Category Archives: Senate

The Bogus Tie

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
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Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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South Dakota Dems: Going, Going . . .

The Politico newspaper ran a story yesterday detailing a strategic political difference between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) over who should be the South Dakota Democratic senatorial nominee. The party is battling to hold retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat. We analyze a number of points related to this contest below.

First: Polling shows, and most people believe, that former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate. Sen. Reid was clearly in this camp, but Daschle was apparently a major force behind his former aide, Rick Weiland, entering the race. Last week, soon after Weiland’s announcement, the former congresswoman made public her decision not to run.

Analysis: While Herseth Sandlin showed best against GOP former governor Mike Rounds in early ballot test polling, she was still consistently trailing. Though she successfully served three terms, the ex-member did lose her House seat as a sitting incumbent. The fact that she fails to lead a poll in what could well be the apex of her candidacy is a good indication that she may not be the ideal 2014 Democratic standard bearer, and probably made the right decision in bypassing the race.

Second: The prevailing wisdom suggests that the Democrats should field a more conservative candidate who would have greater appeal to the South Dakota electorate. Conversely, Weiland argues, “You run a Republican against a Republican, you’re going to elect a Republican.”

Analysis: The record since 2006 seems to back Weiland’s assessment. Moderates of both parties have not fared well during this four-election period, as their ranks in both houses have become badly depleted. Particularly in 2006, ’08 and ’10, an anti-incumbency strain that affected both parties became more of a driving factor than  Continue reading >

Georgia Senate Race Now Defined

On the heels of representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12) and Tom Price (D-GA-6) both making public their decisions not to run, it appears that a set open-seat field of Georgia Senate race contenders is in place, some 14 months before the 2014 primary election.

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who was expected to run for the Senate once Price made clear that he will stay in the House, and businessman David Perdue now join representatives Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Paul Broun (R-GA-10), and Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) in vying for the Republican senatorial nomination and the right to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

Handel and Perdue entering the race greatly changes the campaign. Now with five strong candidates, the Georgia Republican senatorial primary will likely be the most interesting nomination battle in the entire country.

Handel began her career in the private sector before landing a position on Marilyn Quayle’s staff when Dan Quayle, was vice president. Handel later became deputy chief of staff to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA). Her first elected position was as Fulton County commission chair. From that office, she launched a successful bid for secretary of state in 2006.

Four years later, Handel joined a similarly crowded field in the open governor’s race. She placed first in the primary, capturing 34.1 percent of the vote, topping her six opponents. Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) slipped into the second run-off position, gliding past insurance commissioner John Oxendine, who had been the early front-runner. But things did not go as well for her in the August run-off. She and Deal basically fought to a draw, but the former congressman (Deal had resigned his House seat prior to the primary election) nipped her at the end and claimed a 50.2-49.8 percent win, a margin of just 2,519 votes of just under 580,000 cast.

David Perdue is the former Chief Executive Officer of both the Dollar General and  Continue reading >

Polls: VA and MA are Real

Mass-VA

Two new polls were released yesterday, one for the looming battle in the Virginia governor’s race and the other in the Massachusetts Senate special election. Both continue to show a high degree of competitiveness.

In the Old Dominion, Quinnipiac University released their new study (May 8-13; 1,286 registered Virginia voters) that contradicts both last week’s Washington Post poll and the one from NBC News/Marist College showing Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leading Democrat Terry McAuliffe among likely participants. The new Q-Poll gives the former Democratic National Committee chairman a 43-38 percent advantage among registered voters.

To the north, Public Policy Polling (May 13-15; 880 likely June 25 Massachusetts special election participants), surveying for the League of Conservation Voters, shows Democratic Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) expanding his lead over Republican private equity investor Gabriel Gomez to 48-41 percent. PPP’s first post-primary survey projected only a 44-40 percent split in the congressman’s favor.

The Quinnipiac poll may have over-sampled Virginia Democrats, however. Their analysis does not identify the number of individuals questioned by political party segmentation, but the responses suggest that many more Democrats than Republicans were included.

Here’s how we know: According to their statistical report, McAuliffe is winning the Democratic segment 83-5 percent. But Cuccinelli is scoring just about the same  Continue reading >

Shaheen Cruising While Brown Lags in NH

The New England College recently polled (May 2-5; 807 registered New Hampshire voters) the Granite State electorate and one of the office holders they tested was Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). She is preparing for her first re-election, possibly against former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R).

About three weeks ago, Brown made public his consideration of launching a campaign against the senator in New Hampshire. He justifies the move by reminding voters that he was born in the state. Since making his statement, he has been actively exploring this potential political opportunity.

The NEC poll is the second publicly released survey since a Shaheen-Brown race became a possibility. The first, from Public Policy Polling (April 19-21; 933 registered New Hampshire voters) gave the New Hampshire senator a 52-41 percent advantage, but that was better than any bona-fide Granite State Republican fared against Shaheen.

New England College portends an even stronger incumbent than did PPP. They forecast a 54-35 percent ballot test, with a Shaheen favorability index of 61:29 percent positive to negative. Her approval among Republicans is 31 percent, 63 percent from Independents. Brown scores an overall 41:29 percent favorability index rating.

Delving further into the NEC poll, we find that Shaheen would command the support of 89 percent of self-identified Democrats, while Brown attracts 71 percent of Republicans. Independents break a solid 57-31 percent for the incumbent.

In the meantime, however, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of Massachusetts voters (May 1-2; 1,539 registered Massachusetts voters) and found that Brown is the strongest candidate in the upcoming open governor’s race from either party and enjoys a 53:35 percent favorability rating among Bay State voters.

Tested against four major Democratic office holders, Brown would beat them all in hypothetical races for the state’s chief executive position.
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Senate Questions

capitol

Within the last week, no fewer than four major potential senatorial candidates have decided not to run. Three sitting members of the House, representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Steve King (R-IA-4), and Tom Price (R-GA-6), and one former congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin from South Dakota, each announced that they will be doing something other than running for the United States Senate in 2014. With so many potential candidates content to allow their current opportunity to evaporate, what now is the status of the various Senate races?

Both the Republicans and Democrats have, so far, experienced recruitment failures. Democrats see two seats that they currently hold, Jay Rockefeller’s post in West Virginia and Tim Johnson’s position in South Dakota, going by the wayside. Currently, they have no candidate willing to challenge GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) in the Mountaineer State, and their two strongest South Dakota potential contenders have taken a pass. While they do have a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle (Rick Weiland) now in the race, it is apparent that he is no match for Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate in Iowa where Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.  Continue reading >