Category Archives: Election Analysis

Election Night 2011: Something for Everyone

Both parties scored major victories last night in the odd-year election results. Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear scored, as predicted, an easy 56-35 percent win over state Senate Pres. David Williams to secure a second term in office. Democrats, except for the Office of Agriculture Commissioner, swept the statewide races. There were no state legislative elections held.

In Mississippi, the reverse occurred, except in a bigger way, as the Republicans may have captured both houses of the legislature in addition to holding the open governor’s seat. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R), also as expected, romped to a 61-39 percent win over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). Except for the attorney general’s office, the Republicans swept all of the statewide posts.

However, it was the legislative elections where change occurred. Republicans reversed the Democrats’ 27-25 majority in the state Senate as they have secured or are discernibly ahead in 29 districts to the Democrats’ 22, with one seat still being too close to call. But the bigger turnaround came in the state House, where the Dems have apparently lost their 74-48 margin. Republicans appeared to have claimed or were leading in 59 races as compared to the Democrats 57, with six races still too close to call. If the GOP splits the six undeclared campaigns, they will assume the state House majority. Controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion will mean the 3R-1D split in the congressional delegation will likely hold in the new redistricting map.

It appears the Republicans may have also gained a majority in the Virginia state Senate. Right now, it appears the body has fallen into a 20-20 tie, which is a gain of two seats for the GOP on the Democrats’ own Senate redistricting map. The final seat, District 17 in Fredericksburg, is extremely close. The Republican challenger and Democratic incumbent are separated by only 86 votes, meaning a series of recounts. The state Senate majority will literally hang on these few ballots. The GOP assumes the majority in an even chamber because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) will cast the tie-breaking vote. In the House of Delegates, the GOP increased their majority by eight seats, and now have a huge 67R-32D-1I advantage. Taking the state Senate would be big for congressional Republicans, too, since the federal redistricting map is not yet completed. If the tenuous majority holds, it is likely the current 8R-3D congressional delegation split will carry over onto the new map.

The Virginia legislative elections illustrates the importance of redistricting. The Republicans drew the state House map, and the Democrats authored the Senate plan. The GOP was able to win two-thirds of the seats in their chamber, while the Democrats came away with a split, even though the elections were all held on the same day among the same voters.

In Ohio, the labor union-backed referendum to undo Gov. John Kasich’s (R) public employee benefit reduction law was easily struck down by a 61-39 percent margin as polling had predicted. This is an obvious victory for Big Labor and the Ohio Democrats.

Turning to the west and the one special congressional election in the country, the 1st District of Oregon’s special primary election also went as polling predicted. State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici captured 66 percent in the Democratic primary to easily claim her party’s nomination. On the Republican side, 2010 congressional nominee Rob Cornilles racked up 73 percent to secure a position in the special general. The deciding vote will be held on Jan. 31. The winner serves the remaining portion of resigned Rep. David Wu’s (D) final term in office, and will be on the regular general election ballot in November to try for a full term. As the new Democratic nominee, Bonamici is rated as a heavy favorite to retain the seat for the national Dems.

Election Day Outlook

Voters in many states go to the polls tomorrow to fill municipal offices and, in a pair of instances, statewide positions and legislatures. Kentucky and Mississippi will elect governors. Virginia’s Senate elections will have a major effect upon that state’s congressional redistricting plan, scheduled to be drawn in the new legislative session beginning in January.

In the Blue Grass State, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed for a landslide re-election, as polls show him consistently above 50 percent and more than 20 points in front of state Senate President David Williams. The Democrats are in position to capture all statewide offices there.

To the south, the Republicans are likely to sweep the political board in Mississippi, with the exception of the race for attorney general, as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is poised to win a big victory against Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D).

In the Virginia Senate, Democrats hold a 22-18 majority. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is only at the mid-point of his single term in office, therefore he is not on the ballot tomorrow. The 100-member state House of Delegates will remain safely in GOP hands. The state Senate redistricting plan is what the Democratic leadership wanted, but it still appears the GOP has a chance to reclaim the majority. Since the Republicans control the lieutenant governor’s office, losing just two net seats will cost the Democrats their power position and give the GOP full control of the state government. Under the Commonwealth’s constitution, the lieutenant governor, in this case Republican Bill Bolling, would cast any tie-breaking vote. Several seats are in play making such a scenario a strong possibility.

Ohio voters will have a chance to affirm Gov. John Kasich’s (R) legislative initiative to curtail public employee collective bargaining rights and a significant reduction in benefits. Polls indicate the pro-referendum group has the advantage going into the election.

Turning to the west, one U.S. House congressional vacancy will take a step toward fulfillment tomorrow in Oregon as each party will choose nominees to replace resigned Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1). On the Democratic side, late polling gives state Sen. Susan Bonamici a wide lead over state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt. Rob Cornilles, the 2010 GOP candidate who lost to Wu 42-55 percent, is the prohibitive favorite for the Republicans. The special general election will be held Jan. 31, with tomorrow’s Democratic winner assuming the favorite’s track to win the seat.

Tomorrow will bring us some answers and allow us to ask new questions, one of which will undoubtedly pertain to what effect, if any, the votes cast tomorrow will have on the 2012 election. It is already clear that parallels will be drawn.

Wrong Track for Incumbents

Incumbents who are accustomed to success at the ballot box are generally nervous and watchful of potential electoral trends by their very nature. They know that this week’s teapot can become next week’s tempest and the spate of recent “change elections” has proven that incumbency is anything but a guarantee of lifetime employment in the U.S. Congress.

While the outcome of individual races can be predicted with a high rate success using modern opinion research tools, it remains a much more daunting task to determine national or even regional trends.

Overall congressional approval ratings and generic ballot test questions become virtually meaningless in the effort to determine trends in congressional races because each race is run locally rather than nationally. The old political saw that says, “The Congress is composed of 434 scoundrels and ‘my guy'” still holds sway more often than not.

However, there is one national indicator to which incumbent politicians should pay close attention, particularly in a presidential election year such as 2012. The well-tested “right track/wrong track indicator” has been a largely reliable indicator of incumbent satisfaction/dissatisfaction and next year is likely to be no exception.

The alarming news for incumbents planning to face the voters again in 2012 is that as of last week, only 16 percent of likely U.S. voters say that the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, Oct. 23.

The latest finding is up a point from the previous week, but down a point from a month ago and down a whopping 16 points from this time last year.

Since mid-July, the number of voters who feel the nation is headed in the “right direction” has virtually mirrored the levels measured in the final months of the administration of George W. Bush, with voter confidence bobbing slightly up and down in the narrow range of 14 percent to 19 percent.

Perhaps even more disturbing news for incumbents is the fact that the “wrong track” number in last week’s Rasmussen survey was 77 percent. Since mid-July, the “wrong track” has stayed in the 75- to 80-percent range. When the ratio of likely voters who think that the nation is on the “wrong track” and is not moving in the “right direction” is nearly 5 to 1, that is a reliable sign that voters are planning to make big changes on Election Day.

Illiniois Rep. Costello to Retire

Twelve-term Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL-12) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House next year. When his tenure ends and he completes 24 years in office, it will be almost exactly half of the time that his predecessor, the late Rep. Melvin Price (D), spent in Congress. Together, the two men have represented the Illinois portion of the St. Louis suburbs and the city of East St. Louis for 72 consecutive years.

Mr. Costello becomes the 20th sitting member who will exit the House at the end of the current Congress. He is the seventh to retire. The other 13 are seeking higher office. Fourteen are Democrats as compared to six Republicans. Adding the dozen new seats that reapportionment created, the current open seat total for the 2012 cycle is now 32.

IL-12 is the least Democratic of all the new districts that state legislative majority leaders constructed for members of their own party. President Obama scored 55 percent here in 2008, a strong number but much weaker than in the other Democratic districts. John Kerry, in his 2004 campaign against then-President George W. Bush, only carried the seat by four percentage points. Though it may be approaching a marginal rating, the 12th should still elect a Democrat in a 2012 open situation, especially with the President back on the ballot in his home state.

Republicans were making plans to target this seat even when believing their campaign would be a challenge to Costello. Now that the seat is open, IL-12 will likely move up the GOP conversion target list. Their first choice as a prospective candidate is 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer. Former Bellevue Mayor Roger Cook (R) had previously announced his candidacy.

Democrats could conceivably turn to Mr. Costello’s son, Jerry Costello Jr., who is an appointed state Representative. Since this is a seat that favors Democrats, expect lively competition in the party primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the inside track for the general election.

New Poll Out in the Connecticut Senate Race

A new Quinnipiac University poll (Sept. 8-13; 1,230 registered Connecticut voters; 447 Democrats; 332 Republicans) suggests that next year’s open Senate race could become competitive.

According to the Q-Poll results, several candidate match-ups may evolve into a fierce contest. The top participants, two from each party, are Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz on the Democrat side, and 2010 Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon and ex-Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) for the Republicans.

Mr. Shays is the most competitive potential GOP nominee, but he fares poorly in the Republican primary. When paired with Murphy, Shays trails only by six points, 37-43 percent. The Republican former congressman, who was defeated for re-election in 2008 after serving 21 years in the House, actually leads Ms. Bysiewicz 42-40 percent when matched with her in a hypothetical general election.

The Republican primary, however, spells trouble for Shays. According to the Q-Poll survey, Ms. McMahon opens with a 15-point, 50-35 percent advantage. Though the former representative has been a strong fundraiser in his past congressional elections, McMahon’s personal resource advantage ensures that she can outspend her primary opponent regardless of the dollar number he posts. Though not assured of victory in an August 2012 primary by any means, McMahon certainly begins the race in the stronger position.

Ms. McMahon’s problem is that she doesn’t fare as well as Shays against either Democrat, particularly Rep. Murphy. Opposite the Cheshire congressman, McMahon trails 38-49 percent. When paired with Bysiewicz, she climbs a bit closer but still lags behind 38-46 percent. Neither margin is insurmountable, but consider that: she lost to current Sen. Richard Blumenthal by a 43-55 percent count in the strongest of Republican years after polling in much closer range, President Obama (Connecticut ’08 performance: 61-38 percent) will be on the ballot to help drive Democratic turnout, Republicans tend to poll better in the northeast than they run — and it’s not hard to add up the cumulative effect of all these signs pointing to a 2012 Connecticut Democrat victory.

All of the candidates except McMahon do fairly well on the personal favorability question. Shays does the best of all, posting a 41:14 percent positive to negative ratio. Murphy scores 38:16 percent; Bysiewicz a more mediocre 39:27 percent. Ms. McMahon, on the other hand, is upside down at 38:45 percent.

The Q-Poll also asked the Republican respondents their GOP presidential candidate preference. Here, Massachusetts former Gov. Mitt Romney still enjoys a commanding lead. Connecticut, which sends 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention, is a winner-take-all state, thus making it more important than a commensurate place of its size that uses a proportional delegate allocation system.

Mr. Romney is staked to a strong 37-19-8 percent edge over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), respectively. The general election match-ups again show the President in strong position. He would defeat Mr. Romney 49-36 percent and records a 52-33 percent margin over Gov. Perry. The bad news for Mr. Obama is that even as he posts strong numbers against the top Republicans, he can do no better than a 48:48 percent job approval rating.

In the end, Connecticut will almost assuredly back the President for re-election and elect the Democrat nominee as its next US senator. But, the latest Quinnipiac result suggests that political fireworks will fly before that eventual result is achieved.

Potential California Candidate Pairing Snapshots

Now that the California redistricting map is law, we can examine the various incumbent pairings and potential pairings that could exist. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission clearly did not pay heed to incumbency, since a huge number of sitting incumbents were placed in districts with a colleague.

District 4: Dan Lungren/Tom McClintock – Since the map was finalized Aug. 15, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) indicated that he may hop over into the new District 4 to challenge Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) in the Republican primary rather than stand for re-election in new District 7, where his home was placed. This would be a curious move, since District 7, which contains the majority of Lungren’s current territory, could certainly elect a Republican but likely would be at least moderately competitive throughout the decade.

New District 4, which begins in South Lake Tahoe and travels south down the Nevada border all the way to Yosemite National Park, is comprised of a preponderance of McClintock’s current CD. The fact that Lungren would even suggest such a move indicates he likely feels more comfortable doing battle against a Republican than facing a Democrat in a competitive general election, especially when winning the 2012 battle against McClintock would likely yield a safe seat until 2022. The new CA primary law that qualifies the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of party means that the pair would likely face each other in both June and November, adding yet another caveat to the northern California political picture.

It is probable that Lungren will stay in District 7, because he would be a decided underdog to McClintock in District 4. The fact that Lungren would suggest taking on his Republican colleague in this configuration is quite surprising, however.

District 16: Dennis Cardoza/Jim Costa – This is another surprising situation. The commission map was not particularly kind to the Central Valley incumbents. Technically, three sitting members, Cardoza (D-CA-18), Costa (D-CA-20), and Republican Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) were all placed in new District 16. Each, however, has an adjacent seat in which to run. Denham will choose the new District 10, which is more competitive than his current district, but still one that he can win.

Since the map was enacted this past Monday, retirement rumors began swirling around Cardoza, suggesting that he would rather leave the House than run against his friend and fellow Democrat, Costa. The new 21st district, however, is a place where Costa could run – in fact, in contains the bulk of his current CD – but apparently the congressman does not want to face another close general election in a seat that is even more Republican. Costa only squeaked through in the last election 51-49%. Should Cardoza retire and thereby leave the new 16th district to Costa, the latter would become the favorite, though competition from a Republican is still a real possibility. This is another curious situation that has yet to be resolved. The GOP has a chance to gain at least one seat, probably the 21st, in this region.

District 25: Buck McKeon/Elton Gallegly – This is yet another situation where it appears a member would rather face a competitive primary than go hard against a candidate from the other party. The homes of Reps. McKeon (R-CA-25) and Gallegly (R-CA-24) were both placed in new District 25, which is comprised largely of McKeon’s current district. Gallegly also could run in the new Ventura County-based 26th district, which is a 50/50 D-R seat that only slightly tilts Republican.

Reports from the Gallegly camp, however, indicate he is looking more favorably at challenging McKeon than running in the marginal district, even though he would be the lone incumbent in the latter and currently represents a large portion of the territory. Based upon the draw in the new 25th, it is hard to classify Gallegly as anything but a decided underdog to McKeon, which makes it surprising to see him suggest he might take that option. Gallegly retiring, as he almost did two terms ago, is also a distinct possibility.

District 30: Brad Sherman/Howard Berman – The San Fernando Valley will see a major pairing as the area’s two veteran Democratic members will square-off. This is another of the California situations that could witness a major battle between the two in the qualifying primary and then in the general election, as the most likely scenario points to both Democrats moving into November under the state’s new election law. Sherman already represents about 50% of the new 30th District, as compared to Berman’s 20%, and he begins with more than $3.6 million in the bank, but that doesn’t guarantee victory. Berman is the more experienced campaigner and should command greater internal party support than Sherman. This race could turn into an epic political battle.

One other possibility, however, is for Sherman to hop over into the marginal 26th district. Particularly if Rep. Gallegly chooses to bypass the district, the 26th might become attractive to Sherman, if he thinks he can’t beat Berman. But, Sherman represents only a sliver of the current 26th, and he would be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. Thus, he has two difficult options.

District 38: Grace Napolitano/Linda Sanchez – The commission map drawers were also not kind to Rep. Linda Sanchez (R-CA-39). Regardless of where she chooses to run, she is likely to face a Democratic incumbent. Her home is placed in new District 38, but this seat is predominantly composed of Rep. Grace Napolitano’s current 38th CD. Napolitano has already announced her intention to seek re-election in the new 38th, thus forcing Sanchez into a difficult decision. She must either challenge Napolitano where she will be a decided underdog, or run in another seat. Her most likely option would be new District 47, the Long Beach seat, but she will face both state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) and probably a significant Republican challenger. It is possible that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) could move here, too.

District 39: Ed Royce/Gary Miller – Something’s got to give in Orange County. The now-official map places the homes of Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) and Gary Miller (R-CA-42) in new District 39, a seat that largely favors Royce in terms of current territory. Royce could choose to move south and challenge Rep. John Campbell (R-CA-48) in new CD 45, but this would still subject him to a pairing with a Republican incumbent. For his part, Miller says he won’t run against Royce or any other incumbent, meaning he could be headed toward retirement. If Royce does move into CD 45, then Campbell would be forced into a pairing either against the former or moving into new District 48 to take on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46). In any event, among the quartet of Orange County Republican congressmen – Royce, Miller, Campbell and Rohrabacher – expect one of them not to return.

District 44: Janice Hahn/Laura Richardson – The situation involving the minority-weighted new 44th District is also surprising. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36), who just won her seat in a July special election, has already announced she will seek re-election in the heavily Hispanic 44th District rather than face Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) in the district that contains the bulk of her current seat. In this Compton-Culver City-South Gate CD, Hahn will have a white population that tallies only 9 percent, meaning she is vulnerable to a challenge from a minority office holder such as Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D), who has already announced his intention to run for Congress, and probably Rep. Laura Richardson, since she currently represents a large portion of the territory.

The new primary law cuts poorly for Hahn. She very well may be able to qualify for the general election by at least placing second in June, but in November she will be one-on-one against either a black or Hispanic opponent. In this situation, particularly since she currently represents such a small portion of the 44th, she becomes a decided underdog.

California is likely to dominate the 2012 US House picture because as many as 20 seats could become competitive either in the primary or general election, and in many cases, both. Watch in the coming days for even further developments.
___________________________________________________
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.

The Democrats Win in Wisconsin – Round II

The second stage of the Wisconsin state Senate recall elections was held last night, and the challenged Democratic incumbents held both contested seats. State senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch won their respective recall elections with 55 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively.

The Holperin victory was the more impressive of the two since his northern Wisconsin district is far more conservative than Wirch’s Racine/Kenosha seat. The 12th state Senate district gave Supreme Court Justice Bob Prosser (R) a solid victory in his hotly contested re-election battle held earlier this year. In 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker easily carried the region with both scoring victory percentages in the high-50s. But the string of GOP victories did not carry over to the recall election.

In the Wirch race, SD-22, the result was much easier to predict. This region is solidly Democratic and polling never indicated that Sen. Wirch was in serious trouble.

Now that all eight recalls have been run, six incumbents held their seats. The only two senators to lose, both last week, are Republicans Dan Kapanke, who represented a strong Democratic seat, and scandal-tainted Randy Hopper. The Republicans retain control of the Senate chamber, however, but with a much smaller 17-16 margin.

In the end, the Democrats boycotting their duties and running away to Illinois did not hurt them, since none were recalled. On the other hand, the Republicans, led by Gov. Walker, made fundamental change in the state’s public employee collective bargaining structure and then took the Democrats/unions hardest retaliatory punch and survived.

It will be interesting to see if the entire controversial process brings about any further national ramifications.
___________________________________________________
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.