Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Colorado’s Tancredo Is For Real

A new Public Policy Polling survey (10/21-23; 818 likely Colorado voters) reveals that former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), running for Governor on the Constitution Party ballot line, is making a major charge to overtake Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) and is in serious contention to win the race. Republican businessman Dan Maes, who won the GOP gubernatorial nomination after former Rep. Scott McInnis self-destructed in the August primary, has now faded away to single digits with an unfavorable rating of 75%. Tancredo, beginning the race with a 27:50% positive to negative personal favorability score, has improved his standing among the Colorado electorate to 45:44%, a major feat for someone running as a minor third-party candidate. The PPP ballot test now shows Hickenlooper leading Tancredo 47-44%, with Maes taking only 5% as the official Republican nominee. All the momentum is with the former Congressman who ran for President in 2008 on an anti-illegal immigration platform. Hickenlooper has now dropped below 50% and clearly has not clinched the race, contrary to early belief that the race is over.

Interestingly, the Tancredo surge has apparently not helped GOP Senatorial candidate Ken Buck. His race with appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) continues as a dead heat. The new PPP data shows the two candidates tied at 47%. With one week to go until Election Day, the Colorado Governor’s race now moves from likely Democrat to toss-up.

The Senate: Some Races Are Done … And Some Aren’t

As we enter the final week of the campaign season, which are the races that appear to be finished and which are still undetermined at this late date?

For Republicans striving to cobble together enough wins to create a net gain of 10 seats in order to wrest the Senate majority away from the Democrats, these are among a following races are secure:

  • Alabama, where Sen. Richard Shelby has been running virtually uncontested for the entire election cycle
  • Arizona, where Sen. John McCain has already won the tougher of his two campaigns: the 2010 Arizona Republican primary
  • Arkansas, proving to be a virtual certain GOP conversion as Rep. John Boozman (R-AR-3) continues to outpace embattled incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) by double digits
  • Florida, where former state House Speaker Marco Rubio generally runs about 10 points ahead of the multi-candidate field that includes Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Charlie Crist
  • Idaho, where Sen. Mike Crapo has also been running virtually unopposed
  • Indiana, another GOP conversion state as former Sen. Dan Coats (R) is poised to win again after a 12-year absence from elected politics
  • Iowa, where Sen. Chuck Grassley’s victory for a sixth term will make him the only remaining Senator to come into office with Ronald Reagan
  • New Hampshire, another key GOP open seat that former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte appears set to retain
  • North Dakota, another GOP conversion as Gov. John Hoeven will romp to victory and take retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan’s seat from the Democrats
  • South Dakota, where Sen. John Thune is running unopposed

There are other states where the GOP has a lock on a Senate seat as well: Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah.

Conversely, Democrats have nailed down the following states:

  • Delaware, as New Castle County Executive Chris Coons will easily defeat Republican Christine O’Donnell, who scored the big upset of Rep. MIke Castle (R-DE-AL) but will cost the party any chance at converting this seat
  • Hawaii, where Sen. Dan Inouye will again win the seat he has held since 1962
  • Maryland, as Sen. Barbara Mikulski has had little in the way of opposition this year
  • New York, as both Sen. Chuck Schumer and appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will easily retain their seats
  • Oregon, where Sen. Ron Wyden will win a relatively easy election in what is proving to be a difficult political climate for Democrats even in the Beaver State
  • Vermont, as Sen. Patrick Leahy, who first won his seat in the Watergate year of 1974, will again be re-elected

Now … here are the seats that are still competitive with just a week to go:

  • Colorado, as this race between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) has consistently been a pure toss-up since the August primary
  • Connecticut, where Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) appears set to put this seat away for the Democrats, but businesswoman Linda McMahon (R) is still showing signs of life
  • Illinois, as state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) continue to battle in what is becoming the state’s closest race
  • Kentucky, where both Republican Rand Paul (R) and Attorney General Jack Conway (D) are still flagging away against each other in a close campaign
  • Nevada, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) simply can’t put away Tea Party-backed Republican Sharron Angle (R) in a race that has been in toss-up status since June
  • Wisconsin, where Sen. Russ Feingold (D) continues to trail businessman Ron Johnson (R) in his quest for a fourth term

Others up for grabs include Alaska, California, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

If Republicans are to win control of the Senate, they must secure all races headed their way today, and win nine of the eleven seats that are still undetermined. With just one week to go, it looks like the GOP will make significant gains but fall short of winning absolute control of the chamber.

MA-6: An Upset in the Making?

There are many House districts around the country that could become part of what many are predicting will be a Republican wave, but the 6th district of Massachusetts was certainly not on anybody’s GOP conversion list even as late as September. Developments are unfolding in the suburban region between metropolitan Boston and New Hampshire, however, that makes GOP challenger Bill Hudak’s bid against seven-term Rep. John Tierney (D) among the campaigns that could conceivably transform into a “sleeper.”

Rep. John Tierney

About two weeks ago, Tierney’s wife pled guilty in federal court to tax fraud charges. Many incumbents have survived worse, especially in a district that routinely elects members of the dominant political party to which they belong, but Patrice Tierney’s situation appears a bit more serious. Though she claims not to have known her brother’s online gambling operation located off the shores of Antigua was illegal when she prepared the company’s tax returns, she pled guilty to the felony tax charges involving amounts upwards of $7 million, nonetheless, and will be sentenced in January. What raises eyebrows further, and certainly makes Rep. Tierney more vulnerable to the Hudak challenge, is his support for the online gambling bill when it came before the House. Though the Congressman was not personally implicated in any of his wife’s legal dealings, the two possibly unrelated events do bring ethical questions to the forefront.

As we have seen throughout the country during primary season this year, voters have little tolerance for political scandals or patience for office holders abusing their offices. Businessmen like Bill Hudak who have never before sought political office have shown strong win percentages in the intra-party preliminary races and now we’ll see if such a pattern continues through the general election. Most political pundits believe it will.

October internal and independent polls do suggest a weakening of Tierney’s image and increasing vulnerability. Though the survey results have not been publicly released, it is known that the data show a tightening of the race to single digits, while Hudak scores much better among the most intensely interested voters, and even leads among those who have been closely following the Tierney scandal.

With 12 days remaining in the election cycle, it is apparent that Rep. Tierney has not yet secured re-election. The more attention his personal situation attracts, the greater his vulnerability and the stronger Hudak becomes. With the open 10th district being in toss-up mode and even Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4) to the southwest facing credible opposition, it is now reasonable to add MA-6 to the competitive Bay State congressional race list.

Is Sanchez in a Sleeper?

In an election cycle where arguably 150 House races are at least moderately competitive and 90 campaigns are legitimately in play, sleeper contests are few and far between. One such situation may be in Anaheim, Calif., however, where seven-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47) has apparently fallen into a dead heat with her GOP opponent, Assemblyman Van Tran, according to a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (for the Tran campaign, 10/11-13; 300 likely CA-47 voters; Sanchez and Tran tied at 39%).

Though Tran’s challenge to Sanchez has been on the board for more than a year, few believed it would become hotly contested. The district is decidedly Democratic and the Congresswoman normally wins with percentages right around 60%. What makes the seat a potential GOP conversion opportunity is the turnout history here – CA-47 has the lowest voter participation rate of any in the Golden State – and its demographic complexion. Though the seat is more than 65% Hispanic, it is also 14% Asian and features an extremely large Vietnamese community, of which Tran is a member. He’s won three elections to the state Assembly, in a political division more than half the size of CA-47, proving that he has a strong political base. In a seat that routinely records fewer votes than most members receive by themselves, anything can happen, particularly in an election year that may evolve into a political wave. This is definitely a race to watch.

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Pennsylvania Tightens

Public Policy Polling (PPP), the national survey research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday released a new study (10/17-18, 718 likely PA voters) that gives Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) a bare 46-45% lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in their battle for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. This represents a significant change from all other recently released polls, including ones from PPP, that have previously posted Toomey to leads of between two and 10 points.

The revelation that the Sestak-Toomey campaign is closing is not particularly surprising for various reasons. First, Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, so seeing the Senate race and several House campaigns begin to move back toward the majority party meets expectations. Private polling suggests that the contests in PA-7 (open Sestak), ex-US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) vs. state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D); PA-8, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R); and PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney (D) vs. ex-US Attorney Tom Marino (R); also are tightening in favor of the Democratic candidate after the GOP contestant maintained discernible, if not considerable, previous advantages. Conversely, the PA-3, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) vs. Mike Kelly (R); and PA-11, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) vs. Lou Barletta (R); races still appear to be going the way of the GOP challenger. Polling now detects that Democratic voters are expressing greater interest in voting, thus suggesting better electoral participation rates.

Second, Sestak’s strategy for the general election is similar to that of his primary: wait to spend the campaign treasury until people are paying attention much closer to the election. During the Democratic primary, the Congressman trailed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter by as much as 10 points early, but caught and passed the veteran politician as voting day approached and finally arrived. Sestak is implementing a replay of such an expenditure timing plan against Toomey, thus his recent polling upswing tracks with him now coming to the forefront of the advertising campaign.

The latest poll tells us that the Senate race, despite a continued strong GOP lead in the Governor’s race, is coming back into toss-up range. The final outcome will likely be determined upon which party better motivates its supporters to actually cast their ballots, thus the end result is still very much in doubt.

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