Tag Archives: New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie

Good News for Gov. Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

A new Rutgers-Eagleton New Jersey electorate poll (Nov. 14-17; 1,108 registered New Jersey voters) provides Gov. Chris Christie (R) with some very good news. According to the sampling universe, his job approval stands a 67 percent favorable to 26 percent unfavorable. But the better news for Christie is his standing against all potential Democratic rivals.

When paired with state senator and former Gov. Richard Codey, Christie’s margin is 56-31 percent. Against Newark Mayor Corey Booker, the governor stands at 53-34 percent. The numbers are even better when isolated with lesser-known potential Democratic rivals. Matched up against opposing former party chairman Tom Byrne, Christie soars to a 58-22 percent advantage. His gap grows to 60-22 percent when paired with state Sen. Barbara Buono and 60-21 percent when the opponent is Assemblyman Lou Greenwald. None of these individuals is an announced gubernatorial candidate.

Quinnipiac University is scheduled to release its latest New Jersey poll later today, but already leaked that their Christie job approval ratio is a whopping 72:21. It’s hard for a New Jersey Republican to begin an election year in better position. Gov. Christie is eligible to seek a second term next year.

House Developments

Three new members of the House were officially sworn in to complete partial terms, and a fourth will be in a matter of days. The quartet of special election winners are replacing members who resigned early or, in the case of New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Sr., passed away. All but one were also elected to a full term. The exception is Michigan Democrat Dave Curson who won the special election to serve the remainder of resigned Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s term but lost the regular election to Republican Kerry Bentivolio. The latter will join the freshman class in January. The new official members are Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) replacing Gov.-Elect Jay Inslee (D), and Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) succeeding resigned Rep. Geoff Davis (R). Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10), who will take over for his late father, will be sworn in later this week.

Turning to the outstanding House races, California Democrats Ami Bera (CA-7) and Scott Peters (CA-52) continue to expand their leads over Reps. Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray. It appears only a matter of time before both are declared victorious. Bera’s lead is now greater than 3,000 votes; Peters’ just under that number.

In Florida, Rep. Allen West (R-FL-18) has filed a lawsuit to have all of the St. Lucie County early ballots counted. Recounting the final three days of received early voting tallies resulted in both he and his Democratic opponent losing votes. West now trails by more than 1,700 votes, but that is a reduction from an original deficit that exceeded 2,300. Meanwhile his opponent, Democrat Patrick Murphy is in Washington, D.C., and attending freshman orientation. Further research into the double-counting of St. Lucie County ballots is appearing to cut against West’s original claims. The post-election saga here is likely to continue for some time but it appears the eventual final outcome will favor Murphy.

Senate Trends

Rep. Todd Akin

More is becoming known about the nation’s US Senate races, and trends are forming. With seven full weeks to go until Election Day, much can still change but at this point, both parties could be headed to the 50-seat mark. Ironically for Republicans, it could well be Todd Akin’s fate in Missouri, the candidate national GOP leaders attempted to replace because of his unintelligent comments, that will decide which party controls the body in the new Congress.

As we know, of the 33 in-cycle seats, Democrats are defending 23. Today, they appear safe in 10 of those: California (Feinstein), Delaware (Carper), Maryland (Cardin), Minnesota (Klobuchar), New Jersey (Menendez), New York (Gillibrand), Pennsylvania (Casey), Rhode Island (Whitehouse), Washington (Cantwell), and West Virginia (Manchin).

Two more are headed toward the Independent column, and those winners will either caucus or vote with the Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) runs as an Independent but joins the Democratic conference. Angus King, the Independent former governor, is strong favorite for Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) seat as the campaign turns into the home stretch. He is projected to caucus with the Democrats, but has yet to commit to do so. If the fate of the majority comes down to King, it is unclear what might happen.

Trending toward the Democrats appears to be the races in Hawaii (open seat – Rep. Mazie Hirono), Michigan (Stabenow), New Mexico (open seat – Rep. Martin Heinrich), and Ohio (Sherrod Brown).

Hawaii polls have been erratic, but the preponderance of polling data gives Rep. Mazie Hirono a clear lead. Same is true in Michigan for two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow and first-term incumbent Sherrod Brown. Though polling shows Rep. Martin Heinrich well ahead of former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), this is another race that could turn. Wilson’s strength with Independents in the state could make a difference if Democratic turnout is even slightly low.

Republicans are safe in fives seats: Mississippi (Wicker), Tennessee (Corker), Texas (Cruz), Utah (Hatch), and Wyoming (Barrasso).

Trending toward the GOP are the races in Indiana (open seat – Richard Mourdock), Massachusetts (Scott Brown), Nebraska (open seat – state Sen. Deb Fischer), Nevada (Heller), North Dakota (open seat – Rep. Rick Berg), and Wisconsin (open seat – former governor Tommy Thompson).

The Indiana race is tight – some polls show it about even – but Richard Mourdock has not made any mistakes in his battle with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). Hoosier State voting trends at the top of the ticket – Mitt Romney appears headed for victory over the President here and Rep. Mike Pence is a solid favorite in the governor’s race – should help pull Mourdock across the finish line.

Recent polling in Massachusetts and Nevada is giving senators Scott Brown and Dean Heller small, but consistent and discernible leads over Elizabeth Warren (D) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), respectively.

While the North Dakota seat has been tight for most of the campaign, more recent polling indicates that Rep. Rick Berg is opening up a lead well beyond the margin of error.

All post-primary polls in Wisconsin give former governor Tommy Thompson a lead over Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). All of these races could turn away from the Republicans before Election Day, but today, the GOP candidates look to be in the winning position.

Questions abound in the following campaigns:

• Arizona (open seat): Though Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is favored here, some polls are detecting a close race and Democratic nominee Richard Carmona is making this campaign a battle.

• Connecticut (open seat): A combination of factors have come together to make this race, at least in the short term, more competitive than expected. GOP nominee Linda McMahon being awarded the Independent Party ballot line, new polling showing the two candidates running close, and a personal financial situation involving Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) are all minor individual items that taken in the aggregate could become significant.

• Florida: Polling has been extremely inconsistent in the Sunshine State, but more surveys favor Sen. Ben Nelson than Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). The campaign is trending Nelson’s way now, but the presidential final wave will have a lot to say about its final outcome.

• Missouri: Right after the August primary, Rep. Todd Akin made rape-related abortion comments that stirred a national hornet’s nest. Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) jumped well into the lead, but the margin has since dissipated and the race is back in toss-up range. McCaskill is the most vulnerable of all Democratic incumbents standing for re-election, and Akin is the Republicans’ weakest national challenger. This one is far from over.

Montana: The political battle between first-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has been close for months. In the past eight weeks, the polling was detecting a slight Rehberg advantage. A new survey released last week, however, showed Tester regaining the lead. The presidential election will weigh heavily on this race, and Mitt Romney seems to be enjoying a healthy advantage in Big Sky Country. This race will likely go down to the wire.

• Virginia: Possibly the closest race in the country, the campaign between former senator George Allen (R) and ex-governor Tim Kaine (D) has been dead even for the better part of a year. As in Florida and Montana, the presidential race looms large in the Virginia Senate race. The result is too close to call.

To recap, if this analysis is correct, the Democrats are safe or ahead in 16 races, including the two Independent candidates, and Republicans are safe in 11. Under this model, the GOP would attain the majority 51 number if they win any three of the six questionable races isolated above.

The Senate: Post-Labor Day

Now that we have moved past the Labor Day weekend, the traditional general election cycle has officially begun. That being the case, what is the current status of our nation’s Senate races especially now that all 33 campaigns have official, or soon-to-be official, nominees?

According to our latest PRIsm Information Network count, the majority Democrats, who must defend 23 of the 33 in-cycle seats, are ahead in 18 races. Republicans, who need to gain four net seats in order to establish a new majority, lead in nine states. Six feature races that are too close to call. If the ratings prove correct, Democrats would control 48 seats and Republicans 46 with the six “toss-ups” coming from a trio apiece of Republican and Democratic states.

Starting with the toss-ups, even though the Missouri race between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) has been the topic of recent political conversation; the polling swing seems to be reverting back to the Republican, so the race must again be placed in the outcome unclear column. McCaskill is the weakest Democratic incumbent standing for re-election and Akin stumbled badly, as did the national Republican leaders who immediately pounced on him, but the polls are again showing an even race despite major controversy over his rape-related abortion comment.

The Virginia (open: Tim Kaine-D, vs. George Allen-R), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester-D vs. Rep. Denny Rehberg-R) and Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown-R vs. Elizabeth Warren-D) contests are all dead even and have been for some time. Recently, the Bay State race has turned in more favorable numbers for Sen. Brown, but the Democratic voting history here clearly will give Warren a strong push.

The Indiana and North Dakota races are proving interesting. Both should be solidly Republican this year, but polling consistently shows neither performing as such.

The defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary has certainly opened the door for Democrat Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2), but how far? With Lugar losing a landslide renomination effort to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, it has become apparent that the congressman would have likely fared better had Lugar eked out a close victory. More traditional voting patterns should take hold here as we move closer to Election Day, especially with President Obama not targeting the state. This should help Mourdock.

When Sen. Kent Conrad (D) announced his retirement early this year, it was assumed that at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) would succeed him with little fanfare. Quite the opposite is occurring as popular Democratic nominee Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, continues to perform well in polling. After being rated as decidedly lean Republican, this race now must be considered a toss-up.

Six more states are in the lean Democratic column, two of which show signs of heading toward toss-up status. Both the Florida and Ohio contests feature Democratic incumbents that polling shows are in competitive races in states that will probably play a defining role in the presidential contest. Senators Bill Nelson (FL) and Sherrod Brown (OH) may see their own political futures determined by an end-of-campaign wave either for President Obama or challenger Mitt Romney. The flow of the campaign currently suggests that both of these Senate races will be subjected to final trends.

The Connecticut open (Rep. Chris Murphy-D vs. Linda McMahon-R), Hawaii (Rep. Mazie Hirono-D vs. former Gov. Linda Lingle-R), Michigan (Sen. Debbie Stabenow-D vs. former Rep. Pete Hoekstra-R), and New Mexico (Rep. Martin Heinrich-D vs. former Rep. Heather Wilson-R) campaigns are also trending close but decidedly toward the Democrats. They are each competitive enough where significant movement could occur late in the cycle.

Three seats are in the Lean Republican column, one of which, the Wisconsin open (former Gov. Tommy Thompson-R vs. Rep. Tammy Baldwin-D), just recently moved from the toss-up category. The other two lean R states are Arizona, where Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ-6) overwhelming victory in the GOP primary makes him a clear favorite over former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D), and Nevada where appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) continues to hold a defined edge, though one that is becoming slimmer according to the latest surveys, over Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1).

Four Democratic seats are in the Likely D column, including those in New Jersey (Sen. Bob Menendez), Pennsylvania (Sen. Bob Casey Jr.), and Washington (Sen. Maria Cantwell). Maine’s Independent former Gov. Angus King should win retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) seat, and it is likely that he will caucus with the Democrats. Polling suggests some competition exists in this quartet of states, but the voting history supporting the current numbers gives an even more decided advantage to each Democratic incumbent. Sen. Cantwell, in her race against state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R), is moving closer to the safe Democratic category.

Just one race is in the Likely Republican category, the open Nebraska (Sen. Ben Nelson retiring) campaign between former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) and state Sen. Deb Fischer (R). All polling gives Fischer overwhelming leads, suggesting that the most likely outcome here is a Republican conversion.

Thirteen states are rated as safe: eight for the Democrats (CA, Feinstein; DE, Carper; MD, Cardin; MN, Klobuchar; NY, Gillibrand; RI, Whitehouse; VT, Sanders (I); and WV, Manchin), and five for the Republicans (MS, Wicker; TN, Corker; TX-open, Cruz; UT, Hatch; and WY, Barrasso).

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.

Walker’s Convincing Win in Wisconsin; NJ-9 Surprise

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) handily repelled his recall challenge with a 53-46 percent victory over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) with a turnout larger than the 2010 midterm vote that originally elected him. The extraordinary outcome yielded a voter participation rate exceeding 2.5 million voters. In the 2010 midterm election, the total turnout was just under 2.2 million. Walker won that election over Barrett 52-46 percent, so he even slightly increased his margin of victory, too. The 2008 presidential election year turnout saw 2.9 million Wisconsin voters going to the polls, putting the size of the recall participation rate into perspective.

In a separate race, even though the two ran as a team in the midterm, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) also survived her recall, 53-47 percent. Three of the four Republican state senators who were facing recalls also won, but the lone Democratic victory does flip majority control by one vote. Much more in-depth analysis will be forthcoming about this race in the coming days.

In New Jersey’s new 9th Congressional District, in what was projected as a close contest between paired incumbents Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8), recorded the exact opposite result. Veteran Rep. Pascrell, trumpeting his backing from former President Bill Clinton but long thought to be the underdog here, scored an impressive 61-39 percent victory over Rep. Rothman. This is especially stunning considering that two of the three Democratic county party structures officially endorsed Rothman. Pascrell rode a huge turnout and overwhelming 92 percent loyalty factor from his Democratic voting base in Passaic County, thus leading to his strong victory. He will now cruise in the general election.

Major Primary Voting Today

Today, Gov. Scott Walker (R) faces Wisconsin voters to determine whether he should be recalled from office. All late polling shows a very close race, with Walker right at the 50 percent mark and his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, hovering in the high 40s. Clearly, this race will come down to favoring the side that does the best job of turning out its votes.

In New Jersey, 9th District Democratic voters are forced to choose between incumbent Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9). The winner of today’s vote will claim the seat in the November general election. A tight finish is forecast. New Jersey lost a district in reapportionment, which forced these two incumbents to fight for one seat.

Turning to Iowa, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is the prohibitive favorite to repel a primary challenge from state Sen. Joe Seng. The state legislator appears strong on paper but is making little effort to secure the congressional nomination.

Out west, New Mexico’s 1st District open seat Democratic primary is in toss-up mode. Statewide, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and former representative Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) will win their respective parties’ Senatorial nominations. Likewise for Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) and Sen. Jon Tester (D) in Montana. Voters will also nominate a Democrat and Republican in the open at-large Treasure State House seat tonight. South Dakota voters will choose a Democratic opponent for freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL).

But the state with the most elections is California, where a new primary election law is changing the face of Golden State politics. Today, the top two finishers in every district election will qualify for the November vote regardless of political party affiliation. This will likely lead to at least seven Democrat vs. Democrat general elections and possibly two Republican vs. Republican. See yesterday’s post for a breakdown of how the races look going into the election there.