Category Archives: Senate

Arizona’s Primary: A Look at A Hotly Contested State

Arizona voters go to the polls tomorrow to choose Senatorial and US House nominees in a myriad of places.

Looking at the Senate, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) has enjoyed the inside track for both the primary and general elections since Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement. Businessman Wil Cardon appeared to be mounting a serious early challenge but has curiously lessened his activity level as the election draws near, clearly a sign he has lost optimism about his chances of pushing past Flake to capture the Republican nomination. For the Democrats, former surgeon general Richard Carmona’s primary victory has long been a foregone conclusion. Assuming it’s Flake vs. Carmona after tomorrow, the Republican would begin the official general election campaign as the favorite.

The state gained a congressional seat in reapportionment and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission used it to shape a much different state map for the next 10 years. The Democrats should benefit the most from the plan, but more so beyond 2012 considering the changing demographics as the ensuing decade unfolds. For this election cycle several of the districts are highly competitive, making Arizona one of the most hotly contested of all states.

In the expansive 1st District that encompasses most of the northern and eastern geography, former representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who held a similar district for one term until freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R) unseated her two years ago, is mounting her political comeback and will easily win the Democratic nomination tomorrow. She will likely face former state senator Jonathan Paton (R) in the general election. On paper, this seat could go either way but it seems to have more Democratic tendencies. Such was clearly Gosar’s thought pattern, thus explaining his departure to the 4th District and eschewing re-election in the new AZ-1 even though he currently represents 75 percent of its constituents.

In the new 2nd District, formerly numbered 8 in Arizona’s southeastern corner around the city of Tucson, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) is running for a full term. He won the right to replace his former boss, ex-representative Gabrielle Giffords (D) who resigned the seat earlier this year to concentrate on her physical recovery from the tragic shooting that also wounded Barber. The new congressman will undoubtedly face Gulf War veteran Martha McSally who placed second to former GOP nominee Jesse Kelly in the 2012 special election. Kelly lost to Giffords by two points in 2010. A new poll shows Barber ahead of McSally by only five points, but he is the clear favorite in the general election race, nonetheless. Expect new Democratic polling numbers to soon show him pulling away.

In the new western state 4th District, the safest Republican seat in Arizona, the aforementioned Rep. Gosar seeks his second term in office. However, former state senator Ron Gould is attracting major support from conservative and Tea Party organizations to the tune of over $750,000 in uncoordinated independent expenditures; he will provide the congressman’s principal primary opposition. The winner of tomorrow’s contest takes the seat in November.

Turning to the Phoenix suburban 5th District, former representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1) and ex-state House speaker Kirk Adams vie for the Republican nomination in what has been a spirited and relatively expensive campaign. Similar to the situation in District 4, the winner of tomorrow’s Republican race will win the general election. In this case, the eventual GOP nominee replaces Rep. Jeff Flake who vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

The big shoot-out is in the Scottsdale-based District 6, where an incumbent Republican pairing battle will conclude between freshman Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5). Quayle represents two-thirds of the current constituency as compared to his colleague’s one-third. He has raised over $2 million to Schweikert’s $1.5 million. Either man can win. Each says he is more conservative than his opponent. Both claim the other should be running in the new marginal 9th District; one of them will prove to be right. The winner keeps the safe Republican seat for the rest of the decade; the loser will be out of politics at least for the short-term.

The new open eastern Phoenix suburban 9th District, the seat added in reapportionment, plays as a marginal domain in 2012 but will trend more Democratic as the decade progresses. No less than seven candidates have raised more than $200,000 for this race, with former state Democratic chairman and Clinton Administration official Andrei Cherny and ex-state senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) raising well over $800,000 apiece. The Republicans feature three current and formal local office holders including 2010 congressional candidate and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the early advantage, but this race is clearly a free-for-all tomorrow and possibly in November.

Missouri Aside, Senate Polls Break Toward GOP

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)

A spate of new US Senate polls is giving Republican Party leaders some solace in the face of the Todd Akin debacle in Missouri.

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 16-19; 1,115 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Sen. Scott Brown (R) to a 49-44 percent lead over consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren (D). This is the senator’s largest lead in months. Most recent polls showed him either trailing by a point or two, or tied.

Rasmussen Reports (Aug. 20; 500 likely Montana voters) gives Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) a 47-43 percent edge over Sen. Jon Tester (D).

Michigan-based Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 16; 1,733 likely Michigan voters), for the first time, posts challenger Pete Hoekstra (R) to a 48-46 percent advantage against two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).

PPP also released data for the Wisconsin Senate race, as did Marquette University Law School. According to the former (Aug. 16-19; 1,308 likely Wisconsin voters), Republican ex-governor Tommy Thompson has the upper hand over Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) by a five-point, 49-44 percent, spread. The latter survey (Aug. 16-19; 706 registered Wisconsin voters) shows Thompson with an even larger lead, 50-41 percent.

And, as we reported yesterday, Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 17; 1,503 likely Florida voters) gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) his largest lead of the campaign, 51-43 percent, over two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

If the patterns in each of these campaigns were to hold, the Republicans would surely capture the Senate majority and see their conference grow to 52 members and possibly beyond. Much will change, however, between now and Nov. 6.

The Importance of Ohio

Ohio Congressional Districts

Since the 2000 presidential election, the state of Ohio has been front and center in determining the national political outcome. Despite having a Republican electoral history, the state voted twice for Bill Clinton before returning to support George W. Bush in both of his campaigns. In 2008, Ohio went 51-47 percent for candidate Barack Obama. Now four years later, it again becomes the quintessential political battleground. If Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is to unseat President Obama, his path must travel through the Buckeye State.

Along with the presidential contest, Republicans are hoping to make the Ohio Senate race highly competitive and appear to be doing so. State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who has already raised over $10 million for the statewide campaign, is challenging first term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). This race will be determined along the same lines as the presidential contest and it is plausible that the party winning at the top of the ticket will also sweep in its Senatorial candidate. House races are critically important here, too, with as many as four contests in play for the general election.

The economy will be the determining factor here, as poor financial conditions during the last decade is one reason Ohio’s population growth rate was so anemic during the last census period. The state increased its number of residents only 1.6 percent during that time, which caused it to lose two congressional districts. Along with New York, this is the most in the nation. The US population grew at a 9.7 percent clip during the commensurate period.

The Obama campaign hopes to capture the senior vote with its depiction of the Republican budget proposals as being bad for the elderly. Conversely, the GOP will attempt to coalesce small business owners around the President’s statement saying that individual entrepreneurs didn’t build their own enterprises. Obama will, as he did in 2008, build a coalition of minority voters and single women. Romney will attempt to convince regular church goers to support him en masse.

Assuming that each is successful with their strategic objectives and the aforementioned voter segments break down about evenly in Ohio, another issue could become a wild card – at least that’s what the Romney campaign hopes, as evidenced during the visit to the state last week.

It is the coal issue that could possibly become determinative in Ohio. Perhaps Mr. Obama’s biggest mistake of his presidency was pushing the Cap & Trade measure as his first major legislative initiative. His party suffered greatly at the 2010 ballot box in coal country, and Cap & Trade was a big reason for the Democrats’ poor performance.

When veteran Democratic congressmen Alan Mollohan (WV-1) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) supported the legislation, they were summarily removed from office and clearly because of their energy positions. Things got so bad for Mid-Atlantic Democrats that now-Sen. Joe Manchin actually resulted to taking a gun and shooting a copy of the Cap & Trade bill in one of his campaign ads. The question is, will this voter vitriol continue at the same fever pitch in 2012?

It may in Ohio. With eight public polls being conducted in the state since July 1, most falling within a 3.2 point range between the two candidates (the two extremes gave Obama an eight-point advantage; the other had Romney up two), it is probable that the end result will come down to just a handful of votes.

This is why the Romney campaign is turning their attention to coal, as illustrated by the candidate’s visit to an Ohio coal mine last week. Coal is responsible for generating 82 percent of Ohio’s electrical power and, despite being the seventh-largest state in America, the Buckeye’s rank fourth in coal usage and 10th in production.

It is clear Ohio voters will be hearing a great deal about energy issues throughout the remaining campaign weeks and a lot about each presidential candidate’s position on the various means of energy production. Because coal is such an integral part of the lives and economic well-being of Ohioans, Romney may have found an issue that creates a definitive contrast with Obama where the president has little maneuvering ability. Will this make the difference in Ohio? Time will soon tell.

The Senate Scorecard

With most of the primary season now behind us and all of the Senate match-ups in place, sans Arizona and Wyoming, it’s time to examine the national outlook.

After seeing several competitive primaries decided in the past several weeks, we now sit on the cusp of the final short sprint to Election Day with Senate control still considered to be in “toss-up” mode. As we know, 33 Senate races are standing for election in November with 11 of those seats being open due to retirement and defeat, thus giving more conversion opportunities for each side. Of the 33 Senate races, a little under half of them are considered safe for the respective incumbent and, according to our count, six of the races are rated as toss-ups (Ind., Mass., Mo., Mont., Va., and Wis.).

If the Democrats were to win all of the “lean Dem” and toss-up races, and Independent former governor Angus King clinches the Maine race and decides to caucus with them, the Senate Democrats would actually add a net of three seats to their conference, bringing the total majority number to 56. Early in the election cycle it looked extremely unlikely that the Democrats would pick up any seats, however, as this year has unfolded, more Republican-held seats have come into play and some of the Democratic seats initially thought to be potentially vulnerable like Connecticut, Washington, and Pennsylvania are all trending more solidly leftward. Democrats also are in much better shape in North Dakota, as former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp continues to perform well against at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), who began the race as a big favorite.

Conversely, if Republicans sweep the toss-ups and “lean R” races they would have a net gain of eight seats, bringing their total to 55 seats, even if King wins and caucuses with the Democrats. Thus, 56D to 55R appear to be the extreme swing parameters for the two parties.

While most political pundits still can’t say with any certainty who is going to control the Senate come January, it is becoming obvious that the ratio will be close. Neither party has so far broken out with the kind of drive to create a sweep, and several other campaigns have unfolded differently than originally predicted. It seems when one party makes a gain or falls behind, the other experiences a similar action, thus keeping the balance between the two in check.

For example, the political climate has become better for Republican candidates in Nebraska and Florida, while Democrats are approaching lock-down positions in Connecticut and Washington.

In the Cornhusker State we see that former senator Bob Kerrey’s return to politics after a 12-year absence while living in New York City has not been well received. GOP nominee Deb Fischer consistently holds polling leads that exceed the 18-20 point range. The best poll, from a Nebraska Democratic perspective, is the June Garin Hart Yang survey that put Kerrey within 12 points of his Republican opponent.

Turning to the Sunshine State, two-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who has a substantial campaign resource advantage over his new official Republican opponent, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his solid primary victory earlier in the week, has failed to establish a firm lead. Polling consistently shows this race moving much closer to toss-up status, and while Sen. Nelson maintains a slight advantage, his edge is minimal and this campaign is quickly becoming as hot as a typical Florida summer.

In Connecticut earlier this week, GOP primary voters, by an overwhelming 73-27 percent margin, again fielded their losing 2010 candidate, former wrestling company executive Linda McMahon, this time to compete against newly nominated Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). The two are vying for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s open seat. In recent polling, Murphy has opened up a strong lead when paired against McMahon. Former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) consistently polled better in general election match-ups with Murphy, but he fared poorly in his nomination battle. With President Obama sure to run well in Connecticut and thus setting the tone for the entire Nutmeg State Democratic ticket, Rep. Murphy has established himself as the clear front-runner. Seeing him fall would now be considered a major upset.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, who serves the Evergreen State of Washington, has historically not been the most popular of incumbents. Her re-election prospects have improved considerably, however, since drawing a second-tier opponent in the person of state Sen. Michael Baumgartner. The senator placed almost 26 percentage points ahead of Baumgartner in the jungle primary earlier this month. While Washington originally had the potential of becoming a competitive race, Sen. Cantwell has considerably strengthened her position and this contest is virtually out of reach for the GOP.

As Election Day draws nearer, we continue to see a Senate that is still very much in play for both parties. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe, likely, or lean winners in 18 states, while Republicans have that same status in nine. This means the Democrats are hovering around the 48 mark and the GOP is closer to 46. Of the six toss-ups, Democrats currently hold four states and Republicans two. Remember, Democrats must defend 23 of the in-cycle seats versus just 10 for their counterparts.

A Governor, a Veterinarian and a Congressman …

Candidate Ted Yoho

What do a former four-term governor, a large animal veterinarian, and a retired congressman who left the House when Ronald Reagan first became president have in common? The members of this unusual group all won primaries for federal office this week.

Republican Tommy Thompson, who four times was elected governor of Wisconsin and then served President George W. Bush in the cabinet as his Health and Human Services Secretary, squeaked through the Badger State US Senate primary on Tuesday, thereby winning the right to oppose Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) in the November election. This will be one of the most important Senate contests in the country and one of a handful that will determine which party claims the majority in the new Congress.

Veterinarian Ted Yoho, who has never run for public office and spent less than $400,000 on his race, upended 24-year Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) in the new, rural-based, 3rd Congressional District. Stearns represents 65 percent of the new constituency and had over $2 million in the bank at the end of July, but somehow failed to put forth a convincing re-election campaign and fell to Yoho by one percentage point among a field of four candidates, including a state senator and a county clerk of court. Obviously, for the voters of this newly constructed district, previous public service is a major negative.

In perhaps the most unusual political comeback in recent history, former Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN-6), who retired from Congress in 1980, successfully captured the Democratic nomination in the Iron Range 8th District. The seat is heavily Democratic but went Republican for freshman Chip Cravaack in the GOP landslide of 2010. Nolan will be competitive in the fall and, if elected, will mark a return to Congress after a 32-year absence.