Monthly Archives: September 2011

GOP Poised for Special Election Sweep

The final polls for the two special elections that were held today, NV-2 (Mark Amodei, R) vs. Kate Marshall, D) and NY-9 (Bob Turner, R vs. David Weprin, D), indicate that Republicans will score victories in both. As we covered in our update yesterday, Mr. Turner appeared on the verge of a major upset win in the heavily Democratic New York City seat, vacant due to former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D) resignation. At the time of this post, the Associated Press has projected Turner to be the winner. The current lead is six points.

The weekend Public Policy Polling survey basically confirms the latest Siena College poll that gave Turner a six-point lead. According to the PPP data (Sept. 8-11; 664 likely NY-9 special election voters via automated telephone calls), the Republican former broadcasting executive has a 47-41 percent lead over the Democratic state assemblyman. Like the Siena College survey that showed Turner receiving a large cross-over vote from Democrats, PPP detects the same pattern. They post him attracting 29 percent of Democratic votes. Turner is crushing Weprin among Independents. Within this polling sample subset, the GOP nominee has a 58-26 percent edge. President Obama, in a district that he carried 55 percent in 2008, has a poor 31:56 percent job approval rating, which is proving to be a drag on Weprin’s candidacy.

The last Nevada survey, also from PPP (Sept. 9-11; 629 likely NV-2 special election voters via automated telephone calls) gave Republican Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, a whopping 50-37 percent lead over Democrat Marshall, the state Treasurer. An even more solid indicator is the early voting report. So far, of the early votes already cast, 53 percent come from Republicans while only 34 percent originate from registered Democrats. The polls indicating a Republican sweep appear to have been borne out.

Redistricting Update

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

FLORIDA (current delegation 19R-6D; gains two seats): The redistricting initiative that Florida voters adopted in 2010 survived its first legal challenge. The measure requires more compact districts, which limits the number of times county lines can be broken. Reps. Corrine Brown (D-FL-3) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21) filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the initiative, largely because they believe the measure conflicts with the Voting Rights Act. Rep. Brown’s 3rd district, which encompasses parts of Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Orlando, would be radically reconstructed if the new criteria is allowed to take effect. A federal judge formally rejected their case at the end of last week. Brown and Diaz-Balart say they will appeal the ruling.

GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat): Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed the congressional redistricting plan that the legislature sent him at the end of last week. The map must now obtain federal Voting Rights Act approval.

IDAHO (current delegation: 2R): The Idaho Redistricting Commission failed to produce a congressional map by the appointed deadline. By state law, the Idaho Supreme Court now steps in to direct the process. The high court could send the process back to the Commission, telling the bi-partisan members to continue working in order to fulfill their responsibility, or draw the new map itself.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R): Gov. Susana Martinez (R) called the legislature back into special session to complete the redistricting process along with several other issues. The session is expected to last at least two weeks. The Democratic legislature and Republican governor must agree upon a three-district congressional map. Should they fail to do so, a common occurrence in situations featuring split-control state government, the courts will take over the process.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats): Hard speculation is now coming from Columbus as congressional members of both parties are beginning to receive information about the Republican majority map strategy. There is no question that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) will be one of the members paired under the eventual new plan. It now looks as if Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), in her Toledo-anchored seat, will be placed in the same district as Cleveland’s Kucinich. Such a draw would allow Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) to command the Cleveland city district.

The rumor that the Republicans would build a new Democratic seat in Columbus so that Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) will obtain safe districts instead of the more marginal seats they currently represent, appears to have legs. In exchange for this seat, Democratic Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Tim Ryan (D-OH-17) reportedly will be paired into one district.

Since the state is losing two seats, a pair of GOP incumbents will also be placed in one district. The latest speculation now surrounds Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-3) and Steve Austria (R-OH-7) having to square off for one western Ohio congressional seat.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat): The Pennsylvania Republican majority is about ready to unveil their congressional maps. Reports suggest that the delegation’s odd-man-out, since the state loses one seat, will be Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12). Among Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), Critz, and Mike Doyle (D-PA-14), expect to see two of these three placed in one district. Altmire and Critz are the two most likely to be paired since Doyle represents the Pittsburgh city seat, which will certainly be present in some configuration. The latest speculation suggests that Altmire will be in the more favorable position to win a Democratic primary for paired district than Critz.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats): The redistricting trial is underway in San Antonio. More than a dozen lawsuits were filed against the new congressional map that was enacted into law in late June, and all of the cases have been consolidated into one hearing process. The trial is expected to last until Sept. 16. A final ruling is not expected until the end of the year. The minority composition of Districts 20 (Rep. Charlie Gonzalez-D) and 35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett-D) is the focal point of the cases.

VIRGINIA: (current delegation: 8R-3D): Efforts to craft a compromise congressional map between the Democratic state Senate and Republican House of Delegates may have reached their final impasse. No further action will occur until after the November legislative elections. The map will either be drawn by the new legislature after it convenes in January, or by the courts. Republicans hope to sustain the 8R-3D status quo. Democrats are trying to get a more favorable draw that may bring them closer to the 6D-5R split that they enjoyed during the last congressional session.

Upset City in NY’s 9th CD?

The special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) congressional vacancy in New York City will be held tomorrow and the latest poll from the Siena College Research Institute (Aug. 6-8; 886 likely NY-9 special election voters) suggests a possible Republican upset in this heavily Democratic district.

According to the Siena survey, Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, leads Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin 50-44 percent. This is on the heels of a Magellan Strategies study (Sept. 1; 2,055 likely NY-9 voters via automated telephone calls) giving Turner a 45-40 percent advantage. Furthermore, within the last 10 days, McLaughlin Associates showed the race to be tied at 42 percent, prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to counter with their own Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 voters), which posted Weprin to a 47-39 percent lead. The high error factor (4.9 percent) for a poll with a large congressional district sample suggests that the GSG results may be from the “educated” ballot test, meaning that people were given further information about the candidates after the respondents made their initial candidate preference selection.

An upset in a New York irregular election would be nothing new. In the past two years, three special elections have been held in the state, each producing a winner different from the early projected favorite. The one special election where the favored candidate won, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-29), was held concurrently with the 2010 general election. The others, all in Republican seats, elected Reps. Scott Murphy (D-NY-20), who was subsequently defeated in the succeeding regular election, Bill Owens (D-NY-23), and Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26).

As in all special elections, turnout will be the determining factor. With a superior Democratic Party operation in the city, Weprin certainly has a chance to win regardless of the late polling results. If the Democrats are motivated to turn out, then Weprin can survive. If they are not inclined to do so in sufficient numbers, then we could see a GOP upset.

Should Turner win this seat, the Republicans will likely sweep the two congressional special elections being held tomorrow. The other, in Nevada’s 2nd district, will likely elect Republican Mark Amodei. Winning the New York seat, however, will almost assuredly have national ramifications and won’t make any Democrat, including President Obama, feel overly secure.
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Trends Favor Amodei in Nevada’s 2nd CD

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, voters in Nevada’s 2nd district will go to the polls to choose a successor to Rep. Dean Heller (R), who resigned the seat upon receiving his appointment to the US Senate. All indications suggest that Republican Mark Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, has the inside track to victory in the special election. Democrats nominated twice-elected state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a former Senior Deputy Attorney General.

The 2nd district, which will change drastically when the courts finalize the state’s new four-district congressional map, touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties including part of Clark, which houses the overwhelming majority of the state’s residents. The new map is likely to confine the district boundaries to the state’s northern portion, anchoring it around the Reno and Carson City population centers.

At the beginning of this mid-year campaign, it appeared that the result would be close. In fact, Marshall seemed primed to pull an upset particularly because Amodei proved to be a weak fundraiser in previous campaigns and the district voting patterns were not as strongly Republican. Though the seat was designed as a GOP stronghold in the 2001 redistricting plan, it began trending a bit more Democratic as the decade progressed and can be considered competitive in its current configuration.

Though no Democrat has carried the seat, the Republican margins of victory have grown smaller. While former President George W. Bush scored a pair of 57 percent wins in his presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004, John McCain managed to place ahead by a mere handful of votes here when matched with Barack Obama in 2008. Both men scored in the 49th percentile. The last time the congressional seat was open, when Mr. Heller won in 2006, the Republican margin of victory dropped to 50-45 percent. As the incumbent, Heller steadily increased his victory percentage. In 2008 he won 52-41 percent and 63-33 percent two years later.

Financially, Marshall has out-raised Amodei. The latest available disclosure reports (through Aug. 24) show Ms. Marshall gathering $695,465 to Amodei’s $537,598. But it is outside spending that gives the Republican the overwhelming campaign advantage. So far, published independent committee financial disclosures, including political party expenditures, show more than $850,000 going to support Mr. Amodei versus nothing for Ms. Marshall.

Published polls, though none have been recently conducted, also project Amodei to have the advantage. Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21) gave the Republican only a one-point 43-42 percent lead, but Magellan Strategies, polling around the same time period (Aug. 15-16), showed Amodei to have a substantial 48-35 percent edge. It is likely we will see another published poll or two before Tuesday, thus giving us further indication of the eventual result.

But probably the best indicator of the vote trend are the early ballot tabulations. Though the votes themselves are not yet counted, the Secretary of State issues reports citing how many ballots the office has received from members of each political party. At this writing, over 7,600 more Republicans than Democrats have already returned their ballots. This margin will almost certainly give Amodei a relatively strong lead going into Election Day itself.

But this special election will not signal the end of the long-term congressional contest regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee who carried this district in the 2010 general election against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even though she lost statewide, waits in the wings for the winner – in a regular election district that is much more to her liking than the current 2nd. Should Amodei successfully carry the seat in the special election, he will face a Republican primary battle against Angle next June. Amodei, who is moderate, will have to protect his right flank to a great degree upon election or he will be vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge from Mrs. Angle, who has proven she is a strong vote-getter in northern Nevada.

The winner on Tuesday will serve the remainder of the current term, but may find him or herself in a dogfight to retain the seat in the regular election. It appears that the Sept. 13 vote will likely mark only the effective beginning of this campaign and not the end.
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Assessing the Nation’s Governors Contests

Often times the trends set in the nation’s governors contests become a precursor to the national presidential elections. This year, four states are choosing chief executives and, if anything, the patterns associated with these races suggest a return to more normal voting behavior. In Louisiana, now becoming a staunch Republican state, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is seeking a second term. To date, and candidate filing closes today, he does not even have a major opponent. Jindal is virtually assured a second term.

Next door in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who easily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed two-term Gov. Haley Barbour (R), appears headed for a landslide victory in November over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). If successful, Bryant will deliver the fifth consecutive Mississippi gubernatorial election for his party. Kentucky, one of the most loyal of Republican states in the presidential election but a place that almost always elects a Democratic governor, is again falling into a familiar voting pattern. While President Obama trails the top GOP candidates here according to the latest polls, incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed toward an easy re-election this November.

West Virginia, however, is bucking the landslide trend. In a special election to be decided Oct. 4 because Joe Manchin left the governorship to succeed the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate, interim Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) suddenly finds himself in a tight contest against GOP businessman Bill Maloney. The latest Public Policy Polling survey (Sept. 1-4; 708 likely West Virginia voters) gives the Democrat only a 46-40 percent lead, down from his previous double-digit leads. But closer races are becoming a more usual voting pattern for West Virginia, as the state continues to trend more Republican. Expect the campaign to tighten even more as Election Day approaches.

Can these normal gubernatorial elections suggest a return to a more predictable vote in next year’s presidential contest? Quite possibly. If so, expect a much closer result than we witnessed in 2008.
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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.