Tag Archives: Mississippi

State Redistricting Maps Released: AZ, MS, NJ

Note: This is our last Political Update through the Christmas holidays. We will be back with an Iowa perspective for the January 3rd vote on Friday, December 30th. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration.

The legal processes in three states produced congressional maps in the past two days, and all may become final by Dec. 31. In Connecticut, the joint legislative panel appointed to draw the congressional map has again failed, reaching the second extended deadline without defining district boundaries. Connecticut redistricting now transfers to the state Supreme Court, which will take responsibility for drawing a new 5-district map.

Arizona
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission released a new map that will likely be adopted before Jan. 1. Accompanying political data is not yet available, but the geographic dispersion as it relates to the current districts has been made public. The draw is similar but not identical to the draft map released earlier in the year that ignited the controversy leading to Commission chair Colleen Mathis’ impeachment. When the state Supreme Court reinstated Ms. Mathis, the redistricting work continued.

The basic construct of the Arizona map is much different from the current plan. The numbers all rotate, and it looks like several marginal seats will feature competitive political campaigns for a number of ensuing elections.

Freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) appears to take the biggest hit, as the new rural 1st District includes 23 percent new territory from Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8). The 1st was a marginal district under the current map, meaning this new AZ-1 will likely swing toward the Ds.

The new 2nd District is Rep. Giffords’ former 8th CD. It is probable that this district was made a bit more Democratic after the draft version, which originally conceived it as a 50/50 seat. The southwestern Arizona 3rd District is that of Rep. Grijalva, converted from District 7. This seat will remain safely Democratic. The 4th District is the new seat the state receives from reapportionment. The new 4th is comprised of parts from six current districts, but primarily from the Republican districts of Reps. Gosar (AZ-1; 33.7 percent), Trent Franks (AZ-2; 33.0 percent), Jeff Flake (AZ-6; 20.6 percent) and the Democratic seat of Grijalva (AZ-7; 12.5 percent). This seat has no incumbent and the eventual Republican nominee will claim the district. It is conceivable that Rep. Gosar could run in this Phoenix metropolitan area-based CD instead of his more rural and politically marginal 1st District.

The new 5th District is completely composed of Rep. Flake’s current 6th CD. The 6th was over-populated by 261,509 people, the third-highest number of any congressional district in the country, so the old 6th fully contains 100 percent of the new 5th. It is likely that this open seat (Rep. Flake is running for Senate) will remain as a Republican district. The new 6th is largely the seat of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3), and should remain a district that favors him. The new 7th is the inner city Phoenix seat that matches-up best with Rep. Ed Pastor’s current 4th District. The territory remains Democratic.

The new 8th District is largely the former 2nd District of Rep. Trent Franks and will remain Republican. The new 9th District is a hodgepodge of four districts, 61 percent of which comes from the current CD-5 of freshman Rep. David Schweikert (R). Another 17.3 percent is extracted from Rep. Quayle’s current 3rd District, and 16.2 percent is in Rep. Flake’s seat. The remaining 6 percent of the new territory is from Rep. Pastor’s 4th CD. It is likely that Mr. Schweikert will run here.

We will have better information when the political statistics become available.

New Jersey
The official New Jersey congressional map could be approved as early as today. It is already clear, however, that Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) will be paired in a northern NJ seat. Both Democrats and Republicans have submitted maps featuring this configuration. The Republican map gives the edge to Garrett; likewise, the Democratic plan favors Rothman. The commission can accept either map as drawn or construct something different. The fact that both sides have agreed upon the pairing makes it a virtual certainty that such will be the final outcome.

Mississippi
Despite the new legislature being sworn into office prior to the January candidate filing deadline, the three-judge federal panel with Mississippi redistricting jurisdiction stepped in and drew a new map. It is a least-change map, almost identically reflecting the current configuration. The 2nd District (Rep. Bennie Thompson-D) was the most out of balance, needing to gain more than 75,000 people from the other districts. The remaining three are all over-populated by varying degrees.

It remains to be seen if the legislature takes action when they convene soon after next year begins.

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.

Election Night 2011: Something for Everyone

Both parties scored major victories last night in the odd-year election results. Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear scored, as predicted, an easy 56-35 percent win over state Senate Pres. David Williams to secure a second term in office. Democrats, except for the Office of Agriculture Commissioner, swept the statewide races. There were no state legislative elections held.

In Mississippi, the reverse occurred, except in a bigger way, as the Republicans may have captured both houses of the legislature in addition to holding the open governor’s seat. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R), also as expected, romped to a 61-39 percent win over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). Except for the attorney general’s office, the Republicans swept all of the statewide posts.

However, it was the legislative elections where change occurred. Republicans reversed the Democrats’ 27-25 majority in the state Senate as they have secured or are discernibly ahead in 29 districts to the Democrats’ 22, with one seat still being too close to call. But the bigger turnaround came in the state House, where the Dems have apparently lost their 74-48 margin. Republicans appeared to have claimed or were leading in 59 races as compared to the Democrats 57, with six races still too close to call. If the GOP splits the six undeclared campaigns, they will assume the state House majority. Controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion will mean the 3R-1D split in the congressional delegation will likely hold in the new redistricting map.

It appears the Republicans may have also gained a majority in the Virginia state Senate. Right now, it appears the body has fallen into a 20-20 tie, which is a gain of two seats for the GOP on the Democrats’ own Senate redistricting map. The final seat, District 17 in Fredericksburg, is extremely close. The Republican challenger and Democratic incumbent are separated by only 86 votes, meaning a series of recounts. The state Senate majority will literally hang on these few ballots. The GOP assumes the majority in an even chamber because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) will cast the tie-breaking vote. In the House of Delegates, the GOP increased their majority by eight seats, and now have a huge 67R-32D-1I advantage. Taking the state Senate would be big for congressional Republicans, too, since the federal redistricting map is not yet completed. If the tenuous majority holds, it is likely the current 8R-3D congressional delegation split will carry over onto the new map.

The Virginia legislative elections illustrates the importance of redistricting. The Republicans drew the state House map, and the Democrats authored the Senate plan. The GOP was able to win two-thirds of the seats in their chamber, while the Democrats came away with a split, even though the elections were all held on the same day among the same voters.

In Ohio, the labor union-backed referendum to undo Gov. John Kasich’s (R) public employee benefit reduction law was easily struck down by a 61-39 percent margin as polling had predicted. This is an obvious victory for Big Labor and the Ohio Democrats.

Turning to the west and the one special congressional election in the country, the 1st District of Oregon’s special primary election also went as polling predicted. State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici captured 66 percent in the Democratic primary to easily claim her party’s nomination. On the Republican side, 2010 congressional nominee Rob Cornilles racked up 73 percent to secure a position in the special general. The deciding vote will be held on Jan. 31. The winner serves the remaining portion of resigned Rep. David Wu’s (D) final term in office, and will be on the regular general election ballot in November to try for a full term. As the new Democratic nominee, Bonamici is rated as a heavy favorite to retain the seat for the national Dems.

Election Day Outlook

Voters in many states go to the polls tomorrow to fill municipal offices and, in a pair of instances, statewide positions and legislatures. Kentucky and Mississippi will elect governors. Virginia’s Senate elections will have a major effect upon that state’s congressional redistricting plan, scheduled to be drawn in the new legislative session beginning in January.

In the Blue Grass State, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed for a landslide re-election, as polls show him consistently above 50 percent and more than 20 points in front of state Senate President David Williams. The Democrats are in position to capture all statewide offices there.

To the south, the Republicans are likely to sweep the political board in Mississippi, with the exception of the race for attorney general, as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is poised to win a big victory against Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D).

In the Virginia Senate, Democrats hold a 22-18 majority. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is only at the mid-point of his single term in office, therefore he is not on the ballot tomorrow. The 100-member state House of Delegates will remain safely in GOP hands. The state Senate redistricting plan is what the Democratic leadership wanted, but it still appears the GOP has a chance to reclaim the majority. Since the Republicans control the lieutenant governor’s office, losing just two net seats will cost the Democrats their power position and give the GOP full control of the state government. Under the Commonwealth’s constitution, the lieutenant governor, in this case Republican Bill Bolling, would cast any tie-breaking vote. Several seats are in play making such a scenario a strong possibility.

Ohio voters will have a chance to affirm Gov. John Kasich’s (R) legislative initiative to curtail public employee collective bargaining rights and a significant reduction in benefits. Polls indicate the pro-referendum group has the advantage going into the election.

Turning to the west, one U.S. House congressional vacancy will take a step toward fulfillment tomorrow in Oregon as each party will choose nominees to replace resigned Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1). On the Democratic side, late polling gives state Sen. Susan Bonamici a wide lead over state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt. Rob Cornilles, the 2010 GOP candidate who lost to Wu 42-55 percent, is the prohibitive favorite for the Republicans. The special general election will be held Jan. 31, with tomorrow’s Democratic winner assuming the favorite’s track to win the seat.

Tomorrow will bring us some answers and allow us to ask new questions, one of which will undoubtedly pertain to what effect, if any, the votes cast tomorrow will have on the 2012 election. It is already clear that parallels will be drawn.

Assessing the Nation’s Governors Contests

Often times the trends set in the nation’s governors contests become a precursor to the national presidential elections. This year, four states are choosing chief executives and, if anything, the patterns associated with these races suggest a return to more normal voting behavior. In Louisiana, now becoming a staunch Republican state, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is seeking a second term. To date, and candidate filing closes today, he does not even have a major opponent. Jindal is virtually assured a second term.

Next door in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who easily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed two-term Gov. Haley Barbour (R), appears headed for a landslide victory in November over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). If successful, Bryant will deliver the fifth consecutive Mississippi gubernatorial election for his party. Kentucky, one of the most loyal of Republican states in the presidential election but a place that almost always elects a Democratic governor, is again falling into a familiar voting pattern. While President Obama trails the top GOP candidates here according to the latest polls, incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed toward an easy re-election this November.

West Virginia, however, is bucking the landslide trend. In a special election to be decided Oct. 4 because Joe Manchin left the governorship to succeed the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate, interim Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) suddenly finds himself in a tight contest against GOP businessman Bill Maloney. The latest Public Policy Polling survey (Sept. 1-4; 708 likely West Virginia voters) gives the Democrat only a 46-40 percent lead, down from his previous double-digit leads. But closer races are becoming a more usual voting pattern for West Virginia, as the state continues to trend more Republican. Expect the campaign to tighten even more as Election Day approaches.

Can these normal gubernatorial elections suggest a return to a more predictable vote in next year’s presidential contest? Quite possibly. If so, expect a much closer result than we witnessed in 2008.
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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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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.