Tag Archives: New Hampshire

Presidential Paths to Victory

Today we turn our attention to the national election between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney in order to determine each candidate’s path to victory as the political map begins to evolve and change.

It is evident that are there are approximately a dozen battleground states upon which the candidates are focusing. The competitive states considered to be in this swing category include, alphabetically: Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

Last year Obama advisers mapped out five different routes that would secure the minimum 270 Electoral College votes the president needs for re-election. Each path included Obama retaining some, but not all, of the swing states that he won in 2008. As we have seen through nationwide polling data, Team Obama’s strategic tenet in spreading the map as wide as possible is having some effect. Conversely, the Romney brain trust indicates that any realistic course to capturing their identified 270 votes requires them to win back historically Republican states that Obama carried four years ago, such as North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia.

Each candidate understands the importance of winning the quintessential large swing states of Florida (29 Electoral Votes) and Ohio (18). In 2008, Obama claimed these places and is now spending heavily in hopes of retaining both. Romney advisers see Florida as their candidate’s most important swing state because there is no realistic way to score a national victory without its inclusion. Simply put, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are too many to replace.

Currently, several polls reveal Obama as having the edge in Ohio but a recent Gravis Marketing poll of 728 likely voters shows Romney opening up a three-point lead in Florida.

In the past few days two Great Lakes states, Michigan and Wisconsin, are showing signs of teetering toward Romney. Recent polls in both places have returned conflicting results and each candidate can point to data showing him to be in the lead. But even a split decision in August is a positive trend for the challenger.

Michigan, a traditionally Democratic state but one that turned hard for Republicans two years ago, is a place where Romney will heavily contest. A fundamental reason for the strategic decision to do so is his Wolverine State family ties. It is here where the Republican nominee grew up and the electorate twice voted for his father as governor. The Obama senior strategists scoff at the idea that Romney can win Michigan, citing his opposition to the auto bailout and recalling that Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, publicly abandoned the state some six weeks before the election.

Wisconsin, home of vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, has been trending toward the Republicans in similar patterns to Michigan, cemented by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory earlier this year. With former governor Tommy Thompson running strong in the open Senate race, the Badger State is certainly in play for a close Romney victory.

Early in the cycle we, as most other analysts, suggested that after counting Indiana returning to the Republican camp, Romney would have to carry Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, and then one more 2008 Obama state to win the presidency. While such a formula remains valid, the president’s continued performance in Ohio and Virginia suggests that Romney will not likely sweep the four core states. But, numbers coming from the aforementioned Michigan and Wisconsin, and Midwestern and western states such as Iowa, Colorado and possibly Nevada, demonstrates other Republican victory paths are now possible.

Here are the scenarios:

• If the president carries Virginia, a Wisconsin-Iowa combination is the easiest way for Romney to neutralize this Obama core state victory. The Republican would still need one more state, such as New Hampshire, where Obama consistently leads, or Nevada or Colorado to claim national victory. New Mexico, normally a swing state, appears to be currently off the table as the President continues to score double-digit polling leads.

• If Obama wins Ohio, then Romney would be forced to win Wisconsin and Colorado. Under this scenario, Michigan comes into play. Unless Romney carries New Hampshire, Nevada, or Iowa, then the Wolverine State becomes his last neutralization option.

• Should the President carry both Ohio and Virginia, then Romney could still win by taking Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado or Nevada. All scenarios assume that Romney re-unites Nebraska by winning that state’s 2nd Congressional District and thus providing one more vote to his electoral column.

The overall state chart still favors the president, but the campaign’s recent fluidity suggests several new victory options are now attainable for the challenger.

Questioning the Reliability of Univ. of New Hampshire Polls

Over the years, the University of New Hampshire has released some polls that were later proven unreliable, and it appears they are at it again. The college just released the results of their latest study that shows both of the state’s Republican congressmen trailing their Democratic opponents, but the polling methodology is flawed in at least three different ways.

The results show 1st District freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R) trailing former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D), the woman he unseated in 2010. According to the UNH data, Shea-Porter leads the first-term incumbent 44-39 percent. In the more Democratic 2nd District, Rep. Charlie Bass (R) trails 2010 opponent Annie Kuster (D) 39-40 percent.

The first methodological error concerns the length of the sampling period, which stretches from April 9-20. Here, UNH uses a 12-day information gathering period when three is usually considered optimum. The longer sampling time frame has proven to skew results.

Second, the respondent universe of 538 “adults” does not appear to even screen for registered voters. Going beyond the normal voting pool always provides different numbers than one would see from those who are qualified and intend to actually participate in the election.

Third, the number of respondents for each congressional district are low (230 adults in District 1, 251 adults in District 2), thus further deteriorating the reliability factor.

Considering all of the methodology flaws, the current UNH poll should be discounted, though the conclusion that both of the state’s House races will be close and very competitive can certainly be accepted.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Little in the way of redistricting action occurred during the past week. We see updates in only three states: Florida, New Hampshire and Ohio.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) referred, as is her duty, the new state Senate map to the Florida Supreme Court for its approval. The court struck down the original plan, so this new version is designed to address the legal problems as defined in the previous ruling. The eventual high court action regarding the state Senate map could, in some ways, be a precursor to what happens when the congressional map makes its way to the state Supreme Court from the district courts. Under Florida redistricting law, the state legislative maps automatically are referred to the state Supreme Court for legal review prior to being sent to the US Department of Justice for pre-clearance, but the congressional map must follow the normal course of legal complaint. Litigation is underway on the new 27-district Florida congressional map in response to a citizens lawsuit. A Leon County District court is hearing the case. We can undoubtedly expect an appeal to the higher courts irrespective of what is contained in the eventual Leon County ruling. The Florida primary is scheduled for Aug. 14. A final decision relating to the congressional map will likely occur just prior to the state’s June 8 candidate filing deadline.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – Little occurred this week in reference to passing the state’s two-district congressional map (the measure still awaits a vote before the state House), but New Hampshire officials did announce that the state is again applying for a “bail out” from the Voting Rights Act. In a quirk of the Voting Rights Act formula that requires states to be placed under its jurisdiction if voter turnout falls below certain levels, New Hampshire, despite having only a 6.1 percent minority population, is a Voting Rights-covered state because several of its localities fell under the turnout formula trigger during a particular election. New Hampshire has asked for the “bail out” – the legal process that allows states to escape VRA jurisdiction if they can show no voting rights transgressions for a 10-year period – before, but failed to see it granted.

OHIO (current delegation 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Organizers attempting to qualify a ballot referendum to institute a new 12-member citizens redistricting commission in order to divert the power away from state legislators, have obtained Ohio Ballot Board legal status and now can begin collecting petition signatures. To be placed on the November 2012 ballot, a measure must obtain just over 386,000 valid signatures from Ohio registered voters by July 4. Upon qualifying and receiving majority voter approval, the new Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission would assume control over the political re-drawing process in 2021.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Because most states have completed their redistricting laws and only two have major litigation currently occurring, the redistricting cycle is winding down. Only three states saw redistricting related action this week: Kansas, Maryland, and New Hampshire.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – There is now a strong probability that the Republican-controlled legislature will not be able to produce a four-district congressional map. Major differences between moderate and conservative Republicans have broken down the process. The legislature now has recessed until the end of the month, and they still have not sent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) any version of a congressional map. A de novo court map is a realistic final solution.

MARYLAND (current delegation: 6D-2R) – In an 11th-hour move that won’t affect the 2012 elections, a group of Maryland Republicans have announced they are going to attempt to qualify a ballot referendum to nullify the congressional district plan. The group needs over 56,000 valid signatures by June 30 to qualify the measure for the November ballot. Even if they can secure the signatures, the effort appears doomed to defeat either at the hands of the voters or the legislature redrawing a map that the plaintiffs will likely find just as objectionable.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The state Senate passed a two-district congressional plan that appears to be a compromise between GOP Reps. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) and Charlie Bass (R-NH-2). Since both represent marginal districts, each wanted to increase their share of Republican voters, obviously a difficult task in a two-district state.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that almost all of the 43 multi-congressional district maps are legally in place, little is occurring on the redistricting front, meaning that the election year 2012 political playing field has basically been established. This notwithstanding, some action did occur in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate committee of jurisdiction passed a new state Senate map to replace the one the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down. Full Senate action is expected shortly. Expect the legal challenge to the congressional map to drag on until election timing forces a decision, a similar pattern to what has occurred in many other places. Regardless of how the lower courts rule, the congressional plan will eventually come before the Florida Supreme Court. The most difficult issue to resolve is whether the congressional map complies with the voter-enacted redistricting initiative and the measure’s inherent conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – Looks like it’s back to the drawing board yet again. The state House, which previously approved the congressional map, now has voted it down, sending it back to committee for re-drawing. The state Senate and House are still miles apart on a four-district map, meaning the process could still find its way to court for a judicial draw. Kansas will likely be the last state to complete redistricting. The Sunflower State primary is Aug. 7.

LOUISIANA (current delegation: 6R-1D; loses one seat) – The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Louisiana may not proceed with its reapportionment lawsuit this year. The state was arguing that the reapportionment formula should only be allowed to count legal residents. Louisiana lost one seat in 2010 reapportionment. The high court’s ruling means any eventual ruling on the merits of the state’s case will not affect the 2012 elections.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The Granite State, with the easiest redistricting job in the country (the current lines are only 254 people out of balance) will soon pass a new congressional map, as its state legislative leaders indicated this past week. The final version will be a “least change” plan, since so little is required to bring the lines into reapportionment compliance. The approach is bad news for Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), whose western district is much more Democratic than its eastern counterpart. Bass is again being challenged by the woman he beat only 48-47 percent in 2010 – Ann McLane Kuster (D).

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – After losing their legal challenge to the new South Carolina congressional map last week, the Democratic plaintiffs have decided to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. So far, the high court has postponed action on such lawsuits (e.g., the SCOTUS decision regarding the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuits), thus keeping the legally processed maps intact for the current election cycle. It is reasonable to believe this appeal will be handled in a similar manner, and that the Palmetto State map will stand for at least the 2012 election.