Category Archives: Senate

The Dems Succeed in Kentucky

For weeks it appeared that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was rebuffing Democratic Party leaders as they tried to convince her to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). In a turnaround of fortune, they now have met success. Yesterday, she officially announced that she will run for the party’s 2014 Senate nomination and the right to oppose McConnell.

Early in the year, numerous public polls were showing the five-term incumbent to be in serious upside-down territory on his job approval question, thus suggesting a Democratic challenger could engage McConnell in a highly competitive race. But when paired in ballot tests with several potential opponents, McConnell’s numbers never sank as low as his job-approval score. Most of the data suggested he was running in even range against the strongest Democratic potential contenders.

Most of the early publicity surrounded actress Ashley Judd, as she publicly contemplated becoming a candidate. A major flap occurred when a liberal blogger infiltrated the McConnell campaign headquarters and taped a planning session without the participants’ knowledge or consent. Though the reports attempted to make the senator and his team look bad because they were discussing a negative attack strategy against Judd, it had already become a foregone conclusion that she would not run. Even the Democratic leadership soured on the idea, understanding that they could not sell her liberal ideology and lifestyle to a conservative Kentucky electorate.

With the Judd experiment looking unpromising, the Democrats began to heighten their pursuit of Grimes. Last week, a pro-McConnell Super PAC organization launched an anti-Grimes television ad buy, attacking her as a “cheerleader” for President Obama and attempting to identify her as a proponent of “massive” spending, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and the “War on Coal.” The purpose of the ad buy was to dissuade her from running, but the media blitz obviously failed to achieve its objective.

Mitch McConnell first came to the Senate in 1984, with an upset victory over then-Sen. Dee Huddleston (D) that shocked national political observers. Always one of the Republicans’ strongest campaigners,  Continue reading >

Montana In Play

Montana

Montana

A new Public Policy Polling survey previews a tight race evolving in the Montana open-seat race. Those eventually becoming candidates will vie for the right to succeed Sen. Max Baucus (D), who is retiring after what will be 40 years in Congress.

The new data seems to poke holes in the prognostication that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) would run away with the open-seat race should he decide to run. Other potential candidates have been hanging back awaiting his decision, but the former governor humorously quipped last week that it might be some time before he ultimately decides his 2014 plans.

Referring to his occupation as a soil scientist, Schweitzer said to a local news reporter, “…the most important thing a soil scientist has an understanding of is time-glacial time … I look at a mountain and I’m able to visualize how that mountain was created over 6 million years. You’re a journalist. You read time as next week, tomorrow. I think of time geologically. When you see me say ‘soon’ you may be thinking days — but I think of time in millions of years sometimes.” Thus, it appears his answer won’t be coming any time soon.

According to the PPP poll, Schweitzer would actually trail former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot (46-47 percent) even though the Democrat’s favorability index is much higher. Schweitzer scores 54:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, while Racicot only posts 43:37 percent, yet Racicot clings to a small lead.

Considering that Racicot is not likely to run, how does Schweitzer do against a more probable candidate? Paired with at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R), a freshman who ran strong in his first statewide campaign,  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Altered; Markey Wins

Voting Rights Ruling

The Supreme Court, ruling for the plaintiffs in the Shelby County (AL) case on a 5-4 decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) saying that the formula determining VRA jurisdiction is no longer applicable. In 2006, Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act for the succeeding 25 years but did not change the triggering election. Until yesterday, dropping below the turnout pattern dictated in the 1972 presidential election would bring a municipality, county, or state under VRA coverage. Had the court not acted, that triggering mechanism would have stayed in place at least until 2031, or almost 60 years.

The high court majority members made clear they are not striking down the Act itself, only the formula for determining which jurisdictions will come under federal supervision. Doing so eliminates the Department of Justice’s power to pre-clear election laws after a covered jurisdiction enacts statutory changes. Because the formula is now declared unconstitutional, all of the laws previously denied pre-clearance now take effect. This could greatly change matters in several states, and very quickly. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), for example, announced that he would immediately begin enforcing the state’s voter identification law that had been previously stayed by the DoJ’s refusal to pre-clear the legislation.

The states that could be most affected by this ruling, even as early as the present election cycle, are the three hearing live redistricting litigation. The trio of states are Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. Depending upon the outcome of the various lawsuits, and yesterday’s ruling that strengthened the plaintiffs hands against their state in all instances, it is possible the congressional and state legislative lines could conceivably be re-drawn before the 2014 election.

Massachusetts

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), as we’ve been predicting for several weeks, successfully claimed Secretary of State John Kerry’s (D) former Massachusetts Senate seat, but his margin of victory was a bit under what a  Continue reading >

Massachusetts Senate Snapshot

The long-anticipated special US Senate election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry (D) is being held today, and the final three polls all favor Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) to carry the vote over Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez.

Suffolk University (June 19-22; 500 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Markey to a 52-42 percent advantage. New England College (June 18-20; 579 likely voters) gives the congressman an even wider 56-36 percent majority. Finally, the Western New England University Polling Institute (June 16-20; 503 likely Massachusetts voters) shows a much closer 49-41 percent spread.

There has been no poll throughout the entire special election cycle that projected Markey to be trailing. One survey, a Republican study from McLaughlin & Associates, showed the congressman in the lead at one point, but that is as close as challenger Gomez has gotten.

The Suffolk U. and Western New England polls are clearly more reflective of each other, and in line with the vast majority of surveys commissioned during the previous weeks. The New England College poll appears to be skewed in favor of the Democratic nominee.

Though Gomez conducted a spirited campaign, it is not likely that the magic surrounding former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in his 2010 special election victory will reappear in this battle. There is simply no evidence to suggest that this Republican is close enough to score an upset victory.

Despite Rep. Markey being poised to win the race, his percentage might be below that of usual Democratic performance in Massachusetts. In such an open seat special election race, a Bay State Democratic nominee should finish in the high 50s. By most accounts, Markey will likely score in the low to mid-50s.

The winner of today’s election will serve the balance of Kerry’s term and be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2014. If Markey does win, as predicted, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will then schedule a new special election for his 5th Congressional District. Already several candidates are actively campaigning for this post, in anticipation of a Markey win today.

Senate Candidate Update

Continuing our periodic reporting about who is currently running for the Senate next year, below is the latest look.

The following 13 senators do not yet have an announced significant opponent:

  1. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
  2. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)
  3. Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  4. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
  5. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  6. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)
  7. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
  8. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island)
  9. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina – special election)
  10. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)
  11. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  12. Mark Warner (D-Virginia)
  13. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming)

And the remaining state match-ups:

Alaska
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Begich (D) – originally elected 2008
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell
Joe Miller – 2010 nominee who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary
Arkansas
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) – originally elected 2002
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4)
Notes: Rep. Cotton is a possible candidate. Lt. Gov. Darr is highly likely to run for a different office than the one he currently holds. He announced his intention to run for the Senate but there is a good chance, should Mr. Cotton enter the statewide campaign, that he would instead run for the Congressman’s vacated 4th Congressional District.

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NJ Senate Poll; SCOTUS’ Arizona Ruling

New Jersey

Immediately upon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) scheduling the special Senate election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), both Quinnipiac University and Rutgers-Eagleton went into the field to measure the Garden State electorate. Both pollsters produced a similar conclusion — Newark Mayor Cory Booker is opening up a wide lead in the Democratic primary — but their samples sizes of less than 350 respondents were unacceptably low in a larger population state.

Now, Rasmussen Reports (June 12-13; 1,000 likely New Jersey voters) confirms that Booker does indeed have a huge lead derived from a much larger survey sample. Though the methodology does not specifically identify how many people (but undoubtedly larger than 350 individuals and presumably likely Democratic primary voters) were asked to choose among Mayor Booker, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the results were almost identical to what Quinnipiac and Rutgers-Eagleton originally found.

According to RR, Booker would command support from 54 percent of the Democratic voters, followed by Holt with 11 percent, and Pallone at 8 percent. Oliver trailed the pack registering just 5 percent preference.

For the special general election, tested among all 1,000 respondents, Booker leads former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) 50-33 percent.

The special primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, followed by the deciding vote on Oct. 16. The winner will serve the balance of Sen. Lautenberg’s final term, and is eligible to stand for election to a full six-year stint during the regular 2014 election.

Arizona

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court released its ruling on the Arizona v. The Arizona  Continue reading >

Will Ad Tying IRS to Health Care Move Mass. Voters?

As expected, a political entity is taking to the airwaves to highlight the Internal Revenue Service’s role in implementing the Obama healthcare law, but the message delivery needs to be stronger if they expect to move voters.

The organization Americans for Progressive Action, supporting Republican Gabriel Gomez over Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) in the Senate special election scheduled for June 25 in Massachusetts, attacked with an ad that depicts Markey as supporting IRS “control” of “health care reform” and Gomez as an opponent, though making it clear that the Republican supports reforming the healthcare system. (Though the ad says that both Markey and Gomez support “healthcare reform”, it doesn’t specifically say that Gomez supports President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, though the casual viewer will be left with the impression that he does.)

The effectiveness of the ad will be questioned. Though making it clear that the IRS “controlling” healthcare reform is a bad thing, it doesn’t explain why. The spot assumes, most likely incorrectly, that the viewing voter base knows the details of the current IRS profiling scandal.

Survey data will soon tell us if the IRS issue is moving voters in the Massachusetts Senate race, which could be a precursor of how the issue might play in the regular 2014 election. But, the political ad producers will have to tell a better story than the APA’s current effort if they hope to make this issue a deciding electoral factor.