Category Archives: Senate

To Run or Not to Run

Already, potential candidates are musing publicly about running for higher office in 2012. Since two challengers are officially off and running — Florida state

Florida state Sen. Mike Haridopolos.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) lining up against Sen. Bill Nelson (D), and ex-Missouri state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) hoping to qualify in the general election versus Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) — more appear to be making, or at least scheduling, decisions.

In West Virginia, newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may already have dodged a pair of bullets. The man he defeated in November to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s unexpired term, Republican businessman John Raese, is saying he won’t run again. And Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), clearly the Republicans’ strongest statewide contender, looks to be more interested in a run for Governor than Senator.

In Nevada, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will decide in early February whether to challenge embattled Sen. John Ensign (R). And finally, defeated Reps. Glenn Nye (D-VA-2), Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), Patrick Murphy (D-PA-8), and Chet Edwards (D-TX-17) all are saying they “haven’t ruled out” a run to re-capture their old seats; likewise for Republican challenger Ilario Pantano, who lost to veteran Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7). Each will be looking at a much different district after redistricting, so such talk now is highly premature.

The Missouri Senate: Another Close One Coming

Yesterday’s announcement that former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman (R) will challenge Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) prompted Public Policy Polling to quickly release the results of a new 2012 small-sample poll they were in the process of completing. The survey (11/29-12/1; 515 registered Missouri voters) provides evidence that the Show Me State is moving back to its normal voting pattern of hosting some of the nation’s closest political campaigns after Senator-elect Roy Blunt (R) bucked the trend by winning a 54-41% landslide victory this past November.

According to PPP, McCaskill would lead Steelman 45-44%. To show the stark polarization among voters in the state, 77% of Democrats approve of Sen. McCaskill’s performance in office, while the exact same percentage of Republicans disapprove.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

2012 Senate Polls – Already!

Public Policy Polling is already releasing new and rather interesting data on proposed 2012 U.S. Senate match-ups. The firm is testing two first-term Democrats, both of whom appear vulnerable because they are from states that tend to vote Republican in national elections. Though the polls certainly show incumbent vulnerability and foretell close races, each Democratic Senator is in better political shape that one might guess considering the results of our most recent election.

In Virginia, the clear choice among Republicans to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D) is none other than the man who lost the seat in 2006, former Senator and Governor George Allen (R). When asked of 400 “usual” GOP VA primary voters, 46% answered that Allen would be their choice. Eighteen percent prefer soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), though there is no indication that the Congressman would entertain a statewide race since he will already be one of the top congressional leaders. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli places third with 16%, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA-11) are tied with 4% apiece.

In hypothetical general election match-ups (11/10-13; 551 registered VA voters) Webb leads Allen 49-45%; the Senator has a 49-38% advantage over Bolling; and the margin is 49-39% in a Webb-Cuccinelli pairing.

Since Sen. Webb has been somewhat circumspect when answering questions about whether or not he will run for re-election, PPP tested former Gov. and current Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in his stead. The Democrat leads each of the potentially serious Republican contenders. Kaine’s advantage over Allen is 50-44%; 48-41% against Bolling; and 50-40% when paired with AG Cuccinelli.

The third Democrat tested was Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his seat to Rep-Elect Bob Hurt on November 2nd. In these trial heats, two of the three Republicans lead the outgoing Congressman, but even here the margin is very tight. Allen tops Perriello 47-42%; Bolling leads him by a single point, 42-41%; but Perriello manages to maintain a slight 44-41% advantage over Cuccinelli.

This particular small-sample poll does not have very positive opinions about any of the contenders. Kaine scores the best with a 43:40% favorable to unfavorable personal approval ratio. All of the others are hung with negative ratings above their positive scores.

Considering that the Republicans just gained three House seats in the Virginia delegation, these results are basically welcome news for the Democrats. Since Virginia, along with New Jersey and New York, each led the nation in turnout drop-off from 2008 (each state registered more than 47% drop-off; that is, 47% of the people who voted in the 2008 presidential election did not return to cast a ballot in 2010), still suggests that the Democrats are more than competitive in a high turnout election, such as would be expected in the next presidential election. It looks like a long Senate campaign ahead for Old Dominion voters and it appears that either side can win.

The other state PPP tested is Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) faces the voters for the first time after unseating three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R) back in 2006. Here, Tester does not fare as well as his colleague Sen. Webb, but is certainly in position for a strong re-election bid.

According to the Public Policy Polling results (10/11-13; 1,176 registered MT voters), at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) leads Sen. Tester 48-46%. The Senator leads former Lt. Gov. nominee Steve Daines (R) 48-37%, but trails former Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot 42-49%.

This early data suggests that Montanans, too, can expect another close, rough and tumble campaign season in 2012. Protecting only 10 of 33 seats in the next cycle, the GOP would need a net gain of four to secure a new majority. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Montana are top states on the potential Republican conversion list.

The 2010 Election Turnout

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, we often mentioned that campaigns are always decided by the turnout model, especially in mid-term voting. Since a lower number of people participate in non-presidential elections, and 2010 was no exception, the groups of voters coming to the polls then determines which party wins and loses.

The preliminary 2010 turnout patterns, remembering that ballot counting in some states is not quite finished, clearly points to the fact that Republicans were in fact way more energized to vote, as the pre-election polling continually predicted.

The landslide, particularly at the U.S. House and state legislative level, occurred because Republicans did very well in states that have either been trending toward their opposition in the last two elections, or are normally reliable Democratic performers. The fact that many of these states turned out fewer voters in 2010 than they did in 2006, despite population gains, provides us clear evidence.

Of the Democratic states where Republicans made strong inroads, we see the same turnout pattern occurring. The Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter participation rates show unmistakable evidence that the Democratic voter base was demoralized. Since the results in these states, by and large, heavily favored the GOP and turnout was down from 2006, it is clear that the turnout dip was disproportionately felt on the Democratic side.

In Michigan, turnout was down a whopping 19.7% from 2006. This also translates into a 36.7% drop-off from 2008. With Republicans winning the Governorship, two US House seats, and both houses of the legislature, it is clear that the lower turnout was very likely exclusively within the Democratic voting sector.

Pennsylvania also was down, again indicating that Democrats simply were not voting at a normal level. The Keystone State saw turnout drop 2.7% from ’06, with a 35% drop-off rate from the presidential election. Here, the Republicans gained the Governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, five congressional seats, and the state House, while holding the state Senate. In Wisconsin — where the GOP won the Governorship, defeated a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator, gained two congressional seats and both houses of the legislature — turnout fell into a similar pattern as the aforementioned states, but not to the same degree. There, it dropped just 1% from 2006, and was off 28.5% from 2008.

Though a small state, South Dakota is also in this category. They elected a Republican Governor and defeated a popular Democratic at-large U.S. Representative. Total turnout was down 5.8% from ’06, but with only a 17% drop-off from the last presidential election.

Ohio, though not traditionally a Democratic state but which has performed as such in both 2006 and 2008, also fit the lower turnout pattern. There, the Republicans defeated an incumbent Governor, held an open U.S. Senate seat, gained five congressional districts, the state House and held the state Senate. 2010 turnout was off 6.1% from ’06 and 37% from the presidential election.

Another reason for the GOP landslide was that turnout experienced a boost in the more traditional Republican states. Arizona, which witnessed a strong Republican comeback when compared to 2006 and 2008 with wins at the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+2) and state legislative levels, saw a huge increase in turnout when compared with the last mid-term election of 2006. There, turnout rose a huge 24.8% over 2006, but the drop-off from 2008 was still significant at 33.3%. This shows a disproportionately low turnout in ’06, thus proving that demoralization among the Arizona Republican voter base of that year was severe.

Two states that didn’t fit the pattern were the more Republican state of Tennessee and the Democratic state of Illinois. Though GOP gains were major in TN, turnout actually dropped a huge 15.7% from 2006, and was off 39.6% when compared to the presidential race. In Illinois, Democratic in nature and a state that one would expect to fit the lower turnout pattern, saw voter participation increase 7.9% from 2006. Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here, but did not convert the Governor’s office as was expected prior to the election. The GOP went on to gain three congressional districts.

More definitive answers will be determined when all of the 2010 voting numbers become final and official.

Counting Continues in Alaska; Three House Races Remain

Alaska: Election authorities are finished counting about 89% of all ballots, including the write-in and absentee votes, in their unfinished U.S. Senate race. If current trends continue, it appears that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be re-elected. Republican Joe Miller defeated Murkowski in the August 24th Republican primary, but a strong grassroots write-in campaign coupled with Miller’s political implosion apparently will combine to make the Senator only the second person in history to win a seat by write-in. The only other such instance in a Senate campaign was Strom Thurmond’s victorious effort in South Carolina back in 1954.

Murkowski is capturing 98% of the write-in tallies. More than 160 people are qualified to receive write-in votes, and it was obvious that the Senator would record the overwhelming majority of them, but it was unclear until the counting began whether she would get virtually all of them. That appears to be the case.

Numbers-wise, Miller is sitting with 82,180, but Murkowski has now surged ahead of him with 92,979. Miller has challenged about 10% of the Murkowski write-in votes, but has successfully disqualified only 1.52% of the disputed votes. Democrat Scott McAdams is way back with 54,147 and is eliminated from having any mathematical chance of winning.

Two More House Races Decided: Absentee ballot counting laboriously continues in California, but we have two more campaigns finally decided. Democratic incumbents Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) have both declared victory as the post-election counting is now putting them comfortably ahead of their very competitive Republican challengers.

There are approximately 11,700 ballots left to count in the 11th district and GOP challenger David Harmer would have to win 57% of these to overtake the incumbent, a number that is almost assuredly out of reach; 700 of these ballots are from Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, two heavily Democratic regions that will overwhelmingly favor McNerney. Given that, Harmer is forced to win more than 60% of the San Joaquin and Contra Costa County votes, which simply won’t happen.

In California’s 20th district in the Central Valley, the tabulated Fresno County absentee ballots have wiped out challenger Andy Vidak’s small lead and put Rep. Costa in front by more than 1,200 votes. The remaining ballots are predominantly from Fresno and Kings Counties, two areas that heavily favor the Democratic incumbent. It is very likely that the Costa margin will increase as the final tallies become known in the next few days.

Still TBD: The resolution of the two California races means there are only three House campaigns left to be called.

  • Two New York races, NY-1 and NY-25, both feature Republican challengers who are leading by small margins. Military and absentee ballots will be counted next week, as the deadline for submitting such votes was extended past the election. Republican challenger Randy Altschuler leads by 383 votes in NY-1; former Syracuse City Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle has an official 659-vote lead over Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei.
  • In the IL-8 contest between Rep. Melissa Bean and GOP educator Joe Walsh, the challenger continues to cling to a 553-vote margin. This one will likely end in Walsh’s favor, with a full recount procedure to follow.

Adding the two California Democratic victories, the House count now stands at 240 Republicans and 192 Democrats. GOP wins in the final three races would push their total to as high as 243.

Of Note: Recounts are underway in KY-6 and NC-2, but it is unlikely that the final results will change the outcome. Unless a major error is found in the previous count, Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) will retain his seat and challenger Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) will defeat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D).

Today is the deadline for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) to decide if he will pay for a recount in his race against attorney Blake Farenthold. The incumbent trails by just about 800 votes with everything counted.