Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Michaud Still Up in Maine; DoJ Moves on Texas

Eliot Cutler

Eliot Cutler

The Maine Education Association commissioned a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll (July 11-16; 400 registered Maine voters) and found Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to be leading the three-way contest for governor. According to the GQR data, Michaud has a 40-31-26 percent advantage over Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Independent attorney Eliot Cutler.

The poll comes on the heels of Gov. LePage being embroiled in a budget controversy, which came to a head in late June. Though the survey gives Michaud a clear lead, Cutler’s strength suggests that the same three-way configuration that elected LePage in 2010 could again present itself. In that election, LePage won a 38-36-19 percent victory over Cutler and Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell, then a state senator.

At this point, Michaud has filed a 2014 gubernatorial exploratory committee, while both Cutler and the governor have made public their intention to run. The Democrats clearly want Cutler out of the race, but there is no suggestion that the Independent will withdraw. Based upon his strong 2010 finish and Maine’s penchant for looking favorably upon independent candidates – former Gov. Angus King was elected to the Senate in 2012 on the Independent line, for example – it will be difficult for the Democratic leadership to make it worthwhile for Cutler to exit.

Isolating Michaud and LePage in a secondary GQR ballot test question underscores just how detrimental the Cutler candidacy is to the Maine Democrats. If the Independent attorney were not in the race, GQR scores the race a whopping 61-34 percent in Michaud’s favor.

Right now, Rep. Michaud appears to be in a favorable position to unseat Gov. LePage, even in a three-way scenario, but things can change dramatically with so much time remaining in the campaign cycle. It remains to be seen if these are the kind of numbers that will convince Michaud to relinquish his safe House seat in order to pursue the statewide run.
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Minnesota Rumblings; Weiner Under Fire

Several developments are unfolding in budding Minnesota congressional races. A new Democratic poll in the state’s 2nd District shows House Education and Workforce Committee chairman John Kline dropping under 50 percent to the man he summarily defeated in 2012, while a serious Democratic challenger is potentially surfacing against Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3) in the adjoining district.

Victoria Research (July 17-21; 400 registered MN-2 voters), polling for the liberal House Majority PAC, tested former state Rep. Mike Obermueller against incumbent Kline and found the congressman to be leading 45-32 percent. But, the poll appears slanted.

Repeatedly the questionnaire stresses “compromise” in law making and clearly attempts to paint Kline as one not inclined to bend. For example, Obermueller was cast as a person who is “working together with others to achieve common goals.” The inference is that Kline is not. After characterizing Obermueller in this manner, another ballot test was then asked and, unsurprisingly, the Democrat forges into the lead 44-38 percent. Such a push question skews the poll’s overall results.

In any event, however, Kline did not receive a particularly favorable draw in redistricting and his Minneapolis suburban district is marginal in nature. President Obama carried the seat over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but by only the smallest of spreads, just 0.1 percent of the vote. In the last congressional election, Rep. Kline defeated Obermueller 54-46 percent, a margin of some 29,000-plus votes.

Next door, former news anchorman Don Shelby (D) is confirming that he is considering launching a challenge to three-term incumbent Paulsen.

The 3rd CD, which encompasses the western Minneapolis suburbs of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Plymouth, and Brooklyn Park, is also a marginal district but trends a bit more Republican though President Obama topped Romney by one point and almost four in 2008.

Paulsen, a former seven-term state Representative and legislative leader, originally won the district in 2008 with a 48-41 percent victory. He has since been re-elected with margins of 59-36 percent and 58-42 percent in 2010 and ’12, respectively. Neither of his re-election opponents, however, spent more than $530,000 against him.

It remains to be seen if either Democratic challenge develops in these Twin Cities’ suburban districts, but the voting patterns will yield competitive campaigns under the right circumstances. It is difficult to see, however, the climate becoming ripe for Democrats under a mid-term turnout model as we will experience in 2014.
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McConnell Comes Out Swinging

Two days ago, hedge fund manager Matt Bevin announced his Kentucky Republican primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Yesterday, the senator hit the television airwaves in record post-announcement time, already launching an attack ad against his new opponent:

http://youtu.be/rtwE0_yfHW4

Obviously, McConnell is taking no chances and attempting to define Bevin in negative terms before the new candidate has the opportunity to even introduce himself to the Kentucky Republican electorate.

But, Bevin apparently saw the McConnell strategy coming because he, too, is on the air with his own attack ad against the Senate leader:

http://youtu.be/GjgbdVOZqyw

Since Bevin reportedly is independently wealthy, he should have the resources needed to mount a serious campaign, and the events this week already show that both sides mean business. Bevin clearly wants to establish himself early as a credible contender in hopes of attracting important financial support from such groups on the ideological right as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

As the senator prepares for a presumed general election battle against the Democratic Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, he wants to quickly extinguish his Republican challenger; but Bevin is sending early signals that he won’t go down quietly.

Bevin attacks McConnell from the right, questioning the quality of his leadership and claiming that the 30-year senatorial veteran  Continue reading >

Second Poll Confirms Cheney Status; Nunn Runs

Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney

Earlier in the week we reported that Harper Polling surveyed the Wyoming Republican electorate and found newly announced challenger Liz Cheney to be badly trailing incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (21-55 percent) in the Republican primary. Now, Public Policy Polling (July 19-21; 780 Republican Wyoming primary voters) confirms Cheney’s difficulty factory in denying Enzi renomination, brandishing a similar 26-54 percent spread.

PPP asked pointed questions about whether or not the state GOP electorate even considers Cheney a Wyomingite. According to their question, 36 percent of the Republican respondents do consider the former vice president and Wyoming congressman’s daughter a fellow Equality State resident, while almost half, 44 percent, do not.

Asked further whether they think it more appropriate for Cheney to run for the Senate from Virginia rather than Wyoming, by a margin of 45-33 percent, the individuals comprising this survey sample stated that she should run in the Old Dominion.

Approval ratings were also tested. Sen. Enzi scores a 66:24 percent job approval rating from his Republican base. Cheney earns a 40:34 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. In comparison, Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ (R-WY-AL) job approval ratio is 55:25 percent. As a follow-up, should Enzi, for some unforeseen reason, decide not to make the race next year and the candidates become Cheney and Rep. Lummis, the congresswoman would have only a slight advantage. According to the PPP data, Lummis would lead Cheney 41-34 percent.

So far, the results of the two earliest polls rate Cheney as a long shot, at best, to upset Sen. Enzi. Based upon data we are seeing elsewhere and sizing up the 2016 presidential field, there is an argument to be made that the former vice president’s daughter might actually have a better shot at capturing the Republican presidential nomination than she would in winning this Wyoming Senate race against Enzi. Secondly, based upon her first ballot test opposite only Rep. Lummis, her chances appear much brighter in running against the congresswoman than they do against the state’s senior senator.
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NRCC Announces More Patriots

The National Republican Congressional Committee has released the names of their second round of Patriot Program members, those congressmen who the NRCC believes are its most vulnerable incumbents. Back in April, the Committee publicized the first group of 11 GOP members facing the most competitive political situations.

Yesterday, nine more Representatives became “Patriots.” The program is designed to recruit incumbents in safe political situations to help raise and/or contribute funds to the designated colleagues.

The nine new members are:
• Dan Benishek – MI-1
• Michael Grimm – NY-11
• Bill Johnson – OH-6
• Tom Latham – IA-3
• Gary Miller – CA-31
• Tom Reed – NY-23
• Scott Rigell – VA-2
• Keith Rothfus – PA-12
• Lee Terry – NE-2

Two are rather obvious choices who did not make the first cut when the original Patriots were tabbed three months ago. Rep. Benishek won a second term last November, but with just 48 percent of the vote, outlasting by one point the same opponent he topped in double digits just two years before. Rep. Miller holds the most Democratic seat, at least in terms of the 2012 presidential vote, of any Republican House member.

Rep. Grimm represents the Staten Island seat that generally votes Republican, but did elect a Democrat for a term in the original Obama presidential year of 2008. Announced Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia, a New York City councilman, has already raised more money than Grimm, hence the sophomore congressman being added as a Patriot Program participant.

Representatives Johnson, Rigell, and Terry all hold marginally swing districts. In the majority of political circumstances they, as Republican incumbents, should maintain their seats.

Rep. Reed scored only a 49-46 percent win last November in a district that is more Democratic than his original pre-redistricting 29th CD. Even with the change, the three-point victory was an under-performance.

Rep. Rothfus upset Democratic incumbent Mark Critz in 2012, taking advantage of a favorable Republican redistricting map. The fact that Critz is considering seeking a re-match lands Rothfus in the Patriot Program.

Rep. Latham won a huge victory (52-43 percent) over fellow Congressman Leonard Boswell (D) last November in an incumbent pairing situation, but the district is still very attainable for the Democrats who plan to make the seat a target. It’s unlikely they’ll succeed, but the NRCC action signals that their party will take no chances here.