Category Archives: House

MA-6: An Upset in the Making?

There are many House districts around the country that could become part of what many are predicting will be a Republican wave, but the 6th district of Massachusetts was certainly not on anybody’s GOP conversion list even as late as September. Developments are unfolding in the suburban region between metropolitan Boston and New Hampshire, however, that makes GOP challenger Bill Hudak’s bid against seven-term Rep. John Tierney (D) among the campaigns that could conceivably transform into a “sleeper.”

Rep. John Tierney

About two weeks ago, Tierney’s wife pled guilty in federal court to tax fraud charges. Many incumbents have survived worse, especially in a district that routinely elects members of the dominant political party to which they belong, but Patrice Tierney’s situation appears a bit more serious. Though she claims not to have known her brother’s online gambling operation located off the shores of Antigua was illegal when she prepared the company’s tax returns, she pled guilty to the felony tax charges involving amounts upwards of $7 million, nonetheless, and will be sentenced in January. What raises eyebrows further, and certainly makes Rep. Tierney more vulnerable to the Hudak challenge, is his support for the online gambling bill when it came before the House. Though the Congressman was not personally implicated in any of his wife’s legal dealings, the two possibly unrelated events do bring ethical questions to the forefront.

As we have seen throughout the country during primary season this year, voters have little tolerance for political scandals or patience for office holders abusing their offices. Businessmen like Bill Hudak who have never before sought political office have shown strong win percentages in the intra-party preliminary races and now we’ll see if such a pattern continues through the general election. Most political pundits believe it will.

October internal and independent polls do suggest a weakening of Tierney’s image and increasing vulnerability. Though the survey results have not been publicly released, it is known that the data show a tightening of the race to single digits, while Hudak scores much better among the most intensely interested voters, and even leads among those who have been closely following the Tierney scandal.

With 12 days remaining in the election cycle, it is apparent that Rep. Tierney has not yet secured re-election. The more attention his personal situation attracts, the greater his vulnerability and the stronger Hudak becomes. With the open 10th district being in toss-up mode and even Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4) to the southwest facing credible opposition, it is now reasonable to add MA-6 to the competitive Bay State congressional race list.

Is Sanchez in a Sleeper?

In an election cycle where arguably 150 House races are at least moderately competitive and 90 campaigns are legitimately in play, sleeper contests are few and far between. One such situation may be in Anaheim, Calif., however, where seven-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47) has apparently fallen into a dead heat with her GOP opponent, Assemblyman Van Tran, according to a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (for the Tran campaign, 10/11-13; 300 likely CA-47 voters; Sanchez and Tran tied at 39%).

Though Tran’s challenge to Sanchez has been on the board for more than a year, few believed it would become hotly contested. The district is decidedly Democratic and the Congresswoman normally wins with percentages right around 60%. What makes the seat a potential GOP conversion opportunity is the turnout history here – CA-47 has the lowest voter participation rate of any in the Golden State – and its demographic complexion. Though the seat is more than 65% Hispanic, it is also 14% Asian and features an extremely large Vietnamese community, of which Tran is a member. He’s won three elections to the state Assembly, in a political division more than half the size of CA-47, proving that he has a strong political base. In a seat that routinely records fewer votes than most members receive by themselves, anything can happen, particularly in an election year that may evolve into a political wave. This is definitely a race to watch.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Pennsylvania Tightens

Public Policy Polling (PPP), the national survey research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday released a new study (10/17-18, 718 likely PA voters) that gives Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) a bare 46-45% lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in their battle for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. This represents a significant change from all other recently released polls, including ones from PPP, that have previously posted Toomey to leads of between two and 10 points.

The revelation that the Sestak-Toomey campaign is closing is not particularly surprising for various reasons. First, Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, so seeing the Senate race and several House campaigns begin to move back toward the majority party meets expectations. Private polling suggests that the contests in PA-7 (open Sestak), ex-US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) vs. state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D); PA-8, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R); and PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney (D) vs. ex-US Attorney Tom Marino (R); also are tightening in favor of the Democratic candidate after the GOP contestant maintained discernible, if not considerable, previous advantages. Conversely, the PA-3, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) vs. Mike Kelly (R); and PA-11, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) vs. Lou Barletta (R); races still appear to be going the way of the GOP challenger. Polling now detects that Democratic voters are expressing greater interest in voting, thus suggesting better electoral participation rates.

Second, Sestak’s strategy for the general election is similar to that of his primary: wait to spend the campaign treasury until people are paying attention much closer to the election. During the Democratic primary, the Congressman trailed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter by as much as 10 points early, but caught and passed the veteran politician as voting day approached and finally arrived. Sestak is implementing a replay of such an expenditure timing plan against Toomey, thus his recent polling upswing tracks with him now coming to the forefront of the advertising campaign.

The latest poll tells us that the Senate race, despite a continued strong GOP lead in the Governor’s race, is coming back into toss-up range. The final outcome will likely be determined upon which party better motivates its supporters to actually cast their ballots, thus the end result is still very much in doubt.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Quayle in Trouble

With national pollsters providing consistently good news for Republicans, at least one seat normally viewed as relatively safe for the party is now in play for the Democrats. Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a place where Rep. John Shadegg (R) has racked up strong victories over the past 16 years, is now highly competitive according to a new Public Policy Polling survey. The study, conducted October 16-17 (655 likely AZ-3 voters) for the Daily Kos, a national liberal blog, gives Democratic attorney Jon Hulburd a 46-44% lead over Republican nominee Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. According to the data, the younger Quayle has a personal approval ratio of only 34-52% favorable to unfavorable and trails 36-50% within the crucial Independent voter sector.

Quayle defeated nine other candidates in the August 24 Republican primary, but captured only 22% of the vote in doing so. Controversy arose during the summer about his involvement with a non-traditional website, charges that were answered with his own unusual and off-beat response advertisements. With the currently intense and fractured Grand Canyon State political climate, and virtually every congressional district in the state seeing robust competition, it is clear that anything can happen in the many races to be decided there on November 2.

Upsets? Possible or Not?

Every day, new seats pop up as upset possibilities. Yesterday, for example, a new poll was publicized showing even Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) dropping to a single-digit lead. If the election becomes a Republican wave as many believe will happen, which “out of nowhere” races will actually come home?

With so many campaigns on the board, which are legitimate upset possibilities, and which are fool’s gold? The following are contests that have surfaced in recent days as potential upset picks. Our analysis:

AK-Senate: The theory is that Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid takes enough votes away from GOP nominee Joe Miller to either elect herself or throw the race to Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. Polling regarding write-in candidates is one thing; translating support into write-in votes is quite another. Had Sen. Murkowski operated a strong grassroots organization, she wouldn’t have lost her primary. The key to running a successful write-in effort is a strong ground operation. That doesn’t happen overnight, and especially not in a place as spread out as Alaska. Likely outcome: Miller wins.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-7)

AZ-7: Now the upset possibilities are even creeping into Voting Rights districts. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) has undeniably dropped to the low single digits in his battle with GOP scientist Ruth McClung. This one actually might have some legs. Grijalva is leading the charge to economically boycott his own state because of the immigration law, a position not well received by his constituents in a largely rural area experiencing tough times. Grijalva shouldn’t lose, but leading the charge to inflict economic pain upon one’s own constituents could be the catalyst that causes the seismic political shift that leads to a McClung upset.

DE-Senate: It’s wishful thinking to believe that Christine O’Donnell can still win the seat because of the Tea Party surge. She can’t. This one is done. Democrats win.

MA-4: Rep. Barney Frank (D) is in trouble. While true opponent Sean Bielat is raising a great deal of national small-dollar money and is Frank’s toughest-ever re-election opponent, the House Financial Services chairman will survive. No poll has dropped him below 50% and the district is just too Democratic in nature. Frank wins again.

Rep. John Dingell (D, MI-15)

MI-15: In December, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15) will have been in Congress for 55 years. Though at least one poll shows the Dean of the House falling behind opponent Dr. Rob Steele, it will be extremely difficult for this trend to continue. Back in 2001, the 15th district was designed to pair two Democratic incumbents, Dingell and then-Rep. Lynn Rivers, into one district. The Democratic primary would be a difficult fight for both, but the winner would get a seat for the rest of the decade. The seat will still remain intact for the Ds. Rep. Dingell wins a 29th term.

These are just a few examples of races that I detail in my daily newsletter, the PRIsm Political Update. For all the details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm-us.com.

Georgia is No California

With several Democrats publicly saying they would prefer to vote for individuals other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the next House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Marshall (D-GA-8) just launched the strongest of anti-Pelosi ads in his own difficult run for re-election. Attacking not only Speaker Pelosi, but also her home town of San Francisco and portraying the old California hippie culture as “being a long way from Georgia,” Marshall goes on to say that he is a “long way from Pelosi.” He also claims not to support Pelosi and that he votes with Republican leaders “65% of the time.” According to the Politico newspaper, Marshall’s Democratic Party support figure is actually 88%, a number that is difficult to comprehend when he says he votes with the GOP almost two-thirds of the time. The Marshall ad ends with the announcer saying the Congressman has been endorsed by The NRA, Chamber of Commerce and “Right to Life.” The tag line at the end of the ad, referring to the three organizations, says “… and they wouldn’t have anything to do with a Nancy Pelosi supporter.”

The Marshall approach is the most brazen to come from any Democrat so far in this election cycle. It is an extraordinary attack on a leader of his own party, and a person who he twice voted for Speaker and once as Minority Leader. It will be interesting to see how GOP nominee Austin Scott responds to his opponent’s latest attempt at neutralizing what is probably his most glaring negative.

When Will it End?

As we pull to within less than three weeks of the election, the Democrats appear to be in a free-fall. Nevada GOP Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, opposing unpopular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised a huge amount of money –– $14 million from July 1st to September 30th — an impressive haul for any candidate, but especially so for one from a small state. It’s even more stunning when you note that 94% of the money came from contributions of less than $100. In Florida, Senate GOP candidate Marco Rubio brought in more than $5 million for the quarter. In liberal Washington, Republican Dino Rossi locked in a tight battle with Sen. Patty Murray (D), exceeded $4.5 million.

In the House races, Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS-4), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), Walt Minnick (D-ID-1) and Bobby Bright (D-AL-2) are publicly saying they will vote for someone other than embattled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), when the new Congress convenes. Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX-17), Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) have ads expressing their independence from Pelosi and President Obama. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23), in serious trouble because the split among local Republicans and Conservatives has ostensibly healed and Matt Doheny now has virtually united support from the right-of-center, launched a rather desperate new ad saying that he “votes with the Republican leader 63% of the time.” These are obvious signs of a party in trouble.

And new competitive congressional races are popping up every day. Now the list is even reaching protected voting rights districts like AZ-7 (Rep. Raul Grijalva in a close contest with scientist Ruth McClung), and TX-27 (Rep. Solomon Ortiz actually trailing Republican opponent Blake Farenthold in both a campaign-released survey and a private independent poll).

All of these anecdotes are similar to what we were seeing for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, and the results, as we all know, were landslide elections. Right now, it appears that Republican House candidates are likely to win in the neighborhood of 35 Democratically-held seats, with another 30 or so in range to win. The Democrats will at least pick up two GOP seats, and maybe as many as five. Thus, the GOP approaching or exceeding a 50-seat gain is not out of the question, and reclaiming the majority appears to be on the horizon.