Category Archives: Election Analysis

Chambliss, Harkin to Retire; Senate Dominoes Falling

The past few days brought two Senate retirement announcements as both Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) made public their intentions not to seek another term. When the 113th Congress ends in January 2015, Harkin will conclude 40 years of congressional service: 30 in the Senate and 10 in the House. Sen. Chambliss will complete two senatorial terms after serving four as a Representative for a grand total of 20 years in elective federal office.

Georgia

The Georgia race likely will be decided from the Republican nomination process, and at least two current GOP House members, Reps. Tom Price (R-GA-6) and Paul Broun (R-GA-10), are likely Senate contenders. Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3) are also potential candidates, as are former presidential aspirant Herman Cain and ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel. Democratic Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12), who successfully held a newly configured Republican-leaning seat in 2012, says he will not run statewide but is planning to seek re-election in 2014.

Iowa

The open Iowa campaign will be much different from the Georgia situation as competitive party primaries are expected as well as a tough general election race. It is not out of the realm of possibility that all four of Iowa’s sitting US Representatives Continue reading >

Halvorson Strategy Working Early

Debbie Halvorson

Debbie Halvorson

The first two election surveys have been released for the Feb. 26 special Democratic primary race in Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, and the polling leader in both instances isn’t who one would expect. Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11), hoping to split the 60 percent-plus, majority African-American voter contingent among at least six well-known black candidates and win with a small plurality coalition of white voters, appears to be in early position to achieve her strategic objective.

The Normington-Petts Democratic survey research firm just completed an internal poll (Jan. 8-10; 400 likely Democratic primary voters) for candidate Toi Hutchinson, who Continue reading >

Hillary Flies High on a Low-Flying Poll

A new Public Policy Polling national survey (Jan. 3-6; 1,100 registered voters; 400 Democratic and 536 regular Republican primary participants) projects Hillary Clinton to be in the strongest position of all potential 2016 presidential candidates from either party, but the poll has methodological flaws.

According to the data, Clinton would easily capture the Democratic nomination, scoring a 57-16 percent margin over Vice President Joe Biden. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren notched 4 percent, followed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 3 percent, while Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner tallied 2 percent apiece.

The poll then paired only Clinton against a myriad of Republican potential candidates such as former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Clinton beats them all in hypothetical individual ballot test match-ups, but early results such as these are inconsequential and particularly so in this poll. Of the aforementioned, Christie fares best coming within two points of Clinton, behind 42-44 percent. All of the others trail her in double-digits.
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Southern States Polling Results

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Public Policy Polling, fresh from setting the mark as one of the most accurate pollsters in the 2012 election cycle, went into the field in three key southern states — Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina — to project some very early Senatorial numbers. Here’s what they found:

Kentucky

Among the incumbents tested was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who won his last election (2008) with 53 percent.

Looking ahead to 2012 in the Bluegrass State, the PPP data (Dec. 7-9; 1,299 registered Kentucky voters) produced unusual results. In their analysis, the organization’s president, Tom Jensen, claims that McConnell’s 37:55 percent job approval ratio is the worst of any senator. But, he still leads all hypothetical foes in isolated ballot tests.

The senator tops three well-known Democrats by identical 47-43 percent margins. Two of the three, Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, already have said they have no intention of challenging McConnell. The third tested candidate is actress Ashley Judd. She also has made public statements downplaying her desire to run but is the favorite of liberal activists, nonetheless, because many of them want a celebrity challenger to the Republican leader.

The other two Democratic figures who come within single-digits of the senator are Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (trailing McConnell 41-46 percent) and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (behind 40-47 percent).

Though McConnell is not particularly popular in his home state, he remains one of the best campaigners in the Republican stable. Should the Democrats actually convince Judd to run, she might find going against McConnell much more difficult than it appears on paper. It is unlikely that she will run. Right now, the Democrats have no viable option, but expect them to field a credible challenger.

North Carolina

Looking ahead to 2014, first-term North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) appears to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing re-election. Hagan won in the high turnout year of 2008, defeating then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) who made many strategic campaign mistakes and had clearly lost touch with her constituency. In the upcoming mid-term election, considering the assured lower turnout when compared with a presidential year and that the state was one of two (Indiana was the other) that failed to support President Obama in 2012 after doing so in 2008, the stage is already set for a highly competitive Republican challenge race against her.

Looking at the early hypotheticals, Public Policy Polling (Dec. 6-9; 578 registered North Carolina voters) tested several North Carolina Republicans, not including any of the newly elected statewide officials. Among various members of the congressional delegation, Hagan scores in similar territory. Paired with GOP Reps. Renee Ellmers (down 39-45 percent), Virginia Foxx (trailing 39-49 percent), Patrick McHenry (behind 40-48 percent), and just-elected George Holding (Hagan leading 48-39 percent), the senator scores in a consistent range. Her totals suggest vulnerability. Though leading all of the congressmen, she doesn’t break 50 percent against any and, despite none of them having statewide name identification, all are within early striking distance. This will prove to be one of the hardest fought of the 2014 Senate races.

South Carolina

With all the talk surrounding Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R) resignation and potential replacement, less attention is being paid to the state’s senior senator who also must face the voters in 2014. While the conventional wisdom has been that Sen. Lindsey Graham is vulnerable in a South Carolina Republican primary, the new PPP polls paints a completely different picture.

According to the Public Policy Polling Republican primary data (Dec. 7-9; 506 South Carolina Republican voters), Sen. Graham enjoys a 66:26 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio and crushes selected members of the congressional delegation in individual ballot tests.

Of the potential congressional challengers that PPP tabbed, Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1) fares the best, but even he trails 32-54 percent. Graham is well above 50 percent against all potential comers, and scores 51-40 percent when asking whether the respondent would favor the senator or another candidate who is more conservative. Continued similar results will soon remove Sen. Graham from the primary vulnerability list.

The Early Targets

Even this early in an election cycle, some obvious 2014 targets are evident. In the Senate, majority Democrats must protect 20 seats versus 13 for Republicans. The GOP will need to convert six Democratic states in order to re-capture the majority for the first time since 2006.

In the House, it’s much too early to tell how the cycle will even begin to unfold, but the 2012 winners who scored at or below 50 percent normally find themselves in vulnerable situations two years later. There are 20 winners who scored a bare majority or less in their win last month.

Here’s how we see things lining up:

The Senate

Already, there appear to be four potential toss-up campaigns on the horizon at the very beginning of the election cycle.

Two states already have announced challengers to Democratic incumbents that many believe are headed for retirement despite the senators themselves saying they are planning a re-election campaign.

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) officially announced that she will challenge five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the next election. With West Virginia now trending deep red and Rockefeller launching verbal attacks against the state’s dominant coal industry, this race must be cast as an early toss-up. Should Rockefeller — who will be 77 years old at the time of the next election — not seek another term, Capito will be considered the early favorite.

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) also has announced that he will run for the Senate in 2014. He will challenge three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D). Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), who was just re-elected to a second term, also has not ruled out a Senate run, meaning that she would first have to challenge Rounds in the Republican primary. Publicly, she is not closing the door on any 2014 option. A Johnson-Rounds campaign would also have to be rated as an early toss-up. The senator would be favored against Rep. Noem.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) stands for a second term after defeating veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R) by a slim 48-47 percent count in 2008. Stevens was fighting a Justice Department legal onslaught that fell apart on the prosecutors but only after Stevens had already lost to Begich. As you know, the senator was later killed in an airplane crash. This campaign will be interesting. A strong challenger such as Gov. Sean Parnell (R), could make this a very tight campaign.

Considering that North Carolina was only one of two states that switched from supporting Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney last month, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will seek a second term and be rated in a toss-up campaign from Day One. There is no clear challenger on the horizon, but whomever the Republicans choose will be a serious contender.

The 2014 election cycle will be a long one, but count on these four Senate races grabbing a major share of the political attention for the next two years.

The House

Here’s a look at the 20 winners in 2012 who are right at or a bit below the 50 percent mark who could be vulnerable:

Below 50 percent

  • Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) – 47% (open seat)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) – 48% (open seat)
  • John Tierney (D-MA-6) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Maffei (D-NY-24) – 48% (challenger)
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) – 49% (open seat)
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) – 49% (incumbent)
  • Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) – 49% (open seat)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) – 49% (incumbent)

At 50%

  • Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) – (incumbent)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA-52) – (challenger)
  • * Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) – (challenger)
  • Dan Schneider (D-IL-10) – (challenger)
  • Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – (incumbent)
  • Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) – (open seat)
  • Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) – (challenger)
  • Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) – (challenger)
  • Bill Owens (D-NY-21) – (incumbent)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) – (incumbent)
  • * Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) – (challenger)

* Italics: Seat will likely be re-drawn in 2013 redistricting.