Author Archives: Jim Ellis

State Redistricting Maps Released: AZ, MS, NJ

Note: This is our last Political Update through the Christmas holidays. We will be back with an Iowa perspective for the January 3rd vote on Friday, December 30th. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration.

The legal processes in three states produced congressional maps in the past two days, and all may become final by Dec. 31. In Connecticut, the joint legislative panel appointed to draw the congressional map has again failed, reaching the second extended deadline without defining district boundaries. Connecticut redistricting now transfers to the state Supreme Court, which will take responsibility for drawing a new 5-district map.

Arizona
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission released a new map that will likely be adopted before Jan. 1. Accompanying political data is not yet available, but the geographic dispersion as it relates to the current districts has been made public. The draw is similar but not identical to the draft map released earlier in the year that ignited the controversy leading to Commission chair Colleen Mathis’ impeachment. When the state Supreme Court reinstated Ms. Mathis, the redistricting work continued.

The basic construct of the Arizona map is much different from the current plan. The numbers all rotate, and it looks like several marginal seats will feature competitive political campaigns for a number of ensuing elections.

Freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) appears to take the biggest hit, as the new rural 1st District includes 23 percent new territory from Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8). The 1st was a marginal district under the current map, meaning this new AZ-1 will likely swing toward the Ds.

The new 2nd District is Rep. Giffords’ former 8th CD. It is probable that this district was made a bit more Democratic after the draft version, which originally conceived it as a 50/50 seat. The southwestern Arizona 3rd District is that of Rep. Grijalva, converted from District 7. This seat will remain safely Democratic. The 4th District is the new seat the state receives from reapportionment. The new 4th is comprised of parts from six current districts, but primarily from the Republican districts of Reps. Gosar (AZ-1; 33.7 percent), Trent Franks (AZ-2; 33.0 percent), Jeff Flake (AZ-6; 20.6 percent) and the Democratic seat of Grijalva (AZ-7; 12.5 percent). This seat has no incumbent and the eventual Republican nominee will claim the district. It is conceivable that Rep. Gosar could run in this Phoenix metropolitan area-based CD instead of his more rural and politically marginal 1st District.

The new 5th District is completely composed of Rep. Flake’s current 6th CD. The 6th was over-populated by 261,509 people, the third-highest number of any congressional district in the country, so the old 6th fully contains 100 percent of the new 5th. It is likely that this open seat (Rep. Flake is running for Senate) will remain as a Republican district. The new 6th is largely the seat of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3), and should remain a district that favors him. The new 7th is the inner city Phoenix seat that matches-up best with Rep. Ed Pastor’s current 4th District. The territory remains Democratic.

The new 8th District is largely the former 2nd District of Rep. Trent Franks and will remain Republican. The new 9th District is a hodgepodge of four districts, 61 percent of which comes from the current CD-5 of freshman Rep. David Schweikert (R). Another 17.3 percent is extracted from Rep. Quayle’s current 3rd District, and 16.2 percent is in Rep. Flake’s seat. The remaining 6 percent of the new territory is from Rep. Pastor’s 4th CD. It is likely that Mr. Schweikert will run here.

We will have better information when the political statistics become available.

New Jersey
The official New Jersey congressional map could be approved as early as today. It is already clear, however, that Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) will be paired in a northern NJ seat. Both Democrats and Republicans have submitted maps featuring this configuration. The Republican map gives the edge to Garrett; likewise, the Democratic plan favors Rothman. The commission can accept either map as drawn or construct something different. The fact that both sides have agreed upon the pairing makes it a virtual certainty that such will be the final outcome.

Mississippi
Despite the new legislature being sworn into office prior to the January candidate filing deadline, the three-judge federal panel with Mississippi redistricting jurisdiction stepped in and drew a new map. It is a least-change map, almost identically reflecting the current configuration. The 2nd District (Rep. Bennie Thompson-D) was the most out of balance, needing to gain more than 75,000 people from the other districts. The remaining three are all over-populated by varying degrees.

It remains to be seen if the legislature takes action when they convene soon after next year begins.

Conflicting Virginia Polls

Last week, Public Policy Polling released a survey (Dec. 10-12; 600 registered Virginia voters) showing former Virginia governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine holding a 47-42 percent lead over former senator and governor George Allen. Now, Quinnipiac University counters those numbers with their own study (Dec. 13-19; 1,135 registered Virginia voters), which posts Allen to a 44-42 percent advantage.

The polling has been close ever since it became clear that both parties would put forth consensus, extremely well-known candidates. With their respective nominations already unofficially clinched, the Kaine-Allen general election will churn on over the coming year. It is expected that the race will remain in toss-up mode all the way to Election Day 2012.

The fact that conflicting polls exist during the same time period is not too surprising. Finding these fluctuations in very close contests is not unusual.

The ballot test question, however, is not the only Q-Poll result that is virtually even. The candidates’ favorability index is also almost identical as well. Allen scores a mediocre 41:27 percent positive to negative, while Kaine posts virtually the same pedestrian ratio: 42:27 percent. Expect this pattern to remain consistent in the Virginia Senate race for the foreseeable future.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following five states during the past week:

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission members are indicating that they may have agreement on a congressional plan before Christmas. Now that the state Supreme Court reinstated commission chair Colleen Mathis (I) after the legislature and governor impeached her, the commission can complete its work. It remains to be seen if the members make any significant changes on the previously released map that generated most of the controversy around Mathis.

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – The federal court considering the Republican lawsuit against the new Democratic-passed map rejected the GOP arguments. This means the plan is now official and will host the congressional elections beginning with the March 20 primary. It is likely the map will remain in place for the rest of the decade. Democrats will make gains under the re-draw, possibly as many as four seats.

NEW JERSEY (current delegation: 7D-6R; loses one seat) – The New Jersey congressional redistricting commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and a tie-breaker (Republican former Attorney General John Farmer) are taking definitive action to produce a map, possibly before the end of the year. The big question surrounds which two members will be paired, as the state loses a seat in reapportionment. Both Democrats and Republicans are prepared to present maps for the commission’s consideration. Reportedly, Democrats will pair Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7). Republicans will likely suggest a plan that combines Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9). The more likely scenario is a pairing of a Democrat and Republican in a marginal seat, meaning the eventual two chosen incumbents will endure a highly competitive campaign. The inter-party pairing attracting the most attention and possibly traction involves Garrett and Rothman.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans avoided the feared referendum battle on the congressional redistricting map by convincing the requisite number of House Democrats to support their new map and passed the plan with a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers. Legislation receiving such support is not subject to a public referendum.

The plan is designed to elect 12 Republicans and four Democrats in the new 16-member delegation, but several seats are marginal and will yield competitive campaigns. The map also features three incumbent pairings: one matching Democrats; one with Republicans; and an inter-party combination.

In the new 9th District, Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) are placed together. Changes were made that makes the seat even more favorable for Kaptur. Rumors are now suggesting that Kucinich is considering running against Rep. Marcia Fudge (D) in the new Cleveland-based majority African-American district. Fudge already has one serious Democratic opponent, state Sen. Nina Turner. Kucinich is apparently looking at a scenario where the two black candidates could split the African-American vote, allowing him to win with a coalition of white voters.

The new 10th District features the Republican pairing in a seat centered around the Dayton metropolitan area. Reps. Steve Austria and Mike Turner face each other in what should be a highly competitive primary election. The winner will hold the seat in the general election.

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13), whose district has been split apart in several directions, largely to create a new Democratic seat in Columbus, announced that she will oppose Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) in the new marginally Republican 16th District. The territory is more familiar to Renacci, but a Democratic swing toward Election Day could send this seat into the D column. This race features two strong candidates.

In the eastern Ohio 6th District, former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) has already announced that he will seek a re-match with the man who defeated him in 2010, Rep. Bill Johnson (R). The new 6th, however, is more Republican than the seat that Wilson used to represent and failed to hold.

Additionally, the Ohio plan reinstates the March 6 congressional primary schedule. Because of the controversy surrounding the original map, the election had been temporarily moved to June. With Texas now going to April, the Ohio congressional primaries will be the first in the nation.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) –
Pennsylvania Republicans unveiled their new congressional map and, as predicted, it pairs Democrats Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12) in the new western PA 12th District, a seat where President Obama tallied only 45 percent.

Though the map is designed to elect 12 Republicans and six Democrats, President Obama scored a majority of the vote in 10 of the 18 districts, including those represented by Reps. Jim Gerlach (District 6), Pat Meehan (District 7), Mike Fitzpatrick (District 8), Charlie Dent (District 15), and Joe Pitts (District 16). Rep. Todd Platts’ (R) safely Republican 19th District is re-numbered as District 4, since the state no longer possesses 19 districts. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) –
With the congressional and state legislative maps tied up in the courts, Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon a new primary schedule. The original March 6 primary is now officially postponed and will be held April 3 with a run-off on June 5.

The presidential and statewide races will also be held on April 3. One train of thought suggested that the district primaries could be held on a date after the presidential and statewide races are decided on Super Tuesday, March 6. as originally planned. Going after Super Tuesday now makes the state eligible to convert to winner-take-all status. It remains to be seen if the Republican Party of Texas will choose to change the current delegate allocation system.

The Delegate Flow

As we’re quickly approaching the Iowa Caucus vote on Jan. 3, it is now time to look at the vastly different 2012 Republican delegate selection schedule. Much has changed, timing-wise, since the 2008 campaign. No longer is the system so heavily front-loaded, meaning the nomination fight could drive well past the early March Super Tuesday primary date.

While the media attempts to create political momentum through their coverage of the small, early caucus and primary states, the fact remains that after the first five events – Iowa Caucus (Jan. 3), New Hampshire primary (Jan. 10), South Carolina primary (Jan. 21), Florida primary (Jan. 31) and Nevada Caucuses (Feb. 4), only 143 total delegates of the 2,288 penalty-adjusted votes (just 6 percent) will be chosen. Therefore, if one candidate has a cumulative 35 percent of the pledged delegates after those events, a reasonable figure for the leader, he or she would have only 50 delegates after Nevada concludes, or just 4 percent of the total needed to clinch the nomination (1,145).

It is important to remember that the Florida Republican Party and four other states (New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona) chose to forfeit half of their delegations in order to move into a more prominent voting position. Therefore, in Florida’s case, the state with the second largest contingent of Republican congressmen has a total delegate count of only 50.

After the voters in the first five states cast their ballots, we then move onto the second tier of states, stopping in Michigan and Arizona (Feb. 28), on our way to Super Tuesday, March 6. In 2012, however, fewer entities are participating in the Super Tuesday contest. Ten states are holding their primary and caucus elections that day, representing 428 available delegates. This means more states and greater numbers of voters will have a role in choosing the next Republican nominee and do so later in the process.

The nomination could easily be decided during the post-Super Tuesday period that will last through the end of April. During that time, an additional 858 delegates in 21 states and territories will be chosen, meaning approximately two-thirds of the entire pool will be claimed. If the identity of the GOP nominee is still not obvious, then the traveling primary show moves through an additional 10 states in May, with Pennsylvania (72 delegates) and North Carolina (55 delegates) being the biggest prizes.

In the end, it may be early June before a Republican nominee clearly emerges. On the 5th of that month, the largest single state delegation will be apportioned, California (172 delegates), along with New Jersey (50 delegates), Montana (26 delegates), New Mexico (23 delegates) and South Dakota (28 delegates). All voting will conclude with the Utah primary (40 delegates) on June 26.

Today, it’s hard to determine which candidate’s campaign becomes a juggernaut and gains enough momentum to soar toward the nomination. Eventually that will occur, but it now appears, due to a combination of rules changes and the way in which the campaign is unfolding, that projecting the Republican presidential nominee will happen at a much later date than once commonly believed.

Iowa Confusion – Anything Can Happen

Public Policy Polling published a new survey of Iowa Republican Caucus voters as part of their ongoing tracking program. The study (Dec. 16-18; 597 likely Iowa GOP Caucus attenders), now gives Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) a 23-20-14 percent lead over Mitt Romney and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Several things to make note of regarding this data: First, Mr. Paul is now surging to the top of the heap. This means his loyal band of committed supporters become even more important as the field of candidates begin to bunch together before the final stretch run. Secondly, it is clear the attacks launched against Gingrich over the airwaves by the Paul and Romney campaigns are taking a toll upon the former Georgia representative, particularly without an in-kind response. But, there is more to these results.

The lower tier of candidates is also creeping up. For the first time, a poll shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum all in double-digits. All three are tied in this poll, commanding 10 percent. It is the first time a distinct upward move has been detected for Santorum, in particular.

The fact that the race is getting closer from top to bottom could suggest that the Iowa campaign is far from over, even though the vote is just two weeks from today, with Christmas and New Year’s in between. Much more will unfold here very shortly.