Tag Archives: Indiana

Donnelly Considers Senate Run in Indiana

The U.S. Senate race in Indiana already is shaping up to be a potential barn-burner. Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the next election, has announced his intention to run again and it appears he will be a 2012 Republican primary Tea Party target. Already state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) is launching an official challenge to the six-term senator and others could join the fray, as well. Though Mourdock will be attacking Lugar from the right, he is not necessarily a bona-fide Tea Party candidate.

Lugar has positioned himself as center-right for quite some time, and many of his votes and public statements on both fiscal and foreign policy issues has engendered opposition from activists with a strict conservative ideological bent. He is publicly defiant in response to the Tea Party possibly fielding a candidate against him, meaning the eventual primary battle will include some raucous political fireworks.

Attracting more than one opponent, however, could help the senator survive. Indiana has no run-off law, so scoring only a plurality of votes wins a nomination for both parties. A crowded field could produce a result like we saw in the Hoosier State’s 5th congressional district last year when Rep. Dan Burton (R) was re-nominated even though 70.3% of voters chose another candidate. If Lugar’s personal approval numbers drop, a low turnout primary could cause him a problem similar to what several other Republican senators faced in 2010. Lugar’s vulnerability increases if he has just one credible primary opponent.

With this backdrop, the Democrats have to consider their own general election moves. If Lugar falls in the primary, will Indiana then look something like Nevada and Colorado did last year when Republicans nominated candidates who were too weak to defeat a Democrat? Such thoughts must be crossing Rep. Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN-2) mind. He confirmed on Friday that he is mulling a run for the Senate. Usually voting the party line, but moving to the center often enough to protect himself politically at home, Donnelly might be a Democratic candidate who could win an Indiana general election despite the conservative voting patterns traditionally demonstrated in the state.

But the three-term Congressman has other considerations beyond his ability to defeat Sen. Lugar in making a decision to run statewide. His 2nd district is marginal and typically bounces back and forth between the parties in terms of congressional preference. Donnelly unseated incumbent GOP Rep. Chris Chocola in 2006, beating him by a considerable 54-46% margin. He was easily re-elected in 2008, a Democratic sweep year, 67-30%. But, when the Republicans rebounded last November, Donnelly’s victory percentage dropped well below 50%, and he avoided defeat by just one percentage point. He slipped past state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) by a scant 48-47% count. So, winning again in what could be another Republican year, at least in Indiana, might not be a given.

Rep. Donnelly’s bigger consideration with regard to his future political plans is redistricting, however. With the Republicans in complete control of the process, the congressman has to weigh whether his opponents will concede him a safe district or attempt to change the map in order to give the next GOP congressional nominee a better chance at victory. It might seem like an obvious answer to respond that the Republicans will try to grab the 2nd district for themselves, but such might not be the case. Over-reaching, as we saw in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio during 2001 redistricting, can result in an entire map collapsing when a bad political year strikes for the majority party. Republicans will have to decide between protecting a 6R-3D map for the decade or trying to reach for a seventh seat, even if some of their current districts become weaker as a result.

Indiana is certainly a place to watch, as action here will soon be forthcoming. Right now, Republicans are the decided favorites to hold the Senate seat, but if Donnelly enters the statewide contest much uncertainty will come to the entire Hoosier State political picture.
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Redistricting in Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas & Maryland

The Census Bureau is sending four more states their block data this week and soon Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland will begin their redistricting processes.

Iowa: The Hawkeye State — which draws its lines through a special legislative committee and does not add the incumbents’ home addresses to their data pull, thereby ensuring that districts are built only around population figures and not politics — will be the most interesting of this bunch. Iowa will lose a seat, and it’s still unclear which two members will be paired. Prior to the actual census data being released, it was estimated that Iowa had two of the 20 lowest populated districts. The current delegation stands at three Democrats and two Republicans, so statistically the Democrats have a greater chance of having at least one of their districts in a pairing. On the Republican side, Rep. Tom Latham’s 4th district, the more interior seat, has a greater chance of being paired than the western-most 5th district of Rep. Steve King. The final four-seat plan could assume one of many diverse variations, but it’s simply too soon to tell what may happen here. We do know for sure, however, that at least one current sitting incumbent will not return in the next Congress.

Indiana: The new Indiana Republican delegation approaches redistricting in strong position. The delegation is divided 6R-3D, after the GOP gained two seats in the 2010 election. All six Republicans can expect to gain safe seats from the GOP-controlled state legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Expect the southern Indiana seats, districts 8 and 9, to be strengthened with more Republicans, thus reconfiguring to some extent the safe 4th (Rep. Todd Rokita) and 6th districts (Rep. Mike Pence; likely an open seat). The aforementioned central state seats will all remain heavily Republican, including the 5th district of Rep. Dan Burton, but they will likely contain some different territory. The big Indiana question is whether the Republicans will try to weaken Rep. Joe Donnelly’s (D) 2nd district. He barely secured a third term last November with a very tight 48-47% victory over state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R).

Arkansas: The Republicans gained two seats in the Arkansas delegation, flipping the 3D-1R advantage into a 3:1 split in the GOP’s favor. With Democrats in control of the redistricting pen, will they draw a map that protects all incumbents to the detriment of their own party? Today, that’s difficult to say. The wild card in the picture is Rep. Mike Ross’ (D-AR-4) open desire to run for governor in 2014, since Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe will be term-limited. Ross wants to ensure the safest congressional seat possible for himself to build a strong base for the statewide contest. The more Democratic Ross’ district becomes, the greater the chance all three Republicans survive.

Maryland: This is a state where the Democrats must be concerned about over-reaching. Currently ensconced with a solid 6D-2R delegation split, some Ds want to see the Eastern Shore seat strengthened to give a legitimate shot a unseating freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1). Geography favors Harris, as the Eastern Shore is unlikely to be split. If the region has grown, this will help Harris, too. The Congressman hails from the mainland of the state, and his strength on the Eastern Shore may be weaker than most incumbents, but he has a full term in which to personalize his seat. The only Maryland question to resolve is how far will the Democrats go? Will they secure a strong 6D-2R map, or stretch to 7D-1R?
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The Redistricting Bell Sounds

The Census Bureau delivered the individual block data to four states at the end of last week, and scheduled an additional quartet for this week, thus officially opening the deci-annual national redistricting process. Since New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia all have odd-numbered year elections and operate within the tightest timeline to complete their state and local redistricting processes, it has become traditional for them to receive their vital population statistics ahead of all others. The four states scheduled for this week are Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland. Expect Illinois and Texas to be done soon, too, as both states have early March 2012 primary elections and each has a different number of congressional districts in the new national apportionment.

New Jersey: In the first group of four states now equipped to begin the re-mapping process, each has some hurdles to clear before a final congressional map can be completed. New Jersey, which draws their districts via special commission, loses a seat, and will be reduced from 13 to 12. All 13 current districts are under-populated, hence the underlying reason for reducing the Garden State’s level of representation. The population shift trends reveal the most significant inhabitant drain in the middle of the state. Actually, the majority minority seat in northern New Jersey, CD 10 in Newark, must gain about 100,000 new residents but will not be collapsed. It will be reconstructed for purposes of protecting the large African-American voting base.

Districts 8 (Rep. Bill Pascrell; Paterson, West Orange) and 9 (Rep. Steve Rothman; Hackensack, Ft. Lee) have to gain more than 70,000 people apiece, suggesting that it might be easiest to eliminate one of these two. Districts 5 (Rep. Scott Garrett; Paramus, part of Bergen County) and 6 (Rep. Frank Pallone; Plainfield, New Brunswick) each must gain more than 60,000, so these too could be candidates for removal. Rep. Rob Andrews’ 1st district (Camden) also must gain more than 60,000 people, but the geography and political characteristics affecting this seat point to preservation.

Mississippi: With a split state government and the Obama Justice Department holding map pre-clearance power over Mississippi, the Republicans will be very fortunate to protect their 3R-1D split in the Magnolia State congressional delegation. The Voting Rights Act-protected 2nd district (Rep. Bennie Thompson) needs to gain over 73,000 people, presenting the Democrats with a substantial stumbling block to fulfill their goal of creating two districts of their own. Their most likely target, Rep. Gregg Harper’s 3rd district (Jackson/Pearl; Starkville) has to shed 15,000 people, which makes it more difficult to make drastic changes.

Louisiana: Though the Republicans are now in total control of the Louisiana redistricting apparatus thanks to a party switch in the state Senate, their new status won’t force the Democrats to absorb the loss of a congressional seat. Largely because of post-Katrina population drain, Louisiana is one district down in reapportionment. The only Democratic position in the delegation, the New Orleans’ based 2nd district (Rep. Cedric Richmond), also is a VRA district and cannot be retrogressed. With the 2nd needing to gain an incredible 272,000 people and the 3rd district (Rep. Jeff Landry) directly to its south requiring an additional 118,000 inhabitants, it is very likely the 3rd will be eliminated and its people spread to neighboring districts.

Currently hosting a 6R-1D split in the congressional delegation, Louisiana will almost assuredly send five Republicans and one Democrat to Washington for the balance of the new decade.

Virginia: The Virginia map, which currently yields eight congressional Republicans and three Democrats, has significant areas of population loss and gain. Holding steady with eleven districts for the coming political decade, means that substantially re-shifting the seats’ population centers becomes a necessity. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is low, as both Reps. Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott must each gain significant population. The northern Virginia seat of Rep. Frank Wolf, CD 10, is over-populated to the tune of 142,000+ people. Thus, the overflow will have to be dispersed to other seats in the region, but the effect of such a population roll will change the complexion of the other seats, as well.

Since legislative elections will be conducted this year in Virginia, don’t expect the congressional map to be drawn until early 2012. With both parties striving to gain full control of the legislature, the power to re-construct the congressional map becomes a spoils for the victor in the 2011 election cycle. At the end of the process, Republicans will find themselves in very strong position if they are simply able to maintain the status quo 8R-3D split. Whether or not this occurs is yet to be decided.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.

Toss-ups

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.

Questions

Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
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Pence Making Moves

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN-6) is a man on the move. Deciding not to pursue the House leadership track upon the GOP assuming the majority (he was the Republican Conference Chairman but didn’t seek re-election or run for any other leadership post), Mr. Pence has been circumspect as to his next political move. While it’s pretty clear he won’t seek re-election to the House in 2012, he doesn’t quell speculation that he is a potential presidential contender or candidate for governor of Indiana. Pence is highly regarded by the national conservative/Tea Party movement, thus giving him a base from which to run for president. The Hoosier State’s incumbent chief executive, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), is ineligible to seek a third term, meaning an open seat campaign next year.

Pence isn’t saying much publicly about his plans, but his actions appear to reveal his eventual direction. He recently let it be known that he will be attending Republican Lincoln Day Dinners throughout Indiana in late January and all through February, suggesting his focus is statewide and not national. Furthermore, his gubernatorial prospects just became brighter. Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced she won’t run for governor in 2012, as did outgoing Senator and former Gov. Evan Bayh (D). Watch for a Pence for governor campaign to take shape soon.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

Though we are just at the beginning stage of the 2012 election cycle, action already is beginning to occur in certain Senate races. Below is a quick look at the situation in some of the first half of the in-cycle states. More will be covered in the near future.

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (R) – Retirement rumors are swirling. Should Mr. Kyl decide not to seek a fourth term, look for a free-for-all in both parties. If he does run, the state becoming more politically marginal suggests a competitive campaign battle.

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – The senator is safe if she runs again, but turning 79 before the next election, retirement considerations are a factor. The seat should remain in Democratic hands regardless of the situation, however.

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) – The senator is already discussing re-election plans, but his favorability ratings are among the lowest of any 2012-cycle incumbent. He will have strong Democratic opposition, possibly in the person of Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). It’s unclear what the Republicans will do. Defeated GOP nominee Linda McMahon is talking about running again. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) is also a potential GOP alternative.

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper (D) – Right now, the senator is in strong shape for re-election. Defeated GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell is not yet out of the public eye, so another Senatorial run for her is not out of the question. Carper becomes the prohibitive favorite if O’Donnell enters the race.

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (D) – Mr. Nelson begins the cycle in relatively strong shape, leading all potential opponents in early polling but only scoring mediocre approval ratings. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos has announced his intentions to run. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is a potential candidate. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has already dismissed a Senate candidacy.

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R) – Another octogenarian at the time of the next election, Sen. Lugar says he will seek re-election. A Tea Party challenge could be on the horizon, however. Democrats will take a wait and see approach here.

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R) – With Republican Sen. Brown facing the voters for a full term in 2012, it appeared earlier that he might be the most vulnerable of GOP incumbents. The early numbers suggest a different story, however. He leads all potential Democratic opponents by comfortable margins and enjoys high job approval ratings.

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) – Considering the strong Republican sweep here in 2010, Sen. Stabenow has to be rated in the vulnerable category. Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is mentioned as a possible challenger. This is a race to watch.

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker (R) – After winning the special election in 2008, Sen. Wicker will try for a full term in 2012. He should have no trouble in a state that is proving to be a national Republican stronghold.

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) – This is shaping up to be another close statewide contest in the Show Me State. Former Sen. Jim Talent is a potential Republican candidate. Ex-state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman has already announced her intention to run. A toss-up all the way.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) – Sen. Tester must defend the seat he won in a close contest over an incumbent back in 2006. At-large Rep. Denny Rehberg is a top Republican potential candidate. Former lieutenant governor candidate Steve Daines (R) has already announced his candidacy.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson (D) – With the senator’s favorability ratings among the lowest of those standing for re-election and trailing two statewide Republican office holders, Nebraska is the most endangered Democratic seat. Should Nelson not seek re-election, this becomes an easy Republican conversion.
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Preemptive Redistricting Moves

Next Tuesday, the Census Bureau will release the 2010 state population figures, and we will know then just how many congressional seats each state will possess for the next decade.

Even before we see the numbers, office holders are beginning to make contingency plans in case their state re-map places them in an adverse re-election position. One such man may be Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). The congressman was originally elected in 2006, unseating then-incumbent Rep. Chris Chocola (R), and won again easily two years later. This past November, however, produced a much different electoral result as Donnelly barely escaped defeat, beating Republican Jackie Walorski 48-47%, on a margin of just 2,538 votes.

With Republicans controlling the redistricting pen in 2011, Donnelly already is publicly speculating about his future options should the GOP place him in unfriendly political territory. He is letting party leaders know that he would seriously consider a race for governor — the seat will be open because Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is term-limited — if he deems his re-election prospects to be poor. Many believe that attempting to draw a 7R-2D Hoosier State map is a stretch, hence Donnelly’s rhetoric could be part of a strategic preemptive strike designed to keep his northern Indiana seat intact. This is a great example of the political “game within the game.” Expect many more plays of this type in the coming weeks.