Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Next Campaign: RNC Chairman

Late this coming January the members of the Republican National Committee will again choose an individual to lead them into the next election cycle. There is no question that the reign of current chairman Michael Steele has been controversial. The Committee has not reached the fund-raising plateaus found in previous election cycles; Steele has been at the center of many ill-advised comments; donors were disrespected; and the exiting political director leveled public charges of mismanagement at him. Still, the Republicans had one of their most successful elections in history while Steele was in control and it is under this backdrop that the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee will make their leadership decision.

The Chairman himself has not officially announced a re-election bid, but indications point to him seeking another term. Two challengers already are officially opposing him. Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan chairman who ran two years ago, is back for another go and Ann Wagner, the ex-national committeewoman from Missouri and US Ambassador to Luxembourg, announced her candidacy yesterday. Others who might join the fray are Maria Cino, a former Republican National Convention director and ex-RNC chief of staff, and former Political Director Gentry Collins, the very man who wrote the highly publicized missive against Steele as he departed the Committee. The race is on! Expect major fireworks.

The House in 2012: The Vulnerables

Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.

Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?

One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.

If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.

Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.

Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.

The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.

California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.

Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.

Two More House Races Conceded; One Remains

As expected, two more U.S. House seats were finalized yesterday, as Reps. Dan Maffei (D-NY-25) and Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) ended recount action and conceded their seats to Republican challengers.

In Upstate New York, former Syracuse city councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) is now the official winner of her state’s 25th congressional district, returning the seat to the GOP column after one term of Democratic Party representation. Together, Republican former Reps. George Wortley and Jim Walsh represented the district for a combined 26 years before Maffei won in 2008. Buerkle’s final, but still yet-to-be certified margin is 567 votes. Depending upon how New York redistricting unfolds in 2012, expect Mr. Maffei to again become an active candidate, if not for Congress, then for another office.

In southeast Texas, Rep. Ortiz also ended his recount operation, thus more than likely bringing an end to his 28-year congressional career. The 73-year-old veteran politician telephoned Republican Blake Farenthold to officially concede and congratulate him on his victory. Since TX-27 is a Voting Rights district, it would be expected to return to the Democrats in 2012, but redistricting and the fact that Texas is likely to gain four new congressional seats could give Farenthold a more Republican district and a place to land. Though Rep. Ortiz is unlikely to run for Congress again, watch for his son, soon-to-be ex-state Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. to test the waters. Like his father, the south Texas voters also defeated the younger Ortiz.

Back in New York, the count continues in NY-1, now the only congressional district in the country that remains unresolved. There, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) has climbed back into the lead with all ballots counted. His advantage is 235 votes, but more than 2,000 votes have been challenged by one of the candidates. Republican Randy Altschuler issued official challenges to 1,261 votes, while Bishop objects to 790. It would take quite a swing for Altschuler to overcome this late lead.

Assuming NY-1 stays in the Democratic column, the Republicans will have gained 63 seats in the 2010 election and the party division for the 112th House of Representatives will be 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats.

Early Poll Shows Obama in 2012 Dogfight

As we know from this past election, two years is a lifetime in modern-day American electoral politics but a new Quinnipiac University poll does indicate weakness in a proposed President Obama re-election drive. The national survey, conducted November 8-15 of 2,424 registered voters throughout the United States shows the President below 50% against all tested Republicans and having only a nine-point lead over a candidate whom 81% of the people could not identify.

Ex-Massachusetts Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney fared the best against the President in the national poll, leading him 45-44%. Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee trailed Mr. Obama 44-46%; ex-Alaska Governor and ’08 Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin finds herself in a 40-48% deficit situation; and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is behind only 36-45%. It is Daniels whom over 80% of the sampled individuals could not identify.

The poll is of little significance because the election is two years away and will be decided by voters within individual states as opposed to a simple national vote. While national public opinion polls certainly provide clues as to how voters view the presidential candidates, which is helpful in gauging a campaign’s progress, it does not translate into predicting whether a challenger can successfully obtain the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the White House.

Best news for Obama in the poll: Democrats want to see the President run for re-election by better than a 2:1 spread (64:27%). Worst news for him: by a margin of 43:49% the aggregate sampling universe does not feel he deserves re-election.

The Republicans Take Another Race

It appears the Republicans have won another congressional race. With counting now complete, but unofficial, GOP challenger Ann Marie Buerkle now leads Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY-25) by 567 votes, 104,374 to 103,807. There likely will be a recount, and trailing candidate Maffei is likely to challenge what he believes are questionable ballots, but his chances of overturning these results are slim.

Should this margin hold for Buerkle, the Republicans will have gained 63 seats in the House, bringing the total to 241 Rs and 193 Democrats. One race, NY-1, is still outstanding. Of the ten closest campaigns, only two remain in recounts (KY-6 and TX-27), not counting such eventuality in NY-1 and 25. The KY-6 and TX-27 races will soon become official, with Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) being re-elected and Republican challenger Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27).

The other races, AZ-7 (Grijalva), AZ-8 (Giffords), CA-11 (McNerney), CA-20 (Costa), IL-8 (Walsh), and NC-2 (Ellmers) have all been decided. The two listed last saw Democratic incumbents Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) and Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) conceding defeat last week.

NY-1, located on the eastern-most part of Long Island, may end up as the closest race in the country. Originally, it appeared that Rep. Tim Bishop (D) had won a 51-49% victory on Election Night, but a major voting machine error changed the outcome and placed GOP challenger Randy Altschuler in the lead by just under 400 votes. With the slow New York absentee ballot counting process continuing, and a smattering of military and overseas votes still eligible to be received through tomorrow, the race has now closed to a 15-vote margin, with Bishop now back in the lead. The town of Brookhaven is the only place not completely reporting. It is the only Long Island town that stretches all the way from the north to the south shore. Its population is close to 450,000. Brookhaven broke closely for President Obama in 2008, which actually might be a good sign for Altschuler considering the region significantly under-performed the Democratic statewide total (62.2%) in that year. Considering the 2010 turnout pattern in the rest of the state, the final absentee ballots in this area could easily break for Altschuler. With the race being a virtual tie, however, either candidate still can win.

Regardless of the final result in NY-1, a recount will follow. Likewise in NY-25, though Buerkle’s 500+ vote margin will undoubtedly be greater than the final difference in the Long Island seat.

With Maffei’s defeat, 24 first-term incumbents (22 Democrats; 2 Republicans) did not survive their first re-election effort. It remains to be seen just how many of these defeated freshmen maintain hopes of re-capturing their seat and run again in 2012.