Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Obama Approval Ratings Reach Historic Lows

While the attention of most political observers and pundits has been on the extremely volatile multi-candidate contest for the Republican presidential nomination, little attention has been paid to the standing of the certain Democratic standard-bearer, President Barack Obama.

Polling by the Gallup organization, which has been tracking presidential approval ratings since the administration of Harry S. Truman, suggests that President Obama’s approval rating is lower than each of his eleven most recent predecessors at a comparable time in their presidencies. This statistic includes: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who were either not reelected or, in the case of Ford, never elected.

For the week ending Dec. 4, Obama’s approval rating stood at 42 percent, down one percent from his historically low November rating of 43 percent. The President’s disapproval rating currently stands at 50 percent, up one point from last week’s number. Again, all of these numbers are according to Gallup. Obama will need to improve his approval rating considerably during the rest of December in order to avoid numbers that are sure to initiate jitters among congressional Democrats and others sharing the ballot with him in 11 months.

The following chart provides an illustration of the presidential approval rates at the commensurate time in office (December of third year in office):

President      Year     Average approval
Eisenhower      1955                     75
Nixon                1971                      50
Carter                1979                     53
Reagan              1983                     54
Bush ’41            1991                      51
Clinton              1995                     51
Bush ’43            2003                    54
Obama              2011                      42 (through December 6)

As you can see, public approval ratings at the end of the third year of an incumbent’s presidency does not necessarily dictate his re-election result. For example, Presidents Carter (53 percent) and Reagan (54 percent) had virtually identical numbers at the end of their third year in office, but their election results one year later, as we all know, were starkly different. The same was true for Presidents Bush and Clinton, who both scored an identical 51 percent in the December preceding the election. But, Obama’s anemic 42 percent positive rating is far below any of his predecessors. It is too early to tell, however, whether or not this number will prove to be a precursor to defeat.

Gallup: Who’s Acceptable

The Gallup organization conducted a different type of national Republican presidential poll last week. Their survey (Nov. 28-Dec. 1; 1,012 adults; 464 self-identified Republicans or Republican-leaning Independents) was designed to discover which of the GOP candidates is the most acceptable to the base electorate. Not surprisingly, considering the events of the past few weeks, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney top the charts.

Sixty-two percent of those sampled rated the former House Speaker as acceptable versus 34 percent who feel he is not. Romney scores a ratio of 54:41 percent acceptable to non-acceptable. No other candidate is in positive numbers.

Despite the national polling as well as within the state of Iowa, the candidate in the third-best position in terms of having the widest acceptability rating is not Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), but rather Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Though both men are upside down, Perry scores 41:52 percent, while Rep. Paul posts only a 34:62 percent tally.

Gallup also analyzed the results by political ideology. Of those identifying themselves as conservatives or Tea Party supporters, Gingrich performs even better with 68 percent of the first subset saying he is acceptable and a whopping 82 percent of the TP group signaling favorability.

Romney only gets a positive acceptability rating from 55 percent of the conservatives and 58 percent of the Tea Party supporters.

Gov. Perry receives only a 45 percent rating from conservatives and an identical percentage from Tea Party members, far below what he should be scoring within what should be his strongest base group. But Rep. Paul is even more disappointing, tallying just 30 and 27 percent acceptability among conservatives and Tea Party supporters, respectively.

Three Scenarios: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina

Now that retired business executive Herman Cain has effectively ended his presidential quest, how will the campaign now unfold?

A new Iowa poll (Selzer & Company; Nov. 27-30; 401 likely Republican Caucus participants) stakes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to a relatively substantial lead as we come within four weeks of the Hawkeye State Republican Caucuses. At these meetings attenders will cast the first live votes of the 2012 presidential contest.

According to the latest polling data, Gingrich places first with support from 25 percent of those polled. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is second with 18 percent, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney follows with 16 percent. No other candidate registers in double-digits.

Without Cain in the race, the national campaign will likely evolve into a two-way race, but it’s a threesome in Iowa. A Gingrich win there on Jan. 3 will begin a two-way campaign between Romney and him. Romney still leads in New Hampshire polling and is expected to win the Granite State. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever placed first in both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and so chances are good that will play out again.

If Gingrich and Romney both have a win under their belts, then the two would go into South Carolina, arguably Romney’s weakest state, tied 101. But a big win there could catapult Gingrich to a victory in Florida, where he is already enjoying landslide leads in polling, and the culmination of these results might make the former Speaker unstoppable.

Should Romney pull what would now have to be considered an upset win in Iowa, he could be in position to wrap up the nomination early; that’s unlikely, but possible. With plenty of resources to turn out his vote, a lower participation rate three days into the bitterly cold new year could allow him to steal a win. Gingrich, because he has less in the way of money and organization, could be polling better than he will actually perform on Caucus night, thus opening the door even wider for Romney.

Capturing both Iowa and New Hampshire would give Mr. Romney strength going south, something he badly needs. Though he would have difficulty winning in South Carolina on Jan. 21 under any circumstance, a good showing coupled with his two earlier victories could make him the favorite in Florida.

Winning three out of the first four nominating events and then moving to the Nevada Caucuses on Feb. 4 (the first western delegate selection event and a Romney place of strength) would make the former Massachusetts governor extremely difficult to stop. At that point, it is likely Gingrich and the others would not have the resources to complete with Romney, whose fundraising would undoubtedly be even more robust than it is today. Should events unfold in this manner, it would be Romney who would then be moving unencumbered toward the nomination.

But, what if Ron Paul wins Iowa? This, too, is possible since he has polled well there for the past several months and has an army of loyal supporters who have proven repeatedly that they will turn out for him. Chances are, however, that a Ron Paul win would be a one-state occurrence. He would likely finish back in the pack in New Hampshire, effectively neutralizing any Iowa win. A Paul victory might then turn the race into a free-for-all, making it a wide-open affair and possibly allow some of the candidates who are not currently polling well to come to the forefront.

The Iowa Caucuses are carrying greater importance than they have in the past because they will almost assuredly set the tone for the balance of the race.

Should Gingrich take Iowa, as he apparently would if the election were today, he sets himself on a path to the nomination with a better-than-expected finish in New Hampshire, followed by wins in South Carolina and Florida.

Back-to-back victories for Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire could, conversely, launch him toward an early clinching.

Finally, a Ron Paul Iowa win would set the stage for a long-term, wide open race that might involve all 50 states before any contender has enough delegate strength to claim the nomination.

It all begins a month from now. Iowa becomes the trendsetter.

In MD-6, It’s Time for a Scorecard

It’s getting so you can’t tell the players in the Maryland’s 6th congressional race without a scorecard.

The Democratic congressional redistricting plan upended Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District, transforming it from a safely Republican seat to one that will likely elect a Democrat. The feisty Bartlett, who will be 86 at the time of the next election, defiantly said he would seek an 11th term in 2012 regardless of how his district is drawn. But, is his decision changing?

Earlier in the week, it was reported that the congressman’s chief of staff, Bud Otis, was contacting key opinion leaders, testing the waters for his own run for Congress in the new 6th. He was telling people that he would run only if Mr. Bartlett decided to retire. Just yesterday, however, he resigned his position in order to begin the campaign. For his part, Rep. Bartlett still says he’s running. It appears Otis is, too.

These recent moves have prompted Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney to also enter the congressional race. Mooney served two terms in the Maryland Senate, but surprisingly went down to defeat in 2010, in the most Republican of years. Mooney previously said he was staying out of the race because of his respect for Bartlett but, he said, upon learning of the developments just described, if Otis is running, then he is too. State Sen. David Brinkley also entered the race, saying he was in regardless of what anyone else decided.

But, that’s not all. Attorney Robin Ficker, a former state Delegate who came to fame as a professional sports heckler, had declared his candidacy several weeks ago. Ficker, a rabid fan of the Washington Bullets/Wizards professional basketball team, used to heckle the visiting teams from behind their bench at the old Cap Centre. During one playoff series, the New York Knicks actually hired Ficker and flew him to Madison Square Garden in order to heckle the Knicks’ opponents. Three other lesser known candidates are also in the Republican field.

The interesting part about all of these Republican maneuverings is that they are likely for naught. Since the new draw brings the western Maryland district all the way into Montgomery County in the Washington, DC suburbs, the seat will most likely elect a Democrat no matter who eventually wins this hotly contested Republican primary.

For their part, the Democrats seem to be having an easier time settling on a contender. State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola has a good chance of becoming a consensus candidate, as other prominent Montgomery County Democratic local officials have decided not to make the race.

If Bartlett decides to move forward with his campaign as he continues to promise, he still could find himself winning the primary, simply because his field of opponents will likely be so large that the anti-incumbent vote will be widely split. Or, is Otis’ entry a clear sign that his long-time boss has actually already decided to forego re-election?

It is clear that redistricting has made Roscoe Bartlett one of the country’s most endangered of Republican congressmen. Therefore, all of these GOP machinations could be much ado about nothing. Unless something drastic occurs, the Republican who finally comes through the nomination morass, will find himself decidedly in the underdog position, even if it is the current incumbent.

As a result of their successful redistricting effort, the Maryland Democrats have made MD-6 one of their best conversion opportunities in the entire country.

A Stunning New Florida Poll

Public Policy Polling has just released astonishing results from their latest Sunshine State poll (Nov. 28-30; 478 Florida Republican primary voters). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has opened up what could become an insurmountable lead in this important state, if these trends continue. Gingrich now leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by a 30 full points, 47-17 percent. The lead could actually grow soon, because the survey was completed prior to the Herman Cain extra-marital affair revelations that broke publicly on Tuesday. In this poll, Mr. Cain scores 15 percent. No other candidate posts in double-digits.

It is clear that the former House Speaker, for years dogged with personal baggage from his own extra-marital affairs and some financial dealings, has completely resurrected his image at least among the Florida Republicans surveyed in this poll. According to the sample, 72 percent of those responding report that they have a favorable image of Mr. Gingrich versus only 21 percent who do not. Mr. Romney also scores a high favorability index rating: 51:36 percent. The also-ran candidates rate poorly, however. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) who garners only 5 percent on the candidate preference question, scores a poor 25:57 percent on the favorability index. Texas Gov. Rick Perry draws only 2 percent support, and notches an equivalent 27:55 percent favorability score.

Gingrich is also pulling away from Paul and Romney in Montana, leading there 37-12-11 percent, respectively, according to PPP’s data in that particular winner-take-all state (Nov. 28-30; 700 likely Montana Republican primary voters). In Louisiana, more good news came forth for the former Speaker. There, according to a new Clarus Research Group study (Nov. 20-22; 300 Louisiana registered Republicans), Gingrich leads Romney 31-23 percent.