Category Archives: Senate

Election Day Rundown

Eleven national polls were reported at this closing of the election period, and they’re all over the map. Six give Pres. Barack Obama a national lead of one to four points, three have the race tied and two show Republican Mitt Romney with a slight one point edge. The campaign, still, on Election Day, is too close to call.

All of the earliest-closing states are key for tonight. Polls begin to close at 6 pm in parts of Indiana and Kentucky and 7 pm EST in the remaining regions of these two states and Vermont, South Carolina, Georgia, and all-important Virginia and Florida (except for the western panhandle, which is in the Central time zone; normally, results are withheld from release until the entire state closes). Excluding Vermont, Romney needs to sweep these states, and most particularly Florida. Should he fall in the Sunshine State, then the predicted late night election result will conclude early, because he simply cannot compensate elsewhere for failing to capture its 29 Electoral Votes.

With Ohio, which appears to be the decider of this election, continuing to teeter, Virginia becomes that much more important for Romney. Though he could theoretically win the Electoral College vote without either the Buckeye State or Old Dominion, it is clear that he must carry one of the two. Practically, looking at the final trends in other swing states such as Nevada and Iowa, it is becoming apparent that both Ohio and Virginia need to go Romney in order for him to win.

Thirty minutes after the first wave of states close at 7 pm, North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio itself will conclude their election period. Romney must carry both NC and WV, and then we concentrate on the Ohio trend for the rest of the evening.

At 8 pm Eastern, about half of the states will be closed, including everything in the central and eastern portion of the country with the exception of swing state Iowa, which doesn’t close until 10 pm EST.

In the 9 pm EST belt, look at the critical secondary swing states of Wisconsin and Colorado. At that point, with the exception of Nevada, which now looks to be trending definitively toward the president, the election-determining states will be closed and their early trends will have already been released in most of the country.

It is likely to be a long night, and though it is generally a bad sign for an incumbent to have the polling numbers of Obama — that is, still not having a clear winning spread on the morning of Election Day and the late trends favoring the challenger — the race is far from over.

Democrats appear poised to keep control of the Senate. In the early reporting zone, look to the Indiana race between Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The Republicans need to hold the open seat (Sen. Richard Lugar was defeated in the Republican primary), but trends are clearly favoring a Donnelly upset. Without Indiana, it will be extremely difficult for the GOP to have a realistic chance of capturing the four Democratic seats they need to wrest control away from their opposition. Republican losses in Maine and Massachusetts in the 8 pm hour will seal their fate.

In the House, watch two seats as the polls close at 7 pm. The southwestern IN-8 district of freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon is marginally in play. Bucshon winning early will be a good sign for Republicans. Rep. Donnelly’s open 2nd CD should go Republican in the person of former state Rep. Jackie Walorski. A Democratic victory in either would likely spell doom to the GOP hopes of gaining congressional seats, but still won’t put the majority in danger.

Kentucky, also a 7 pm closer as noted above, is the fastest vote counter of all the states. Here, watch the 6th District re-match campaign between Rep. Ben Chandler (D) and challenger Andy Barr (R). This was the second-closest election in 2010 and figures to be competitive again. If their quick count doesn’t show a Chandler victory, then the Democrats could be in for a longer night than expected in the House races.

Just a thought: you might want to print out this post and keep it handy so you can check off items above as the evening moves on.

It’s been quite a ride throughout the 2012 election cycle and, even as voting is now well underway, the final result is not yet clear.

GOP Senate Momentum Has Stalled

The Indiana Democratic Senate campaign of Rep. Joe Donnelly released its internal Global Strategy Group poll (Oct. 28-30; 600 likely Indiana voters) that posts their man to a 43-36-9 percent advantage over Republican Richard Mourdock. The latter number is going to Libertarian Party candidate Andrew Horning. Mourdock countered by making his internal data public, a poll that claims his deficit is only one point. But even this latter margin is a reduction in support for the reeling Republican as a rape-related abortion comment in the final candidates’ debate could prove to be the deciding factor.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Mike Pence probably confirms Donnelly’s lead with his latest actions. Though releasing positive numbers for his own campaign and that of the presidential contest, the Pence team remained mum on the Senate race, leading to speculation that their internal data also shows Donnelly leading.

Taking Indiana would be a huge boon to the Democrats and will go a long way toward achieving their goal of holding the Senate majority.

In two western states, however, the GOP trend may be improving.

The National Mining Association, through their continuing Count on Coal campaign, launched an attack against Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. The group goes so far as to say that Tester has joined Pres. Barack Obama’s “war on coal” for not supporting the coalition efforts and for his backing of federal regulations that have largely undermined the state’s coal production operations. Along with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Tester has refused to sign onto the Montana coal petition that pledges to protect the industry. Despite being a place of just under one million inhabitants, Montana ranks fifth in the nation in coal production, producing slightly under 45 million tons in its apex year of 2010.

Republican Denny Rehberg signed the pledge, as have most other candidates throughout the state, and the coal group is trying to make this issue the deciding factor of the campaign. In a race that has polled even for months, one coalition group heavily promoting a critical issue position could have a major effect. Energy issues are making an impact in races across the country, especially in the West.

Conflicting polls are now coming from New Mexico. Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee, released his internal GBA Strategy numbers (Oct. 27-29; 600 likely New Mexico voters) that again places him 10 points ahead of former Republican congresswoman Heather Wilson. But, earlier this week, Wilson countered with her own Public Opinion Strategies survey (Oct. 21-22; 500 likely New Mexico voters) that showed her topping Heinrich, 44-43 percent in this case, for the first time in the campaign.

Heinrich’s numbers have held for most of the election cycle, and he has been in stronger position than one would have guessed running against a Republican former representative who proved she could win repeatedly in Democratic regions. If her earlier POS data is correct, it might signal that her campaign could be peaking at the right time and become the Republican sleeper race that many people suggested it might be earlier in the year.

Overall, however, the Democrats look to be in the more favorable position than Republicans in Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The GOP is likely to convert Nebraska, and is trending more positively in North Dakota. With the likely loss of the Maine seat to Independent Angus King, the Republicans could be trading two of their current seats for two others, but this still leaves them four short of majority status.

If Indiana and Montana cancel each other from a party division perspective, and Elizabeth Warren unseats Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Democrats could actually end the night breaking even, or losing fewer than the four seats than the GOP needs to snatch away the majority. Democrats are protecting 23 seats in this cycle as compared to the Republicans’ 10, thus giving the GOP many offensive opportunities. But their early positive momentum has definitely stalled.

Little Change in Two Years

Less than one week before Election Day 2012, we know little more about the projected outcome than we did when the campaigns began in earnest almost two years ago. At that time there was uncertainty about the presidential election. A feeling persisted that Pres. Barack Obama could certainly win re-election, but enough vulnerability existed that a strong challenger could deny him a second term.

With majority Democrats having to protect 23 of the 33 in-cycle contests, control of the Senate appeared up for grabs. With the 2010 state legislative elections swinging hard toward the Republicans, thus giving them clear control of the redistricting process, it became a foregone conclusion that the House GOP majority would be sustained in a post-reapportionment election year with newly drawn congressional district boundaries.

Two years later and six days away from the people’s decision, we still have no counter-arguments to any of these observations.

According to all of the latest national polls, the presidential race is a virtual tie. Seven national pollsters released popular vote surveys yesterday and the biggest spread among the group was Rasmussen Reports producing a two-point lead for Republican Mitt Romney. Five of the polls were showing one-point margins either way, and one, Public Policy Polling for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), showed a 49-49 percent tie. It simply doesn’t get any closer.

Turning to the states, we find equally close numbers though the Romney position has improved in many key electoral vote havens. Think of the model that stated the Republican needed to convert Indiana, the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska (because the state awards it electoral votes individually for the candidate carrying each congressional district), Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and one other Obama state larger than Vermont or Delaware. Today, Romney looks solid in Indiana and NE-2, and good in Florida and North Carolina, while improving to even footing in Virginia. But this standing, while much better than his Republican predecessor’s of four years ago, does not clinch victory.

The next tier becomes determining. The Romney trends in Ohio are improving, and at least one pollster, Rasmussen Reports, actually has the challenger forging ahead in the Buckeye State by the slimmest of margins. All other survey research firms show either a tie or a slight Obama lead. Trends seem to be moving Romney’s way in Colorado. Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire are all still very much in play, and are virtually deadlocked. Obama has been recently drawing stronger numbers in Nevada. Movement could still occur in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and possibly even Oregon, but it is likely that these states are only flirting with the Republicans and will return to the Democratic fold on Election Day.

Though there are still ways for Romney to win nationally without carrying Ohio, assuming the rest of our analysis rings true, he likely won’t unseat the president without winning what is becoming the deciding state. It is very likely that the way Ohio eventually votes will determine who remains or becomes president. Amazingly, the election is still simply too close to call.

The Senate remains just as tight, though Democrats are in good position to hold at least a bare majority. There are still 14 Senate races projected to be within the margin of error, so anything can still happen. The outcome of the presidential race will likely help decide all of these critically important, and virtually dead even contests.

There are ominous signs on the near horizon for the president, however. As an incumbent, going into an election tied rarely leads to victory. The Obama campaign confirms Romney’s momentum by consistently promoting a negative message. Additionally, aggregate estimates from all of the early voting states suggest that the Democrats are more than 20 percent behind their 2008 pace of returning the ballots to the election officials. They are still responding in greater numbers than Republicans, but the Democratic margin is certainly down. And, finally, we are all basing our predictions on polls showing a zero to two-point difference when their own error factor is 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

It’s clear this election will be very close and it’s possible we could be headed to political overtime, meaning absentee ballot counting could again make the difference, just as it did in 2000.

Senate Balance of Power is Murky

The nation’s presidential choice is not the only political decision still undetermined at this late date. It now appears that as many as 13 US Senate races are either in the toss-up category or on their way to being categorized as such. In addition to the mainstay toss-up campaigns, we find that the Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Indiana, Florida and Ohio races are not yet put to bed, either.

Swings and shifts in places like North Dakota, Arizona, Connecticut and Pennsylvania suggests that once perceived clear-cut trends in those places are now less certain.

With the presidential race likely coming down to the votes from a state or two, the Senate majority could as well. The Republicans need a net gain of four states to secure a bare minimum 51-seat majority, while the Democrats need to hold their losses to three in order to maintain chamber control.

A probable Republican loss in Maine and possibly failing to retain Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts means the GOP would have to convert six Democratic seats. Since former Sen. Bob Kerrey does not appear particularly competitive in Nebraska, the real majority number recedes to five. Converting the open Democratic seat in North Dakota is now considered a must-win situation. And, taking at least two of the three pure toss-up campaigns in Virginia, Montana, and Wisconsin now becomes a requirement. Additionally, the Republicans would still have to win at least one long-shot campaign, from a state such as Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Connecticut, and possibly Pennsylvania. The long-term toss-up seat in Missouri appears to be breaking Sen. Claire McCaskill’s way.

But all of the aforementioned presumes the Republicans hold their own seats in Arizona, Indiana and Nevada, none of which are tightly secured at this writing.

Early in the cycle, with the Democrats having to protect 23 seats as compared to the Republicans’ 10, it was assumed that the odds favored forging a new Republican majority. Now, there are fewer people expressing such a sentiment. If Pres. Obama and the Democrats catch a wave going into the election’s final days, Republicans losing seats must also be considered within the realm of possibility.

So, as Election Day draws nearer, the Senate campaign picture is appearing more cloudy.

The Shifting October Winds

Poll-watching

October is generally determination month for hot-race candidates, and now that it has begun prepare for some major swings in several political venues.

Recently, with Election Day coming in less than five weeks, we have seen polling that detects significant change in several Senate campaigns, all showing a shift away from the initial leader. With the Senate up for grabs, each race becomes critical and could itself determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the body in the new Congress. Today, we isolate four such campaigns.

In Connecticut, Quinnipiac University released its latest poll (Sept. 28-Oct. 2; 1,696 likely Connecticut voters, +/- 2.0 percent error factor) that finds Democrat Chris Murphy now trailing Republican Linda McMahon 47-48 percent. This is a surprising result and much different from the 48-42 percent Murphy lead that Public Policy Polling found just a week ago (801 likely voters, +/- 3.5 percent error factor). It is important to note that both polling firms have surveyed this race repeatedly. Having the opportunity to study another reputable firm’s results in order to bring a fresh perspective might provide us a better directional indicator.

Shifting to another hot race, we turn to Massachusetts and a recent poll by Opinion Dynamics for the consulting firm Mass Insight Global Partnerships. This rather flawed poll – because the sample size is less than 350 respondents statewide and the survey period is a long five days – posts Democrat Elizabeth Warren over GOP Sen. Scott Brown by a 48-44 percent clip. This same polling firm gave Brown a large 52-42 percent lead back in January. Last week, Rasmussen Reports also released their poll showing the candidates to be in a statistical tie at 48-48 percent (Sept. 24; 500 likely voters, 4.5% +/- error factor). Conversely, that very day, the Boston Globe publicized their data projecting Warren to be holding a five-point advantage over the freshman senator, 43-38 percent (502 likely voters, 4.4% +/- error factor). With continuous polling producing conflicting results it is clear this race is going to come down to the final hours.

Wisconsin continues to provide us with a close and hard-fought Senate race. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) received a measurable bump in the wake of her speech at the Democratic Convention followed by an extensive early media advertising blitz, and polling indicates that the tide has turned in her favor. At least in the short term, Rep. Baldwin is now the clear front-runner over former four-term governor Tommy Thompson (R), after he consistently posted an advantage before and after the mid-August primary. Two recent polls show Baldwin leading: the first by Marquette University Law School showing a four-point edge, 48-44 percent (894 likely voters), and Real Clear Politics revealing a five-point advantage, 49-44 percent. Republicans, at one point, thought this seat would be a clear pickup opportunity, however, it is currently trending more Democratic. This polling trend could just as quickly snap back toward Thompson once he responds to the current line of attack being put forth against him.

Joining this see-saw Senate campaign group is the open seat race in Arizona. For months, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) had held a significant lead in all polling against Democratic nominee Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General in the George W. Bush administration. After consistently gaining ground on Flake after the Aug. 28 primary, Public Policy Polling, in their Oct. 1-3 poll of 595 likely Arizona voters, puts Carmona into the lead for the first time, albeit by a scant 45-43 percent margin.

It is clear, differing from what we have witnessed in the past four election cycles, that no tsunami wave is emerging for either party this year. As we turn the corner into the homestretch of campaign 2012, it is important to monitor all momentum changes as a barometer for predicting final outcomes.

Is Maine’s King Losing His Luster?

Angus King

Perhaps until right now, it had been a foregone conclusion that Maine’s Independent former governor Angus King was the prohibitive favorite to replace the retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R). After the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and other outside advocacy organizations unleashed heavy anti-King media spending, however, the former two-term state chief executive’s polling numbers have come back to earth. And, in a three-way race where the majority of voters will likely vote for someone other than the eventual winner, virtually anything can happen.

The race pits King against GOP Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill. King, who champions liberal causes as indicated by his support from the trial lawyers PAC, the Council for a Livable World, and Google PAC, is portraying himself as an independent moderate, even going so far as having actor Sam Waterston appear in a television commercial to echo his campaign theme.

A new GS Strategy Group survey conducted for the NRSC shows King’s lead diminishing severely. Though he continues to place first, his margin is now only 37-33-17 percent over Summers and Dill. In another poll released to MaineToday Media on Sept. 20, King leads 50-28-12 percent. But, driving below the original ballot test numbers for that particular survey, the King supporters who say they are definitely voting for him register only 32 percent.

Maine has a penchant for electing candidates who don’t belong to either major political party. In addition to King, Independent Jim Longley was elected governor in 1974. Two years ago, Independent Eliot Cutler finished a strong second to Republican Paul LePage, losing by less than two points. It is the latter election that Charlie Summers is hoping to emulate. Assuming he holds the base Republican vote of 37-39 percent, Democrat Dill topping 20 percent would give him a chance to slip past King. This would be virtually identical to the vote dispersion that elected LePage.

The Maine Senate race is an interesting one, because if President Obama is re-elected and the Republicans hit 50 in the Senate, both of which are quite possible, it would be King alone who would decide which party would assume majority control. Most believe that he will caucus with the Democrats, which is most likely, but stressing his independence certainly makes it more difficult for him to immediately fall into the Democratic fold. Even his slogan, “… as Independent as Maine,” stresses that Mr. King is not inclined to easily conform to Washington’s over-heated partisan divisions.

The Chamber of Commerce has run a series of ads playing upon King’s name, referring to him as “the King of spending” during his tenure as governor. The claim that he over-spent and then left the state with a huge deficit is resonating in this political climate and is a probable reason for King’s decline. The former governor retorts that he cut taxes, improved education, and protected Maine’s open space.

But the more intriguing part of the campaign revolves around Dill. She has little in the way of campaign funding, so outside organizations are trying to improve her standing. The NRSC, in a negative way, but designed to improve her standing among Democrats, is illustrating that she is even more liberal than King. Meanwhile, outside groups are driving home the message that King is flawed and Dill is the preferred progressive candidate.

The dynamics of the Maine Senate race are the most unusual in the nation, and much more is potentially riding upon the election outcome than who represents the state in Washington. Under the proper circumstances, the entire Senate majority may rest upon this one campaign.

The Stretch Drive Begins for Senate, House Races

October is here and the political stretch drive is beginning, so it is appropriate to examine where the Senate and House campaigns stand from an aggregate party division perspective.

For most of the election cycle, Republicans appeared to be on the precipice of capturing the Senate majority, taking it away from Harry Reid and the Democrats. But, new swings in momentum show a more Democratic trend.

Recently, Democratic incumbents in Florida and Ohio have gained strength and open seat contender Tammy Baldwin has seized the initiative in the open Wisconsin campaign. Sunshine State polls have been erratic, but Sen. Bill Nelson now seems to have built a consistent and sustained advantage. First-term Sen. Sherrod Brown has also seen the polls ebb and flow, but his mid to high single digit edge over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel is stabilizing, at least for the short term. Baldwin’s ad offensive and Republican former governor Tommy Thompson’s recent comments about dismantling entitlements has posted the Democratic nominee to a slight lead.

After some flirtation with breaking toward the Democrats, the pure toss-up campaigns in Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg), and Virginia (ex-senator George Allen and former governor Tim Kaine) have re-established themselves as dead heat campaigns. All three of these races will likely go down to the wire.

Additionally, there is movement toward Republicans in at least two long shot states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while Democrats are making Arizona a race. By most polls, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) still leads Republican Linda McMahon, but the gap is closing and the latter has gained the offensive.

The sleepy Pennsylvania Senate race has finally arisen, and Republican Tom Smith’s recent ad blast appears to be bringing him to within a single-digit deficit of first-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. Democrats are still likely to prevail here and in Connecticut, but there is no question that Republican candidates in both places have created some current positive momentum.

Democrat Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General, is pulling much closer to Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in their open seat battle according to most polls. As in Connecticut and Pennsylvania for the Democratic candidates, Flake still must be considered the favorite to prevail.

The Missouri campaign between Sen. Claire McCaskill who, at the beginning of the cycle appeared to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent standing for re-election, and the mistake-ridden Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is still in toss-up territory. Most believe, however, that activity in the final stretch will favor the Democratic Senator.

Republicans were thought early to be clear favorites in North Dakota and Indiana, but polling is still indicating that both of these campaigns remain close. The GOP appears to be a lock to convert Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) open Nebraska seat, and Independent Angus King continues to maintain the inside track in retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine, though the numbers are closing.

Today, Democrats look to be ahead in enough states to give them a 49-47 aggregate lead in the Senate, with four races in the toss-up column; three of which are currently Democratically held. Hence, the majority remains in abeyance.

The House has been the most stable of the federal political entities in the 2012 cycle. Post-census redistricting will prove to be the determining factor here and that favors the Republicans. It appears the partisan swing will deviate between a +/- three seat margin in terms of aggregate gains and losses for the two parties, but Republican control seems secure.

Democrats could be gaining as many as three seats in Florida and potentially the same or more in Illinois. Republicans are positioned to score similarly in North Carolina. New York and California remain as wild cards.

While the GOP appeared to be in position to gain seats up until the last two weeks, Democrats are enjoying a swing in some House races, too. The best estimate indicates Republicans will comfortably retain control, but Democrats could make an aggregate gain in the low single digits.

Today, it appears that 233 seats are safely or trending Republican as compared to 186 headed to the Democrats. Sixteen seats are considered too close to call, with 11 of the 16 being in GOP currently held districts.