Category Archives: Election Analysis

GOP Panic Premature in Missouri?

Rep. Todd Akin

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), who won the Republican Senatorial nomination and the right to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) on Aug. 7 and then turned around and made what most said were ludicrous abortion-related rape comments during a St. Louis TV station interview 12 days later, is surprisingly clawing his way back into contention.

You will remember that the Akin interview gained prolonged national media coverage and was swiftly denounced with outrage from Democrats, as well as many Republicans. The race, which GOP strategists initially believed to be a contest against the weakest of Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, seemed to snap strongly in favor of McCaskill as Akin immediately took a nosedive in the polls following the interview.

The GOP establishment was quick to respond by publicly pushing Akin to exit the campaign, however he refused to do so. Now running without the institutional support he once had from the party and business allies in Washington, as well as having seen many state and local candidates separate themselves from his comments, new polls are revealing increased viability despite his troubles.

According to polls released this week, the Missouri Senate race could be returning to “toss-up” status. Public Policy Polling released a research study yesterday showing McCaskill to be holding only the slightest 45 percent to 44 percent edge over Akin. PPP surveyed 621 likely Missouri voters Aug. 28-29 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The study revealed that approximately 77 percent of Missouri Republicans say they accept Akin’s apology. While only 33 percent of voters view Akin favorably, even that number is up 11 points from the PPP survey released the week before.

Another poll by the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group supporting Akin, actually projects the embattled congressman to be leading McCaskill 45 percent to 42 percent (surveyed Aug. 27-28; 828 likely Missouri voters; +/- 3.38 percent error margin). Conversely, however, Rasmussen Reports released their poll on Aug. 26 posting the senator to a 10-point, 48-38 percent, advantage (surveyed Aug. 22; 500 likely Missouri voters; 4.5 percent error margin).

Now national Republican leaders are in a quandary. Immediately upon Akin making his comments, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) publicly called for him to withdraw from the race. Karl Rove, who had previously promised a substantial advertising campaign to support Akin and disparage McCaskill, quickly said his American Crossroads organization was canceling their Missouri media reservations. Democrats are, of course, left with video tape of the Republican leaders’ comments, which will assuredly air in commercials as we head down the stretch. As a result, Akin’s own campaign fundraising apparatus came to a screeching halt.

Though the first deadline to withdraw from the Missouri ballot without cause has come and gone, Akin still has until Sept. 25 to formally decide if he will step down and allow his party to nominate a new candidate. At this point, now armed with more encouraging polling data, it appears that he is even less likely to exit. With his seeming rebound, will those aforementioned Republican leaders so willing to pile on him before the dust settled now be in a position to absorb as much criticism as Akin himself? While the seat still appears winnable, even for Akin, the Republican brain trust has made that task all the more difficult.

There is no question that Rep. Akin has taken a substantial hit from the comments he made over a week ago, but the damage may be subsiding. His own massive stumbles, and those of the Republican Party leaders’, have made Akin’s return to credibility much more difficult; however, it appears this race is not yet over. Continued polling results as we have seen in the past few days will shortly force this campaign back into the “toss-up” domain.

Arizona’s Primary: A Look at A Hotly Contested State

Arizona voters go to the polls tomorrow to choose Senatorial and US House nominees in a myriad of places.

Looking at the Senate, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) has enjoyed the inside track for both the primary and general elections since Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement. Businessman Wil Cardon appeared to be mounting a serious early challenge but has curiously lessened his activity level as the election draws near, clearly a sign he has lost optimism about his chances of pushing past Flake to capture the Republican nomination. For the Democrats, former surgeon general Richard Carmona’s primary victory has long been a foregone conclusion. Assuming it’s Flake vs. Carmona after tomorrow, the Republican would begin the official general election campaign as the favorite.

The state gained a congressional seat in reapportionment and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission used it to shape a much different state map for the next 10 years. The Democrats should benefit the most from the plan, but more so beyond 2012 considering the changing demographics as the ensuing decade unfolds. For this election cycle several of the districts are highly competitive, making Arizona one of the most hotly contested of all states.

In the expansive 1st District that encompasses most of the northern and eastern geography, former representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who held a similar district for one term until freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R) unseated her two years ago, is mounting her political comeback and will easily win the Democratic nomination tomorrow. She will likely face former state senator Jonathan Paton (R) in the general election. On paper, this seat could go either way but it seems to have more Democratic tendencies. Such was clearly Gosar’s thought pattern, thus explaining his departure to the 4th District and eschewing re-election in the new AZ-1 even though he currently represents 75 percent of its constituents.

In the new 2nd District, formerly numbered 8 in Arizona’s southeastern corner around the city of Tucson, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) is running for a full term. He won the right to replace his former boss, ex-representative Gabrielle Giffords (D) who resigned the seat earlier this year to concentrate on her physical recovery from the tragic shooting that also wounded Barber. The new congressman will undoubtedly face Gulf War veteran Martha McSally who placed second to former GOP nominee Jesse Kelly in the 2012 special election. Kelly lost to Giffords by two points in 2010. A new poll shows Barber ahead of McSally by only five points, but he is the clear favorite in the general election race, nonetheless. Expect new Democratic polling numbers to soon show him pulling away.

In the new western state 4th District, the safest Republican seat in Arizona, the aforementioned Rep. Gosar seeks his second term in office. However, former state senator Ron Gould is attracting major support from conservative and Tea Party organizations to the tune of over $750,000 in uncoordinated independent expenditures; he will provide the congressman’s principal primary opposition. The winner of tomorrow’s contest takes the seat in November.

Turning to the Phoenix suburban 5th District, former representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1) and ex-state House speaker Kirk Adams vie for the Republican nomination in what has been a spirited and relatively expensive campaign. Similar to the situation in District 4, the winner of tomorrow’s Republican race will win the general election. In this case, the eventual GOP nominee replaces Rep. Jeff Flake who vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

The big shoot-out is in the Scottsdale-based District 6, where an incumbent Republican pairing battle will conclude between freshman Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5). Quayle represents two-thirds of the current constituency as compared to his colleague’s one-third. He has raised over $2 million to Schweikert’s $1.5 million. Either man can win. Each says he is more conservative than his opponent. Both claim the other should be running in the new marginal 9th District; one of them will prove to be right. The winner keeps the safe Republican seat for the rest of the decade; the loser will be out of politics at least for the short-term.

The new open eastern Phoenix suburban 9th District, the seat added in reapportionment, plays as a marginal domain in 2012 but will trend more Democratic as the decade progresses. No less than seven candidates have raised more than $200,000 for this race, with former state Democratic chairman and Clinton Administration official Andrei Cherny and ex-state senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) raising well over $800,000 apiece. The Republicans feature three current and formal local office holders including 2010 congressional candidate and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the early advantage, but this race is clearly a free-for-all tomorrow and possibly in November.

Presidential Paths to Victory

Today we turn our attention to the national election between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney in order to determine each candidate’s path to victory as the political map begins to evolve and change.

It is evident that are there are approximately a dozen battleground states upon which the candidates are focusing. The competitive states considered to be in this swing category include, alphabetically: Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

Last year Obama advisers mapped out five different routes that would secure the minimum 270 Electoral College votes the president needs for re-election. Each path included Obama retaining some, but not all, of the swing states that he won in 2008. As we have seen through nationwide polling data, Team Obama’s strategic tenet in spreading the map as wide as possible is having some effect. Conversely, the Romney brain trust indicates that any realistic course to capturing their identified 270 votes requires them to win back historically Republican states that Obama carried four years ago, such as North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia.

Each candidate understands the importance of winning the quintessential large swing states of Florida (29 Electoral Votes) and Ohio (18). In 2008, Obama claimed these places and is now spending heavily in hopes of retaining both. Romney advisers see Florida as their candidate’s most important swing state because there is no realistic way to score a national victory without its inclusion. Simply put, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are too many to replace.

Currently, several polls reveal Obama as having the edge in Ohio but a recent Gravis Marketing poll of 728 likely voters shows Romney opening up a three-point lead in Florida.

In the past few days two Great Lakes states, Michigan and Wisconsin, are showing signs of teetering toward Romney. Recent polls in both places have returned conflicting results and each candidate can point to data showing him to be in the lead. But even a split decision in August is a positive trend for the challenger.

Michigan, a traditionally Democratic state but one that turned hard for Republicans two years ago, is a place where Romney will heavily contest. A fundamental reason for the strategic decision to do so is his Wolverine State family ties. It is here where the Republican nominee grew up and the electorate twice voted for his father as governor. The Obama senior strategists scoff at the idea that Romney can win Michigan, citing his opposition to the auto bailout and recalling that Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, publicly abandoned the state some six weeks before the election.

Wisconsin, home of vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, has been trending toward the Republicans in similar patterns to Michigan, cemented by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory earlier this year. With former governor Tommy Thompson running strong in the open Senate race, the Badger State is certainly in play for a close Romney victory.

Early in the cycle we, as most other analysts, suggested that after counting Indiana returning to the Republican camp, Romney would have to carry Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, and then one more 2008 Obama state to win the presidency. While such a formula remains valid, the president’s continued performance in Ohio and Virginia suggests that Romney will not likely sweep the four core states. But, numbers coming from the aforementioned Michigan and Wisconsin, and Midwestern and western states such as Iowa, Colorado and possibly Nevada, demonstrates other Republican victory paths are now possible.

Here are the scenarios:

• If the president carries Virginia, a Wisconsin-Iowa combination is the easiest way for Romney to neutralize this Obama core state victory. The Republican would still need one more state, such as New Hampshire, where Obama consistently leads, or Nevada or Colorado to claim national victory. New Mexico, normally a swing state, appears to be currently off the table as the President continues to score double-digit polling leads.

• If Obama wins Ohio, then Romney would be forced to win Wisconsin and Colorado. Under this scenario, Michigan comes into play. Unless Romney carries New Hampshire, Nevada, or Iowa, then the Wolverine State becomes his last neutralization option.

• Should the President carry both Ohio and Virginia, then Romney could still win by taking Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado or Nevada. All scenarios assume that Romney re-unites Nebraska by winning that state’s 2nd Congressional District and thus providing one more vote to his electoral column.

The overall state chart still favors the president, but the campaign’s recent fluidity suggests several new victory options are now attainable for the challenger.

The Importance of Ohio

Ohio Congressional Districts

Since the 2000 presidential election, the state of Ohio has been front and center in determining the national political outcome. Despite having a Republican electoral history, the state voted twice for Bill Clinton before returning to support George W. Bush in both of his campaigns. In 2008, Ohio went 51-47 percent for candidate Barack Obama. Now four years later, it again becomes the quintessential political battleground. If Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is to unseat President Obama, his path must travel through the Buckeye State.

Along with the presidential contest, Republicans are hoping to make the Ohio Senate race highly competitive and appear to be doing so. State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who has already raised over $10 million for the statewide campaign, is challenging first term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). This race will be determined along the same lines as the presidential contest and it is plausible that the party winning at the top of the ticket will also sweep in its Senatorial candidate. House races are critically important here, too, with as many as four contests in play for the general election.

The economy will be the determining factor here, as poor financial conditions during the last decade is one reason Ohio’s population growth rate was so anemic during the last census period. The state increased its number of residents only 1.6 percent during that time, which caused it to lose two congressional districts. Along with New York, this is the most in the nation. The US population grew at a 9.7 percent clip during the commensurate period.

The Obama campaign hopes to capture the senior vote with its depiction of the Republican budget proposals as being bad for the elderly. Conversely, the GOP will attempt to coalesce small business owners around the President’s statement saying that individual entrepreneurs didn’t build their own enterprises. Obama will, as he did in 2008, build a coalition of minority voters and single women. Romney will attempt to convince regular church goers to support him en masse.

Assuming that each is successful with their strategic objectives and the aforementioned voter segments break down about evenly in Ohio, another issue could become a wild card – at least that’s what the Romney campaign hopes, as evidenced during the visit to the state last week.

It is the coal issue that could possibly become determinative in Ohio. Perhaps Mr. Obama’s biggest mistake of his presidency was pushing the Cap & Trade measure as his first major legislative initiative. His party suffered greatly at the 2010 ballot box in coal country, and Cap & Trade was a big reason for the Democrats’ poor performance.

When veteran Democratic congressmen Alan Mollohan (WV-1) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) supported the legislation, they were summarily removed from office and clearly because of their energy positions. Things got so bad for Mid-Atlantic Democrats that now-Sen. Joe Manchin actually resulted to taking a gun and shooting a copy of the Cap & Trade bill in one of his campaign ads. The question is, will this voter vitriol continue at the same fever pitch in 2012?

It may in Ohio. With eight public polls being conducted in the state since July 1, most falling within a 3.2 point range between the two candidates (the two extremes gave Obama an eight-point advantage; the other had Romney up two), it is probable that the end result will come down to just a handful of votes.

This is why the Romney campaign is turning their attention to coal, as illustrated by the candidate’s visit to an Ohio coal mine last week. Coal is responsible for generating 82 percent of Ohio’s electrical power and, despite being the seventh-largest state in America, the Buckeye’s rank fourth in coal usage and 10th in production.

It is clear Ohio voters will be hearing a great deal about energy issues throughout the remaining campaign weeks and a lot about each presidential candidate’s position on the various means of energy production. Because coal is such an integral part of the lives and economic well-being of Ohioans, Romney may have found an issue that creates a definitive contrast with Obama where the president has little maneuvering ability. Will this make the difference in Ohio? Time will soon tell.

Analyzing the North Carolina Run-off Elections

Yesterday’s North Carolina congressional run-off elections concluded with three districts producing Republican nominees, all with strong chances of winning the general election in November.

In the 8th District, occupying the area to the north and east of Charlotte and around Fayetteville, business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson won a landslide 64-36 percent win over dentist and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Only 16,078 votes were cast in the secondary election, just under 4 percent of the entire universe of registered voters. It was a decisive win for Hudson, who built a coalition comprised of conservatives, Washington insiders, and North Carolina establishment individuals and entities. Some national conservative organizations, such as the Club for Growth, supported Keadle’s unsuccessful candidacy.

Hudson now challenges two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in a district that has been radically re-configured. With the new 8th being 21 points better for Republicans based upon the Obama-McCain 2008 presidential election scale, and Kissell only currently representing 54 percent of the new territory, it is arguable that Hudson is now the favorite here even against the incumbent. Republican map architects designed this seat to be one of the best GOP conversion opportunities in the country, and Hudson is proving worthy of the task of unseating an incumbent. We will hear much more from this campaign in the coming weeks.

To the west, encompassing most of Charlotte proper and stretching northward more than half-way toward Winston-Salem, the 9th District also has a new Republican nominee. For all intents and purposes, last night’s vote actually selected the new congressman here because this seat trends safe Republican. With Rep. Sue Myrick (R) retiring after nine terms, 11 candidates ran in the original primary and the field whittled down to former state Sen. Robert Pittenger
and Mecklenburg County Commissioner and ex-sheriff Jim Pendergraph. As was the case in the primary, the result ended in relatively close fashion.

Mr. Pittenger, who spent more than $2 million of his own money and was the self-proclaimed most conservative candidate in the race, clinched a 53-47 percent win last night. The former state senator is now the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democratic Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts in the general election.

The new 9th went for John McCain in 2008 by a 54-45 percent count, one point under the margin from the current 9th CD. Three-quarters of the territory remains constant in the new district. More than 35,000 people voted, the largest congressional turnout in the state. Though Pendergraph took Mecklenburg County by a 51-49 percent margin, Pittenger’s strong performance in Iredell (70-30 percent) and Union (57-43 percent) counties was enough to offset him losing the most populous area.

Moving to far western North Carolina, in the Asheville area seat being vacated by retiring three-term Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, businessman Mark Meadows becomes the 2012 Republican nominee for the new 11th Congressional District. He swamped entrepreneur Vance Patterson 76-24 percent in a run-off race that was never close. Almost 23,000 votes were cast in this run-off, the second highest of the three congressional contests decided last evening.

Meadows will now face Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff. The Republican businessman has the inside track to victory in the general election because the post-redistricting 11th has swung hard toward the GOP. On the Obama-McCain scale, the new NC-11 is now the most Republican district in the state, moving a net 13 partisan points.

Because North Carolina figures to be the Republicans’ best state countrywide during these elections, and will neutralize a similar Democratic performance in Illinois, it is likely that all three men nominated last night will win their respective general elections. So, despite a statewide voter turnout of only 3.58 percent, this North Carolina run-off election will prove significant when painting the 2012 national political picture.

Espaillat Concedes to Rangel … Again

It’s now official. After new tallies in New York’s 13th Congressional District were released showing Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) actually gaining votes, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat again conceded defeat. The Senator acknowledged that he had lost on primary election night (June 26), but when all the precincts actually reported their results, the margin tightened. With thousands of votes remaining uncounted and Rangel’s lead down to 802 votes, Espaillat asked for further canvassing since the state Board of Elections was reporting the tallies in such a time-consuming and haphazard manner. Now that the recount is actually showing Rangel gaining strength – his lead is up to 990 votes – Espaillat decided to bow out for the second time.

The result is now final. Other than it being virtually impossible for Rangel to lose mathematically, there is a practical political reason for also supporting this conclusion. To qualify for the state primary in September, Espaillat must file for re-election to the state Senate no later than Thursday. He cannot run for state office if he is still a federal candidate, so continuing to protest the congressional result could make him ineligible to seek re-election to his current position.

In order to comply with the new provisions of the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE), a federal judge transferred the New York congressional primary from Sept. 13 to June 26. Since the state then chose to keep its statewide primary in September, New York is holding two nominating elections. Therefore, Espaillat could run for Congress without putting his legislative office at risk.

House Realignment Scorecard

The conventional wisdom during the past 18 months was that Democrats were going to make modest gains in the post-redistricting House, but such prognostications are changing. Considering the re-maps from a national perspective without regard to campaign competition factors, the Republicans are the ones who now appear to have the slight advantage.

The outlook is changing because none of the major Republican seat-risk situations appear to be producing multiple losses. Neither the New York, Florida, California, Virginia, nor Texas map is, on the surface, going to add large numbers of new Democratic House members solely because of plan configuration.

Since we now know where the new seats are going and where the lost districts are coming from, more complete analyses can be rendered. While the straight numbers suggest that Democrats must score a net gain of 25 districts to re-capture the House majority by a single seat, the adjusted post-redistricting number actually increases that figure to 29.

The basis for such a conclusion is in accounting for the 12 seats that have shifted states along with several obvious conversion districts. Other factors are equally as viable in projecting an overall House partisan balance figure, but how competitive various seats are in states like California and New York can be debated in another column. For now, looking at the placement and displacement of the new seats, along with what appear to be some obvious open-seat campaigns going decidedly toward either a Democratic or Republican nominee, lead us to a +4 Republican gain figure.

Let’s first look at the multiple-seat gain or loss states, which tend to be a wash in terms of partisan divide. In Texas, the biggest gainer, the new seats of TX-25, 33, 34, and 36 are headed for a 2R-2D split. In Florida, their two new districts, FL-9 and FL-22, look to be leaning Democratic (certainly so for FL-22), but the campaign evolving in the new 9th puts the outcome in question. Republicans have recruited a strong candidate in local county commissioner John Quinones, while the Democrats are again tapping controversial one-term ex-Rep. Alan Grayson who was defeated for re-election in 2010.

On the multiple-seat reduction side, both Ohio and New York also appear to be neutralizing themselves between the parties. Both sides look to lose one net seat in each state.

But it is among the single-seat gaining and losing states where the GOP has scored well. The Republicans look to be coming out on top in gainers like Georgia (GA-9), South Carolina (SC-7), and Utah (UT-2). Democrats will have a slight edge in Arizona’s new district (AZ-9), and are likely winners in Nevada (NV-4), and Washington (WA-10).

In the states losing congressional representation, while New York and Ohio don’t give either party a clear advantage, Democrats are forced to absorb the loss in Massachusetts (MA-10), New Jersey (NJ-13), Michigan (MI-15), Pennsylvania (PA-4), and Missouri (MO-3). Republicans take the hit in Illinois (IL-19) and Louisiana (LA-7).

The GOP looks to be headed for conversion victories in Arkansas (AR-4, Rep. Mike Ross retiring), Oklahoma (OK-2, Rep. Dan Boren retiring), and likely in Indiana (IN-2, Rep. Joe Donnelly running for Senate). They will also gain three to four seats in North Carolina, but those are neutralized by what appear to be similar gains for Democrats in Illinois. All totaled, before the campaigns hit their stretch drive, it is the GOP that now enjoys a slight post-redistricting advantage and makes a 2012 House majority change even more remote.