Monthly Archives: September 2012

House 2012: The Democratic Perspective

I’m introducing Anne W. Brady as a guest columnist today. Anne is the former Finance Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and offers her party’s perspective about the upcoming election. Next week, we will have a guest Republican express the countering opinion.

Two years ago the Republican Party rebounded mightily from two lean election years and claimed a new majority in the House of Representatives. The Tea Party movement energized the GOP and many seats flipped from blue to red. Now, just two short years later with a presidential election in full swing, the questions being asked are whether the GOP will maintain control of the House and how the political landscape will be configured after Election Day, Nov. 6.

For House Republicans, the challenge to maintain the seats won in 2010 and their ability to increase the size of their conference is a more difficult task than many believe. With President Obama campaigning for a second term, we will invariably see a significant uptick in Democratic voter turnout. The GOP is defending more than 50 districts that voted for Obama in 2008 while Democrats must protect only 15 seats that backed Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee.

In order for the House to change party control this year the Democrats would have to gain a net 25 seats, which most political pundits say is challenging to say the least. This is particularly true in a redistricting year that the GOP largely controlled. In contrast, however, it is clear that some of the new Republican incumbents who swept to victory in 2010 may have tougher than expected re-election campaigns come this November. Greater Democratic turnout and very low congressional approval ratings, hovering around 10 to 11 percent, are two key factors that will cut against Republicans.

The real target in the swing regions is the Independent voter, who in many districts supported Obama four years ago but then switched to GOP candidates in the mid-term elections, thus proving they are open to messaging from both parties. With this in mind, we have seen some Republican incumbents focusing less on attacking Mr. Obama and more on trumpeting their independence, pragmatism and bipartisanship. On the national level, at least in the presidential race, the conversation has taken a much different tone and each party has largely focused their turnout strategy upon energizing their base and communicating with ideologically driven voters.

In a poll released last month by the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps, it was conceded that the Democrats may not have the net gain of the 25 seats they need to regain the House majority, but they do stand a chance to win in approximately two dozen blue seats now under Republican control. The poll tested 54 targeted GOP-held districts and it showed Democrats leading on a hybrid generic ballot test question by an average of 50 percent to 44 percent in the 27 most vulnerable GOP-held districts as identified by the pollsters. It is also worth noting that freshmen represent many of the more vulnerable districts. Many of these first-termers rode the Tea Party wave into office and don’t yet have years in office building the good will to protect them from voter concerns about Congress.

While it’s clear the 2012 election isn’t going to create a Democratic wave like the one we saw in 2006 or commensurately for Republicans in 2010, it is evident that the House is in play and every seat will count come Election Day.

Connecticut Comes Alive

Rep. Chris Murphy

The Connecticut Senate race may be twisting in a new direction. After several post-primary polls have shown Republican challenger Linda McMahon pulling closer to Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), a personal financial situation could potentially put some wind at her back.

The McMahon campaign has filed an outside ethics complaint against Congressman Murphy, saying that he received preferential loan consideration in return for supporting TARP, the creation of which eventually led to a multi-million dollar loan for the bank in question. The Stamford Advocate, a publication supporting Murphy, details the financial history of the congressman missing some mortgage payments before his election to the House, which resulted in foreclosure process initiation. He later received a home equity loan, but only after the original loan was paid in full. According to financial professionals that the Advocate interviewed, nothing appeared improper about Murphy’s loan and the bank’s action in his regard. McMahon’s people counter that an average citizen who earlier faced foreclosure proceedings would not have qualified for another loan.

In addition to the Murphy finances controversy, McMahon also secured the Connecticut Independent Party designation, so her name will appear twice on the Senatorial ballot. This development could well mean more than a day or two of soon-forgotten media coverage over Murphy’s loan history, as the Independent line can account for several percentage points.

Though McMahon lost to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) 55-43 percent two years ago, she does appear to be trending upward now. Rep. Murphy remains the favorite, however, regardless of the budding financial controversy. The Democratic nature of the state, particularly in a presidential election year, will pay major dividends for the congressman. The race should still be rated as Lean Democratic, but it does merit further attention at least in the short term.

Cicilline Wins in RI; NH Gov. Results

Rhode Island freshman Rep. David Cicilline won a 62 percent victory in the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary last night, a number not usually viewed as a strong performance for an incumbent before his own party’s voters, but was better than some people believed would be the final result.

Cicilline was running against marketing executive Anthony Gemma who placed second to the future congressman when the pair battled in a crowded open seat contest two years ago. Gemma attempted to attack Cicilline from the right, billing himself as a conservative – an unusual approach for an Ocean State Democrat. Not surprisingly, before a group of liberal primary voters the more conservative political strategy failed.

The congressman will now face former Rhode Island state police colonel Brendan Doherty, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so Doherty must overcome a major challenge in a presidential year from a seat that President Obama will carry in a landslide. Still, the eastern Rhode Island district, stretching from Woonsocket, through part of Providence, and down through Newport, does merit watching in the general election.

Delaware and New Hampshire also hosted primaries last night. No races were seriously contested in the First State, but the New Hampshire gubernatorial race was of interest.

New Hampshire is one of two states, neighboring Vermont is the other, that limits its governor’s to two-year terms. Retiring incumbent John Lynch (D), who won four consecutive elections to the Governor’s Mansion, still only served eight years in office.

In the Democratic primary, former state Senate majority leader Maggie Hassan, as expected, won the nomination but her margin of victory was larger than most predicted. She defeated former state Sen. Jackie Cilley 54-39 percent. Hassan will now face Republican Ovide Lamontagne, who captured a strong 68 percent in his party primary. Approximately 99,000 people voted in the Republican primary versus the 78,000 neighborhood for the Democrats.

The New Hampshire general election is projected to be tight across the board. It could be a determining state in the presidential campaign; the two congressional races are expected to be close; and the governor’s contest, of which the finalists were decided last night, begins with a slight Republican tilt.

GOP incumbents Frank Guinta in the 1st District and Charlie Bass in NH-2 secured renomination with more than 82 percent of the vote. Both general election campaigns are re-matches from their 2010 battles. Guinta again faces former representative Carol Shea-Porter, whom he unseated. Similarly, Bass once more takes on Democratic lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster. In 2010, the two fought to a one-point final decision.

New Land of Enchantment Numbers

The Albuquerque Journal released the results of their Research & Polling, Inc. survey of 667 likely New Mexico voters over the Sept. 3-6 period, and it reveals an improved position for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. New Mexico, along with New Hampshire and Iowa, has performed as a pure swing state in national elections since 2000, but surveys to date have consistently given President Barack Obama double-digit leads.

In this poll, Obama has only a 45-40 percent advantage over Romney, with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for President, drawing 7 percent. With just a five-point gap now, the results show substantial movement for Romney, who had been trailing by as many as 15 points in previous surveys. The poll also shows that Johnson could play spoiler for Obama and not Romney. According to the Albuquerque Journal, “Johnson gets 12 percent of the Independent vote in the state, leaving Romney with a 38-35 lead over Obama among the key group.”

The study was conducted after the Republican convention but before the President made his official acceptance speech last week in Charlotte. According to the pollsters, about half of the respondents were questioned subsequent to First Lady Michelle Obama’s address.

In another race, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) leads former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) by a 49-42 percent count. This is consistent with other polls that have shown both candidates in the 40-percentile range, with Heinrich leading. The numbers break down regionally as one would expect, except that Wilson, tied with Heinrich in the southwestern corner of the state, should be performing better in the region south of Albuquerque.

This poll suggests that the “lean Democrat” rating assigned to this campaign is correct, but also shows a growth pattern available to Wilson. The fact that she leads Heinrich 53-37 percent among Independents is highly encouraging for her campaign effort.

Last Primaries Tomorrow

Tomorrow marks the last regular primary election of this political cycle, as voters go to the polls in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Louisianans also haven’t chosen their nominees and will do so in their unique version of the jungle primary that occurs on general election day, Nov. 6. In the Bayou State, if no 2012 candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, then the top two finishers will run-off on Dec. 1.

Tomorrow, however, will decide two key races: choosing gubernatorial nominees in the open New Hampshire statewide race, and whether freshman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) survives his competitive Democratic primary challenge.

The 1st Congressional District of Rhode Island encompasses the eastern part of the state, beginning at the Massachusetts border with the city of Woonsocket, taking part of the city of Providence, and then traveling south all the way through the upscale city of Newport and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Though the seat is heavily Democratic in nature (Obama ’08: 67 percent), Rhode Island voters do tend to send Republicans to Washington from time to time. Therefore, with former state police colonel Brendan Doherty (R) waiting in the wings for tomorrow’s winner, determining the Democratic nominee, especially in the person of a beleaguered Rep. Cicilline, will not end the battle for this seat.

Cicilline has problems tomorrow not so much for what he has done in Congress, but rather as a hangover from his tenure as Providence mayor. The city is teetering on bankruptcy, and Cicilline has been taking major hits in the local media for his expenditure budgets while he was the city’s chief executive. The Providence Journal newspaper has detailed the waste and abuse in city spending over the course of months, and popular local radio talk show host Buddy Cianci, the former Providence mayor who spent time in federal prison for his improprieties in office, uses Cicilline as his regular whipping boy.

The prolonged attention has caused the congressman grief and though he will likely be renominated tomorrow night, the margin between he and Democratic challenger Anthony Gemma could provide a clue as to how the general election will unfold.

Gemma is a marketing executive who ran two years ago when the seat was open, placing second to Cicilline in a four-person Democratic primary field with 23.3 percent to the winner’s 37.7 percent. Despite Cicilline being so well-known and facing three people who were largely unfamiliar to the voting populace, more than 62 percent of 2010 Democratic primary voters chose another candidate. He then won an unimpressive 51-45 percent victory in the general election. With increased negatives since that time, tomorrow’s race should be considered a serious challenge despite Gemma only raising slightly over $300,000 for the campaign.

The most competitive New Hampshire primary race is the Democratic battle for the right to succeed retiring four-term Gov. John Lynch (D). New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states who still utilize two-year terms for their governors. So, even though Lynch has won four elections, the first New Hampshire chief executive in the modern era to do so, he has only served eight years.

Two former state legislators are squaring off for their party’s nomination, Democratic former state Senate majority leader Maggie Hassan and ex-state senator Jackie Cilley. The winner – and Hassan is only a slight favorite tomorrow – will likely face GOP former gubernatorial nominee and ex-chairman of the state Board of Education, Ovide Lamontagne. The November contest will likely be as close as the presidential election here will be, in what will prove to be a tight and politically pivotal state.

At the congressional level, the general election contests are virtually set as Rep. Frank Guinta (R) defends his 1st District seat against the woman he unseated two years ago, former representative Carol Shea-Porter (D). The 2nd District contest will also feature a re-match of the 2010 campaign, a fierce one-point race between current Rep. Charlie Bass (R) and lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D). An equally close contest is forecast for this year. The two Republican incumbents face multiple primary opponents tomorrow, but none are serious. Both Democratic candidates are unopposed.