Monthly Archives: April 2011

Latham will Challenge Boswell in Iowa

Current Iowa congressional districts.

The new Iowa congressional lines have yet to be officially approved but Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4), whose district is apparently being collapsed in reapportionment, already has made his electoral decision for 2012. In an email announcement to supporters this past Friday, Mr. Latham said he will challenge Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) next year. On paper, the vast majority of Latham’s current seat is in the new 4th CD that map drawers combined with fellow GOP Rep. Steve King’s 5th district; signs pointed to an intra-party face-off. That Latham chose to run against Boswell, even though just three counties carry over from his current district, certainly provides the best move for the Republican Party.

Iowa chooses to redistrict by empowering a legislative committee staff to construct new districts via a mathematical formula without regard to incumbency. Their 2011 work product has resulted in the pairing not only of Latham with now Boswell, but also Democratic members Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) and David Loebsack (D-IA-2), whose homes were placed together in the new 1st district. Loebsack, despite his Linn County (Cedar Rapids) power base being added to IA-1, says he will run in the new 2nd, which has the majority of his current territory.

Latham’s move against Boswell makes sense from several perspectives. First, as previously mentioned, it greatly helps the Republican Party, because a divisive primary is avoided. Second, Latham conceding the GOP nomination in the new northwestern 4th district to King also helps the party prepare for the general election there because this new seat is not as solidly Republican as his (King’s) current 5th district. Third, in the person of Rep. Latham, the Iowa Republican Party now has its strongest possible candidate against Boswell who has been weakened in several close elections but never succumbed to defeat.

Another Latham advantage will be his huge campaign war chest. The asset is more important in a general election than for a primary battle opposite King because spending is less for a nomination battle and the latter has a strong Tea Party grassroots network that can independently turn out its own vote.

The new IA-3 is the Des Moines-Council Bluffs seat. Polk (Des Moines) is the largest county in the district and the biggest population center in Iowa, housing 429,439 people. It is the only county that remains from the current 3rd. Boswell’s present district begins in Polk County and stretches to the northeast. The new 3rd also launches from Polk but stretches to the southwest, all the way to the Nebraska border.

Historically, the 3rd has been a politically marginal district. Former President George W. Bush carried the region in 2004 by just a few votes over John Kerry, but Pres. Barack Obama rebounded to score a much higher 54-44 percent win over John McCain four years later. The new 3rd district becomes even tighter, as it skews approximately three more points in the Republicans’ favor. Obama carried the new configuration 52-46 percent, while Bush would have scored an identical percentage and margin of victory back in ’04. The shift should definitely play to Latham’s favor in 2012.

Rep. Boswell, first elected in 1996, is 77 years old and has had previous health issues. Long speculated about as a potential retirement prospect, the congressman confirmed even before the redistricting process began that he would be a candidate for re-election. He’s averaged 54.2 percent of the vote over eight terms, but hit just 50 percent in 2010. Changing the voting pattern and geography of the district to give the GOP a small boost means the race will begin as a pure toss-up.

Though King dodges a bullet by not having to face Latham, he may not yet be out of the woods. Christie Vilsack, wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Governor Tom Vilsack, has been saying she will run for Congress in 2012. Because of redistricting it was not clear who she might oppose, especially since the family home is in Rep. Loebsack’s 2nd district. Word is now forthcoming that Mrs. Vilsack is seriously considering hopping into the new 4th district, at the opposite end of the state, to challenge King.

While the new 3rd becomes more Republican in redistricting, the new 4th gets slightly more Democratic. King’s current 5th district gave McCain a 54-44 percent victory, and George W. Bush notched a more impressive 60-39 percent win in 2004. The new 4th brings these numbers closer together. McCain’s performance in the just-configured northwest region was 50 percent as compared to Pres. Obama’s 48 percent. Bush would have carried the seat 55-44 percent. King would be favored against Mrs. Vilsack, but the race certainly has the potential of becoming highly competitive.

Now that redistricting is virtually settled, it is clear that 2012 will feature a very active congressional election cycle in the Hawkeye State.
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The (Way Too) Early Line – Vulnerable or Not?

While it’s far too early to place any value on hypothetical match-ups in a presidential election that’s 18 months away, some preliminary polling numbers are starting to raise eyebrows and interest in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.

Some polls released into the public domain do little to enlighten or inform about public opinions because of small or meaningless sampling methodologies or survey techniques. Others, however, provide a snapshot of informed opinion that can influence future outcomes.

A question on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike is: “Is President Obama vulnerable in 2012?” Since the 1932 Great Depression era election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two incumbent presidents have been beaten by opposing candidates in a general election. Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush’s 1992 defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton stand out as the only two examples of incumbent presidents losing a November election during that time span. (Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal ended his 1968 re-election candidacy during the primary campaign.)

While Pres. Barack Obama continues to enjoy fairly high personal approval ratings from likely 2012 voters, his policy agenda doesn’t command the same level of support. In fact, looking at the trend line from the Rasmussen Reports tracking polls, conducted daily since the presidential inauguration, one sees that Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating has been under 50 percent every day since Feb. 18, while his disapproval score has consistently exceeded 50 percent post-Feb. 10.

These numbers might not mean much taken in and of themselves because Obama won’t be facing a “stay or go” plebiscite in November 2012. Instead, he will square off with a Republican challenger and, perhaps, an independent entry with a stark ideological bent.

During the month of March, Rasmussen conducted a series of presidential ballot test studies that included 10 different hypothetical GOP nominees. The comparison surveys all sampled at least 1,000 (and in some cases 2,000) likely voters and were conducted during the March 6-31 period. The sampling margin of error for surveys of 2,000 is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence; the error rate for surveys of 1,000 is +/- 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Interestingly, regardless of who becomes Obama’s Republican opponent, the data shows he garners support between 49 and 42 percent of the respondents. The match-ups project Arkansas former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be running dead even with the president (43-43 percent), while Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney trails 40-45 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is down 34-42 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lags behind by exactly that same percentage. As you have seen, all of the aforementioned Republicans trail by single-digit margins. GOP potential candidates down double-digits include: former vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (38-48 percent), Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (35-45 percent), Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (31-41 percent), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (37-49 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (32-45 percent), and businessman, newspaper columnist and Tea Party activist Herman Cain (25-43 percent).

At this early point in the election cycle, there are few definitive conclusions to draw from the president’s middling approval ratings and his less than dominant showing in these hypothetical horse races. However, there is also little to suggest that Mr. Obama will have the luxury of running a relaxed, Rose Garden re-election strategy either.
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Fayetteville Finger Falls

The current layout of Arkansas' congressional districts. (govtrack.us)

The Arkansas legislature officially sent Gov. Mike Beebe (D) a new congressional district map, but the attempt to annex the city of Fayetteville to Democratic Rep. Mike Ross’ 4th district failed. This is a victory for the northwest Arkansas-area legislators who insisted that the city stay as the anchor of the 3rd district. The controversy surrounding Fayetteville erupted because of a proposal that featured a jutting protrusion, dubbed the “finger,” beginning in the southern part of Arkansas and stretching all the way to Fayetteville in the northwest. This was done to put more liberal voters into Rep. Ross’ 4th district to better secure the seat for future Democrats. Ross is expected to run for governor in 2014, thus creating a potentially competitive open seat three years from now. The Fayetteville “finger” would have cemented the seat for the Ds.

The new map secures AR-3 for Republican Steve Womack, but the 4th could now become competitive after Ross departs. The 2nd district remains relatively intact, which is good news for freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R). The GOP could take a hit, however, in the 1st district that will now cover the entire eastern portion of the state. The inclusion of more Democratic votes in Arkansas’ southeastern delta region will likely make freshman Rep. Rick Crawford’s seat highly competitive. Liberal activists are generally upset with the map, believing that the Democratic legislature and governor should have drawn a plan to return to a 3D-1R advantage, instead of the current split that features the exact opposite 3R-1D division. To summarize, the new Arkansas congressional map has two marginal seats and two that will likely remain Republican, thus the source of angst for the Democratic partisans.
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Questionable Polls Dot Political Surface

There seems to be a spate of recently released flawed surveys gaining media attention. Three methodologically deficient polls involve the Republican race for president, while another covers the Virginia US Senate campaign. All should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

Last week we covered the Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll that showed real estate magnate Donald Trump tied for second place with Mike Huckabee and only one point behind leader Mitt Romney. But this study is seriously inadequate. The survey sample included 1,000 adults without even screening for registered voters, and the self-identified number of Republicans answering the presidential preference question totaled only 238. This number is seriously below a proper national sample cell size, which should exceed 1,000 respondents.

Yesterday, CNN/Opinion Research released a new survey that places Trump and Huckabee tied for the lead with 19 percent apiece, followed by Sarah Palin at 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Romney closely trailing with an 11 percent tally. Though the sample size is 864 likely voters, the number of self-identified Republicans responding to the presidential ballot test that produced the aforementioned results was only 385 people. The methodology of this poll is better than the WSJ/NBC effort but is still not in the range of reliability for a national survey of likely Republican primary voters.

Also last week, Fox News released their national poll of 914 registered voters yielding similar results, though Trump and Gingrich did not show nearly as well. According to Fox, in data produced jointly by the Democratic firm of Anderson/Robbins Research and the Republicans’ Shaw & Company Research, Huckabee (15 percent) and Romney (14 percent) are virtually tied, with Palin following at 12 percent and Trump scoring 11 percent. Gingrich falls all the way to 7 percent. But here, too, the number of self-identified Republicans actually answering the questions is only 344.

The fact that all polling shows the race to be close with no clear leader and is verified by both methodologically sound and unsound studies does provide sufficient support for the supposition that the race is already extremely close, and that no candidate has a particular advantage. But, even if these conclusions prove to be spot-on, they are of little consequence. National polls for a political campaign decided by individual state contests are not very useful. The data helps to paint a simple story for the media to tell, but the findings are largely irrelevant in relation to the actual presidential horse race.

Roanoke College just released another questionable poll, but this one pertains to the Virginia Senate race. It shows former senator and governor George Allen (R) jumping out to a large lead over ex-Democratic National Committee chair and governor Tim Kaine (47-32 percent). This poll conflicts with every other piece of data showing the race to be in toss-up range. The results are even more curious when considering that Kaine just officially announced his candidacy, which normally provides a polling bump, not a decline.

The flaw in this poll concerns not so much the sample size (though 437 registered voters is low for a state the size of Virginia), but rather the length of the interview period, not screening for registered voters, and excluding respondents using cell phones.

The questions were asked from March 17-30, a 14-day period, when three days is usually considered the norm. Using only residents of Virginia who maintain land lines and not asking if they are registered voters badly under-represents the actual universe of people who will be casting votes in November of 2012.

Considering the aforementioned factors, the Roanoke College poll provides conclusions about the upcoming Senate campaign that are highly questionable and should not be considered as reliable information.
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Sen. Ed Case Will Run in Hawaii – Again

Every state has omnipresent candidates, and former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) certainly meets that description in Hawaii. Becoming an official contender for the 13th time this past weekend (record: 7 wins and 5 losses), Mr. Case is the first entrant in the 2012 race to replace the retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).

After losing two campaigns for state legislature in the 80’s, he came back to win four times in the 90s. He lost a primary for lieutenant governor in 2002, but won a series of special congressional elections later that year to succeed Rep. Pasty Mink (D-HI-2) after she died just before voting began. Case was re-elected to the House in the 2004 regular election.

Two years later, things began to unravel. The ambitious Case made the dubious decision to challenge Sen. Akaka in the Democratic primary, which ended in his very predictable defeat. He next tried to win the 2010 1st district special congressional election when Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) resigned to run for governor. Case placed third in that election and indirectly helped Republican Charles Djou win the seat by splitting the Democratic vote. (Djou held the seat for six months before losing to Colleen Hanabusa in the November general election.) Thus, he again ignited animosity within the Hawaii Democratic Party just as he had by challenging Akaka.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOGXqm8uX8U&feature=related]

Now with a series of burnt political bridges remaining in his wake, Ed Case is again a candidate, announcing via video for the open Senate seat. Ironically, had he not gone after Akaka in the primary, a sitting representative Case would probably begin this political battle as the leading candidate. Now, he has the potential of falling all the way to “also-ran” status. A very crowded and highly competitive Democratic primary is expected here, as the Akaka retirement creates the first open Hawaii Senate seat in 36 years. Being the first to announce his candidacy, Case has fired the starting pistol.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.