Monthly Archives: May 2011

Does Nevada Have the Right Angle in NV-2?

While the NY-26 special election has taken an interesting turn since Democrats might be on the doorstep of positioning themselves for an upset win on May 24, the NV-2 vacancy seems to be flowing in the opposite direction.

Last week, despite the contention from Nevada Republican Party officials that the state parties would choose nominees for the Sept. 13 special election to fill the unexpired portion of now-Sen. Dean Heller’s (R) current term in the House, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that a jungle-ballot format would take precedence. This means anyone can run for the seat regardless of political party affiliation and, like in the Hawaii special election of 2010, the person obtaining the most votes in the one election, regardless of percentage, is elected. Such a format favors the candidate with the strongest base and plays against a particular party that may field two or more viable candidates.

Miller’s ruling was savvy on at least two points. First, he, as a potential aspirant for future higher office himself, scores points with the Democratic establishment because this is the best possible format for his party to steal what should be a reliable Republican seat. Second, even if the Republicans were to file suit against him, a court would be in a difficult position to rule against a Secretary of State who merely opened up the process equally to everyone, thus his decision is also legally secure.

It was originally believed that the Democrats had a legitimate shot in the jungle format because controversial 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle would be in the field of candidates, since she had already announced for the seat in the regular election. Before Sen. John Ensign (R) resigned and Rep. Heller was appointed to replace him, the congressman had made known his intention to run for the Senate in the regular 2012 election. Angle barely lost the 2006 congressional nomination to Heller (by 421 votes) the last time the seat was open.

It was also conventional wisdom that Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) would hop into the congressional race. His strong presence would split the GOP vote and allow a consensus Democrat, presumably state Treasurer Kate Marshall, to slip by the split Republicans and win the seat with a plurality of the vote.

It appears now, however, that the tables have turned. While Angle did enter the special election contest, Krolicki backed away. State Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei, a former state legislator who briefly ran for the Senate in 2010 only to withdraw because he lacked funding, is now in the congressional race. But, so far, the only two other Republicans to declare candidacy are state Sen. Greg Brower and former US Navy officer Kirk Lippold, both of whom have small constituencies.

Amodei, coming from the more moderate wing of the party, could become the main alternative to Angle but none of the Republicans have as strong a political base, both financially and vote-based, as the former Senatorial nominee. Aside from barely losing the GOP primary to Heller in 2006, Ms. Angle actually carried the 2nd district, even against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the 2010 general election. So, it is clear that this north/central Nevada region constitutes her main base of support.

Now, the Democrats have a potentially split field. While Treasurer Marshall, who most believe is the party’s strongest candidate, announced her candidacy, so did Jill Derby, the former state Democratic Party chair, university regent, and congressional nominee in both 2006 and ’08. Derby, too, has a base in the district. She held Heller to a respectable 45-50 percent winning percentage in ’06, but fell to 41-52 percent in the re-match. It is conceivable that she will take a significant percentage in the special election, votes that will more than likely come right from Marshall’s political hide. Additionally, former university regent and 2010 Democratic congressional nominee Nancy Price is also running again. Though she lost to Heller in a landslide 33-63% vote, she has the potential of snatching a few more votes from Marshall.

While two weeks ago it looked liked the Democrats were in an enviable special election position, the most recent events seem to be unfolding in Angle’s favor. Much more will happen before the May 25 filing deadline to better define the special election parameters. We will then see if the Democrats can fully coalesce behind Marshall, thus restoring what originally appeared to be a reasonable chance at victory.
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Deja Vu All Over Again in New York’s 26th?

The Republicans had a difficult 2010 special election cycle in upstate New York, losing two political contests after beginning as clear favorites. According to Public Policy Polling (May 5-8; 1,048 likely NY-26 special election voters via automated calls) history may yet again repeat itself as Democrat Kathy Hochul has taken a 35-31-24 percent lead over Republican Jane Corwin and Independent Jack Davis.

Mr. Davis, who has unsuccessfully run for Congress three previous times as a Democrat and is responsible for the successful lawsuit against the federal government that overturned the “millionaire’s amendment,” originally part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, is becoming the focal point of this campaign. In New York, Independents have the ability to label themselves on the ballot and Davis chose the word “Tea,” even though he has no association with the New York Tea Party and has always run his previous campaigns from the left. Ms. Corwin is not only attempting to create a clear contrast between herself and Hochul, but must also peel off Republican votes that, to a small but significant degree, are going to Davis. The wealthy Independent has been blanketing the airwaves with ads condemning both parties and “business as usual” in Washington, a viewpoint that certainly attracts many who agree.

Can Corwin, originally viewed as a prohibitive favorite, successfully fight her two-front political war? Will another New York special election again slip through the Republicans’ fingers? The next two weeks will determine the outcome, as Election Day is May 24.
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The Ins and Outs of Candidates

A snapshot look at who’s in and who’s out:

IN
Indiana – Donnelly:
Authoritative reports say that Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) will announce his candidacy for the United States Senate today. The move does not come as a surprise, since the new redistricting map gives Donnelly a very marginal congressional seat. Because he won by only a single percentage point in the last election (48-47 percent) in a better district for him, Mr. Donnelly’s decision to run statewide became predictable.

Donnelly will face Sen. Richard Lugar (R) who, at 79 years old, is running for a seventh six-year term. The congressman is banking on the fact that Lugar may have trouble in the Republican primary as the veteran senator has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate the Tea Party wing of the GOP electorate. Already, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock is challenging Mr. Lugar for the party nomination, but the challenger’s lackluster fundraising so far seems to diminish what were higher expectations for an upset. Even if the Lugar primary contest becomes moderately close, Donnelly may be the beneficiary. Though Sen. Lugar is rated as the favorite for both the primary and general election – he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent in 2006 – this will likely be a competitive race all the way through the November general election.

Turning to the House, Republicans would begin as slight favorites to capture Donnelly’s vacated IN-2 district, particularly when considering the recent re-draw that was just enacted into law. Still, Pres. Barack Obama received 49 percent of the vote under the new boundaries so, despite being eight points better for Republicans, the 2nd is marginal in nature and both parties can win here. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to the one-point victory in 2010, has already said she will run again. Walorski must be considered the early favorite to convert this seat for the Republicans.

OUT
Nevada – Krolicki:
Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), who most believed would enter the special congressional election to replace now-Sen. Dean Heller (R), announced that he will not run. Krolicki entering the race would have set up a tough jungle-ballot campaign with 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle (R) and at least one Democrat, state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) ruled last week that the jungle-ballot system, where all candidates compete with each other and the person garnering the most votes, regardless of percentage, is elected outright, will be utilized for the Sept. 13 special election. With Angle, Krolicki, and possibly several others diluting the Republican vote, it is was judged that the Democrats, in the person of Marshall, could slip through and steal what should be a Republican seat in the jungle format. Without Krolicki competing, Angle now stands a better chance of finishing first, but in a multi-candidate race anything can still happen. The special election will be conducted in the current NV-2, drawn in the 2001 redistricting plan, but the 2012 full-term battle will be held in what is likely to be a vastly different 2nd district.

Michigan – Land: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said over the weekend that she will not challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year. Despite Stabenow being viewed as vulnerable, though recent polling places her in an improved position against potential GOP candidates, no strong Republican has yet to come forth to declare a Senate candidacy. Ex-Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2), who placed second in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary and was polling best against Sen. Stabenow, took himself out of consideration two weeks ago.

It is unlikely any member of the congressional delegation will run, though Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) now seems to be the most logical congressman to consider a Senate race. Deciding not to seek re-election as House Republican Policy Chairman after two terms, McCotter would have a largely unencumbered opportunity to run statewide in 2012.
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Campaign 2012 Officially Begins

Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party co-hosted a candidates’ debate last night at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., that surprisingly served as the official kick-off event for the 2012 presidential campaign. Though it was somewhat of a non-event because the candidates most pundits would describe as being first-tier were not in attendance, the so-called second-tier group did nothing to discourage their supporters and actually managed to motivate the audience on several occasions.

Of the five participants, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) repeatedly brought the crowd to cheers, particularly so when he answered a question about heroine legalization by saying ” … how many people here would do heroin if it was legal? I bet no one would, so why do we need the government to protect us?” The others who participated in the debate were businessman Herman Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

No one bungled a question but none of the participants particularly distinguished themselves either, with the exception of Dr. Paul on several questions and Mr. Cain in the final minutes of the debate. It is also probable that the eventual Republican presidential nominee was not part of this forum, but it is difficult to project just who that Republican winner will actually be, since all of the candidates are closely bunched. Polling shows no clear front-runner or individual capturing more than 20 percent support. Therefore, this may be the most wide-open campaign we have seen in the modern campaign era.

All of the contenders seemed to understand the key fundamental in contrasting themselves with Pres. Barack Obama, especially in light of the Osama bin Laden assassination. All of the candidates gave Obama due praise for his handling of the bin Laden mission, but then quickly pivoted to what they believe are the president’s shortcomings in his managing of the domestic agenda.

Though it is clear Mr. Obama has scored major political points for his action overseas and probably wouldn’t be defeated by anyone if the election were tomorrow, we don’t have to go too far back in history to prompt our memories and recall that foreign affairs victories are often short-lived and quickly crumble in significance when compared to the state of the domestic economy.

Two clear examples of this phenomenon occurred in 1945 and 1992:
• Winston Churchill, whose British Conservative Party was turned out of office in landslide proportions after successfully declaring a clear and stunning victory in World War II just a scant two months earlier.
• George H.W. Bush, who enjoyed 90% approval ratings after successfully guiding America in the Gulf War, only to lose his re-election just 10 months later, capturing a mere 37.5 percent of the national popular vote.

These results clearly show us that economics fundamentally trump foreign affairs.

For the Republicans to get back into the game against the president they will have to focus on the economy as the sole issue of the campaign and drive home their messages about the national deficit and debt, high food and gas prices, and the lack of job creation. It appeared that the five Republicans participating in last night’s debate fully understood this principle, but they and the other candidates have a very long way to go in a short time if the 2012 election is to become legitimately competitive anytime soon.
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Rep. Giffords Leads in New Ariz. Senate Poll

Public Policy Polling (April 28-May 1; 623 registered Arizona voters) surveyed the Arizona electorate and found Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), who is still recovering from the senseless Jan. 8 shooting that severely wounded her, to be leading the top Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Phoenix area Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6), by a 48-41 percent count. She would top former congressman and 2010 Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth (R) by an even more substantial 57-31 percent.

Terry Goddard, the Democratic former attorney general who lost to Jan Brewer (R) in the 2010 governor’s race, pulls even with Flake (45-45 percent), and would defeat Hayworth 51-33 percent. Mr. Flake would easily defeat Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (47-33 percent) and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) 46-34 percent. None of the Democrats tested have announced their candidacies. It is unclear when Rep. Giffords will have the ability to make any decisions regarding her immediate political future. Rep. Flake is the only official Republican contender. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring.

Interestingly, of all the aforementioned potential candidates, only Giffords (57:17 percent) and Goddard (43:36 percent) have favorable images. All of the others register negatives that exceed their positive scores. Former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was also included in this poll under the absurd idea that the former Alaska governor and current Last Frontier State resident would run for the Senate in Arizona. Not surprisingly, Palin performs very poorly on all questions under this ill-conceived polling scenario.
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