Monthly Archives: February 2012

Santorum Takes Michigan Lead

Yet another surprise is occurring in the Republican presidential nomination battle, a campaign where astonishing results are basically becoming the norm. A new Public Policy Polling survey (Feb. 10-12; 404 likely Michigan Republican primary voters) gives former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a 39-24-12-11 percent lead over his chief rival Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively. Michigan, the state in which Mr. Romney was reared and where his father served as governor for two terms in the 1960s, has long been a stronghold for the former Massachusetts chief executive. Losing the Wolverine State would clearly deal the Romney campaign a major blow.

In one way, the polling results are not all that surprising. Reviving the manufacturing industry in the Great Lakes states has been a focal point of Mr. Santorum’s campaign. Michigan’s economy has been among the worst in the nation. It is the only state to actually lose population in the last decade, mostly due to a lack of employment opportunities. His manufacturing/economic message largely accounts for Santorum’s 67:23 percent favorability rating. This compares to 49:39 percent for Romney. Both Mr. Gingrich and Rep. Paul are upside down, with their negative ratings greatly surpassing their positive scores. Gingrich registers 38:47 percent favorable to unfavorable, and Paul is in an even worse position at 32:51 percent.

Florida Rep. Mica Switches Districts

The Florida congressional redistricting map still awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature and certain litigation before the Florida Supreme Court, but that hasn’t stopped members and candidates from making political moves. Even though the redistricting process is far from complete, the fact that many are already making moves signifies that they believe this is the footprint for most of the state. Such is the case for Reps. John Mica (R-FL-7) and Sandy Adams (R-FL-24). The new map placed both incumbents homes in the same district, new District 7, a north Orlando suburban seat that has swing characteristics.

But the map is almost certain to change. The high court, known as one of the more liberal judicial panels in the country, must reconcile the differences between the ballot initiative that Florida voters passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. Contradictions exist between the two legal directives mandated to drawing the Florida districts.

Mr. Mica’s decision to run in CD 7, as he announced he would do late last week, is a curious one. The new 6th District actually contains more of his current northeast coastal seat and has a better Republican voting base. He could easily run there and avoid the incumbent pairing. Ms. Adams even indicated that Mica told her he would do just that when the maps were originally released.

Additionally, the decision is more questionable because the voting history of the new 7th indicates that this seat could become competitive in the general election. Therefore, even if Mica secures the Republican nomination over Adams, he could still face a strong battle in November.

President Obama scored 49 percent here in 2008, though Republicans rebounded strongly in 2010. Gov. Scott posted 51 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) recorded 56 percent within the confines of the new district boundaries. The seat is a combined 29 percent minority (African-Americans and Hispanics). By contrast, John McCain scored a 53-45 percent win in District 6 and Gov. Scott topped 55 percent. Additionally, Mica currently represents 72 percent of FL-6 as compared to just 42 percent of District 7. Adams represents 51 percent of the new FL-7.

Since the Florida map could still change significantly, it remains to be seen if this pairing actually comes to fruition, but the wisdom in forcing the confrontation will continue to be questioned.

Romney Squeaks by in Maine

Mitt Romney won a close Maine caucus victory over Ron Paul over the weekend, edging the Texas congressman 39-36 percent – a margin of just 196 votes. Rick Santorum, fresh from his sweep of the non-binding Missouri primary and Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, only managed 18 percent. Newt Gingrich was fourth with 6 percent.

Turnout for the Maine caucuses was typically small. Only 5,585 people participated, but that number is actually higher than 2008; four years ago 5,431 people attended the Republican caucuses.

Romney and Paul will likely come away from this latest presidential nominating contest with eight delegates apiece. Santorum appears to have notched four and Gingrich one. Three at-large party delegates remain uncommitted. As in most caucus states, the delegates will be officially apportioned at the district and state party convention, which, for Maine, will be held over the May 5-6 weekend.

The results underscore Santorum’s fundamental campaign problem. Due to a lack of resources that prevent him from organizing in all of the states, the former Pennsylvania senator has been unable to capitalize on his strong performance in Iowa, and then in the three venues last week. This flaw likely costs him the ability to overtake Romney. In fact, the financial and organizational advantages Romney possesses likely will be enough to outlast all others in the field.

The campaigns now move onto the Arizona and Michigan primaries, which are scheduled for Feb. 28.

New Mexico Senate: Sanchez Out, Wilson Clear

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) dropped his bid to become the New Mexico Republican Senate nominee yesterday, thus virtually ensuring that former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) will qualify for the general election. Sanchez was having difficulty raising funds and gathering sufficient support. Many believed he would enter the open 1st District campaign, but he decided against that political course, too.

Democrats still feature a primary between Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and state Auditor Hector Balderas. The battle, should it become highly contentious, could greatly benefit Wilson.

According to the year-end campaign financial totals, Wilson had raised $1.66 million with $1.064 million in the bank. Sanchez collected $581,710 and had only $109,638 on hand.

Rep. Heinrich is the top fundraiser. He pulled in $1.97 million and has $1.37 million in his campaign account. Balderas raised much less: $776,115, with $433,965 cash-on-hand.

Expect this race to be close. Considering the historical voting trends here, Heinrich, the likely Democratic nominee, will have a slight lead going into the general election, but a now unopposed Wilson will be quickly nipping at his heels.

The GOP Pack Goes to CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) began yesterday at Washington, DC’s Marriot Wardman Park Hotel. The American Conservative Union, while less influential in the conservative movement than it was during its heyday in the 1970’s, still hosts the event, which has become a well-attended, well-covered political and media extravaganza.

The 2012 CPAC conference is likely to occupy the center ring in the Republican presidential nomination circus today. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are all on the CPAC agenda today hoping to prove their conservative bona fides and earn the support of the decidedly right-of-center voters who represent the lion’s share of the GOP’s political base.

For those three and Texas congressman Ron Paul, a solid, conservative red-meat speech could provide a much-needed and long-lasting spark to a relative media lull in the normally tumultuous nomination contest. Conversely, a poor or lackluster performance might convince conservatives and political media types that one candidate just doesn’t have the ability to drive conservative voter base intensity.

The stakes are particularly high for Romney, Gingrich and the newly resurgent Santorum. Santorum speaks this morning and hopes his recent stunning successes in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado coupled with endorsements from heavy-hitting social issues leaders will convince conservatives to view him, rather than Gingrich, as the movement’s alternative to Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor speaks after Santorum and will undoubtedly promote himself as a true conservative who can be trusted. Expect him to throw anti-Obama red meat to the crowd as he tries to convince conference-goers that he has the best chance of beating the President in November. Gingrich, whose numbers have been slipping steadily since a couple of lackluster debate performances in the run-up to the Florida primary will seek to regain his footing by re-connecting with conservative movement leaders he has known and worked with for more than 30 years.

While Rep. Paul certainly has a following among conservatives who are focused on shrinking the government and returning to a commodity-backed currency, his global policy positions and some of his stands on social issues are likely to make him unacceptable to many foreign policy and cultural conservatives.

A CPAC/Washington Times straw vote will be held on Saturday with naturally no delegate votes at stake. The straw vote may not determine who GOP conservatives back nationally, but the outcome will certainly help the winner claim the “true conservative” mantel.