Tag Archives: Florida

Crist Makes It Official

charlie-crist

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist officially registered as a Democrat yesterday in what is likely a prelude to entering the 2014 gubernatorial contest against incumbent Rick Scott (R). Crist announced the move via his Twitter account, Tweeting a picture Friday of he and his beaming wife with his Florida voter registration form. Crist, as a Republican, served one term as governor and chose to run for Senate instead of seeking re-election. The move proved politically disastrous.

Marco Rubio, then a former state House Speaker, ran such an effective early Republican primary campaign that Crist was literally forced out of the party, choosing to run in the general election as an Independent. He placed second to Rubio, trailing 49-30 percent, but came in 10 points ahead of the Democratic nominee, then-Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL-17).

Usually, a party-switcher’s most difficult election is his first primary in the new party. If Crist enters the Democratic nomination contest, he almost assuredly will have competition. In fact, he could still face the Democratic 2010 gubernatorial nominee, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who only lost to Scott by a scant one percentage point, 49-48 percent. Sink has yet to rule out another run.

Scott is viewed as vulnerable because his job approval ratings have continued to hover around the 40 percent mark or lower for most of his tenure. As is the case for virtually every race in Florida, the contest is expected to be close.

The Early Targets

Even this early in an election cycle, some obvious 2014 targets are evident. In the Senate, majority Democrats must protect 20 seats versus 13 for Republicans. The GOP will need to convert six Democratic states in order to re-capture the majority for the first time since 2006.

In the House, it’s much too early to tell how the cycle will even begin to unfold, but the 2012 winners who scored at or below 50 percent normally find themselves in vulnerable situations two years later. There are 20 winners who scored a bare majority or less in their win last month.

Here’s how we see things lining up:

The Senate

Already, there appear to be four potential toss-up campaigns on the horizon at the very beginning of the election cycle.

Two states already have announced challengers to Democratic incumbents that many believe are headed for retirement despite the senators themselves saying they are planning a re-election campaign.

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) officially announced that she will challenge five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the next election. With West Virginia now trending deep red and Rockefeller launching verbal attacks against the state’s dominant coal industry, this race must be cast as an early toss-up. Should Rockefeller — who will be 77 years old at the time of the next election — not seek another term, Capito will be considered the early favorite.

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) also has announced that he will run for the Senate in 2014. He will challenge three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D). Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), who was just re-elected to a second term, also has not ruled out a Senate run, meaning that she would first have to challenge Rounds in the Republican primary. Publicly, she is not closing the door on any 2014 option. A Johnson-Rounds campaign would also have to be rated as an early toss-up. The senator would be favored against Rep. Noem.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) stands for a second term after defeating veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R) by a slim 48-47 percent count in 2008. Stevens was fighting a Justice Department legal onslaught that fell apart on the prosecutors but only after Stevens had already lost to Begich. As you know, the senator was later killed in an airplane crash. This campaign will be interesting. A strong challenger such as Gov. Sean Parnell (R), could make this a very tight campaign.

Considering that North Carolina was only one of two states that switched from supporting Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney last month, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will seek a second term and be rated in a toss-up campaign from Day One. There is no clear challenger on the horizon, but whomever the Republicans choose will be a serious contender.

The 2014 election cycle will be a long one, but count on these four Senate races grabbing a major share of the political attention for the next two years.

The House

Here’s a look at the 20 winners in 2012 who are right at or a bit below the 50 percent mark who could be vulnerable:

Below 50 percent

  • Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) – 47% (open seat)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) – 48% (open seat)
  • John Tierney (D-MA-6) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Maffei (D-NY-24) – 48% (challenger)
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) – 49% (open seat)
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) – 49% (incumbent)
  • Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) – 49% (open seat)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) – 49% (incumbent)

At 50%

  • Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) – (incumbent)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA-52) – (challenger)
  • * Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) – (challenger)
  • Dan Schneider (D-IL-10) – (challenger)
  • Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – (incumbent)
  • Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) – (open seat)
  • Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) – (challenger)
  • Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) – (challenger)
  • Bill Owens (D-NY-21) – (incumbent)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) – (incumbent)
  • * Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) – (challenger)

* Italics: Seat will likely be re-drawn in 2013 redistricting.

Unexpected Voter Turnout Patterns

We wish you the best for the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. The PRIsm Political Updates will return Monday, Nov. 26.

The official state participation and candidate preference statistics are being released throughout the nation, and many of the numbers are quite surprising. While turnout was down nationally, it was up in most of the battleground states and, despite Pres. Barack Obama’s victory, it may be erroneous to assume that the turnout pattern completely favored him.

While it is clear the president obviously benefited from the voting preferences of the aggregate group of people who cast ballots during the election process, it is interesting to note that he was only able to return 91.5 percent of the total vote he received in 2008. In contrast, losing national Republican nominee Mitt Romney retained 99.4 percent of John McCain’s 2008 vote. Obviously Romney needed to do better than to simply equal McCain’s vote, but it is significant that Obama’s share of the vote declined by almost a full 10 percent from what he obtained four years ago, especially when understanding that the Obama campaign clearly had the superior grassroots organization.

Nationally, and rather astonishingly from what was widely forecast before the election, overall voter turnout was down six million votes from the number cast in 2008, or a fall-off of 4.7 percent. It appears that virtually all of the drop-off came from the Obama coalition, as the president’s vote receded by almost that same amount as did the national turnout (voter participation reduction: 6,148,768 individuals; Obama drop: 5,917,631 votes).

The four core states also recorded interesting turnout patterns. Of the quartet of places that Romney needed to convert if he were to unseat the president, it was North Carolina — the only state in this group that he did carry — that had the highest participation rate increase from 2008. North Carolina voter turnout was up 4.5 percent in comparison to their aggregate number of voters from four years ago. Virginia and Florida, two of the three core states that remained with the president, also saw increased participation. Virginia was up 3.5 percent; Florida 1.0 percent.

Ohio, often believed to be the most important state in the presidential contest because it was viewed to be a national bellwether, surprisingly recorded a lower turnout this year than during the previous Obama victory campaign. Ohio turnout was down a rather substantial 5.9 percent, or greater than 336,000 participants from 2008.

Of those seven states commonly viewed to be in the secondary target group — at least one of which Romney would have had to have carried to be successful, more if he failed to carry all of the core states — four saw increased participation, and three declined. The states producing a greater number of voters were in the Midwest (Wisconsin, up 2.4 percent; Iowa, increasing 1.9 percent) and West (fast-growing Nevada adding 4.5 percent; Colorado, up 3.1 percent).

The three eastern and Mid-Atlantic states all recorded a smaller voter participation rate. Pennsylvania, always considered a swing state and a place that attracts a great deal of campaign attention, saw its voter turnout rate fall 6.1 percent; Michigan, the only state in the Union that actually lost population in the preceding decade, dropped 5.7 percent; and New Hampshire returned almost the same number of voters, coming in just 5,091 ballots under their 2008 total.

It appears the biggest voter drop-off occurred in some of the nation’s largest states, those that are most Democratic and among the president’s strongest places. His home state of Illinois, for example, saw more than 431,000, or 7.8 percent, fewer people vote this year than when compared to their favorite son’s first election in 2008. New York had the largest drop-off, a stunning 19.8 percent below its participation level of four years ago. California, the nation’s largest state, was off 12.5 percent. But, lower turnout rates were not confined only to the large Democratic states. Texas, the biggest and most loyal Republican entity, also saw a reduction in turnout. Over 112,000 fewer voters went to the polls in 2012 when compared to 2008.

More analysis will be completed when additional data is available, but these statewide turnout numbers may have produced more questions about the nation’s voting patterns than answers.

The Final Electoral Score

The electoral results announced this weekend produced a Democratic clean sweep of the political overtime campaigns. All US House races now possess either an official or definitive winner with the exception of the double-Republican run-off in Louisiana’s 3rd District (to be decided Dec. 8). On election night, all but nine races were called forcing a tight count of the early, absentee and provisional ballots in the affected jurisdictions not producing a winning candidate.

Though each of the nine campaigns were originally too close to call, final projections released over the weekend proclaimed Democrats as winners in the remaining outstanding elections, joining those previously declared overtime victors. The final results in AZ-2, NC-7, and FL-18 completed the Democratic sweep.

After Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) expanded his lead to 1,402 votes of more than 285,000 cast with only about 15,000 absentee ballots remaining as of late Friday, Republican Martha McSally conceded the election to the short-term House member on Saturday afternoon. Barber was originally elected in June to fulfill resigned Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ unexpired term. Running in the regular election for the newly configured 2nd District, Barber ran into a much more difficult competitor in McSally than originally forecast. It would not be surprising to see the two square off again in 2014, as the former Gulf War veteran and Air Force pilot received high marks for her ability as a candidate.

Also on Friday in southeast North Carolina, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), who had been redistricted into a much more Republican seat, officially clinched re-election over state Sen. David Rouzer (R). The final tally separates the two candidates by 655 votes, a spread that falls within the legally proscribed margin to trigger an automatic recount. Though all the ballots will be officially counted again, the outcome is likely to remain the same and McIntyre will almost assuredly serve a ninth term in the House.

Rep. Allen West’s (R-FL-18) post-election saga continues but, barring an unforeseen development in the final early voting count, Democrat Patrick Murphy has defeated the outspoken one-term incumbent. Even after recounting the final three days of received early ballots resulted in West gaining on Murphy and both candidates seeing their vote totals decline, St. Lucie County Circuit Judge Larry Schack denied the congressman’s motion to re-tabulate all of the early ballots. But, in a surprise move on Friday, the St. Lucie County Election Commission voted 2-1 to grant West’s request.

Despite the commission decision, and with Murphy’s lead now expanding to more than 2,100 votes, it is highly unlikely that the result will be overturned. West will then have to decide whether to make a post-certification legal challenge once the results are deemed to be final and official.

All Florida counties were required to report their final canvass results to the Secretary of State yesterday. The state must certify all of the state’s elections on November 20th.

In addition to the aforementioned results, the previously declared overtime winners are Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4), California challengers Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36), Ami Bera (D-CA-7), and Scott Peters (D-CA-52), and Arizona open seat candidates Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9). The House will divide with 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats, a net gain of eight seats for the Dems.

House Developments

Three new members of the House were officially sworn in to complete partial terms, and a fourth will be in a matter of days. The quartet of special election winners are replacing members who resigned early or, in the case of New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Sr., passed away. All but one were also elected to a full term. The exception is Michigan Democrat Dave Curson who won the special election to serve the remainder of resigned Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s term but lost the regular election to Republican Kerry Bentivolio. The latter will join the freshman class in January. The new official members are Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) replacing Gov.-Elect Jay Inslee (D), and Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) succeeding resigned Rep. Geoff Davis (R). Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10), who will take over for his late father, will be sworn in later this week.

Turning to the outstanding House races, California Democrats Ami Bera (CA-7) and Scott Peters (CA-52) continue to expand their leads over Reps. Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray. It appears only a matter of time before both are declared victorious. Bera’s lead is now greater than 3,000 votes; Peters’ just under that number.

In Florida, Rep. Allen West (R-FL-18) has filed a lawsuit to have all of the St. Lucie County early ballots counted. Recounting the final three days of received early voting tallies resulted in both he and his Democratic opponent losing votes. West now trails by more than 1,700 votes, but that is a reduction from an original deficit that exceeded 2,300. Meanwhile his opponent, Democrat Patrick Murphy is in Washington, D.C., and attending freshman orientation. Further research into the double-counting of St. Lucie County ballots is appearing to cut against West’s original claims. The post-election saga here is likely to continue for some time but it appears the eventual final outcome will favor Murphy.