Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Romney Takes Nevada; Finishes Short of Majority

As expected, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney swept through the Nevada Caucuses on Saturday, but with less of a margin than expected. In fact, his performance this weekend fell short of four years ago when he captured 51 percent of the vote against certainly stronger competition at commensurate points in the two races. As you’ll remember, John McCain who placed a distant third to Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) in Nevada, would rebound to capture the Republican nomination.

Romney did not score a majority among the caucus attenders. With almost one-third of the votes left to count, the former Massachusetts governor is placing a clear first with 49.6 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (21 percent), Rep. Paul (18 percent), and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (10 percent).

Romney’s total was not the only Nevada figure that was down on Saturday. Voter participation was also much lower when compared to the 2008 total turnout number. With the current votes now finally tabulated, the number of participants is recorded as 30,306. Four years ago, turnout was 44,315.

Nevada has polled consistently as one of Romney’s three strongest states, the other two being New Hampshire and Michigan. Yet, in what is now his third primary or caucus victory, the front-runner has yet to claim a majority of the votes cast. This is surprising with regard to Nevada, since he is opening up his largest national lead of the recent campaign and comes immediately after a big Florida win. Gingrich’s effort is now clearly stalling. Paul has likely hit his support ceiling. Santorum now absorbed his third consecutive disappointingly poor performance.

If anything, though, Nevada cemented Mr. Romney’s overall lead and makes the chances of him winning the nomination even greater than before the vote. While Nevada still reveals his weakness within the Republican voting base, particularly among those considering themselves to be most conservative, the remaining three contenders continue to decline. Despite Gingrich’s proven ability to bounce back into contention – he’s already done so twice just in this campaign – it is unlikely he can recover again to the point of becoming an actual threat to Romney. Paul will never exceed his small base within the party, mostly due to his position on foreign affairs and some social issues, and Santorum has failed to unite and energize conservatives.

The one scenario where Romney wins the Republican nomination appears to be unfolding. His path to victory dictated that no one opponent could gather enough support to isolate him into a virtual one-on-one battle. If that were to happen, polls have consistently shown that the other candidate – almost whomever it was – would defeat him.

Nevada made two points in relation to Romney. First, it makes him the clear, and perhaps prohibitive, favorite to win the nomination. Second, it still shows his inherent weakness within the Republican voting structure. Once again, and most probably, President Barack Obama is the candidate faring best through these five Republican nominating events. Romney has serious work to accomplish in order formulate a united base behind him for what promises to be a heated and divisive general election campaign.

Virginia: A Battlefield Again

Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Now, more than a century and a half later, the Old Dominion may again be the site of further history-making battles; but this time the participants are Republicans and Democrats instead of military heroes.

The election of 2008 had Democrats speaking openly of Virginia being permanently converted from a “red” to a “blue,” or at least evolving into a swing “purple” state. Barack Obama carried the state, once designated as the capital of the Confederacy, by a wide 235,000-vote margin over John McCain. As a result of this success, Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Additionally, the state claimed six Democrats in its congressional delegation and both of the party’s U.S. senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, recently converted Republican seats and were considered rising stars.

But, the Democrats’ success proved to be short-lived. Just a year later in 2009, then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell led a sweep of the state’s constitutional offices, returning the governor’s mansion to the GOP after eight years of Democratic rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli joined McDonnell in Richmond and began filling the party’s coffers with treasured campaign dollars, much to the delight of veteran GOP state party chair Pat Mullins.

Another year later, on Election Day 2010, the GOP re-captured the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 9th congressional District seats and gave 11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly the scare of his political life.

Next week, Election Day 2011 will feature a down-to-the-wire contest for partisan control of Virginia’s 40-member state Senate. Controlling the legislature will give the GOP control of the congressional redistricting pen. The Republicans need to capture three seats to gain a working majority and Mullins is spending heavily on his targeted races to accomplish this goal.

But, of even greater importance, are the headline events for 2012. At stake: Virginia’s thirteen presidential electoral votes and control of the US Senate. As one of the key states nationally, the Commonwealth is clearly in play for the presidential nominees of both parties. Because the Senate races are expected to be tight across the country, control of the body could conceivably come down to how the Old Dominion votes. The Commonwealth’s senior senator, Jim Webb (D), was one of the first to announce his retirement during this election cycle, and the race to succeed him has been locked in a dead heat ever since former governor and DNC chair Tim Kaine decided to jump into the race and oppose the GOP’s likely nominee, former governor and senator, George Allen. The polling throughout the summer and as recently as last week continues to show the race to be in a statistical tie, and even their Q3 financial reports reveal that both have raised nearly identical amounts of campaign funds ($3.5 million).

The contests on Election Day 2011 and 2012 may not be quite as historic or dramatic as what happened in Yorktown or Appomattox, but it is clear that Virginia is once again front and center for key political developments. Both the Presidency and the Senate potentially could be decided here, which means that this swing state could become the epicenter of Campaign 2012, and once again be a focal point for American political change.

Hawaii’s Lingle Runs for Senate

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle officially entered the race for Hawaii’s open Senate seat next fall. With Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) retiring, it means that this will be the first incumbent-less Senate race in 36 years. Only five people have represented Hawaii in the Senate since the territory was admitted to the Union as a state in 1960.

Despite the heavily Democratic nature of the state, Lingle was successful in winning two statewide elections. For most of her tenure, she was quite popular, as her landslide re-election victory in 2006 (62-35 percent) so indicates. Toward the end of her second term, however, her popularity ratings began to significantly sag. She left office with upside down job approval numbers and her early Senate race polling did not appear particularly promising.

Still, she is moving forward with another statewide campaign, one that will certainly be an uphill battle. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2), with substantial backing from most of the Hawaii establishment, is the leading Democratic candidate. Former representative and Senatorial candidate Ed Case is also in the race. His fortunes have dropped, however, when he challenged Akaka in the Democratic primary six years ago, and then was unable to capture the open 1st Congressional District in an early 2010 special election. Case is a significant candidate, but he is clearly the underdog in the September primary. Though unlikely to occur, a bitterly competitive Democratic primary is exactly what Lingle will need to win next November. She must hope that the majority party vote will be split to the degree that a large chunk of Democratic voters will defect to her in the general election.

Linda Lingle’s candidacy is a break for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which needs the maximum number of competitive races to regain majority status in the Senate chamber. Ms. Lingle makes the race competitive, no doubt, but considering that favorite son Barack Obama will again be on the national ticket, she must be seen as a heavy underdog, at least in the early going. At the very least, the Hawaii Senate race must be rated as “Lean Democrat.”

Trends Favor Amodei in Nevada’s 2nd CD

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, voters in Nevada’s 2nd district will go to the polls to choose a successor to Rep. Dean Heller (R), who resigned the seat upon receiving his appointment to the US Senate. All indications suggest that Republican Mark Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, has the inside track to victory in the special election. Democrats nominated twice-elected state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a former Senior Deputy Attorney General.

The 2nd district, which will change drastically when the courts finalize the state’s new four-district congressional map, touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties including part of Clark, which houses the overwhelming majority of the state’s residents. The new map is likely to confine the district boundaries to the state’s northern portion, anchoring it around the Reno and Carson City population centers.

At the beginning of this mid-year campaign, it appeared that the result would be close. In fact, Marshall seemed primed to pull an upset particularly because Amodei proved to be a weak fundraiser in previous campaigns and the district voting patterns were not as strongly Republican. Though the seat was designed as a GOP stronghold in the 2001 redistricting plan, it began trending a bit more Democratic as the decade progressed and can be considered competitive in its current configuration.

Though no Democrat has carried the seat, the Republican margins of victory have grown smaller. While former President George W. Bush scored a pair of 57 percent wins in his presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004, John McCain managed to place ahead by a mere handful of votes here when matched with Barack Obama in 2008. Both men scored in the 49th percentile. The last time the congressional seat was open, when Mr. Heller won in 2006, the Republican margin of victory dropped to 50-45 percent. As the incumbent, Heller steadily increased his victory percentage. In 2008 he won 52-41 percent and 63-33 percent two years later.

Financially, Marshall has out-raised Amodei. The latest available disclosure reports (through Aug. 24) show Ms. Marshall gathering $695,465 to Amodei’s $537,598. But it is outside spending that gives the Republican the overwhelming campaign advantage. So far, published independent committee financial disclosures, including political party expenditures, show more than $850,000 going to support Mr. Amodei versus nothing for Ms. Marshall.

Published polls, though none have been recently conducted, also project Amodei to have the advantage. Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21) gave the Republican only a one-point 43-42 percent lead, but Magellan Strategies, polling around the same time period (Aug. 15-16), showed Amodei to have a substantial 48-35 percent edge. It is likely we will see another published poll or two before Tuesday, thus giving us further indication of the eventual result.

But probably the best indicator of the vote trend are the early ballot tabulations. Though the votes themselves are not yet counted, the Secretary of State issues reports citing how many ballots the office has received from members of each political party. At this writing, over 7,600 more Republicans than Democrats have already returned their ballots. This margin will almost certainly give Amodei a relatively strong lead going into Election Day itself.

But this special election will not signal the end of the long-term congressional contest regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee who carried this district in the 2010 general election against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even though she lost statewide, waits in the wings for the winner – in a regular election district that is much more to her liking than the current 2nd. Should Amodei successfully carry the seat in the special election, he will face a Republican primary battle against Angle next June. Amodei, who is moderate, will have to protect his right flank to a great degree upon election or he will be vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge from Mrs. Angle, who has proven she is a strong vote-getter in northern Nevada.

The winner on Tuesday will serve the remainder of the current term, but may find him or herself in a dogfight to retain the seat in the regular election. It appears that the Sept. 13 vote will likely mark only the effective beginning of this campaign and not the end.
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Conflicting Data in Nevada’s 2nd District Special Election

Two surveys covering the Sept. 13 special election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district were just released, producing very different results. Magellan Strategies, polling for Americans for Prosperity, went into the field Aug. 15-16 (656 registered NV-2 voters via automated phone calls) and found Republican Mark Amodei to be leading Democrat Kate Marshall by a hefty 48-35 percent margin. Two days later, Public Policy Polling began testing 600 NV-2 voters, also with automated calls (Aug. 18-21), and found Amodei’s advantage to be only 43-42 percent.

One reason for the large swing is the make-up of the two polling samples. Magellan’s consisted of 48 percent registered Republicans, 38 percent Democrats, and 14 percent Independents. PPP’s included 41 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat, and 22 percent Independent respondents. According to the latest registered voter statistics (July 2011), NV-2 Republican registration is 43.1 percent; Democrats post 35.4 percent; and Independents (American Independents, Greens, Libertarians, Non-Partisan, and Other are the choices in Nevada) capture 21.5 percent of the district’s voters. Therefore, the PPP sample draw is the more accurate of the two, though they slightly discounted the Republican number. Magellan has the right number of Democrats, but their Republican composition is seven points high while the Independent is seven points low. Notice that the two polls differ by about those same margins. Magellan’s results are five points higher for the Republican candidate and seven points lower for the Democrat than PPP’s.

Though the 2nd District, which touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties but has its population anchor in Reno and Carson City, was originally drawn as a Republican seat in the 2001 redistricting plan, it has strayed much closer to the Democrats as the decade progressed. In 2004, then-President George W. Bush scored a 57 percent victory here over John Kerry. Four years later, Barack Obama and John McCain fought to a 49 percent draw. On the congressional front, in the open seat race of 2006 when Dean Heller (R) defeated Jill Derby (D), the GOP scored a 50-45 percent win. Two years later the same candidates finished 52-41 percent in favor of incumbent Heller. In the 2010 Republican landslide election, without strong opposition, Rep. Heller’s re-election margin was 63-33 percent.

Expect the current special election to be close. Both candidates are now airing television ads and neither are timid about going negative. The National Republican Congressional Committee has already dropped approximately $400,000 into the race, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to counter. Outside organizations for both sides are also expected to participate. In a special election, turnout is everything and the Democrats, as proven in the 2010 Senate campaign that re-elected Majority Leader Harry Reid 50-45% when polling was suggesting a different result, seem to have the superior ground apparatus.

The PPP data released the results of their long questionnaire and that produced interesting results too, mostly favoring the Republicans. Though Amodei’s favorability ratio is only 43:42 percent positive to negative, Marshall’s is 43:47 percent. President Obama’s job approval score is a weak 41:55 percent, and Reid’s is even worse at 39:56 percent. On the other hand, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval posts a strong 55:32 percent score.

Testing former NV-2 Rep. Heller, who is now the state’s interim Senator running for a full term against Las Vegas Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), his job approval number as a statewide federal official is 48:41 percent favorable to unfavorable, and he would defeat Berkley 52-40 percent in the current 2nd District if the US Senate vote were today.

The NV-2 special election is now kicking into high gear, and these combined polling results suggest a tough road for both candidates down the closing stretch. Waiting in the wings is Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee who will enter the regular election in the new 2nd District, no matter what the final result of this campaign. Therefore, the new incumbent will face plenty of competition next year. The new 2nd District redistricting draw is expected to be very different from present. The Las Vegas portion of the district will no longer be included, as the new seat will be concentrated in Nevada’s northern sector. This plays right into Angle’s hands, so this current race merely begins what will likely be more than a year of steady political activity.
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More Clarity to New Illinois Map has Republicans Feeling More Competitive

The Illinois legislature made some final changes to the base congressional map, such as putting Reps. Tim Johnson (R-IL-15) and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) back in separate districts instead of pairing them, and then sent the legislation on to Gov. Pat Quinn (D). Democrats will make substantial gains in the state but, now that the political numbers have become public, the Republicans feel they are more competitive.

Originally, some analysts believed the Democrats would change the 11R-8D map to 13D-5R. Illinois loses a seat in reapportionment, thus explaining the difference in the total number. Taking a careful look at the political performances in races other than the 2008 presidential contest show that Republicans could fare better, possibly confining their losses to a net of three or four seats instead of five.

More information is unfolding as incumbents and party officials make statements. Once the map is signed into law, expect the Republican Party to file a lawsuit, challenging the fact that only one Hispanic district was drawn. Hispanics are a greater population than African-Americans in the state (2.02 million to 1.87 million according to the 2010 census) yet, under this new map, they have only one seat (Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s 4th district) versus three for African-Americans (Districts 1-Bobby Rush, 2-Jesse Jackson, Jr., and 7-Danny Davis. Republicans will argue that the “packing” of Hispanics should void the map. They clearly believe the drawing of a second Hispanic seat will help them in surrounding areas.

Turning to the political data, combining the results of the 2008 presidential race (Barack Obama defeating John McCain) with the 2010 Senate (Republican Mark Kirk beating Democrat Alexi Giannoulias) and gubernatorial races (Gov. Quinn nipping state legislator Bill Brady), a better feel can be obtained for the new 18 districts.

The Obama race cuts both ways. First, it is legitimate to believe that the Democratic number skews high in this race because the president is, of course, Illinois’ native son and the state’s 2008 numbers were among his best in the country. On the other hand, he will be back on the ballot in 2012, so the Republican incumbents and challengers will have to overcome his presence while fighting in substantially new territory.

Taking all three aforementioned races into consideration does make Republican prospects appear a bit better. First, there are six seats where Democrats swept each of the 2008 and 2010 studied races. They are new districts 1 (Rush), 2 (Jackson), 4 (Gutierrez), 5 (Mike Quigley), 7 (Davis), and 9 (Jan Schakowsky). These Democratic incumbents are clearly safe, realistically for the balance of the ensuing decade.

One district gave the Democratic candidate two of three victories. Dan Lipinski in the IL-3 will represent a reliable Democratic district, but one in which a Republican could win under certain circumstances. Mark Kirk, in 2010, carried the district by a 48-46 percent margin. The average Republican vote extrapolated over the three studied races is 44.0 percent.

Another Democratic seat only turned in one D victory in the three races. The downstate 12th district of Rep. Jerry Costello actually yielded Republican victories in the Senate (51-43 percent) and governor’s (50-44 percent) races. The average Republican vote is 48.3 percent, suggesting that this race could become competitive in an open seat situation, but is likely safe for Costello since 93 percent of the territory is from his old 12th CD.

Two seats are strongly Republican. The new 15th district that houses Rep. John Shimkus, is the most solid GOP seat in the state, scoring an average of 63.0 percent in the three races. Rep. Aaron Schock’s18th CD registers 62.7 percent.

Seven seats saw Republicans winning two of the three studied campaigns, with the president carrying the district in every case. Three of these districts, however, show the Republican average as dropping below 50 percent. The new open 8th CD is likely to go Democratic in an incumbent-less race. The GOP average there is 45.3 percent. The new 11th CD, where Rep. Judy Biggert would likely run, but is already being opposed by former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), turns in a 44.3 percent average Republican vote. And, in the Quad Cities region, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling only sees an average Republican vote of 48.7 percent, but the seat is culturally more conservative than this partisan voting history suggests. In a re-match with defeated Rep. Phil Hare (D), Schilling would have a fighting chance to survive.

Rep. Peter Roskam’s 6th district appears favorable for him with an average Republican vote of 55.7 percent. Three potential pairings exist for the GOP, which is their biggest problem. Rep. Tim Johnson could challenge Shimkus in the new 15th, or run for re-election in the new 13th, where is house now resides. IL-13 is still majority Republican, but certainly not as strong as District 15. It is likely that Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh will square off in new District 14, with Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger doing battle in the new 16th. Both latter districts produce an average 55.7 percent Republican vote.

Now that the political numbers are becoming known, it appears the Democrats can count seven wins in their column with three more seats leaning their way. The Republicans appear solid in five with one more leaning toward their party. Two seats figure to be toss-ups. Should the Democrats sweep the state in 2012, then a 12D-6R party division is the likely outcome. If Republicans rebound, then a 10D-8R final score is in the realm of possibility.
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The Ins and Outs of Candidates

A snapshot look at who’s in and who’s out:

IN
Indiana – Donnelly:
Authoritative reports say that Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) will announce his candidacy for the United States Senate today. The move does not come as a surprise, since the new redistricting map gives Donnelly a very marginal congressional seat. Because he won by only a single percentage point in the last election (48-47 percent) in a better district for him, Mr. Donnelly’s decision to run statewide became predictable.

Donnelly will face Sen. Richard Lugar (R) who, at 79 years old, is running for a seventh six-year term. The congressman is banking on the fact that Lugar may have trouble in the Republican primary as the veteran senator has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate the Tea Party wing of the GOP electorate. Already, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock is challenging Mr. Lugar for the party nomination, but the challenger’s lackluster fundraising so far seems to diminish what were higher expectations for an upset. Even if the Lugar primary contest becomes moderately close, Donnelly may be the beneficiary. Though Sen. Lugar is rated as the favorite for both the primary and general election – he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent in 2006 – this will likely be a competitive race all the way through the November general election.

Turning to the House, Republicans would begin as slight favorites to capture Donnelly’s vacated IN-2 district, particularly when considering the recent re-draw that was just enacted into law. Still, Pres. Barack Obama received 49 percent of the vote under the new boundaries so, despite being eight points better for Republicans, the 2nd is marginal in nature and both parties can win here. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to the one-point victory in 2010, has already said she will run again. Walorski must be considered the early favorite to convert this seat for the Republicans.

OUT
Nevada – Krolicki:
Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), who most believed would enter the special congressional election to replace now-Sen. Dean Heller (R), announced that he will not run. Krolicki entering the race would have set up a tough jungle-ballot campaign with 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle (R) and at least one Democrat, state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) ruled last week that the jungle-ballot system, where all candidates compete with each other and the person garnering the most votes, regardless of percentage, is elected outright, will be utilized for the Sept. 13 special election. With Angle, Krolicki, and possibly several others diluting the Republican vote, it is was judged that the Democrats, in the person of Marshall, could slip through and steal what should be a Republican seat in the jungle format. Without Krolicki competing, Angle now stands a better chance of finishing first, but in a multi-candidate race anything can still happen. The special election will be conducted in the current NV-2, drawn in the 2001 redistricting plan, but the 2012 full-term battle will be held in what is likely to be a vastly different 2nd district.

Michigan – Land: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said over the weekend that she will not challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year. Despite Stabenow being viewed as vulnerable, though recent polling places her in an improved position against potential GOP candidates, no strong Republican has yet to come forth to declare a Senate candidacy. Ex-Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2), who placed second in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary and was polling best against Sen. Stabenow, took himself out of consideration two weeks ago.

It is unlikely any member of the congressional delegation will run, though Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) now seems to be the most logical congressman to consider a Senate race. Deciding not to seek re-election as House Republican Policy Chairman after two terms, McCotter would have a largely unencumbered opportunity to run statewide in 2012.
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