Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Arizona Redistricting Court Ruling

The Arizona Supreme Court late yesterday overturned the previous action that impeached the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission chair, thus reinstating Colleen Mathis as a member of the IRC. The state Senate and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) removed Mathis from office for “dereliction of duty,” but the high court said such petition did not legally demonstrate the charge.

The draft congressional map has now been before the public for the required 30 days, and many boundary changes have been suggested. Now that Mathis is back on the commission, the necessary three votes to pass a map, probably an amended one, will likely be attained. The original map is politically competitive but could elect five Democrats to four Republicans over the course of the decade. The current delegation stands at five Republicans and three Democrats. Arizona gains one seat in reapportionment. The proposed map features four solid Republican districts, two Democrat districts, and three competitive seats – all of which will likely trend away from the Republicans over time.

Poll: Gingrich Leads in California …

… Maybe.

Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of Republican primary voters in California – the country’s most delegate-rich state – during the Nov. 10-13 period, and it shows that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has opened up an 11-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (33-22 percent).

There are at least two important factors to consider here, however. First, the sample size for a Republican-registered voter electorate that exceeds 5.3 million people is only 316 respondents, way too small to accurately forecast macro GOP voting preferences. Second, California’s primary system, like that of Florida and several other states, is winner-take-all by congressional district. While placing first in the statewide popular vote count is worth 10 delegates, each of the 53 congressional districts delivers three apiece. Therefore, a mere statewide popular vote poll does not accurately forecast candidate strength under this particular voting format.

There is no question that Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is ascending. Should the nomination campaign progress through the early states with no apparent winner, then California, with its full complement of 172 delegates, could become a deciding state. The Gingrich campaign will have to focus on more traditional organizational activities if they are to take advantage of their candidate’s current wave of support; something that right now, they are incapable of doing.

20-19-18-17 Percent

Selzer & Company, the polling firm that conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, was in the field during the November 10-12 period, this time for the Bloomberg News Service, asking some unusual political questions of 2,677 adults. Within this large group, they found a subset of 503 individuals who said they were planning to participate in the Republican Caucus meetings Jan. 3.

Among the group of presidential candidates, retired business executive Herman Cain was the choice of 20 percent of the responders; Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was next with 19 percent; Mitt Romney scored 18 percent; and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich registered 17 percent. This suggests that, for this first delegate selection vote that will likely set the tone for the rest of the nomination season, the race is virtually a four-way tie.

The Iowa Caucus is becoming more important than even the most recent past years. The eventual Hawkeye State winner has the very real potential of becoming Mr. Romney’s chief rival. The key to beating the former Massachusetts governor is to isolate him in a one-on-one campaign, and become identified as the more conservative candidate. On the other hand, Romney wins in a crowded field, where his consistent poll standing in the low to mid-twenties might be enough to claim victory if the others rather evenly split the large number of outstanding votes.
Since he enjoys big leads in the New Hampshire primary polls, a victory in Iowa could provide Mr. Romney with enough momentum to wrap up the nomination early. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever won both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sweeping the two could make Romney unstoppable.

On another poll question, 29 percent of those sampled reported that their minds about who to support are set. A full 60 percent said they could still change their opinion, yet another piece of supporting evidence attesting to the volatility of this Republican nomination campaign.

In testing the tax reform ideas of the major candidates, 24% said they would favor a platform that described Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (9 percent corporate and 9 percent personal income tax rates, and a 9 percent national sales tax). This was trumped by an approach that would create three individual personal income tax rates at 23, 14 and 8%, however. Thirty-two percent said such an option would be their top tax reform choice. Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat tax rate was named by 14% of the Republican sample.

As the Iowa campaign begins to heat up, the race is getting closer. Much more will follow before the voters make a final determination right after the first of the year.

Weekly Redistricting Outlook

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court failed to grant impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis (I) a stay over the state Senate and governor’s decision to remove her from office. The Court has agreed to hear Mathis’ motion to overturn her removal, but the judicial body won’t allow her to return to the Commission before the case is heard. Thus, the Arizona congressional map is on hold for an indefinite period of time.

Mathis supporters and the Democratic Party were hoping the high court would reinstate her so the Commission would have time to pass the map that had been previously laid out for comment. The public is allowed 30 days to express opinion after which changes can be made. That period ended just days after Mathis was removed, thus denying the panel a clear majority to enact the plan. Over the course of time, the Mathis map would likely produce a 5D-4R Democratic majority in the Arizona delegation.

Should she lose her legal maneuvering, the process to fill the Mathis vacancy would begin anew as a different chairman would be chosen as defined through the procedures governing commission membership. By law, the IRC must have two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent who becomes the chairman.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The state court drawing the de novo map released its plan and basically adopted the Democratic outline. This is not a surprise, as the Colorado courts have repeatedly favored the Democrats in previous decades. The most endangered member of the delegation now appears to be sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), as his Arapahoe County-based district now wraps around into Adams County, northeast of Denver, and adds a much higher number of Democrats to what was his safe Republican seat. The 6th District goes from 46 percent Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to 54 percent Obama, suggesting that the district will become highly competitive in the 2012 election and likely beyond.

The big winner for the GOP is freshman Rep. Cory Gardner in the 4th District. Formerly a safe Republican seat, the 4th went Democratic for one term prior to Gardner’s victory in 2010. His eastern Colorado seat goes from 49 percent Obama to 42 percent Obama, representing a substantial jump in Republican voters.

The other districts remain in about the same partisan ratio as they were during the previous decade. This means the 3rd District of freshman Republican Rep. Scott Tipton remains as a swing seat. CD-4 changes from 47 percent Obama to 48 percent. The map, which is unlikely to be challenged, will create an even more competitive plan than in the past decade.

The state court was forced to draw the map because the legislature deadlocked over the congressional plan during the regular session.

NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) –
It appears the Republicans will not challenge the lower court-drawn congressional map. Petitioning the state Supreme Court would be the next step in the process. It is unlikely the high court would overturn what the lower court devised, so such action is futile, Republican leaders apparently believe. The court created a 1D, 1R map with two seats rated as competitive.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans are still trying to put a two-thirds coalition together in both houses of their legislature to pass a modified congressional map. At this writing, the chances of forming such a consensus appear slim. Failure to pass a new map means reverting to the previous enacted plan over which Democrats are currently gathering petition signatures to force a ballot referendum. If successful, the map will go to the voters in the general election of 2012, meaning a court will draw an interim 16-seat Ohio map for the current election cycle.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) –
A new Voting Rights lawsuit was filed against the state’s recently enacted congressional map that should return six Republicans and one Democrat to Washington. The lawsuit, brought by a group of African-American voters, claims that too many black voters were packed into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D) 6th District. Because the US Justice Department has already granted pre-clearance to the South Carolina congressional plan, any lawsuit charging illegalities over minority representation is unlikely to succeed.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) –
As expected, now that Republicans will assume control of the state Senate, the new leadership announced they will wait until the next legislative session, when they are officially in control, to move a congressional map. Expect the 8R-3D ratio to be strengthened and remain locked for the ensuing decade. The new session begins in January.

The Re-Birth of Newt Gingrich

A series of new polls confirm what earlier data was beginning to show, that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is back in the thick of the Republican presidential race and is now actually vying for first place. The new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 10-13; 576 US Republican primary voters) posts Gingrich to a 28-25-18 percent lead over retired business executive Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, respectively. Perhaps more astonishing, however, is the former Speaker’s favorability index according to the PPP poll. Always plagued with high negatives due to many controversies while he was in and out of Congress, Gingrich’s positive to negative ratio among the tested Republicans registers a very high 68:23 percent.

The Opinion Research Council, for CNN, also detects a major rise for Gingrich, though not as high as PPP’s conclusion. In their new larger sample survey, but conducted over a weekend (Nov. 11-13; 925 likely Republican primary voters), it’s Romney with the lead at 24 percent, followed closely by Gingrich’s 22 percent. In this poll, Mr. Cain falls all the way to 14 percent. The Polling Company was also in the field during the Nov. 11-13 period, but just in the state of Iowa, previewing the first-in-the-nation Caucus vote scheduled for Jan. 3. Among the 501 GOP caucus attenders tested, a tight race is forecast. Here, Herman Cain has a 20-19 percent lead over Gingrich. Mr. Romney trails at 14 percent.

Though the Gingrich rebound is truly extraordinary, considering he was down as low as 3 percent during the summer, it causes one to speculate about just how long the resurgence will last. Once the attacks start coming his way, will the former Speaker’s revival continue? It won’t take long to find out.