Category Archives: House

Ryan Elected; House ’16 Outlook

Nov. 2, 2915 — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, became the Speaker of the House late last week, but what are his long-term prospects for remaining in the newly attained position? Ryan replaces Ohio’s John Boehner (R) who resigned from Congress Friday.

The vote of 236-184 represented all but 10 Republicans supporting the nine-term Wisconsin representative who was first elected at age 28 and a veteran chairman of two House committees (Budget; Ways & Means). Considering the fractured nature of today’s House Republican Conference, the vote was a show of strong unity for Ryan, which provides him a better mandate than Boehner had during his final term.

Ryan’s 1st District of Wisconsin stretches from his hometown of Janesville all the way to Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Michigan in his state’s southeastern corner. The 1st is a marginal district, but the new speaker long ago made it a safe seat for him. He is the first Wisconsin representative to become speaker and now the region’s most historically prominent congressman. Previously, the late Les Aspin (D), who held the 1st District for 22 years before becoming Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton, was the most notable southern Wisconsin Representative.

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Webb Out; Jolly Crashes

Oct. 23, 2015 — Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb, the former US senator (Virginia) who spent most of last week’s debate time complaining that he wasn’t getting enough attention, has dropped his bid for the party nomination. He leaves the door open to enter the general election campaign as an Independent.

The move does little to affect the race. The three most irrelevant presidential participants in this 2016 contest are the trio of Democratic minor candidates: Webb, former governor and senator, Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), and ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. None of them have moved the political needle one iota since joining the race months ago.

Webb running as an Independent is also likely to have little impact. Qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states as an Independent presidential candidate is not an easy task. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the former Democratic presidential candidate will be able to raise the money and develop a national organization strong enough even to obtain ballot position.

Should he qualify, he is unlikely to become a major factor, and not the type of Independent candidate that will take a large share of the vote away from a particular candidate. Because he has straddled the ideological spectrum, first as a Republican US Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration, and then all the way to becoming a Democratic senator, it is plausible that Webb’s few general election votes could potentially be evenly split between the two major party nominees.

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The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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Florida Redistricting Lines
Almost Complete

Oct. 13, 2015 — The Republican troubles in the US House look to be getting worse as the long-awaited Florida redistricting process is at last taking shape. The state Supreme Court struck down portions of the map back in early July and, with the state legislature not passing new legislation in their abbreviated special session, the high court returned the plan to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to serve as the redistricting special master. The original lawsuit was filed in Lewis’ court.

On Friday, Judge Lewis released his map, choosing one of the Democratic plaintiffs’ submissions, saying this plan best fulfills the Supreme Court’s sated objectives. The new map now goes to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The partisan numbers figure to favor Democrats by one to as many as four seats. Most likely, assuming no additional retirements among incumbents, the Democrats will probably gain one or two seats. There is a scenario, however, where Republicans could still break even. The Florida delegation splits 17R-10D under the current map.

The members likely to lose under the new configuration are representatives Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) and Dan Webster (R-FL-10) the latter of whom, ironically, is currently a candidate for House Speaker. Rep. David Jolly’s 13th District will also go Democratic, likely to former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) who said he would run if his St. Petersburg home was drawn into the district.

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The Speaker Race and its Effect on Elections; Pennsylvania
and Ohio Senate Data

Oct. 12, 2015 — Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA-23) surprise announcement that he has dropped out of the Speaker’s race was, of course, big news at the end of last week, but how will the change in House leadership affect the 2016 general election?

To a large extent, it’s too early to tell, especially with the new Speaker election not yet being scheduled and without knowing the identities of all the eventual candidates. Will the McCarthy withdrawal have much of an effect concerning how Republicans fare at the polls at the end of next year? No. But certainly the eventual John Boehner replacement will have a great deal of influence over how the House Republican campaigns unfold.

At this writing, there does seem to be a push, led by outgoing Speaker Boehner, to convince Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and the 2012 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, to enter the internal Speaker’s campaign. At this point, Ryan continues to reject all such suggestions, but he does appear to be one of the few members who has a chance of uniting the Republicans in order to capture the 218 votes needed for victory.

With Ryan’s drive to enact economic policy, a much better chance would exist for him to develop an agenda for Republican candidates nationally to promote and rally around. Having such a platform would help crystallize the campaign and ensure the maximum number of House GOP electoral victories. No agenda has been present in the past two campaigns, which precludes more positive, issue-oriented campaigning.

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The Chaffetz Effect

Oct. 6, 2015 — Responding to the uproar Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) caused when he indicated that the House Benghazi Committee was largely responsible for ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decline in the nationwide polls, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) announced his candidacy for Speaker over the weekend.

Does this development endanger McCarthy’s ascension to the Speakership? Not within the Conference, but the Benghazi Committee flap certainly has caused many members, and the Republican faithful at large, to question his ability to lead.

Virtually, inappropriately, and incorrectly saying that the Benghazi investigative committee was politically driven, McCarthy has reinforced the leadership’s internal and external opponents. His statements have given Republican financial donors and grassroots activists reason for pause, while reinforcing the impression that the GOP congressional hierarchy has failed to inspire confidence within the right-of-center political base.

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Kentucky Rep. Whitfield to Retire

Oct. 1, 2015 — Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY-1), chairman of the formidable Energy and Power subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, yesterday announced that he will not seek election to a 12th term next year. Whitfield, a former Democratic state legislator, was first elected in the Republican wave year of 1994, defeating one-term Rep. Tom Barlow (D). He is the only Republican to ever represent this western Kentucky district.

In what will be 22 years of congressional service when he retires, Rep. Whitfield will share the longest tenure in the district’s history. He joins Democratic Rep. Noble Gregory who also served 11 terms, from 1937-59. Whitfield is the first congressman from this district to retire voluntarily since 1958.

The territory has a colorful political past, at one time being represented by an individual who would later serve as vice president of the United States, Alben Barkley (D) under President Harry Truman, and Civil War era Rep. Henry Burnett (D) who is one of only five House members to ever be expelled from the body. Burnett’s colleagues bounced him from Congress for supporting the Confederate States of America. He would later serve in the Confederate Senate.

Though the district has a strong Democratic history, since Whitfield’s original election the seat has become ever more Republican. GOP presidential candidates scored huge 66 and 62 percent wins here in 2012 and 2008, respectively. KY-1 proved to be Mitt Romney’s 23rd best congressional district in the entire country. In what promises to be another strong western Kentucky Republican presidential run next year, Democratic prospects of converting the 1st become minimal.

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