Tag Archives: Harry Reid

Two Long Shot Races Turning

A pair of under-the-radar Senate races are now becoming competitive, recent polls indicate. In Arizona and Pennsylvania new publicly released surveys put a Democratic and Republican underdog in the national spotlight for the first time.

In the Grand Canyon State for the seat of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R), polling results from Democratic nominee Richard Carmona, the former U.S. Surgeon General under President George W. Bush, places him in a virtual tie with his favored Republican opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6). Anzalone Liszt Research, polling for the Carmona campaign, surveyed 600 likely voters over Sept. 18-23 period and projected 44-43 percent results. Other recent surveys also put the Arizona seat in play, but their margins still favor Flake beyond the margin of error. Rasmussen Reports publicized a study earlier this week giving the congressman a six-point, 47-41 percent lead, and the international research firm YouGov posted mid-September data that projected the Republican nominee to be enjoying a similar 43-37 percent margin.

Flake, a six-term congressman from Mesa, Ariz., is best known as one of the leaders of the movement to end spending earmarks. Opposed in the late August Republican primary, he easily defeated wealthy businessman Wil Cardon. Many Democratic strategists believe that Dr. Carmona, an Independent-turned-Democrat who President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid encouraged to run, can score an upset win. While current polling is beginning to show serious competition, voting history nonetheless yields a conclusion that the seat will stay red.

In the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, we see another Senate race growing tighter as we inch closer to Election Day. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has maintained a sizable lead throughout the campaign, however, his challenger, a self-funding former Democrat, appears to be making a move. Recently the seat has moved from “likely” to “lean Democratic” proving that GOP nominee Tom Smith is gaining ground against the incumbent. With President Obama polling well in Pennsylvania, Smith will have to run substantially ahead of his own presidential nominee to record a surprise win, making his uphill task even more difficult.

Tom Smith is a former coal company chief executive officer who handily won the Republican primary with multi-million dollars in personal expenditures. Smith is making a strong issue of his coal background and using recent plant closings as a way to draw a contrast between himself and Casey. Smith will attempt to take advantage of Obama’s Cap & Trade legislative initiative that proved so lethal to Democrats in the 2010 elections. Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth largest coal producer, providing over 5 percent of the nation’s aggregate total.

Recent polls do suggest positive movement for Smith, leaving the Democrats a bit uneasy. A Quinnipac University poll (1,180 likely voters, +/- 2.9% error factor) released this Wednesday showed Sen. Casey leading the Republican just 49-43 percent, a drop all the way from 55-37 percent (a net swing of 12 points) in late July. Another contemporary Susquehanna Research survey published in the Pittsburgh Review Tribune newspaper also showed a similar split with Casey only leading 46-41 percent.

It’s clear from the political metrics that Smith is making gains, but is it too little, too late? With Obama consistently leading Mitt Romney here and Sen. Casey maintaining at least a small edge over challenger Smith, the patterns still suggest the Pennsylvania Senate seat will remain in the blue column.

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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Nevada Republicans Choose Amodei; Angle Waits in the Wings

Nevada's congressional districts.

The Nevada State Supreme Court will eventually decide if the Republican Party’s action taken this weekend has meaning. The GOP officials held a nominating convention on Saturday to choose a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District special election tentatively scheduled for September 13th.

In what constituted little surprise, former state party chairman Mark Amodei, who spent 12 years as a state legislator and briefly ran for US Senate in 2010, was selected as the Republican congressional nominee by the voting members. He easily defeated state Sen. Greg Brower and former Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold on the first ballot.

But, the nomination may become irrelevant. Soon after Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to replace resigned Sen. John Ensign (R), Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election process would be conducted as an open one-election contest in which all individuals desiring to run would qualify for the ballot. The Nevada Republican Party sued to overturn Miller’s decision, arguing that the ambiguous state election code pertaining to special election process – this is the first federal special election in Nevada’s history – actually allows the political parties to choose their own nominees. A lower court judge agreed with the Republican argument, hence the necessity for the state Supreme Court to become involved. The high court’s only action so far is to say that they may need more time to decide and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Sept. 13 election date schedule may have to be postponed.

The Nevada Democratic Party has yet to make any move vis-a-vis the special election and now find themselves facing a key decision. Officially backing Secretary of State Miller’s “battle royal” election format concept, the party may now be forced to caucus and nominate a candidate so that Amodei and the Republicans don’t gain a major advantage should the high court uphold the lower court ruling. If the Democrats do convene, state Treasurer Kate Marshall, already an announced congressional candidate, is the prohibitive favorite to receive the official party nod.

But the uncertainty for Amodei, in particular, won’t end with the Supreme Court ruling or even the special election itself. Sharron Angle, the former state assemblywoman who became the GOP 2010 Senatorial nominee only to lose to Majority Leader Harry Reid in the general election, was originally a candidate in the special election but has since withdrawn. She has the luxury of simply waiting for the regular election in the newly drawn seat to run either against a brand new Republican incumbent, now most likely Amodei should the GOP hold the seat in September or whenever the special is actually held, or a Democrat in what should be a Republican-leaning seat under the new redistricting plan.

Nevada’s congressional districts will change significantly because, as the fastest growing state in the nation, a new fourth district will be created as the result of reapportionment. Though the Democratic legislature and Republican governor drew to a stalemate over redistricting, meaning a court will now draw the final map, it is pretty clear that the city of Las Vegas will have two seats, rural Clark County (Las Vegas) and the central part of the state will occupy one, and the northern sector, the heart of the district in question, will comprise the new NV-2. The current district must shed 161,424 people, which is 24% above the new state CD population target of 675,138 individuals.

The winner of the special election will represent the current 2nd congressional district for the remainder of this Congress but will run for re-election in a seat that is considerably different. The area sure to be removed from the new 2nd is the central and southern portion of the seat. Currently, NV-2 encompasses all or part of the state’s 17 counties. The places going to other districts are largely areas where Ms. Angle did not perform as strongly.

Sharron Angle choosing not to participate in the special election is a sound political decision from her perspective. Should she decide to run in the regular election, which is likely, she can continue to amass campaign resources – her ability to do so is an advantage over every other candidate – and can challenge a short-term incumbent, either Republican or Democrat, in a new district that will likely be more to her liking particularly in the GOP primary.

The 2nd district political saga may prove to be the “great unknown” of the 2011-12 election cycle. What we can expect, however, is non-stop political action from here all the way to the next regular general election.
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Does Nevada Have the Right Angle in NV-2?

While the NY-26 special election has taken an interesting turn since Democrats might be on the doorstep of positioning themselves for an upset win on May 24, the NV-2 vacancy seems to be flowing in the opposite direction.

Last week, despite the contention from Nevada Republican Party officials that the state parties would choose nominees for the Sept. 13 special election to fill the unexpired portion of now-Sen. Dean Heller’s (R) current term in the House, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that a jungle-ballot format would take precedence. This means anyone can run for the seat regardless of political party affiliation and, like in the Hawaii special election of 2010, the person obtaining the most votes in the one election, regardless of percentage, is elected. Such a format favors the candidate with the strongest base and plays against a particular party that may field two or more viable candidates.

Miller’s ruling was savvy on at least two points. First, he, as a potential aspirant for future higher office himself, scores points with the Democratic establishment because this is the best possible format for his party to steal what should be a reliable Republican seat. Second, even if the Republicans were to file suit against him, a court would be in a difficult position to rule against a Secretary of State who merely opened up the process equally to everyone, thus his decision is also legally secure.

It was originally believed that the Democrats had a legitimate shot in the jungle format because controversial 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle would be in the field of candidates, since she had already announced for the seat in the regular election. Before Sen. John Ensign (R) resigned and Rep. Heller was appointed to replace him, the congressman had made known his intention to run for the Senate in the regular 2012 election. Angle barely lost the 2006 congressional nomination to Heller (by 421 votes) the last time the seat was open.

It was also conventional wisdom that Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) would hop into the congressional race. His strong presence would split the GOP vote and allow a consensus Democrat, presumably state Treasurer Kate Marshall, to slip by the split Republicans and win the seat with a plurality of the vote.

It appears now, however, that the tables have turned. While Angle did enter the special election contest, Krolicki backed away. State Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei, a former state legislator who briefly ran for the Senate in 2010 only to withdraw because he lacked funding, is now in the congressional race. But, so far, the only two other Republicans to declare candidacy are state Sen. Greg Brower and former US Navy officer Kirk Lippold, both of whom have small constituencies.

Amodei, coming from the more moderate wing of the party, could become the main alternative to Angle but none of the Republicans have as strong a political base, both financially and vote-based, as the former Senatorial nominee. Aside from barely losing the GOP primary to Heller in 2006, Ms. Angle actually carried the 2nd district, even against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the 2010 general election. So, it is clear that this north/central Nevada region constitutes her main base of support.

Now, the Democrats have a potentially split field. While Treasurer Marshall, who most believe is the party’s strongest candidate, announced her candidacy, so did Jill Derby, the former state Democratic Party chair, university regent, and congressional nominee in both 2006 and ’08. Derby, too, has a base in the district. She held Heller to a respectable 45-50 percent winning percentage in ’06, but fell to 41-52 percent in the re-match. It is conceivable that she will take a significant percentage in the special election, votes that will more than likely come right from Marshall’s political hide. Additionally, former university regent and 2010 Democratic congressional nominee Nancy Price is also running again. Though she lost to Heller in a landslide 33-63% vote, she has the potential of snatching a few more votes from Marshall.

While two weeks ago it looked liked the Democrats were in an enviable special election position, the most recent events seem to be unfolding in Angle’s favor. Much more will happen before the May 25 filing deadline to better define the special election parameters. We will then see if the Democrats can fully coalesce behind Marshall, thus restoring what originally appeared to be a reasonable chance at victory.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.