Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thaddeus McCotter – The Unconventional Candidate

In recent days Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) has experienced something of a boomlet in terms of media coverage. Propelled by the admiration of Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox News’ late night comedy show, “Redeye with Greg Gutfeld”, and a New York Daily News profile of the lanky Michigan lawmaker, McCotter is raising Republican eyebrows with a disarming manner and an unconventional approach to political popularity. The recent Daily News piece by conservative columnist S.E. Cupp goes so far as to suggest McCotter as a dark horse candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

Gutfeld has called attention to McCotter’s keen wit and unflinchingly populist brand of conservatism on his show. McCotter’s atypical approach to his job as a member of Congress includes playing in a rock band, having posters of John Lennon and The Pogues decorate the walls of his office and lacing his conversations with historical, cultural and comic references that even comedian Dennis Miller, a McCotter friend, might find obscure.

While the five-term Representative just recently drove himself from his working class suburb of Detroit to a conservative political conference in Des Moines to speak and sell copies of his recently released book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age,” don’t mistake his jaunt to Iowa as a prelude to a fledgling presidential campaign. The chances of him announcing the formation of a 2012 national exploratory committee are highly remote.

What appears more possible is the Republican Party turning to McCotter as a candidate to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow in her 2012 reelection campaign. With the Senate majority hanging in abeyance, the GOP has so far fallen short in recruiting strong candidates in Ohio (against first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown) and Michigan. It will be difficult for the party to re-claim firm Senate control if they concede these two important Midwest states, places where their candidates performed very well in 2010.

With a new GOP governor, a majority in both houses of the state legislature, and Michigan losing a House seat in reapportionment as a result of its declining population, Michigan Republican congressmen are hopeful that their new district lines will cement their recent electoral gains and their considerable power as a delegation within the GOP majority committee structure. Therefore, most of the members would risk much in attempting to become a freshman Senator.

Stabenow’s job approval rating continues to hover in the mid-40s in most polls, and Michigan’s unemployment rate is still far worse than the national average, complicating the task of any incumbent running for re-election. Although Pres. Barack Obama will head the Democratic ticket in November 2012, and although he carried Michigan easily three years ago, the lingering recession and Stabenow’s lackluster job approval numbers certainly could cast doubt upon her easy re-election.

As of this year’s first quarter filing with the FEC, McCotter reports more than $478,000 cash on hand while Stabenow’s disclosure shows a much more robust $3.034 million. If McCotter decides to run against Stabenow, however, his financial capacity would soar and the subsequent campaign would be anything but conventional. The stylistic differences between the two candidates and Michigan’s still-troubled economic circumstances would likely make a Stabenow-McCotter race one of the more interesting and talked about campaigns in all of America.
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Heller has Narrow Lead in Nevada

Public Policy Polling (April 21-24; 491 registered NV voters), surveying the Nevada electorate at the exact time Sen. John Ensign (R) announced he would resign his seat in early May, finds Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) leading fellow Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) 47-43 percent. Heller is the man most believe Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) will appoint to replace Ensign, thus providing him with incumbent status before the 2012 election. When answering whether the respondents would favor holding a special election to replace the senator or having Gov. Sandoval appoint an interim office holder as current law dictates, by a margin of 53-44 percent, the group prefers the election option.

The 4-point Heller lead over Berkley is a net 9-point improvement for the Democrats since the last PPP was conducted. In early January, Heller held a 51-38 percent edge over Berkley, who was, at that time, not an announced Senatorial candidate. The small 4-point edge is also a bit of a surprise when seeing both candidates’ favorability ratings. Heller scores a 43:29 percent favorable to unfavorable personal image response, while Berkley registers a less impressive 34:31 percent. Should Heller be appointed to the Senate, the polling data will undoubtedly change, perhaps drastically, over the course of the 17 months remaining before the next election, but it is unclear as to what extent. Therefore, we can again expect another very difficult Nevada campaign for both participants.
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Presidential Mathematics

In the past few days, developments have occurred that help define the Republican presidential field of candidates. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, after giving every indication he was beginning to build a bona-fide presidential campaign apparatus, now says he won’t run. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is forming a presidential exploratory committee, meaning his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), will not become a candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now traveling to New Hampshire on a regular basis, says he will run if he doesn’t believe that another Republican candidate could actually defeat Pres. Barack Obama in a general election.

We still must hear definitively from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom may not enter the race, and Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all of whom either will, or probably will, run.

Looking at the delegate counts and apportionment systems that each state employs uncovers a road map to victory for one of the eventual candidates. Eleven states are winner-take-all (of Republican delegates) and another nine are winner-take-all by congressional district. These states proved key to Sen. John McCain’s come-from-behind victory in 2008. Remember, the McCain candidacy had been given up for dead until the actual voting began. His close wins in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, and Arizona (though the margin between McCain and the other candidates wasn’t particularly close in his home state, he still managed to garner only 47 percent of the vote within his own Arizona party base) gave him such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it soon became obvious no one could catch him.

Interestingly, despite his under-the-radar approach to the 2012 campaign, the delegate-rich states stack up pretty well in former Mayor Giuliani’s favor, considering his home base of New York (101 delegates) and New Jersey (53), are in the winner-take-all category. Connecticut (28), the District of Columbia (19), Delaware (17), and Vermont (17) are all other places the ex-NYC chief executive could win. Maryland (37 delegates), another Giuliani potential, is in the winner-take-all by congressional district category. The big states of California (172) and Florida (93) are also there, as are Ohio (72) and Wisconsin (42).

All totaled, the winner-take-all and the winner-take-all by congressional district states contain 1,096 delegates of the grand total of 2,422 that form the Republican National Convention. This means 45.2 percent of all delegates will be chosen in either winner-take-all or winner-take-all by CD states. The remainder are in caucus, proportional systems, or hybrids like Louisiana (48 delegates) where both a primary and caucus are used.

The winner-take-all by congressional district awards a candidate a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote (usually their base 10 delegates that all states receive, and whatever extra and bonus votes they earn for electing Republican candidates to office) and another three delegates for every congressional district won. This system is interesting because some congressional districts in places like Los Angeles, where Republicans routinely receive well less than 30 percent of the vote are of equal stature to the strongest of GOP districts in terms of delegate allocation for the Republican presidential primary. While it is unlikely that any one candidate would win all of the delegates in a winner-take-all by CD state, it is possible for an individual to snare the vast majority, which matters greatly in the national vote count.

Whether Rudy Giuliani comes back from political oblivion to stake his comeback on a winner-take-all state strategy is unclear right now. What is evident, however, is that the person carrying the preponderance of these winner-take-all states and districts will almost assuredly win the 2012 Republican nomination and become Obama’s future general election opponent.

Winner-Take-All States
• Arizona – 54 delegates
• Connecticut – 28
• Delaware – 17
• District of Columbia – 19
• Missouri – 56
• Montana – 26
• New Jersey – 53
• New York – 101
• Utah – 36
• Vermont – 17
• Virginia – 49

Winner Take All by Congressional District
• California – 172 delegates
• Florida – 93
• Georgia – 72
• Maryland – 37
• Michigan – 62
• Ohio – 72
• Oklahoma – 43
• South Carolina – 47
• Wisconsin – 42

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Giuliani in New Hampshire?

The Manchester, New Hampshire-based American Research Group (ARG) just released the results of their new Granite State poll (April 11-16; 600 likely NH Republican primary voters) and it includes a name not commonly mentioned when discussing 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Tied for third place with 8 percent of the vote is New York City former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been spending much quality time in New Hampshire during the past couple of weeks. When asked if he is considering running again, he basically says “yes,” qualified with a statement that he would support someone else if he believed such person could defeat Pres. Barack Obama.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney captures first place in this new poll, with 32 percent of the respondents. Real estate magnate Donald Trump, who has been receiving a great deal of media attention recently for his proposed presidential run, is second with 17 percent. Tied with Giuliani are ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), who will officially form a presidential exploratory committee. Sarah Palin only scores a 2 percent preference rating, tied with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and businessman Herman Cain. Now that Ron Paul is making moves to get into the race, it is likely that his son, Sen. Paul, will cease his potential presidential activities.

Should Giuliani decide to run and attacks New Hampshire with a grassroots, no frills campaign, and finishes at least a close second, he could again become a serious candidate, particularly within this current field of GOP candidates. It appears that anything can happen in the 2012 Republican presidential contest, so Giuliani entering the fray and doing well is certainly within the realm of possibility.
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Nevada: A Potential GOP Quagmire

Nevada's congressional districts.

Though it appears that Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is the obvious choice to replace outgoing Sen. John Ensign (R), who will resign May 3rd, the selection will ignite a series of moves that could be troubling for Silver State Republicans. Heller, a three-term congressman from the rural district – Nevada currently has three CDs, two in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and one, NV-2, that touches a corner of Clark County (Las Vegas) and encompasses the rest of the state – is already the consensus Senatorial candidate for the party to maintain the swing-state Senate seat in 2012.

But, it is Heller’s House seat that could become problematic for the GOP if the congressman immediately replaces Sen. Ensign. Under Nevada law, the state party central committees choose nominees in the event of vacancies, and not the electorate through a direct primary vote. The law, however, is a bit sketchy. It does allow for independents to qualify for the ballot in addition to the major party nominees, and Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller says he will decide the particulars of gaining ballot access. Miller himself could become a candidate for a different office in 2012, too. He was considering the Senate race, but deferred to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), once she announced for the seat. Running for the US House, however, is a possibility for him because Nevada will have at least two open seats next year. So, it is conceivable his rulings for this special election could in some way affect his own short-term political plans.

Redistricting is yet another factor in this complicated situation. Because Nevada gains a new 4th district from reapportionment, the 2nd district will drastically change. Since the current Clark County population figure is only about 20,000 people short of qualifying for three complete CD’s, it is probable that none of the Vegas area will be in the new 2nd. But, the special general election will be run in the current 2nd, which does include a section of the metro area. Democrats control the legislature and will draw the initial congressional map, but Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, will have veto power over whatever is eventually sent him. If the two sides deadlock, then a court will draw the new congressional and legislative maps. Should the process find its way to federal court, the most liberal 9th Circuit of the Federal District Courts will come into play, as Nevada sits in that particular region. Therefore, even eventual court action is unclear.

Already, Sharron Angle, the controversial 2010 US Senate nominee who lost to Majority Leader Harry Reid 44-50 percent, has announced that she will run for the 2nd congressional district in the regular 2012 election. Back in 2006, Mrs. Angle, then a state assemblywoman, lost the Republican congressional nomination to Heller by just 421 votes. She will not be chosen as the Republican nominee in the special election by the party structure, and Secretary of State Miller’s ballot access rulings could factor prominently into her decision as to whether or not to seek the seat in the special election. Ideally, from a Democratic Party perspective, Miller will want to make it easy for Angle to enter the race. She will be a strong Independent candidate and could split the vote to the Democratic nominee’s advantage.

Democrats looking at the political picture here will certainly want to do what they can to encourage an Angle candidacy, hoping for a similar result as what happened in the Senate race. It is important to note, however, that Angle did beat Sen. Reid in the 2nd district portion of the state, which is a sobering fact for Democratic partisans thinking they can take advantage of a fractured 2nd district GOP and steal a victory. With Democratic control in the legislature, however, the party leadership could definitely draw a new 2nd district that would help Angle win a GOP primary, especially if another Republican wins the special election, thus throwing the seat into further chaos in the 2012 regular campaign.

Events will begin to unfold quickly after Ensign officially leaves office and Heller secures the Senatorial appointment.

No matter what eventually happens here, many twists and turns can be expected before the final votes are cast.
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