Monthly Archives: June 2012

Florida Senate Race Changes Shape

Things are heating up in the Florida Senate challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). Former interim Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican race earlier in the week and, in a statement released early Wednesday, indicated that he believed the national Republican Party had thrown its support behind Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14).

Former governor Charlie Crist (R-I) appointed LeMieux to the Senate in 2009 to fulfill the unexpired term of Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after his abrupt resignation. Crist went on to run for the seat in 2010 without party affiliation and lost to freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The developments again reveal the power political establishment backing has over candidates, even those with relatively high familiarity with voters. The other late breaking development here, and the two are related, is the emergence of former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL-15), who just recently and surprisingly indicated that he is entering the Senate race. While Mack is still heavily favored over Weldon, the campaign is just now reaching the cusp of the stretch drive for the Aug. 14 primary when many things change. Aside from Weldon, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister is also in the Republican race.

In a poll released yesterday, Quinnipac University found that Sen. Nelson has a slight 43-39 percent edge over Rep. Mack, but the young Republican congressman appears to be the prohibitive favorite for his party nomination. The poll, conducted June 12-18, prior to LeMieux’s departure, surveyed 1,697 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points. Mack polled the strongest among the GOP contenders, with the others trailing Nelson in double digits: 47-32 percent (LeMieux); 45-34 percent (McCalister); and 47-31 percent (Weldon).

Nelson’s slight lead over Mack is a net five point increase for the senator compared to the virtual tie Quinnipiac found in their May 24 poll (Mack leading 42-41 percent).

In the Republican primary, the Q-Poll shows Mack posting 41 percent, LeMieux in second with 8 percent, and McCalister following with 5 percent, while the late arriving Weldon registered only 3 percent among the 698 self-identified Republicans tested.

Though Mack and Nelson are running close in both private and public polling, it is Nelson’s major financial war chest that has most GOP operatives concerned. The senator has compiled an almost $8 million financial edge over his competitors and even with so many hot races taking place in Florida this cycle, he will still have the wherewithal to position himself strongly in the most expensive of television markets. Now with LeMieux out of the primary and Mack now clearly the GOP favorite, some Republican resources that otherwise would have gone towards winning the mid-August election can now be saved for the general.

The senator, who won his 2006 re-election with 60.3 percent of the vote, faces new economic challenges in the Sunshine state and, while he remains as the favorite in the race, the contest will definitely come down to the wire. This is a bona-fide contest with national implications.

Polls Show Kerry Down in Neb.; Dems Close in Ariz.

Two new Senatorial polls hit the public domain this week, with both good news and bad news for each party. In Nebraska, Public Opinion Strategies for the Deborah Fischer (R) campaign (June 17-19; 500 likely Nebraska voters) posts their client to a whopping 58-33 percent lead over former senator Bob Kerrey (D). Fischer, a Nebraska state senator, was the upset winner in the May Republican primary. Kerrey served two terms in the Senate but has been living in New York City over the past dozen years after he retired from politics the first time. This data is consistent with what was produced in immediate post-primary polling.

The surprising poll comes from Arizona, where Public Policy Polling surveying for the group Project New America (June 4-5; 791 likely Arizona voters), finds GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) clinging to only a two-point, 43-41 percent, lead. This represents an 11-point net swing in Democrat Richard Carmona’s favor since their May 17-20 poll (Flake 48; Carmona 35).

The other point that should trouble the GOP brain trust, assuming this poll is not an outlier (a distinct possibility since the swing is large despite a political climate featuring seemingly little change), is a sampling universe slanting more Republican than the state as a whole. Prior to the last election, Republicans held a 36-32-32 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats and Independents. According to this PPP poll, the universe was comprised of 42 percent who self-identified as Republican versus 30 percent who called themselves Democrats, while only 23 percent professed their Independent status.

Do Dems Have a Shot at Gaining Calif. House Seats?

After the June 5 California primary, most observers were stunned to see two Republicans, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R), qualify for the general election in San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District. Considering that this new seat should normally vote Democratic in at least six of every 10 elections, the double Republican primary outcome had not been foreseen. His party’s San Berdo setback did not deter Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY-2) from continuing to declare that his team will gain at least four to five California House seats, however.

A look beyond the Obama-McCain 2008 numbers on the newly crafted California Citizens Redistricting Commission congressional map tells a different story. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe in 28 California seats and Republicans’ 13, with 12 seats in competitive Democrat vs. Republican situations. If these numbers are correct, then the D’s would have to win 10 or 11 of the dozen most competitive districts to reach Israel’s projection of leaving California with 38 or 39 Democratic seats.

Though President Obama carried all 12 of the marginal seats in 2008, he did so under his statewide 61 percent winning percentage in every district. Looking beyond the surface of the presidential race, we find that the Republican attorney general nominee, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ended up losing statewide by less than one percentage point, actually carried all 12 of these CDs. Additionally, and possibly even more telling, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), a 52-42 percent winner statewide two years ago, lost nine of the 12 districts to Republican Carly Fiorina. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a 54-41 percent victor over Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, won eight of the competitive dozen.

Therefore, with Republican performances such as these, what are Israel and other Democratic partisans looking at when they predict lofty Golden State gains, numbers they must attain to have any chance of competing for the House majority?

One argument is that the turnout model will certainly be different from the one that came to fruition in 2010 because, as the theory goes, President Obama will energize the electorate and increase Democratic turnout. That the voter participation rate will exceed the 2010 mid-term performance is almost certainly true, but with a virtually uncontested presidential race in California and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) facing little credible re-election opposition, will the turnout drive be as strong as the national Democrats believe? Conversely, with a public employee pension reform measure on the statewide ballot and considering the cities of San Jose and San Diego already passed similar propositions in June, could this issue actually provide more juice for Republicans and right of center Independents as opposed to Democrats? The answer is, quite possibly.

Turning to some of the individual races, in order to achieve their statewide goal Democrats would have to beat at least three of the four following incumbents: Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52).

But only in San Diego, despite Republicans outnumbering Democrats 36-33 percent in the new 52nd District, is there a legitimate crack at a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Rep. Bilbray received only 41 percent in the jungle primary but new Democratic opponent Scott Peters, who placed second with only about 23 percent, has vulnerability from his previous controversial service on the San Diego City Council. So, even here, which seems to be the Democrats’ best chance to unseat an incumbent, their conversion bid is far from secure.

Republicans also look to have the upper hand in Districts 21 with Assemblyman David Valadao reaching almost 60 percent in the open seat Central Valley primary, the marginal 26th where they have the stronger candidate, Ventura County state Sen. Tony Strickland, and even in Democratic leaning District 41 (Riverside County), where the combined Republican primary vote formed a majority. Additionally, the Democrats feature a general election candidate there who has already lost three previous congressional campaigns, while the Republicans are promoting a powerful county Supervisor.

Right now, the Democratic victory total is nowhere close to winning 10 or 11 of these 12 seats, as the realistic sum appears closer to five. Instead of gaining four or five California districts, it’s more feasible that the parties will remain constant in their 34D-19R delegation ratio, or quite possibly lose a seat. Such a result virtually guarantees the continuance of the House Republican majority.

King Leading in Maine Poll

A new MassINC Polling Group political survey (June 13-14; 506 likely Maine voters for television station WBUR) gives Independent former governor Angus King a huge 50-23-9 percent lead over newly nominated Republican candidate Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill, respectively.

The Maine Senate race could become nation’s most important, because there are two scenarios where King alone would decide if Republicans or Democrats control the majority in the next Congress, should he be elected. To date, the former governor, though a liberal, has not committed to joining either party. Should President Obama be re-elected and Senate Republicans reach 50, King caucusing with either side would make that party the majority. The same would be true if Mitt Romney unseats the President and the Democrats claim 50 seats.

State Sen. Dill has the most difficult path to victory in the three-way scenario. According to the MassINC data, Democrats choose King 60-17 percent over the now-official Democratic nominee. Interestingly, his mark among Democrats is even better than within the Independent sample cell. Of those claiming to affiliate with neither party, King records 57 percent. Though his margin is strong, it is not insurmountable, particularly in a three-way race. Gov. Paul LePage (R) was elected from a similar configuration two years ago with just 37.6 percent of the vote. If the Senate majority truly reverberates on Maine’s outcome, then expect the race to become heated as Election Day nears.

The Dispute Continues in SC-7

Reapportionment awarded South Carolina a new 7th District for the ensuing decade, and the seat’s first election is already featuring some unusual occurrences to say the least.

The new 7th CD was placed in the northeast corner of the state anchored by the city of Myrtle Beach within fast-growing Horry County. Freshmen Reps. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC-5), and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6) currently represent the region. The GOP nominee should have the inside track to winning the general election.

The candidates appear headed to a June 26 run-off election – or are they? It’s clear on the Republican side that former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer (32 percent in the June 12th primary election) and Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice (closely trailing Bauer with 27 percent) will square off a week from tomorrow, but it is the Democratic result that remains unclear. The fact that South Carolina has the tightest run-off schedule in the nation, just two weeks between the primary and secondary vote, makes post-election problem solving all the more difficult.

The Democratic Party troubles began when their establishment-backed candidate, state Rep. Ted Vick, ended up in jail less than a month before the primary election on DUI and gun charges. He immediately dropped out of the congressional race, but not in time for election authorities to remove his name from the ballot. The party establishment then transferred their support to young attorney Preston Brittain.

The development made another individual with an unusual history the party’s leading candidate. Up until the new district lines were finalized earlier this year, Gloria Tinubu was a state representative … in Georgia. Upon seeing the South Carolina map, Tinubu resigned her seat in the Peach State and moved to Myrtle Beach, declaring her congressional candidacy along the way. Obviously, being from another state is a major negative in trying to win an election before a brand new constituency; however, in a rapidly growing area with an influx of new residents, deep community roots sometimes don’t matter.

The dispute centers around the South Carolina Election Board’s decision not to count ballots cast for Vick, which totaled 8 percent of the total Democratic congressional vote. The ruling changes the end result. Without Vick recording any votes, Tinubu exceeds 50 percent and wins the nomination. If Vick’s votes are counted, the total vote cast figure is large enough to deny Tinubu the majority, thus forcing a run-off election.

Understanding that featuring a Democratic nominee who is really from another state is not the strongest of positions from which to launch a competitive general election campaign in a largely Republican district, the second-place candidate, Brittain, and SC Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian challenged the Election Board’s decision not to count Vick’s votes. The Board membership sought legal advice from Attorney General Alan Wilson, son of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2), in order to make their final ruling, which they did on Friday. Wilson backed the members’ original judgment to not count Vick’s votes, and thus the 7th District Democratic nomination was officially awarded to the former Georgia state representative.

In response, Brittain and Harpootlian filed a legal challenge, and the local Horry County judge will hear the case and make a ruling on Thursday. Even if he overturns Wilson and the Election Board, the ensuing run-off campaign time will last only five days, since the run-off election date will still remain June 26.

Regardless of the how the dispute finally unfolds later in the week, the big winner is the eventual Republican nominee. Whether Bauer or Rice wins the run-off, next Tuesday’s GOP result will likely choose the first congressman from this new 7th District.