Monthly Archives: March 2011

2012 Senatorial Candidate Announcements Coming Soon

Although no one has yet officially declared his or her candidacy for the nation’s highest office, several people are moving closer to making an announcement for the Senate. It is being reported from both public and private sources that Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) will announce a Senatorial run as soon as this weekend or early next week. Franks will oppose fellow Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in the Republican primary. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring. Both men running statewide will have a huge effect upon Arizona congressional redistricting. The two have the most over-populated seats in the state (both have more than 261,000 people to shed) and with no incumbent influence for either district, both seats can be disassembled. The result could lead to a radical re-draw. Complicating matters even further, Arizona also gains a new seat.

Turning to the Midwest and Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is sounding more like a Senatorial candidate. He is seriously considering challenging Sen. Richard Lugar (R) next year in hopes of taking advantage of what appears to be a difficult Tea Party-induced challenge for the six-term senator in the GOP primary. That Donnelly is still publicly flirting with the Senate almost assures that he will run. The congressman’s statements to-date already give Republican map drawers the impetus they need to re-craft his northern Indiana congressional district into a more Republican-friendly seat. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to a one-point win in 2010, has confirmed that she will run again, thus pressuring the congressman even further.
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Derailing the Ryan Express in Wisconsin?

Liberal activists are beginning to tout a new congressional candidate who they believe has a chance of unseating House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) next year. The Swing State Project, a national liberal campaign blog, is reporting that Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is taking concrete steps toward assembling a 2012 electoral challenge against the popular Republican incumbent.

Paul Ryan is an up-and-coming national Republican political figure. Now in his 7th term in the House, he was elected in 1998 at the young age of 28. Mr. Ryan was appointed ranking member of the Budget Committee in the last Congress and became the panel’s chair with the Republican sweep back into the majority in the last election. Ryan’s name has popped up as a long shot presidential candidate, and also a possible Senate contestant if Wisconsin’s senior Sen. Herb Kohl (D) decides to retire. For his part, Rep. Ryan is committed only to running for re-election in 2012, saying he wants to finish his allotted terms as Budget chairman in order to make progress toward the goal of reducing the federal deficit before running for another office.

Zerban undoubtedly looks better on paper to the Democratic candidate recruitment team than he does face-to-face against Ryan. Though he is an elected local supervisor, Kenosha County represents only 25 percent of the 1st CD total population, and the Board of Supervisors has 28 single-member districts. Therefore, Zerban’s entire constituency is just short of 5,500 people, only about 7.5% of the total congressional district population.

The liberals also opine that Ryan is too conservative for what should be a marginal congressional district, and that redistricting really won’t greatly affect his seat. They say this because the territory occupies the southeast corner of the state, bordering Illinois on the south and Lake Michigan to the east, so it doesn’t appear much can change.

Both arguments are incorrect. First, WI-1 is a much different district than when former Armed Services Committee chairman and future US Defense Secretary Les Aspin (D-WI-1) represented the seat during his 22-year congressional career (1971-1993). Pres. Barack Obama did carry the 1st in 2008, but only with 51% of the vote. Former Pres. George Bush performed well there in 2004, winning a 54-46 percent victory. Bush also carried the 1st with 51% in 2000.

For his part, Ryan has been a huge vote-getter during his congressional tenure. He has averaged an impressive 64.4 percent through his seven elections, four times breaking 65 percent of the vote. He is a strong fundraiser, too. In 2010, when he romped to victory with 68 percent, Ryan raised more than $3.9 million for his re-election. His year-end 2010 report shows he finished the campaign cycle with over $3 million cash-on-hand, one of the best financial entries for the entire House.

In terms of redistricting, the 1st district must shed 17,169 people. Since Republicans are in total control of the Wisconsin redistricting process, the swing between Ryan’s district and those of neighboring Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2; +40,296 over-populated) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4; -41,858 under-populated) will result in Ryan receiving a few more Republicans and the two Democrats also getting a bit stronger. Thus, the new WI-1 is likely to be even better for Ryan than the current district configuration he has dominated over the past 10 years.

While the controversy over Wisconsin’s public employee labor policy continues toward a political meltdown, thus throwing the state’s politics into chaos, Rep. Ryan appears completely secure for his 2012 election. Though Supervisor Zerban may well be preparing for a run against him, such a battle will likely sputter and become another easy ride for the veteran Republican. National Democrats will likely find more tempting targets in other locations than Chairman Paul Ryan’s southern Wisconsin district.
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Ohio Poll: Obama Iffy, Sen. Brown Stronger

Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest large-sample Ohio poll (March 15-21; 1,384 registered Ohio voters) and found that Pres. Barack Obama receives mixed ratings. The Buckeye State will again be a key battleground region in the 2012 presidential election, and is a place Republicans must win if they are to have any realistic chance of unseating Obama. When asked if they approve of the job Obama is doing, the cell sample split virtually evenly, with 47 percent answering positively while 48 percent provided a negative response. Commenting on whether the president deserves re-election, 45 percent of this Ohio sample believes that he does, but 46 percent disagreed. Paired with a generic Republican placebo, Obama is the choice of 41 percent versus the unnamed Republican’s 34 percent share. The overall numbers show some weakness in Obama’s Ohio political outlook because break-even polling scenarios almost always trend against the incumbent in an actual vote. It the above trend continues, the Republican chances to win Ohio will improve.

Conversely, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who must stand for his first re-election next year, is gaining political strength. While polls at the end of last year showed a potential Senate race to be in the toss-up range, more recent surveys, like this Q-Poll, indicate that Brown’s political position is becoming much stronger. His job approval score is 43:27 percent positive to negative. By a margin of 45-30 percent, the respondents believe the senator deserves re-election and a similar 45-29 percent split indicates they would vote for Brown over a generic Republican candidate.
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Florida’s Mack Won’t Run for Senate

Late last week a story surfaced in Politico that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) would today officially announce a challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for the seat Nelson has held since 2001. Such is not the case.

Understanding that the reporter never discussed Mack’s intentions personally with the congressman, but rather quoted an ‘anonymous source close to the Mack campaign,’ it was written that an announcement of candidacy would be imminently forthcoming. Mr. Mack corrected the story retorting that he would indeed make a statement but only to detail his reasons for not running statewide. He says family concerns and wanting to continue his service in the House influenced the decision not to engage Nelson. Rep. Mack, 43, first won his House seat in 2004 and will seek re-election next year.

This leaves state Senate President Mike Haridopolos as the only significant Republican currently in the race against Nelson. The veteran Democratic senator, commonly viewed to be at least marginally vulnerable in the next election, has confirmed that he will seek a third term. Haridopolos has been active on the fundraising trail and promises to report more than seven figures in receipts on his 2011 first quarter Federal Election Commission disclosure report due April 15. Nelson had over $3 million cash-on-hand according to his year-end 2010 filing.

Mack was viewed as having very strong potential as a statewide candidate, polling atop all preliminary Florida Senate Republican primary surveys. This is likely because of his name familiarity with voters. His father, Connie Mack III, served in the Senate for the 12 years prior to Nelson and spent three terms in the House. Connie Mack, Sr., who shortened his name from Cornelius McGillicuddy, is a legendary Hall of Fame baseball owner and manager.

Without Rep. Mack on the statewide ballot, the Republicans will likely be looking for a candidate stronger than Haridopolos to wage a potentially winning campaign against Nelson. In his two Senate general election victories (2000 and 2006), Mr. Nelson posted winning totals of 51 and 60 percent, defeating then-Rep. and future Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and then-Rep. and former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, respectively. Nelson spent six terms in the House, spanning 1979-1991. He was twice elected as Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner & fire marshal (1994; 1998).

Other potential Republican candidates include former interim Sen. George LeMieux, who had said repeatedly during his 18-month stint in the Senate, filling the unexpired term of Mel Martinez (R), that he planned to challenge Nelson in 2012 but seemed to back away from those intentions upon leaving office. Mack’s decision not to enter the race could now lead to LeMieux becoming a candidate. The ex-majority leader of the Florida State House, Adam Hasner, is also a likely Senatorial contender.

It’s also possible that Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13) may reconsider previous statements saying he was unlikely to run statewide in 2012. The congressman mused recently that being appointed as a member of the important House Ways & Means Committee was quelling his desire to run for Senate, but Mack’s decision could become an impetus for him to re-focus on a battle against the 68-year-old Nelson.

The Florida seat figures prominently in any Republican scenario to gain control of the Senate next year. Down 47-53, the GOP needs a minimum net conversion of four seats to wrest away the Democratic majority. Only having to defend 10 of the 33 in-cycle seats, with three that are open (Arizona-Kyl; Nevada-Ensign; Texas-Hutchison), the Republicans are in strong position to turn several Democratic states, such as the open seats in North Dakota (Conrad) and Virginia (Webb). Democrats are heavy favorites to hold their incumbent retirement seats in Connecticut (Lieberman-I), Hawaii (Akaka), and New Mexico (Bingaman), though the latter two could become highly competitive under the right circumstances.

In terms of incumbent Democratic vulnerabilities, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson tops the list and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Montana’s Jon Tester will also face toss-up re-election challenges. Going hard after Bill Nelson certainly expands the GOP political playing field but, without Mack as a candidate, the Republican task of converting the Sunshine State clearly becomes more difficult.
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Allen and Kaine Likely to Square Off in Virginia

The stage appears to be set in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a 2012 political campaign that could determine the partisan balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) retirement vacancy after a single six-year term likely will be filled by either former GOP senator and governor George Allen or Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair and former governor Tim Kaine. The race promises to pit two candidates who have each won statewide office twice:

  • Allen – Governor, 1993; U.S. Senator, 2000
  • Kaine – Lt. Governor, 2001; Governor, 2005

In this pairing, however, control of the Senate could realistically be the ultimate prize for the victor’s party.

After the 2010 mid-term elections were over, Allen wasted little time in declaring his intention to reclaim the Senate seat he barely lost to Webb in 2006. The former Republican senator and governor announced that he would again run more than two weeks before Webb announced his retirement on Feb. 9. Since becoming an official candidate in January, Allen has been in full campaign mode, traveling the state and staking out positions on issues likely to surface in the general election. He will face only token opposition in the Republican primary.

By contrast, Kaine has been taking a very cautious approach toward a Senate race, only recently letting it slip to a University of Richmond law school class that he was “increasingly likely to run.” Still, the DNC chair insists he has made no final decision on his potential candidacy as of yet.

The former governor would clearly be the Democratic Party’s strongest nominee in terms of name recognition and fundraising capability. If Kaine doesn’t run, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his Fifth District congressional seat in November, seems likely to enter the race, but the ex-representative says he won’t oppose Kaine.

It appears that the pressure on Kaine to become a candidate is enormous. The early 2012 cycle Democratic Senate retirements of Akaka (HI), Bingaman (NM), Conrad (ND), Lieberman (I-CT), and Webb (VA), and the large number of Democratic seats to defend (23 of the 33 in-cycle contests) has put the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recruiting efforts in the spotlight.

Virginia is a critical state from a national perspective. The White House is fully aware of the benefits of a strong Virginia Democratic ticket, as Pres. Barack Obama became the first Democrat since Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to carry the Old Dominion. It is a must-win state for the GOP if the 2012 Republicans are to seriously contest the President’s re-election. Therefore, Obama blunting the GOP offensive in Virginia could clinch his second national victory.

With Kaine as a candidate, the Virginia contest is likely to be one of the most closely watched Senate campaigns in the nation. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Feb. 24-27 of 524 Virginia voters showed Allen and Kaine in a dead heat with 47% support for each. Call this race a toss-up with colossal stakes for now, and it will likely remain as such all the way to Election Day.
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