Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New Polling Shows Interesting Results in Montana, Conn., W.Va.

Three pollsters released a trio of different polls yesterday, all in races of note.

Montana: Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed the Montana electorate (March 14-16; 625 registered Montana voters) for the Lee Newspaper chain and found Sen. Jon Tester (D) to be in a dead heat with at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in the 2012 Senatorial race. The senator clung to a one-point 46-45 percent lead over his future GOP opponent. Tester received 94 percent support from Democrats compared to Rehberg’s 89 percent among Republicans. Independents broke 49-37 percent for the incumbent. Among men, Rehberg held a 53-40 percent advantage; Tester led 51-38 percent among female respondents.

Montana probably will support the Republican presidential nominee against Pres. Barack Obama, though the latter performed well here in 2008. John McCain managed to carry the state by a razor-thin 49-47 percent margin, but Obama led here during most of the ’08 presidential campaign. Assuming an improved Republican performance, Rehberg could get a slight bounce from the presidential race. The strong union presence in Montana, however, could prove to be a counter-balance in Tester’s favor. Union workers are likely to be highly energized due to the collective bargaining controversies happening in several states, which should provide positive synergy for Tester. Thus, the 2012 Montana Senate race will be a difficult campaign for both men. Count on the Tester-Rehberg race to be in toss-up mode all the way to the general election.

Connecticut: Public Policy Polling (March 17-20; 400 Connecticut registered self-identifying Democratic voters), for the Daily Kos national liberal blog, shows a very tight Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary between Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. The eventual Democratic winner will have the inside track to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. According to PPP, Murphy leads Bysiewicz 40-38 percent. The congressman has a favorability index of 51:14 percent positive to negative; Bysiewicz is not quite as strong, scoring 45:27 percent.

In a general election match-up, tested from an enlarged sample of 822 registered Connecticut voters, Democrats win every pairing against well-known GOP potential contenders. The Republicans’ best ballot test featured former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2). He pulled to within 39-42 percent of Bysiewicz and 34-49 percent against Murphy. The Democrats perform much better against every other tested Republican.

West Virginia: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted a study for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates running in West Virginia’s May 14 special primary election. According to this data (March 10-15; 400 registered West Virginia Democratic voters), Tennant has a reasonable chance of denying acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin the Democratic nomination. Tomblin leads Tennant 31-27 percent within the at-large sample but, among respondents who know both individuals, Tennant scores a 34-31 percent advantage. State Treasurer John Perdue follows the leaders with 14 percent; state House Speaker Rick Thompson, who was just recently endorsed by some of West Virginia’s most powerful labor unions, and state Senate President Jeff Kessler each receive 5 percent.

The winner of the May 14 primary will face a Republican nominee in the Oct. 4 special election. The next governor will only serve through next year, but is eligible to run for a full four-year term when the position comes up for regular election in November of 2012. The state house became vacant when then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). Manchin, too, will run for a full six-year Senatorial term in the next regular general election, as the 2010 special election was only for the balance of the existing term. With a long May-October special general cycle, it is clear that anything can happen in what promises to be an exciting governor’s race.
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Pawlenty Announces Exploratory Committee

As expected, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced the establishment of a presidential exploratory committee yesterday, via Facebook video. Mr. Pawlenty, not surprisingly for a candidate trying to positively position himself in the national Republican nomination process, struck a conservative, limited government theme throughout his 1:55 minute address. He pledged to “grow jobs, limit government spending, and tackle entitlements” before committing to “encourage the dreamers, innovators, and the hard workers.”

Tim Pawlenty served as governor from 2003-2011, choosing not to run for a third term, even though he was eligible to do so. He was widely reported to have been on John McCain’s short list for vice president in 2008, when Sarah Palin ultimately was chosen instead. Though twice winning his statewide position, he never came close to scoring a majority of the Minnesota vote. He was re-elected in 2006 on a 47-46% count, a margin of just 22,483 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, defeating then-Attorney General Mike Hatch (D). In 2002, he won a three-way race scoring 44% of the vote against Democrat Roger Moe (36%) and ex-Rep. Tim Penny (16%), who ran as an Independent.

Coming from the upper Midwest should be a plus for Pawlenty in the Iowa Caucuses, the nation’s first official presidential selection event. Typically, as we have seen with Pres. Barack Obama (Illinois), former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (Missouri), and ex-Sen and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (Kansas), all who carried the Hawkeye State at least once, Iowans tend to support candidates from their geographic region. The former Minnesota governor is clearly a dark horse candidate for president, but may have the ability to strike the right chord before an electorate looking for a viable alternative to Mr. Obama. Watch for Pawlenty to fight hard in Iowa. An upset win there could quickly catapult him into the first tier of candidates, thus becoming a factor the rest of the way.
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Special Election Candidates Set in NY-26

Upstate New York Democratic Party county chairmen, in action taken just last night, officially nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to carry the party banner in the special congressional election now scheduled for May 24. The seat was vacated when second-term Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned earlier in the year. Erie County has the largest block of registered voters (149,643) in its portion of the 26th congressional district. Seven full and partial counties comprise the seat.

The Republicans nominated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in late February, giving her a head start in constructing a campaign organization in a district that normally votes for GOP candidates. The 26th, along with Rep. Peter King’s 3rd district, gave John McCain his strongest performance in any New York CD (52%). By contrast, Pres. Barack Obama posted a 62-36% victory statewide.

In recent days, both the New York Conservative and Independence parties have cross-endorsed Corwin. This should give her the necessary right-of-center support to avoid splitting the electorate. The Green Party, now with an official ballot line in New York after posting more than 50,000 votes for their 2010 gubernatorial candidate, did not endorse the Democratic nominee, now Hochul. Rather, the Greens have their own special election candidate, Ian Murphy, who is likely to draw away critical votes from the Democrat, thus further reducing Hochul’s chances of winning.

Jack Davis, the multi-millionaire who sued the federal government over the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold law and successfully overturned the provision in one of his two previous congressional runs, filed as an independent under his own “Tea” label, though he is not part of the actual Tea Party movement. David Bellavia, carrying the Federalist Party label, is the fifth contender and the more genuine Tea Party activist. Davis and Bellavia are independents, but can identify themselves under a party name.

The GOP holds a 241-192 margin in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Retaining the New York seat is important in order to maintain their current House margin. Additionally, with the Empire State losing two seats in
apportionment, the GOP must keep as many seats in the congressional delegation as possible, particularly if the legislative redistricting process cannot produce a final map without going to court. Today, Democrats dominate the New York congressional contingent, 21-7, with the one Republican vacancy.

Now that the Democrats have nominated a candidate, the New York special election campaign is officially underway. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Assemblywoman Corwin should have a relatively easy road to Congress. Rate this seat as “Likely Republican.”
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Angle Running for Congress

A day after Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) announced he will run for the Senate in 2012, two major Nevada Republicans moved toward mounting a congressional race to replace him. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) said he would not challenge Heller for the GOP Senate nomination, but would seriously consider running for the now open 2nd congressional district. Sharron Angle, a former state assemblywoman who became the Republican senatorial nominee in 2010 and lost to Heller in the ’06 Republican congressional primary (by only 421 votes), went further and officially announced her congressional candidacy.

Right now, NV-2 touches all of the Silver State’s 17 counties and must shed 161,424 inhabitants. While all three of Nevada’s current CDs encompass at least some part of Clark County, such will not be the case on the new map and it is likely the 2nd will be removed. At a population of 1.95 million people, Clark County will house just about three full congressional districts. This means the rural 2nd will have Reno/Carson City as its sole population anchor, a place where Angle runs particularly well. Also in the congressional race is Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei and retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold. There is no official Democratic movement on this race, but state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D) is confirming that she is considering running.

NV-2 was designed as a Republican seat in 2001 but has become marginal. George W. Bush scored 57% there in both of his elections, but John McCain carried it by only a few votes in 2008. Heller originally won 50-45%. Expect the 2011 version of the district to be more Republican. With Angle in the race, this will be a campaign to watch.
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Calif. Special Election Called; Ron Klein, Dean Heller In

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has called the special election to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) who resigned at the end of February. The “jungle” primary will be held on May 17 with the general election, if necessary, on July 12. This will be the first test of California’s new election law that allows members of the same party to square-off in a general election. Before, the top vote-getter from each party qualified for the main election. In a special vote, a run-off election is only required if no candidate receives an absolute majority.

In the CA-36 situation, the run-off is a virtual certainty. The two top Democrats, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, are the favorites to qualify for the special general. Republicans are fielding several candidates, but Hahn and Bowen have the name familiarity to punch through a crowded field. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so it would be surprising to see anyone but the two most well-known Dems qualify for the run-off election. The nation’s other special congressional election, with nominees chosen by party caucus, is in NY-26, and will be held May 24. Republicans, in the person of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, are likely to hold this position.

In Florida, it appears that defeated Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL-22) will not seek a re-match with Rep. Allen West (R), as reports are surfacing that Klein will soon announce the acceptance of a lobbying firm position. Klein was first elected in 2006, defeating then-Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R). He was subsequently re-elected in 2008, beating West, but went down 46-54% in the re-match. This south Florida district will be drastically reconfigured in redistricting. The GOP map drawers will need to give West an influx of Republicans since his seat is marginal. It is the only congressional district held by a Republican in both 2004 and 2000, in which President George W. Bush did not perform better. It’s long, craggy north to south design from West Palm Beach into greater Broward County will likely be re-set into a more traditional layout.

In Nevada, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) made official his plan to run for Sen. John Ensign’s (R) open seat. Heller will be the favorite for the Republican nomination. No Democrat has yet stepped forward to announce his or her candidacy, but Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will make her decision about a Senate race by early summer. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller are waiting for the congresswoman to make a decision, but could find themselves entering the race. With Nevada becoming an ever more marginal state and Pres. Obama on the general election ballot in a place he carried 55-43% in 2008, the eventual Democratic nominee will be highly competitive.

Heller vacating the 2nd district, currently a decidedly Republican district that touches all 17 of the state’s counties, will mean a free-for-all occurs in the succeeding primary. Already GOP state chairman Mark Amodei, a former state senator who briefly ran for US Senate in early 2010 before dropping out, says he will run for Congress. Sharron Angle, who became the GOP Senatorial nominee against Majority Leader Harry Reid because of strong Tea Party support, could run here, or against Heller statewide. Angle lost a close congressional primary to Heller back in 2006 before running for Senate in 2010. Depending upon the shape of the re-draw, former Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV-3) is also someone who could jump into such a crowded primary with the ability to do well.

Democrats could find themselves in a similar position if Berkley vacates the safe, Las Vegas-based 1st district. Expect a major Democratic primary there if she decides to run statewide, which could be one reason Masto and Miller are both waiting to see what she does. If districts 1 and 2 are open, and with the state gaining a 4th district, Nevada could see three open seat congressional campaigns next year. Adding the fact that Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd district already has over 1 million inhabitants, the entire Nevada congressional map could easily be re-crafted.

The Silver State is very important in national redistricting and could become even more if the multiple vacancies actually occur.
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