Tag Archives: Florida

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following nine states during the past week: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis’s impeachment saga continues, but it appears to be finally ending. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) still wants to take further action in order to remove Mathis from her position, but the state Supreme Court is issuing clear signals that they will again stop the process. The high court issued a letter indicating that the “substance” of the charges and not the “format of the letter” is an inadequate basis for removing the chairwoman from office. The signal likely means that Mathis will continue to serve and that a congressional map will soon be passed into law. Expect a revised draft map that featured four Republican seats, two Democratic, and three marginal seats likely to trend toward the Democrats to be the final plan.

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The special panel charged with redistricting responsibility is fast approaching its Nov. 30 deadline to release maps. Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who appointed the members, said it would be a “gigantic failure” if the committee again fails to meet the imposed deadline. The target date was previously moved to the 30th from September. Concrete action will be occurring here very shortly.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Facing the most difficult redistricting task in the nation, the Florida state Senate unveiled the first congressional map of the legislative session. The new map would basically keep the current footprint intact while adding a new Republican district in central Florida, the 26th, that includes Lake and Citrus Counties and parts of Marion and Lake. The plan also adds a Democratic district, the 27th, anchored in Osceola County, and including parts of Orange and Polk. There are no political numbers yet released with this map, but it appears to be a 20R-7D cut. The map likely adheres to the Voting Rights Act, but largely ignores the new provisions of the redistricting initiative voters passed in 2010. Rep. Corinne Brown’s current 3rd District, featuring a craggy, meandering draw touching Jacksonville, Gainesville, and the Orlando metropolitan area – which prompted the ballot initiative to draw more compact seats – is again presented in a similar configuration. The state Senate map is simply a proposal. Expect the most difficult legal process in the country to ensue before a final map is put in place for the 2012 elections. Should such a map as proposed by the Senate actually prevail, it would be a huge boon to the Republicans.

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – The judge hearing the Republican redistricting legal challenge has postponed the candidate filing deadline from Dec. 5 to Dec. 27. The court also allowed itself leeway to change the deadline again, saying that if the case is still unresolved by Dec. 21, the date could subsequently be moved once more. The Illinois primary is March 20.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – State legislative leaders have again postponed redistricting action. They now have a target deadline of May 10 to vote on new political maps. The Kansas primary is Aug. 7.

MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel holding Mississippi redistricting responsibilities is indicating that it may impose a new congressional map prior to the new legislature taking office. With the Republican sweep of the 2011 elections, the GOP now controls the entire redistricting process. Since the candidate filing deadline is Jan. 13, however, and the new legislature convenes Jan. 3, little time is available to pass a map. The fast judicial action would be unusual, particularly since a court-imposed map normally only has interim status. It is presumed, based upon legal precedence, that the legislative product would constitute the state’s final action.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – Apparently both sides are close to agreeing on jointly proposing a compromise, “no-change” map to the court with redistricting responsibility. Such a plan would likely keep the lines basically as they are, once adjusted for population change. The 2nd District of Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is the most out of balance. It needs to gain just 22,437 people, however. Even if the Democrats and Republicans agree to a map, the court is not bound to accept the offering. Still, it appears the New Mexico redistricting situation is close to resolution.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – The redistricting legislative panel released its new two-district plan that, if adopted, will easily keep the Ocean State’s pair of seats in Democratic hands. District 1 needs to gain only 7,263 people from District 2, so the changes from the current map are minimal.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The newly-released Texas congressional district court plan has been vetted, and the Democrats will make gains in the Lone Star State in comparison to the now-defunct legislative plan. The original law, struck down by the courts, would likely have returned 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The new map will send three of the four new seats to the Democratic column, but still does not put a Hispanic seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It does add a new Democratic seat in Tarrant County, however, but one that probably won’t elect a Hispanic. Apparently not paying much heed to the US Supreme Court directives in the Bartlett v. Strickland case that better defined minority district drawing criteria, the three-judge panel again favored more minority coalition districts, and these generally produce victories for white Democrats. The court made major changes in the center of the state, from DFW south through Austin and into San Antonio. They basically left east and west Texas in relatively unchanged position, with the exception of Districts 8 (Rep. Kevin Brady), 14, 34, and 36, but the partisan make-up should be the same with the possible exception of Rep. Ron Paul’s (R) open 14th District.

The big winners in the plan are the 20 Republican incumbents who receive safe seats, and the Democrats who should see their nine-seat delegation rise to between 12 and 14, depending upon the 2012 election results.

GOP incumbents who will have more competitive districts are Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), and Quico Canseco (R-TX-23).

It is likely that the court-drawn map will be in place for the 2012 elections, since candidate filing is already underway and the congressional primary is set for Super Tuesday, March 6. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, considering the state’s lawsuit, could issue a different map or directive, but it is unlikely that any course of action will derail the three-judge panel’s map from enactment at least for this one election. The state attorney general reportedly will ask the US Supreme Court to stay the judicial panel’s congressional map. He has already done so for the state House and Senate maps. It is unlikely that the high court will act, however. The legislature could change or replace the plan when it next convenes, as it did in 2003 and was ruled to have such authority by a US Supreme Court vote of 9-0.

Senate Poll Shockers

A series of surveys was just released for key US Senate races in several states. Two studies produced especially surprising results, those in Florida and North Dakota.

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 17; 500 likely Florida voters) now gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) an unexpected 43-39 percent lead over Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D). This is the first poll of the election cycle that shows Nelson in a deficit position to any potential Republican opponent.

After saying he would not run in March, Rep. Mack did an about-face late last month and his decision appears to be paying off, at least in the short term. Prior to recent polls showing Rep. Mack within two, six, and now leading by four points, Sen. Nelson posted consistent 15-point margins against the other two main Republican candidates, former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

It was always believed that the Ft. Myers congressman and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III could make this race competitive, and the last three polls certainly confirm that supposition.

In North Dakota, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the results of the Mellman Group poll (Nov. 12-16; 600 likely North Dakota voters) it commissioned for newly announced candidate Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general. The data give Ms. Heitkamp a 47-42 percent lead over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). This is a stunner in that Berg is thought to be the prohibitive favorite to convert the open seat (Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring) for the GOP. North Dakota is projected to be the Republicans’ best opportunity to take a Democratic seat.

Since this tabulation conflicts with other North Dakota polls, it is possible that the survey is an anomaly. In its defense, however, are the presidential numbers. As one would expect, a prospective Republican nominee is ahead of President Obama in the Peace Garden State, even according to these same Mellman Group numbers. Mitt Romney has a 47-33 percent advantage over the President within this polling universe, which is perfectly in line with North Dakota presidential election voting behavior. If further surveys show a similar pattern in this Senate race, a new competitive race could be on the horizon.

According to a brand new Epic MRA poll of the Michigan Senate race (Nov. 13-16; 600 registered Michigan voters), former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) has decreased his deficit against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Their latest survey shows only a six-point 48-42 percent advantage for the two-term Democratic incumbent. This is a net gain of three points for Hoekstra over the firm’s August poll that gave Stabenow a 47-38 percent edge.

The Michigan race is another critical contest for the GOP. Thought to be vulnerable at the beginning of the year, the Republicans were slow to find a credible opponent against the senator, finally convincing Hoekstra to launch a campaign after the former congressman had publicly announced that he would not run.

One of the slower races to take shape is the open Arizona seat of retiring Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl (R). New polling information is now available for the Republican primary in this state and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is off to a big lead, as expected. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 17-20; 400 registered Arizona Republican voters), Flake has a huge 53-7 percent lead over businessman Wil Cardon. Magellan Strategies found a similar pattern. Their latest Arizona study (Nov. 16; 722 registered Arizona Republican voters) gives Flake a similar 55-3 percent margin against Cardon.

Democrats have a large field in the Grand Canyon State, including former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and ex-Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens. Right now, it appears the race is Flake’s to lose.

Florida’s Rep. Mack Within Two Points of Sen. Nelson

On Friday, Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest regular large-sample Florida poll (Oct. 31-Nov. 7; 1,185 registered Florida voters; 513 self-identified Republicans), the first public statewide survey fielded since Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) announced his challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D). The results are quite promising for the Ft. Myers/Naples representative. According to the Q-Poll, Sen. Nelson holds only a two-point (42-40 percent) lead over Rep. Mack.

Late last month the congressman reversed his previous Senate decision, doing an about-face on his March decision not to run. After state Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos dropped out of the race and it became clear that former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner were showing no signs of exciting the GOP electorate, Mack began reconsidering his decision. With his party still needing a strong Senatorial candidate, and with the Republicans currently looking relatively strong in Florida against President Obama, suggesting a potential positive GOP push for the down-ballot elections, Mack felt his best chance to win statewide is in the current election.

With the new Q-Poll supporting the assertion that Mack would be Nelson’s strongest challenger, the numbers are indeed encouraging for the GOP because the Democratic senator has positive approval ratings. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed approve of his job performance. Just 27 percent disapprove, which is one of the better ratios of all senators standing for re-election in 2012. Florida’s other senator, freshman Republican Marco Rubio, has a similar rating. His ratio is 49:29 percent favorable to unfavorable. Therefore, if Mack is within two points of Nelson when the incumbent’s favorability is high, then the challenger’s ability to grow will be substantial once the contrast strategy begins to take hold.

In previous polls testing LeMieux and Hasner against Nelson, the senator enjoyed a substantial lead. Usually, the spread was in the 15-point range with the incumbent hovering around the 50 percent mark. The latest Q-Poll results already bring Mack within two points, and place both candidates in the low 40s, which casts this race in a new competitive light. For the GOP to recapture the Senate majority and reach even a moderate level of strength within the body, the Florida seat will have to move into the highly competitive realm.

While Mack’s late start puts him behind in the money contest, he is clearly the strongest Republican both in the GOP primary and against Nelson. The candidates’ financial standing, however, should be of concern to Mr. Mack. The senator has more than $7.5 million in his campaign account. LeMieux has raised $1.3 million and Hasner just over $1 million. Rep. Mack has $347,000 in the bank, by contrast. His long period of deciding to run has certainly hurt him in fundraising.

If this poll is an accurate depiction of the Florida electorate, and Quinnipiac has a reliable record in the state, then it looks like this Senate race is on the precipice of becoming as competitive as many believed it would when the election cycle begun.

Florida’s Sen. Mack Makes a Move … Again

On Friday, Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) again reversed his political course and declared his candidacy for US Senate. Back in March, when he scheduled a news conference that even his own aides were saying was a Senatorial announcement address, the 44-year-old, four-term congressman abruptly changed his mind and instead said that he would not run statewide.

Late last week, Rep. Mack made another 180-degree pirouette and officially entered the race to challenge two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). With polls remaining stagnant for the better part of a year – Nelson leading either former interim Sen. George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner by consistent 13-15 point margins (Nelson is almost always in the 47-49 percent range while the Republicans scored 33-35 percent), Mack believes he still has the opportunity to close that margin and put the state in play for the GOP.

He might be right, but it won’t happen overnight. Because of his father, Sen. Connie Mack III who held the seat for two terms before Nelson won in 2000, the Fort Myers congressman has substantial statewide name ID. Sen. Mack was originally elected in a very close 1988 election, and was easily re-elected in 1994. He retired with high job-approval ratings and appeared to be a cinch to win a third term had he so desired.

So, despite being behind both LeMieux and Hasner in campaign resources (LeMieux has over $1 million cash-on-hand according to the Sept. 30, 2011 campaign disclosure filing, while Hasner has $785,000; Mack starts the race with $347,000 in his congressional account), Mack’s name ID will very likely put him atop the Republican primary polls when they are next released. In the last Quinnipiac University poll of Florida Republicans (released Sept. 22nd), both LeMieux and Hasner were only in the teens or single-digits (LeMieux leading his rival 17-5 percent, with businessman and college professor Mike McAllister registering a surprising 11 percent).

Though he has created a rocky political road for himself in getting into the Senate race, his decision may prove to be the right move.

It is clear that several major factors cut against the senator. First, there’s the overall political climate to consider, in which voters may have the highest anti-incumbent fever ever. The right track/wrong track directional polling questions designed to detect a respondent’s optimistic or pessimistic view of the country’s future are reaching all-time negative lows, as we covered in our Friday edition of the PRIsm Political Update. Nationally, the wrong track answer tops 80%. Among Republicans, that score, in some places, is incredibly high – up into the mid- to high-90s.

Secondly, with President Obama’s approval ratings trending upside down nationally and in Florida, and the poor economy unlikely to improve substantially before the next election, the Democrats’ ability to carry the state is questionable. In order to defeat the President, the eventual Republican nominee will have to carry Florida, and that could bring a strong US Senate candidate over the finish line, too.

Third, while Sen. Nelson’s ratings are good, in fact strong when compared to many other senators standing for re-election, they are not stellar, and plenty of time remains to turn the race.

Therefore, Rep. Mack’s decision to launch his candidacy, even after repeatedly changing his mind, is understandable. Despite losing seven months of fundraising and campaigning, he does have a chance to win the GOP nomination and defeat Nelson. It is clear that Rep. Mack is betting on the long-term now, but his gamble might pay off.

Does Money Matter in Presidential Campaigns?

While presidential candidate Herman Cain is vaulting up the polling charts – the latest Rasmussen Reports poll (Oct. 14-15; 1,000 likely voters) actually puts him ahead of President Obama 43-41 percent – his campaign is lagging behind in spendable resources. According to the just-filed FEC financial disclosure reports, the retired business executive only has $1.34 million cash-on-hand with $675,000 in debt. This contrasts with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s $16.46 million and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s $15.08 million. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is next with $3.67 million in the bank.

It is often said that political money is least important in a presidential race because of the extensive earned media coverage the candidates receive. This is true to a point, but Cain’s financial shortcomings, should they continue, might be felt in places like Iowa, the site of the nation’s first delegate selection event. The fact that the campaigns must convince their supporters to attend an actual political meeting instead of just going to vote, means a stronger organization requirement is necessary.

Immediately after Iowa, the campaigns will pivot to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida, all within the month of January. Feeding such a mobile political machine will be expensive, so Cain will need to command greater resources if he is to fulfill his current standing. Failing to produce in the early states will be seriously problematic for Mr. Cain, since the expectation level surrounding his campaign has grown exponentially.