Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Polling Mish-Mash

The Alabama and Mississippi primaries are today, along with caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa, but the latest polls for the two southern states are producing inconclusive results as it relates to the national nomination picture. Such is normal for this presidential campaign, however.

Three different firms – Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen Reports and the American Research Group – conducted five polls during the March 8-11 period. PPP and RR surveyed both Alabama and Mississippi; ARG just polled Mississippi. Four of the five studies showed the leaders, either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, to be ahead by no more than two points in either state.

On the other hand, the Rasmussen Mississippi poll (March 8; 750 likely Mississippi GOP primary voters) appears to be an outlier, since the results give Romney an eight-point (35-27-27-6 percent) edge over both Gingrich and Rick Santorum, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) trailing badly. Santorum polls inconsistently according to these surveys. He pulls to within one point of the lead once (RR Alabama poll) and two points another time (PPP Alabama poll), but falls as far as eight points behind in the RR Mississippi results, and 12 back in the ARG Mississippi data.

At this point, it matters less who finishes first in proportional primary and caucus events. The key statistic is delegate count and just how far away Romney sits from majority status. In today’s four nominating events, Romney needs to secure at least an aggregate of 46 delegates to keep pace with the minimum majority goal.

Washington’s Inslee to Resign

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1), already a declared 2012 candidate for governor of Washington state, will resign his seat in Congress this week. With gubernatorial election polling continuing to show him either behind or tied with Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), carrying out his responsibilities in the nation’s capital while still trying to campaign in a state that is the farthest away in the continental region from Washington, DC is logistically too difficult.

The timing of his resignation is important, hence the reason that he has waited until now to leave office. Under Washington election law, resigning in March prior to the state’s May 18 candidate filing deadline will allow a special election to be conducted concurrently with the state’s regular primary and general election schedule, Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.

This is a curious decision because the current 1st District, where a special election would be held, is more highly Democratic than the new 1st District. Though the Obama 2008 percentage in the new 1st is 56 percent, usually regarded as a strong partisan number, Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R) current 8th District has the same percentage, yet he has held even in the worst of Republican years. Therefore, the open battle in the new 1st figures to be much more competitive than one in the current 1st.

While it’s true that any new member would serve just a short time under the current lines if the election were held sometime before November, the short-term incumbency advantages would seemingly put the winner in a stronger position when facing a viable Republican regular election opponent, presumably 2nd District 2010 nominee John Koster who held Rep. Rick Larsen (D) to a 51-49 percent win. Much of the Koster base territory is in the new open 1st.

Expect WA-1 to be competitive in the fall. The concurrent special election will be virtually meaningless, because the winner will serve only the final two months of the current term. If the two elections produce different winners, the special election victor will have only eight weeks in office during the interim transition period.

Santorum Wins Kansas

Despite losing badly in Saturday’s Kansas Caucus, Mitt Romney still kept pace on the delegate count with strong performances in the three territories that also were voting on Saturday: the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Rick Santorum topped the 50 percent mark in the Kansas Caucuses, winning the state with 51.2 percent of the vote. Mr. Romney was a distant second with just 20.9 percent. Newt Gingrich was next with 14.4 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) brought up the rear at 12.6 percent. For the event, Santorum appears to have been awarded 33 delegates and Romney seven. But it was in the territories where Romney scored big. In Guam, he was surprisingly uncontested; the 207 people who attended the caucus meeting were able to award all nine delegates to him.

In the Northern Marianas Islands, Mr. Romney notched a whopping 87.3 percent of the vote (848 total voting universe) and swept all nine of this entity’s delegates.

Finally, in the Virgin Islands, it was Ron Paul who placed first among the votes cast with 112, followed by Romney’s 101; Santorum recorded 23, and Gingrich finished last tallying just 18 votes. On the delegate count, however, Paul scores just one for sure as four will remain uncommitted, while the three official Republican Party delegates declared for Romney. Therefore, despite placing second, Romney looks to leave the Virgin Islands with four delegates compared to Paul’s one.

According to our estimate of the number of remaining delegates that Romney must secure for a first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention, the former Massachusetts governor needed to commit a minimum aggregate of 29 delegates over Saturday’s four nominating events. With his seven from Kansas, nine each from the Northern Marianas and Guam, and four from the Virgin Islands, he appears to have exactly hit that number. This still leaves his ability to attain the necessary 1,144 delegate commitments in doubt, however, as the estimates only produce the bare minimum victory count.

Turning back to Kansas, the 29,855 voters attending the caucus meetings was a 53 percent increase in turnout over 2008. Four years ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed a 59.6 percent victory in the Sunflower State Caucuses, far out-distancing all other contenders. Though Romney failed to even reach 21 percent in Kansas this year, his performance was greatly improved over 2008 when he finished with only 3.3 percent of the vote.

Examining How Kaptur Crushed Kucinich in Ohio

Those who spent any time with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) this winter knew that she was not looking forward to the month of March. The Toledo area congresswoman had been paired in the same district with Ohio Democratic colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) by the newly minted GOP majority in the Buckeye State legislature as part of this year’s redistricting, and she was not looking forward to having to battle the combative Cleveland Democrat as prelude to defending her seat in November.

Dennis Kucinich has been a fixture and a colorful figure on the Cleveland political scene since the late 1960s. Some Clevelanders have had the chance to support Kucinich in campaigns for city council, mayor, Ohio secretary of state, governor, state senator, the U.S. Congress and the presidency in 2004 and 2008 during the course of a roller-coaster political career that has spanned 45 years.

For her part, Miss Kaptur’s political career, spent in the Toledo area, has been less colorful, but more careful than that of her Cleveland rival. First elected to Congress in 1982, Kaptur has steadily built support and seniority to become the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 Census made it clear that Ohio would lose two House seats to reapportionment. With Republicans gaining control of both Houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office that year, it was no surprise that Democrats in the Congressional delegation would be uneasy. The final redistricting plan to emerge from Columbus raised eyebrows this winter when two of the state’s most senior Democrats were both thrown into a battle for their political lives in the new Ninth CD.

Stretching all the way from Kaptur’s Toledo base in the west and hugging the Lake Erie shore all the way to Lorain and Kucinich’s Cleveland/Cuyahoga County political launching pad in the east, the district is the longest from end-to-end in Ohio. With more of Kaptur’s old district than Kucinich’s in the new CD, the voter history edge went to Kaptur in the early handicapping, but Kucinich supporters felt that as the more liberal of the two, he might have the edge with party activists and primary voters.

Kaptur, who hasn’t been seriously tested in some years in her heavily Democratic base, dusted off her campaign skills, showing remarkable energy in tirelessly reaching out to voters in the eastern reaches of the district where she was less well known. The final weeks the campaign took on a surreal atmosphere as Kucinich touted endorsements from country music icon Willie Nelson, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, none of whom live in Ohio.

By contrast, Kaptur captured the endorsements of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former GOP Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R).

Adding to the campaign mayhem, Kaptur ran an ad in the Cleveland media market highlighting Kucinich’s musings about possibly moving to Washington state to run for Congress instead of Cleveland. Kaptur’s ad linked Kucinich to Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and Cleveland Cavaliers/Miami Heat basketball superstar LeBron James as figures willing to turn their backs on Cleveland and Ohio by packing up and moving away.

While Tuesday night’s Romney-Santorum cliffhanger captured almost all the national media attention, Kaptur’s 56-40% drubbing of Kucinich may have the greater long-term consequences in Washington DC, if not Washington state. Late last week, the announcement that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) would not seek re-election created a third Democratic-leaning open House seat in the Evergreen State. Dicks’ retirement also will make Kaptur the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee come January if she wins re-election in the new, heavily Democratic Ninth CD.

It would be highly unusual for any Democrat to mount a challenge to Kaptur for the top spot, but it is not unprecedented for members to challenge each other for choice slots on major committees. Kaptur, after all, is no favorite of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), for one, might be put up to such a run. A long-shot dream scenario for Pelosi might be for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) to give up his leadership post and reclaim his seniority on the Appropriations Committee, where he served before moving into the Capitol Building. Hoyer would then become chairman of the committee in the unlikely event the Democrats regained the House majority. That move would allow her to dispatch two rivals in one move, but such things are too much for even former Speakers to hope.

A more realistic view is that Kaptur will be the odds-on favorite to win the top Democratic spot on the Appropriations Committee when the next Congress convenes. She can look back and think that this whole chain of events all started with a momentous month of March.

Can Romney Get There?

After mixed results on Super Tuesday, an election night that saw Mitt Romney winning six states – but just barely in the night’s biggest prize of Ohio – Rick Santorum winning three states and Newt Gingrich winning one, the delegate count now becomes the critical factor in determining whether or not the former Massachusetts governor can attain majority support at the Republican National Convention.

At this point, because different rules govern selection processes in the various states, it is very difficult to project an accurate pledged delegate count. In fact most political news bureaus reveal different numbers even when projecting the exact same states, because they are estimating how yet unchosen delegates will eventually vote.

It is fair to say that Mr. Romney is presently in the low-400 committed delegate range, inclusive of the Super Tuesday action. Statements from his campaign yesterday proclaimed that none of their opponents can mathematically reach the 1,144 committed delegate number necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. While this appears to be a true statement, Mr. Romney himself may also fall short.

Thirty-four more entities (states and territories) must vote between this Saturday, March 10, and July 14, when Nebraska ends the entire process with their state convention. Of the total universe of 2,286 Republican delegates, 1,475 remain outstanding. Based upon the best projections, Romney must attract in the area of 740 more delegates to secure victory.

Of the 34 remaining states, 19 could favor Romney and 15 likely would not. Based upon the number of winner-take-all (7), straight proportional (8), caucus (7) and those with other format variations (12), it remains unclear if Romney will gain enough support to become the nominee before the Republicans arrive in their host city of Tampa, Fla.

Should no candidate secure the nomination on the first ballot, the convention could then be opened. States require their delegates to support the pledged nominee either through the first, second, or third ballots. This means that after one vote, a large number of delegate commitments expire, thus turning the floor into a free-for-all. An open convention would allow someone not participating in the primaries to capture the nomination.

Could such a scenario actually happen? We already have seen more bizarre things occur in this election cycle. In the next few days, Kansas, Guam, the Marianas Islands and Virgin Islands will each caucus (Saturday). The following Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa will head to the polls and they will add to the political drama. It looks like we’re in for a long haul.