Monthly Archives: January 2012

Florida is Just the Beginning of the Presidential Campaign

Many commentators and analysts have been publicly alluding to a scenario where next Tuesday’s Florida primary perhaps ends the Republican presidential campaign. They believe that enough momentum could come from the Sunshine State vote, the biggest state to claim the electoral spotlight to date, that virtually all of the other candidates fall by the wayside.

Regardless of who wins Florida, it is very unlikely that such will be the case, and it all comes down to simple math. It takes 1,144 adjusted delegate votes to clinch the nomination. After Florida a mere 115 will be, for all intents and purposes, chosen; just 10 percent of the number required to win and only 5 percent of the total delegate universe.

The delegate number is so small during this first part of the election cycle, because many of the early states were penalized delegate slots for moving their nominating event. Florida started the musical chairs by shifting to Jan. 31, in violation of Republican National Committee rules. The action cost them 50% of their delegation. Florida is awarded 99 delegates, but post-penalty, the candidates are vying for only 50.

Because New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona all moved up, they too, receive 50 percent penalties. Cumulatively, the penalized states lose an aggregate total of 143 delegate slots. Thus, the universe of Republican National Convention delegates is reduced from 2,429 to 2,286.

Through South Carolina, the projected delegate scorecard gives former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the lead with just 27 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 15 delegates, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is third at 9, and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next with 6. Technically, Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured three delegates and former Obama Administration official Jon Huntsman won two, so it is likely these five votes will be released.

But even the status of these few votes is no certainty. As Rep. Paul stated in Monday night’s Florida debate, the Iowa Caucuses are not over. The vote on Jan. 3 was merely a straw poll. The main purpose of the precinct caucuses was to elect delegates to the county conventions. At those meetings, delegates are then sent to the June 16 state convention where the 28 Iowa Republican National Convention representatives finally will be chosen.

South Carolina also is not finished. Because the state apportions most of their delegates through the congressional districts, assignment cannot yet move forward because the new seven-seat congressional redistricting plan has not fully cleared all legal hurdles. When the districts are finalized, it appears that Gingrich will win Districts 2 thru 7. Romney carried CD-1. This means the former Speaker is projected to eventually receive 23 of the 25 available Palmetto State delegates.

Even through Super Tuesday (March 6), only 29 percent of the delegates will be chosen, suggesting that the nomination fight could go on for some time. Eighteen states will vote on or before Super Tuesday, holding a total of 664 delegate votes.

Many of the larger states are holding their elections later in the cycle in order to attract more attention and greater political capital. In fact, just seven states (California, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas) hold more cumulative delegate votes (670) than do all the states voting through the Super Tuesday informal benchmark.

It is not until the April 24 primaries when more than 70 percent of the total delegates are selected that a clear nominee will likely be chosen. Therefore, instead of places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida determining the Republican nominee, the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut now become the key venues, some three months after Floridians cast their ballots.

Based on the current results, prepare for a much longer contest than originally projected … and miles to go before we sleep.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the past week:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Republican-controlled Florida Senate passed their 27-district congressional map during the past week. The measure would create several competitive districts meaning that Democrats will likely make some gains. The House of Representatives is considering their own congressional plan. At this point it is difficult to predict exactly what the legislature will produce. Because of the conflicts between the 2010 voter-approved initiative that adds new redistricting criteria and the Voting Rights Act, it is clear that the final plan will come before the liberal Florida State Supreme Court immediately after adoption. The Florida redistricting process still has a very long way to go.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – In one of the last states to produce a map, the Kansas state Senate Reapportionment Committee released a new four-district plan that leaves the basic congressional footprint in tact. The biggest changes are in western District 1 (Rep. Tim Huelskamp-R) and Kansas City-based District 3 (Rep. Kevin Yoder-R). The 1st must gain 57,970 people and the 3rd must shed 54,289. The biggest change is putting the city of Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, into the 1st from the 2nd. The Speaker of the House is already expressing discontent with the plan, specifically as it relates to the placement of Manhattan, so this process is nowhere near completion.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Negotiations between the Democratic House of Representatives and the Republican Senate over the six-district congressional plan have broken down. It is unclear if the two sides can reach agreement in time to avoid postponing the Jan. 31 candidate filing deadline. If the plan heads to court, which appears likely today, the filing deadline will certainly be postponed and the May 22 primary could be in jeopardy.

NORTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 7D-6R) – Now in court before a three judge state panel, North Carolina itself has won a significant redistricting-related ruling. The panel rejected a motion to move the May 8 primary to July 10 in order to allow the plaintiffs more time to argue their map rejection case. This suggests that the panel plans a quick ruling on all of the consolidated redistricting lawsuits.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As part of their hearing of the Texas redistricting case, the US Supreme Court has rejected their own federal three-judge panel’s controversial map. This means the panel will have to redraw the 36 district congressional lines, with greater attention to the Supreme Court directives pertaining to minority districts and giving deference to the map that cleared the legislative process and Gov. Rick Perry signed into law. The ruling means the process will continue on for an extended period, and even the new April 3 primary date will likely be postponed again. Originally, the Texas primary was scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 6.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – The status quo 8R-3D congressional map passed the Virginia state Senate last week and now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for his signature. Under the new draw, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) and Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) see their districts improve the most from their own personal perspectives. Connolly’s seat becomes eight points more Democratic; Wolf’s increases its Republican vote by seven. Both seats are in northern Virginia.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) improves six points, while Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA-8) sees his Democratic number regress six points. Moran still maintains a politically safe district, however. The two marginal freshmen Republicans, Reps. Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) and Bob Hurt (R-VA-5) also improve, but not by much. Rigell’s new seat is three points more Republican, Hurt’s is two. It is likely the new map will protect the current 8R-3D configuration for at least the early part of the decade, but the aforementioned Republican seats (Districts 2, 5, and 10) could become highly competitive at a later point in time.

WEST VIRGINIA (current delegation: 2R-1D) – The US Supreme Court weighed in on the West Virginia lawsuit and will review the three judge federal panel’s action that stayed implementation of the congressional map for population equalization reasons. The Supreme Court hearing schedule, however, virtually ensures that the 2012 elections will occur in the legislatively-passed districts. If the Supreme Court orders changes to the plan, such will occur in 2013 and will be in effect for future elections. Therefore, for 2012, West Virginia returns to the redistricting completed category. The plan favors all three current incumbents: Reps. David McKinley (R-WV-1), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), and Nick Rahall (D-WV-3) in the sense that it doesn’t change the current footprint. The 1st District, in particular, is expected to remain competitive.

Arizona Rep. Giffords to Resign; The Road Ahead

The senseless shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) a little more than one year ago has now led to her leaving Congress, as announced in an emotional video to supporters and her constituents. She will attend tonight’s State of the Union message, but then officially leave the House later this week and return home to Tucson to continue her recovery.

Once the resignation becomes official, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has only 72 hours to schedule a replacement special election. Based upon Arizona election code requirements in relation to the timing of the vacancy, the nominating contest will be in mid to late April (within 80 to 90 days of the official date of vacancy) with the special general in June (within 50 to 60 days after the special primary). The vote will occur within the current 8th District boundaries, which is slightly more favorable to Republicans than the post-redistricting Tucson-based 2nd District, re-numbered as such by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2010, Rep. Giffords won re-election in a tight 49-47 percent contest over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly.

Expect a large number of Democrats and Republicans to run in the marginal open seat race. Five Republicans, including Kelly and state Sen. Frank Antenori, have already indicated their interest in becoming a candidate for the new 2nd District, so it is assumed that they will participate in the special election. Several state legislators are Democratic potential candidates. The winner will serve only to the end of the current Congress. It is assumed the victor will run in the regular new 2nd District election, meaning he or she will endure four elections (two primaries, two generals) over a period of eight months.

With Newt Gingrich’s Win in South Carolina, Now What?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s strong 40-28 percent victory over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina primary means the Republican presidential nomination fight is far from being decided. The 40 percent total represented the largest winning percentage thus far in the campaign, topping Romney’s showing in the New Hampshire primary (39 percent).

Turnout was a record high for an individual party. The 2008 Democratic primary, featuring then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, topped 532,000 ballots cast. That year more than 443,000 also voted on the Republican side. On Saturday, GOP voter participation broke the 600,000 threshold.

The evening proved to be a disappointment for both former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Both had hoped to do better. Santorum needed to at least finish a close third to realistically continue performing as a first tier candidate, but tallied only 17 percent of the South Carolina vote. Following Santorum was Rep. Paul with 13 percent. The congressman stated publicly he was hoping for a strong third place finish. Gingrich won 43 of the state’s 46 counties and Romney three, while both Santorum and Paul were shut-out.

Mr. Gingrich again rebounded from what appeared to be a relentless downward spiral based upon his Iowa and New Hampshire finishes. Every other candidate in this race, once they began to fall, never recovered. As we saw in South Carolina over the weekend, Gingrich has now bounced back twice, once from his staffing debacle at the start of his presidential campaign, and now, overcoming the negative ad barrage that damaged him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Additionally, South Carolina may have given us the first practical test of the theory that a conservative who can isolate Romney in a two-way race beats him, irrespective of who may be that individual. Since the Palmetto State vote is the first instance where the campaign winnowed down into basically a two-candidate race, the theory, at least as exemplified during this past weekend, appears to have legs.

We also have the underpinnings of a nomination fight that could soldier on for a long while, or at least through the end of April when more than two-thirds of the delegates will be apportioned. With Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, three candidates have now won nominating events: Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses Romney in the New Hampshire primary, and now the former Speaker during this past weekend.

Projecting forward from the progression of events just passed, let’s try to project what comes next in Florida on Jan. 31? As the party leaders had hoped for when they accepted reducing the size of their delegation by half for the right to vote before Super Tuesday (March 6), Florida could determine who wins the nomination. Not only will it be the first big state to host a nominating event, but a victory by either Romney or Gingrich could send the other two candidates, Paul and Santorum, out of the race. Santorum’s departure would have a greater effect because his constituency will almost assuredly go to Gingrich as their second choice.

The Florida vote will answer the following questions: Will Gingrich have generated enough momentum in South Carolina to win a big state primary? Will Romney’s superior financial resources and campaign management team return him to the winner’s circle in what could become the most important of states? Will Paul and Santorum drop out if they again finish poorly? Will an eventual two-way contest between Gingrich and Romney favor the former Speaker despite his carrying substantial personal and political baggage? The answers to these and many other race-defining queries will be uncovered to at least some degree when people from Pensacola to Key West cast their ballots in eight days. Stay tuned.

Here We Go Again!

Just when it appeared the Republican presidential contest was beginning to normalize, the unexpected happened yet again. A series of six polls taken within a three-day period ending Wednesday shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gaining sustained electoral momentum, thus becoming positioned for a possible upset win tomorrow in South Carolina.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the leader of the race entering the Palmetto State primary, is clearly enduring his most difficult week of the campaign. Besieged with questions about his tax payments and off-shore corporate investment accounts uncovered in the Cayman Islands, discovering he actually placed second in the Iowa Caucuses to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by 34 votes instead of claiming an eight-vote victory, seeing Texas Gov. Rick Perry drop out of the race and endorse Gingrich, and giving his worst debate performance of the cycle has apparently eroded Romney’s always tenuous lead in conservative South Carolina.

Four of the six polls now show Gingrich with the advantage in South Carolina, revealing margins from two to six points. American Research Group (Jan. 17-18; 600 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters), Insider Advantage (Jan. 18; 719 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters), Public Policy Polling (Jan. 18; 379 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters – the first night of a three-night track), and Rasmussen Reports (Jan. 18; 750 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters) post the former Speaker to leads over Mr. Romney of 33-32; 32-29; 34-28; and 33-31 percent, respectively.

Two other surveys, NBC/Marist (Jan. 16-17; 684 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters – a tally of 349 pre-debate and 335 post-debate), and Politico/Tarrance (Jan. 17-18; 600 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters) still show Mr. Romney ahead. He registers more substantial 34-24 and 37-30 percent leads over Mr. Gingrich, respectively.

All of the surveys feature substantial sampling universes except the Public Policy Polling effort (giving Gingrich his largest lead), but these numbers represent only the first day’s results from a three-day track. To fully comprehend the complete results of this particular poll, all of the cell group responses must be tabulated. If the PPP preliminary result is put on hold, then the remaining Gingrich-leading studies all fall within the same 1-3 point range.

The NBC/Marist poll, which surveyed some people before the mid-week debate and others after, concluded that the forum proved to be of major importance, is a potential outlier. First, its methodology is different from the others and second, their results (Romney +10) are inconsistent with the other professional pollsters who were in the field at the same time. The Politico/Tarrance data (Romney +7), is also curious, but it’s at least closer to the norm than the NBC/Marist study. The fact that two of the six surveys still show Romney leading the race, while four others reveal the opposite conclusion suggests that the contest is very tight. However, because Gingrich is now leading in more polls, it provides further clues that the momentum is on his side.

If Newt Gingrich manages to win the South Carolina primary tomorrow, one of two things will happen: first, if Romney rebounds with a Florida victory on Jan. 31, then the Gingrich win may prove to be just a bump on the former governor’s road to the nomination. Second, should the race continue to evolve into a two-way Romney-Gingrich race and the Florida result is close, we could be starting a whole new campaign phase; one that could lead to all 50 states having an important role in the delegate count.

Contrary to popular opinion expressed earlier in the week, it now appears that the Republican presidential nomination campaign is not over, and the former House Speaker has again successfully rebounded from oblivion. It is fair to suggest that even more surprises are headed our way.