Monthly Archives: November 2011

Senate Poll Shockers

A series of surveys was just released for key US Senate races in several states. Two studies produced especially surprising results, those in Florida and North Dakota.

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 17; 500 likely Florida voters) now gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) an unexpected 43-39 percent lead over Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). This is the first poll of the election cycle that shows Nelson in a deficit position to any potential Republican opponent.

After saying he would not run in March, Rep. Mack did an about-face late last month and his decision appears to be paying off, at least in the short term. Prior to recent polls showing Rep. Mack within two, six, and now leading by four points, Sen. Nelson posted consistent 15-point margins against the other two main Republican candidates, former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

It was always believed that the Ft. Myers congressman and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III could make this race competitive, and the last three polls certainly confirm that supposition.

In North Dakota, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the results of the Mellman Group poll (Nov. 12-16; 600 likely North Dakota voters) it commissioned for newly announced candidate Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general. The data give Ms. Heitkamp a 47-42 percent lead over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). This is a stunner in that Berg is thought to be the prohibitive favorite to convert the open seat (Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring) for the GOP. North Dakota is projected to be the Republicans’ best opportunity to take a Democratic seat.

Since this tabulation conflicts with other North Dakota polls, it is possible that the survey is an anomaly. In its defense, however, are the presidential numbers. As one would expect, a prospective Republican nominee is ahead of President Obama in the Peace Garden State, even according to these same Mellman Group numbers. Mitt Romney has a 47-33 percent advantage over the President within this polling universe, which is perfectly in line with North Dakota presidential election voting behavior. If further surveys show a similar pattern in this Senate race, a new competitive race could be on the horizon.

According to a brand new Epic MRA poll of the Michigan Senate race (Nov. 13-16; 600 registered Michigan voters), former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) has decreased his deficit against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Their latest survey shows only a six-point 48-42 percent advantage for the two-term Democratic incumbent. This is a net gain of three points for Hoekstra over the firm’s August poll that gave Stabenow a 47-38 percent edge.

The Michigan race is another critical contest for the GOP. Thought to be vulnerable at the beginning of the year, the Republicans were slow to find a credible opponent against the senator, finally convincing Hoekstra to launch a campaign after the former congressman had publicly announced that he would not run.

One of the slower races to take shape is the open Arizona seat of retiring Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl (R). New polling information is now available for the Republican primary in this state and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is off to a big lead, as expected. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 17-20; 400 registered Arizona Republican voters), Flake has a huge 53-7 percent lead over businessman Wil Cardon. Magellan Strategies found a similar pattern. Their latest Arizona study (Nov. 16; 722 registered Arizona Republican voters) gives Flake a similar 55-3 percent margin against Cardon.

Democrats have a large field in the Grand Canyon State, including former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and ex-Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens. Right now, it appears the race is Flake’s to lose.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the past week: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas.

ALABAMA (current delegation: 6R-1D) – The Department of Justice officially granted pre-clearance for the Alabama congressional map, making the enacted map a virtual lock to survive all future legal challenges. The plan protects all seven incumbents and should return the 6R-1D delegation split for the ensuing decade.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court overturned Arizona Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis’ (I) impeachment, thus reinstating her as a member of the panel. This likely means that the Commission will now be able to pass a new congressional map into law. The draft map has now exceeded the required time limit for public comment and is ready for passage. The panel has indicated that some changes will be made based upon input received. Mathis says the Commission will complete its work before Christmas. The map features four Republican districts, two Democratic, and three swing seats that will likely trend toward the Democrats as the decade progresses. For her part, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) who led Mathis’ impeachment drive, indicated she may again pursue an effort to remove her.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The Republicans decided to appeal the lower court action that constructed the new congressional districts. Under the plan, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) is endangered and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) continues to hold a very marginal seat. The state Supreme Court will hear the appeal and have scheduled the first week of December for oral arguments.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Now that the odd-numbered year elections are over, the Kentucky legislature released draft congressional maps. The congressional delegation itself proposed a map and state Assembly Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) also put forth his plan. Both are similar, particularly in the way they protect the 4R-2D current footprint. The Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a strong majority in the Senate. The deal appears to give all four GOP members safe seats but also shores up Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) who had a close call in the 2010 election, winning by just 515 votes. The incumbent protection plan is expected to pass into law.

MASSACHUSETTS (current delegation: 10D; loses one seat) – After a slight delay due to a legislative procedural maneuver, the state Senate passed the House version of the new nine-district congressional map. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed the plan into law yesterday. The map should elect nine Democrats in succeeding elections. With Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1) retiring, his 1st District was collapsed into the Springfield seat of Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2), making one large western Mass district. Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) will run in the new 9th District despite his home city of Quincy being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-MA-9) new 8th District.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – Late last week, the political parties filed their proposed congressional maps with the special judicial panel hearing the redistricting lawsuit. The legislature passed a map, but Gov. Mark Dayton (D) vetoed the plan. Therefore, the court must draw a de novo map. For their part, the Republicans filed the eight-district bill that passed the legislature. The Democrats submitted their own map, but the plan was so partisan that even two of their own congressional members, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), both decried it saying their Democratic Party leaders went too far. The Dem plan pairs Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) with McCollum in a new Democratic 4th District that is only two points below the present MN-4 partisan number. Bachmann, should she choose to seek re-election to the House, could move to a nearby more Republican seat, so it is unlikely that the pairing will ever occur. McCollum’s chief of staff was quoted as saying, “The DFL Chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre.” Peterson stated his belief that both party’s maps are too partisan. The court is taking input from all sides and will put forth its own plan at a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The three-judge panel drawing the new Texas maps released the state House and Senate maps, meaning the congressional plans will soon be made public, probably right before Thanksgiving or the Monday after the holiday. The panel favored the Democratic versions of the submitted legislative plans, and much the same is expected for the congressional plan. The enacted US House plan would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The court plan will likely be closer to a 22- or 23-R, 14- or 13-D map.

Newt Comes All the Way Back

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has soared to first place in two just-released national political polls, cementing his remarkable comeback into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.

According to both the Opinion Research Council for CNN (Nov. 18-20; 1,019 adults; 402 self-identified Republicans) and Gallup (Nov. 13-17; 1,062 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), Gingrich now leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by slim margins. ORC posts Gingrich to a 24 percent stake over second-place Romney, who is at 20 percent. Retired business executive Herman Cain is third with 17 percent. Then comes Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 11 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) trails with 9 percent support.

The Gallup data projects an even tighter race. There, Mr. Gingrich squeezes out a 22 percent share over Romney, who is at 21 percent; Cain has 16 percent, Paul 9 percent, and Perry 8 percent.

Once again we see a familiar pattern in the polling. Yet another candidate has now claimed the top spot in a national poll – Romney, Perry, and Cain have all been first in multiple surveys – and Romney continues to flat-line in the low 20s. This race is as volatile as any presidential campaign in recent history. With actual voting beginning just six weeks from today in Iowa, the campaign will soon start to peak. But as we approach Thanksgiving, the 2012 Republican nomination remains in free-for-all status.

State-by-State House Race Review

With several more states completing their redistricting maps, it is again a good time to take an updated look at the competitive campaigns where district boundaries have been adopted. The first 12 states are covered below. The remaining dozen will be in Wednesday’s report. If the Texas court map is released this week, that analysis will be included, too.

As of now, the aggregate partisan swing pertaining to the states that have completed their maps is negligible. The remaining 14 multi-district states where the process has either not begun or isn’t complete, as well as the new Texas map, could favor the Democrats by the tune of 10 to 12 seats.

Alabama

All incumbents received winnable districts. Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-AL-3) district was greatly improved from his perspective. The Alabama map still awaits Justice Department pre-clearance. Assuming it is granted, no partisan change is expected here.

Arkansas

The new lines most greatly affect the 1st and 4th districts. Freshman GOP Rep. Rick Crawford faces a difficult test in the new 1st District, which was made more Democratic. The retirement of Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) makes the new 4th CD highly competitive in an open seat situation and is a GOP conversion opportunity. The swing will fall between R+1 and D+1.

California

The California Independent Redistricting Commission created a highly competitive map that could produce contested campaigns in as many as 23 of the 53 districts. The change in the state’s election law also adds a new twist to California campaigns. Now, the top two finishers in the June qualifying election advance to the November general regardless of party affiliation.

Among incumbents, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) whose home was placed in new District 32, faces the most difficult re-election situation. He won’t run in CA-32 against Rep. Grace Napolitano (D) because the seat so heavily favors the Democrats. He could run in District 31, assuming Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) does not seek re-election there, or District 26 if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) decides to challenge Rep. Buck McKeon (R) in the new 25th District. Neither scenario is positive for Dreier.

Several members are paired. The most notable are Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) in the new Los Angeles County 30th District, and Reps. Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R) in the new 39th District (Orange County). Should Gallegly and McKeon square-off in the new 25th, then another incumbent pairing will result.

With members still deciding where, or if, to run in 2012, the California situation is still unclear. It appears the statewide swing can go all the way from +3 Democrat to +3 Republican. After only seeing one incumbent of either party lose during the entire last decade, the new congressional redistricting map will make the Golden State one of the more hotly contested states in the country.

Colorado

The new court-produced map changes the competition factor. The plan makes the 4th District of freshman Rep. Cory Gardner (R) more Republican, but endangers sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6). The western slope 3rd District remains in the swing category. The partisan swing could go from even to D+2.

Georgia

The state gained one seat in reapportionment, and Republicans adding that seat to their column is a certainty. Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12) will face a more competitive re-election contest, but the large African-American percentage is his greatest asset and may be enough to save him. The swing could go from R+1 to R+2. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) was given a relatively safe Republican seat, but a much different one than his current district. A primary challenge here is a possibility. Like Alabama, Georgia awaits Department of Justice pre-clearance.

Idaho

The redistricting commission made only cosmetic changes in the state’s two congressional districts. Both Republican incumbents have winnable districts.

Illinois

This is the Democrats’ best state. The partisan swing could be as many as a D+4. Reps. Bob Dold (R-IL-10), Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) all have difficult re-election challenges. Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) are paired in the new 14th CD. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) are paired in the new 16th.

Indiana

Republicans drew the Hooiser State map and are attempting to increase their 6-3 delegation advantage to 7-2. They might be successful, since 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) decided to forego re-election in a more difficult seat and is running for the Senate. Though the 2nd District is more Republican, it is still competitive as President Obama scored 49 percent even within the new boundaries. By making IN-2 more Republican, the 8th District of freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) becomes more competitive. The map improved, from a Republican perspective, freshman Rep. Todd Young’s (R) 9th District. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Iowa

The new four-district map largely displaces all five current House incumbents. The loss of a seat in reapportionment causes the pairing of Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4) in the very different and marginal new 3rd District. This race will be a toss-up all the way to Election Day. The new western Iowa 4th District is also competitive. Rep. Steve King (R) faces Christie Vilsack (D), the wife of former governor and current US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Louisiana

Reapportionment costs the state one district and even though Republicans control the entire process, they will lose a seat. The new map pairs veteran Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7) and freshman Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) in the new 3rd District. Boustany is favored. All of the other incumbents should be safe. With the GOP taking the reapportionment hit, the partisan swing becomes D+1 by default.

Maine

Another two-district state where little change will occur. After an attempt to make the 1st District more Republican, the final plan protects the state’s two Democrats, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2). No change is expected here.

Maryland

The Democrats, in full control of the redistricting process, made the Republicans pay. The resulting plan will very likely increase their 6D-2R delegation split to 7D-1R. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District goes from 57 percent McCain, based upon the 2008 presidential contest, to 62 percent Obama, thus becoming a likely Democratic conversion district. All other incumbents, including freshman GOP Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1), get safe seats. The partisan swing is D+1.

More state reports on Wednesday …

Newt Romps in Iowa Poll

Rasmussen Reports just released the results of their new Iowa poll (Nov. 15; 700 likely Iowa Republican caucus attenders), and it shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be holding a commanding lead over the rest of the field. Gingrich posted 32 percent, followed by Mitt Romney with 19 percent, and then Herman Cain, who has dropped to 13 percent.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), who has recently been on the upswing in Iowa, placed fourth in this survey with 10 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who badly needs a strong performance in the Hawkeye State caucuses, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), winner of the Iowa Straw Poll event in August, are tied with just 6 percent apiece.

Mr. Gingrich continues to show strength in the latest polls, rebounding from his disastrous start that saw his support dwindle to just 3 percent nationally in some surveys, but his resurgence has not been as great as in this new Rasmussen poll. It is doubtful, however, that the former House Speaker has the campaign apparatus in place to deliver thousands of caucus voters to precinct meetings all throughout Iowa on Jan. 3. In low-turnout political events where people must attend an actual meeting in order to cast their votes for president, having a well-oiled organizational turnout operation is essential regardless of poll standing.