University poll of Florida Republicans (released Sept. 22nd), both LeMieux and Hasner were only in the teens or single-digits (LeMieux leading his rival 17-5 percent, with businessman and college professor Mike McAllister registering a surprising 11 percent).

Though he has created a rocky political road for himself in getting into the Senate race, his decision may prove to be the right move.

It is clear that several major factors cut against the senator. First, there’s the overall political climate to consider, in which voters may have the highest anti-incumbent fever ever. The right track/wrong track directional polling questions designed to detect a respondent’s optimistic or pessimistic view of the country’s future are reaching all-time negative lows, as we covered in our Friday edition of the PRIsm Political Update. Nationally, the wrong track answer tops 80%. Among Republicans, that score, in some places, is incredibly high – up into the mid- to high-90s.

Secondly, with President Obama’s approval ratings trending upside down nationally and in Florida, and the poor economy unlikely to improve substantially before the next election, the Democrats’ ability to carry the state is questionable. In order to defeat the President, the eventual Republican nominee will have to carry Florida, and that could bring a strong US Senate candidate over the finish line, too.

Third, while Sen. Nelson’s ratings are good, in fact strong when compared to many other senators standing for re-election, they are not stellar, and plenty of time remains to turn the race.

Therefore, Rep. Mack’s decision to launch his candidacy, even after repeatedly changing his mind, is understandable. Despite losing seven months of fundraising and campaigning, he does have a chance to win the GOP nomination and defeat Nelson. It is clear that Rep. Mack is betting on the long-term now, but his gamble might pay off.

Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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