Monthly Archives: October 2010

MA-6: An Upset in the Making?

There are many House districts around the country that could become part of what many are predicting will be a Republican wave, but the 6th district of Massachusetts was certainly not on anybody’s GOP conversion list even as late as September. Developments are unfolding in the suburban region between metropolitan Boston and New Hampshire, however, that makes GOP challenger Bill Hudak’s bid against seven-term Rep. John Tierney (D) among the campaigns that could conceivably transform into a “sleeper.”

Rep. John Tierney

About two weeks ago, Tierney’s wife pled guilty in federal court to tax fraud charges. Many incumbents have survived worse, especially in a district that routinely elects members of the dominant political party to which they belong, but Patrice Tierney’s situation appears a bit more serious. Though she claims not to have known her brother’s online gambling operation located off the shores of Antigua was illegal when she prepared the company’s tax returns, she pled guilty to the felony tax charges involving amounts upwards of $7 million, nonetheless, and will be sentenced in January. What raises eyebrows further, and certainly makes Rep. Tierney more vulnerable to the Hudak challenge, is his support for the online gambling bill when it came before the House. Though the Congressman was not personally implicated in any of his wife’s legal dealings, the two possibly unrelated events do bring ethical questions to the forefront.

As we have seen throughout the country during primary season this year, voters have little tolerance for political scandals or patience for office holders abusing their offices. Businessmen like Bill Hudak who have never before sought political office have shown strong win percentages in the intra-party preliminary races and now we’ll see if such a pattern continues through the general election. Most political pundits believe it will.

October internal and independent polls do suggest a weakening of Tierney’s image and increasing vulnerability. Though the survey results have not been publicly released, it is known that the data show a tightening of the race to single digits, while Hudak scores much better among the most intensely interested voters, and even leads among those who have been closely following the Tierney scandal.

With 12 days remaining in the election cycle, it is apparent that Rep. Tierney has not yet secured re-election. The more attention his personal situation attracts, the greater his vulnerability and the stronger Hudak becomes. With the open 10th district being in toss-up mode and even Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4) to the southwest facing credible opposition, it is now reasonable to add MA-6 to the competitive Bay State congressional race list.

Is Sanchez in a Sleeper?

In an election cycle where arguably 150 House races are at least moderately competitive and 90 campaigns are legitimately in play, sleeper contests are few and far between. One such situation may be in Anaheim, Calif., however, where seven-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47) has apparently fallen into a dead heat with her GOP opponent, Assemblyman Van Tran, according to a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (for the Tran campaign, 10/11-13; 300 likely CA-47 voters; Sanchez and Tran tied at 39%).

Though Tran’s challenge to Sanchez has been on the board for more than a year, few believed it would become hotly contested. The district is decidedly Democratic and the Congresswoman normally wins with percentages right around 60%. What makes the seat a potential GOP conversion opportunity is the turnout history here – CA-47 has the lowest voter participation rate of any in the Golden State – and its demographic complexion. Though the seat is more than 65% Hispanic, it is also 14% Asian and features an extremely large Vietnamese community, of which Tran is a member. He’s won three elections to the state Assembly, in a political division more than half the size of CA-47, proving that he has a strong political base. In a seat that routinely records fewer votes than most members receive by themselves, anything can happen, particularly in an election year that may evolve into a political wave. This is definitely a race to watch.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Pennsylvania Tightens

Public Policy Polling (PPP), the national survey research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday released a new study (10/17-18, 718 likely PA voters) that gives Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) a bare 46-45% lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in their battle for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. This represents a significant change from all other recently released polls, including ones from PPP, that have previously posted Toomey to leads of between two and 10 points.

The revelation that the Sestak-Toomey campaign is closing is not particularly surprising for various reasons. First, Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, so seeing the Senate race and several House campaigns begin to move back toward the majority party meets expectations. Private polling suggests that the contests in PA-7 (open Sestak), ex-US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) vs. state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D); PA-8, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R); and PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney (D) vs. ex-US Attorney Tom Marino (R); also are tightening in favor of the Democratic candidate after the GOP contestant maintained discernible, if not considerable, previous advantages. Conversely, the PA-3, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) vs. Mike Kelly (R); and PA-11, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) vs. Lou Barletta (R); races still appear to be going the way of the GOP challenger. Polling now detects that Democratic voters are expressing greater interest in voting, thus suggesting better electoral participation rates.

Second, Sestak’s strategy for the general election is similar to that of his primary: wait to spend the campaign treasury until people are paying attention much closer to the election. During the Democratic primary, the Congressman trailed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter by as much as 10 points early, but caught and passed the veteran politician as voting day approached and finally arrived. Sestak is implementing a replay of such an expenditure timing plan against Toomey, thus his recent polling upswing tracks with him now coming to the forefront of the advertising campaign.

The latest poll tells us that the Senate race, despite a continued strong GOP lead in the Governor’s race, is coming back into toss-up range. The final outcome will likely be determined upon which party better motivates its supporters to actually cast their ballots, thus the end result is still very much in doubt.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Quayle in Trouble

With national pollsters providing consistently good news for Republicans, at least one seat normally viewed as relatively safe for the party is now in play for the Democrats. Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a place where Rep. John Shadegg (R) has racked up strong victories over the past 16 years, is now highly competitive according to a new Public Policy Polling survey. The study, conducted October 16-17 (655 likely AZ-3 voters) for the Daily Kos, a national liberal blog, gives Democratic attorney Jon Hulburd a 46-44% lead over Republican nominee Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. According to the data, the younger Quayle has a personal approval ratio of only 34-52% favorable to unfavorable and trails 36-50% within the crucial Independent voter sector.

Quayle defeated nine other candidates in the August 24 Republican primary, but captured only 22% of the vote in doing so. Controversy arose during the summer about his involvement with a non-traditional website, charges that were answered with his own unusual and off-beat response advertisements. With the currently intense and fractured Grand Canyon State political climate, and virtually every congressional district in the state seeing robust competition, it is clear that anything can happen in the many races to be decided there on November 2.

An Eclectic Collection of Mid-October Polls: Reliable?

More mid-October polls are now public from races across the nation, many from unfamiliar survey firms or sources. Below are several of the most notable with an analysis as to the believability of the results:

GA-2: Lester & Associates (10/7-10; 500 GA-2 voters for the Sanford Bishop campaign)

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) …… 50%
Mike Keown (R) ………………. 40%

Rep. Bishop released his internal poll after GOP challenger Keown’s late September Public Opinion Strategies survey posted him to within one point. This is a heavy African-American district, meaning a loyal Democratic base. A low black turnout is Keown’s only chance to come through on Election Day.

IL-10: We Ask America (10/15; 1,148 likely voters; automated)

Bob Dold (R) ……….. 50%
Dan Seals (D) ………. 39%

This race has been a bit of a mystery ever since the February 2nd primary. Just last week another poll (Penn Schoen – 10/2-7) went public showing Democratic nominee Seals to be holding a similar 49-37% advantage. We Ask America has conducted sporadic polls in several states. Their reliability track record is virtually unknown. Best guess: the race is a toss-up. Dold must have a favorable turnout model to achieve victory. Though the district has elected a Republican congressman for more than 30 consecutive years, the voting trends here lean Democratic in other races.

MN-1: Survey USA (10/12-14; 584 likely voters; automated from a pool of 800 registered MN-1 voters)

Rep. Tim Walz (D) ……….. 47%
Randy Demmer (R) ………. 42%

Survey USA has reported many polls this election cycle that have been out of the mainstream, and tending to favor Republicans. In this case, however, the poll results seem reasonable. Though state Rep. Randy Demmer is being heavily outspent by two-term incumbent Tim Walz, the district can certainly elect a Republican. Former Rep. Gil Gutknecht, for example, held the seat for twelve years, winning in the GOP landslide year of 1994 and losing in the 2006 Democratic sweep. If 2010 becomes a wave, this district could yield another surprise.

PA-7: Franklin & Marshall College (10/5-11; 471 likely PA-7 voters; live telephone interviews)

Pat Meehan (R) ………… 34%
Bryan Lentz (D) ……….. 31%

PA-8: Monmouth University (10/11-13; 646 likely PA-8 voters; automated)

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) ……………. 51%
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) ……… 46%

Two college polls with differing degrees of reliability. The Franklin & Marshall survey period is extended, thus making the results less accurate. The fact that the undecided factor is still so high as the race becomes better defined also raises questions. The spread – Meehan leading, but his margin tightening – is consistent with many other surveys.

The Monmouth poll appears to be tighter, even with the automated format. This result is very consistent with other data that shows former Rep. Fitzpatrick to be leading beyond the margin of error in his attempt to regain the seat he lost to Congressman Murphy four years ago.