Tag Archives: Nebraska

Ben Nelson’s “Independent” Ad

A year away from the 2012 election, embattled Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) already has embarked on a rather interesting strategic course. If the logic behind his new television ad ultimately prevails, a new chapter in campaign finance law could be opening. If the Republicans directly counter-attack, Nelson may have prematurely opened a door that he would have preferred kept closed.

The Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee is paying for an ad that attacks all three of Nelson’s Republican opponents, graphically portraying them as three peas in a pod. The Senator’s campaign claims that this ad is part of an independent issue expenditure and should not count against the coordinated expenditure limit between party and candidate. What’s different about this “independent” ad – one that cannot be coordinated with a campaign – is that the senator himself appears in the spot and says he approves of its message. If this is considered “independent,” then we could have a whole new approach to all other independent expenditure campaigns.

In the body of the ad, Nelson and his party claim the Republican candidates want to cut Medicare and Social Security and that he (Nelson) will protect them both. Yet, when the senator became the deciding vote on the Obama healthcare plan that led to the infamous “Cornhusker Kick-back” attack, now the source of Nelson’s current political trouble, he himself supported a $500 million cut in Medicare by voting for the bill. The counter-argument to this point seems an easy one for the GOP candidates to make.

The new party ad, independent or not, may prove to cause Sen. Nelson more trouble than it might be worth. His taking such bold action at this time clearly confirms the public polls that show him trailing his Republican opponents.

Herman Cain: “Flavor of the Month” or “The Real Thing?”

For almost three years, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the darling of many GOP conservatives. Her missteps and her on, and finally off, flirtation with a presidential run helped create a surge of conservative support for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entrance into the GOP fray nearly coincided with a steep decline in Bachmann’s support. Now, in the wake of his recent poor debate performance Perry has seen his drop in the polls equal the rate of his quick ascendancy to top tier status.

In recent days Perry’s precipitous slide, coupled with former pizza magnate and radio talk show host Herman Cain’s surge are the talk of GOP conservatives.

Cain has topped a bevy of recent straw polls, which, for Republicans, tend to be tests of conservative activists. Cain’s straw poll upset in the early battleground state of Florida surprised the Perry camp and many GOP regulars. His fundraising has apparently picked up substantially and his opinion survey numbers are climbing, too. A recent CBS News survey had the Atlanta businessman in a statistical tie for the lead with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Is the new Republican frontrunner Herman Cain? He may be at least for this week. Public Policy Polling (PPP) polled Republican primary voters in three very different states last weekend: North Carolina, Nebraska and West Virginia. Each of the three surveys showed Cain leading the way. The polls also showed support for Newt Gingrich increasing, Mitt Romney support holding steady, and a collapse in Rick Perry’s numbers.

Here are the results:

North Carolina: Cain – 27 percent, Romney – 17, Gingrich – 17, Perry – 15, Paul – 6, Bachmann – 6, Santorum – 2 and Huntsman – 2.

Nebraska: Cain – 30 percent, Gingrich – 16, Romney – 13, Bachmann – 10, Perry – 10, Paul – – 5, Santorum – 4, Huntsman – 2

West Virginia: Cain – 24 percent, Gingrich – 18, Romney – 16, Perry – 15, Bachmann – 8, Paul – 6, Santorum – 3, Huntsman – 1

PPP surveyed 400 regular Republican primary voters in Nebraska and 300 primary voters in West Virginia from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, as well as 400 primary voters in North Carolina from Sept. 30-Oct. 3. The margin of error for the Nebraska and North Carolina surveys was +/-4.9 percent, and +/-5.7 percent for the West Virginia survey. These polls were not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

Cain told the Associated Press on Wednesday, “I am not worried about being the flavor of the week, because we have a whole lot of substance we are putting out there, and Cain supporters do not defect.”

His 9-9-9 tax plan is clearly the central theme of his campaign thus far and seems to be earning him supporters. At the heart of his plan is a promise to scrap the current tax code and replace it with a 9 percent tax on corporations and personal income as well as a 9 percent national sales tax. The sheer simplicity of the change, Cain argues, would boost the economy.

Herman Cain isn’t concerned about being the “Flavor of the Month,” but voters will decide if he’s “The Real Thing.”

Wisconsin Rep. Baldwin Announces Senate Bid

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

As expected, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) formally announced her bid for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat yesterday. The congresswoman has been preparing a statewide bid for months, but only kicked her fledging operation into high gear when former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) decided not to become a candidate. Vacating the safely Democratic 2nd district means that 41 seats are now open due to an incumbent announcing he or she will not seek re-election, or because reapportionment or redistricting creates an incumbent-less district.

The Wisconsin campaign has been slow-moving. Incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl (D) announced back on May 13 that he would not seek a fourth term next year, yet official candidate announcements began only last week. Rep. Baldwin now becomes the third person to enter the field of contenders. On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald both say they are in the race. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is expected to soon join the Republican contestants. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and ex-Congressman Steve Kagen (D-WI-8) are potential Democratic nomination opponents to Ms. Baldwin.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the closest statewide political contests in the nation next year. The outcome could well decide the Senate majority, as projections suggest that both parties will likely be at parity after the next election. Currently, the Democrats hold a 53-47 spread. Republicans are already likely to gain two seats – North Dakota open and Nebraska – thus bringing the party division to 51D-49R. Missouri (Sen. Claire McCaskill), Virginia (open – Sen. Jim Webb retiring), and Montana (Sen. Jon Tester) are all toss-up Democratic seats in addition to Wisconsin. All other races remaining constant, the Republicans would have to win two of the latter four to take the majority; Democrats would have to hold three of four to retain power.
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Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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Florida Looking Shaky for Obama

Quinnipiac University just completed one of their large-sample polls for Florida (March 29 – April 4; 1,499 registered Florida voters) and it shows that even an unnamed Republican candidate could beat the president here if the election were today. As we know, since the turn of the 21st century, Florida has become the quintessential swing state. Candidates from either party can win and the elections are always close.

Though the 2008 national presidential election result of 365-173 electoral votes in favor of Barack Obama was a landslide by any analysis, by factoring the new reapportionment into the Electoral College calculations, we see that it will now take a swing of just six states to change the outcome of the 2012 contest. Florida, naturally with its inflated 29 electoral votes, is one of the six. The others are, in order of importance from a Republican challenger perspective, Indiana (11 votes), North Carolina (15 votes), Virginia (13 votes), Ohio (18 votes), and any other state the president previously carried.

This model also assumes that the one electoral vote Pres. Obama won in Nebraska returns to the Republican column. The Cornhusker State is one of two places, Maine being the other, that allows a split in their electoral vote distribution. Obama won the 2nd congressional district in 2008, meaning one vote in the Electoral College. There is a move in Nebraska to change their system to winner-take-all, like 48 other states, and with redistricting added to the mix, NE-2 is likely to become more Republican. Either way, it should be considered a virtual given that Nebraska will unify its vote in 2012, and most probably in the Republican candidate’s favor.

According to this latest Q-Poll, Pres. Obama is upside down on his job approval ratings in Florida. By a margin of 44-52 percent, respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as the nation’s chief executive. While the surveyed Democrats and Republicans answered as one would expect, the president scores poorly among Florida Independents. The subset only scored him 39:55 percent positive to negative on the job performance scale. The president also has quite a gender gap. Men disapprove of his job performance by a full 20 points, 38:58 percent, while women actually approve of his work, 49:46 percent.

The re-elect questions are likely more disconcerting to the Obama camp than the aforementioned data. Asked whether the individuals comprising the polling sample would vote for the president in the next election or whomever the Republicans eventually choose as their nominee, the respondents preferred the unknown GOP candidate by a margin of 41-38 percent. In response to the question of whether or not the polling universe felt Mr. Obama deserves re-election, by a margin of 42-51 percent, those questioned believe he does not.

The Q-Poll study does not reveal uniformly positive Republican results, however. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, also facing voters in 2012, scores a respectable 47:26 percent job approval rating. Newly elected Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has an almost identical 47:23 percent rating. Nelson versus an unnamed Republican Senatorial candidate gets a 43-39 percent favorable nod. His “deserves re-election” score is 43-35 percent.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who won a razor-thin 49-48 percent victory last November, is not popular after three months in office. By a margin of 34-48 percent, the sampled individuals disapprove of his job performance.

Maybe the most surprising finding is the acceptance of increased off-shore oil drilling, which is a change from historical polls. By a strong 60-35 percent majority, the respondents favor expanding the level of off-shore drilling on Florida’s coast. This is led by an 82 percent favorable response from the Republicans polled and 58 percent of Independents. Conversely, the entire sampling universe’s support for building new nuclear power plants is only a tepid 48-47 percent.

Expect Florida to be another hotbed of political activity during the 2012 election cycle.
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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.