Monthly Archives: November 2010

2012 Senate Polls – Already!

Public Policy Polling is already releasing new and rather interesting data on proposed 2012 U.S. Senate match-ups. The firm is testing two first-term Democrats, both of whom appear vulnerable because they are from states that tend to vote Republican in national elections. Though the polls certainly show incumbent vulnerability and foretell close races, each Democratic Senator is in better political shape that one might guess considering the results of our most recent election.

In Virginia, the clear choice among Republicans to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D) is none other than the man who lost the seat in 2006, former Senator and Governor George Allen (R). When asked of 400 “usual” GOP VA primary voters, 46% answered that Allen would be their choice. Eighteen percent prefer soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), though there is no indication that the Congressman would entertain a statewide race since he will already be one of the top congressional leaders. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli places third with 16%, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA-11) are tied with 4% apiece.

In hypothetical general election match-ups (11/10-13; 551 registered VA voters) Webb leads Allen 49-45%; the Senator has a 49-38% advantage over Bolling; and the margin is 49-39% in a Webb-Cuccinelli pairing.

Since Sen. Webb has been somewhat circumspect when answering questions about whether or not he will run for re-election, PPP tested former Gov. and current Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in his stead. The Democrat leads each of the potentially serious Republican contenders. Kaine’s advantage over Allen is 50-44%; 48-41% against Bolling; and 50-40% when paired with AG Cuccinelli.

The third Democrat tested was Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his seat to Rep-Elect Bob Hurt on November 2nd. In these trial heats, two of the three Republicans lead the outgoing Congressman, but even here the margin is very tight. Allen tops Perriello 47-42%; Bolling leads him by a single point, 42-41%; but Perriello manages to maintain a slight 44-41% advantage over Cuccinelli.

This particular small-sample poll does not have very positive opinions about any of the contenders. Kaine scores the best with a 43:40% favorable to unfavorable personal approval ratio. All of the others are hung with negative ratings above their positive scores.

Considering that the Republicans just gained three House seats in the Virginia delegation, these results are basically welcome news for the Democrats. Since Virginia, along with New Jersey and New York, each led the nation in turnout drop-off from 2008 (each state registered more than 47% drop-off; that is, 47% of the people who voted in the 2008 presidential election did not return to cast a ballot in 2010), still suggests that the Democrats are more than competitive in a high turnout election, such as would be expected in the next presidential election. It looks like a long Senate campaign ahead for Old Dominion voters and it appears that either side can win.

The other state PPP tested is Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) faces the voters for the first time after unseating three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R) back in 2006. Here, Tester does not fare as well as his colleague Sen. Webb, but is certainly in position for a strong re-election bid.

According to the Public Policy Polling results (10/11-13; 1,176 registered MT voters), at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) leads Sen. Tester 48-46%. The Senator leads former Lt. Gov. nominee Steve Daines (R) 48-37%, but trails former Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot 42-49%.

This early data suggests that Montanans, too, can expect another close, rough and tumble campaign season in 2012. Protecting only 10 of 33 seats in the next cycle, the GOP would need a net gain of four to secure a new majority. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Montana are top states on the potential Republican conversion list.

Murkowski Wins in Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) officially has been declared the winner of the marathon Alaska Senate contest. With only 700+ ballots remaining to count, she is beyond the margin of error even when including all of opponent Joe Miller’s (R) challenged ballots. The Senator’s lead has grown to over 10,000 votes, exceeding the number of outstanding absentee ballots plus the 8,153 votes Miller is challenging. Thus ends the saga of one of the strangest political campaigns in recent memory. Murkowski lost the primary to Miller principally because she lacked a strong ground-force turnout mechanism but quickly rebounded to form a general election political apparatus to produce a win via write-in — an operation that requires intense organizational ability. This victory certainly ranks among the greatest comebacks in American political history.

Now, all 37 Senate races are official. The new Senate will stand at 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 campaigns in 2010 versus the Democrats’ 13, four short of the minimum requirement to claim the majority. Next we move to 2012, where Democrats must defend 23 seats versus just 10 for the Republicans. Lisa Murkowski is only the second person to win a Senate seat without officially being on the ballot. South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond was the other to accomplish the feat, way back in 1954.

Bean Concedes in Illinois; Progress on Other Races

Add one more new Republican seat to the completed House totals. Educator Joe Walsh, enjoying strong support from the Tea Party movement, has successfully unseated Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) as the remaining absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted yesterday. Walsh leads by only 282 votes of almost 200,000 cast, yet Rep. Bean decided to forego a recount and conceded the race, telephoning Walsh to offer her congratulations.

The IL-8 race may be the biggest surprise outcome of Election 2010 because Bean appeared on no one’s major target list, even though the 8th district is heavily Republican. She first won the seat in 2004, defeating 35-year Rep. Phil Crane (R). Ms. Bean consistently repelled mediocre opponents in 2006 and 2008 until Walsh came from almost complete obscurity this year to score the upset victory.

Overall, the House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two New York races still undetermined. Two others, TX-27 (Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz; 799 vote margin) and NC-2 (Renee Ellmers unseating Rep. Bob Etheridge; 1,489 vote spread) are subject to an official recount, but the respective outcomes are not expected to change.

Adding Walsh means Republicans gained a total of four seats in Illinois and actually took control of the congressional delegation by an 11-8 count. Redistricting, however, is exclusively in Democratic hands next year, so expect the delegation complexion to drastically change when the new lines are drawn. Walsh will certainly be a prime Democratic target. The state is likely to lose one seat in the 2010 apportionment.

More will soon be known about the New York races since absentee ballot counting finally began yesterday. In NY-1, where GOP challenger Randy Altschuler leads incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) by 383 votes, more than 11,000 Suffolk County absentee ballots were opened. We hopefully will get a clue today as to those results. In the Syracuse area, the count is again finally moving. Votes from the smaller, more rural counties have been tabulated and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle’s lead over freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) has grown to 729 votes. More than 6,000 votes remain from Onondoga County, an area that tends to favor Democrats. In Election Night counting, Maffei scored 54% of the vote here. Among the ballots remaining, however, the Congressman will have to exceed that total in order to surpass Buerkle. To reclaim the lead, Maffei will have to break 56% among the outstanding votes. Both of these elections are still too close to call.

Regardless of the outcome of this latest round of counting on Long Island and in the upstate region, no winner will be declared until all the military and overseas ballots have been received. Under New York law, the acceptance deadline is Nov. 24th, still a week away. It is likely, though, that the candidates leading the race at the end of the current respective count will hold on through the end, as the ballots still to come will be few in number.

Turning to Alaska where the trends continue to favor a write-in victory for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), counting laboriously moves forward. For the first time, however, Murkowski is officially leading.

It was long believed the trends — she was receiving 98% of the write-in votes — would allow her to overcome challenger Joe Miller (R), but now she has actually done so. At the end of counting yesterday, Murkowski had 92,164 votes to Miller’s 90,448. Miller, however, is challenging 7,601 ballots that have already been counted for the Senator but, so far, he is succeeding in actually removing only a handful of votes from the official tabulation. He is challenging the entire process in court, however. It now appears to be a virtual certainty that Murkowski will end the election with more votes than Miller, and the long-shot lawsuit will likely be his last hope of turning around the outcome. Eventually, Sen. Murkowski will be certified as the winner of this race.

Outstanding House Races Nearing Decisions

There are three congressional campaigns still possessing uncounted ballots. Two more are now headed to official recounts.

Recounts:

  1. In Texas, Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) is paying to have recounts conducted in six counties of the Rio Grande Valley district. He officially trails Republican Blake Farenthold by 799 votes after all ballots have been recorded.
  2. In NC-2, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) has officially requested a recount of his losing result versus Republican Renee Ellmers. Election officials there have also counted and canvassed the entire ballot universe and Ellmers leads by 1,489 votes. Both of these margins will likely vary by only a few votes through a recount because no new ballots will be added to the process. Considering the original counts were verified by a canvass process means the ballots have already effectively been counted twice.

The three races where more ballots could still arrive are in IL-8, NY-1, and NY-25.

Uncounted:

  1. In the suburban region north of Chicago in IL-8, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) trails GOP opponent Joe Walsh by 350 votes. According to election officials, “hundreds of provisional votes” remain to be counted and absentee ballots can still come in from overseas. Today is the final deadline for the latter category.
  2. In NY-1, where a voting machine counting error has flipped the election night result in favor of challenger Randy Altschuler (R) by 383 votes, Rep. Tim Bishop (D) has already gone to court to request a hand count of the entire district. Less than 10,000 ballots remain to be counted, and the clerks are reporting that 4,200 are from voters in parties supporting Altschuler and 3,900 carry labels from parties that endorsed Bishop. New York law allows military and overseas ballots to be counted as long as they arrive prior to Nov. 24.
  3. A similar situation exists in the Syracuse-based NY-25. A count of the 7,000+ absentee ballots already received began yesterday, but the process won’t be completed until Nov. 24, as explained above. GOP challenger Ann Marie Buerkle leads freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) by 659 votes.

Thus, the 2010 election continues …

The 2010 Election Turnout

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, we often mentioned that campaigns are always decided by the turnout model, especially in mid-term voting. Since a lower number of people participate in non-presidential elections, and 2010 was no exception, the groups of voters coming to the polls then determines which party wins and loses.

The preliminary 2010 turnout patterns, remembering that ballot counting in some states is not quite finished, clearly points to the fact that Republicans were in fact way more energized to vote, as the pre-election polling continually predicted.

The landslide, particularly at the U.S. House and state legislative level, occurred because Republicans did very well in states that have either been trending toward their opposition in the last two elections, or are normally reliable Democratic performers. The fact that many of these states turned out fewer voters in 2010 than they did in 2006, despite population gains, provides us clear evidence.

Of the Democratic states where Republicans made strong inroads, we see the same turnout pattern occurring. The Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter participation rates show unmistakable evidence that the Democratic voter base was demoralized. Since the results in these states, by and large, heavily favored the GOP and turnout was down from 2006, it is clear that the turnout dip was disproportionately felt on the Democratic side.

In Michigan, turnout was down a whopping 19.7% from 2006. This also translates into a 36.7% drop-off from 2008. With Republicans winning the Governorship, two US House seats, and both houses of the legislature, it is clear that the lower turnout was very likely exclusively within the Democratic voting sector.

Pennsylvania also was down, again indicating that Democrats simply were not voting at a normal level. The Keystone State saw turnout drop 2.7% from ’06, with a 35% drop-off rate from the presidential election. Here, the Republicans gained the Governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, five congressional seats, and the state House, while holding the state Senate. In Wisconsin — where the GOP won the Governorship, defeated a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator, gained two congressional seats and both houses of the legislature — turnout fell into a similar pattern as the aforementioned states, but not to the same degree. There, it dropped just 1% from 2006, and was off 28.5% from 2008.

Though a small state, South Dakota is also in this category. They elected a Republican Governor and defeated a popular Democratic at-large U.S. Representative. Total turnout was down 5.8% from ’06, but with only a 17% drop-off from the last presidential election.

Ohio, though not traditionally a Democratic state but which has performed as such in both 2006 and 2008, also fit the lower turnout pattern. There, the Republicans defeated an incumbent Governor, held an open U.S. Senate seat, gained five congressional districts, the state House and held the state Senate. 2010 turnout was off 6.1% from ’06 and 37% from the presidential election.

Another reason for the GOP landslide was that turnout experienced a boost in the more traditional Republican states. Arizona, which witnessed a strong Republican comeback when compared to 2006 and 2008 with wins at the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+2) and state legislative levels, saw a huge increase in turnout when compared with the last mid-term election of 2006. There, turnout rose a huge 24.8% over 2006, but the drop-off from 2008 was still significant at 33.3%. This shows a disproportionately low turnout in ’06, thus proving that demoralization among the Arizona Republican voter base of that year was severe.

Two states that didn’t fit the pattern were the more Republican state of Tennessee and the Democratic state of Illinois. Though GOP gains were major in TN, turnout actually dropped a huge 15.7% from 2006, and was off 39.6% when compared to the presidential race. In Illinois, Democratic in nature and a state that one would expect to fit the lower turnout pattern, saw voter participation increase 7.9% from 2006. Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here, but did not convert the Governor’s office as was expected prior to the election. The GOP went on to gain three congressional districts.

More definitive answers will be determined when all of the 2010 voting numbers become final and official.