Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New Jersey Redistricting: Likely Up First

Because New Jersey, Virginia, and Mississippi all have 2011 legislative elections, they will soon receive the new block data from the US Census Bureau, and be the first to do so. Once revealed, the people charged with drawing the political maps can begin implementing their tasks.

New Jersey draws its districts by special commission. Five Democrats and five Republicans are chosen by various individuals and entities to serve. If the ten members deadlock, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice is charged with appointing a tie-breaking individual. Twenty years ago, the last time reapportionment reduced the Garden State’s congressional delegation (in 2012, the state will drop from 13 to 12 seats), the commission drew six Democratic districts, six Republican seats, and paired a Democrat and a Republican into a marginal district in the middle of the state. It’s possible a similar blueprint could be utilized again.

The Hill Newspaper ran a story yesterday suggesting that Reps. Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7) may be the members on the cutting block because they have the least seniority in the delegation. Though nothing will be certain until the actual census block data is available, eliminating the Runyan district, in particular, may be easier said than done.

Redistricting is much different from normal politics, because member seniority and committee assignments matter far less than if a particular district is in a corner of the state or center, and whether or not its region is growing or contracting. Based upon the mid-decade Census reports, it appears that the area closer to New York is the part of New Jersey declining in population, not the southern portion of the state. Thus, a district like Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 11th, bounded on all sides by other districts, and Rep. Scott Garrett’s boomerang-shaped 5th district at the top of the state might be tempting candidates for pairing with a neighboring member. Among Democrats, Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ-6) might be easier to collapse into a district with a Republican incumbent.

Looking at the southern portion of the state, assuming inhabitant numbers have kept pace, Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ-1) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) appear to be in the best position. Andrews represents the Democratic stronghold of Camden, which is bordered on the west by Pennsylvania. This means the only choices in moving this district are to expand north, south, or east. Because the Camden-based district is already compact and contains a definable community of interest, it would be difficult to eliminate this particular seat. LoBiondo’s district borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Maryland to its south. To the west is the Andrews seat, so the only real option is to move District 2 north. This would take him into Runyan’s 3rd district, which is an east to west district that borders both Pennsylvania and the Atlantic Ocean. Rep. Chris Smith’s 4th district is to the north, thus completing NJ’s central-south sector. It is very likely that enough population will still exist to feed all four seats, thus keeping them all.

Though New Jersey is not a Voting Rights State, look for the commission to keep in tact Rep. Chris Smith’s (D-NJ-10) African American-based seat in the Newark metropolitan area. Like all New Jersey districts, the 10th will have to gain population. The nearby city of Paterson, which is more than 80% minority, might make sense to include in a new 10th. This would cause Pascrell’s 8th district to be radically redrawn, thus making it a collapse candidate.

It’s already clear that the northern seats will have to move south and the southern seats will come north. Thus, the members in the middle (Districts 6 (Pallone), 7 (Lance), 8 (Pascrell), and 12 (Holt) may have the highest risk of being paired.

Many configurations are possible and a potential radical re-draw can literally do almost anything, but the population drag suggests that geography and demographics will be more of a determining factor than seniority or stature within the House. Commissions and courts tend to be more sensitive to communities of interest and demographics than legislatures, but it is always difficult to tell what will eventually happen at the beginning of the process. Welcome to the world of congressional redistricting.

The Won’t Runs

Several people being considered as potential candidates for a 2012 campaign made definitive statements quashing such talk over the weekend. Boston Mayor Tom Menino (D), recovering from knee surgery, said he will not run for US Senate in Massachusetts against incumbent Scott Brown (R) or for any other office besides the one he currently holds. He also publicly stated his belief that no Democrat can beat Brown next year.

Minnesota Rep. John Kline (R-MN-2) said he has no plans to challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D). Kline’s name never was mentioned prominently as a possible senatorial candidate, so his decision to stay in the House is not surprising.

Defeated Nevada Senate candidate Sue Lowden (R) says she will not launch a 2012 campaign unless both Sen. John Ensign (R) and Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) choose to step aside. Ensign appears to be preparing for re-election; Heller has not made his plans clear. In another Nevada-related story, Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee, says she will not run for a newly open state Senate seat despite the vacancy occurring in her home district.

Defeated Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND-AL) and Harry Teague (D-NM-2) both say they have no plans to ever again seek political office, thus taking re-match possibilities with Reps. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) and Steve Pearce (R-NM-2) off the table.

Suspect PA Senate Numbers

Public Policy Polling just released new data from their most recent Pennsylvania Senate poll (1/3-5; 547 registered PA voters), but the small size of the sampling universe leads us to question the validity of the results.

The survey shows Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) easily defeating all potential opponents including former Sen. Rick Santorum (R), the man he ousted from the seat in 2006. Though Santorum has made no overt move to seek a re-match, he actually polls the best in the field of potential Republican candidates. Mr. Santorum, however, is the only person in the Republican field who has significant statewide name identification.

What makes the poll suspect, however, is not that it shows Sen. Casey to be performing well — that’s believable, since Pennsylvania still favors Democrats in statewide races (the election of 2010 notwithstanding), and he has not been the focal point of any controversy or scandal during his first term in office. Rather, it is his potential opponents’ favorability scores that seem wildly out of whack.

According to the PPP poll, Casey would defeat Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15) 51-31%; Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) 49-33%; Santorum 48-41%; former Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker 47-34%; and unknown attorney Mark Scaringi, the only announced Republican candidate, 50-27%. For an incumbent re-election race, especially in a situation where the senator is a member of the state’s majority party, these seem to be credible numbers. But, the depicted views of his opponents are not.

In our opinion, the poll’s accuracy factor seriously deteriorates when looking at the potential Casey opponents. Both Republican congressmen, Dent and Gerlach, score very poorly within this sampling universe. Dent gets an incredibly low 6:18% favorability rating, and Gerlach is only slightly better at 9:17%. The fact that 3/4 of the respondents haven’t heard of them is believable, but what could each have done to make them so unpopular?

The answer is nothing, hence, these numbers make little sense. The likely reason for the faulty results is that only 136 members of the polling universe could even identify them. In raw number terms, it is likely that only eight people said something positive about Dent versus just 24 who viewed him unfavorably. These are far below the minimum cell size to accurately forecast a result, especially in a state the size of Pennsylvania. Thus, the poll is trying to suggest that the opinions of 32 people are accurately depicting the feelings of an electorate of almost nine million voters.

Small-sample polling can be tricky because it bases conclusions upon very small pools of data. Though the Casey ballot test numbers certainly are in the realm of the possible, it is unlikely that all of the potential Republican candidates are viewed so negatively, especially when name ID is exceedingly low and their party just scored a big victory. More Pennsylvania polls will have to be taken before an accurate picture of Sen. Casey’s political health can be determined.

Our 2012 Senate Outlook – Part II

Continuing our early analysis of the 2012 election cycle, we now look at some more select states featuring a senate race next year. Be sure to read through our post on Jan. 5 for our analysis of the initial group of states that we looked at.

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) – The fallout from a highly publicized sex scandal still leaves Sen. Ensign in a vulnerable position both in the Republican primary and the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will announce by mid-February whether she will run for the Senate. This is the GOP’s most tenuous situation in the country.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – New Jersey political insiders suggest that bio-tech entrepreneur John Crowley (R) will challenge Sen. Menendez next year. Crowley, currently president and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics headquartered in Cranbury, NJ, is the inspiration for the 2010 movie “Extraordinary Measures” starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The film depicts Mr. Crowley’s efforts directing his previous company to find a cure for Pompe Disease, a serious and life-threatening muscular disorder that infected two of his three children. Although he has significant personal resources, Crowley’s business connections and “star power” put him in position to raise the necessary funds to be competitive. If Crowley runs, the NJ Senate campaign becomes a race to watch.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) – Recently, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) made some public statements suggesting that she is considering challenging Sen. Bingaman, a five-term incumbent. Her entry into the race would certainly give the Republicans a credible candidate, but Mr. Bingaman appears to be in strong political shape. He will have the edge against all comers.

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) – With strong Republican victories at the Senatorial and congressional level in 2010, the GOP will mount a strong challenge to Sen. Conrad, particularly noting the fate of his Budget Committee counterpart, defeated Rep. John Spratt (D-SC-5). Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee; Spratt held the same position when the Democrats controlled the House. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are the names most often mentioned as potential Conrad opponents.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – The stage appears set for newly elected Lt. Governor Mary Taylor to take a shot at Sen. Brown next year. For her part, Taylor is uncommitted to such a race, but the other potential candidates, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), appear to be either dropping out or taking no action to run. This will be a highly competitive race.

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – Despite the Republicans’ current poor position in the Ocean State, they are not without some credible potential candidates to oppose Sen. Whitehouse. Outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is not closing the door on a future political run and has not ruled out challenging Whitehouse next year. John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well in the 2010 Governor’s race – placing second to Independent Lincoln Chafee but ahead of Democrat Frank Caprio – is also a possibility. Though the Democratic nature of Rhode Island, particularly in a presidential election year, lends considerable strength to the Whitehouse campaign, either Carcieri or Robitaille could give him a run for the money. Whitehouse is the favorite in 2012 against all potential opponents, but this race could get interesting.

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Despite saying she would resign her seat before her run for governor that ended in a stinging defeat, it is still not clear whether she will seek another term in the Senate. Most believed Texas would feature an open seat election in 2012, but such may not be the case. If she does retire, then look for a mega-Republican primary that will contain several statewide elected officials and maybe a congressman or two. The Democrats seem pretty set with former state Comptroller John Sharpe as their candidate. He has lost two races for lieutenant governor since leaving his post. Whatever happens on the Republican side, the GOP will be heavy favorites to win in November 2012. As in most every year, the Democrats will claim to have a chance, brandish polls showing them in good position, but then lose by 12 points.

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) – This promises to be one of the top races in the country. Sen. Webb has curiously not yet committed to seeking re-election and murmuring even among Democrats suggests that it’s possible he will retire after just one term. If he does, watch for Democratic National Committee chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine to enter the race. Ex-Gov. and Sen. George Allen (R), the man Webb beat in 2006, is gearing up for a re-match. He appears to have the inside track to the Republican nomination. Polling shows a tight Webb-Allen race. The Democrats will likely be stronger with Kaine as their nominee.

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – Like Sen. Gillibrand, newly elected Sen. Manchin must also stand for election again in 2012, as he won only the right to serve the final two years of the existing term in the last general election. With all of the focus on the state’s basically open gubernatorial race, the position Manchin vacated to run for Senate, he begins the current election cycle as a prohibitive favorite.

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (D) – There has been intense speculation that Sen. Kohl, who will be nearing his 78th birthday at the time of the next election, will retire. If he does, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings. Should Kohl seek re-election to a fifth term, he will be a heavy favorite and likely escapes a strong challenge. Most Republicans are looking to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) to run if the seat opens, but he may decide the stakes are too high to risk defeat in a state that normally trends Democratic, 2010 notwithstanding. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is another potential Republican candidate.
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Pence Making Moves

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN-6) is a man on the move. Deciding not to pursue the House leadership track upon the GOP assuming the majority (he was the Republican Conference Chairman but didn’t seek re-election or run for any other leadership post), Mr. Pence has been circumspect as to his next political move. While it’s pretty clear he won’t seek re-election to the House in 2012, he doesn’t quell speculation that he is a potential presidential contender or candidate for governor of Indiana. Pence is highly regarded by the national conservative/Tea Party movement, thus giving him a base from which to run for president. The Hoosier State’s incumbent chief executive, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), is ineligible to seek a third term, meaning an open seat campaign next year.

Pence isn’t saying much publicly about his plans, but his actions appear to reveal his eventual direction. He recently let it be known that he will be attending Republican Lincoln Day Dinners throughout Indiana in late January and all through February, suggesting his focus is statewide and not national. Furthermore, his gubernatorial prospects just became brighter. Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced she won’t run for governor in 2012, as did outgoing Senator and former Gov. Evan Bayh (D). Watch for a Pence for governor campaign to take shape soon.
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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.