Category Archives: Senate

Conflicting Virginia Polls

Last week, Public Policy Polling released a survey (Dec. 10-12; 600 registered Virginia voters) showing former Virginia governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine holding a 47-42 percent lead over former senator and governor George Allen. Now, Quinnipiac University counters those numbers with their own study (Dec. 13-19; 1,135 registered Virginia voters), which posts Allen to a 44-42 percent advantage.

The polling has been close ever since it became clear that both parties would put forth consensus, extremely well-known candidates. With their respective nominations already unofficially clinched, the Kaine-Allen general election will churn on over the coming year. It is expected that the race will remain in toss-up mode all the way to Election Day 2012.

The fact that conflicting polls exist during the same time period is not too surprising. Finding these fluctuations in very close contests is not unusual.

The ballot test question, however, is not the only Q-Poll result that is virtually even. The candidates’ favorability index is also almost identical as well. Allen scores a mediocre 41:27 percent positive to negative, while Kaine posts virtually the same pedestrian ratio: 42:27 percent. Expect this pattern to remain consistent in the Virginia Senate race for the foreseeable future.

Updates From Texas, West Virginia

Texas Senate: Sanchez Drops Bid

While former NFL football player Craig James (R) appears to be headed into the Texas Senate race, another candidate is departing. Retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (D) who officially launched his Senatorial campaign back in May, now says he will not run.

Sanchez experienced a difficult time launching his campaign from a fundraising perspective and in attempting to kick his effort into high gear. After recently sustaining huge personal losses due to a fire that cost him his personal residence, the retired military officer said it was simply not the right time for him to enter elective politics, particularly for a long shot statewide attempt.

Republicans are strong favorites to hold the open seat. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is retiring.

WV-1: Oliverio Out

Former state Sen. Mike Oliverio (D), who lost one of the closest elections (49.6-50.4 percent) of the 2010 election cycle to freshman Rep. David McKinley (R), has withdrawn from the 2012 contest. In May of 2010, Oliverio upset 14-term Rep. Alan Mollohan in the Democratic primary largely because of the incumbent’s vote in favor of the Cap & Trade legislation, an issue that is wholly unpopular in northern West Virginia coal country. In September, Mr. Oliverio announced that he would seek a re-match with Rep. McKinley.

Oliverio gave no reason for changing his mind, only saying that he would be an “active citizen” instead of a candidate for public office. In the three months of his latest campaign effort, he had only raised $11,000 and still carries a debt of $27,000 from the 2010 race.

Remaining in the race is Democratic activist Susan Thorn. WV-1 changed little in redistricting. The McKinley-Oliverio re-match was considered a toss-up, but the congressman will certainly be favored if Thorn becomes the eventual Democratic nominee.

Craig James: A “Texas Patriot” for Senate

Craig James is an ESPN college football analyst. Prior to his career in television, James starred for five years with the New England Patriots NFL football club, playing on their 1985 Super Bowl team. In college, he started at running back for Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Yesterday, he announced that he would enter the US Senate race as a Republican, hoping to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The James campaign is starting from scratch in an election that still could be held on March 6. Chances are that the US Supreme Court staying the implementation of the congressional and state legislative redistricting plans will delay the primary considerably, probably until May 22, and that will give James more time to mount a serious campaign effort.

His obstacle is to overcome Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is clearly the front-runner for not only the nomination, but the seat itself in November. The earlier primary date favors the current statewide office holder as polls show he is in position to win outright, thus avoiding a run-off election with his closest competitor. The later date will give James and the other two top contenders, Dallas former Mayor Tom Leppert and ex-Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, more time to attempt to force Dewhurst into the secondary election.

The courts are indicating that the primary decision likely will be made on or before Jan. 12, leading almost everyone to believe that all Texas primary balloting will be moved. Curiously, they are letting candidate filing begin on Friday, but will give potential candidates more time to enter the race once the primary schedule and district boundaries are finalized.

DSCC Chair Patty Murray’s Favorites

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made some statements that clearly indicates who she believes are her party’s strongest candidates in three key campaigns when she spoke during an informal session with reporters.

The senator stopped short of committing the DSCC to officially support and help any particular candidate in the Democratic primaries, but did offer her personal endorsement to a pair of open-seat contenders and spoke glowingly of a third.

Murray said that Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and Hawaii Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are the best Democratic candidates for their states, that she personally supports both, and expects each to win their own general elections.

Not surprisingly, Murphy and Hirono’s opponents shot back when hearing the news. Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz responded to Murray’s statements by saying that, “My opponent is the favorite of K Street, and my supporters are on Main Street.”

Former Hawaii Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) responded in a similar way about the senator’s comments praising Hirono. He claims that his top opponent is “selling her candidacy to the DC insiders.”

Murray also praised Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) as being the superior candidate in the New Mexico open-seat contest. She stopped short of personally endorsing him, however, and again did not commit any DSCC resources to Heinrich or any of the aforementioned candidates.

The New Mexico congressman is running against state Auditor Hector Balderas, who will likely draw well in the state’s substantial Hispanic community. Since these votes are critically important to the Democrats in the general election, both Murray and Heinrich are treading very carefully with respect to how they draw a contrast with Balderas.

The frankness of Murray’s comments is a bit unusual for a major party committee chair, particularly this early in the election cycle. Normally, the official response is to remain publicly neutral even if they help particular contenders behind the scenes. Often times public endorsements from Washington political committees do more harm than good for the people the party establishment wants to help, so they usually keep as silent as possible.

There is no question that Murphy, Hirono, and Heinrich are the early favorites in their respective states. If the election were today, each would almost assuredly win the nomination, so it makes sense that, from a general election “winability” perspective, Murray would want to further their candidacies. The fact that she is at least personally on board is a clear signal to outside liberal groups and labor union financial communities that they should be backing each campaign.

Much time remains in each of the three situations, so it is curious that Sen. Murray would be publicly picking favorites this early. The New Mexico primary is scheduled for June 5th. Hawaii and Connecticut do not choose nominees until Aug. 11 and 14, respectively.

In the Land of Enchantment, Heinrich and Balderas are fighting for the right to succeed retiring five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez are dueling for the Republican nomination. The Democrats begin the campaign as early favorites, but this race could become a toss-up before people go to the polls next November.

The Democrats also appear strong in Connecticut, though ex-Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) does match-up well with Bysiewicz in early ballot test polling. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring.

The Hawaii situation may be different. With former Gov. Linda Lingle in the race and already the consensus Republican candidate in a late primary state, it is important that the Democrats avoid a divisive nomination fight. With Case having been on the ballot so many times before in the state (he’s previously had runs for governor, US senator, and three times as a representative for the US House), he has the potential of causing Hirono problems; so Murray attempting to give Rep. Hirono a boost should help the party’s general election standing. Four-term Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring.

Senate Poll Shockers

A series of surveys was just released for key US Senate races in several states. Two studies produced especially surprising results, those in Florida and North Dakota.

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 17; 500 likely Florida voters) now gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) an unexpected 43-39 percent lead over Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). This is the first poll of the election cycle that shows Nelson in a deficit position to any potential Republican opponent.

After saying he would not run in March, Rep. Mack did an about-face late last month and his decision appears to be paying off, at least in the short term. Prior to recent polls showing Rep. Mack within two, six, and now leading by four points, Sen. Nelson posted consistent 15-point margins against the other two main Republican candidates, former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

It was always believed that the Ft. Myers congressman and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III could make this race competitive, and the last three polls certainly confirm that supposition.

In North Dakota, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the results of the Mellman Group poll (Nov. 12-16; 600 likely North Dakota voters) it commissioned for newly announced candidate Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general. The data give Ms. Heitkamp a 47-42 percent lead over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). This is a stunner in that Berg is thought to be the prohibitive favorite to convert the open seat (Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring) for the GOP. North Dakota is projected to be the Republicans’ best opportunity to take a Democratic seat.

Since this tabulation conflicts with other North Dakota polls, it is possible that the survey is an anomaly. In its defense, however, are the presidential numbers. As one would expect, a prospective Republican nominee is ahead of President Obama in the Peace Garden State, even according to these same Mellman Group numbers. Mitt Romney has a 47-33 percent advantage over the President within this polling universe, which is perfectly in line with North Dakota presidential election voting behavior. If further surveys show a similar pattern in this Senate race, a new competitive race could be on the horizon.

According to a brand new Epic MRA poll of the Michigan Senate race (Nov. 13-16; 600 registered Michigan voters), former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) has decreased his deficit against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Their latest survey shows only a six-point 48-42 percent advantage for the two-term Democratic incumbent. This is a net gain of three points for Hoekstra over the firm’s August poll that gave Stabenow a 47-38 percent edge.

The Michigan race is another critical contest for the GOP. Thought to be vulnerable at the beginning of the year, the Republicans were slow to find a credible opponent against the senator, finally convincing Hoekstra to launch a campaign after the former congressman had publicly announced that he would not run.

One of the slower races to take shape is the open Arizona seat of retiring Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl (R). New polling information is now available for the Republican primary in this state and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is off to a big lead, as expected. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 17-20; 400 registered Arizona Republican voters), Flake has a huge 53-7 percent lead over businessman Wil Cardon. Magellan Strategies found a similar pattern. Their latest Arizona study (Nov. 16; 722 registered Arizona Republican voters) gives Flake a similar 55-3 percent margin against Cardon.

Democrats have a large field in the Grand Canyon State, including former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and ex-Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens. Right now, it appears the race is Flake’s to lose.