Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Illinois Rep. Halvorson to Challenge Jesse Jackson Jr.

A rather surprising announcement came from the Chicago suburbs at the end of last week. Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11), who lost her congressional seat 43-57 percent to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) after just one term in office, says she will challenge Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) in the 2012 March Democratic primary for his 2nd District seat. Prior to her serving in Congress, Ms. Halvorson was the state Senate majority leader.

This is a curious move and appears to be a long-shot political effort. While the new 2nd district does contain part of the territory Halvorson previously represented, it is overwhelmingly comprised of Jackson’s constituents. In fact, 78.1 percent of the new 2nd’s inhabitants remain from Rep. Jackson’s current district, versus just 21.8 percent of residents from Halvorson’s former 11th CD who are now placed in IL-2. The racial composition is another factor that cuts dramatically in Mr. Jackson’s favor. As many as 55.8 percent of the district population is African-American versus just 29.6 percent who are non-Hispanic White. Hispanics account for 12.8 percent of the population mix, while Asians number less than 1 percent of the voting base.

Favor Jesse Jackson, Jr. to win the Democratic nomination here, but Debbie Halvorson’s entry into the race certainly brings a new twist to this political story.
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Wisconsin Rep. Baldwin Announces Senate Bid

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

As expected, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) formally announced her bid for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat yesterday. The congresswoman has been preparing a statewide bid for months, but only kicked her fledging operation into high gear when former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) decided not to become a candidate. Vacating the safely Democratic 2nd district means that 41 seats are now open due to an incumbent announcing he or she will not seek re-election, or because reapportionment or redistricting creates an incumbent-less district.

The Wisconsin campaign has been slow-moving. Incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl (D) announced back on May 13 that he would not seek a fourth term next year, yet official candidate announcements began only last week. Rep. Baldwin now becomes the third person to enter the field of contenders. On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald both say they are in the race. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is expected to soon join the Republican contestants. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and ex-Congressman Steve Kagen (D-WI-8) are potential Democratic nomination opponents to Ms. Baldwin.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the closest statewide political contests in the nation next year. The outcome could well decide the Senate majority, as projections suggest that both parties will likely be at parity after the next election. Currently, the Democrats hold a 53-47 spread. Republicans are already likely to gain two seats – North Dakota open and Nebraska – thus bringing the party division to 51D-49R. Missouri (Sen. Claire McCaskill), Virginia (open – Sen. Jim Webb retiring), and Montana (Sen. Jon Tester) are all toss-up Democratic seats in addition to Wisconsin. All other races remaining constant, the Republicans would have to win two of the latter four to take the majority; Democrats would have to hold three of four to retain power.
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Redistricting at the Halfway Point

Now that we’ve reached the half-way point in the redistricting cycle, we re-cap the completed states from a partisan perspective. Action occurred in three states during the past week: Georgia, Utah and Washington.

GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat): The Georgia congressional map has passed both houses of the legislature, and is headed to Gov. Nathan Deal (R) who is expected to sign the legislation into law.

UTAH (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat): Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has officially called the legislature into special session beginning October 3rd to complete the redistricting process. The session could last as few as five days.

WASHINGTON (current delegation: 5D-4R; gains one seat): The Washington State Redistricting Commission will release proposed congressional and legislative maps Sept. 13. The four-member commission is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans. Three of the four members must agree on the proposed plans by Jan. 1, 2012 and submit them to the legislature. Both houses then must approve the maps by majority vote on or before Feb. 10. Amendments are possible but can only be adopted by 2/3 vote of each legislative chamber. If the commission fails to produce a map, or the measure stalls in the legislature, the Washington Supreme Court takes over the process.

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed
Arkansas        Louisiana     Oregon
California      Michigan      West Virginia
Illinois            Missouri       Wisconsin
Indiana           Nebraska
Iowa                Oklahoma

Completed Plans Awaiting Justice Department/DC Circuit Court Action
Alabama
North Carolina
South Carolina
Texas

Completed Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature
Georgia

Court Maps to be Drawn
Colorado
Minnesota
Nevada

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Race in New York’s 9th Tightens

Immediately after the Republicans began citing a McLaughlin Associates poll that showed GOP congressional special election nominee Bob Turner and Democratic standard bearer David Weprin tied at 42 percent for the upcoming Sept. 13 vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released different — and potentially suspect — numbers. The Global Strategy Group (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 special election voters), polling for the DCCC, projects Weprin to be leading 47-39 percent. Though an 8-point spread is beyond the polling margin of error, several things must be considered to possibly give us a more accurate depiction of what is happening in this Brooklyn-Queens New York City campaign, one in which the Democratic nominee should win easily.

First, Global Stategy’s error factor for this particular poll is 4.9 percent, unusually high for a 400-sample survey in a congressional district. An error number well under 4 percent is more typical. Second, the poll actually shows more weakness for Weprin than strength. Though it projects him to be ahead, his 8-point advantage is substantially below the generic Democratic figure (46-32 percent) for the 9th CD. Third, Republican Turner’s favorability index, 40:26 percent, is surprisingly higher than Democrat Weprin’s: 35:24 percent. Taken in its entirety, the universe of recent polling suggests that this race may end in close fashion.

Mr. Turner is a retired broadcasting executive and the 2010 GOP congressional nominee (lost 37-57 percent). Mr. Weprin is a freshman Democratic state assemblyman. He was twice elected to the New York City Council, serving as the body’s Finance Committee chairman. His father, Saul Weprin, is a former state Assembly Speaker. The seat is vacant due to the highly publicized resignation of ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9).
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Obama’s Job Approval: A Cause for Concern

Presidential job approval ratings can fluctuate widely based on a rather wide variety of factors. Among these are the status of the economy, whether the U.S. is at peace or war, the presence of real or suspected scandal, etc.

While President Barack Obama’s administration has been free of any significant scandal, the U.S. is currently engaged in somewhere between two and three wars, and is suffering from a painfully slow-growing economy and a 9.2 percent unemployment rate.

While the President’s approval rating has generally fluctuated in a relatively narrow band that has ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-40s for the last two years, the trend in recent weeks has become troubling for Democrats seeking office in 2012.

Yesterday’s daily Gallup presidential approval tracking poll shows Obama’s job approval rating now slipping to 39 percent. The Gallup poll takes a rolling three-day average of opinions expressed by 1,500 adults nationally. The margin of error in the survey is +/- three percent.

While Obama continues to receive broad support from African-Americans, his approval rating among Hispanics and whites has lingered at record lows in the past two weeks. Gallup noted that Obama’s approval rating among postgraduates and high-income Americans has seen a particularly steep decline since the late May-early June time period, which was the last time his average weekly job approval rating registered at least 50 percent.

At this stage of his presidency, Obama’s standing with Americans doesn’t compare very favorably with other post-WW II presidents. At the 940 days in office mark (Aug 20), here is how Obama compares to the other Presidents, since Harry S. Truman when polling of this type began:

  • Obama                  40%    Standing for re-election in 2012
  • Truman                54%    Re-elected in 1948
  • Eisenhower        71%    Re-elected in 1956
  • Kennedy              62%    Assassinated in 1963
  • Johnson              48%    Did not seek re-election in 1968
  • Nixon                   49%    Re-elected in 1972
  • Ford                      53%    Defeated for election 1976 (polled at 857 days in office)
  • Carter                   32%    Defeated for re-election in 1980
  • Reagan                 43%    Re-elected in 1984
  • Bush, G.H.W.    59%    Defeated for re-election in 1992
  • Clinton                 46%    Re-elected in 1996
  • Bush, G.W.         59%    Re-elected in 2004

Only Jimmy Carter fared worse than President Obama at this point in the term. The average for the 12 presidents after 940 days in office (857 for Ford) is 47.8%. Thus, Obama is almost eight percentage points below average at this point in time.

The low approval numbers do not mean that the President is doomed to lose his re-election campaign. History shows us that Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were all below 50% approval but went on to win impressive re-election victories. In fact, historic landslides were even recorded for Nixon and Reagan. Conversely, two Presidents with some of the highest approval ratings, George H.W. and George W. Bush, both registering a strong 59% positive ranking at this commensurate time during their terms in office, did not fare as well in their re-election campaigns. As we know, George H.W. Bush was defeated for a second term, and his son won a close battle against a below average Democratic candidate.

While President Obama can certainly rebound and win a second term in office at the end of next year, the low approval ratings must be a cause for concern in his campaign camp. Watch for the President to make significant moves to improve his standing in the coming weeks.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.