Tag Archives: Indiana

The Senate Scorecard

With most of the primary season now behind us and all of the Senate match-ups in place, sans Arizona and Wyoming, it’s time to examine the national outlook.

After seeing several competitive primaries decided in the past several weeks, we now sit on the cusp of the final short sprint to Election Day with Senate control still considered to be in “toss-up” mode. As we know, 33 Senate races are standing for election in November with 11 of those seats being open due to retirement and defeat, thus giving more conversion opportunities for each side. Of the 33 Senate races, a little under half of them are considered safe for the respective incumbent and, according to our count, six of the races are rated as toss-ups (Ind., Mass., Mo., Mont., Va., and Wis.).

If the Democrats were to win all of the “lean Dem” and toss-up races, and Independent former governor Angus King clinches the Maine race and decides to caucus with them, the Senate Democrats would actually add a net of three seats to their conference, bringing the total majority number to 56. Early in the election cycle it looked extremely unlikely that the Democrats would pick up any seats, however, as this year has unfolded, more Republican-held seats have come into play and some of the Democratic seats initially thought to be potentially vulnerable like Connecticut, Washington, and Pennsylvania are all trending more solidly leftward. Democrats also are in much better shape in North Dakota, as former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp continues to perform well against at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), who began the race as a big favorite.

Conversely, if Republicans sweep the toss-ups and “lean R” races they would have a net gain of eight seats, bringing their total to 55 seats, even if King wins and caucuses with the Democrats. Thus, 56D to 55R appear to be the extreme swing parameters for the two parties.

While most political pundits still can’t say with any certainty who is going to control the Senate come January, it is becoming obvious that the ratio will be close. Neither party has so far broken out with the kind of drive to create a sweep, and several other campaigns have unfolded differently than originally predicted. It seems when one party makes a gain or falls behind, the other experiences a similar action, thus keeping the balance between the two in check.

For example, the political climate has become better for Republican candidates in Nebraska and Florida, while Democrats are approaching lock-down positions in Connecticut and Washington.

In the Cornhusker State we see that former senator Bob Kerrey’s return to politics after a 12-year absence while living in New York City has not been well received. GOP nominee Deb Fischer consistently holds polling leads that exceed the 18-20 point range. The best poll, from a Nebraska Democratic perspective, is the June Garin Hart Yang survey that put Kerrey within 12 points of his Republican opponent.

Turning to the Sunshine State, two-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who has a substantial campaign resource advantage over his new official Republican opponent, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his solid primary victory earlier in the week, has failed to establish a firm lead. Polling consistently shows this race moving much closer to toss-up status, and while Sen. Nelson maintains a slight advantage, his edge is minimal and this campaign is quickly becoming as hot as a typical Florida summer.

In Connecticut earlier this week, GOP primary voters, by an overwhelming 73-27 percent margin, again fielded their losing 2010 candidate, former wrestling company executive Linda McMahon, this time to compete against newly nominated Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). The two are vying for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s open seat. In recent polling, Murphy has opened up a strong lead when paired against McMahon. Former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) consistently polled better in general election match-ups with Murphy, but he fared poorly in his nomination battle. With President Obama sure to run well in Connecticut and thus setting the tone for the entire Nutmeg State Democratic ticket, Rep. Murphy has established himself as the clear front-runner. Seeing him fall would now be considered a major upset.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, who serves the Evergreen State of Washington, has historically not been the most popular of incumbents. Her re-election prospects have improved considerably, however, since drawing a second-tier opponent in the person of state Sen. Michael Baumgartner. The senator placed almost 26 percentage points ahead of Baumgartner in the jungle primary earlier this month. While Washington originally had the potential of becoming a competitive race, Sen. Cantwell has considerably strengthened her position and this contest is virtually out of reach for the GOP.

As Election Day draws nearer, we continue to see a Senate that is still very much in play for both parties. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe, likely, or lean winners in 18 states, while Republicans have that same status in nine. This means the Democrats are hovering around the 48 mark and the GOP is closer to 46. Of the six toss-ups, Democrats currently hold four states and Republicans two. Remember, Democrats must defend 23 of the in-cycle seats versus just 10 for their counterparts.

House Realignment Scorecard

The conventional wisdom during the past 18 months was that Democrats were going to make modest gains in the post-redistricting House, but such prognostications are changing. Considering the re-maps from a national perspective without regard to campaign competition factors, the Republicans are the ones who now appear to have the slight advantage.

The outlook is changing because none of the major Republican seat-risk situations appear to be producing multiple losses. Neither the New York, Florida, California, Virginia, nor Texas map is, on the surface, going to add large numbers of new Democratic House members solely because of plan configuration.

Since we now know where the new seats are going and where the lost districts are coming from, more complete analyses can be rendered. While the straight numbers suggest that Democrats must score a net gain of 25 districts to re-capture the House majority by a single seat, the adjusted post-redistricting number actually increases that figure to 29.

The basis for such a conclusion is in accounting for the 12 seats that have shifted states along with several obvious conversion districts. Other factors are equally as viable in projecting an overall House partisan balance figure, but how competitive various seats are in states like California and New York can be debated in another column. For now, looking at the placement and displacement of the new seats, along with what appear to be some obvious open-seat campaigns going decidedly toward either a Democratic or Republican nominee, lead us to a +4 Republican gain figure.

Let’s first look at the multiple-seat gain or loss states, which tend to be a wash in terms of partisan divide. In Texas, the biggest gainer, the new seats of TX-25, 33, 34, and 36 are headed for a 2R-2D split. In Florida, their two new districts, FL-9 and FL-22, look to be leaning Democratic (certainly so for FL-22), but the campaign evolving in the new 9th puts the outcome in question. Republicans have recruited a strong candidate in local county commissioner John Quinones, while the Democrats are again tapping controversial one-term ex-Rep. Alan Grayson who was defeated for re-election in 2010.

On the multiple-seat reduction side, both Ohio and New York also appear to be neutralizing themselves between the parties. Both sides look to lose one net seat in each state.

But it is among the single-seat gaining and losing states where the GOP has scored well. The Republicans look to be coming out on top in gainers like Georgia (GA-9), South Carolina (SC-7), and Utah (UT-2). Democrats will have a slight edge in Arizona’s new district (AZ-9), and are likely winners in Nevada (NV-4), and Washington (WA-10).

In the states losing congressional representation, while New York and Ohio don’t give either party a clear advantage, Democrats are forced to absorb the loss in Massachusetts (MA-10), New Jersey (NJ-13), Michigan (MI-15), Pennsylvania (PA-4), and Missouri (MO-3). Republicans take the hit in Illinois (IL-19) and Louisiana (LA-7).

The GOP looks to be headed for conversion victories in Arkansas (AR-4, Rep. Mike Ross retiring), Oklahoma (OK-2, Rep. Dan Boren retiring), and likely in Indiana (IN-2, Rep. Joe Donnelly running for Senate). They will also gain three to four seats in North Carolina, but those are neutralized by what appear to be similar gains for Democrats in Illinois. All totaled, before the campaigns hit their stretch drive, it is the GOP that now enjoys a slight post-redistricting advantage and makes a 2012 House majority change even more remote.

Lugar Trounced in Indiana

The final weeks of the Indiana Senatorial campaign showed six-term Sen. Dick Lugar spiraling downward in his Republican primary battle with state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, and it ended last night with an emphatic 61-39 percent victory in the challenger’s favor. Turnout exceeded 665,000 voters, which is high. This is nowhere near the 1.2 million plus voters who participated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, but much more than the 412,000 who voted in the Republican presidential primary of that same year.

The general election will now feature Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) who was unopposed in last night’s Democratic primary. The Republican outcome now suggests a competitive race here in the fall, though Mourdock is a much stronger candidate than those conservative challengers who defeated 2010 Republican incumbents or nomination favorites in various states, and then proceeded to lose their respective general elections.

Though President Obama became the first Democrat to carry Indiana since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it does not appear the state will be a major target in 2012. In fact, Indiana isn’t even on the first list of states where the President’s campaign is buying television advertising time. That translates to less of a boost for Donnelly as we turn toward November.

The biggest Indiana surprise of the evening, however, was former Rep. David McIntosh (R), the favorite coming into Indiana’s open 5th District primary race, failing to win his party’s nomination. He lost a 30-29 percent decision to ex-US Attorney Susan Brooks. Ms. Brooks is also an Indianapolis former deputy mayor. She will be the heavy favorite to defeat state Rep. Scott Reske who won the Democratic nomination.

As expected, former state Rep. Luke Messer was an easy winner in the 6th District Republican open seat primary. He becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace Rep. Mike Pence in November. Pence, unopposed tonight, is now the state’s official GOP gubernatorial nominee. In Donnelly’s open 2nd District, as expected, Democratic businessman Brendan Mullen will face former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) in a competitive general election. Because of redistricting, Walorski has to be considered at least a slight favorite. All other Indiana incumbents won renomination last night.

Poll Shows Trouble in Indiana

Two ominous signals, both suggesting Sen. Dick Lugar’s impending defeat in today’s Indiana Republican primary, surfaced over the weekend.

First, the Democratic polling firm of Garin Hart Yang Research teamed up with Republican Bellwether Research on behalf of DePauw University to survey 700 likely Indiana Republican primary voters over the April 30-May 1 period. They detected a major swing toward GOP Senatorial challenger Richard Mourdock. According to the results, Mourdock leads Lugar by a huge 48-38 percent margin. Among people who said they had definitely made up their minds, Mourdock led 37-30 percent. The pollsters found Lugar to be saddled with a 43:43 percent positive to negative impression as compared to Mourdock’s 47:25 percent. Lugar releases no counter polling data of his own, itself a telling indication of where the race is headed.

Secondly, the senator made a weekend public statement encouraging all to vote in the open primary that illuminates desperation. “I’m just saying positively register your vote, because if you do not, I may not be able to continue serving you. At this point, help.”

The winner of today’s primary contest faces Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) in the general election in what now must be considered a competitive campaign irrespective of tonight’s outcome.

Our Indiana Primary Preview

Tuesday features two congressional primary elections: Indiana and North Carolina. Today, we preview the Indiana races; on Monday, North Carolina.

Governor: Incumbent Mitch Daniels (R) is term-limited, so an open-seat contest will occur in the fall. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN-6) and former state House Speaker John Gregg (D) will be the general election combatants, with Pence beginning the race as a heavy favorite.

Senate: We all know that six-term Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who ran unopposed just six years ago, is in the fight for his political life against fellow Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The race has been hard-fought, with each man and their outside group supporters running a spate of negative ads. The focal points have been Lugar straying too far from his conservative base, the fact that he does not have a residence in Indiana, and that he has lost touch with his Hoosier State roots. Lugar counters with criticism of the way Mourdock has managed both the taxpayers’ public funds and his office.

The key to determining a victor in this contest, as is most often the case, is turnout. Indiana has an open primary law, meaning any registered voter, regardless of previous primary voting history, may participate in the party primary of his or her choice. Therefore, with little in the way of contested campaigns in the Democratic primary, it is likely the preponderance of voters will choose to cast their ballot on the Republican side. This could affect the Senate race in two ways: first, Democrats and Independents supportive of Lugar can vote for him and potentially provide enough of a margin to overcome Mourdock’s strong support among conservatives; second, activist Democrats, believing that Mourdock would be the weaker candidate in the general election against consensus Dem candidate Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2), could vote for the challenger and potentially weaken the non-Republican support that Lugar might attract.

Tuesday will host a close race with several uncontrollable factors positioned to decide the final outcome. It’s too close to call.

  • IN-1: Rep. Peter Visclosky (D) is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
  • IN-2: This is an open seat, with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) running for Senate. The open seat battle will be hot and heavy in November, but Tuesday’s vote looks secure for Republican former state Rep. Jackie Walorski and Democratic businessman Brendan Mullen.
  • IN-3: Freshman Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) is unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary and will find out which of six Democrats will win the right to oppose him in November. This should be a relatively easy re-election run for Stutzman.
  • IN-4: Freshman Rep. Todd Rokita (R), Indiana’s former Secretary of State, gains 35 percent new territory but the Obama number is only 45 percent. He is safe in November.
  • IN-5: Rep. Dan Burton (R) is retiring, making this an open seat. With 30-year veteran Rep. Burton not seeking a 16th term, eight Republicans, including former congressman and 2000 gubernatorial nominee David McIntosh (R-IN-2), vie for the new 5th District. McIntosh is the clear favorite to win the nomination. Democratic state Rep. Scott Reske is favored for his party’s nomination.
  • IN-6: Rep. Mike Pence (R) is running for governor, making this an open seat. Seven Republicans and five Democrats are running for the right to succeed Pence, with Tuesday’s GOP nominee becoming the prohibitive favorite in a district that gave 55 percent of its votes to John McCain in 2008. Former state representative and Republican Party executive director Luke Messer is the leading candidate for the nomination.
  • IN-7: Three Democrats, seven Republicans, and two Independents are opposing Rep. Andre Carson (D), but that’s rather irrelevant. The congressman will win again in November.
  • IN-8: First-term southwestern district congressman, Rep. Larry Bucshon (R), faces a Republican primary opponent, Kristi Risk, who held Bucshon to only a 33-29 percent victory margin two years ago. But Bucshon is the favorite in a district that contains 88 percent of his previous constituency. Democrats will nominate former state representative and broadcaster Dave Crooks.
  • IN-9: Five Democrats, none of whom had even raised $100,000 prior to the two-week financial reporting deadline, are fighting for the right to take on yet another Indiana freshman congressman, southeastern district Rep. Todd Young (R). This shouldn’t be much of a contest in the fall, as Rep. Young is cruising toward a second term.