Tag Archives: John McCain

Monday’s Retirement

California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) | Facebook

California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2018 — It’s getting to the point where literally every day we witness a new retirement announcement from Congress, and Monday was no exception.

In another surprise political decision, veteran California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed that he will not seek a 14th term this year, preferring to dedicate his last year in Congress to finishing his committee agenda.

The move was unexpected in that Royce appeared to be preparing his political operation for a major battle. Reportedly through the year-end financial disclosure period, he already amassed a treasury exceeding $3.5 million. Until this week, his actions suggested that he was well equipped to run a strong re-election campaign.

Unlike most of the other 31 Republican seats that are being vacated for the next election, Royce’s California district has strong Democratic conversion potential. The constituency voted 51-43 percent for Hillary Clinton, but backed Mitt Romney 51-47 percent in 2012, and gave John McCain a 49-47 percent margin four years earlier. The Romney and McCain votes are more consistent with the district electorate’s long-term political performance history, but this area of the state, like many regions in the nation’s most populous domain, is turning more Democratic as significant demographic change continues.

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Indiana Poll: Republicans Gaining, Bayh Up

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 19, 2016 — Monmouth University (Aug. 13-16; 403 likely Indiana voters; 351 drawn from registered voters list; 52 random digit dial cell phone responses) released their new Indiana voter survey and the results report varying degrees of Republican improvement, though the polling sample may skew slightly toward the GOP.

Indiana is a very important 2016 political state. Among the 23 states that appear to be bedrock Republican for the presidential race — and must all vote for Donald Trump if he is to have any chance of winning the national election — Indiana is the only one to stray away from the party nominee in this century. In 2008, Hoosier State voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain by a 50-49 percent margin.

Therefore, with Indiana being a must-win Republican state for Trump, it likely factored into Trump’s decision to choose its governor, Mike Pence, as his vice presidential running mate.

We continue to see strong evidence that the Democratic move to replace former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) for ex-senator and governor Evan Bayh, just hours before the ballot finalization deadline, has made the state pivotal in determining which party controls the new Senate majority. Prior to the Bayh move, it appeared that Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) was cruising to a general election victory, thus keeping retiring Sen. Dan Coats’ (R) seat in the GOP column.

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The American Political State

July 7, 2015 — As we pass the 4th of July break and the celebration period of our country’s history, it’s always an appropriate time to review the current status of American politics. As we look forward to another important election in 2016, including the voters selecting a new president, we find both uncertainty and definition.

It’s anyone’s guess right now as to who wins the presidency. Additionally, US Senate control is up for grabs with majority Republicans defending 24 of the 34 in-cycle states.

Conversely, the House Republican majority is stable, particularly with the recent US Supreme Court decision approving congressional redistricting commissions. The rejection of the Arizona Republicans’ legal argument means that congressional boundaries in the Grand Canyon State, California, New Jersey and Washington – all multi-congressional district states that employ redistricting commissions – will remain intact throughout the remainder of the decade. Lines could change because of court decisions in Virginia, and other southern states could conceivably follow suit, but majority status is unlikely to be affected in the short-term.
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Special Election Today in FL-19

The eighth special US House election since the inception of the current 113th Congress begins today. Voters in southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District will choose nominees for the June 24 special general election.

Today’s action is exclusively in the Republican primary as four candidates battle to become the GOP standard bearer, hoping to succeed resigned Rep. Trey Radel (R). The eventual Republican nominee will face public relations executive April Freeman, who is unopposed in today’s special Democratic primary.

The 19th District, anchored in the cities of Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, and Marco Island, is solidly Republican. Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here in 2012 by a solid 61-39 percent count despite losing the state 49-50 percent. Four years earlier, John McCain commanded 57 percent support against then-Sen. Obama’s 42 percent. Prior to Radel winning the newly constructed and re-numbered 19th District in the last general election, the region was consecutively represented by GOP Reps. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), Porter Goss (R-FL-14), and Connie Mack III (R-FL-13), since its original creation in 1982.
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Predicting the Presidential Outcome

At long last the election is finally here, but we still can’t predict the presidential outcome with any confidence. Recognizing that there have been many conflicting national polling factors present for the past several weeks, now at the end of the campaign it appears that all of the major pollsters are projecting just about the same final national popular vote result – a virtual tie.

Seven polls were released on Thursday through Saturday, and four of them (Ipsos/Reuters, Rasmussen Reports, UPI/C-Voter, and Zogby for the Washington Times) produced a high-40s deadlock between Pres. Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Two (Purple Strategies and Public Policy Polling) forecast a one-point lead for Obama. One, the ABC/Washington Post poll, showed Romney with that same single-point advantage. Simply put, the national election doesn’t get any closer.

Good news actually exists for both candidates in these final surveys. First, bringing the candidates back into a tie is positive for the president, who had been starting to drop behind. On the other hand, and an argument in Romney’s favor, an incumbent tied going into the election is rarely a good sign, because challengers typically under-poll to at least a small degree.

On the state front, Ohio still appears to be the deciding factor. There are some favorable indications that Romney will win close victories in North Carolina and Florida, which are his top priority conversion states. He also is trending upward in Virginia, but the all-important Buckeye State remains a mystery. The president has a slight edge in several polls, but not in others.

Looking at the secondary states, though Nevada and possibly Iowa look to remain in the president’s column, Romney is getting strong positive signs from Colorado. Should he be successful in taking Virginia and Ohio, Colorado would clinch a victory for the challenger.

Polling

There has been a great deal of analyses done about the myriad of polls conducted over the past months, and the conflicting nature between the ones that have projected the 2012 vote using a turnout model based upon 2008 voting patterns. Many have said that using such base data explains the polling discrepancies because the 2012 electorate is much different than that of four years ago. Therefore, using the 2008 model may skew too heavily Democratic.

Mike Barbera, a Washington lobbyist and guest columnist for our reports, has studied this situation, and offers the following perspective: Given all available evidence, the idea that the 2012 electorate will be as Democratic as 2008 is implausible – and the notion that it will be even more Democratic is to be completely rejected.

The 2008 election cycle featured the following:

  • A highly motivated Democratic base, enthused by the historic candidacy of Barack Obama and still seething with animus toward George W. Bush
  • A dispirited Republican base (although the Palin vice presidential selection remedied this to a certain degree)
  • A historically-unpopular outgoing Republican president
  • A huge funding disparity, which allowed the Obama campaign to dramatically outspend the McCain forces on the airwaves and in the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts
  • An economic meltdown a month before Election Day

That is a recipe for what a great Democratic year looks like – and indeed the Democrats in 2008 had a great year. They elected a president as well as super-majorities in both the House and Senate.

To put it mildly, 2012 looks nothing like 2008. By any measure, Republican enthusiasm is much higher than in 2008. Obama’s favorability ratings are significantly lower than they were in 2008. His job approval ratings are dismal. Romney and his GOP allies are at financial parity with the Obama campaign and the Democrats – so the Republican GOTV efforts are vastly improved from the threadbare McCain operation of 2008. Romney is doing very well among independents – John McCain lost them by a substantial margin.

Early Voting

States are reporting the number of ballots already returned through the various early voting processes. While all of the partisan numbers, i.e. the ballots returned from registered Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, are better for Romney and the Republicans than the ratios from four years ago, it is unclear if they are a precursor to a Romney victory performance.

The Romney camp compares the current early voting trends to that of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain and illustrates what they believe is their candidate’s improvement over his showing. While there seems no doubt that the already returned ballots will yield better results for the Republican, as the Obama campaign points out, Romney must exceed the president’s vote total, not just that of McCain, and in every state but Colorado (that releases early voting partisan registration data) more Democratic ballots have been returned than Republican. All totaled, almost 30 million people have already voted in this election.

The Senate

Democratic trends in the statewide contests are better than for Republicans. It now appears likely that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate and do so with about the same level of strength they currently maintain: a seat up or down from the current 53D-47R margin.

The House

While the Senate races appear to be trending Democratic, the Republicans are pulling away in the House. The GOP majority is secure, and their original majority margin, based upon 242 seats, could even increase by as many as three or four seats when analyzing the final individual race trends.

Conclusion

This election is very close, and could be following one of two election models. The first would be that of 1980, where Ronald Reagan was running close to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, only to catch a wave at the very end and go onto a major landslide victory. The second potential precursor is the 2004 election, where a relatively unpopular incumbent President, George W. Bush, won a close victory that basically came down to the state of Ohio becoming the deciding factor. Determining the actual result is now merely hours away.

Source: Gallup

Gallup Shows Likely Voters Skew to Romney

Source: Gallup

The Gallup organization released their likely voter model on Oct. 26, which, along with Rasmussen Reports, has consistently shown much better numbers for Mitt Romney than other national polls. It is important to note that Gallup and Rasmussen are the only two pollsters that have tracked the presidential race every day for the entire election cycle. Both have found consistently similar results, too. The myriad of other pollsters have conducted benchmark or brush fire polls, meaning they are surveying the national electorate for just a short period in time and producing a snapshot of the voters’ intentions rather than a trend.

Right now, all of the polling suggests a Romney lead in the national popular vote among those considering themselves likely to vote, with Pres. Barack Obama doing better in the critical states and among the registered voter universe. The likely voter numbers are producing a very unique and inverted situation because similar situations in the past have always shown the Democratic candidate leading the popular vote, while the Republican fared better in the states.

According to the Gallup analysis, the electorate looks virtually the same as it did in 2008, but the voting intensity model is quite different. There is either no, or only a one-point, difference in the demographic categories when comparing today with four years ago, and as much as a four-point increase among non-white voters when overlaying 2012 data against what was found within the 2004 electorate that re-elected George W. Bush.

Gallup maintains that their likely voter model, culled from a series of seven screening questions (see below), has correctly predicted the final trend in the past two elections. Their 2004 pre-election projection suggested a two-point Bush popular vote win, which is what happened. In 2008, the final data correctly predicted Obama’s win, but over-shot his performance. The Gallup data predicted an 11-point Obama spread; in actuality the final count was +7 points over Republican John McCain.

Today’s model shows virtually no demographic difference between 2008 and 2012, but a major swing in terms of self-identified party registration. Four years ago, 39 percent of the likely voter sample considered themselves Democrats to only 29 percent for Republicans.

According to Gallup’s latest data, the 2012 partisan self-identified likely voter ratio breaks Republican 36-35 percent, a swing of 11 net points for the GOP (+7R; -4D) in comparison to 2008. When the “lean Democrats” and “lean Republicans” are added, the model expands to 49-46 percent Republican (based upon tracking data collected over the Oct. 1-24 period). This is highly significant in detecting electoral intensity. If correct, the 2012 vote will be very different from 2008 and much more Republican. Today, Gallup shows a 50-46 percent spread in Romney’s favor among likely voters. Rasmussen finds Romney’s lead to be a similar 49-47 percent.

But, it all comes down to which of the pollsters’ likely voter model is correct. Gallup has actually posted the seven questions they ask to determine voter participation intent, as reported on Gallup.com.

They are:

  1. Thought given to election (quite a lot, some)
  2. Know where people in neighborhood go to vote (yes)
  3. Voted in election precinct before (yes)
  4. How often vote (always, nearly always)
  5. Plan to vote in 2012 election (yes)
  6. Likelihood of voting on a 10-point scale (7-10)
  7. Voted in last presidential election (yes)

Answers are graded on a scale of 1-7 and the results categorized accordingly. The latest numbers from their registered voter pool gives Obama a 48-47 percent edge, but the likely voter group goes significantly for Romney, as previously mentioned, 50-46 percent.

It’s going to be a very close and interesting election. Next week will determine which of all predictions are correct, but Gallup has already provided the most information to help us understand their support methodology.

Succeeding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona

The special election to replace resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) took form last night with party nomination votes. Democrats had only one choice for the special election, Giffords’ district aide Ron Barber, who was shot with the congresswoman during the highly publicized January 2011 ambush attack. Republicans again turned to former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, who came within two points of defeating Ms. Giffords in 2010. Kelly claimed the Republican nomination with 36 percent of the vote, topping Gulf War veteran Martha McSally’s 25 percent.

Barber was the consensus nominee last night because all the strong Democrats deferred to him for the special election campaign. The winner of the June 12 special general fills the unexpired portion of Giffords’ term. Barber does not have a free ride for the regular term, however, when the candidates will square off in the new 2nd District Democratic primary in August regardless of who wins the special election in current District 8.

Due to reapportionment and redistricting, the district numbers were changed throughout the state. The current 8th/new 2nd remains a marginal seat that both parties can win. Originally, Barber was planning only to serve the unexpired term but changed his mind about running for the regular term after the others withdrew from the special. Even as a short-term incumbent, Mr. Barber will have a strong advantage, at the very least in the regular Democratic primary, should he secure the seat in June.

The current 8th District went for favorite son John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign by a 52-46 percent margin. Prior to Ms. Giffords winning here for the Democrats in 2008, the district had been in Republican hands in the person of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, originally elected in 1984 and retiring in 2006. The new 2nd CD is of similar configuration, though slightly smaller because Arizona’s substantial growth rate brings the state a new 9th District. Prior to reapportionment, the 8th was over-populated by 44,076 people.

The special general election will be competitive, meaning the regular election will be, too. A new small sample poll from National Research, Inc. (April 12; 300 registered AZ-8 voters) gives Kelly a 49-45 percent lead over Barber in a hypothetical ballot test.

The closeness of the data suggests that the regular election campaign will be a free-for-all regardless of whether Barber or Kelly wins the June special election. Along with the highly competitive campaigns in the 1st (open seat), 5th (open seat), 6th (Republican incumbent pairing) and 9th (new seat), Arizona is becoming a hotbed of congressional political activity. Rate the new 2nd as a toss-up all the way through the November election.

Romney, Obama Both Must Contend With Weak Support

Just two days after Rick Santorum exited the presidential race, which unofficially began the Obama-Romney general election campaign, new data is showing that both candidates have work to do to improve their standing within the electorate.

According to the Gallup research organization, Mitt Romney has the second lowest level of party support after unofficially clinching a nomination since the polling firm began regular testing of the presidential candidates all the way back in 1972. Gallup’s latest poll (April 4-9; 1,149 self-identified Republican and Republican-leaning Independent voters) gives Romney only a 42-24-10-10 percent preference over Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), respectively. Again, even after seeing major publicity surrounding the Santorum exit, Romney fails by a large margin to reach the 50 percent threshold among Republican voters.

The lowest candidate score since Gallup began charting this type of research occurred in 1972 when then-Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), upon practically clinching the Democratic nomination of that year, only polled three points ahead of former Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, 30-27 percent. As we all remember, McGovern would go on to absorb a crushing 49-state loss to then-President Richard M. Nixon.

Even other candidates who were soundly defeated, such as John McCain in 2008 for example, recorded strong intra-party preference numbers when it became clear their nomination was secure. In the first poll after McCain unofficially claimed the Republican nomination, he posted a 63-20 percent margin over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the second-place finisher.

Former Vice-President Walter Mondale (D) who, like McGovern, would lose 49 states in his subsequent general election, scored a 54-39 percent Gallup mark over former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO) when it became clear in June of 1984 that he would win the Democratic nomination. And, then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) who lost to President Bill Clinton in a similar statistical manner as McCain lost to Barack Obama, also registered strong intra-party numbers when it became obvious that he would be the GOP standard bearer. Dole was the choice of 58% in the final 1996 Republican presidential poll as compared to 15% apiece for businessman Steve Forbes and national political commentator Pat Buchanan.

But Romney is not the only one with problems. The Gallup data is still recording problematic numbers for President Obama, too. According to their latest monthly presidential job approval poll (March 1-31; a rolling sample of 16,037 adults) Obama stands only with a 46:46 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio.

While he shows favorability improvement over the past several Gallup monthly studies, Obama still is not yet in good stead. Even his standing among minority voters is showing diminishing strength. While African-Americans still rate him extremely high, 43 percent above the national average, his support among Hispanics is declining. This group only rates him nine percent above the national average, down from their high of 22 percent above recorded in January of 2010. Whites have consistently rated him from seven to nine percentage points below the national average during that same time period.

Additionally, even the lowest income level group, those with less than $24,000 in annual household income, rate him now just five percent above the national average. Their high number was +11 percent, also in January of 2010. All other income groups, divided into three levels with the highest being over $90,000 annually, rate the President one percentage point below the national average of 46 percent positive.

In conclusion, it appears that President Obama and Mitt Romney must each contend with his own weakness issue. Therefore, in order to compensate for a lack of enthusiasm among his own support base, expect highly contrasting negative campaign strategies to emanate from both camps as the general election begins to formulate.

Bachmann’s New District: Good News and Bad News

The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a least-change map of the state’s eight congressional districts this week, and in doing so dealt Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) – who, of course, came to fame in the presidential race – some very good news sprinkled with a little bit of bad.

The good news is that her 6th Congressional District, which needed to shed a whopping 96,487 people (this in a state that came within 15,000 individuals of losing a congressional district) becomes four points more Republican on the Obama 2008 scale, and she already represents 94.8 percent of the new seat. The bad news is that her home is in the 5.2 percent of the previous territory not included within the new CD. Therefore, she is technically paired with liberal Rep. Betty McCollum (D) in the new 4th District. This is a minor problem for Bachmann as federal law does not require a member of Congress, or candidate, to reside in the district in which they represent or seek election, and she has already publicly laid claim to the new 6th.

Though Minnesota has a primary, its strong party convention system generally designates the partisan nominees. Assuming Ms. Bachmann is in good standing with the 6th District state convention delegates, she should have little trouble in winning re-nomination. Since John McCain carried the new district by a 55-43 percent margin, she will be the odds-on favorite to rather easily secure a fourth term in November.

Florida Rep. Mica Switches Districts

The Florida congressional redistricting map still awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature and certain litigation before the Florida Supreme Court, but that hasn’t stopped members and candidates from making political moves. Even though the redistricting process is far from complete, the fact that many are already making moves signifies that they believe this is the footprint for most of the state. Such is the case for Reps. John Mica (R-FL-7) and Sandy Adams (R-FL-24). The new map placed both incumbents homes in the same district, new District 7, a north Orlando suburban seat that has swing characteristics.

But the map is almost certain to change. The high court, known as one of the more liberal judicial panels in the country, must reconcile the differences between the ballot initiative that Florida voters passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. Contradictions exist between the two legal directives mandated to drawing the Florida districts.

Mr. Mica’s decision to run in CD 7, as he announced he would do late last week, is a curious one. The new 6th District actually contains more of his current northeast coastal seat and has a better Republican voting base. He could easily run there and avoid the incumbent pairing. Ms. Adams even indicated that Mica told her he would do just that when the maps were originally released.

Additionally, the decision is more questionable because the voting history of the new 7th indicates that this seat could become competitive in the general election. Therefore, even if Mica secures the Republican nomination over Adams, he could still face a strong battle in November.

President Obama scored 49 percent here in 2008, though Republicans rebounded strongly in 2010. Gov. Scott posted 51 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) recorded 56 percent within the confines of the new district boundaries. The seat is a combined 29 percent minority (African-Americans and Hispanics). By contrast, John McCain scored a 53-45 percent win in District 6 and Gov. Scott topped 55 percent. Additionally, Mica currently represents 72 percent of FL-6 as compared to just 42 percent of District 7. Adams represents 51 percent of the new FL-7.

Since the Florida map could still change significantly, it remains to be seen if this pairing actually comes to fruition, but the wisdom in forcing the confrontation will continue to be questioned.

Romney Takes Nevada; Finishes Short of Majority

As expected, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney swept through the Nevada Caucuses on Saturday, but with less of a margin than expected. In fact, his performance this weekend fell short of four years ago when he captured 51 percent of the vote against certainly stronger competition at commensurate points in the two races. As you’ll remember, John McCain who placed a distant third to Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) in Nevada, would rebound to capture the Republican nomination.

Romney did not score a majority among the caucus attenders. With almost one-third of the votes left to count, the former Massachusetts governor is placing a clear first with 49.6 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (21 percent), Rep. Paul (18 percent), and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (10 percent).

Romney’s total was not the only Nevada figure that was down on Saturday. Voter participation was also much lower when compared to the 2008 total turnout number. With the current votes now finally tabulated, the number of participants is recorded as 30,306. Four years ago, turnout was 44,315.

Nevada has polled consistently as one of Romney’s three strongest states, the other two being New Hampshire and Michigan. Yet, in what is now his third primary or caucus victory, the front-runner has yet to claim a majority of the votes cast. This is surprising with regard to Nevada, since he is opening up his largest national lead of the recent campaign and comes immediately after a big Florida win. Gingrich’s effort is now clearly stalling. Paul has likely hit his support ceiling. Santorum now absorbed his third consecutive disappointingly poor performance.

If anything, though, Nevada cemented Mr. Romney’s overall lead and makes the chances of him winning the nomination even greater than before the vote. While Nevada still reveals his weakness within the Republican voting base, particularly among those considering themselves to be most conservative, the remaining three contenders continue to decline. Despite Gingrich’s proven ability to bounce back into contention – he’s already done so twice just in this campaign – it is unlikely he can recover again to the point of becoming an actual threat to Romney. Paul will never exceed his small base within the party, mostly due to his position on foreign affairs and some social issues, and Santorum has failed to unite and energize conservatives.

The one scenario where Romney wins the Republican nomination appears to be unfolding. His path to victory dictated that no one opponent could gather enough support to isolate him into a virtual one-on-one battle. If that were to happen, polls have consistently shown that the other candidate – almost whomever it was – would defeat him.

Nevada made two points in relation to Romney. First, it makes him the clear, and perhaps prohibitive, favorite to win the nomination. Second, it still shows his inherent weakness within the Republican voting structure. Once again, and most probably, President Barack Obama is the candidate faring best through these five Republican nominating events. Romney has serious work to accomplish in order formulate a united base behind him for what promises to be a heated and divisive general election campaign.

Virginia: A Battlefield Again

Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Now, more than a century and a half later, the Old Dominion may again be the site of further history-making battles; but this time the participants are Republicans and Democrats instead of military heroes.

The election of 2008 had Democrats speaking openly of Virginia being permanently converted from a “red” to a “blue,” or at least evolving into a swing “purple” state. Barack Obama carried the state, once designated as the capital of the Confederacy, by a wide 235,000-vote margin over John McCain. As a result of this success, Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Additionally, the state claimed six Democrats in its congressional delegation and both of the party’s U.S. senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, recently converted Republican seats and were considered rising stars.

But, the Democrats’ success proved to be short-lived. Just a year later in 2009, then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell led a sweep of the state’s constitutional offices, returning the governor’s mansion to the GOP after eight years of Democratic rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli joined McDonnell in Richmond and began filling the party’s coffers with treasured campaign dollars, much to the delight of veteran GOP state party chair Pat Mullins.

Another year later, on Election Day 2010, the GOP re-captured the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 9th congressional District seats and gave 11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly the scare of his political life.

Next week, Election Day 2011 will feature a down-to-the-wire contest for partisan control of Virginia’s 40-member state Senate. Controlling the legislature will give the GOP control of the congressional redistricting pen. The Republicans need to capture three seats to gain a working majority and Mullins is spending heavily on his targeted races to accomplish this goal.

But, of even greater importance, are the headline events for 2012. At stake: Virginia’s thirteen presidential electoral votes and control of the US Senate. As one of the key states nationally, the Commonwealth is clearly in play for the presidential nominees of both parties. Because the Senate races are expected to be tight across the country, control of the body could conceivably come down to how the Old Dominion votes. The Commonwealth’s senior senator, Jim Webb (D), was one of the first to announce his retirement during this election cycle, and the race to succeed him has been locked in a dead heat ever since former governor and DNC chair Tim Kaine decided to jump into the race and oppose the GOP’s likely nominee, former governor and senator, George Allen. The polling throughout the summer and as recently as last week continues to show the race to be in a statistical tie, and even their Q3 financial reports reveal that both have raised nearly identical amounts of campaign funds ($3.5 million).

The contests on Election Day 2011 and 2012 may not be quite as historic or dramatic as what happened in Yorktown or Appomattox, but it is clear that Virginia is once again front and center for key political developments. Both the Presidency and the Senate potentially could be decided here, which means that this swing state could become the epicenter of Campaign 2012, and once again be a focal point for American political change.

Redistricting Update

Redistricting action occurred in the following nine states during the past week:

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission say they expect to release congressional and legislative maps within the “next couple of weeks.” Once in the general domain, a series of public comment hearings over a 30-day period will then ensue, after which a final vote will be taken.

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-7D; loses one seat) – Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) and Bobby Rush (D-IL-1) appear to be dissatisfied with the congressional Democratic plan. Both are indicating that they may file a joint Voting Rights lawsuit against the plan, which would be a major occurrence since it is virtually unheard of for party members to attempt to legally overturn a map their own partisan colleagues promoted. Mr. Jackson may receive a primary challenge from former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) because some of her previous district is now in the new 2nd CD.

MAINE (current delegation: 2D) – The Maine legislative special session, called for the purpose of redistricting the state’s political districts, begins today. Since all redistricting plans require a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers, expect a status quo congressional map for their two districts. This is especially likely because only 4,335 people need to move from the 1st to the 2nd District to meet the 2011 population quota.

MARYLAND (current delegation: 6D-2R) – New information is beginning to come forth about the Democratic-controlled legislature’s congressional plan. It does appear that the Ds will attempt to gain one seat through the process. Originally, the Republican target was expected to be Eastern Shore freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1), but the numbers now suggest that 10-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD-6), now 85 years old, is the real victim. Mr. Bartlett’s proposed 6th District is decidedly Democratic. Under the suggested plan, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) received 56.9% of the vote in 2010 and President Obama claimed 63.1% two years earlier. Under the current lines, the 6th District voted for John McCain by a 58-40% margin, thus clearly showing how drastically the western region will change. Expect the Maryland plan to yield a new 7D-1R partisan division.

MISSOURI (current delegation: 6R-3D; loses one seat) – Plaintiffs being supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Trust, are suing to overturn the state’s new congressional map. They are pursuing grounds of compactness and partisan gerrymandering. This is a long shot case that will likely go nowhere. The Supreme Court has never declared any map a partisan gerrymander.

NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) – The judge charged with drawing the de novo congressional map since the legislature and governor failed to enact a map before adjournment, stated that he wants to see a first draft from his appointed special master by Oct. 21 and is promising a final ruling on or before Nov. 15.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – The Democratic legislature adjourned their special session without passing a congressional map, knowing that Gov. Susana Martinez (R) would veto any plan they might approve. They did send her plans for both houses of the legislature; maps she is pledging to veto. The congressional map now goes to court, where, as in Nevada, the judge must draw a de novo map.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Both houses of the Ohio legislature have passed the new congressional plan and sent it to Gov. John Kasich (R). The Democrats plan to mount an operation to overturn the map via ballot initiative. Gov. Kasich stated publicly that he will sign the plan into law.

UTAH (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) – The state legislature’s special redistricting committee has narrowed the congressional plan to six different versions. Their goal is to vote a final map out of committee by next Tuesday. The special legislative session called to consider the committee’s product will begin Oct. 4. The big question surrounds how the Republican legislators will treat Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2). Will they draw him a safe Salt Lake City seat and go 3R-1D, or try for a 4R-0D sweep? Of the six maps under consideration, only one features the Salt Lake City configuration.

A Republican Double-Header Sweep

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Republicans, as the party’s candidates won two special congressional elections last night, Sept. 13.

The upset of the political season went to GOP contender Bob Turner, who defeated Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, thus converting the vacated Anthony Weiner congressional district to the Republicans. Prior to Weiner’s election to Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) held the 9th district for nine terms before being elected statewide.

Mr. Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, scored a 54-46 percent win in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 57-18 percent count. Only 22 percent of the registered voters participated in the special election, a key reason why the GOP nominee was able to win despite having such a small political base. He scored 48 percent of the vote in the Queens borough, which is NY-9’s population anchor. He won the race, however, in Brooklyn where he attracted an astonishing 69 percent of the vote.

In the closing days of the campaign four pollsters, McLaughlin Associates, Magellan Strategies, Siena College and Public Policy Polling, all produced surveys projecting Turner to be in strong position and headed to victory. Last night’s results certainly proved the pollsters correct. On a side note, the NY election result is a bad sign for President Obama, as his favorability ratings in this heavily Democratic district are poor. Carrying the seat over John McCain with 55 percent of the vote in 2008, the PPP poll showed the President actually trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (42-46 percent) and ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by just one percentage point (44-43 percent) in hypothetical presidential match-ups. Obama scores poorly on his handling of the economy and on issues concerning US policy in the Middle East, greatly influenced by the 36 percent of the district’s residents who are members of the Jewish faith.

Turning to the west, former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei easily won the congressional district seat that was vacated when then-Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to the US Senate. Amodei won easily, scoring a 58-37 percent margin of victory over Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall. Rep-elect Amodei now becomes an incumbent in a district that touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties, but will likely only occupy the northern half of the state post-redistricting. His toughest electoral challenge may still lie ahead, however. It is likely that 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle will challenge the new congressman in a Reno-Carson City anchored district during the regular 2011 election cycle. This will be a competitive race despite Mr. Amodei’s short-term incumbency.

Turnout for the Nevada election was much greater than the voter participation level in New York. Approximately 140,000 voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for Mr. Heller, about 35 percent of those registered, slightly higher than the average special congressional election draws.

The Turner victory restores the New York delegation to 21D-8R, the ratio found on election night 2010. Republicans lost the 26th District in a special election earlier in the year, so the two parties have now traded conversion districts.

The current House party division count now stands at 242 Republicans; 192 Democrats; and one vacancy (ex-Rep. David Wu, D-OR-1). The final vacant seat will be filled in a Jan. 31 special election.

Trends Favor Amodei in Nevada’s 2nd CD

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, voters in Nevada’s 2nd district will go to the polls to choose a successor to Rep. Dean Heller (R), who resigned the seat upon receiving his appointment to the US Senate. All indications suggest that Republican Mark Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, has the inside track to victory in the special election. Democrats nominated twice-elected state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a former Senior Deputy Attorney General.

The 2nd district, which will change drastically when the courts finalize the state’s new four-district congressional map, touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties including part of Clark, which houses the overwhelming majority of the state’s residents. The new map is likely to confine the district boundaries to the state’s northern portion, anchoring it around the Reno and Carson City population centers.

At the beginning of this mid-year campaign, it appeared that the result would be close. In fact, Marshall seemed primed to pull an upset particularly because Amodei proved to be a weak fundraiser in previous campaigns and the district voting patterns were not as strongly Republican. Though the seat was designed as a GOP stronghold in the 2001 redistricting plan, it began trending a bit more Democratic as the decade progressed and can be considered competitive in its current configuration.

Though no Democrat has carried the seat, the Republican margins of victory have grown smaller. While former President George W. Bush scored a pair of 57 percent wins in his presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004, John McCain managed to place ahead by a mere handful of votes here when matched with Barack Obama in 2008. Both men scored in the 49th percentile. The last time the congressional seat was open, when Mr. Heller won in 2006, the Republican margin of victory dropped to 50-45 percent. As the incumbent, Heller steadily increased his victory percentage. In 2008 he won 52-41 percent and 63-33 percent two years later.

Financially, Marshall has out-raised Amodei. The latest available disclosure reports (through Aug. 24) show Ms. Marshall gathering $695,465 to Amodei’s $537,598. But it is outside spending that gives the Republican the overwhelming campaign advantage. So far, published independent committee financial disclosures, including political party expenditures, show more than $850,000 going to support Mr. Amodei versus nothing for Ms. Marshall.

Published polls, though none have been recently conducted, also project Amodei to have the advantage. Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21) gave the Republican only a one-point 43-42 percent lead, but Magellan Strategies, polling around the same time period (Aug. 15-16), showed Amodei to have a substantial 48-35 percent edge. It is likely we will see another published poll or two before Tuesday, thus giving us further indication of the eventual result.

But probably the best indicator of the vote trend are the early ballot tabulations. Though the votes themselves are not yet counted, the Secretary of State issues reports citing how many ballots the office has received from members of each political party. At this writing, over 7,600 more Republicans than Democrats have already returned their ballots. This margin will almost certainly give Amodei a relatively strong lead going into Election Day itself.

But this special election will not signal the end of the long-term congressional contest regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee who carried this district in the 2010 general election against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even though she lost statewide, waits in the wings for the winner – in a regular election district that is much more to her liking than the current 2nd. Should Amodei successfully carry the seat in the special election, he will face a Republican primary battle against Angle next June. Amodei, who is moderate, will have to protect his right flank to a great degree upon election or he will be vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge from Mrs. Angle, who has proven she is a strong vote-getter in northern Nevada.

The winner on Tuesday will serve the remainder of the current term, but may find him or herself in a dogfight to retain the seat in the regular election. It appears that the Sept. 13 vote will likely mark only the effective beginning of this campaign and not the end.
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