Category Archives: House

A Look at the Trend Setters on Election Night

Today we’ll look at which races are the most important to watch in order to detect any sort of national trend as the votes begin streaming in on Election Night. The first states to report their votes are Indiana and Kentucky. Both are must-wins for Republicans at the Senate level. In the House, the GOP can begin their move toward along a majority track with wins in two of the four most hotly contested House campaigns in the Hoosier and Blue Grass States: IN-2 (Rep. Donnelly vs. Walorski), IN-8 (Bucshon vs. Van Plaaten), IN-9 (Rep. Hill vs. Young), and KY-6 (Rep. Chandler vs. Barr). So keep a careful eye out there.

Next, we look to Pennsylvania. Of the nine most competitive Keystone State congressional races, including two already held by Republicans, the GOP must win five to keep on pace to gain House seats somewhere in the mid-40s range. Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15), now in a toss-up US Senate battle with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), must convert the seat for the GOP in order for the party to gain significant ground.

Though New York is an important state, their ballot counting tends to be very time consuming, so results there will be very late in coming. Florida, then, becomes a better point state in the Eastern Time Zone. Marco Rubio (R) must nail down his three-way race for the Senate, and the GOP must gain at least three seats in the House. Incumbent Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd (FL-2), Alan Grayson (FL-8), Ron Klein (FL-22), and Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) all could lose, as each are fighting strong Republican candidates. The open FL-25 seat also is a Republican must hold.

Other bellwether states appear to be Virginia (where the GOP needs two seats), Ohio (GOP +3; and the Senate race), and Michigan (+2). Republicans also will need to grab two more states in the east, most probably somewhere among NH-1 (Rep. Shea-Porter vs. Guinta), GA-8 (Rep. Marshall vs. Scott), SC-5 (Rep. Spratt vs. Mulvaney), and NC-8 (Rep. Kissell vs. Johnson). And they must win Senate races in all four of these states, a very achievable goal with less than one week remaining.

Therefore, before exiting the Eastern Time Zone and moving west to other results, the Republicans must have a net gain of one Senate seat and 18 congressional districts to have any chance at taking the majority in either house next Tuesday night.

The Latest House Count

A new perusal of all 435 US House campaigns suggests that Republicans continue to be in a strong position to command a new House majority when the actual voting takes place on Tuesday.

Right now, it appears that GOP candidates in 205 seats appear headed to victory on November 2, including 35 districts that lean to the Republican candidate. Democrats are in similar position in 204 campaigns with 40 seats (inclusive) leaning their way. The “lean R” and “lean D” categories are significant because these particular contests can still change during this last week of campaigning. There are 26 races that are still too close to definitively call, and remain in the toss-up category.

What makes the landscape tilt rather drastically to the Republicans is that 27 of the “lean R” campaigns are Democratic seats. New entries to this category, meaning a race with a Democratic incumbent that is rather decidedly shifting to the GOP are: AZ-1 (Ann Kirkpatrick), MS-1 (Travis Childers), NH-1 (Carol Shea-Porter), NY-23 (Bill Owens), and the WI-7 open seat (David Obey). These campaigns join some other Democratic seats that, for some time, have appeared as key Republican conversion opportunities. Such races are: CO-4 (Betsy Markey), FL-8 (Alan Grayson), FL-24 (Suzanne Kosmas), IL-11 (Debbie Halvorson), open IN-8 (Brad Ellsworth), NM-2 (Harry Teague), NY-24 (Michael Arcuri), ND-AL (Earl Pomeroy), OH-1 (Steve Driehaus), TX-17 (Chet Edwards), and the WA-3 open seat (Brian Baird).

Conversely, only two Republican seats appeared headed to the Democrats: the open DE-AL (Mike Castle) district, and that of Louisiana freshman Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (LA-2). The other 37 seats in the category of “lean D” all are currently in the Democratic party’s hands. This type of race includes AL-2 (Bobby Bright), AZ-8 (Gabrielle Giffords), CT-4 (Jim Himes), CT-5 (Chris Murphy), KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MO-4 (Ike Skelton), NY-20 (Scott Murphy), NC-8 (Larry Kissell), and WA-2 (Rick Larsen) among others.

The 74 “lean” races are still in play, but are definitely trending toward the particular party. There is still enough leeway to suggest these campaigns are still very close, but there is discernible polling and voting history reason to currently cast them as most likely electing either the Republican or the Democratic candidate.

There are still 27 races that are too close to call. Added to the 74 seats where competitive action still remains, means an incredible 101 districts still remain on the active list. This is the highest number in the modern political era.

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.

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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.