Monthly Archives: August 2011

Replacing Weiner: New York’s First 9th CD Poll

Siena College just released a public poll pertaining to the special congressional election scheduled for Sept. 13 in New York’s 9th congressional district. The survey (Siena Research Institute; Aug. 3-8; 501 likely NY-9 special election voters) reveals state Assemblyman David Weprin (D) to have just a six-point lead over Republican Bob Turner (48-42 percent) in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. The resignation of scandal-tainted Anthony Weiner (D) led to calling a special election to fill the remainder of the current term.

This is clearly a liberal district. By a 65-33 percent margin, the respondents favor raising taxes on individuals who earn more than $250,000 per year. An even greater majority, 72-24 percent oppose any cuts to major government entitlement programs. Interestingly, though, the sample favors repealing the Obama healthcare law 47-44 percent. Additionally, the poll detects a tie between Weprin and Turner among male voters. Females favor the Democrat by an 11-point margin.

In terms of fervency of support, a critical factor in low turnout special elections, Republican Turner scores better. More than 60 percent of his supporters say they will not change their minds; only 47 percent of Weprin voters say the same about their candidate. The district splits definitively over candidate preference in relation to geography. Queens voters, the predominant borough in NY-9, favor Weprin by 10 points. Brooklyn respondents choose Turner by six.

It looks like another New York special congressional election could be headed to a surprising conclusion. Expect more very soon.
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GOP Survives Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Last night, Badger State voters went to the polls to decide the controversial Wisconsin recall elections in six state Senate districts. All featured Republican incumbents defending their seats. Next Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents will face the voters.

Democrats were successful in defeating two of the GOP incumbents but, overall, the results did not accomplish what the union organizers who gathered the necessary petitions to force a vote had desired. At the beginning of the evening, the Senate party division was 19R-14D. With the two Democratic victories, the worst case scenario for the GOP after the completion of all recall voting will be 17R-16D. Since only Democratic incumbents are before the voters on August 16th, the Republicans can only increase their majority or remain clinging to a one-seat advantage.

Turnout was predictably high. In most cases the numbers reached approximately 80 percent of what appear to be normal general election voter participation levels. This helped the GOP win two-thirds of the contests. Low turnout elections are normally won by the side that is most driven to turnout. Since the unions and Democrats were forcing the recalls to protest GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature’s actions to curtail the public employee union benefits and organizing rights, it was they who should have been more energized. The districts were largely Republican, but President Obama did win all eight of the jurisdictions back in 2008. So, it is conceivable the Democrats could have done better.

The two seats they won were rather expected. Sen. Dan Kapanke (R), who represents a southwestern Wisconsin seat including the city of Lacrosse, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 45-55 percent to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. Kapanke, you may remember, challenged Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) in their 2010 congressional race, losing 46-50 percent – a better result than he received last night in trying to defend his own position. Of the seats facing recall, this 32nd district was by far the most Democratic. The President received 61 percent here in 2008. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) who unseated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010, scored only 49 percent here. Walker posted 42 percent. In the other post-general election political race, the hotly contested 2011 battle for a key state Supreme Court seat, Republican incumbent Judge David Prosser, who won statewide, failed to carry the 32nd district. He registered only 44 percent. Last night’s recall here produced the biggest Democratic victory of the night, but in this type of district, such a result was largely expected.

The other Democratic victory featured a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent in the 18th district. Sen. Randy Hopper was the subject of controversy regarding an extra-marital affair and a messy divorce while the labor unrest in the state capitol was occurring. He lost his Senate seat last night by a tight 49-51 percent margin to Democrat Jessica King. Both new Senators will have to defend their seats in the 2012 general election, as that is the normal election time for the two even-numbered districts. Wisconsin state Senators receive four-year terms. The elections are staggered so that half of the seats stand for election every two years. The odd-numbers run with the governor; evens with the President. The 18th district is much more Republican than the previously mentioned 32nd district. Obama posted 51 percent in 2008. The 2010-11 District 18 results gave Sen. Johnson 59 percent, Gov. Walker 57 percent; and Judge Prosser 53 percent.

The Republican incumbents carried their districts last night with victory margins of 60 percent (Sen. Rob Cowles in District 2), 58 percent (Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10), 54 percent (Sen. Alberta Darling in District 8), and 52 percent (Sen. Luther Olsen in District 14). Of these, the Harsdorf victory is the most impressive, as the Republican numbers were not as strong as in the other districts. Judge Prosser, for example, failed to carry this seat in 2011, scoring 48 percent of the vote.

Though the GOP lost two seats in the recall process, they appear to have survived all of the post-budget crisis action in relatively good shape. In the face of superior labor union and Democratic Party political organizing, they turned back the Supreme Court challenge and held onto the state Senate majority after enacting the controversial public employee union legislation that rocked the state capitol with nationally covered protests and featured the Democrats failing to report to the Senate for weeks. All of this in a state that routinely elects Democrats to positions of power. Wisconsin will clearly be a major battleground state for the coming 2012 election.
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The Perry Announcement Strategy

Reportedly Texas Gov. Rick Perry will publicly say he’s running for President by the end of this week. The governor will speak at the Red State.com Gathering event in Charleston, SC this Saturday afternoon and is expected to reveal his future plans without formally announcing his candidacy. The choice of date and place for his “pre-announcement” accomplishes two key strategic objectives.

First, South Carolina will likely become a make-or-break state for the Perry presidential campaign. Considering that Iowa voters typically choose someone from the Midwest, it’s Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) who is the current favorite to win the first-in-the nation caucus event. New Hampshire should belong to neighboring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, just as it did in 2008. The Nevada Caucuses, now scheduled for Feb. 18, also should line up strongly for Mr. Romney, since he scored big there during the last nomination contest. Therefore, for Perry to capitalize in the south and become a legitimate first-tier candidate, South Carolina becomes the first state where victory for the Texas governor will be expected.

Second, though not participating in the Iowa Straw Poll event (because he is not yet an official candidate), also occurring Saturday, Gov. Perry’s Charleston statement will go a long way to upstage the event’s winner, presumably Ms. Bachmann. Setting the tone in South Carolina while simultaneously upstaging an opponent in Iowa puts Gov. Perry four-square on the national political board.

Not a bad opening salvo for this newcomer from the Lone Star State.
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Trio of Polls Show Romney, Perry at Top

Since July 20, three major national polls have been conducted and released, all recording basically the same results. Gallup (July 20-24; 1,088 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), the Pew Research Center (July 20-24; 980 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), and Rasmussen Reports (July 28; 1,000 likely GOP primary voters) each place Massachusetts former Gov. Mitt Romney in first place with 17, 21, and 22 percent, respectively, among the voters tested. But the bigger story continues to be how well Texas Gov. Rick Perry performs. In each of these surveys, the unannounced candidate places second, notching 15, 12, and 18 percent preference among those sampled in the three respective survey universes.

These polls, as well as most others, tell us two things. First, Romney is a weak front-runner since he fails to break 25 percent in any national poll. Second, the rise of Gov. Perry who, by all accounts will soon enter the race, again underscores the respondents’ desire to choose a person outside the sphere of current candidates, thus expressing disapproval with the GOP presidential field as a whole.

The Gallup poll, which includes former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, clearly highlights the desire for additional choices because the individuals placing second, third, and fourth (Perry, ex-Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and Giuliani) are all non-candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ties Giuliani for fourth with just 11 percent, but all other official candidates: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), retired businessman Herman Cain, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), recent US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, finish no better than in high single-digits.

The other tangential effect from Perry’s strong early performance is the weakening of Bachmann’s standing. The Pew study illustrates this point in two ways, through the use of several different and interesting questions.

First, the sampling universe was asked to name the candidate they have heard the most about during the recent time frame. By a margin of 23 to 13 percent, the respondents answered Bachmann. Romney scored the 13%. Perry, on the other hand, posted just 3 percent on this question. Such bodes well for the Texas governor because he is still placing second in the overall poll despite the at-large sample hearing little about him. Conversely, this measurement trends poorly for Bachmann because her support appears to be declining slightly even though she is by far and away the candidate attracting the most current attention.

Second, Perry already polls ahead of Bachmann, 16-14 percent, among the people who look favorably upon the Tea Party. This is quite a surprise since Bachmann is the House Tea Party Caucus chair and has been closely identified with the disparate individual groups since their inception. Perry, while certainly espousing the type of economic theories and policy positions with which the Tea Party leadership and members agree, is not nearly as identified with the movement as Bachmann. Yet, at least according to this Pew data, the governor is already passing her within the polling segment.

Furthermore, Romney even exceeds Bachmann’s support level within the Tea Party sector, tying Perry at 16 percent. This is more astonishing than Perry’s performance, since Romney’s record includes enacting the now highly publicized Massachusetts state government health care system that came into being by virtue of his initiative while Governor. Along with Herman Cain posting 12 percent support from the Tea Party Republicans, the data tells us that no one candidate has a lock on this ideological segment of the GOP primary vote. It leads us to the conclusion that the campaign is wide open and will likely run through the maximum number of states before a Republican nominee is crowned next year.

During this late July period, the polling, as reflected in the Pew, Gallup, and Rasmussen studies that were all conducted during the same time segment, is clearly detecting several noticeable trends. First, while Romney places first in virtually every poll, it is never by much, suggesting that his path to the nomination is tenuous despite his present standing. Second, Bachmann is not in as strong a position across the board as she was during the early part of the month. Third, Gov. Perry is showing uncommon strength for a non-candidate with relatively low name ID. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that when Perry officially enters the race, the contest could conceivably winnow down, relatively quickly, to a two-person campaign between Perry and Romney. With neither having a defined early lead, we have further support for concluding that this race will not soon be settled.
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Q-Poll Out Sets Fla., Pa., Expectations

Quinnipiac University just returned the results of two new surveys in the critical presidential states of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Sunshine State’s story (July 27-8/2; 1,417 FL registered voters; 510 self-identified GOP voters) is the interest in Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Included among the Republican field of presidential candidates, Perry, despite launching no campaign organization to date, soars to second place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The two are the only Republican primary candidates, according to this Q-Poll, to break double-digits.

The Florida primary results show Romney with 23 percent, followed by Perry’s 14 percent. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) are next with 9 percent apiece. Retired businessman Herman Cain has 8 percent. Perhaps the biggest surprise, and possibly the biggest casualty should Perry enter the race as all pundits now expect, is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). According to this Florida GOP sample, Bachmann only posts 6 percent, less than half of Perry’s total and only a quarter of Romney’s. Relegated to single digits in an important state like Florida is not good news for the Tea Party Caucus chair, who has been performing very well in other state polls, particularly those among Iowa voters. The Q-Poll features a low sample (510 Republicans) for a state the size of Florida, even when considering that they are only testing supporters of one political party.

The Florida Republican primary is one of the most important in the GOP contest. Slated to be held just before Super Tuesday, 99 delegates will be apportioned among the candidates, third highest of any state. Only California (172 delegates) and Texas (152 delegates) have larger GOP delegations. The winner of the statewide vote is awarded 10 delegates. Eight more – three party delegates and five bonus votes – will also likely end up with the statewide victor. In all, 81 delegates, three per each of the state’s 27 congressional districts, are awarded to the candidate winning the specific CDs. In the general election, the Republicans must win Florida to have a legitimate chance of capturing the Presidency.

Romney and Perry are also tops among all the Republican candidates when paired with President Obama, too. In fact, Romney draws to a 44-44 percent tie with Mr. Obama. Perry is just five points behind the President, trailing 39-44 percent. The margin is greater when the other GOP contenders go one-on-one with Obama. Against Palin, the President’s advantage is 53-34 percent, his best showing against any top Republican contender. Bachmann does better than Palin but still trails Mr. Obama by double digits. In this match-up, Obama leads the Minnesota Congresswoman 50-38 percent.

The Pennsylvania numbers (July 25-31; 1,358 PA registered voters; 580 self-identified Republican voters) are much different. A relatively reliable Democratic state, Pennsylvania will play an important role in the 2012 presidential contest, but much more so for the Democrats than Republicans. The GOP can win the national election without carrying Pennsylvania, but Democrats cannot.

The surprising performer among the Keystone State voters is their former senator, Rick Santorum. The former PA officeholder spent three terms in the House and two in the Senate before falling badly in 2006 to now-Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., 41-59%. Though barely a blip nationally as a Republican presidential candidate, Santorum is showing resiliency in his home state. Among GOP primary contenders, Romney has the lead with 21%, followed by Santorum at 14%. Palin is next with 12%, Bachmann has 11%, and Perry is way off the pace, posting only 8%. In the Republican primary, Pennsylvania is allocated 72 delegates making it the sixth largest state for the GOP nomination.

In the general election match-ups, the President actually fares quite poorly, considering that Pennsylvania is a must-win state for him. He trails Romney 42-44 percent; leads Santorum only 45-43 percent; and bests Perry with an unimpressive 45-39 percent showing. Mr. Obama enjoys an eight-point lead over Bachmann, 47-39 percent.

The Obama job approval numbers are a clear barometer to gauge just how far the President has fallen before the Keystone State electorate. Today, only 43 percent of the PA respondents give Mr. Obama favorable reviews versus 54 percent who disapprove of how he executes the duties of his office. In June his positive to negative ratio was a better, but still uninspiring, 48:48 percent.
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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.