Tag Archives: Bill Nelson

Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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Florida Republican Senate Contender Exits Race

Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) ended his brief US Senate campaign yesterday via video message. Telling supporters he cannot effectively balance his duties as Senate president with the time requirements of becoming a statewide candidate, Mr. Haridopolos said he would rededicate himself “to finishing the job you sent me to do here in Florida.” He further said he would finish his current term in the state Senate and not seek any electoral post in 2012. Haridopolos was a strong fundraiser in the first quarter of 2011, bringing in over $2.5 million. But, in the second quarter, during which the legislative session ended, his financial receipts total dropped precipitously to about $900,000.

Without Sen. Haridopolos in the race, the Republican field dwindles to former interim US Senator George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. With a filing deadline of June 22, 2012, there is still more than enough time for other credible candidates to join the race. Originally, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was thought to be vulnerable and a Republican target, but the lack of a strong consensus GOP candidate emerging has strengthened the Democrat and bolstered his re-election prospects. Until something more significant happens in this race, Sen. Nelson becomes the prohibitive favorite for 2012.
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Florida Looking Shaky for Obama

Quinnipiac University just completed one of their large-sample polls for Florida (March 29 – April 4; 1,499 registered Florida voters) and it shows that even an unnamed Republican candidate could beat the president here if the election were today. As we know, since the turn of the 21st century, Florida has become the quintessential swing state. Candidates from either party can win and the elections are always close.

Though the 2008 national presidential election result of 365-173 electoral votes in favor of Barack Obama was a landslide by any analysis, by factoring the new reapportionment into the Electoral College calculations, we see that it will now take a swing of just six states to change the outcome of the 2012 contest. Florida, naturally with its inflated 29 electoral votes, is one of the six. The others are, in order of importance from a Republican challenger perspective, Indiana (11 votes), North Carolina (15 votes), Virginia (13 votes), Ohio (18 votes), and any other state the president previously carried.

This model also assumes that the one electoral vote Pres. Obama won in Nebraska returns to the Republican column. The Cornhusker State is one of two places, Maine being the other, that allows a split in their electoral vote distribution. Obama won the 2nd congressional district in 2008, meaning one vote in the Electoral College. There is a move in Nebraska to change their system to winner-take-all, like 48 other states, and with redistricting added to the mix, NE-2 is likely to become more Republican. Either way, it should be considered a virtual given that Nebraska will unify its vote in 2012, and most probably in the Republican candidate’s favor.

According to this latest Q-Poll, Pres. Obama is upside down on his job approval ratings in Florida. By a margin of 44-52 percent, respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as the nation’s chief executive. While the surveyed Democrats and Republicans answered as one would expect, the president scores poorly among Florida Independents. The subset only scored him 39:55 percent positive to negative on the job performance scale. The president also has quite a gender gap. Men disapprove of his job performance by a full 20 points, 38:58 percent, while women actually approve of his work, 49:46 percent.

The re-elect questions are likely more disconcerting to the Obama camp than the aforementioned data. Asked whether the individuals comprising the polling sample would vote for the president in the next election or whomever the Republicans eventually choose as their nominee, the respondents preferred the unknown GOP candidate by a margin of 41-38 percent. In response to the question of whether or not the polling universe felt Mr. Obama deserves re-election, by a margin of 42-51 percent, those questioned believe he does not.

The Q-Poll study does not reveal uniformly positive Republican results, however. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, also facing voters in 2012, scores a respectable 47:26 percent job approval rating. Newly elected Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has an almost identical 47:23 percent rating. Nelson versus an unnamed Republican Senatorial candidate gets a 43-39 percent favorable nod. His “deserves re-election” score is 43-35 percent.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who won a razor-thin 49-48 percent victory last November, is not popular after three months in office. By a margin of 34-48 percent, the sampled individuals disapprove of his job performance.

Maybe the most surprising finding is the acceptance of increased off-shore oil drilling, which is a change from historical polls. By a strong 60-35 percent majority, the respondents favor expanding the level of off-shore drilling on Florida’s coast. This is led by an 82 percent favorable response from the Republicans polled and 58 percent of Independents. Conversely, the entire sampling universe’s support for building new nuclear power plants is only a tepid 48-47 percent.

Expect Florida to be another hotbed of political activity during the 2012 election cycle.
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Senate Candidate Updates: Two More Jump In

Two more men made their Senate candidacies official yesterday. In Florida, former interim Sen. George LeMieux (R) will attempt to win election in his own right by knocking off incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. LeMieux will face state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and possibly former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner in the Republican primary. Nelson, already an official candidate for re-election, is viewed as the early favorite.

In Virginia, as we mentioned yesterday, Democratic National Committee chair and former Gov. Tim Kaine released a video officially announcing his long-awaited candidacy. He will face former Sen. George Allen in a race that could become the hottest in the nation.

With much action occurring in Senate races, it is time to update the 33 in-cycle 2012 campaigns by listing the names of the major candidates who have either announced for a specific seat or are publicly saying they may do so.

You can access a PDF spreadsheet with the pertinent data here: 2012 Senate Candidates.
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Florida’s Mack Won’t Run for Senate

Late last week a story surfaced in Politico that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) would today officially announce a challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for the seat Nelson has held since 2001. Such is not the case.

Understanding that the reporter never discussed Mack’s intentions personally with the congressman, but rather quoted an ‘anonymous source close to the Mack campaign,’ it was written that an announcement of candidacy would be imminently forthcoming. Mr. Mack corrected the story retorting that he would indeed make a statement but only to detail his reasons for not running statewide. He says family concerns and wanting to continue his service in the House influenced the decision not to engage Nelson. Rep. Mack, 43, first won his House seat in 2004 and will seek re-election next year.

This leaves state Senate President Mike Haridopolos as the only significant Republican currently in the race against Nelson. The veteran Democratic senator, commonly viewed to be at least marginally vulnerable in the next election, has confirmed that he will seek a third term. Haridopolos has been active on the fundraising trail and promises to report more than seven figures in receipts on his 2011 first quarter Federal Election Commission disclosure report due April 15. Nelson had over $3 million cash-on-hand according to his year-end 2010 filing.

Mack was viewed as having very strong potential as a statewide candidate, polling atop all preliminary Florida Senate Republican primary surveys. This is likely because of his name familiarity with voters. His father, Connie Mack III, served in the Senate for the 12 years prior to Nelson and spent three terms in the House. Connie Mack, Sr., who shortened his name from Cornelius McGillicuddy, is a legendary Hall of Fame baseball owner and manager.

Without Rep. Mack on the statewide ballot, the Republicans will likely be looking for a candidate stronger than Haridopolos to wage a potentially winning campaign against Nelson. In his two Senate general election victories (2000 and 2006), Mr. Nelson posted winning totals of 51 and 60 percent, defeating then-Rep. and future Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and then-Rep. and former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, respectively. Nelson spent six terms in the House, spanning 1979-1991. He was twice elected as Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner & fire marshal (1994; 1998).

Other potential Republican candidates include former interim Sen. George LeMieux, who had said repeatedly during his 18-month stint in the Senate, filling the unexpired term of Mel Martinez (R), that he planned to challenge Nelson in 2012 but seemed to back away from those intentions upon leaving office. Mack’s decision not to enter the race could now lead to LeMieux becoming a candidate. The ex-majority leader of the Florida State House, Adam Hasner, is also a likely Senatorial contender.

It’s also possible that Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13) may reconsider previous statements saying he was unlikely to run statewide in 2012. The congressman mused recently that being appointed as a member of the important House Ways & Means Committee was quelling his desire to run for Senate, but Mack’s decision could become an impetus for him to re-focus on a battle against the 68-year-old Nelson.

The Florida seat figures prominently in any Republican scenario to gain control of the Senate next year. Down 47-53, the GOP needs a minimum net conversion of four seats to wrest away the Democratic majority. Only having to defend 10 of the 33 in-cycle seats, with three that are open (Arizona-Kyl; Nevada-Ensign; Texas-Hutchison), the Republicans are in strong position to turn several Democratic states, such as the open seats in North Dakota (Conrad) and Virginia (Webb). Democrats are heavy favorites to hold their incumbent retirement seats in Connecticut (Lieberman-I), Hawaii (Akaka), and New Mexico (Bingaman), though the latter two could become highly competitive under the right circumstances.

In terms of incumbent Democratic vulnerabilities, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson tops the list and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Montana’s Jon Tester will also face toss-up re-election challenges. Going hard after Bill Nelson certainly expands the GOP political playing field but, without Mack as a candidate, the Republican task of converting the Sunshine State clearly becomes more difficult.
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