Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Hawaii’s Lingle Runs for Senate

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle officially entered the race for Hawaii’s open Senate seat next fall. With Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) retiring, it means that this will be the first incumbent-less Senate race in 36 years. Only five people have represented Hawaii in the Senate since the territory was admitted to the Union as a state in 1960.

Despite the heavily Democratic nature of the state, Lingle was successful in winning two statewide elections. For most of her tenure, she was quite popular, as her landslide re-election victory in 2006 (62-35 percent) so indicates. Toward the end of her second term, however, her popularity ratings began to significantly sag. She left office with upside down job approval numbers and her early Senate race polling did not appear particularly promising.

Still, she is moving forward with another statewide campaign, one that will certainly be an uphill battle. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2), with substantial backing from most of the Hawaii establishment, is the leading Democratic candidate. Former representative and Senatorial candidate Ed Case is also in the race. His fortunes have dropped, however, when he challenged Akaka in the Democratic primary six years ago, and then was unable to capture the open 1st Congressional District in an early 2010 special election. Case is a significant candidate, but he is clearly the underdog in the September primary. Though unlikely to occur, a bitterly competitive Democratic primary is exactly what Lingle will need to win next November. She must hope that the majority party vote will be split to the degree that a large chunk of Democratic voters will defect to her in the general election.

Linda Lingle’s candidacy is a break for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which needs the maximum number of competitive races to regain majority status in the Senate chamber. Ms. Lingle makes the race competitive, no doubt, but considering that favorite son Barack Obama will again be on the national ticket, she must be seen as a heavy underdog, at least in the early going. At the very least, the Hawaii Senate race must be rated as “Lean Democrat.”

Wisconsin Democrats Announce Walker Recall

Wisconsin Democratic state chairman Mike Tate officially proclaimed that his party and the liberal grassroots organization, United Wisconsin, will coordinate efforts in a recall campaign against Gov. Scott Walker (R). The attempt to cut his four-year term short by more than two years is in response to his aggressive stance against the public sector unions, which collectively are the key fundraising component of the Democratic coalition. This is a curious move, because their recall efforts against various Republican state senators early this year largely failed. Only two Republican incumbents fell, one who held a heavily Democratic seat and another who was caught in a highly publicized extra-marital affair.

The Democrats’ task will not be easy. They have slated Nov. 15 to begin their signature gathering effort. They must collect 540,206 valid signatures in a 60-day period. This means they could obtain as many as 2,000,000 in that short duration, all from qualified Wisconsin voters, in order to ensure the recall process will move forward.

Factoring in the length of the signature gathering, verification, and challenge periods in addition to the six-week campaign cycle, then a possible subsequent recall election would be sometime in May. If such a recall election is forced, it would be a very interesting precursor to the presidential campaign, especially since this current recall could also be portrayed as a referendum on the current state of national affairs, and even on President Obama himself if the Republicans play their campaign hand in a strategically sound manner. If Walker were to retain his office in this crucial and highly definable swing state, it could signal what’s to come in the general election.

The Wisconsin Democrats have decided to enter a very high-stakes poker game, one in which they have much to lose. Should they be successful in forcing the recall election, it will likely prove to be an exceptionally relevant warm-up match for the national main event.

Herman Cain: “Flavor of the Month” or “The Real Thing?”

For almost three years, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the darling of many GOP conservatives. Her missteps and her on, and finally off, flirtation with a presidential run helped create a surge of conservative support for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entrance into the GOP fray nearly coincided with a steep decline in Bachmann’s support. Now, in the wake of his recent poor debate performance Perry has seen his drop in the polls equal the rate of his quick ascendancy to top tier status.

In recent days Perry’s precipitous slide, coupled with former pizza magnate and radio talk show host Herman Cain’s surge are the talk of GOP conservatives.

Cain has topped a bevy of recent straw polls, which, for Republicans, tend to be tests of conservative activists. Cain’s straw poll upset in the early battleground state of Florida surprised the Perry camp and many GOP regulars. His fundraising has apparently picked up substantially and his opinion survey numbers are climbing, too. A recent CBS News survey had the Atlanta businessman in a statistical tie for the lead with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Is the new Republican frontrunner Herman Cain? He may be at least for this week. Public Policy Polling (PPP) polled Republican primary voters in three very different states last weekend: North Carolina, Nebraska and West Virginia. Each of the three surveys showed Cain leading the way. The polls also showed support for Newt Gingrich increasing, Mitt Romney support holding steady, and a collapse in Rick Perry’s numbers.

Here are the results:

North Carolina: Cain – 27 percent, Romney – 17, Gingrich – 17, Perry – 15, Paul – 6, Bachmann – 6, Santorum – 2 and Huntsman – 2.

Nebraska: Cain – 30 percent, Gingrich – 16, Romney – 13, Bachmann – 10, Perry – 10, Paul – – 5, Santorum – 4, Huntsman – 2

West Virginia: Cain – 24 percent, Gingrich – 18, Romney – 16, Perry – 15, Bachmann – 8, Paul – 6, Santorum – 3, Huntsman – 1

PPP surveyed 400 regular Republican primary voters in Nebraska and 300 primary voters in West Virginia from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, as well as 400 primary voters in North Carolina from Sept. 30-Oct. 3. The margin of error for the Nebraska and North Carolina surveys was +/-4.9 percent, and +/-5.7 percent for the West Virginia survey. These polls were not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

Cain told the Associated Press on Wednesday, “I am not worried about being the flavor of the week, because we have a whole lot of substance we are putting out there, and Cain supporters do not defect.”

His 9-9-9 tax plan is clearly the central theme of his campaign thus far and seems to be earning him supporters. At the heart of his plan is a promise to scrap the current tax code and replace it with a 9 percent tax on corporations and personal income as well as a 9 percent national sales tax. The sheer simplicity of the change, Cain argues, would boost the economy.

Herman Cain isn’t concerned about being the “Flavor of the Month,” but voters will decide if he’s “The Real Thing.”

National Q-Poll: Romney Tops Obama

Quinnipiac University conducted a national large-sample political survey (Sept. 27-Oct. 3; 2,118 registered voters; 927 self-identified Republicans) and found that Mitt Romney has taken a 46-42 percent lead over President Obama. Gov. Rick Perry, who has fallen badly in GOP primary ballot tests, also is highly competitive when paired with Mr. Obama trailing the incumbent by just one point, 44-45 percent. At the heart of the downturn in the President’s fortune are his favorability numbers. According to this latest Q-Poll, even his personal approval, heretofore a great Obama strength, has turned upside down. Only 42 percent of the respondents expressed a favorable opinion about Mr. Obama, while 53 percent held negative feelings. His re-elect score is even more troublesome. When asked if the President deserves to be re-elected, 54 percent of the respondents said NO, versus just 42 percent who responded affirmatively.

The national Q-Poll also brought some bad news for Gov. Perry. His personal approval ratio is a rather poor 22:35 percent favorable to unfavorable. In a hypothetical head-to-head ballot test against Mr. Romney, the Texas governor trails by a substantial 34-48 percent. By contrast, Mr. Romney’s approval rating is 39:28 percent.

The overall primary numbers showed an improving situation for Romney, too. According to the 927 Republican Q-Poll respondents, the former Massachusetts governor places first with 24 percent, followed by retired businessman Herman Cain who is experiencing a dramatic rise is support at 18 percent, with Gov. Perry trailing with 15 percent. No other candidate reached double-digits.

This latest poll once again reveals the heightened volatility within the Republican primary field. It appears that we are on the eve of a very long and hard-fought GOP nomination contest.