Tag Archives: Florida

A New Primary Schedule

Florida’s move this past weekend to change its primary date to Jan. 31 in violation of Republican National Committee rules will drastically alter the GOP presidential nomination fight. Under RNC dictates, the only states permitted to conduct a delegate selection event prior to the March 6 Super Tuesday date are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Florida is willing to accept penalties that will reduce their 99-member Republican National Committee delegation to approximately 50, coupled with other sanctions, in order to make the move.

But accepting intra-party punishment is not the only factor involved in altering their election schedule. Under the Voting Rights Act, all or parts of 16 states are subjected to federal approval of all electoral moves, including primary/caucus date selection. Therefore, it is the Obama Justice Department that will have to grant Florida, New Hampshire, and South Carolina “pre-clearance” or, in this case, permission, to schedule a nominating event in January 2012. Only Iowa and Nevada, in this group of five states, may move unencumbered because they are not part of the group of 16.

The RNC’s originally proposed calendar began with the Iowa Caucus in early February, but Florida’s attempted move to the last day in January means the other four states are forced to leap-frog the Sunshine State in order to maintain their prominent political position. This means five nominating events, two caucuses (IA, NV) and three primaries (NH, SC, FL), will be held in the first month of next year followed by a five-week void until Super Tuesday in early March.

How does the proposed schedule change affect the current crop of candidates and potential late entries? The big winners under the new calendar are the two front-runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The early and compressed voting schedule favors the better-known candidates and those having the largest campaign war chests. The quicker time frame featuring five shotgun-style nominating events in a 29-day period gives less time to the current also-rans to ramp up a credible campaign and makes gaining momentum from an early surprise victory even more difficult because there simply won’t be enough time to cement a previous win.

But the potential late entries are an even greater disadvantage under the new voting schedule because they will now have less time to construct a major campaign operation from scratch. Therefore, Florida’s decision this weekend makes it even more unlikely that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin will become official candidates.

If the GOP fight winnows down to a two-candidate race in January, then watch for a very interesting race. Perry wins a one-on-one match with Romney if he can successfully cast himself as the conservatives’ candidate and frame Romney as the moderate. On the other hand, as we have seen particularly in the last 10 days, Romney has the superior campaign apparatus, so Perry will have to make a rapid operational improvement or he risks losing his early strong standing.

As so often in American politics, the schedule can be the determining factor in deciding battles. Such may be the case with the 2012 GOP presidential contest. At the very least, however, this weekend’s Florida decision has set this campaign upon a brand new course.

A Polling Trifecta

An interesting set of three presidential polls was just released: a national survey testing the Republican candidates, which reveals a new leader and a surprise mover, and two key state general election studies that show President Obama barely clinging to a lead in two places that he carried comfortably back in 2008.

Fox News, contracting with both Democratic and Republican polling firms, which seem to have conducted a more methodologically sound survey than others emanating from the network in the recent past, shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recapturing the lead over Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The big mover, however, was retired businessman Herman Cain, who catapulted himself into a strong third position.

The pollsters, Anderson Robbins (D) and Shaw & Company (R), went into the field during the Sept. 25-27 period and questioned 925 registered voters. The error factor is plus or minus 3 percentage points 95 percent of the time. Of the group, 363 individuals are Republican primary voters. The results show that Gov. Perry took a hit from his poor debate performance before the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida, and his lackluster showing at the event itself. Though Romney only gained one percentage point from the last Fox News poll, he secures first place with just 23 percent of the vote. Perry is next with 19 percent, dropping a full 10 points when compared with the Fox Aug. 29-31 survey. Cain captures a solid 17 percent, making him now a close third nationally, at least according to this particular poll. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the other significant mover. He grew from 3 percent to 11 percent during the interval between the two Fox polls.

These results are not particularly surprising. Perry has taken a media beating since the Presidency 5 debate and straw poll, so it was expected that he would fall to a diminished position in the ensuing national polls. Though Romney is leading, he continues to record stagnant numbers and still cannot break out of the low 20s. Considering he is the best known of all the Republican candidates, a standing of this level should not be seen as particularly encouraging.

The Cain numbers are interesting, and reflect that he’s receiving more positive exposure before a public that is clearly looking for a new option, but this result could also be short-lived. Next month’s polling data will show if Mr. Cain has staying power or if his current standing is simply an anomaly.

Turning to the two large-sample Quinnipiac University general election polls taken in Ohio (Sept. 20-26; 1,301 registered Ohio voters) and Pennsylvania (Sept. 21-26; 1,370 registered Pennsylvania voters), it appears that Gov. Perry is not the only candidate who is seeing his fortunes decline. Mr. Obama, who scored a 51-47 percent victory in the Buckeye State and a 54-44 percent triumph in neighboring Pennsylvania three years ago, fares considerably worse today against both Romney and Perry.

In Ohio, the President can manage only a 44-42 percent edge over Romney and a similar 44-41 percent advantage when matched up against Perry. Mr. Obama’s Ohio standing is reflective of his poor job approval rating, according to these Q-Poll results. By a margin of 42:53 percent, the Buckeye State respondents disapprove of the job he is doing in the White House. Potentially an even worse ratio from his perspective, only 43 percent of those surveyed believe the President deserves re-election, while a majority 51 percent say he does not.

The Pennsylvania numbers are strikingly similar to those found in Ohio. There, the President maintains an almost identical 45-43 percent spread against Mr. Romney, but does slightly better when matched with Perry, leading him 46-40 percent. Perhaps most surprising of all, Mr. Obama can only manage a three-point, 45-42 percent margin against defeated Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost his seat in 2006 by more than 17 percentage points.

As in Ohio, Mr. Obama’s job approval numbers in this critical political state are poor. The Pennsylvania respondents, by a margin of 43:54 percent, disapprove of his performance as President. And, his re-elect score is also similar to that found in Ohio. Among Keystone State voters, 44 percent say he deserves another term in office, while, again, a majority 51 percent of those sampled say he does not.

With all of the major candidates now seemingly on a bit of a downward spiral, the election of 2012 can be counted upon to be highly unpredictable as it moves forward.

Muscial Chairs Again

In 2008, states began climbing over each other in order to obtain a better schedule for their own presidential nominating event, whether it be by caucus or primary. Places like Florida moved into a more prominent position, defying party rules, and were penalized half of their delegate slots, among other perks, at the respective national conventions. Saturday, the deadline for states to inform the Republican National Committee about their primary or caucus schedule will finally give us the opportunity of seeing how the primary/caucus calendar will unfold. Under RNC rules, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are allowed to conduct delegate selection events prior to Super Tuesday, which, in 2012, is March 6.

The Florida commission charged with selecting the Republican primary date is already indicating they may choose Jan. 31 for their primary vote at their meeting tomorrow afternoon, in direct violation of RNC rules. Such a move will cost them half of their 99 Republican National Convention delegates. Should they move in this direction, watch Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina all move to an early or mid-January date. This will again drastically change each candidate’s campaign strategy, and the short calendar will make each early victory all the more important in terms of political momentum.

Interestingly, should the early states split their votes and different candidates win the first caucuses and primaries, then the late states will ultimately find themselves holding all the political cards, and with their full complement of delegates. If no clear leader emerges from the early states, then the bigger late states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and California will have a much greater say in determining who becomes the Republican nominee. With the nominating schedule finally being set on Saturday, the official calendar could tell us a great deal about who may become the eventual winner.

Herman Cain’s Upset Win in Florida Straw Poll

Retired businessman Herman Cain scored a major upset victory at the Presidency 5 Florida straw poll event on Saturday, easily outpacing the entire Republican field of presidential candidates in an exclusive vote of Florida Republican State Central Committee members. Mr. Cain scored 37.1 percent of the 2,657 ballots cast, or 985 actual votes.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a distant second at 15.4 percent (409 votes); former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed third, attracting 14.0 percent support (372 votes); former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was next, recording 10.9 percent (290 votes); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was the final candidate to land in the double-digit percentile (10.4 percent; 277 votes). Bringing up the rear were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8.4 percent; 223 votes), former Obama US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (2.3% percent 61 votes), and finishing a surprising last was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the Iowa Straw Poll winner, who registered a paltry 1.5 percent at Presidency 5, or just 40 votes.

Several points are worth mentioning about these results. First, unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, which was open to all registered Republican voters, the Florida vote was limited only to official party central committee members. These individuals are either elected or appointed to serve in party positions in their counties, thus giving them membership and voting privileges at statewide conventions. While the Iowa vote was a test of the general Republican voting public, Presidency 5 was a measure of strength within the official state GOP establishment. The fact that Mr. Cain would score an impressive win is yet one more piece of evidence that the Republican insiders are still looking for a candidate upon whom to rally behind.

Second, almost as big a surprise as Cain’s strong Florida performance, was Rep. Bachmann finishing dead last. Though certainly not a favorite of the party establishment – in fact, some of her appeal is that she energizes non-traditional conservatives to vote in the Republican primaries and general elections – attracting only the support of 40 people is another argument for the view that her flailing campaign may have crested when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Certainly the fact that Ms. Bachmann made no attempt to garner support for Presidency 5 is a large part of the reason she did so poorly, but such is not the total cause. Most of the other candidates did not put forth a top effort either.

Third, the performance of perceived front-runners Perry and Romney is certainly a disappointment for both, but particularly the former. Here is where the Texas governor’s poor performance in the last televised debate may have had an impact. Party insiders, such as the group who participated in the this past weekend’s vote, would have been more likely to view or even attend the debate, thus his lackluster showing would have more greatly affected this particular straw poll event than an at-large primary vote.

Perry did invest time and resources into the Florida vote, which bodes even more poorly for his showing and campaign organization. During the Iowa Straw Poll, a 527 entity independent of the Perry campaign, called Americans for Rick Perry, implemented a write-in strategy that captured a record number of votes. In Florida, this group was not present.

For his part, Mr. Romney did not run an organized effort, which is consistent with his approach to all straw poll events. Therefore, both he and Perry badly under-performed in Presidency 5 based on their status atop the Florida Republican polls.

As has been the case since the very beginning of this GOP nomination campaign, the race continues to be a wide open battle. This is likely to continue until actual votes begin to be cast early next year at the Iowa Caucus and in the early primary states.

Redistricting Update

Redistricting action occurred in the following eight states during the past week:

FLORIDA (current delegation 19R-6D; gains two seats): The redistricting initiative that Florida voters adopted in 2010 survived its first legal challenge. The measure requires more compact districts, which limits the number of times county lines can be broken. Reps. Corrine Brown (D-FL-3) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21) filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the initiative, largely because they believe the measure conflicts with the Voting Rights Act. Rep. Brown’s 3rd district, which encompasses parts of Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Orlando, would be radically reconstructed if the new criteria is allowed to take effect. A federal judge formally rejected their case at the end of last week. Brown and Diaz-Balart say they will appeal the ruling.

GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat): Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed the congressional redistricting plan that the legislature sent him at the end of last week. The map must now obtain federal Voting Rights Act approval.

IDAHO (current delegation: 2R): The Idaho Redistricting Commission failed to produce a congressional map by the appointed deadline. By state law, the Idaho Supreme Court now steps in to direct the process. The high court could send the process back to the Commission, telling the bi-partisan members to continue working in order to fulfill their responsibility, or draw the new map itself.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R): Gov. Susana Martinez (R) called the legislature back into special session to complete the redistricting process along with several other issues. The session is expected to last at least two weeks. The Democratic legislature and Republican governor must agree upon a three-district congressional map. Should they fail to do so, a common occurrence in situations featuring split-control state government, the courts will take over the process.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats): Hard speculation is now coming from Columbus as congressional members of both parties are beginning to receive information about the Republican majority map strategy. There is no question that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) will be one of the members paired under the eventual new plan. It now looks as if Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), in her Toledo-anchored seat, will be placed in the same district as Cleveland’s Kucinich. Such a draw would allow Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) to command the Cleveland city district.

The rumor that the Republicans would build a new Democratic seat in Columbus so that Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) will obtain safe districts instead of the more marginal seats they currently represent, appears to have legs. In exchange for this seat, Democratic Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Tim Ryan (D-OH-17) reportedly will be paired into one district.

Since the state is losing two seats, a pair of GOP incumbents will also be placed in one district. The latest speculation now surrounds Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-3) and Steve Austria (R-OH-7) having to square off for one western Ohio congressional seat.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat): The Pennsylvania Republican majority is about ready to unveil their congressional maps. Reports suggest that the delegation’s odd-man-out, since the state loses one seat, will be Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12). Among Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), Critz, and Mike Doyle (D-PA-14), expect to see two of these three placed in one district. Altmire and Critz are the two most likely to be paired since Doyle represents the Pittsburgh city seat, which will certainly be present in some configuration. The latest speculation suggests that Altmire will be in the more favorable position to win a Democratic primary for paired district than Critz.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats): The redistricting trial is underway in San Antonio. More than a dozen lawsuits were filed against the new congressional map that was enacted into law in late June, and all of the cases have been consolidated into one hearing process. The trial is expected to last until Sept. 16. A final ruling is not expected until the end of the year. The minority composition of Districts 20 (Rep. Charlie Gonzalez-D) and 35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett-D) is the focal point of the cases.

VIRGINIA: (current delegation: 8R-3D): Efforts to craft a compromise congressional map between the Democratic state Senate and Republican House of Delegates may have reached their final impasse. No further action will occur until after the November legislative elections. The map will either be drawn by the new legislature after it convenes in January, or by the courts. Republicans hope to sustain the 8R-3D status quo. Democrats are trying to get a more favorable draw that may bring them closer to the 6D-5R split that they enjoyed during the last congressional session.

Q-Poll Out Sets Fla., Pa., Expectations

Quinnipiac University just returned the results of two new surveys in the critical presidential states of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Sunshine State’s story (July 27-8/2; 1,417 FL registered voters; 510 self-identified GOP voters) is the interest in Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Included among the Republican field of presidential candidates, Perry, despite launching no campaign organization to date, soars to second place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The two are the only Republican primary candidates, according to this Q-Poll, to break double-digits.

The Florida primary results show Romney with 23 percent, followed by Perry’s 14 percent. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) are next with 9 percent apiece. Retired businessman Herman Cain has 8 percent. Perhaps the biggest surprise, and possibly the biggest casualty should Perry enter the race as all pundits now expect, is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). According to this Florida GOP sample, Bachmann only posts 6 percent, less than half of Perry’s total and only a quarter of Romney’s. Relegated to single digits in an important state like Florida is not good news for the Tea Party Caucus chair, who has been performing very well in other state polls, particularly those among Iowa voters. The Q-Poll features a low sample (510 Republicans) for a state the size of Florida, even when considering that they are only testing supporters of one political party.

The Florida Republican primary is one of the most important in the GOP contest. Slated to be held just before Super Tuesday, 99 delegates will be apportioned among the candidates, third highest of any state. Only California (172 delegates) and Texas (152 delegates) have larger GOP delegations. The winner of the statewide vote is awarded 10 delegates. Eight more – three party delegates and five bonus votes – will also likely end up with the statewide victor. In all, 81 delegates, three per each of the state’s 27 congressional districts, are awarded to the candidate winning the specific CDs. In the general election, the Republicans must win Florida to have a legitimate chance of capturing the Presidency.

Romney and Perry are also tops among all the Republican candidates when paired with President Obama, too. In fact, Romney draws to a 44-44 percent tie with Mr. Obama. Perry is just five points behind the President, trailing 39-44 percent. The margin is greater when the other GOP contenders go one-on-one with Obama. Against Palin, the President’s advantage is 53-34 percent, his best showing against any top Republican contender. Bachmann does better than Palin but still trails Mr. Obama by double digits. In this match-up, Obama leads the Minnesota Congresswoman 50-38 percent.

The Pennsylvania numbers (July 25-31; 1,358 PA registered voters; 580 self-identified Republican voters) are much different. A relatively reliable Democratic state, Pennsylvania will play an important role in the 2012 presidential contest, but much more so for the Democrats than Republicans. The GOP can win the national election without carrying Pennsylvania, but Democrats cannot.

The surprising performer among the Keystone State voters is their former senator, Rick Santorum. The former PA officeholder spent three terms in the House and two in the Senate before falling badly in 2006 to now-Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., 41-59%. Though barely a blip nationally as a Republican presidential candidate, Santorum is showing resiliency in his home state. Among GOP primary contenders, Romney has the lead with 21%, followed by Santorum at 14%. Palin is next with 12%, Bachmann has 11%, and Perry is way off the pace, posting only 8%. In the Republican primary, Pennsylvania is allocated 72 delegates making it the sixth largest state for the GOP nomination.

In the general election match-ups, the President actually fares quite poorly, considering that Pennsylvania is a must-win state for him. He trails Romney 42-44 percent; leads Santorum only 45-43 percent; and bests Perry with an unimpressive 45-39 percent showing. Mr. Obama enjoys an eight-point lead over Bachmann, 47-39 percent.

The Obama job approval numbers are a clear barometer to gauge just how far the President has fallen before the Keystone State electorate. Today, only 43 percent of the PA respondents give Mr. Obama favorable reviews versus 54 percent who disapprove of how he executes the duties of his office. In June his positive to negative ratio was a better, but still uninspiring, 48:48 percent.
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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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