Category Archives: Senate

Questionable Polls Dot Political Surface

There seems to be a spate of recently released flawed surveys gaining media attention. Three methodologically deficient polls involve the Republican race for president, while another covers the Virginia US Senate campaign. All should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

Last week we covered the Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll that showed real estate magnate Donald Trump tied for second place with Mike Huckabee and only one point behind leader Mitt Romney. But this study is seriously inadequate. The survey sample included 1,000 adults without even screening for registered voters, and the self-identified number of Republicans answering the presidential preference question totaled only 238. This number is seriously below a proper national sample cell size, which should exceed 1,000 respondents.

Yesterday, CNN/Opinion Research released a new survey that places Trump and Huckabee tied for the lead with 19 percent apiece, followed by Sarah Palin at 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Romney closely trailing with an 11 percent tally. Though the sample size is 864 likely voters, the number of self-identified Republicans responding to the presidential ballot test that produced the aforementioned results was only 385 people. The methodology of this poll is better than the WSJ/NBC effort but is still not in the range of reliability for a national survey of likely Republican primary voters.

Also last week, Fox News released their national poll of 914 registered voters yielding similar results, though Trump and Gingrich did not show nearly as well. According to Fox, in data produced jointly by the Democratic firm of Anderson/Robbins Research and the Republicans’ Shaw & Company Research, Huckabee (15 percent) and Romney (14 percent) are virtually tied, with Palin following at 12 percent and Trump scoring 11 percent. Gingrich falls all the way to 7 percent. But here, too, the number of self-identified Republicans actually answering the questions is only 344.

The fact that all polling shows the race to be close with no clear leader and is verified by both methodologically sound and unsound studies does provide sufficient support for the supposition that the race is already extremely close, and that no candidate has a particular advantage. But, even if these conclusions prove to be spot-on, they are of little consequence. National polls for a political campaign decided by individual state contests are not very useful. The data helps to paint a simple story for the media to tell, but the findings are largely irrelevant in relation to the actual presidential horse race.

Roanoke College just released another questionable poll, but this one pertains to the Virginia Senate race. It shows former senator and governor George Allen (R) jumping out to a large lead over ex-Democratic National Committee chair and governor Tim Kaine (47-32 percent). This poll conflicts with every other piece of data showing the race to be in toss-up range. The results are even more curious when considering that Kaine just officially announced his candidacy, which normally provides a polling bump, not a decline.

The flaw in this poll concerns not so much the sample size (though 437 registered voters is low for a state the size of Virginia), but rather the length of the interview period, not screening for registered voters, and excluding respondents using cell phones.

The questions were asked from March 17-30, a 14-day period, when three days is usually considered the norm. Using only residents of Virginia who maintain land lines and not asking if they are registered voters badly under-represents the actual universe of people who will be casting votes in November of 2012.

Considering the aforementioned factors, the Roanoke College poll provides conclusions about the upcoming Senate campaign that are highly questionable and should not be considered as reliable information.
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Sen. Ed Case Will Run in Hawaii – Again

Every state has omnipresent candidates, and former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) certainly meets that description in Hawaii. Becoming an official contender for the 13th time this past weekend (record: 7 wins and 5 losses), Mr. Case is the first entrant in the 2012 race to replace the retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).

After losing two campaigns for state legislature in the 80’s, he came back to win four times in the 90s. He lost a primary for lieutenant governor in 2002, but won a series of special congressional elections later that year to succeed Rep. Pasty Mink (D-HI-2) after she died just before voting began. Case was re-elected to the House in the 2004 regular election.

Two years later, things began to unravel. The ambitious Case made the dubious decision to challenge Sen. Akaka in the Democratic primary, which ended in his very predictable defeat. He next tried to win the 2010 1st district special congressional election when Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) resigned to run for governor. Case placed third in that election and indirectly helped Republican Charles Djou win the seat by splitting the Democratic vote. (Djou held the seat for six months before losing to Colleen Hanabusa in the November general election.) Thus, he again ignited animosity within the Hawaii Democratic Party just as he had by challenging Akaka.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOGXqm8uX8U&feature=related]

Now with a series of burnt political bridges remaining in his wake, Ed Case is again a candidate, announcing via video for the open Senate seat. Ironically, had he not gone after Akaka in the primary, a sitting representative Case would probably begin this political battle as the leading candidate. Now, he has the potential of falling all the way to “also-ran” status. A very crowded and highly competitive Democratic primary is expected here, as the Akaka retirement creates the first open Hawaii Senate seat in 36 years. Being the first to announce his candidacy, Case has fired the starting pistol.
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Senate Candidate Updates: Two More Jump In

Two more men made their Senate candidacies official yesterday. In Florida, former interim Sen. George LeMieux (R) will attempt to win election in his own right by knocking off incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. LeMieux will face state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and possibly former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner in the Republican primary. Nelson, already an official candidate for re-election, is viewed as the early favorite.

In Virginia, as we mentioned yesterday, Democratic National Committee chair and former Gov. Tim Kaine released a video officially announcing his long-awaited candidacy. He will face former Sen. George Allen in a race that could become the hottest in the nation.

With much action occurring in Senate races, it is time to update the 33 in-cycle 2012 campaigns by listing the names of the major candidates who have either announced for a specific seat or are publicly saying they may do so.

You can access a PDF spreadsheet with the pertinent data here: 2012 Senate Candidates.
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Senate Update: One In, One Out

Two U.S. Senate announcements were made over the weekend. In New Mexico, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) released a video saying he is running for the retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D) open seat. One state to the west in Arizona, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) also made an official announcement, but a much different one. He won’t run statewide next year.

Heinrich’s electronic release, featuring the congressman cooking a meal for his family in their home, emphasizes his commitment to working families and job creation. His decision to run statewide means the marginal 1st congressional district will become an open seat, and highly competitive battles are expected for both the Senate and the House.

Mr. Heinrich stating his political intentions early in the election cycle means the New Mexico map drawers (Democrats control the legislature; Republicans have the governor’s office) can radically change his congressional seat if they so desire. The Land of Enchantment, remaining constant with three U.S. House districts for the ensuing decade, normally features a Democratic northern district encompassing the capital city of Santa Fe (NM-3), and a more Republican southern seat (NM-2), again represented by Rep. Steve Pearce (R) after he vacated it in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. The 1st, anchored in the state’s dominant Albuquerque metropolitan area, is politically marginal. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) held the latter seat in the early part of the decade; Heinrich won it in 2008 (56-44%) and was re-elected 52-48% in 2010.

The Albuquerque congressman becomes the first Democrat to officially launch a campaign to succeed Sen. Bingaman, though state Auditor Hector Banderas says he will run. Ms. Wilson is announced for the Republican nomination and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is also seriously considering running for the seat. The New Mexico Senate race has the potential of becoming one of the hottest campaigns in the country.

State Sen. Eric Griego (D) wasted no time in following Heinrich’s lead. He immediately formed a congressional exploratory committee for the newly opened 1st district, but stopped short of saying that he will run for sure.

In Arizona, the public announcement was different than predicted. It was believed that Rep. Franks would unveil his Senate plans this weekend, which he did, but most thought he would proclaim himself as an official statewide candidate. Instead, he did the opposite, saying, “I have sincerely concluded that mounting a Senate bid at this time would not be what is best for my family, nor what would best allow me to serve my country at this critical time in her history.” Therefore, Mr. Franks will not launch a Senatorial bid and looks to a House re-election campaign in what promises to be a much different 2nd district. Needing to shed 262,615 people, AZ-2 is the second-most over-populated congressional district in the nation.

Franks’ decision, at least for now, leaves 6th district Rep. Jeff Flake as the lone announced Republican in the Senatorial contest to succeed the retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R). Democrats have yet to see an individual come forward to formally state their own candidacy. Once the field is defined, the Arizona Senate race will also become highly competitive.
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2012 Senatorial Candidate Announcements Coming Soon

Although no one has yet officially declared his or her candidacy for the nation’s highest office, several people are moving closer to making an announcement for the Senate. It is being reported from both public and private sources that Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) will announce a Senatorial run as soon as this weekend or early next week. Franks will oppose fellow Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in the Republican primary. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring. Both men running statewide will have a huge effect upon Arizona congressional redistricting. The two have the most over-populated seats in the state (both have more than 261,000 people to shed) and with no incumbent influence for either district, both seats can be disassembled. The result could lead to a radical re-draw. Complicating matters even further, Arizona also gains a new seat.

Turning to the Midwest and Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is sounding more like a Senatorial candidate. He is seriously considering challenging Sen. Richard Lugar (R) next year in hopes of taking advantage of what appears to be a difficult Tea Party-induced challenge for the six-term senator in the GOP primary. That Donnelly is still publicly flirting with the Senate almost assures that he will run. The congressman’s statements to-date already give Republican map drawers the impetus they need to re-craft his northern Indiana congressional district into a more Republican-friendly seat. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to a one-point win in 2010, has confirmed that she will run again, thus pressuring the congressman even further.
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Derailing the Ryan Express in Wisconsin?

Liberal activists are beginning to tout a new congressional candidate who they believe has a chance of unseating House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) next year. The Swing State Project, a national liberal campaign blog, is reporting that Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is taking concrete steps toward assembling a 2012 electoral challenge against the popular Republican incumbent.

Paul Ryan is an up-and-coming national Republican political figure. Now in his 7th term in the House, he was elected in 1998 at the young age of 28. Mr. Ryan was appointed ranking member of the Budget Committee in the last Congress and became the panel’s chair with the Republican sweep back into the majority in the last election. Ryan’s name has popped up as a long shot presidential candidate, and also a possible Senate contestant if Wisconsin’s senior Sen. Herb Kohl (D) decides to retire. For his part, Rep. Ryan is committed only to running for re-election in 2012, saying he wants to finish his allotted terms as Budget chairman in order to make progress toward the goal of reducing the federal deficit before running for another office.

Zerban undoubtedly looks better on paper to the Democratic candidate recruitment team than he does face-to-face against Ryan. Though he is an elected local supervisor, Kenosha County represents only 25 percent of the 1st CD total population, and the Board of Supervisors has 28 single-member districts. Therefore, Zerban’s entire constituency is just short of 5,500 people, only about 7.5% of the total congressional district population.

The liberals also opine that Ryan is too conservative for what should be a marginal congressional district, and that redistricting really won’t greatly affect his seat. They say this because the territory occupies the southeast corner of the state, bordering Illinois on the south and Lake Michigan to the east, so it doesn’t appear much can change.

Both arguments are incorrect. First, WI-1 is a much different district than when former Armed Services Committee chairman and future US Defense Secretary Les Aspin (D-WI-1) represented the seat during his 22-year congressional career (1971-1993). Pres. Barack Obama did carry the 1st in 2008, but only with 51% of the vote. Former Pres. George Bush performed well there in 2004, winning a 54-46 percent victory. Bush also carried the 1st with 51% in 2000.

For his part, Ryan has been a huge vote-getter during his congressional tenure. He has averaged an impressive 64.4 percent through his seven elections, four times breaking 65 percent of the vote. He is a strong fundraiser, too. In 2010, when he romped to victory with 68 percent, Ryan raised more than $3.9 million for his re-election. His year-end 2010 report shows he finished the campaign cycle with over $3 million cash-on-hand, one of the best financial entries for the entire House.

In terms of redistricting, the 1st district must shed 17,169 people. Since Republicans are in total control of the Wisconsin redistricting process, the swing between Ryan’s district and those of neighboring Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2; +40,296 over-populated) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4; -41,858 under-populated) will result in Ryan receiving a few more Republicans and the two Democrats also getting a bit stronger. Thus, the new WI-1 is likely to be even better for Ryan than the current district configuration he has dominated over the past 10 years.

While the controversy over Wisconsin’s public employee labor policy continues toward a political meltdown, thus throwing the state’s politics into chaos, Rep. Ryan appears completely secure for his 2012 election. Though Supervisor Zerban may well be preparing for a run against him, such a battle will likely sputter and become another easy ride for the veteran Republican. National Democrats will likely find more tempting targets in other locations than Chairman Paul Ryan’s southern Wisconsin district.
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