Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Chafee Out in R.I.; Bentivolio Challenged in MI-11

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who began his political career as a Republican, switched to Independent to run for governor after losing his US Senate seat, and who then became a Democrat after attaining the state office, announced yesterday that he will not seek a second term next year.

Gov. Chafee is among the least-popular state chief executives according to various public opinion polls. The surveys project him languishing in upside-down job approval territory by sometimes greater than a 2:1 negative to positive ratio. His move to join the Democrats appeared to be a desperate attempt to retain his office, and a strategy he hoped would cause potential intra-party contenders to back away once he became an official member. That did not happen, and Chafee clearly has blinked.

For the Democrats – the dominant political party in Rhode Island – state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Tavares have been expected to enter the race against Chafee and now will assuredly do so under an open seat situation. Republicans Allen Fung, the mayor of Cranston, and 2010 nominee John Robitaille, who lost to Chafee by only three points, are the minority party’s prospective candidates. The Democrat nominee, however, will be the overwhelming favorite to win the general election.

Chafee’s retirement means that eight of the 38 in-cycle gubernatorial elections will be open races, five of which are term limit related.

MI-11

Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R) is considered by many to be an “accidental” congressman. When first filing to run for office in Michigan back in early 2012, he did not anticipate actually winning the seat. Rather, he was attempting to make a political statement from the Libertarian right.

After the candidate filing deadline passed, ensuing events began to develop. Then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R) organization self-destructed, failing to submit enough qualified petition signatures to legally secure the incumbent’s ballot placement. As a result, McCotter was forced into retirement and Bentivolio found himself as the only legally qualified Republican candidate in a nominal Republican district. He repelled a write-in primary opponent backed by established Republican Party  Continue reading >

San Diego Shocker

Councilman Carl DeMaio

Councilman Carl DeMaio

It looked to be a foregone conclusion that former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R), who lost a close 52-48 percent election to now-resigned Mayor Bob Filner (D) just last November, would run in the special mayoral election to be held before the end of this year. Not so, according to DeMaio’s announcement yesterday.

Almost immediately after his 2012 loss, DeMaio switched gears into a congressional campaign against freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52). Peters unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50) by an even closer 51-49 percent count on the same day that DeMaio lost to Filner. With strong fundraising and polling – two surveys actually posted DeMaio ahead of Peters by 10 and 11 points from data collected two months apart – the former municipal candidate was becoming one of the strongest Republican congressional challengers in the nation.

There appear to be several major reasons DeMaio has decided to bypass what looks to be a winnable mayor’s race in order to stay in what, on paper, should be a tougher congressional contest against a well-funded incumbent, and they all relate to mathematics. In fact, multiple numbers point to DeMaio having a better chance to attain victory in the congressional race than running citywide.

First, while the early congressional polls place him ahead of Rep. Peters, as we previously mentioned, the one public survey released for the prospective mayoral campaign showed him trailing; one point behind former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who has flipped his voter registration from Republican to Independent to Democrat in less than  Continue reading >

West Virginia Numbers; Ilinois Developments

For an open Senate race in a cycle where the majority is up for grabs, the West Virginia effort to replace the retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) has attracted little attention. This is largely due to the fact that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) is the only major announced candidate from either party. Considering how political events have unfolded here to date, the Mountaineer State contest appears to be the best Republican conversion opportunity in the country.

The biggest Democratic name who could still become a Senate candidate is Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. She has yet to enter the campaign, but is reportedly at the top of national Democratic recruitment lists for the state.

Testing a hypothetical Capito-Tennant pairing, R.L. Repass & Partners, a Charleston-based survey research organization, went into the field (Aug. 15-22; 400 registered West Virginia voters) and found a potentially close political battle. According to the results, Capito would lead Tennant only 45-40 percent, but certain methodology points need addressing and explaining.

First, the eight-day polling period is much longer than normal and tends to weaken reliability. Most pollsters attempt to complete the questioning process within three days.

Second, the sample size of 400 is slightly low for a statewide campaign, understanding that West Virginia is a small state. This, too, decreases reliability.

Third, according to local analysts, 53 percent of the polling sample self-identifies as college graduates, yet only 17 percent of the actual residents fit into that category using the 2010 US Census figures as the benchmark source.

Similarly, 54 percent of the polling respondents reported an annual income of greater than $50,000, while only 26 percent of statewide residents fall into that category.

How the skewing affects the ballot test remains to be seen. In the past two cycles, Republicans have fared poorly with college-educated voters so, at least on face value, such a skew probably improves Democrat Tennant’s polling standing. Likewise, when examining West Virginia voting behavior since 2000, skewing with a higher income sample also probably helps the Democrat candidate.
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Democrats Battle in CA-17; Spitzer Reels

Khanna-Honda

The elimination of California’s partisan primaries, as was done prior to the last election, will again seriously affect Golden State politics in the 2014 mid-term vote. Under the state’s new jungle primary law, the top two candidates in the June election advance to the general regardless of political party affiliation and percentages attained. Therefore, former US Commerce Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Ro Khanna’s intra-party Democratic challenge to seven-term Rep. Mike Honda will likely last the entire campaign cycle.

Khanna has already been extraordinarily successful on the fundraising circuit, attracting more than $1 million for the 2014 race, and exceeding $1.7 million cash-on-hand. In the 2012 cycle, Khanna was briefly in the 15th District race when he believed that 80 year-old then-incumbent Pete Stark (D) was going to retire. Upon Stark’s decision to run again, all Democratic contenders with the exception of Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell withdrew. Swalwell then successfully unseated Rep. Stark 52-48 percent in a Democrat-on-Democrat general election.

Before exiting the Stark campaign, Khanna raised over $1.26 million and had north of $1 million remaining in his campaign account, thus explaining the large early war chest for his Honda challenge. Conversely, Rep. Honda has not been as financially prolific in early 2013, obtaining over $567,000, but ending with less than $375,000 in the bank.

But a just-released Public Policy Polling survey for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (Aug. 2-4; 806 registered CA-17 voters) shows that Khanna has a long way to go if he is to upset this incumbent, as Honda leads the ballot test 49-15 percent. The result is similar to the previously released Lake Research poll (Feb. 17-20; 503 registered CA-17 voters), commissioned for the Honda campaign, that posted the congressman to a 57-13-5 percent  Continue reading >

Political Fun in the Sun: Murphy vs. Hasner

The 18th Congressional District of Florida has, so far, lived up to its billing. Stretching through the central portion of the Sunshine State while hugging the Atlantic coast, CD-18 includes all or parts of St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties, and was drawn as a marginal political entity.

Last November, first-time candidate Patrick Murphy (D), a Jupiter attorney, upset nominal incumbent Allen West (R) by just over half a percentage point, or 1,904 votes of more than 330,000 cast ballots. Why categorize West as a “nominal incumbent”? Because redistricting drastically changed his 22nd District to the point where he chose to run in the new 18th, a seat that contained only about one-third of the constituency that originally elected him.

The 2012 eastern Florida political climate should have been sufficient for Rep. West to win, however, because Mitt Romney outpaced President Obama here by more than four percentage points, 51.7-47.6 percent. The closeness of the congressional race and Romney’s 18th CD performance gives the Republicans hope for a conversion in this next election under what should be a more GOP friendly mid-term turnout model.

Toward that end, the Republicans are apparently on the verge of getting the candidate who they believe can propel this challenger race into the top-tier. Though the numbers and political history suggest that the 2014 race will be close, the currently announced candidates have shown little, and Rep. Murphy is rated as the clear early favorite.

The presence of former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R), however, may quickly change the campaign’s status. Believed to be close to declaring his candidacy, Hasner is the strongest possible GOP candidate.

Originally in the 2012 Senate race, Hasner dropped down into a congressional race after redistricting was complete. Deferring to then-Rep. West for the 18th, Hasner took his chances in the heavily Democratic 22nd CD, facing former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel (D). The race went to Frankel on a 55-45 percent count, virtually the same margin that President Obama scored in the district.

But Hasner’s firepower comes in his ability to attract campaign resources. Even in a losing effort, for a race few thought any Republican could win, the former state  Continue reading >

Two Reeling Governors: Maine, Illinois

LePage-Quinn

A pair of recent political polls confirm that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Illinois chief executive Pat Quinn (D) are in tenuous re-election position, meaning losing is a distinct possibility for each. Both face major tests from several opponents and, according to Public Policy Polling (ME) and We Ask America (IL), the challengers either today have, or likely could soon possess, the upper hand.

Maine

PPP surveyed the Maine electorate (Aug. 23-25; 953 registered Maine voters) and determined that recently announced gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) is leading Gov. LePage 39-35 percent, with Independent attorney Eliot Cutler drawing 18 percent. Back in 2010, LePage defeated Cutler 38-36 percent, with Democrat Libby Mitchell only securing 19 percent of the vote. Since the governor has never topped 40 percent in any election or poll, the three-way configuration does give him hope of winning a second term. And, with a job approval index of 39:56 percent, being only four points behind in a survey conducted on the heels of his main opponent’s announcement tour certainly suggests the governor retains at least a rocky path to victory.

But, the news is not all favorable for Michaud. Considering that the congressman’s personal favorability index is a strong 53:30 percent, almost opposite that of LePage, it is surprising that his lead is only four points. Combining the elements of taking a poll just after his post-announcement tour, and brandishing a favorability rating that is net 40 points better than the incumbent’s suggests that Michaud still has much work to do if he is to unseat LePage. Additionally, as he did during the last election, Cutler is transforming into a viable wild-card candidate. Overcoming a 21-point deficit this early in the campaign cycle is a difficult, but not insurmountable task.
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The Montana Senate Waiting Game

In politics, timing is everything, and there’s great speculation as to just when Montana Rep. Steve Daines’ (R-AL) open Senate window might begin to close.

Over the weekend, retiring Sen. Max Baucus’ (D) former state director, John Lewis, announced the formation of a political campaign committee destined for what he believes will be an open US House seat. Lewis had been considered a potential Senate candidate, and still conceivably could become one should Rep. Daines decide to stay put.

So far, the freshman congressman has played this election cycle like a fiddle. Ignoring advice to announce immediately upon Sen. Baucus’ retirement plans becoming public this past April, Daines adroitly waited until former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) made his decision. It was presumed that Schweitzer would become the prohibitive favorite if he entered the race, so everyone held their cards in anticipation. In mid-July, when he chose not to seek the seat, all of the political focus turned to the state’s lone congressman, Daines.

Relatively soon after Schweitzer took himself out of the Senate competition, state auditor, Monica Lindeen, and superintendent of public instruction, Denise Juneau, both Democrats, also decided not to pursue the contest.

But, how much longer will prospective Senate candidates wait? Since the seat came open in April, only two people have announced their candidacies, neither of whom is expected to be a major contender. For the Democrats, only rancher Dirk Adams has declared. On the GOP side, state Sen. Matt Rosendale has taken the plunge.

Previously in the race, intending to challenge Sen. Baucus when it was believed he would seek re-election, are ex-state Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton and state Rep. Champ Edmunds. But, it is widely believe that all three announced Republicans will move to the House race if Daines reaches for the Senate.

The Lewis move suggests that things are beginning to happen, and that the time others are yielding to Daines could soon come to an end.

Understandably, Rep. Daines wants to be politically careful. Elected for the first time last November with a strong 53-43 percent margin when the other statewide   Continue reading >