Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Liberal Groups Test Bass Attack in New Hampshire

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America teamed up to produce a negative issue ad against Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), ostensibly because he voted in favor of the Ryan Budget. Since the groups are only spending $25,000 on the television buy, the effort is being done to test messages and theme. This particular ad says Bass “voted to end Medicare”, which presumably refers to the Ryan plan but such is not identified in the script’s text.

Expect the Medicare issue to be a focal point of the 2012 campaign. Democrats and left-wing groups are clearly stepping up this line of attack in light of Rep. Kathy Hochul’s victory in the NY-26 special election. Debate continues about whether Hochul’s offensive play on Medicare was the defining point of her campaign – the fact that Republican turnout was low suggests that candidate Jane Corwin’s many mistakes and the presence of Independent Jack Davis masquerading as a Tea Party candidate might have been the bigger factors – but the Democrats won with this strategy, so they feel the approach warrants further usage.

Why, then, the test on Bass since these groups aren’t yet dishing out attacks against any other member? Of all the 2010 Republican victories, Rep. Bass regaining the seat he lost after six terms in 2006 was one of the most tenuous. Winning by just one point (48-47 percent), a margin of 3,550 votes over lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D), Mr. Bass could be the top 2012 Democratic conversion target. His inclusion on the National Republican Congressional Committee Patriot Program list, announced last week, is a further indication that both parties see him as a highly vulnerable incumbent.

The 2nd district covers New Hampshire’s western region and encompasses the state’s second largest city of Nashua along with Concord, the state capital. The district voted Democratic during the last decade. President Obama scored 56 percent here in 2008. Former President George W. Bush lost the seat in both of his elections. He trailed 47-52 percent in 2004 and 47-48 percent in 2000. In contrast, the state’s other CD, NH-1, gave Obama only a 53-47% win in 2008 while Bush carried the district both times.

As mentioned above, Bass first won his seat in 1994, but was defeated by ex-Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in 2006. Hodes won an easy 56-41 percent re-election in 2008. He then left the House for an unsuccessful 2010 Senate run, losing to freshman Kelly Ayotte (R) by a substantial 37-60 percent count.

As one can see, the district voting patterns became more Democratic as the decade progressed with the exception of 2010 when the whole state decidedly snapped back to the GOP. Will NH-2 continue to cast future votes more like liberal Vermont, which it borders, than generally conservative New Hampshire? The next election will provide the answer.

Rep. Bass, never known as a strong campaigner, has his work cut out for him. What might have been a major factor in his favor, redistricting, did not materialize. The state’s two congressional districts are only 254 people out of balance, so the 2011 New Hampshire map will be virtually identical to the present boundaries. An influx of new Republicans are likely needed for Bass and the GOP to hold this seat, but it’s clear such won’t happen.

For her part, 2010 nominee Kuster, who raised $2.5 million to Bass’ $1.2 million, is already running again. She should be a stronger candidate in 2012 because the Granite State presidential turnout model will likely be more Democratic than it was during the last election and she won’t have to fend off a tough September intra-party opponent as was the case in 2010.

Totaling all of the relevant factors suggest that Charlie Bass’ 2nd district may be the Democrats’ best national opportunity to defeat a House Republican incumbent. Though there is undeniably a long way to go before Election Day 2012, expect this race never to leave the toss-up category.
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Rep. Chaffetz Moving Closer to Utah Senate Run

It appears virtually certain that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) will challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for the Republican Senate nomination next year and officially announce his campaign after Labor Day. Chaffetz has been considering the race for months. It will be the second time that he attempts to unseat a Republican incumbent. In 2008, he defeated six-term Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT-3) to obtain the congressional district he currently represents.

The key to the race, as it was for Sen. Mike Lee when he defeated then-Sen. Bob Bennett during the 2010 GOP nominating process, is the state Republican convention. Utah is one of the few states where party convention voting can actually determine a nomination. If a candidate receives 60 percent of the delegate vote, then that candidate is officially nominated. Primaries can occur if two candidates, and only two, fall between 40 and 59 percent of convention balloting. Should that happen, then the two qualifying candidates move to the actual primary election.

The state convention delegates, who number approximately 3,500, are chosen at local county caucuses. It was at this level of the process where Sen. Bennett actually met his demise. Statistics show that an average of 30,000 people historically attend the local caucuses. In 2010, largely motivated by the anti-Bennett and Tea Party movement, more than 75,000 people participated. Once these county voters chose their state delegate slates, Bennett’s fate was sealed. He ended his career failing to even qualify for the primary ballot.

Sen. Hatch may be in a different position, mostly because he is learning from Bennett’s experience. He will have his own operation to turn out supporters for the county caucus meetings with the strategy of obtaining enough votes to force a primary. It is already clear that Chaffetz has the inside track to placing first at the state convention, but it is always difficult to obtain 60 percent in any voting universe. Hatch merely must reach 40 percent, which is a reasonable goal. Early polling suggests that the senator still enjoys strength in a primary voting situation, and he certainly is the superior fundraiser. Therefore, if Chaffetz is to wrest the nomination away from Hatch, he will almost certainly do so at the convention.
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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.

Giuliani and Perry Making Moves

While there has been much talk and presidential speculation surrounding former VP nominee Sarah Palin as her tour bus rumbles through the eastern countryside, it’s Rudy Giuliani and Texas Gov. Rick Perry who could be the individuals to watch, at least in the short term. Momentum clearly is building around Giuliani’s entering the race, particularly on the heels of last week’s CNN national Republican nomination poll (CNN/Opinion Research; May 24-28: Giuliani 16 percent; Mitt Romney 15 percent; Palin 13 percent; Ron Paul 12 percent; Herman Cain 10 percent; all others in single digits), which put New York City’s former mayor atop the GOP field. If Mr. Giuliani does run, watch him leap-frog Iowa in order to make a stand in New Hampshire. At least one thing is sure, however. He will avoid his disastrous 2008 strategy of skipping all the early states prior to Florida. If Giuliani runs, he will compete everywhere, post-Iowa.

Turning toward the Lone Star State of Texas, Perry also is apparently moving closer to becoming a presidential candidate. Reports from Austin indicate that soon Perry will be traveling to New York to address the Manhattan Club. The original event headliner? Donald Trump — but he cancelled upon deciding to bypass his own run for the presidency. Will Perry use this event to discuss his political future? Quite possibly, but the signs are unmistakable that he is actively exploring the national race.
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More Clarity to New Illinois Map has Republicans Feeling More Competitive

The Illinois legislature made some final changes to the base congressional map, such as putting Reps. Tim Johnson (R-IL-15) and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) back in separate districts instead of pairing them, and then sent the legislation on to Gov. Pat Quinn (D). Democrats will make substantial gains in the state but, now that the political numbers have become public, the Republicans feel they are more competitive.

Originally, some analysts believed the Democrats would change the 11R-8D map to 13D-5R. Illinois loses a seat in reapportionment, thus explaining the difference in the total number. Taking a careful look at the political performances in races other than the 2008 presidential contest show that Republicans could fare better, possibly confining their losses to a net of three or four seats instead of five.

More information is unfolding as incumbents and party officials make statements. Once the map is signed into law, expect the Republican Party to file a lawsuit, challenging the fact that only one Hispanic district was drawn. Hispanics are a greater population than African-Americans in the state (2.02 million to 1.87 million according to the 2010 census) yet, under this new map, they have only one seat (Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s 4th district) versus three for African-Americans (Districts 1-Bobby Rush, 2-Jesse Jackson, Jr., and 7-Danny Davis. Republicans will argue that the “packing” of Hispanics should void the map. They clearly believe the drawing of a second Hispanic seat will help them in surrounding areas.

Turning to the political data, combining the results of the 2008 presidential race (Barack Obama defeating John McCain) with the 2010 Senate (Republican Mark Kirk beating Democrat Alexi Giannoulias) and gubernatorial races (Gov. Quinn nipping state legislator Bill Brady), a better feel can be obtained for the new 18 districts.

The Obama race cuts both ways. First, it is legitimate to believe that the Democratic number skews high in this race because the president is, of course, Illinois’ native son and the state’s 2008 numbers were among his best in the country. On the other hand, he will be back on the ballot in 2012, so the Republican incumbents and challengers will have to overcome his presence while fighting in substantially new territory.

Taking all three aforementioned races into consideration does make Republican prospects appear a bit better. First, there are six seats where Democrats swept each of the 2008 and 2010 studied races. They are new districts 1 (Rush), 2 (Jackson), 4 (Gutierrez), 5 (Mike Quigley), 7 (Davis), and 9 (Jan Schakowsky). These Democratic incumbents are clearly safe, realistically for the balance of the ensuing decade.

One district gave the Democratic candidate two of three victories. Dan Lipinski in the IL-3 will represent a reliable Democratic district, but one in which a Republican could win under certain circumstances. Mark Kirk, in 2010, carried the district by a 48-46 percent margin. The average Republican vote extrapolated over the three studied races is 44.0 percent.

Another Democratic seat only turned in one D victory in the three races. The downstate 12th district of Rep. Jerry Costello actually yielded Republican victories in the Senate (51-43 percent) and governor’s (50-44 percent) races. The average Republican vote is 48.3 percent, suggesting that this race could become competitive in an open seat situation, but is likely safe for Costello since 93 percent of the territory is from his old 12th CD.

Two seats are strongly Republican. The new 15th district that houses Rep. John Shimkus, is the most solid GOP seat in the state, scoring an average of 63.0 percent in the three races. Rep. Aaron Schock’s18th CD registers 62.7 percent.

Seven seats saw Republicans winning two of the three studied campaigns, with the president carrying the district in every case. Three of these districts, however, show the Republican average as dropping below 50 percent. The new open 8th CD is likely to go Democratic in an incumbent-less race. The GOP average there is 45.3 percent. The new 11th CD, where Rep. Judy Biggert would likely run, but is already being opposed by former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), turns in a 44.3 percent average Republican vote. And, in the Quad Cities region, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling only sees an average Republican vote of 48.7 percent, but the seat is culturally more conservative than this partisan voting history suggests. In a re-match with defeated Rep. Phil Hare (D), Schilling would have a fighting chance to survive.

Rep. Peter Roskam’s 6th district appears favorable for him with an average Republican vote of 55.7 percent. Three potential pairings exist for the GOP, which is their biggest problem. Rep. Tim Johnson could challenge Shimkus in the new 15th, or run for re-election in the new 13th, where is house now resides. IL-13 is still majority Republican, but certainly not as strong as District 15. It is likely that Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh will square off in new District 14, with Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger doing battle in the new 16th. Both latter districts produce an average 55.7 percent Republican vote.

Now that the political numbers are becoming known, it appears the Democrats can count seven wins in their column with three more seats leaning their way. The Republicans appear solid in five with one more leaning toward their party. Two seats figure to be toss-ups. Should the Democrats sweep the state in 2012, then a 12D-6R party division is the likely outcome. If Republicans rebound, then a 10D-8R final score is in the realm of possibility.
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Former Illinois Rep. Foster Coming Back

The “send” button had been barely pushed releasing the new Illinois congressional district map, and former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), defeated in 2010 for re-election by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R), 45-51 percent, says he will run again next year in the newly created 11th district. No present incumbent currently resides in the proposed IL-11 and the inclusion of the city of Aurora gives Foster a base in the new territory. The seat is designed as a Democratic gain.

From Aurora, a western Chicago suburb, the new district meanders eastward to pick up the city of Naperville and then darts even further east, closer to south Chicago. It then juts south all the way to annex the city of Joliet. The current 11th, represented by freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is spilt into no less than eight districts.

Mr. Foster, however, will not likely win the new 11th without a fight. Wealthy insurance executive John Atkinson (D), who had already signaled his intention to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) because he believes the Congressman does not work closely enough with President Obama, now finds his home in the new open seat. Atkinson did not give a firm indication of where he might run, but clearly the Democratic legislative leaders want to avoid the intra-party challenge.

The current Illinois delegation count stands at 11R-8D. In losing a seat in reapportionment, early analyses show that Democrats could come away with a maximum 13-5 split under the new lines, as most of the Republican incumbents find themselves placed in districts with a GOP colleague or more. The map is expected to sail through the legislature and be signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn (D).
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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.