Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Special Election Open to All in Nevada’s 2nd District

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D), after conferring with legal personnel in Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) office, ruled that the state’s special election law does not give exclusive candidate nomination authority to the state political central committees, as at least the Republican Party had contended. Rather, Miller said in a news conference yesterday, the process will be open to all potential candidates.

With Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) scheduling the NV-2 special election for Sept. 13 after appointing Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) to succeed Sen. John Ensign (R), who officially leaves office today, the Nevada congressional replacement system becomes similar to that of Hawaii – that is, all candidates will appear on the same ballot in one winner-take-all election. This will be the first special congressional election in Nevada’s history, hence the confusion over the law. The race will be conducted under the 2001 Nevada congressional map. The winner will serve what will be the final 15 months of the unexpired term in the current Congress.

The ruling has two clear winners. Sharron Angle, the 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee and former NV-2 candidate (who lost the 2006 GOP primary to Heller by 421 votes), will now likely run in the special election. It was clear that the state Republican Party would not have chosen her as the official party standard bearer, if they had the power to choose a nominee. The Democratic Party benefits under this ruling because coalescing Democratic votes around one strong candidate, like state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who confirms she is running, could allow them to steal the seat with a small plurality since majority Republicans are likely to split their votes among many candidates. This possibility is exacerbated with Angle in the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Republican chair Mark Amodei are other potential GOP candidates.

The Nevada Republican Party is threatening a lawsuit over Miller’s ruling, but it will be difficult for them to prevail in court. It is hard to see how a judge will overturn an administrative decision that opens an electoral process to all people. The filing period is scheduled for May 23-25. Miller says all legal challenges must be decided by July 15 for his office to have the necessary time to conduct the Sept. 13 election.
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Special Election Tightens in NY’s 26th

The Republicans have had a poor run in upstate New York special elections during the past election cycle, and the new one being held later this month (May 24th) has just returned closer-than-expected results in the first public poll. Siena College (April 26-27; 484 likely NY-26 special election voters), located north of Albany, NY, and which conducts political polling on a regular basis, shows Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin with only a 5-point lead over Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul (36-31% percent. But, the bigger story is the performance of Independent Jack Davis who captures 23 percent. Davis is running under the misleading party label that he simply lists as “Tea.”

Jack Davis is a wealthy businessman who has run for Congress three times as a Democrat. He started campaigning in 2004 when he held incumbent Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY-26) to a 49-39 percent win. He tried again in 2006 and scored his best performance, coming within four points of Reynolds, 48-52 percent, and hastening the congressman’s decision not to seek re-election in 2008. With a contested Democratic Party fight for the open seat primary, Davis lost badly in a multi-candidate race to attorney Alice Kryzan, who subsequently failed in the general election as businessman Christopher Lee won the seat.

It may be Davis’ victory in the courtroom that best defines his political career, however. The frequent candidate challenged the so-called “millionaires’ amendment” in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, and was victorious in removing the provision from the federal statute. The millionaires’ amendment allowed a candidate to raise contributions in amounts triple the federal individual limits if a congressional race opponent spent $350,000 of his or her own money. Davis, a multi-millionaire who has spent a total of $7.43 million in personal funds over his three campaigns, argued that such an amendment is unconstitutional. The courts agreed.

Now in a special election after Rep. Lee resigned to avoid making public a personal scandal and knowing that he would never be chosen by Democratic Party leaders as their nominee, Davis entered the race via petition signature as an Independent. In New York, an Independent can describe themselves with a label on the ballot, and Davis chose the word “Tea.” Obviously, this was done to make him an attractive option to Tea Party voters, a group that could make a difference in a special election for this district. His move is disingenuous, however, since Davis has run from the left in his previous campaigns.

Vowing to avoid the divisiveness that cost the party dearly in the previous special elections, the Republicans and Conservatives both endorsed Assemblywoman Corwin even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) officially scheduled the special election. But now Davis is apparently causing another dicey three-way race.

Can Jack Davis confuse enough voters with his “Tea” label to bring Jane Corwin down? While his better-than-expected showing in the first poll is certainly a nuisance to, and will undoubtedly cause a strategy shift for Corwin, enough time remains to dispel his candidacy and unite the right-of-center base. Assemblywoman Corwin is still in the driver’s seat for the May 24th special election and she remains the favorite to hold this seat in the Republican column.
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Thaddeus McCotter – The Unconventional Candidate

In recent days Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) has experienced something of a boomlet in terms of media coverage. Propelled by the admiration of Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox News’ late night comedy show, “Redeye with Greg Gutfeld”, and a New York Daily News profile of the lanky Michigan lawmaker, McCotter is raising Republican eyebrows with a disarming manner and an unconventional approach to political popularity. The recent Daily News piece by conservative columnist S.E. Cupp goes so far as to suggest McCotter as a dark horse candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

Gutfeld has called attention to McCotter’s keen wit and unflinchingly populist brand of conservatism on his show. McCotter’s atypical approach to his job as a member of Congress includes playing in a rock band, having posters of John Lennon and The Pogues decorate the walls of his office and lacing his conversations with historical, cultural and comic references that even comedian Dennis Miller, a McCotter friend, might find obscure.

While the five-term Representative just recently drove himself from his working class suburb of Detroit to a conservative political conference in Des Moines to speak and sell copies of his recently released book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age,” don’t mistake his jaunt to Iowa as a prelude to a fledgling presidential campaign. The chances of him announcing the formation of a 2012 national exploratory committee are highly remote.

What appears more possible is the Republican Party turning to McCotter as a candidate to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow in her 2012 reelection campaign. With the Senate majority hanging in abeyance, the GOP has so far fallen short in recruiting strong candidates in Ohio (against first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown) and Michigan. It will be difficult for the party to re-claim firm Senate control if they concede these two important Midwest states, places where their candidates performed very well in 2010.

With a new GOP governor, a majority in both houses of the state legislature, and Michigan losing a House seat in reapportionment as a result of its declining population, Michigan Republican congressmen are hopeful that their new district lines will cement their recent electoral gains and their considerable power as a delegation within the GOP majority committee structure. Therefore, most of the members would risk much in attempting to become a freshman Senator.

Stabenow’s job approval rating continues to hover in the mid-40s in most polls, and Michigan’s unemployment rate is still far worse than the national average, complicating the task of any incumbent running for re-election. Although Pres. Barack Obama will head the Democratic ticket in November 2012, and although he carried Michigan easily three years ago, the lingering recession and Stabenow’s lackluster job approval numbers certainly could cast doubt upon her easy re-election.

As of this year’s first quarter filing with the FEC, McCotter reports more than $478,000 cash on hand while Stabenow’s disclosure shows a much more robust $3.034 million. If McCotter decides to run against Stabenow, however, his financial capacity would soar and the subsequent campaign would be anything but conventional. The stylistic differences between the two candidates and Michigan’s still-troubled economic circumstances would likely make a Stabenow-McCotter race one of the more interesting and talked about campaigns in all of America.
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Heller has Narrow Lead in Nevada

Public Policy Polling (April 21-24; 491 registered NV voters), surveying the Nevada electorate at the exact time Sen. John Ensign (R) announced he would resign his seat in early May, finds Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) leading fellow Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) 47-43 percent. Heller is the man most believe Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) will appoint to replace Ensign, thus providing him with incumbent status before the 2012 election. When answering whether the respondents would favor holding a special election to replace the senator or having Gov. Sandoval appoint an interim office holder as current law dictates, by a margin of 53-44 percent, the group prefers the election option.

The 4-point Heller lead over Berkley is a net 9-point improvement for the Democrats since the last PPP was conducted. In early January, Heller held a 51-38 percent edge over Berkley, who was, at that time, not an announced Senatorial candidate. The small 4-point edge is also a bit of a surprise when seeing both candidates’ favorability ratings. Heller scores a 43:29 percent favorable to unfavorable personal image response, while Berkley registers a less impressive 34:31 percent. Should Heller be appointed to the Senate, the polling data will undoubtedly change, perhaps drastically, over the course of the 17 months remaining before the next election, but it is unclear as to what extent. Therefore, we can again expect another very difficult Nevada campaign for both participants.
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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.

Presidential Mathematics

In the past few days, developments have occurred that help define the Republican presidential field of candidates. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, after giving every indication he was beginning to build a bona-fide presidential campaign apparatus, now says he won’t run. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is forming a presidential exploratory committee, meaning his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), will not become a candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now traveling to New Hampshire on a regular basis, says he will run if he doesn’t believe that another Republican candidate could actually defeat Pres. Barack Obama in a general election.

We still must hear definitively from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom may not enter the race, and Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all of whom either will, or probably will, run.

Looking at the delegate counts and apportionment systems that each state employs uncovers a road map to victory for one of the eventual candidates. Eleven states are winner-take-all (of Republican delegates) and another nine are winner-take-all by congressional district. These states proved key to Sen. John McCain’s come-from-behind victory in 2008. Remember, the McCain candidacy had been given up for dead until the actual voting began. His close wins in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, and Arizona (though the margin between McCain and the other candidates wasn’t particularly close in his home state, he still managed to garner only 47 percent of the vote within his own Arizona party base) gave him such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it soon became obvious no one could catch him.

Interestingly, despite his under-the-radar approach to the 2012 campaign, the delegate-rich states stack up pretty well in former Mayor Giuliani’s favor, considering his home base of New York (101 delegates) and New Jersey (53), are in the winner-take-all category. Connecticut (28), the District of Columbia (19), Delaware (17), and Vermont (17) are all other places the ex-NYC chief executive could win. Maryland (37 delegates), another Giuliani potential, is in the winner-take-all by congressional district category. The big states of California (172) and Florida (93) are also there, as are Ohio (72) and Wisconsin (42).

All totaled, the winner-take-all and the winner-take-all by congressional district states contain 1,096 delegates of the grand total of 2,422 that form the Republican National Convention. This means 45.2 percent of all delegates will be chosen in either winner-take-all or winner-take-all by CD states. The remainder are in caucus, proportional systems, or hybrids like Louisiana (48 delegates) where both a primary and caucus are used.

The winner-take-all by congressional district awards a candidate a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote (usually their base 10 delegates that all states receive, and whatever extra and bonus votes they earn for electing Republican candidates to office) and another three delegates for every congressional district won. This system is interesting because some congressional districts in places like Los Angeles, where Republicans routinely receive well less than 30 percent of the vote are of equal stature to the strongest of GOP districts in terms of delegate allocation for the Republican presidential primary. While it is unlikely that any one candidate would win all of the delegates in a winner-take-all by CD state, it is possible for an individual to snare the vast majority, which matters greatly in the national vote count.

Whether Rudy Giuliani comes back from political oblivion to stake his comeback on a winner-take-all state strategy is unclear right now. What is evident, however, is that the person carrying the preponderance of these winner-take-all states and districts will almost assuredly win the 2012 Republican nomination and become Obama’s future general election opponent.

Winner-Take-All States
• Arizona – 54 delegates
• Connecticut – 28
• Delaware – 17
• District of Columbia – 19
• Missouri – 56
• Montana – 26
• New Jersey – 53
• New York – 101
• Utah – 36
• Vermont – 17
• Virginia – 49

Winner Take All by Congressional District
• California – 172 delegates
• Florida – 93
• Georgia – 72
• Maryland – 37
• Michigan – 62
• Ohio – 72
• Oklahoma – 43
• South Carolina – 47
• Wisconsin – 42

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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.