Category Archives: Election Analysis

Why Third-Place Matters

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears poised to win a convincing victory tonight in the Florida Republican presidential primary and, barring future delegate certification challenges before the Republican National Convention, will claim all 50 delegates being apportioned in the state in winner-take-all fashion.

Eight different polls, all conducted during a period beginning Jan. 27 or later, give Mr. Romney leads of between 5 and 25 percentage points, and in all but two of those polls he wins by double digits. Each poll has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in second place and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum either in third or tied for third with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14).

But it is how Santorum performs that may be the most interesting part of tonight’s result. Since the polls all show him posting between 9 and 12 points, a stronger performance will reveal further conservative dissatisfaction with Romney. Further right-of-center voters fleeing Gingrich – as his roller coaster campaign now begins to slide downward again – and heading toward Santorum looks to be a very real possibility. Should this occur, the Pennsylvanian, who spent little money in Florida, would head to Nevada with some new wind at his back, particularly if Romney again wins with only a plurality of support.

Such a finish would again lend credence to the theory that a uniting of conservatives behind one candidate could still see that candidate overtake Romney. Failure for that scenario to take place likely nominates Romney at least by the time most primaries and caucuses conclude at the end of April, if not sooner.

Democrats to Depart in North Carolina

Two Democratic retirements were announced yesterday in North Carolina.

First, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC-13), who seemed politically doomed in an intra-party pairing with Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) in the new 4th Congressional District, decided not to make the race after all. Though saying he was encouraged by his supporters’ responses if forced to make a choice between the two, Miller indicated that Democratic Party leaders, activists, and financial donors were virtually unanimous in expressing the opinion that the two should not challenge each other.

The congressman was first elected in the redistricting year of 2002, winning the new seat North Carolina gained in reapportionment. Ten years later, Miller became the victim of redistricting as his 13th District was redrawn as a Republican seat and his Raleigh political base became enjoined with Price’s.

But the bigger Tar Heel State news is embattled Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue’s announcement that she will not seek a second four-year term in this year’s general election.

Lagging in the polls to Republican Pat McCrory, the man she beat in 2008, and being continually upside down in job approval, her political outlook appeared bleak. Perdue’s standing was so bad at one point during the summer of 2009, that even a plurality of Democrats disapproved of her performance in office (38:40 percent). It was believed by many that Democrats would have a better chance to win in November with another candidate. Now, they have that opportunity.

The move has upended the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, however. Already Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), another redistricting victim, says he is “strongly considering” and “leaning towards running for governor.”

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), one more Tar Heel State Democrat whose district will be more Republican in 2012, also said he is not ruling out running statewide. Should both of these men jump into the now open governor’s race, Republicans will almost certainly fill their vacated congressional districts.

For his part, outgoing Rep. Miller stated that he “hadn’t given [running for governor] the first thought,” but he also didn’t close the door on running. He added, however, that other qualified candidates are already jumping into the race.

In terms of statewide Democratic office holders, with the exception of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton – who immediately declared his candidacy for governor and never even eliminated the possibility of launching a primary challenge to Purdue – each publicly ruled out embarking upon gubernatorial campaigns. Attorney General Roy Cooper, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and State Treasurer Janet Cowell all confirmed they are seeking re-election to their current positions.

It is clear that North Carolina is the Republicans’ best redistricting state. According to many analyses, the GOP has a strong chance to gain as many as four seats in the 13-member delegation, making the 2013-14 delegation split 10R-3D. Should both Shuler and McIntyre enter the governor’s race, such an outcome becomes a virtual lock.

The most likely scenario features Mr. Shuler becoming a gubernatorial candidate, but Mr. McIntyre either seeking re-election or retiring from the House. Yesterday’s decisions rocked North Carolina politics. Many more developments will soon be forthcoming.

Florida is Just the Beginning of the Presidential Campaign

Many commentators and analysts have been publicly alluding to a scenario where next Tuesday’s Florida primary perhaps ends the Republican presidential campaign. They believe that enough momentum could come from the Sunshine State vote, the biggest state to claim the electoral spotlight to date, that virtually all of the other candidates fall by the wayside.

Regardless of who wins Florida, it is very unlikely that such will be the case, and it all comes down to simple math. It takes 1,144 adjusted delegate votes to clinch the nomination. After Florida a mere 115 will be, for all intents and purposes, chosen; just 10 percent of the number required to win and only 5 percent of the total delegate universe.

The delegate number is so small during this first part of the election cycle, because many of the early states were penalized delegate slots for moving their nominating event. Florida started the musical chairs by shifting to Jan. 31, in violation of Republican National Committee rules. The action cost them 50% of their delegation. Florida is awarded 99 delegates, but post-penalty, the candidates are vying for only 50.

Because New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona all moved up, they too, receive 50 percent penalties. Cumulatively, the penalized states lose an aggregate total of 143 delegate slots. Thus, the universe of Republican National Convention delegates is reduced from 2,429 to 2,286.

Through South Carolina, the projected delegate scorecard gives former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the lead with just 27 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 15 delegates, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is third at 9, and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next with 6. Technically, Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured three delegates and former Obama Administration official Jon Huntsman won two, so it is likely these five votes will be released.

But even the status of these few votes is no certainty. As Rep. Paul stated in Monday night’s Florida debate, the Iowa Caucuses are not over. The vote on Jan. 3 was merely a straw poll. The main purpose of the precinct caucuses was to elect delegates to the county conventions. At those meetings, delegates are then sent to the June 16 state convention where the 28 Iowa Republican National Convention representatives finally will be chosen.

South Carolina also is not finished. Because the state apportions most of their delegates through the congressional districts, assignment cannot yet move forward because the new seven-seat congressional redistricting plan has not fully cleared all legal hurdles. When the districts are finalized, it appears that Gingrich will win Districts 2 thru 7. Romney carried CD-1. This means the former Speaker is projected to eventually receive 23 of the 25 available Palmetto State delegates.

Even through Super Tuesday (March 6), only 29 percent of the delegates will be chosen, suggesting that the nomination fight could go on for some time. Eighteen states will vote on or before Super Tuesday, holding a total of 664 delegate votes.

Many of the larger states are holding their elections later in the cycle in order to attract more attention and greater political capital. In fact, just seven states (California, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas) hold more cumulative delegate votes (670) than do all the states voting through the Super Tuesday informal benchmark.

It is not until the April 24 primaries when more than 70 percent of the total delegates are selected that a clear nominee will likely be chosen. Therefore, instead of places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida determining the Republican nominee, the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut now become the key venues, some three months after Floridians cast their ballots.

Based on the current results, prepare for a much longer contest than originally projected … and miles to go before we sleep.

Arizona Rep. Giffords to Resign; The Road Ahead

The senseless shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) a little more than one year ago has now led to her leaving Congress, as announced in an emotional video to supporters and her constituents. She will attend tonight’s State of the Union message, but then officially leave the House later this week and return home to Tucson to continue her recovery.

Once the resignation becomes official, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has only 72 hours to schedule a replacement special election. Based upon Arizona election code requirements in relation to the timing of the vacancy, the nominating contest will be in mid to late April (within 80 to 90 days of the official date of vacancy) with the special general in June (within 50 to 60 days after the special primary). The vote will occur within the current 8th District boundaries, which is slightly more favorable to Republicans than the post-redistricting Tucson-based 2nd District, re-numbered as such by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2010, Rep. Giffords won re-election in a tight 49-47 percent contest over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly.

Expect a large number of Democrats and Republicans to run in the marginal open seat race. Five Republicans, including Kelly and state Sen. Frank Antenori, have already indicated their interest in becoming a candidate for the new 2nd District, so it is assumed that they will participate in the special election. Several state legislators are Democratic potential candidates. The winner will serve only to the end of the current Congress. It is assumed the victor will run in the regular new 2nd District election, meaning he or she will endure four elections (two primaries, two generals) over a period of eight months.

With Newt Gingrich’s Win in South Carolina, Now What?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s strong 40-28 percent victory over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina primary means the Republican presidential nomination fight is far from being decided. The 40 percent total represented the largest winning percentage thus far in the campaign, topping Romney’s showing in the New Hampshire primary (39 percent).

Turnout was a record high for an individual party. The 2008 Democratic primary, featuring then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, topped 532,000 ballots cast. That year more than 443,000 also voted on the Republican side. On Saturday, GOP voter participation broke the 600,000 threshold.

The evening proved to be a disappointment for both former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Both had hoped to do better. Santorum needed to at least finish a close third to realistically continue performing as a first tier candidate, but tallied only 17 percent of the South Carolina vote. Following Santorum was Rep. Paul with 13 percent. The congressman stated publicly he was hoping for a strong third place finish. Gingrich won 43 of the state’s 46 counties and Romney three, while both Santorum and Paul were shut-out.

Mr. Gingrich again rebounded from what appeared to be a relentless downward spiral based upon his Iowa and New Hampshire finishes. Every other candidate in this race, once they began to fall, never recovered. As we saw in South Carolina over the weekend, Gingrich has now bounced back twice, once from his staffing debacle at the start of his presidential campaign, and now, overcoming the negative ad barrage that damaged him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Additionally, South Carolina may have given us the first practical test of the theory that a conservative who can isolate Romney in a two-way race beats him, irrespective of who may be that individual. Since the Palmetto State vote is the first instance where the campaign winnowed down into basically a two-candidate race, the theory, at least as exemplified during this past weekend, appears to have legs.

We also have the underpinnings of a nomination fight that could soldier on for a long while, or at least through the end of April when more than two-thirds of the delegates will be apportioned. With Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, three candidates have now won nominating events: Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses Romney in the New Hampshire primary, and now the former Speaker during this past weekend.

Projecting forward from the progression of events just passed, let’s try to project what comes next in Florida on Jan. 31? As the party leaders had hoped for when they accepted reducing the size of their delegation by half for the right to vote before Super Tuesday (March 6), Florida could determine who wins the nomination. Not only will it be the first big state to host a nominating event, but a victory by either Romney or Gingrich could send the other two candidates, Paul and Santorum, out of the race. Santorum’s departure would have a greater effect because his constituency will almost assuredly go to Gingrich as their second choice.

The Florida vote will answer the following questions: Will Gingrich have generated enough momentum in South Carolina to win a big state primary? Will Romney’s superior financial resources and campaign management team return him to the winner’s circle in what could become the most important of states? Will Paul and Santorum drop out if they again finish poorly? Will an eventual two-way contest between Gingrich and Romney favor the former Speaker despite his carrying substantial personal and political baggage? The answers to these and many other race-defining queries will be uncovered to at least some degree when people from Pensacola to Key West cast their ballots in eight days. Stay tuned.