Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Deja Vu All Over Again in New York’s 26th?

The Republicans had a difficult 2010 special election cycle in upstate New York, losing two political contests after beginning as clear favorites. According to Public Policy Polling (May 5-8; 1,048 likely NY-26 special election voters via automated calls) history may yet again repeat itself as Democrat Kathy Hochul has taken a 35-31-24 percent lead over Republican Jane Corwin and Independent Jack Davis.

Mr. Davis, who has unsuccessfully run for Congress three previous times as a Democrat and is responsible for the successful lawsuit against the federal government that overturned the “millionaire’s amendment,” originally part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, is becoming the focal point of this campaign. In New York, Independents have the ability to label themselves on the ballot and Davis chose the word “Tea,” even though he has no association with the New York Tea Party and has always run his previous campaigns from the left. Ms. Corwin is not only attempting to create a clear contrast between herself and Hochul, but must also peel off Republican votes that, to a small but significant degree, are going to Davis. The wealthy Independent has been blanketing the airwaves with ads condemning both parties and “business as usual” in Washington, a viewpoint that certainly attracts many who agree.

Can Corwin, originally viewed as a prohibitive favorite, successfully fight her two-front political war? Will another New York special election again slip through the Republicans’ fingers? The next two weeks will determine the outcome, as Election Day is May 24.
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The Ins and Outs of Candidates

A snapshot look at who’s in and who’s out:

IN
Indiana – Donnelly:
Authoritative reports say that Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) will announce his candidacy for the United States Senate today. The move does not come as a surprise, since the new redistricting map gives Donnelly a very marginal congressional seat. Because he won by only a single percentage point in the last election (48-47 percent) in a better district for him, Mr. Donnelly’s decision to run statewide became predictable.

Donnelly will face Sen. Richard Lugar (R) who, at 79 years old, is running for a seventh six-year term. The congressman is banking on the fact that Lugar may have trouble in the Republican primary as the veteran senator has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate the Tea Party wing of the GOP electorate. Already, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock is challenging Mr. Lugar for the party nomination, but the challenger’s lackluster fundraising so far seems to diminish what were higher expectations for an upset. Even if the Lugar primary contest becomes moderately close, Donnelly may be the beneficiary. Though Sen. Lugar is rated as the favorite for both the primary and general election – he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent in 2006 – this will likely be a competitive race all the way through the November general election.

Turning to the House, Republicans would begin as slight favorites to capture Donnelly’s vacated IN-2 district, particularly when considering the recent re-draw that was just enacted into law. Still, Pres. Barack Obama received 49 percent of the vote under the new boundaries so, despite being eight points better for Republicans, the 2nd is marginal in nature and both parties can win here. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to the one-point victory in 2010, has already said she will run again. Walorski must be considered the early favorite to convert this seat for the Republicans.

OUT
Nevada – Krolicki:
Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), who most believed would enter the special congressional election to replace now-Sen. Dean Heller (R), announced that he will not run. Krolicki entering the race would have set up a tough jungle-ballot campaign with 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle (R) and at least one Democrat, state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) ruled last week that the jungle-ballot system, where all candidates compete with each other and the person garnering the most votes, regardless of percentage, is elected outright, will be utilized for the Sept. 13 special election. With Angle, Krolicki, and possibly several others diluting the Republican vote, it is was judged that the Democrats, in the person of Marshall, could slip through and steal what should be a Republican seat in the jungle format. Without Krolicki competing, Angle now stands a better chance of finishing first, but in a multi-candidate race anything can still happen. The special election will be conducted in the current NV-2, drawn in the 2001 redistricting plan, but the 2012 full-term battle will be held in what is likely to be a vastly different 2nd district.

Michigan – Land: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said over the weekend that she will not challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year. Despite Stabenow being viewed as vulnerable, though recent polling places her in an improved position against potential GOP candidates, no strong Republican has yet to come forth to declare a Senate candidacy. Ex-Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2), who placed second in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary and was polling best against Sen. Stabenow, took himself out of consideration two weeks ago.

It is unlikely any member of the congressional delegation will run, though Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) now seems to be the most logical congressman to consider a Senate race. Deciding not to seek re-election as House Republican Policy Chairman after two terms, McCotter would have a largely unencumbered opportunity to run statewide in 2012.
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Campaign 2012 Officially Begins

Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party co-hosted a candidates’ debate last night at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., that surprisingly served as the official kick-off event for the 2012 presidential campaign. Though it was somewhat of a non-event because the candidates most pundits would describe as being first-tier were not in attendance, the so-called second-tier group did nothing to discourage their supporters and actually managed to motivate the audience on several occasions.

Of the five participants, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) repeatedly brought the crowd to cheers, particularly so when he answered a question about heroine legalization by saying ” … how many people here would do heroin if it was legal? I bet no one would, so why do we need the government to protect us?” The others who participated in the debate were businessman Herman Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

No one bungled a question but none of the participants particularly distinguished themselves either, with the exception of Dr. Paul on several questions and Mr. Cain in the final minutes of the debate. It is also probable that the eventual Republican presidential nominee was not part of this forum, but it is difficult to project just who that Republican winner will actually be, since all of the candidates are closely bunched. Polling shows no clear front-runner or individual capturing more than 20 percent support. Therefore, this may be the most wide-open campaign we have seen in the modern campaign era.

All of the contenders seemed to understand the key fundamental in contrasting themselves with Pres. Barack Obama, especially in light of the Osama bin Laden assassination. All of the candidates gave Obama due praise for his handling of the bin Laden mission, but then quickly pivoted to what they believe are the president’s shortcomings in his managing of the domestic agenda.

Though it is clear Mr. Obama has scored major political points for his action overseas and probably wouldn’t be defeated by anyone if the election were tomorrow, we don’t have to go too far back in history to prompt our memories and recall that foreign affairs victories are often short-lived and quickly crumble in significance when compared to the state of the domestic economy.

Two clear examples of this phenomenon occurred in 1945 and 1992:
• Winston Churchill, whose British Conservative Party was turned out of office in landslide proportions after successfully declaring a clear and stunning victory in World War II just a scant two months earlier.
• George H.W. Bush, who enjoyed 90% approval ratings after successfully guiding America in the Gulf War, only to lose his re-election just 10 months later, capturing a mere 37.5 percent of the national popular vote.

These results clearly show us that economics fundamentally trump foreign affairs.

For the Republicans to get back into the game against the president they will have to focus on the economy as the sole issue of the campaign and drive home their messages about the national deficit and debt, high food and gas prices, and the lack of job creation. It appeared that the five Republicans participating in last night’s debate fully understood this principle, but they and the other candidates have a very long way to go in a short time if the 2012 election is to become legitimately competitive anytime soon.
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Rep. Giffords Leads in New Ariz. Senate Poll

Public Policy Polling (April 28-May 1; 623 registered Arizona voters) surveyed the Arizona electorate and found Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), who is still recovering from the senseless Jan. 8 shooting that severely wounded her, to be leading the top Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Phoenix area Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6), by a 48-41 percent count. She would top former congressman and 2010 Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth (R) by an even more substantial 57-31 percent.

Terry Goddard, the Democratic former attorney general who lost to Jan Brewer (R) in the 2010 governor’s race, pulls even with Flake (45-45 percent), and would defeat Hayworth 51-33 percent. Mr. Flake would easily defeat Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (47-33 percent) and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) 46-34 percent. None of the Democrats tested have announced their candidacies. It is unclear when Rep. Giffords will have the ability to make any decisions regarding her immediate political future. Rep. Flake is the only official Republican contender. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring.

Interestingly, of all the aforementioned potential candidates, only Giffords (57:17 percent) and Goddard (43:36 percent) have favorable images. All of the others register negatives that exceed their positive scores. Former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was also included in this poll under the absurd idea that the former Alaska governor and current Last Frontier State resident would run for the Senate in Arizona. Not surprisingly, Palin performs very poorly on all questions under this ill-conceived polling scenario.
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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.

Canadian Election Results: A Clear Conservative Victory

The neighboring Canadian election attracted little in the way of American media attention during its short campaign cycle, — in fact much less than the 2010 British vote. But when the votes were counted Monday night, the ruling Conservative Party had scored an impressive victory. The final tally also handed the once dominant Liberal Party its worst defeat in modern history.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party attained the majority government they had sought while campaigning across Canada for the past month. Harper’s party won a total of 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, 12 more than the 155 needed to secure majority status. The Conservative Party has now bested the opposition in three consecutive elections since 2006, but yesterday’s vote gave Harper his first outright Parliamentary majority. The victory brought the party full circle from its disastrous 1993 defeat under then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell who nearly drove the Progressive Conservative Party, as it was then known, to extinction, as they lost all but two seats.

For the first time in Canadian history, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), led by career politician Jack Layton, will be the official opposition to Harper’s government. The NDP managed to capture 102 seats in yesterday’s election, an all-time high for this particular party. The new opposition owes much of its electoral success to the collapse of Liberal Party support and the effervescent performance of leader Layton in the nationally televised pre-election debates. The Layton phenomenon was similar to that of Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg during the 2010 elections in the United Kingdom. Clegg, like Layton in Canada, captured the electorate’s attention, but the Canadian was actually able to transform his political juggernaut into seats in Parliament. Despite finishing a close third in the British national popular vote, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats won only 57 of 650 seats.

The NDP now supplants the Liberal Party, which has either been the governing entity or official opposition since Canada’s confederation in 1867. Michael Ignatieff, the former Harvard professor-turned Liberal Party leader, led the Liberals to their worst defeat ever losing 43 seats, including his own Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding in Toronto. The Liberal Party now holds just 34 seats in the House, having been decimated in the party’s stronghold, the Province of Ontario. Ignatieff struck a defiant and slightly bitter tone in the hours after his defeat and originally did not rule out remaining as the Liberal leader even though many party regulars demanded his ouster. However, later in the day he finally did resign and said he was leaving Canadian politics with his head held high.

The Bloc Quebecois was almost a non-factor in yesterday’s election, losing all but four of the 47 seats they held in the last Parliament. The 43 seat decline matches the size of the Liberal Party’s demise. Gilles Duceppe, resigned as the Bloc’s leader immediately after the result became clear including the loss of his own Laurier-Sainte Marie riding, previously a Bloc stronghold.

The Green Party won its first and only seat in the Canada’s House of Commons yesterday as Elizabeth May was victorious in the British Columbia riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Mr. Harper will now be asked by the Governor General to form a new government with a Conservative majority. He already has five years of experience as Canada’s Prime Minister, but with fairly weak center-left opposition. It will be interesting to see how the House responds to an energetic but more radically liberal opposition as his foil, and how relations change with the Obama Administration in the U.S.
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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.