Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Another U.S. House Retirement

Later today, Illinois Rep. Tim Johnson (R-15) will announce that he won’t seek a seventh term in the House, despite winning his primary election on March 20. The surprising development comes with the Democrats still not having an official nominee in the 13th District race. Dr. David Gill, the losing 2010 nominee against Johnson, has a 143-vote lead over Greene County State’s Attorney Matt Goetten with overseas ballots still eligible to be counted. The Illinois Board of Elections announced after the primary that they would not certify a winner here until April 20 for purposes of allowing all ballots postmarked March 20, and coming from around the world, to be received and tabulated.

More will come as to why Johnson decided not to continue his re-election campaign. Now, the various Republican county chairmen within the new 13th CD will caucus and choose a replacement nominee. One possible candidate is former gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady from the Bloomington-Normal area. Brady, a former state senator and losing congressional candidate (to Johnson in the 2000 GOP primary) came within one point of defeating Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2010 mid-term election. Others will undoubtedly surface. The new 13th is a marginal CD. Without Johnson in the race, this campaign will be competitive in the general election.

Mr. Johnson becomes the 38th congressional incumbent not to seek re-election and 16th Republican. IL-13 becomes the 56th open US House seat in this election cycle.

Romney Wins … Lite

While Mitt Romney won the three primary elections last night, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and Maryland, he again he failed to break the 50 percent mark when facing a full slate of GOP opponents. He claimed 70 percent in DC, and all 17 Winner-Take-All delegates, but Rick Santorum was not on the ballot.

In the swing state of Wisconsin, though Romney won, his 42-38 percent margin over Santorum was again unimpressive. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) placed third with 12 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 6 percent. But Maryland might have been a bit more surprising. Though it was a clean win for Romney, as all expected, he still couldn’t break the 50 percent threshold even there. The latest tally showed Romney at 49 percent and Santorum posting 29 percent.

Both Maryland and Wisconsin award delegates on a statewide and congressional district basis. Obviously Romney will win the statewide delegates in both places, but it remains to be seen if he sweeps all eight districts in both places. Once the congressional tallies are known, each state’s delegate allocation will be then formulated.

All in all a good night for Romney, and he likely will attain his cumulative minimum delegate goals for the three states. The question remains, however, are plurality victories at this stage of the campaign enough to ward off the possibility of an open convention? With places like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia still to vote, it is very likely that the remaining states will not be sweeps for the current front-runner. Romney, of course, is expected to do well in New York, New Jersey, California, and Utah, but even winning all of these contests may not give him the 1,144 delegate commitments a candidate needs to clinch the nomination. The uncommitted and unbound delegates may, in the end, be needed to put Mr. Romney over the top.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Because most states have completed their redistricting laws and only two have major litigation currently occurring, the redistricting cycle is winding down. Only three states saw redistricting related action this week: Kansas, Maryland, and New Hampshire.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – There is now a strong probability that the Republican-controlled legislature will not be able to produce a four-district congressional map. Major differences between moderate and conservative Republicans have broken down the process. The legislature now has recessed until the end of the month, and they still have not sent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) any version of a congressional map. A de novo court map is a realistic final solution.

MARYLAND (current delegation: 6D-2R) – In an 11th-hour move that won’t affect the 2012 elections, a group of Maryland Republicans have announced they are going to attempt to qualify a ballot referendum to nullify the congressional district plan. The group needs over 56,000 valid signatures by June 30 to qualify the measure for the November ballot. Even if they can secure the signatures, the effort appears doomed to defeat either at the hands of the voters or the legislature redrawing a map that the plaintiffs will likely find just as objectionable.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The state Senate passed a two-district congressional plan that appears to be a compromise between GOP Reps. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) and Charlie Bass (R-NH-2). Since both represent marginal districts, each wanted to increase their share of Republican voters, obviously a difficult task in a two-district state.

Maryland Congressional Races Today

With most political attention focused on the Wisconsin, Maryland, and District of Columbia presidential primaries, voters from both parties go to the polls in Maryland to also choose congressional nominees. The only race of significance is the newly constructed 6th District, a western Maryland seat that has sent Republican Roscoe Bartlett (R) to Congress for the past 20 years. The district was radically redrawn during the redistricting process for purposes of electing a Democrat instead of Bartlett, but the outcome of the party primary may be a surprise.

Rob Garagiola, the state Senate majority leader, had eyes on the new 6th for himself, and drew the district per his own specifications. But it might not be enough for him to clinch even the Democratic nomination. Businessman John Delaney, who had spent over $1.6 million on the primary race prior to the March 14 pre-primary financial disclosure report (he loaned $1.25 million to his campaign), is making a strong outsider bid to wrest the nomination away from the Annapolis political insider. Garagiola had spent $409,000 during the same period. Delaney has the advantage in advertising and certainly possesses momentum, but Garagiola has greater support from groups that traditionally run strong voter turnout operations, and such often proves to be the determining factor in a low turnout election.

On the Republican side, despite having seven opponents, including a state senator and delegate, Rep. Bartlett is expected to win a convincing nomination victory. The real test for the 85-year-old congressional veteran will come in the general election.

Can Romney Clinch GOP Nomination Tomorrow?

The Republican presidential campaign train heads to three more critical primary states Tuesday, featuring one state that some believe will set the final tone for this long nomination battle. GOP primary voters in the critical swing state of Wisconsin, along with those from the District of Columbia and Maryland will have the opportunity of making their sentiments known. Could a strong night from favored candidate Mitt Romney effectively clinch the nomination? The Romney campaign will make every effort to sell such a premise, but the official confirmed delegate count doesn’t support such a story.

The District of Columbia is a straight Winner-Take-All primary, meaning that the candidate attracting the most votes, almost assuredly Romney, will win all 17 DC delegates. Maryland and Wisconsin are Winner-Take-All by state and congressional district, meaning the candidate winning the statewide vote receives an allocated number of delegates and additional votes for every congressional district in which the candidate places first. Therefore, for Romney to claim all 96 delegates at stake tomorrow (DC-17; MD-37; WI-42), he would have to win DC, take the Maryland and Wisconsin statewide tallies, and finish first in all eight congressional districts in both states. This is certainly a tall order, especially with the polling showing Wisconsin to be relatively close.

Three Badger State polls were released late last week, all showing Romney leading, but with Rick Santorum within shouting distance. It is important to remember that the pollsters have tended to underestimate Santorum’s strength in previous primary or caucus election votes, so anything can still happen.

In a study labeled their “March 2012” survey of 740 registered voters who say they will vote in the April 3 Republican primary, the Marist/NBC News Wisconsin poll gives Romney a 40-33 percent lead over Santorum. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) and Newt Gingrich trail with 11 and 8 percent, respectively.

Rasmussen Reports (March 29; 71 likely Wisconsin GOP voters) posts Romney to a 44-34 percent advantage. According to RR, Paul and Gingrich follow with 7 percent apiece.

The Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College survey (March 24-28; 403 likely Wisconsin voters) scores it 37-32 percent, Romney over Santorum with Paul at 8 percent and Gingrich registering 4 percent.

In all of these instances, while Romney leads the field he is nowhere near 50 percent. This has been the consistent pattern throughout the entire election and the reason he is not yet in nomination clinching range.

So far, according to our PRIsm Information Network count of the minimum number of post-Super Tuesday delegates that Romney must confirm, the former Massachusetts governor has attracted an unofficial 139 delegate votes. The minimum number to stay on track from the 11 states and territories voting after March 6, is 132. Mr. Romney needs to secure at least 76 of the available 96 delegate votes tomorrow in order to keep pace. To win the Republican nomination, a candidate must obtain 1,144 delegate votes at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.

Conflicting Polls in Ohio, Florida Senate Races

New polls are in the public domain from Ohio and Florida with some very divergent results, particularly relating to Ohio.

Within the same timing realm, Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports sampled Ohio voters and questioned them about the upcoming US Senate race between first term incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) and newly chosen Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer. Quinnipiac conducted their survey during the March 20-26 period and interviewed 1,246 registered Ohio voters. Rasmussen launched a one-day poll, March 26, and questioned 500 likely voters. Quinnipiac gathers its responses through live telephone interviews. Rasmussen Reports employs an automated system.

Therefore, the two methodologies are quite different. Many polling analysts question Quinnipiac’s long sampling period, while believing Rasmussen is not in the field long enough. Most pollsters attempt to complete their surveys in three calling days. This allows for a compact “three-day track,” which can help detect sudden movement relating to particular happenings. Both pollsters weight their answers to bring samples in line with demographic complexion, political party disposition, and voting trend history. Yet, as you will see, their results are diametrically different.

The latest Q-Poll shows Brown leading Mandel 46-36 percent, which is similar to their Feb. 7-12 poll that posted the incumbent to a 48-35 percent advantage. But Rasmussen Reports reveals a totally different finding, placing the two candidates in a 43-43 percent tie. Several other polls have shown this race to be close, but most have reported margins closer to the Q-Poll. Since both candidates are well-funded and Ohio will be such a battleground for the presidential election, expect this race to be close by Election Day regardless of how the two candidates are positioned today.

In Florida, after a series of polls revealed the race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) to be close, Quinnipiac’s March 20-26 poll (1,228 registered Florida voters) is posting the Democrat to a 44-36 percent lead. This is a seven-point swing in Nelson’s favor when compared to the January Q-Poll (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) that gave the senator only a one-point lead, 41-40 percent.

There are a couple of reasons explaining the swing. First, the January Q-Poll sampling universe was more favorable to Republicans. In that sample, 35.1 percent of the respondents self-identified as being members of the GOP, versus only 26.6 percent saying they were Democrats. The remainder, 38.1 percent, claimed to be Independents or “other.” The March sample was more in the Democrats’ favor. In this group, 31.0 percent described themselves as Republicans and 31.9 percent as Democrats. Independents and others comprised 40.3 percent of the respondent pool. The actual breakdown of Florida registered voters is 36.1 percent Republican; 40.5 percent Democrat; and 23.3 percent Independent and “Other.”

But the sample pool is only one reason why Nelson may be gaining support. Former interim Sen. George LeMieux, opposing Mack in the Republican primary, is on television and radio with attack ads, attempting to distinguish Rep. Mack from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R), and likening the former to renegade actor Charlie Sheen because of reported bar fights in the younger Mack’s past and episodes of what the LeMieux ads call the congressman’s “road rage.” The swing toward Nelson in the latest Q-Poll can be at least partially attributed to the LeMieux ads.

As we know, a poll is merely a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and many times anomaly results do occur. To get the best understanding of campaign movement, it is important to consider many polls over a long period of time. What is important is the trend toward election day, and not necessarily the individual numbers themselves.

Since there have already been several inconsistencies in both of these states, we can reasonably expect greater movement in the coming months as the Nov. 6 election nears. Count on both the Ohio and Florida Senate races being among the most interesting in the country.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.