Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Romney Takes Washington; The Precursor to Tuesday?

Mitt Romney scored big in the Washington caucuses over the weekend and even though there were no delegates attached to his beauty contest win, the victory was significant. It could prove to be a springboard into tomorrow’s 10-state Super Tuesday contests.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was not that Romney placed first, but that Rick Santorum actually dropped behind Ron Paul to finish third. In mid-February, and before the Michigan and Arizona primaries, Public Policy Polling (Feb. 16-19; 400 likely Washington state GOP caucus attenders) pegged Santorum to a 38-27-15-12 percent lead over Romney, Paul, and Newt Gingrich, respectively.

A day after the Michigan and Arizona results, two states that Romney swept, PPP went back into the Evergreen State and detected a momentum shift. According to that study (Feb. 29-31; 447 likely Washington state GOP caucus attenders), Romney had captured the advantage and led 37-32-16-13 percent over Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich, in that order.

The somewhat surprising conclusion in the March 3 Washington vote that produced record high participation featured Romney scoring a 38-25-24-10 percent win over Paul, Santorum, and Gingrich. Therefore, not only did Santorum drop further down but Rep. Paul finished a full ten points above his polling range.

More than 49,000 people attended the Washington caucuses on Saturday, almost four times higher than the 13,475 individuals who voted in 2008. Across the board in the 13 states that have already hosted nominating events, turnout levels have been mixed.

In seven states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington), turnout was higher this year than in 2008; substantially so in South Carolina and Washington.

In five states (Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, and Arizona) turnout was lower; substantially so in Florida and Minnesota. Since the current vote did not carry delegate apportionment, the Missouri primary had little meaning in this election year as opposed to 2008 when it proved to be a deciding factor, thus explaining 2012’s strong Missouri participation downturn. The Arizona ’08 turnout was artificially high because favorite son John McCain was on the ballot. Wyoming did not report vote totals in 2008, only delegate apportionment, so it is impossible to tell if the 2,108 people who attended caucus meetings this year is a larger or smaller group than previous.

Tomorrow, 10 more states will vote representing a cumulative delegate number of 437. So far, not counting Washington or Missouri, since both of those states held beauty contest votes and will assign delegates later in the year at their respective state conventions, 331 delegates have been apportioned. Therefore, the 10 states voting tomorrow will exceed the aggregate number of delegates fought over so far in the 11 earliest voting states.

Romney appears to be a lock in his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates) and neighboring Vermont (17). He is the prohibitive favorite in Virginia because only he and Rep. Paul qualified for the ballot. Since one of the two candidates will claim a majority of the vote, Virginia transforms into a winner-take-all state meaning the victor, almost assuredly Mr. Romney, will add 49 more delegates to his total.

Polling continues to show Santorum with a slight lead in all-important Ohio (66 delegates), with more substantial margins in Tennessee (58) and Oklahoma (43). Newt Gingrich leads in his home state of Georgia, now featuring the fourth largest Republican contingent of delegates (76) in the country.

The Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32), and North Dakota (28) caucuses are difficult to project and could become wild cards. Tomorrow will bring us an exciting and possibly politically transforming night.

The Maine Event: Michaud Out, Pingree In?

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2), despite being the first person to begin circulating US Senate nominating petitions in the wake of Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) retirement announcement, said last night that he will not run statewide but is seeking re-election to his 2nd District House seat. According to high-level Democratic insiders, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) will run for the Senate.

This is a surprising move since Michaud was quick to jump into the race and seemed to be the most committed of the potential Democratic candidates. But Pingree is far from home-free in the battle for the Senate nomination. Former Gov. John Baldacci, who spent four terms in the House before winning his statewide election in 2002, also has begun to circulate nominating petitions for the Snowe seat. His entry would mean a very expensive and potentially bloody Democratic contest.

Though the Republican field of candidates is slow to form, another possible candidate is lurking in the background and has the luxury of waiting. Independent former Gov. Angus King, who served as Maine’s chief executive for the eight years preceding Baldacci’s two terms in office, says he is seriously considering running. His advantage as an Independent candidate is not having to file until June. Currently, unless the legislature takes action on Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) suggestion to extend the filing deadline, the major party candidates must return their qualification papers by March 15. The extended period would give King ample time to determine the strength of both the Democratic and Republican candidates before making a final decision whether to become a candidate.

Another ramification from Michaud’s decision is that several other Democratic politicians may again have to reverse course. Former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap had announced his Senate candidacy long before Ms. Snowe decided not to run. When Michaud jumped at the open Senate seat, Dunlap immediately turned around and began circulating petition signatures in what he thought was an open 2nd Congressional District. State House Minority Leader Emily Cain (D), who ruled out a Senate run long ago, also jumped into the 2nd District race when she heard Michaud was vacating. Same for ex-state Sen. Bruce Bryant. With Michaud back in the House race, all of these individuals are placed in an uncomfortable political box.

Republicans began moving toward the 2nd District race, too. Kevin Raye, the state Senate president who lost to Michaud when the seat was last open in 2002, had already announced his congressional campaign even before the seat came open for two days. Speculation has been rampant, however, that he might declare for the Senate upon Snowe’s retirement decision. Michaud returning to the House race may lead to that eventuality for Raye. State Sen. Debra Plowman and 2010 nominee Jason Levesque also hopped into what they thought was an open House seat race. It remains to be seen how many of these Republican contenders stay in the congressional race, now that it is back to challenger status.

But the statewide race becomes all the more interesting with the latest developments. Michaud is a better fit for the state because he doesn’t take as extreme ideological positions as Pingree, the former national president of Common Cause. Should King enter as an Independent, and the Republicans field a viable candidate, such as Raye, perhaps, the general election takes on a whole different feel. King is truly independent, holding positions that at times are favorable to both Democrats and Republicans. He endorsed, for example, George W. Bush in 2000, but went with John Kerry in 2004. He followed with an endorsement of President Obama in 2008. Such a scenario would lead to a tight three-way campaign.

The developments during this past week has turned Maine politics on its head. While Democrats begin the open Senate race in the favorite’s position, Republicans are certainly viable, most likely in the person of state Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney, in Pingree’s open 1st District, though the seat leans decidedly Democratic. Still, Maine voters are known for their independent streak.

All of a sudden, what appeared to be a very quiet political year in the Pine Tree State is now anything but that.

Ins and Outs

California: Well, the expected finally happen. Sixteen-term Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26), chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced that he will not seek re-election this year. When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission split his district into seven parts, there were few viable re-election options available to the long time incumbent. It became inevitable that Mr. Dreier would end his long congressional career rather than run when entombed in a hopeless political situation.

Because he was technically paired with Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 32nd District, the retirement does not lead to any new open seat. Mr. Dreier becomes the 38th sitting member to make public his intention not to return to the House when his current term expires. Twenty-two of the 38 are Democrats, 16 are Republican. Twenty-four are opting for retirement, while 14 are seeking a different political office.

Maine: In other news, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) has taken out nominating papers to run for the Senate now that incumbent Olympia Snowe (R) is retiring. Maine’s other House member, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) is said to be considering a run. Should they oppose each other in the Democratic primary, a host of people on both sides of the aisle appear poised to enter open congressional races.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) is indicating that he will ask the state legislature to pass a bill extending the petition gathering deadline past March 15. No less than 2,000 valid registered voter signatures are required to run statewide in Maine. LePage is suggesting that Sen. Snowe’s late retirement announcement is not giving potential candidates adequate time to decide whether to run, and then circulate petitions. Much more to come on what is shaping up to be a wild campaign ride in the Pine Tree State.

Texas Redistricting Map Released

The three-judge federal panel in San Antonio yesterday released the latest version of the Texas congressional map, along with those for the state House and Senate. It is clear the panel adhered to the mandate the US Supreme Court delivered when the body rejected the original court map because the population was not equally dispersed among the 36 districts, and some of the minority districts did not meet previous federal directives.

The Texas Legislative Council released partisan numbers for the new seats, but not minority counts. Once the complete data is available, a full analysis can be provided.

At a cursory glance, it appears Republicans will fare much better with this map than under the previous court plan. Because the three-judge panel was forced to give deference to the legislatively passed map, the elected body’s original footprint has been restored.

The map appears to improve the seats of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), both of whom were given marginal districts in the first court plan. Freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) will continue to battle in a marginal 50/50 district, but has a better draw now than previously.

In the East Texas 14th District, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), the Galveston-Beaumont region is again together, which favors former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 and 22), but is even more Republican than in past versions. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25) is placed in the 35th District, a seat that stretches from Travis County, the Congressman’s home, into Bexar County. It will be a heavily Hispanic district. The new 25th District then becomes an open Republican seat that begins in western Travis County and meanders northward toward Ft. Worth.

It appears the GOP would be favored in 25 seats and the Democrats in 10, with the Canseco district being in toss-up status. A more detailed analysis will be conducted once the full demographic and political data becomes public.

Snowe’s Retirement a Blow to Republicans

In perhaps bigger news that Mitt Romney’s Tuesday wins in Michigan and Arizona, three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) sent shock waves through the political world by announcing that she has decided not to seek re-election in the fall. Despite high favorability and poll ratings, Snowe indicated she is leaving the Senate at the end of the term rather than serve in a Republican caucus that is trending far to the right of her individual ideological perspective.

The retirement is a blow to Republican chances of regaining the Senate majority, as the Maine seat appeared secure. Without Snowe in the race, Democrats become the favorites in an open seat race.

Expect Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to give serious consideration to running, as might former Gov. John Baldacci (D). Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has to be considered a strong potential candidate, but he has given no early indication that he will run.

Because Maine has a penchant for electing Independents in statewide contests, one also must consider who could run without being associated with a major party. Former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King would top this list of potential contenders.

Sen. Snowe becomes the 10th Senator to retire at the end of this Congress, meaning that 30 percent of the 2012 in-cycle seats will be open. Of the 10 upcoming vacancies, six are currently held by Democrats, one by an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman), and three Republicans.

What Do Mitt’s Tuesday Wins Mean?

Mitt Romney won a close victory in Michigan last night and a landslide victory in Arizona, but his performance still doesn’t knock out Rick Santorum. Because of what appears to be only a three-point victory in the Wolverine State, Romney probably will score only two more delegates from this state than does his chief opponent.

Arizona, on the other hand, is setting itself up as a winner-take-all state (29 delegates due to penalty), but that format is in defiance of Republican National Committee rules. Expect a major challenge here if the race goes all the way to the national convention.

With splits predicted for the upcoming Super Tuesday states, including the Washington caucuses this Saturday, the outcome of the GOP nomination battle will likely not be settled even after those states pass. Much more to come in this presidential race.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.