Monthly Archives: January 2011

The 2012 Presidential Delegates

Soon the 2012 presidential campaign will be starting in earnest, and we will again experience the laborious and complicated process of nominating candidates for the general election campaign. With a sitting incumbent unlikely to face a strong intra-party challenge, the Democrats will have little action on their side of the political ledger. Thus, Pres. Barack Obama’s nomination process will be little more than a formality.

Though the Republican candidates seem to be a little slow getting out of the gate right now, the major action still will be in their party. With no clear front-running candidate, the delegate count becomes even more important because the eventual winner is forced to build a large early lead. Again, having candidates who will likely only be strong in a particular geographic region, as was the case in 2008, it is anyone’s guess as to who will break out of the pack and claim the Republican nomination.

Though we are now less than a year from the first caucus vote, many decisions are still undetermined. Most states have only a tentative schedule in place, while others still must make a decision on their delegate selection format.

The 50 states and six voting territories have several ways of determining their own individual nominating system. The most popular is the winner-take-all (WTA) option, where the candidate receiving the most votes gets all of the state’s delegates. Arizona and Missouri are traditionally in this category. Other states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Utah are likely to be WTA’s in 2012.

Some states, like California and Florida, choose a modified winner-take-all system. A candidate receives a certain number of delegates for winning the state, and then is awarded every delegate in each congressional district won.

The last major category is the proportional system. This is where each candidate is awarded delegates based upon the percentage of the popular vote that he or she receives in the primary election. States can hold their nominating process either through a direct vote of the people either in an open or closed primary, or via a caucus system.

Right now, it appears that 11 states will use the winner-take-all system and another nine the modified WTA. An additional nine will use the proportional primary option. Fifteen states will caucus. Another dozen entities will use some variation of the above, except for the two “loophole” states. Illinois and Pennsylvania conduct a primary, but instead of selecting the presidential candidates, voters here choose the delegates themselves. Normally the delegate candidate is listed in a way that clearly denotes who the individual supports for president, but the vote is cast for the individual delegate, nonetheless.

In 2012, the Republicans will have a total field of 2,421 delegates. Exactly 1,879 individuals, called “pledged delegates,” will go to the Republican National Convention pledged to vote for a particular candidate at least on the first ballot. Another 542 will be free agents and will report to the convention as “unpledged” delegates. A candidate will be nominated for president once he or she obtains 1,211 delegate votes.

The first vote looks to be in Wyoming, at their county caucus program on Jan. 7, 2012. Iowa will be the first major event, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16. South Carolina, right now, is next up for Jan. 21. New Hampshire is tentatively picking Jan. 24, but the Granite State is sure to move up, as the party rules allow New Hampshire to retain its position as the first primary state. Florida will follow on Jan. 31. Maine and Alaska will have a caucus procedure before Super Tuesday. Currently, 15 states appear to be lining up for a Feb. 7 Super Tuesday election.

At this point in the process, 22 states will have chosen at least a partial slate of delegates, and a grand total of 1,096 delegate votes will be decided or officially categorized as unpledged. Through Tuesday, March 6, 41 states will have chosen delegates, most likely meaning that the Republican nomination will be decided by that date. If not, then we could be headed for the first brokered convention in generations, truly a nightmare scenario for the GOP as it already faces an uphill challenge in unseating an incumbent president, especially if the Democrats can unify their party.

Count on seeing and hearing much more about the Republican delegate count as we march forward to the another marathon presidential election. The fun is about to begin.
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Obama’s Approval Ratings Give No Clue to Re-Election

The Gallup Organization released its presidential job approval ratings for late January, and then compared Barack Obama’s current scores to previous presidents at a commensurate time during their respective tenures in office. Eight former presidents were included on the comparison list, all of Mr. Obama’s modern-day predecessors with the exceptions of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford. Neither of these men were elected to their first, or only (in the case of Ford), presidential term, hence they were purposely omitted. Vice Pres. Johnson assumed office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Vice Pres. Ford succeeded Richard Nixon upon his resignation.

Testing the elected presidents’ job approval ratings in January of their third year reveals no re-election prediction pattern. The chief executive with the best job approval score, George H. W. Bush at 75% in 1991, ironically went on to lose re-election less than two years later. The one with the lowest rating, Ronald Reagan at 36% in the beginning of 1983, would later win a 49-state landslide victory and enjoy historical ratings equal to the best American presidents. Kennedy, though his tragic murder prevented him from seeking re-election, was second highest at 74%. Dwight Eisenhower, who did win a comfortable re-election in 1956, posted a 70% positive score in the first month of 1955.

Since the 2010 election, President Obama’s approval ratings have increased slightly. According to the January Gallup data, he now stands at 49% job approval, with 42% disapproving. These numbers rank him sixth of the nine president’s tested. He is in the same category as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, who both registered 47% in early 1995 and 1979, respectively. Clinton, of course, went on to win re-election, though without the benefit of gaining majority voter support, and Carter went down to one of the biggest landslide defeats in history.

The remaining two presidents on the list, George W. Bush, at 60% positive in January of 2003, and Richard Nixon, who posted 56% in early 1971, both were re-elected to a second term. Bush won a close re-election and served the entire term. Nixon won a landslide victory, but was forced to resign from office in disgrace in 1974.

Thus, the historical job approval ratings give us little in the way of predicting how Mr. Obama will fare in the 2012 presidential election. From a partisan standpoint, the president’s approval ratings among Democrats have been consistent throughout his tenure. Currently standing at 84%, he began with an 88% mark in February 2009 among voters within his own party. Republicans, not surprisingly, always scored him low, but he has now dropped into the teens among this subset of the electorate. He began with 41% approval ratings among GOP voters, but currently scores only 14% positive. Perhaps most troubling for the president is his standing among Independents. Here, he is substantially weaker after serving two full years than when he first began. Within this group, Mr. Obama initially registered 62% favorable. Today, his score tumbles to 49%. It is within this latter subset that the President’s support will have to substantially grow if he is to win a strong re-election victory 21 months from now.

All of the current Gallup data were accumulated during the January 23-25th period. The sample size contains a rolling average of 1,500 adults.
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Capito in Strong Shape in West Virginia

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito

Public Policy Polling just completed a survey of the West Virginia electorate (January 20-23; 1,105 WV registered voters) and answered some critical questions about Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV-2) possible political future. Recently, the state courts ruled that a special gubernatorial election must be held this year to fill former Gov. Joe Manchin’s final months in office. In November Manchin was elected to the US Senate. Since West Virginia’s succession laws are ambiguous, state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has been serving as acting governor in addition to his legislative position. Forced to have a 2011 election, Tomblin set the date for October 4th with a June 20th primary vote.

Because the special will occur in an odd-numbered year, many current office holders, including Capito, can run for governor without risking their positions. The PPP poll shows the Charleston congresswoman to be in the best shape of any candidate. She runs ahead of every major WV Democrat by substantial margins, including a 48-40% spread over Tomblin. The poll also shows that all Democrats match-up well against the other potential Republican candidates should Capito remain on the sidelines.

The Republicans winning the governorship will have a major effect upon congressional redistricting, assuming the maps are not adopted before the special election. Republicans now hold a 2-1 majority in the federal delegation, but Democrats are in firm control of the state legislature. Electing Capito could protect that advantage, but she is giving few clues as to what will be her next move.
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In Conn., Redistricting Could Make Things Very Interesting

Connecticut is already shaping up to be one of the more interesting political states for 2012. Redistricting adds a wild card to the picture that will likely favor the Democrats, but also provides the Republicans an opportunity to potentially take advantage of a majority party in transition. Watch for major action here.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), an announced candidate for Joe Lieberman’s open Senate seat, just released the results of an internal campaign poll but with data accumulated from a few weeks ago. Obviously anticipating Lieberman’s exit from the race, the Gotham Research Group, for the Murphy campaign, surveyed 502 registered Connecticut voters during the January 3-5 period. Not surprisingly, the results showed Rep. Murphy faring very well against the two most likely 2012 GOP entries, just-defeated Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

According to Gotham, Murphy would defeat McMahon 54-35%, while holding a smaller 46-34% advantage over Simmons. These are believable numbers since Connecticut performed well for the Democrats in the Republican year of 2010, and both McMahon and Simmons lost the Senate race. But it’s the Democratic primary numbers that are the most interesting factor in the released data. According to the study, Murphy leads former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz 40-31% with 29% undecided.

The primary numbers are worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, the questions were asked of only 257 Democrats, a very small sample considering the number of such voters in the state, thus the error factor is high. Second, the poll did not include Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2) who is now seriously considering entering the Senate race in his own right. This poll should encourage Courtney because neither of his prospective opponents is close to 50%, and almost 1/3 of the voters describe themselves as undecided. Thus, a competitive race with a trio of credible candidates lasting until August of 2012 could formulate in many different ways. In this situation, a reasonable victory scenario can be crafted for each of the three candidates.

Aside from a free-for-all Senatorial primary to potentially contend with, the Democrats might also be left in a precarious situation regarding the House races. With Murphy already vacating his seat and Courtney a possibility to do so, the Democrats would face some redistricting and political challenges necessary to keeping all five of the state’s congressional seats in the party’s column. Remember, Republicans won both the 2nd (Courtney) and 5th (Murphy) districts in their current configuration up until 2006.

Though they are highly Democratic seats (CT-2, Obama ’08: 59% – Bush ’04: 44%. CT-5, Obama ’08: 56% – Bush ’04: 49%.), Republicans proved they can win in both places. While Courtney had an easy re-election in 2010 (winning 59-39% against an opponent who spent less than $250,000), Murphy fought off a tough challenge from state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R). Additionally, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-4) also had a tough battle in his first re-election, winning 53-47% in a race similar to Murphy’s.

Obviously, in open seat situations the 2nd and the 5th are going to be more competitive, thus the party may need to roll a few more Democratic voters to both the east (2nd) and west (5th), taking them from the 1st (Rep. John Larson – Hartford) and 3rd (Rep. Rosa DeLauro – New Haven) districts. The 4th, which elected Republican Chris Shays until 2008 and is located in the southwestern tail of the state that borders New York, also might need a slight increase in Democratic voters and that would drain a few more from the neighboring 3rd. Thus, we could find Dem redistricting specialists facing what could be a tricky task of rolling voters from their middle districts in both directions. This would certainly make the 1st and 3rd less Democratic, but would theoretically strengthen districts 2, 4, and 5.

The most positive end redistricting result would mean five Democratic seats that can be maintained throughout the decade. On the other hand, opening up all districts for significant change often brings unintended consequences, and this could help the Republicans.
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Emanuel Tossed Off Ballot

Rahm Emanuel


An Illinois state Appellate Court, in a surprising 2-1 vote yesterday, removed former White House Chief of Staff and Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D) from the Chicago mayoral ballot. Recent polling (WGN/Chicago Tribune; Jan. 16-19; 708 self-described likely voters) gave President Obama’s top staff member a comfortable 44-21% lead over ex-US Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, so the court action is causing major reverberations for all associated campaigns. The joint media survey placed Board of Education President Gery Chico third at 16% while City Clerk Miguel de Valle lags behind in single-digits (7%).

Earlier, US Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL-7) and state Sen. James Meeks dropped out of the race in an effort to coalesce the African-American community solely behind Moseley Braun, with the hope of forcing a two-person run-off between Emanuel and her. If no candidate receives 50% plus one vote in the February 22nd election, a run-off contest between the top two finishers is scheduled for April.

The court reasoned that Emanuel, despite winning unanimously in a related administrative ruling before the state Board of Elections, does not meet Chicago’s electoral residency requirement. The judicial panel maintained that he did not reside in the city during the past year. The former chief of staff will appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which must rule quickly. Early voting already begins January 31st.

The Supreme Court, an elected body that features four Democrats and three Republicans, has the power to reinstate Emanuel and is expected to do so. But, how much will this distraction take away from his potential to win the race outright in February? The answer will soon be forthcoming.