Tag Archives: Alaska

Santorum Sweeps Three; Faces Challenges Ahead

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum swept the voting last night at the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and in the non-binding Missouri primary. With his victories, the upstart presidential candidate has now won more states (four) than any other candidate, despite spending far less money.

Finally rebounding after his surprising Iowa win but subsequently followed with poor performances in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, Santorum topped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 40-35 percent in Colorado, and won by a whopping 55-25 percent margin in Missouri. In Minnesota, he defeated Rep. Ron Paul 45-27 percent, as Romney could only manage 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fall. He performed poorly in Colorado (13 percent) and Minnesota (11 percent) last night, and failed to even qualify for the Missouri primary ballot.

The Missouri vote carried no delegate allocation. This will occur in county caucus meetings beginning March 17. In 2008, the state hosted a winner-take-all primary. The process also continues both in Colorado and Minnesota where delegates are formally apportioned at the district and state conventions later this year.

Looking at the unofficial delegate count after the first seven states to allocate (including Colorado and Minnesota), Romney has 99 delegates, Gingrich 41 (thanks to his South Carolina victory where he gathered 23 of 25 available votes), Santorum 39, and Paul 28. A candidate needs 1,144 delegate votes to secure the nomination, so only 9 percent of the total delegate pool has so far been apportioned. With his strong performance in Missouri, Santorum is in the best position to secure the majority of the state’s 52 delegates when the allocation process begins next month.

Are last night’s results an indication that Santorum can seriously challenge Romney for the nomination? It will still be difficult for him to do so, despite being in reach in the early delegate count. He will likely need to top Romney in Arizona on Feb. 28, because the former Michigan resident will likely win that state on the same day, do well on Super Tuesday (March 6), and hope he can score big later in his home state of Pennsylvania (72 delegates at stake) and conservative Texas (155). He will also have to hold his own in the remaining big northeastern states such as New York and New Jersey.

Scoring victories among some of the 10 Super Tuesday states is a necessity. The downside for Santorum on that day is Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, which is among the voting states, as is Gingrich’s Georgia. And remember, Santorum failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot. So, Ohio, with its 66 delegates becomes critically important for the Santorum cause. He will also need to do well in the Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho caucuses, as well as capturing the Oklahoma (43 delegates) and Tennessee (58) primaries.

The 2012 Presidential Delegates

Soon the 2012 presidential campaign will be starting in earnest, and we will again experience the laborious and complicated process of nominating candidates for the general election campaign. With a sitting incumbent unlikely to face a strong intra-party challenge, the Democrats will have little action on their side of the political ledger. Thus, Pres. Barack Obama’s nomination process will be little more than a formality.

Though the Republican candidates seem to be a little slow getting out of the gate right now, the major action still will be in their party. With no clear front-running candidate, the delegate count becomes even more important because the eventual winner is forced to build a large early lead. Again, having candidates who will likely only be strong in a particular geographic region, as was the case in 2008, it is anyone’s guess as to who will break out of the pack and claim the Republican nomination.

Though we are now less than a year from the first caucus vote, many decisions are still undetermined. Most states have only a tentative schedule in place, while others still must make a decision on their delegate selection format.

The 50 states and six voting territories have several ways of determining their own individual nominating system. The most popular is the winner-take-all (WTA) option, where the candidate receiving the most votes gets all of the state’s delegates. Arizona and Missouri are traditionally in this category. Other states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Utah are likely to be WTA’s in 2012.

Some states, like California and Florida, choose a modified winner-take-all system. A candidate receives a certain number of delegates for winning the state, and then is awarded every delegate in each congressional district won.

The last major category is the proportional system. This is where each candidate is awarded delegates based upon the percentage of the popular vote that he or she receives in the primary election. States can hold their nominating process either through a direct vote of the people either in an open or closed primary, or via a caucus system.

Right now, it appears that 11 states will use the winner-take-all system and another nine the modified WTA. An additional nine will use the proportional primary option. Fifteen states will caucus. Another dozen entities will use some variation of the above, except for the two “loophole” states. Illinois and Pennsylvania conduct a primary, but instead of selecting the presidential candidates, voters here choose the delegates themselves. Normally the delegate candidate is listed in a way that clearly denotes who the individual supports for president, but the vote is cast for the individual delegate, nonetheless.

In 2012, the Republicans will have a total field of 2,421 delegates. Exactly 1,879 individuals, called “pledged delegates,” will go to the Republican National Convention pledged to vote for a particular candidate at least on the first ballot. Another 542 will be free agents and will report to the convention as “unpledged” delegates. A candidate will be nominated for president once he or she obtains 1,211 delegate votes.

The first vote looks to be in Wyoming, at their county caucus program on Jan. 7, 2012. Iowa will be the first major event, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16. South Carolina, right now, is next up for Jan. 21. New Hampshire is tentatively picking Jan. 24, but the Granite State is sure to move up, as the party rules allow New Hampshire to retain its position as the first primary state. Florida will follow on Jan. 31. Maine and Alaska will have a caucus procedure before Super Tuesday. Currently, 15 states appear to be lining up for a Feb. 7 Super Tuesday election.

At this point in the process, 22 states will have chosen at least a partial slate of delegates, and a grand total of 1,096 delegate votes will be decided or officially categorized as unpledged. Through Tuesday, March 6, 41 states will have chosen delegates, most likely meaning that the Republican nomination will be decided by that date. If not, then we could be headed for the first brokered convention in generations, truly a nightmare scenario for the GOP as it already faces an uphill challenge in unseating an incumbent president, especially if the Democrats can unify their party.

Count on seeing and hearing much more about the Republican delegate count as we march forward to the another marathon presidential election. The fun is about to begin.
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Murkowski Wins in Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) officially has been declared the winner of the marathon Alaska Senate contest. With only 700+ ballots remaining to count, she is beyond the margin of error even when including all of opponent Joe Miller’s (R) challenged ballots. The Senator’s lead has grown to over 10,000 votes, exceeding the number of outstanding absentee ballots plus the 8,153 votes Miller is challenging. Thus ends the saga of one of the strangest political campaigns in recent memory. Murkowski lost the primary to Miller principally because she lacked a strong ground-force turnout mechanism but quickly rebounded to form a general election political apparatus to produce a win via write-in — an operation that requires intense organizational ability. This victory certainly ranks among the greatest comebacks in American political history.

Now, all 37 Senate races are official. The new Senate will stand at 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 campaigns in 2010 versus the Democrats’ 13, four short of the minimum requirement to claim the majority. Next we move to 2012, where Democrats must defend 23 seats versus just 10 for the Republicans. Lisa Murkowski is only the second person to win a Senate seat without officially being on the ballot. South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond was the other to accomplish the feat, way back in 1954.

Bean Concedes in Illinois; Progress on Other Races

Add one more new Republican seat to the completed House totals. Educator Joe Walsh, enjoying strong support from the Tea Party movement, has successfully unseated Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) as the remaining absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted yesterday. Walsh leads by only 282 votes of almost 200,000 cast, yet Rep. Bean decided to forego a recount and conceded the race, telephoning Walsh to offer her congratulations.

The IL-8 race may be the biggest surprise outcome of Election 2010 because Bean appeared on no one’s major target list, even though the 8th district is heavily Republican. She first won the seat in 2004, defeating 35-year Rep. Phil Crane (R). Ms. Bean consistently repelled mediocre opponents in 2006 and 2008 until Walsh came from almost complete obscurity this year to score the upset victory.

Overall, the House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two New York races still undetermined. Two others, TX-27 (Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz; 799 vote margin) and NC-2 (Renee Ellmers unseating Rep. Bob Etheridge; 1,489 vote spread) are subject to an official recount, but the respective outcomes are not expected to change.

Adding Walsh means Republicans gained a total of four seats in Illinois and actually took control of the congressional delegation by an 11-8 count. Redistricting, however, is exclusively in Democratic hands next year, so expect the delegation complexion to drastically change when the new lines are drawn. Walsh will certainly be a prime Democratic target. The state is likely to lose one seat in the 2010 apportionment.

More will soon be known about the New York races since absentee ballot counting finally began yesterday. In NY-1, where GOP challenger Randy Altschuler leads incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) by 383 votes, more than 11,000 Suffolk County absentee ballots were opened. We hopefully will get a clue today as to those results. In the Syracuse area, the count is again finally moving. Votes from the smaller, more rural counties have been tabulated and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle’s lead over freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) has grown to 729 votes. More than 6,000 votes remain from Onondoga County, an area that tends to favor Democrats. In Election Night counting, Maffei scored 54% of the vote here. Among the ballots remaining, however, the Congressman will have to exceed that total in order to surpass Buerkle. To reclaim the lead, Maffei will have to break 56% among the outstanding votes. Both of these elections are still too close to call.

Regardless of the outcome of this latest round of counting on Long Island and in the upstate region, no winner will be declared until all the military and overseas ballots have been received. Under New York law, the acceptance deadline is Nov. 24th, still a week away. It is likely, though, that the candidates leading the race at the end of the current respective count will hold on through the end, as the ballots still to come will be few in number.

Turning to Alaska where the trends continue to favor a write-in victory for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), counting laboriously moves forward. For the first time, however, Murkowski is officially leading.

It was long believed the trends — she was receiving 98% of the write-in votes — would allow her to overcome challenger Joe Miller (R), but now she has actually done so. At the end of counting yesterday, Murkowski had 92,164 votes to Miller’s 90,448. Miller, however, is challenging 7,601 ballots that have already been counted for the Senator but, so far, he is succeeding in actually removing only a handful of votes from the official tabulation. He is challenging the entire process in court, however. It now appears to be a virtual certainty that Murkowski will end the election with more votes than Miller, and the long-shot lawsuit will likely be his last hope of turning around the outcome. Eventually, Sen. Murkowski will be certified as the winner of this race.

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.