Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 35 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, less significant action is occurring. During the past week, however, action occurred in the following five states:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the Florida congressional map legislation, and the legal wrangling has already begun. Several lawsuits were filed. The Florida Supreme Court has approval authority over the process, so the court must determine if the legislature and governor enacted a legal plan. The unique problem with the Florida map concerns the wide criteria differences between the voter initiative passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. The two measures appear to conflict in certain areas. The legal procedure will take some time and the plan just enacted will likely undergo at least some change. Still, this new 27-seat map will almost assuredly be the footprint for the final plan.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4D-4R) – The state court with redistricting jurisdiction, having to take action because the legislature and governor failed to agree upon congressional and legislative plans, is scheduled to unveil the final map later today. The big question concerns how freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) will fare since he represents a seat designed for Democrats. The other point of interest concerns Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 6th District now that she has exited the presidential race and announced her intention to seek re-election. More on this to come when the court makes their map public.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – A federal court judge has assembled a three-judge panel to begin redistricting consideration. The legislature has so far failed to produce any map, and a serious deadlock between the Democratic Assembly and the Republican state Senate remains unbroken. The map is difficult to draw from a partisan perspective. The greatest population loss is in the upstate Buffalo area, where Democrats must not only try to protect two veteran members, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), but also must find a way to strengthen freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY-26) seat that was won in a special election last year.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Though the congressional map has been enacted, a court has struck down the state legislative maps. It now appears that the April 24 primary, including the vote for president, could be endangered. If new legislative maps are not completed in time, this primary, too, may have to be moved to a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As time passes and it appears there is no agreement in sight between Texas Democrats and Republicans on a new congressional map, the prospects of moving the primary to May 29 increases. Originally, the nominating vote was scheduled for March 6, and then moved to April 3 because of delays in configuring a legally acceptable final map. The May 29 date means the Texas run-off election will move to sometime in July or possibly August. It also remains to be decided if the state will hold two primaries, one for the presidential, statewide and possibly county races, and another for all elections involving districts. The expense of holding the two separate votes will likely be the key reason that keeps the primary unified.

Doing the Delegate Math: Exactly Who’s Right?

In tracking the delegate count for the Republican presidential nomination, it is clear that no “official” tabulation exists. In fact, virtually all major media organizations and political websites have different totals for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, and with wide divergence.

Below are the latest published delegate counts from key media and political outlets. Notice that only ABC News and the New York Times agree, which probably means they are using the same source.

   • ABC News: Romney 105; Santorum 71; Gingrich 29; Paul 18

   • CBS News: Romney 111; Santorum 44; Gingrich 30; Paul 15

   • CNN: Romney 127; Gingrich 38; Santorum 37; Paul 27

   • Fox News: Romney 107; Santorum 45; Gingrich 32; Paul 9

   • The Green Papers: Romney 107; Santorum 43; Gingrich 43; Paul 35

   • NBC News: Romney 84; Gingrich 29; Santorum 14; Paul 11

   • New York Times: Romney 105; Santorum 71; Gingrich 29; Paul 18

   • Real Clear Politics: Romney 99; Santorum 47; Gingrich 32; Paul 20

To recap, the eight entities don’t even show a consistent order of candidates – CNN and NBC have Gingrich in second place and the others project Santorum in the runner-up position. Romney ranges from a low of 84 pledged delegates (NBC) to a high of 127 (CNN). Santorum’s spread is from 14 (NBC) to 71 (ABC/NYT). Former Speaker Gingrich appears to be most consistent, tallying in a range from 29 (ABC/NYT) to 43 (The Green Papers). Finally, Rep. Paul runs the gamut from 9 (Fox) to 35 (The Green Papers).

Why the differences? First, even some states where voters have already participated – Iowa, Nevada, Missouri, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota – won’t actually apportion their delegates until convention events later in the year. Some of the aforementioned trackers are estimating what these states will eventually do based upon the public votes already cast.

Secondly, the media and political sources either are, or are not, projecting unpledged delegate votes. Many of the unpledged delegates themselves aren’t even chosen yet.

Third, at least two states’ delegations, Florida and Arizona, will likely be challenged at the Republican National Committee Convention. Both are apportioning their delegates under a winner-take-all option in defiance of RNC rules. Only states that vote after Super Tuesday (March 6) are entitled to use the winner-take-all format. Therefore, the Florida count (50 delegates for Romney) could change. The same with Arizona (29 delegates), which votes Feb. 28.

Considering that no official delegate count actually exists, it clearly means we will continue to see a very fluid situation that could lead to a surprising conclusion. Keep in mind, regardless of the apportioned delegate count’s accuracy, or lack of it, only 11 percent of the 2,286 delegates have been assigned. The mathematics continue to show that this race is still very much undecided.

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates Underwhelming

The Pennsylvania candidate filing deadline closed this week (Feb. 14), and the word to describe the new crop of congressional candidates may just be “underwhelming.” It appears that both parties have left opportunities to capture districts on the table.

Surprisingly, just one state legislator throughout the entire Keystone State is running for congress: York County Rep. Scott Perry (R) has declared for the lone open seat, that of retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the 4th CD. This, in a state featuring four freshmen Republicans (Reps. Mike Kelly, PA-3; Pat Meehan, PA-7; Tom Marino, PA-10; and Lou Barletta, PA-11), one Democrat member serving slightly more than a term (Rep. Mark Critz, PA-12) and a Republican who had previously been defeated only to rebound in 2010 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8).

No particularly strong Republican challenger stepped forward in the Senate race, where first-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is seeking re-election. After the last election, with a victory in the governor’s race, the addition of five congressional seats, and converting the state House to majority status, the Republicans had high hopes of bringing down Casey. However, with little in the way of political fire power for the 2012 Senate race, Pennsylvania must go down as the Republicans’ biggest national recruiting disappointment.

But it is the Democrats who appear to have failed at the candidate recruiting game for House races. Against Rep. Mike Kelly, who defeated freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper 56-44 percent less than two years ago, only a college professor, an attorney and a defeated candidate are coming forward to run. That’s not to say one of these men couldn’t transform themselves into a strong contender, but the first impression suggests that Kelly is in the driver’s seat.

A bright spot for the Republicans is Lou Barletta, who knocked off veteran Rep. Paul Kanjorski by a full 10 points in a district where the President notched 57.5% two years earlier; Barletta now sees his seat improve tremendously. Under the new PA-11 lines, Mr. Obama would have scored only 47.7 percent. Two Democrats, a pharmacy wholesale store owner, and a defeated state representative candidate are the only ones to file against the new congressman and former Hazelton mayor.

But District 12 is a Republican recruiting disappointment. With Pennsylvania losing a seat in reapportionment, the GOP legislature combined Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into a new 12th District that a Republican could win (Obama: 45.2 percent). After recruitment overtures were turned down by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, and a local county official, the Republicans will have to settle for 2010 nominee, Keith Rothfus, to go against Altmire. Rothfus only lost 49-51 percent in the last go-around, but his campaign was less than stellar. We’ll see if he steps it up this time around.

Finally, though Rep. Charlie Dent’s Allentown-Bethlehem 15th District improves 3.5 points in the Republicans’ favor, the President still gained an outright majority here, registering 52.8 percent. Dent racked up his largest career re-election percentage in 2010 (53-39 percent) against strong competition, John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem. This largely explains why the Democrats are fielding only the Lehigh County Democratic chairman and a former congressional aide.

For a place with so many marginal seats, and one that will be a key presidential battleground state, the congressional elections now appear much tamer than originally anticipated. In the current Pennsylvania political world, this ultimately means good news for the Republicans.

Santorum Leading in Ohio

On the heels of the Public Policy Polling survey showing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum leading the Republican presidential field in Michigan, Quinnipiac University released the results of their Ohio poll (Feb. 7-12; 1,421 registered Ohio voters) that likewise places him first. According to the data, Mr. Santorum has a 36-29-20 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively.

Ohio is the key state for Santorum on Super Tuesday (March 6). Emphasizing a resurgence in American manufacturing as one of his key campaign themes, Santorum must score well in states such as Ohio to boost his performance nationally.

An interesting Q-Poll question gives us insight into just how well Santorum’s economic message is resonating in the Midwest. In asking the question, “Would you say that (candidate’s name) cares about the needs and problems of people like you or not?”, the pollsters are attempting to determine how well each candidate transcends class distinctions.

When President Obama’s name is inserted into the question, 58 percent of those sampled said “yes” and 39 percent replied “no.” Conversely, both Romney and Gingrich fared poorly. For Romney, only 40 percent answered affirmatively compared to 48 percent who responded negatively. Gingrich’s numbers were even worse: 37:53 percent.

Santorum scored best. When this question is asked about him, 53 percent said “yes” and only 29 percent said “no.” The results of this question support the overall poll’s conclusion that today, Rick Santorum, is the man to beat in Ohio.

New Senate Numbers in Hawaii, Massachusetts

Hawaii

The Hawaii US Senate campaign is turning crazy. Now, another new poll reports starkly different results to some others already in the public domain. Ward Research, a Hawaii-based survey research firm, conducted a new poll with an abnormally long sampling period for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper (Jan. 26-Feb. 5; 771 registered Hawaii voters) and found Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) to be enjoying a huge lead in both the Democratic primary and the general elections.

This contrasts with the latest Merriman Group independent study (Jan. 18-19), which showed only a six-point split between Hirono and former Gov. Linda Lingle (R). It further depicted the congresswoman trailing former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) by two points in the intra-party vote.

The Ward numbers give Hirono a huge 57-37 percent lead over Lingle when the two are matched in what many predict could become a hotly contested general election. Additionally, the Democratic congresswoman maintains a 56-36 percent lead over Case, according to this latest survey. For her part, Hirono’s own pollster, The Benenson Strategy Group, released a survey in November posting her to a similar 54-36 percent lead over Case.

But the Merriman poll is not the only one reporting a much different result than Ward. Public Policy Polling’s October survey showed Hirono besting Lingle 48-42%, and the Republican former governor leading Case 45-43%. Hirono’s Democratic primary advantage was just five points over Case, 45-40%.

With so much discrepancy already existing among the pollsters, it is difficult to get a true read on this race. Since President Obama will run extremely well in Hawaii, the Democratic nominee will likely get a boost in the November general election. On the other hand, Lingle’s huge $1.767 million fourth quarter in fundraising puts her ahead of any other candidate, financially. It is clear she will have the monetary backing to run a strong campaign to compliment her almost universal name identification. Expect this race to become competitive, but the intangibles still favor Ms. Hirono and the Democrats.

Massachusetts

The MassInc Polling Group conducted a statewide Senatorial survey (Feb. 6-9; 503 registered Massachusetts voters) for WBUR radio in Boston, a National Public Radio station. They find former Obama Administration Consumer Affairs Advocate Elizabeth Warren (D) leading Sen. Scott Brown (R) 46-43 percent. Several previous polls have also shown Warren to be ahead, and by more than two points.

The data again illustrates how difficult it is for any Republican to win in the Bay State. Despite trailing, Sen. Brown’s favorability ratings are quite high. A full 50 percent of those interviewed say they have a positive opinion of Sen. Brown versus just 29 percent who registered an unfavorable comment. By contrast, Ms. Warren’s ratio is 39:29 percent.

The poll asked eight preference comparison questions about the candidates’ backgrounds, their views toward the middle class, who would perform better on economic issues, etc. Brown scored below Warren on only one substantive issue question, and on that by just one point. By a margin of 32-31 percent, the sampling universe said that Ms. Warren would better relate to the middle class. An additional 21 percent indicated the two candidates were equal in understanding the needs of middle class families.

The only question where Brown trailed by a relatively large percentage (34-24 percent) was in response to which candidate seems to have campaign momentum.

Therefore, despite the favorable reviews, Brown still trails on the ballot test question. These results are similar to those found in Florida, where Rep. Connie Mack IV is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D). There, Nelson’s personal numbers appear to be as good as Brown’s, but he too finds himself pitted in a close election battle.

With both candidates being heavily funded – Brown has already raised $8.6 million with $12.9 million in the bank; Warren has gathered slightly more, $8.9 million, but has considerably less, $6.14 million, cash-on-hand – it is clear this campaign will play out over a long course of time. The intangibles definitely favor Warren because a candidate uniting the Democratic Party will be very difficult to derail in one of the most Democratically-loyal states in the entire country. Sen. Brown is the right candidate to hold the seat for his party, but even he may not have enough ability to stem what could possibly be a very strong tide against him.