Monthly Archives: September 2011

Herman Cain’s Upset Win in Florida Straw Poll

Retired businessman Herman Cain scored a major upset victory at the Presidency 5 Florida straw poll event on Saturday, easily outpacing the entire Republican field of presidential candidates in an exclusive vote of Florida Republican State Central Committee members. Mr. Cain scored 37.1 percent of the 2,657 ballots cast, or 985 actual votes.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a distant second at 15.4 percent (409 votes); former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed third, attracting 14.0 percent support (372 votes); former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was next, recording 10.9 percent (290 votes); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was the final candidate to land in the double-digit percentile (10.4 percent; 277 votes). Bringing up the rear were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8.4 percent; 223 votes), former Obama US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (2.3% percent 61 votes), and finishing a surprising last was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the Iowa Straw Poll winner, who registered a paltry 1.5 percent at Presidency 5, or just 40 votes.

Several points are worth mentioning about these results. First, unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, which was open to all registered Republican voters, the Florida vote was limited only to official party central committee members. These individuals are either elected or appointed to serve in party positions in their counties, thus giving them membership and voting privileges at statewide conventions. While the Iowa vote was a test of the general Republican voting public, Presidency 5 was a measure of strength within the official state GOP establishment. The fact that Mr. Cain would score an impressive win is yet one more piece of evidence that the Republican insiders are still looking for a candidate upon whom to rally behind.

Second, almost as big a surprise as Cain’s strong Florida performance, was Rep. Bachmann finishing dead last. Though certainly not a favorite of the party establishment – in fact, some of her appeal is that she energizes non-traditional conservatives to vote in the Republican primaries and general elections – attracting only the support of 40 people is another argument for the view that her flailing campaign may have crested when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Certainly the fact that Ms. Bachmann made no attempt to garner support for Presidency 5 is a large part of the reason she did so poorly, but such is not the total cause. Most of the other candidates did not put forth a top effort either.

Third, the performance of perceived front-runners Perry and Romney is certainly a disappointment for both, but particularly the former. Here is where the Texas governor’s poor performance in the last televised debate may have had an impact. Party insiders, such as the group who participated in the this past weekend’s vote, would have been more likely to view or even attend the debate, thus his lackluster showing would have more greatly affected this particular straw poll event than an at-large primary vote.

Perry did invest time and resources into the Florida vote, which bodes even more poorly for his showing and campaign organization. During the Iowa Straw Poll, a 527 entity independent of the Perry campaign, called Americans for Rick Perry, implemented a write-in strategy that captured a record number of votes. In Florida, this group was not present.

For his part, Mr. Romney did not run an organized effort, which is consistent with his approach to all straw poll events. Therefore, both he and Perry badly under-performed in Presidency 5 based on their status atop the Florida Republican polls.

As has been the case since the very beginning of this GOP nomination campaign, the race continues to be a wide open battle. This is likely to continue until actual votes begin to be cast early next year at the Iowa Caucus and in the early primary states.

Key House Matchups

Now that the Ohio redistricting plan has passed the legislature and is headed to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature, it is a good time to review the 20 House campaigns around the U.S. that will likely feature two incumbents battling for one new congressional district. Here they are:

CA-16: Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D) and Jim Costa (D) – The new Fresno-area seat actually featured three incumbents, but Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) decided to seek re-election in the new 10th district. Rumors abound that Rep. Cardoza may retire, thus leaving the seat to Costa. Republicans could be competitive here.

CA-25: Reps. Elton Gallegly (R) and Buck McKeon (R) – Rep. Gallegly could easily run in the marginal 26th district, but is apparently leaning toward the intra-party challenge. The new 25th is largely McKeon’s current territory. Mr. Gallegly is also a retirement possibility. Expect Mr. McKeon to return in the next Congress.

CA-30: Reps. Brad Sherman (D) and Howard Berman (D) – This might be the most exciting, and certainly the most expensive, pairing in the country. California’s new election law that allows two members of one party to qualify for the general election means that this could be a year-long campaign. Most of the new 30th’s territory already belongs to Rep. Sherman, but Mr. Berman is much better politically connected and is the superior campaigner.

CA-32: Reps. David Dreier (R) and Grace Napolitano (D) – This pairing won’t likely happen. The new 32nd is heavily Democratic and Mr. Dreier will likely seek re-election elsewhere.

CA-39: Reps. Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R) – A Republican on Republican battle that likely will occur. More of the new 39th comes from Rep. Miller’s current 42nd, but Mr. Royce is the better campaigner and fundraiser.

CA-44: Reps. Janice Hahn (D) and Laura Richardson (D) – Ms. Richardson could seek re-election here, in this heavily minority district, or run in the new marginal 47th district where her home was placed. Either way, she’s in for a battle. Rep. Hahn will have a difficult time defeating an African-American or Hispanic state legislator in the general election, too. It is possible that neither member returns to the next Congress.

IL-14: Reps. Joe Walsh (R) and Randy Hultgren (R) – The Democratic redistricting plan pairs these two freshmen in a district that should elect a Republican in the fall. A child support issue for Walsh could damage him in a battle with fellow freshman Hultgren before the GOP electorate.

IL-16: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R) and Don Manzullo (R) – Originally, when Rep. Kinzinger’s 11th district was torn to shreds in the new redistricting bill, he said he would challenge veteran GOP Rep. Manzullo. A day later he backed away from his statement. For a while, it looked as if Rep. Manzullo might retire. Now, still maintaining that he won’t run against Manzullo, Mr. Kinzinger says he will seek re-election in the district housing Grundy County – meaning, this new 16th CD. For his part, Manzullo is actively circulating petitions to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Thus, it looks like the two will square off, after all. The plurality of the territory comes from Mr. Manzullo’s current 16th CD. The winner holds the seat in the general election.

IA-3: Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) – This inter-party pairing will be very interesting in what is a 50/50 partisan district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the current district, but the new seat trends more Republican. A tight race is forecast.

LA-3: Reps. Jeff Landry (R) and Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana lost a seat in reapportionment, so it became obvious that two Republicans would be thrown together into one district. Freshman Jeff Landry and veteran Charles Boustany will face each other in a seat that is predominantly Boustany’s and includes his Lafayette political base. Landry is a decided underdog in this contest.

Massachusetts – Though the redistricting plan is not yet completed, the state loses a seat and no current member appears voluntarily willing to retire. Therefore, two Democrats will face each other for one seat. The most likely pairing is Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-9) against freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10).

MI-14: Reps. Gary Peters (D) and Hansen Clarke (D) – Rep. Peters surprised everyone last week by announcing that he will challenge freshman Rep. Clarke in the new Detroit 14th district rather than face a pairing with Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) in the new 9th district, despite the latter having much more familiar territory. Peters currently represents none of the new 14th district, which is majority African-American. Since another black elected official, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, is already in the race, Peters is hoping a unified white vote may prevail over the majority African-American constituency that could split between the other two candidates. A risky strategy for Peters that is only a long shot to pay-off.

New Jersey – As in Massachusetts, the redistricting process here is not complete, but the state loses one seat in reapportionment. Expect a pairing to occur in the northern or central portion of the Garden State.

New York – The Empire State loses two seats, so a minimum of four incumbents will be paired in two seats. The election of Republican Bob Turner to a Democratic Brooklyn/Queens seat throws the redistricting process into a mess. Virtually anything can happen here. Democrats control the governor’s office and the state assembly. Republicans hold a small state Senate majority. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), interestingly, says he will only sign a map that is approved by a bi-partisan commission. The legislature will not create such an entity, so this map could be headed to court to break an eventual stalemate. New York will be one of the last states to complete the process.

NC-4: Reps. David Price (D) and Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan threw together the two veteran Democrats in a seat that now travels from Raleigh all the way to Fayetteville. Rep. Miller originally said he would not oppose Mr. Price, but he has since changed his mind. This will be a tough campaign. The winner will hold the seat for the Democrats.

OH-9: Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D) and Dennis Kucinich (D) – The GOP redistricting plan pairs Reps. Kaptur and Kucinich in a new seat that begins in Cleveland and travels to Toledo along the Lake Erie coastline. Fifty-seven percent of the people live in Kucinich’s current district, but Kaptur’s Toledo base remains in tact. Kucinich’s past primary performances suggests that Kaptur will be the favorite. The winner holds the seat for the Ds.

OH-10: Reps. Mike Turner (R) and Steve Austria (R) – Ohio losing two seats means that two Republicans also get paired despite the GOP being in full control of the map-drawing process. Mr. Turner’s Dayton/Montgomery County political base is in tact, but the city vote is minuscule in a Republican primary. This race will have to develop further before an accurate prediction can be made.

OH-16: Reps. Betty Sutton (D) and Jim Renacci (R) – Like Messrs. Dreier in California and Kinzinger in Illinois, Ms. Sutton’s current 13th district has been broken into many parts. The congresswoman is most likely to seek re-election in the new 16th district where she will be the underdog to freshman Rep. Jim Renacci, but the just-created configuration is slightly more Democratic than the current 16th. Former Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH-16), the man Renacci unseated in 2010, is also a possible candidate.

Pennsylvania – The Keystone State representatives have not completed redistricting either, but a reduction of the congressional delegation’s size by one seat will occur. Watch for two of the group of three western state Democrats: Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), Mark Critz (D-PA-12), and Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) to be paired into one seat. Since Rep. Doyle represents the city of Pittsburgh, he will be in the best position to control a new district because the city will certainly anchor a seat in any plan.

The Race is on in Massachusetts

The inevitable just happened in Massachusetts. Public Policy Polling (Sept. 16-18; 791 registered Massachusetts voters) released a poll producing, for the first time, highly competitive numbers in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) re-election campaign. The Bay State is among the nation’s most reliable of Democratic Party voting entities and it was always likely that polls showing Brown consistently holding double-digit leads over his Democratic opponents would eventually dissipate. The new PPP data gives challenger Elizabeth Warren (D), the former Obama administration consumer advocate, a 46-44 percent advantage over Brown, the first time the senator has trailed in 2011.

Furthermore, Brown went into the negative column in job approval, also for the first time. According to the data, he posts a 44:45 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. By contrast, Warren scored 40:22 percent when asked if people have a positive or negative personal opinion of her.

Clearly Ms. Warren is the Democrats’ best potential candidate. Against the party’s other contenders, the incumbent continues to score well. When paired with businessman and 2010 Senatorial special election candidate Alan Khazei, Brown leads 48-33 percent. Against Newton Mayor Setti Warren, the senator’s advantage is 47:32 percent. And, with state Rep. Tom Conroy (D) now in the race, the Republican has a substantial 50:31 percent edge.

The numbers now put the Massachusetts senate race back into the competitive category, where it will likely stay. Considering the Democrats’ overwhelming voter history and registration advantage here, a “toss-up” rating is again appropriate.

Is Calif. Sen. Feinstein Vulnerable?

According to a new poll released late last week by the California-based Field survey research organization, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is suffering from the lowest approval ratings of her nearly two-decade tenure in the U.S. Senate. The survey comes as troubling news for the former San Francisco mayor, just 14 months before she must again face the voters in the nation’s most populous state.

The Field Poll of 1,001 registered California voters (Sept. 1-12; 3.2% error factor) shows 44 percent of voters surveyed would not send Feinstein back to Washington for a full fourth term if the election were held today. Forty-one percent indicated that they would support the senator’s reelection bid. This is the first time in Feinstein’s senatorial career, which began in 1993, that her re-elect rating has been “upside down.”

For the past two decades, Ms. Feinstein’s job approval ratings, according to Field’s research, have been consistently positive by comfortable and sometimes impressive margins. Currently, however, they have shrunk to worrisome levels. Forty-one percent of the respondents said that they approve of the job she is doing in the Senate while 39 percent disapprove. The +2 margin is the slimmest of Feinstein’s career. Her approval/disapproval numbers are 60-21 percent among Democrats, but just 40-32 percent among unaffiliated and independent voters.

Feinstein’s California Senate colleague, Barbara Boxer, who won reelection by 10 percentage points in 2010, is also experiencing an approval ratings decline. Boxer’s latest job approval score is upside down at 39-42 percent.

California voters give Congress as a whole its lowest rating since 1992 with just a 9 percent approval and an overwhelming 86 percent disapproval score.

However, the fact that California is one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic states obviously cuts in Sen. Feinstein’s favor, as it did for Boxer in 2010 when she faced the most serious challenge of her career against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R).

Potential opposition is also an obvious vulnerability factor and this is where California Republicans normally suffer. Finding a candidate with a high enough name identification to become a viable statewide candidate is a difficult task. With a population of 37.2 million people, 23.6 million of whom are registered to vote, a Republican challenger either must begin with virtually universal name identification, such as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, or have so much money that they can spend their way into familiarity.

In a race against Feinstein, one such GOP candidate could possibly be emerging. Michael Reagan, the adopted son of President Ronald Reagan and a former national talk show host, is reportedly considering launching his candidacy. The latest Field numbers will undoubtedly capture his interest, but he is reportedly a long way from committing to a statewide race. The Senator, for her part, hasn’t yet announced that she will even run for re-election. Now 78 years old, Ms. Feinstein decided against running in the open governor’s race last year, a job she always coveted, even when it looked to be hers for the taking.

Though a Feinstein-Reagan race would clearly be competitive, and give the Republicans at least a chance at scoring a huge upset, neither candidate is firmly in the race. In the end, Feinstein will clearly be favored, but these new Golden State developments are at least worthy of serious attention.

Redistricting Update

Redistricting action occurred in the following three states during the past week:

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The members of the bi-partisan special legislative committee charged with drawing the new legislative and congressional maps have informed Gov. Dan Malloy (D) that a new committee will have to be authorized. The 30-day work period originally assigned the current panel will expire this Thursday. Once re-appointed, the eight member committee comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans will name a ninth member in order to break any tie that is likely to occur. Gov. Malloy is expected to grant the committee’s request for re-appointment and extension.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – The House-passed congressional map is likely to gain state Senate approval this week and then move on to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature. Democrats have already pledged to attempt to qualify a citizens referendum to overturn the plan, but history tells us that the chance of successfully implementing such a maneuver is highly doubtful.

The Ohio map appears to be one of the better plans, from their perspective, drawn by a Republican-controlled entity. Pairing the Democrats against each other and adding a new Democratic open seat in Columbus to protect their two area marginal seats proves that they are drawing with a decade-long strategy in mind. The map is designed to deliver a 12R-4D party division. Here’s a look at how things are shaping up in some districts:

• District 3 (Open Seat) – The new 3rd District encompasses most of the city of Columbus and may prove to be the signature district of this map. It is unusual that Republican map drawers would create a new seat and make it Democratic, but that’s exactly what they did … and, it makes sense. Because Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (D-OH-15) have increasingly marginal districts (in fact, the Stivers’ seat was held by former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) for one term), putting a new Democratic seat in a city that houses both a state capital and major university is a smart play. Instead of risking a Republican seat every two years, the plan makes the two aforementioned GOP seats safe for the decade.

• District 8 (House Speaker John Boehner-R) – in what comes as no surprise to anyone, Mr. Boehner gets a safe Cincinnati-area suburban seat similar to the one he currently represents.

• District 9 (Reps. Marcy Kaptur-D and Dennis Kucinich-D) – since Ohio is losing two seats in reapportionment, it is unavoidable that at least four members will battle for two districts. One of the pairings is new District 9, that stretches from Cleveland to Toledo in a long narrow draw that hugs the Lake Erie shoreline. Kucinich, who was looking to run for re-election in either Washington or Hawaii because he said he would not run against a fellow incumbent, will again seek election in Ohio and challenge a colleague.

• District 11 (Rep. Marcia Fudge-D) – it is likely that Ms. Fudge will be the only incumbent Democrat that gets an easy ride to re-election. Comprised of the downtown regions in both Cleveland and Akron, Fudge could conceivably be primaried by Rep. Sutton who currently represents the Akron portion of the district, but such a scenario is unlikely. The 11th will prove to be a safe African-American Democratic seat for Ms. Fudge.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As expected by many, the US Justice Department, while pre-clearing the recently enacted state Senate and Board of Education maps, has so far failed to approve the congressional and state House plans. DoJ is requesting more information about both maps, but it appears the congressional plan, as submitted, has major legal issues. It is unlikely that the map presented will actually take effect as drawn. The legal proceedings in San Antonio continue as well. Look for more definitive action here as the year draws to a close.