Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Several Races Tighten: Fla., Ohio, Calif.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Four new polls were released on Friday and each showed developing races that are becoming close. In yet another study that depicts Rep. Connie Mack IV
(R-FL-14) performing very well against two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Survey USA produces numbers reflecting a hot Florida Senate race. According to S-USA (July 17-19; 647 likely Florida voters), Mack actually leads the incumbent Democrat 48-42 percent. The same sample gives President Obama a 48-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney, telling us there is no Republican skew in the respondent sample.

Since May 1, eight public polls of this Florida race have been released from six different pollsters (Quinnipiac University conducted three of the surveys as part of their monthly polling program). In five of the eight Nelson leads. In the other three, challenger Mack has the advantage. The swing goes all the way from 49-36 percent in the senator’s favor (Public Policy Polling; May 31-June 3) to Mack leading 46-37 percent (Rasmussen Reports, July 9). This provides us a net curve of 22 points. Such a large polling variance often reveals an extremely volatile campaign with an electorate willing to change course on a dime. There has been enough polling to tell us that the Florida Senate race features true competition and the thought that Sen. Nelson would have a relatively easy ride to re-election has now been firmly dispelled.

Staying in the Senate, Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Ohio voters) projects that the Ohio race is continuing upon a competitive path. The latest RR data gives first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 46-42 percent lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The senator has maintained at least a small lead for most of the previous 12-month period. In the presidential race, this Rasmussen sample returned a 47-46 percent spread in the president’s favor.

Other polls have shown much stronger leads for Sen. Brown. Seven surveys have been taken of the Ohio Senate race since the beginning of May, from four different pollsters. All show Brown ahead. His advantage ranges from the four-point lead in the current Rasmussen poll all the way to sixteen (50-34 percent; Quinnipiac University, June 19-25).

Polling also indicates that two southern California congressional campaigns are very close. In the new 24th Congressional District, in what appears to be a pure 50/50 toss-up seat for incumbent Rep. Lois Capps (D), Public Opinion Strategies, polling for Republican Abel Maldonado’s campaign (June 26-28; 400 registered CA-24 voters just now released), projects a two-point race with the incumbent leading 48-46 percent. In the jungle primary, Capps received 46.4 percent, Maldonado obtained 29.7 percent, and Republican Chris Mitchum, son of late actor Robert Mitchum, garnered 21.5 percent. With the combined Republican primary vote exceeding a majority of the ballots cast (51.2 percent), the general election battle is clearly becoming a toss-up.

To the southeast in Long Beach, another survey indicates a close race developing in a newly created open seat, numbered District 47. Here, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong qualified for the general election with the former scoring 33.8 percent to the latter’s 29.4 percent in a field of eight candidates.

Though this district sets up well for the Democrats, a Probolsky Research survey for the DeLong campaign (June 28-July 3, 400 registered CA-47 voters – released just now) gives Lowenthal only a 44-41 percent advantage as the general election campaign begins in earnest.

This race merits attention and should be considered a lower-level upset opportunity for Republicans. Lowenthal has been underwhelming on the fundraising front, raising just over $511,000, which pales in comparison to DeLong’s $862,908. Gov. Jerry Brown carried this seat 50-41 percent; Sen. Barbara Boxer won it 49-41 percent; and Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris lost the district 39-45 percent. The Democrats’ voter registration advantage is a little over 10 percent more than Republicans. This campaign carries a Lean Democratic rating with movement toward the toss-up column.

House Challengers Outraising Incumbents

The second quarter campaign fundraising totals are being released into the public domain, revealing a number of House challengers actually raising a greater amount of money than their incumbent opponents. Today we take a look at a few of those stand-out candidates.

In California, Independent Bill Bloomfield posted an impressive second quarter total of $1.299 million, most of it from himself, as compared to the $180,000 raised by his opponent, 37-year congressional veteran Henry Waxman (D). Bloomfield spent heavily to top a slate of six other candidates in the June 5 jungle primary for the right to challenge Rep. Waxman in the newly drawn 33rd congressional district. Bloomfield, a former Republican who turned Independent after co-founding the “No Labels” business, has self-contributed more than $1 million to his own campaign, but the move is apparently making him somewhat viable against Waxman.

As we all know, the amount of money one spends on his campaign is not always commensurate with victory. Such is likely to occur in the new 33rd, as the Democratic voting patterns in a presidential election year will, of course, favor the Democratic congressional candidate. Though we are likely to see Bloomfield wage a spirited battle, Waxman is still the decided favorite to win a 20th term in the House later this year even though he currently represents just less than half of the new CA-33.

Looking at the newly re-drawn 7th district of Colorado, incumbent Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) may also be looking at a more formidable challenge than originally expected from Joseph Coors Jr., the great-grandson of brewer and Coors Beer Company founder, Adolph Coors. Mr. Coors reported taking in $787,000 in Q2 compared to Perlmutter’s $505,000. Reports indicate, however, that Coors made a personal contribution of $397,000 to his campaign during the quarter but, regardless of the source of his funding, the beer fortune heir and former CEO of different Coors Corporation-related businesses has spendable dollars in his campaign treasury.

Turning to Illinois, former US Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth (D) raised $889,000 in the second quarter as compared to Tea Party-backed incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh’s $318,000. Duckworth out-raised the freshman congressman by a better than 2:1 ratio. This race is sure to garner significant national attention come Election Day, and is one to watch. Arguably, IL-8 is the best Democratic conversion opportunity in the nation, and Duckworth’s candidate and fundraising abilities are putting her in position to take strong advantage of her political situation.

Finally, we take a look at the Sunshine State and a key race in Florida’s 10th Congressional district. Orlando former Police Chief, Val Demings (D) raised $292,000 in Q2 compared to freshman incumbent, Rep. Daniel Webster’s (R) $191,000. Demings has shown strong fundraising prowess with this being her fourth consecutive quarter bringing in more money than her incumbent opponent. The district, previously represented by Democrat Alan Grayson, switched from blue to red with Webster’s win in 2010 and became significantly more Republican in the GOP redistricting plan, by a net of nine points on the Obama-McCain 2008 presidential scale.

Additionally, the following candidates all raised more than their incumbent opponents during the 2nd quarter, meaning that we will likely hear from all of them before this election cycle concludes.

Democratic challengers raising more than their incumbent opponents:

  • Ami Bera – CA-7 – against Rep. Dan Lungren (R)
  • Eric Swalwell – CA-15 – paired with fellow Democratic Rep. Pete Stark
  • John Delaney – MD-6 – opposing Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R)
  • Bill Foster – IL-11 – challenging Rep. Judy Biggert (R)
  • Cheri Bustos – IL-17 – opposing Rep. Bobby Schilling (R)
  • Dave Crooks – IN-8 – against Rep. Larry Bucshon (R)
  • Ann McLane Kuster – NH-2 – challenging Rep. Charlie Bass (R)
  • Shelley Adler – NJ-3 – opposing Rep. Jon Runyan (R)
  • Uprenda Chivukula – NJ-7 – against Rep. Leonard Lance (R)

Only two Republican challengers forged passed their incumbent opponents in terms of cash raised in the 2nd Quarter:

  • Ricky Gill – CA-9 – challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney (D)
  • Richard Tisei – MA-6 – opposing Rep. John Tierney (D)

Mother to the Rescue?

Candidate Laura Ruderman

In a unique twist of the new Super PAC phenomenon, it has now become public that a major funder of a certain six-figure independent negative campaign expenditure is the cancer-stricken mother of one of the many Democratic contenders in the open Washington 1st congressional district campaign. Candidate Laura Ruderman’s mother, Margaret Rothschild, is a principal contributor to Progress for Washington, an organization that is running attack ads against Democratic candidate Suzan DelBene. Ruderman claims to be unaware of her mother’s involvement with the group.

A new poll of the field, however, suggests that the outside effort is having little positive effect on Ruderman’s prospects. The survey, from DMA Market Research (June 29-July 2; 300 registered WA-1 voters) for the Steve Hobbs campaign, shows Ruderman trailing the rest of the field. Washington is a state that uses the “jungle” primary format where the top two candidates regardless of political party affiliation advance to the general election. According to the poll results, it is Republican John Koster who leads the pack with 30 percent, uniting the base GOP vote. In second place is two-time congressional candidate Darcy Burner with 13 percent, state Sen. Hobbs is third at 12 percent, DelBene, herself a former congressional nominee, follows posting 11 percent, and Ruderman, a former state representative, brings up the rear with just 5 percent of the projected vote.

The Washington primary is Aug. 7. The new 1st District is a Democratic seat, but has competitive potential during the 2012 general election. Incumbent Rep. Jay Inslee (D) resigned mid-term in order to concentrate on his campaign for governor.

Analyzing the North Carolina Run-off Elections

Yesterday’s North Carolina congressional run-off elections concluded with three districts producing Republican nominees, all with strong chances of winning the general election in November.

In the 8th District, occupying the area to the north and east of Charlotte and around Fayetteville, business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson won a landslide 64-36 percent win over dentist and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Only 16,078 votes were cast in the secondary election, just under 4 percent of the entire universe of registered voters. It was a decisive win for Hudson, who built a coalition comprised of conservatives, Washington insiders, and North Carolina establishment individuals and entities. Some national conservative organizations, such as the Club for Growth, supported Keadle’s unsuccessful candidacy.

Hudson now challenges two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in a district that has been radically re-configured. With the new 8th being 21 points better for Republicans based upon the Obama-McCain 2008 presidential election scale, and Kissell only currently representing 54 percent of the new territory, it is arguable that Hudson is now the favorite here even against the incumbent. Republican map architects designed this seat to be one of the best GOP conversion opportunities in the country, and Hudson is proving worthy of the task of unseating an incumbent. We will hear much more from this campaign in the coming weeks.

To the west, encompassing most of Charlotte proper and stretching northward more than half-way toward Winston-Salem, the 9th District also has a new Republican nominee. For all intents and purposes, last night’s vote actually selected the new congressman here because this seat trends safe Republican. With Rep. Sue Myrick (R) retiring after nine terms, 11 candidates ran in the original primary and the field whittled down to former state Sen. Robert Pittenger
and Mecklenburg County Commissioner and ex-sheriff Jim Pendergraph. As was the case in the primary, the result ended in relatively close fashion.

Mr. Pittenger, who spent more than $2 million of his own money and was the self-proclaimed most conservative candidate in the race, clinched a 53-47 percent win last night. The former state senator is now the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democratic Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts in the general election.

The new 9th went for John McCain in 2008 by a 54-45 percent count, one point under the margin from the current 9th CD. Three-quarters of the territory remains constant in the new district. More than 35,000 people voted, the largest congressional turnout in the state. Though Pendergraph took Mecklenburg County by a 51-49 percent margin, Pittenger’s strong performance in Iredell (70-30 percent) and Union (57-43 percent) counties was enough to offset him losing the most populous area.

Moving to far western North Carolina, in the Asheville area seat being vacated by retiring three-term Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, businessman Mark Meadows becomes the 2012 Republican nominee for the new 11th Congressional District. He swamped entrepreneur Vance Patterson 76-24 percent in a run-off race that was never close. Almost 23,000 votes were cast in this run-off, the second highest of the three congressional contests decided last evening.

Meadows will now face Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff. The Republican businessman has the inside track to victory in the general election because the post-redistricting 11th has swung hard toward the GOP. On the Obama-McCain scale, the new NC-11 is now the most Republican district in the state, moving a net 13 partisan points.

Because North Carolina figures to be the Republicans’ best state countrywide during these elections, and will neutralize a similar Democratic performance in Illinois, it is likely that all three men nominated last night will win their respective general elections. So, despite a statewide voter turnout of only 3.58 percent, this North Carolina run-off election will prove significant when painting the 2012 national political picture.

State Presidential Polling Tightens

Photo: The White House

Polling in the presidential race is interesting because the national numbers have been projecting a very tight race, but not particularly so for the key states. Several surveys released yesterday now show a pattern similar to the tight nationwide margins in the core states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and second-tier swing state, Colorado.

Nationally, Gallup, Marist College for the McClatchy Newspapers, and the Purple Strategies organizations all give President Obama a two-point lead over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. But, Rasmussen Reports projects Mr. Romney to be holding the same two-point lead. All of the polls were conducted during the July 9-15 period, though the Rasmussen data is derived from daily tracking surveys.

While the president’s numbers in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado have exceeded his national performance, such is not the case in the latest wave of studies.

In all-important Florida, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research gives Obama only a one-point, 46-45 percent razor-thin edge, but Purple Strategies (PS) actually detects a three-point Romney lead, 48-45 percent.

Ohio, where the president’s margins have typically been in the high single digits, now brandishes only a three-point Obama lead, 48-45 percent, again according to Purple Strategies.

To the west in Colorado, a state that Obama carried 54-45% in 2008, PS sees the president’s advantage dwindling to just one point, 45-44 percent.

Finally, in Virginia, where the Obama edge has been consistent and relatively strong, Purple Strategies forecasts that his Old Dominion lead is now down to just two points, 46-44 percent.