Monthly Archives: January 2012

Calif. Rep. Gallegly to Retire

In a move many expected when the California redistricting map dealt him a cruel political blow, 13-term Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) announced over the weekend that he will not seek re-election later this year, thus ending his quarter century tenure in Congress.

Mr. Gallegly had two choices after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission re-drew the Ventura County/Simi Valley (west Los Angeles County) area. He could run in the new 26th District, which comprises most of Ventura County, a place Gallegly has represented for most of his career, but which does not include his home and political power base of the Simi Valley region. While he would be in the incumbent in the new 26th, the district is politically marginal and the chances of a Democrat beating him in November are good. President Obama, who will of course lead the Democratic ticket again in 2012, scored 56 percent here in 2008.

Mr. Gallegly’s other option would have been to challenge fellow Republican Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) in the new 25th CD. This district will likely elect a member of the GOP in November but, aside from including Simi Valley, the new 25th is comprised mostly of McKeon’s political base in Santa Clarita and Palmdale. Gallegly would have been at a decided disadvantage had he run against McKeon but, under California’s new primary election law, it is likely the race would have lasted a full year as both would likely have qualified for the general election because the top two primary finishers advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation.

All of the aforementioned made retirement Mr. Gallegly’s best option. The 26th District is now officially listed as an open seat. The retiring congressman becomes the 27th House incumbent to announce that he or she won’t run for re-election, and the 13th to choose outright retirement. The others are seeking a different office. Adding the new seats created in reapportionment and redistricting to this list, 43 open seat races are already present.

Without Gallegly in the political picture, the new 25th District (McKeon) becomes a Likely Republican seat, while District 26 now goes to “lean Democrat.” The seat’s political complexion is highly marginal, however, and a strong Republican candidate could conceivably win with a break or two.

Santorum’s Path

After surprisingly battling former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to a virtual tie last week in Iowa, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum must remain strong with a good showing tomorrow night in New Hampshire. While it is clear that Mr. Romney will win the Granite State primary, any slip in his perceived strength could make him vulnerable in other states such as South Carolina. The Palmetto State primary is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, and consistently polls as one of the weakest Romney states.

For Mr. Santorum to build upon his Iowa momentum, he will likely have to overcome Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) for second place. The Pennsylvanian already polls ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Additionally, Santorum’s strength grows if Romney’s percentage dips below projections. Right now, three post-Iowa surveys in New Hampshire – Marist/NBC, Public Opinion Research, and Rasmussen Reports – peg Romney at 42 percent, 37 percent, and 42 percent, respectively. Santorum records percentages of 13 (third place), 14 (fourth place), and 13 (third place), respectively.

While it is obvious that Santorum is a long way from winning the state tomorrow, and very likely can’t make up the necessary ground in the remaining time available, he needs to upset Paul for second place. He lags behind the Texas congressman from between five and nine points according to the three surveys. Accomplishing this would show significant progress and certainly expand his momentum in conservative South Carolina, a state where Santorum’s message resonates well. Placing first there in 12 days is a necessity if he is to become universally viable.

It has long been presumed – after all, Romney never breaks 25 percent nationally among Republicans and failed to do so in Iowa – that if one credible conservative candidate becomes the lone alternative to the more moderate Romney, that individual likely would win the nomination. All but Santorum have already eliminated themselves from competition. A second-place finish in New Hampshire and an outright win in South Carolina could make Santorum that conservative alternative.

Should he achieve these benchmarks, the former senator would then be propelled into serious competition in Florida on Jan. 31, thus making the Republican presidential nomination contest a real horse race. Santorum falling short of this formula, however, probably locks up the GOP contest for Mr. Romney. The next three weeks are critical in determining which scenario actually comes to fruition.

Winning the “Not Romney Primary”

Now that most of the dust has settled from the first-in-the-nation caucus for the GOP presidential nomination, it may be a good time to provide additional texture to the popular political punditry concerning the current state of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Sorting out the true meaning of an election is rarely done well during the night of the contest itself, and so it is with Iowa in 2012.

The major media and the “political punditariat” always are inclined to follow the horse race aspect of any campaign. As media consultant Mike Murphy humorously said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, “the pool of national political reporters are like a bit like a Tyrannosaurus – 30 feet tall, sharp teeth, red meat-eating, with small brains, but they can follow movement.”

Watching only the shiny moving objects this past Tuesday would indicate that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney very narrowly won the Iowa Caucus over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The real importance of the Iowa Caucuses, however, may not be his eight-vote victory. Rather, the truly significant aspect is the winnowing of the field in the “Not Romney primary.”

In fact, Romney’s difficulty in cracking through an apparent support ceiling among GOP primary voters and caucus participants has led to a virtual parade of aspirants to the “Not Romney” mantle in this year’s nomination contest.

After Iowa, it seems clear that Mr. Santorum has become the true leader of the GOP’s “Not Romney” primary contest.

All of the political air that had filled the Palin-Trump-Bachmann-Perry-Cain-Gingrich bubble had to go somewhere and in Iowa that somewhere was to the campaign of Rick Santorum, the only contestant not to have a turn at being the “Not Mitt Romney” candidate. His timing was fortuitous, message clear and pitch-perfect for Iowa Caucus goers, and he failed to implode as others had done before him.

At this writing it’s becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Romney has a current “floor” of about 18-23 percent of the Republican primary electorate and a hard “ceiling” ranging from 25 (Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia) to 40 percent (New Hampshire, Michigan, Massachusetts), depending upon the state. In a six- or seven-candidate caucus or primary field, that’s almost always enough to finish in the top three, and sometimes first. As the field winnows, however, a hard ceiling of 25-40 percent rarely prevails.

It seems clear that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will now turn his rhetorical fire toward Romney, which seems unlikely to improve his own standing, but will very likely hurt his target, thus making him more vulnerable to a Santorum charge.

Performance in the nomination contests through Super Tuesday will largely be expectation-driven. The punditariat has already begun saying that should Romney score less than 40-45 percent in New Hampshire, he will have insufficient momentum to be successful in South Carolina, Florida and the Super Tuesday states of the South. Santorum has been in the low single digits in New Hampshire (and elsewhere) and his impressive showing in Iowa already is being discounted as a “one-state wonder” in some quarters. If, however, the Pennsylvanian places second in the Granite State and Romney finishes in the 30s rather than the 40s, the fight for the nomination will essentially become a two-man race.

The serial movement of conservatives from one “Not Romney” candidate to another, and the former governor’s lack of growth among self-described conservatives suggests that he has emerged as their least favorite option. This is anything but a catbird seat for someone hoping to win the GOP presidential nomination. Romney does have large amounts of campaign and Super PAC money, but conservative dollars are sitting on the sidelines just waiting to flow to the eventual “Not Romney” primary contest winner.

The days and weeks ahead will put all remaining GOP candidates to the test. Considering all that we’ve seen so far, how this ends is anyone’s guess.

Bachmann Out of the House, Too?

Yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ended her presidential quest after a poor showing in her native state of Iowa. Now, she must soon determine whether she will seek re-election to her House seat, a decision that is apparently not clear cut.

While campaigning for president these past many months, Rep. Bachmann’s attendance for House votes has been poor. In a body where almost all members participate in more than 90 percent of the recorded votes per session, the former presidential candidate’s absentee rate is well above 40 percent. Regardless of ideology, voting attendance tends to be a killer issue for incumbents in both parties.

The Minnesota representative also has to decide whether continuing to serve in Congress helps her achieve national political goals. Like former presidential or vice-presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have found, having a regular media presence is a much better forum than representing a single political constituency.

Redistricting is another concern. Though Bachmann has won her seat three times, twice in the most difficult Republican years of 2006 and 2008, her district is marginal and potentially competitive in a general election. It’s a sure bet the Democrats will target her if the soon-to-be-released, court-drawn 2012 map keeps her in a vulnerable position.

The Minnesota Republican convention is scheduled for April 14, when party delegates will choose nominees for the various positions. Under Minnesota law, individuals can force an August primary if they are not victorious in the convention, but that rarely happens.

Expect Rep. Bachmann to take some time before deciding her next political move, but it would not be surprising to see her leave Congress when her current term expires.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the holidays:

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission adopted a new congressional map just before the year ended. It is similar to the controversial draft map in that it creates more competitive seats. Political numbers will be available shortly, thus giving us a better picture of what will happen in the 2012 elections. Looking only at the geographical divisions, it appears that four seats will be Republican, three Democrat, with one toss-up district. Among incumbents, it appears that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) may have received the most difficult draw, but it is possible he could hop over into the new 4th District, an open seat that should be solidly Republican. The most likely outcome for 2012, according to the earliest of projections, is a 5R-4D split, meaning the Democrats will gain one net seat.

GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat) – The Justice Department granted pre-clearance to the Georgia map, virtually completing the Peach State redistricting process. Lawsuits will continue, but obtaining DoJ approval now makes it extremely difficult to dislodge the plan. Republicans will gain the new seat, labeled as District 9. Rep. Tom Graves (R) now goes to District 14, and Rep. John Barrow’s (D) 12th District becomes highly competitive. Republican District 1 (Rep. Jack Kingston) also becomes more competitive, while District 8 (Rep. Austin Scott) changes significantly but remains in the contested category.

MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel, even before the new legislature convenes today, released a congressional map that changes very little among the four districts. Their biggest task was to balance the four seats from a population perspective. The 2nd District of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) is officially 73,561 people low, meaning those individuals must come from the other three districts. The northern Mississippi 1st District (Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R) is the most over-populated of the four seats, having to shed 46,271 inhabitants. It remains to be seen if the new legislature makes any quick changes to the map. Candidate filing begins Jan. 13, thereby giving them a very small window in which to take action. The politics of the map will likely remain constant.

NEW JERSEY (current delegation: 7D-6R; loses one seat) – The New Jersey congressional redistricting commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and a tie-breaker (Republican former Attorney General John Farmer) released their congressional map just before 2011 ended. Tie-breaking member Farmer voted with the Republicans, thereby adopting the GOP-submitted map. On paper, the plan paired Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) into a new 5th District that contains 79 percent of Garrett’s current territory and only 21 percent of Rothman’s.

The practical outcome changed, however, when Rothman announced he will challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) in the new 9th District, a seat that contains 54 percent of the former’s current seat, instead of running against Republican Garrett. The new 9th houses Pascrell’s home of Paterson, but only encompasses 43 percent of his previous 8th District. Rothman sees his home of Fair Lawn go to Garrett’s 5th, but his former political power base of Englewood carries over to the 9th. It remains to be seen if Mr. Pascrell, an eight-term incumbent who will be 75 years old at the end of the month, will forge the uphill challenge against Rothman or simply retire. In any event, it appears the Democrats will absorb the reapportionment casualty and the new delegation will most likely return six Republicans and six Democrats.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – The New Mexico state court charged with drawing a new congressional map completed its work and returned a plan that looks almost identical to the current political landscape. The court made only small changes to the three districts after balancing the seats from a population perspective. Rep. Steve Pearce’s (R) 2nd District was the most out of balance, having to gain 22,437 people. The political numbers among the three districts are almost identical to those of the previous decade, meaning that the state will continue to hold one Democratic seat (NM-3; Rep. Ben Lujan), one Republican district (NM-2; Rep. Pearce), and a marginal Albuquerque-based 1st District that leans Democratic. Though the 1st CD will host a competitive open seat race in the fall, the eventual Democratic nominee will be tabbed as the general election favorite. The most likely outcome after the 2012 election will again yield a delegation comprised of two Democrats and one Republican.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Just before Christmas, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed the congressional redistricting legislation into law. The new plan pairs Democrats Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12) in a new western PA 12th District, a seat where President Obama tallied only 45 percent. This means the eventual Democratic nominee, either Altmire or Critz, will still face a stiff challenge in the general election.

Though the map is designed to elect 12 Republicans and six Democrats and could possibly stretch to 13R-5D, President Obama scored a majority of the vote in 10 of the 18 districts, including those represented by Reps. Jim Gerlach (District 6), Pat Meehan (District 7), Mike Fitzpatrick (District 8), Charlie Dent (District 15), and Joe Pitts (District 16). Rep. Todd Platts’ (R) safely Republican 19th District is re-numbered as District 4, since the state no longer possesses 19 districts. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.

WASHINGTON (current delegation: 5D-4R; gains one seat) – The Washington redistricting commission also completed its work, adopting a new congressional plan that should protect all eight of the state’s incumbents seeking re-election, gives the new district to the Democrats, and puts a new 1st District in play for Republicans.

In a state where Democrats routinely win at the statewide level, the Republicans would have come away with a national victory simply by protecting all four of its incumbents. Under this plan, however, they now have a chance to evenly split the delegation as the new 1st District becomes competitive. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) is running for governor, so his CD will be open in 2012. The plan switches the focal point of the district from the northern Seattle/Puget Sound island area to the east, meaning it has a more rural and conservative political anchor. The new draw plays well for Republican John Koster, the former state legislator and county official who lost close congressional races to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the current 2nd District during both 2000 and 2010. Larsen’s CD-2 now moves into the Puget Sound islands, changing his political focus, but giving him a much more Democratic district. For his part, Mr. Koster announced that he will run in new District 1. He previously was gearing up for a re-match with Larsen in WA-2. Several of the Democrats who were planning to run to succeed Inslee may now find themselves displaced in this new draw.

All of the remaining political situations, including those of Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) and Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) who represent marginal areas, improve for the incumbent. The new 10th District is placed southeast of the Seattle metro area, between Tacoma and around and including the capital city of Olympia. Former state House Majority Leader Denny Heck (D), who lost 47-53 percent to Herrera Beutler in 2010, is the odds-on favorite to capture the new seat. He has already announced that he will run. The district heavily favors the Democrats. It is made up largely from Rep. Adam Smith’s (D) current 9th District and the most Democratic part of Herrera Beutler’s seat.

For his part, Mr. Smith draws a heavily Democratic district, but one that has a much higher minority complexion. Herrera Beutler’s current seat is over-populated to the degree of 106,894 people. Smith’s current seat needed to shed 50,675 bodies. The most over-populated of Washington’s congressional districts is that of Rep. Reichert, which sheds 138,300 inhabitants and becomes more rural and Republican.