Category Archives: House

Maine’s Musical Chairs

Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage made a surprising public comment Friday that he is considering running for Congress instead of re-election. A little more than a week ago, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee for purposes of challenging the incumbent, thus creating the possibility of an open 2nd District. ME-2 contains about three-quarters of the state’s land mass and includes the cities of Bangor, Lewiston, Auburn, Caribou, and Presque Isle.

The Maine gubernatorial race is an interesting one because it will again be constructed as a major three-way race. In 2010, LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, rode to victory in a similar configuration. Taking advantage of Independent Eliot Cutler’s strong candidacy, the Republican was elected with just 37.6 percent of the vote, but that standing was strong enough for a first place finish. Cutler was a close second with 35.9 percent and the Democratic nominee, then-state Sen. Libby Mitchell, fell way back to 18.9 percent. Cutler has already announced his intention to run in 2014, guaranteeing another three-way race.

But, will the congressional seat be open? Two years ago, when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced her retirement, Rep. Michaud immediately jumped into the statewide race. When former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King then became a candidate, Michaud quickly retreated to his House district fearing that he could not win the developing three-way campaign.

The 2014 Governor’s race looks more winnable for either Cutler or a Democrat because LePage’s approval numbers are low. The last statewide poll that gauged his job approval came from Public Policy Polling back in January when he registered only a 39:55 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Still, even with a low rating, LePage continued to top a three-way field. According to PPP, the Governor led  Continue reading >

Republican Smith Wins Missouri Special Election

Rep. Jason Smith

Rep. Jason Smith

For virtually the first time since this 113th Congress began in early January, the House of Representatives now has all 435 seats filled. Last night, Missouri Republican state Rep. Jason Smith won the 8th Congressional District special election easily outpacing his Democratic state House colleague, Steve Hodges.

Smith scored an impressive 67-27 percent victory in what has become a solidly Republican southeastern Missouri seat as evidenced in Mitt Romney defeating President Obama here 66-32 percent last November.

The special congressional election never captured much attention. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R) announced her resignation in December in order to accept a job in the private sector, and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) then scheduled a very long special election cycle. Smith won his party caucus in early February, and Hodges followed suit on the Democratic side the following week. Thus, the four-month special election began.

The fact that the contest never created any controversy clearly favored the majority party candidate, and Smith took full advantage of his opportunity. Turnout was very low, with only 62,764 votes being recorded. Normally, participation in special congressional elections nears 100,000 voters. The previous special vote, the May 7 South Carolina contest that elected Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC-1), saw more than 143,000 ballots cast, for example.

Representative-elect Smith should have little trouble holding this seat in the 2014 regular election and will likely be safe in his new position at least until the districts are redrawn in 2021.

Rep. Bachmann to Retire

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6)

Former presidential candidate and four-term US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced via video that she will not seek re-election next year. Drawing a parallel between the eight-year term limit placed upon the office of president, Bachmann said that such amount of time was appropriate for a House member to serve as well.

Last week, a Public Policy Polling survey showed her trailing her 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves who has already announced his intent to run again, by a two-point 45-47 percent margin. Though saying said she is confident of her re-election next year, even though she scored only 50.5 percent against Graves in ’12 and has no concern over the FEC investigation of her presidential campaign accounts, the congresswoman believes the time is right for her to leave the House.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state (Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 56.5-41.5 percent), so the new GOP nominee will be considered the favorite to defeat Graves, particularly in a lower turnout mid-term election. Bachmann becomes the 14th House member to either announce their retirement or resign from the House since the last election.

NRCC Moving Targets

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.
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Gary Miller’s Wild Ride

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

After the 2011 California congressional redistricting maps were unveiled, it appeared that Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) would not be a member of the 113th Congress. But, he defied the odds and, in a rather stunning turn of events, won “re-election” from a district containing none of his previous constituents. Now representing a San Bernardino County seat that is the most pro-Obama district (57.2 percent) to elect a Republican congressman, it looks like unfolding developments may again play to his good fortune.

On the surface, Rep. Miller was dealt a bad hand in redistricting because he was originally paired with Rep. Ed Royce (R) in the new 39th District. But, in the adjacent new 31st CD where then-representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) and Joe Baca (D-CA-43) were paired, things began transpiring that would later open the door for Miller.

First, Rep. Baca rather surprisingly announced he would run in new District 35, a seat where he represented about 61 percent of the constituency but a place containing none of his home base of Rialto, a city of just under 100,000 people who had elected him to the state Assembly, Senate, and, for 13 years, Congress. Baca went to the 35th even though he knew state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D) would oppose him. She is his bitter political rival, and someone who represented more of the new district than  Continue reading >

Poll: Bachmann Already Trailing

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ran a boisterous campaign for president last year, but after losing the Republican nomination she retreated to her House district to quietly run for re-election … and barely won. Against first-time Democratic candidate Jim Graves, a local Twin Cities area businessman, Bachmann only captured a scant 50.5 percent majority to secure a fourth term in the House.

Often times a US Representative reaching for a higher office, particularly president, and failing in the quest, leads to a less than stellar re-election performance. Such was the case for Rep. Bachmann. A new Public Policy Polling flash survey (May 15; 500 registered MN-6 voters) suggests that the congresswoman’s political troubles are not over.

According to the PPP results, Graves, who previously announced that he will seek a re-match, has jumped out to an early 47-45 percent lead. This, in a district that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried 56-41 percent. The 6th CD is the strongest Republican district in Minnesota, which is typically a reliable blue state. Romney carried only two of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Not surprisingly, since this poll shows Bachmann trailing in a partisan district that should be strongly in the Republican column, her personal favorability index is upside down. Forty-four percent have a positive opinion of Bachmann, while 51 percent expressed holding negative feelings toward her. Graves recorded a 39:33 percent favorable to unfavorable score, which isn’t particularly good either.
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Sanford!

Seemingly against all odds, former governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) successfully re-claimed his former congressional seat with a stunning 54-45 percent victory over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch last night in southeastern South Carolina. The race drew major national attention because of Sanford’s highly publicized extra-marital affair and alleged violation of his divorce agreement, along with the Democratic nominee’s status of being the sister of Comedy Central television personality Stephen Colbert. Colbert Busch’s inability to dodge the liberal label, however, proved to be her undoing in this conservative Charleston-anchored 1st Congressional District.

It’s rare when a nominee winning a seat that overwhelmingly favors his party is considered an upset, but that’s exactly what happened last night. Sanford, running as a Tea Party endorsed fiscal hard-liner, successfully made his budget discipline message the focal point of the campaign and not his continuing personal scandals.

The Democrats poured a steady stream of money into the race, sensing that they could steal a solidly Republican seat and use the victory as a building block to support their 2014 House majority plan. Last night’s defeat is clearly a setback for them. When the final accounting is completed, the tally will likely show that Colbert Busch and the outside organizations supporting her or opposing Sanford spent between $1.7 and $2 million. Sanford, accompanied by very little outside spending, will come closer to, but will likely fall under, $1 million in total expenditures.

Earlier we projected that the former governor and congressman needed a high turnout to win because Colbert Busch would likely benefit from a lower voter participation rate. The former occurred. The final unofficial tally shows a total of 143,774 votes cast, from which Sanford garnered 54.0 percent. The total represents 31.6 percent of the 455,702 SC-1 registered voters.

Special elections commonly record total turnout numbers in the 100-120,000 range.  Continue reading >