The Speaker Race and its Effect on Elections; Pennsylvania
and Ohio Senate Data

Oct. 12, 2015 — Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA-23) surprise announcement that he has dropped out of the Speaker’s race was, of course, big news at the end of last week, but how will the change in House leadership affect the 2016 general election?

To a large extent, it’s too early to tell, especially with the new Speaker election not yet being scheduled and without knowing the identities of all the eventual candidates. Will the McCarthy withdrawal have much of an effect concerning how Republicans fare at the polls at the end of next year? No. But certainly the eventual John Boehner replacement will have a great deal of influence over how the House Republican campaigns unfold.

At this writing, there does seem to be a push, led by outgoing Speaker Boehner, to convince Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and the 2012 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, to enter the internal Speaker’s campaign. At this point, Ryan continues to reject all such suggestions, but he does appear to be one of the few members who has a chance of uniting the Republicans in order to capture the 218 votes needed for victory.

With Ryan’s drive to enact economic policy, a much better chance would exist for him to develop an agenda for Republican candidates nationally to promote and rally around. Having such a platform would help crystallize the campaign and ensure the maximum number of House GOP electoral victories. No agenda has been present in the past two campaigns, which precludes more positive, issue-oriented campaigning.

Should the Republicans not agree upon a Speaker candidate who could attract a majority, and should Boehner remain, possibly until the end of the current Congress, the GOP voting base will likely react negatively. While there is little chance the partisan Republican voters would en-masse begin supporting Democratic candidates, the lack of enthusiasm could lead to decreased turnouts, thus negatively affecting close House races and having a tangential effect upon the presidential contest. So, the stakes are high, meaning forcing a resolution to the leadership problem becomes a top priority. The upcoming days will be interesting ones, indeed.

Q-Poll Data

We covered the Quinnipiac University Swing State Polls as they pertained to the presidential race in the critical states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania last week. The organization then subsequently released Senate data for the key Ohio and Pennsylvania 2016 campaigns.

The results bring good and bad news for both parties. The Ohio campaign has begun rather poorly for Sen. Rob Portman (R), as several previous polls, including a Harstad Strategic Group survey this week, revealed. The HSG results found ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading Portman 46-43 percent. The Q-Poll (Sept. 25-Oct. 5; 1,180 registered Ohio voters) confirmed such a conclusion, actually reporting an identical result. This marks the fourth consecutive poll, over a period of more than two months, to project Strickland with a small edge.

The Pennsylvania numbers greatly favor Sen. Pat Toomey and the GOP. Here, Quinnipiac (Sept. 25-Oct. 5; 1,049 registered Pennsylvania voters) finds the senator opening up mega leads over both former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) — the man Toomey defeated 51-49 percent in 2010 — and former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D).

When paired with Sestak, Sen. Toomey’s margin is a robust 49-33 percent. Against McGinty, the incumbent’s spread grows even larger. If McGinty were the Democratic nominee today, the senator would enjoy a whopping 51-31 percent advantage.

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