Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Our 2012 Senate Outlook

Though we are just at the beginning stage of the 2012 election cycle, action already is beginning to occur in certain Senate races. Below is a quick look at the situation in some of the first half of the in-cycle states. More will be covered in the near future.

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (R) – Retirement rumors are swirling. Should Mr. Kyl decide not to seek a fourth term, look for a free-for-all in both parties. If he does run, the state becoming more politically marginal suggests a competitive campaign battle.

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – The senator is safe if she runs again, but turning 79 before the next election, retirement considerations are a factor. The seat should remain in Democratic hands regardless of the situation, however.

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) – The senator is already discussing re-election plans, but his favorability ratings are among the lowest of any 2012-cycle incumbent. He will have strong Democratic opposition, possibly in the person of Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). It’s unclear what the Republicans will do. Defeated GOP nominee Linda McMahon is talking about running again. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) is also a potential GOP alternative.

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper (D) – Right now, the senator is in strong shape for re-election. Defeated GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell is not yet out of the public eye, so another Senatorial run for her is not out of the question. Carper becomes the prohibitive favorite if O’Donnell enters the race.

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (D) – Mr. Nelson begins the cycle in relatively strong shape, leading all potential opponents in early polling but only scoring mediocre approval ratings. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos has announced his intentions to run. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is a potential candidate. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has already dismissed a Senate candidacy.

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R) – Another octogenarian at the time of the next election, Sen. Lugar says he will seek re-election. A Tea Party challenge could be on the horizon, however. Democrats will take a wait and see approach here.

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R) – With Republican Sen. Brown facing the voters for a full term in 2012, it appeared earlier that he might be the most vulnerable of GOP incumbents. The early numbers suggest a different story, however. He leads all potential Democratic opponents by comfortable margins and enjoys high job approval ratings.

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) – Considering the strong Republican sweep here in 2010, Sen. Stabenow has to be rated in the vulnerable category. Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is mentioned as a possible challenger. This is a race to watch.

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker (R) – After winning the special election in 2008, Sen. Wicker will try for a full term in 2012. He should have no trouble in a state that is proving to be a national Republican stronghold.

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) – This is shaping up to be another close statewide contest in the Show Me State. Former Sen. Jim Talent is a potential Republican candidate. Ex-state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman has already announced her intention to run. A toss-up all the way.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) – Sen. Tester must defend the seat he won in a close contest over an incumbent back in 2006. At-large Rep. Denny Rehberg is a top Republican potential candidate. Former lieutenant governor candidate Steve Daines (R) has already announced his candidacy.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson (D) – With the senator’s favorability ratings among the lowest of those standing for re-election and trailing two statewide Republican office holders, Nebraska is the most endangered Democratic seat. Should Nelson not seek re-election, this becomes an easy Republican conversion.
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Rory for Congress?

The official 2010 apportionment is only two weeks old and, in at least one state, jockeying for position to win a new district already is beginning. This, despite the fact that the new seat’s boundaries won’t be determined for months. Defeated gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid, a Clark County commissioner and son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says he’s interested in running for Nevada’s new 4th congressional district, even though he doesn’t know where it will be.

Since their fastest-in-the-nation 35.1% population growth rate earned the Silver State another seat, legislators are now tasked with drawing a new four-district map. Both state legislative chambers are in Democratic control (although their state Senate margin is just one vote, 11-10), but the new governor, Brian Sandoval, who stomped Reid 53-42% back in November, also must approve the new map. A stalemate would force the process to court for final resolution.

The Nevada redistricting fight is interesting. Right now, both Democrats and Republicans each have one safe seat, while the marginal 3rd district currently rests in GOP Rep-elect Joe Heck’s hands after he defeated one-term incumbent Dina Titus (D) by 1,748 votes last November.

Republicans clearly will want to secure the 3rd district and make the new 4th marginal. The Democrats might settle for each party taking two safe seats. A three-judge panel may have different thoughts altogether, so expect the political fireworks to soon be as illuminating as those commonly seen on the Las Vegas strip.
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New Senate Polls a Mixed Bag For Democrat Incumbents

Over the holiday period, several polls were taken around the country that produced mixed results for a trio of Democratic senators who routinely appear on Republican target lists. First, the new Magellan Strategies survey of Nebraska voters (12/15; 1,789 Nebraska registered voters via automated calls) confirms that beleaguered Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is highly vulnerable. In fact, the data reveals that he already trails two GOP statewide officials.

The Senator has seen his popularity ratings drop ever since he became identified as one of the key swing votes for the Obama healthcare program. His public concession to vote for the bill in exchange for substantial new Nebraska-based earmarks was a move that has clearly backfired within his constituency.

According to Magellan, Attorney General Jon Bruning (R), already officially in the Senate race, would defeat Nelson by a substantial 52-38% margin. Newly elected state Treasurer Don Stenberg, himself a former Nelson opponent and frequent statewide candidate, leads him 46-40%. The senator’s favorability ratio is upside down at 43:52% positive to negative. Bruning enjoys a 58:31% mark and Stenberg posts 48:34%.

Perhaps most troubling for Nelson is the voters’ opinion of the Obama healthcare legislation and their view of the Senator’s actions. By a 29-63% count, Nebraska voters oppose the healthcare law. Only 26% say Nelson did the right thing for the state, versus 64% who say his actions are indicative of what is wrong with Washington.

The Florida Public Policy Polling numbers (12/17-20; 1,034 FL registered voters via automated calls) are much better for the Democrats’ other Sen. Nelson. According to this data, no likely GOP candidate comes particularly close to Sen. Bill Nelson on the early ballot test questions. The two-term incumbent would defeat former Sen. George LeMieux (R), appointed by outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist to fill Sen. Mel Martinez’s unexpired term, 47-36%.

State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, already saying publicly that he will oppose Nelson, trails 32-44%. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) does a bit better, facing only a 36-44% deficit. One Republican does poll ahead of Sen. Nelson, but he’s not running: former Gov. Jeb Bush. Though Bush says he has no desire to enter elective politics again, the PPP data indicates he would begin such a hypothetical race with a 49-44% lead.

Turning to Missouri, Wilson Strategies is currently releasing a poll fielded in early December (11/30-12/1; 500 registered MO voters via live phoner interview) that predicts Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is headed for another typically close Show Me State election battle.

The Wilson Strategies numbers show Sen. McCaskill to be in a more vulnerable position that Public Policy Polling did in their similar survey conducted around the same general time. Disparate polling is not particularly surprising when testing the Missouri electorate because the state tends to feature so many tight elections.

Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays

We at the PRIsm Information Network wish you the very best for the holiday season.

We will be back next week with our full complement of reports and services. Thank you for your patronage over the past year. We look forward to an even better 2011.

For 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.

Enjoy the holidays!!

Early Redistricting Projections

Now that the new apportionment and population numbers are official, we can begin calculating each party’s chances of prevailing in the redistricting wars. Much of the action will occur in the states that either gained or lost congressional seats in yesterday’s 2010 national apportionment.

• In Texas, with four new seats to add to its delegation, Republicans must have a goal of gaining three of those four in order to send a 26R-10D delegation to Washington.
• It is likely that Florida will split its two new seats between the parties, but Republicans must exit the Sunshine State up 20R-7D.
• New York, losing two seats, also will see a likely outcome of each party being down one seat. That would mean a delegation that’s the mirror image of Florida: 20D-7R.
• Ohio, already at 13R-5D, will lose two seats. A 12R-4D delegation should be the Republican goal, since they control the entire redistricting process.

Democrats should gain the new seats in Nevada and Washington, while making the Republicans absorb the loss in Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Democrats will feel the pinch of an evaporating seat in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and potentially Iowa and Missouri. Republicans will gain newly awarded districts in Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and possibly Arizona.

From a Republican perspective, their goal is to lock in the huge number of seats they just won and add approximately five more nationally. Democrats will look to gain a seat or two. Hence, the swing between the parties will be small.