Monthly Archives: May 2013

Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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The Bogus Tie

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
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Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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Rep. Bachmann to Retire

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6)

Former presidential candidate and four-term US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced via video that she will not seek re-election next year. Drawing a parallel between the eight-year term limit placed upon the office of president, Bachmann said that such amount of time was appropriate for a House member to serve as well.

Last week, a Public Policy Polling survey showed her trailing her 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves who has already announced his intent to run again, by a two-point 45-47 percent margin. Though saying said she is confident of her re-election next year, even though she scored only 50.5 percent against Graves in ’12 and has no concern over the FEC investigation of her presidential campaign accounts, the congresswoman believes the time is right for her to leave the House.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state (Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 56.5-41.5 percent), so the new GOP nominee will be considered the favorite to defeat Graves, particularly in a lower turnout mid-term election. Bachmann becomes the 14th House member to either announce their retirement or resign from the House since the last election.

NRCC Moving Targets

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.
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