Tag Archives: North Carolina

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.

What’s Next for Santorum?

After sustaining a predicted 35-47 percent loss in Tuesday’s Illinois primary, but securing a minimum of 12 delegates under the state’s loophole rule (the people directly vote for individuals running for delegate), Rick Santorum now proceeds toward two critical states, Louisiana this Saturday and Wisconsin on April 3.

Magellan Strategies, in a Louisiana poll conducted on March 19, posts Santorum to a 37-24-21 percent advantage over Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, respectively. Winning Louisiana is a must if Santorum is to regain some of the momentum he lost in Illinois this week. He will then have to rebound for a win in the Great Lakes State of Wisconsin, where his blue-collar manufacturing/traditional values message should resonate well within the GOP voter base. Romney is likely to cruise to easy winner-take-all victories in Maryland and the District of Columbia on that same day, thus increasing Wisconsin’s importance for Santorum.

Another state on the May 8 horizon where Santorum appears strong is North Carolina, with its large base of 55 delegates. A new Survey USA poll (March 16-20; 403 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) gives the former Pennsylvania senator a 34-26-18 percent edge over Romney and Gingrich.

Though the delegate spread is growing in Romney’s favor, there are still many opportunities for Santorum to close the gap and force an open convention.

Romney’s Reality and Other Struggling GOP Candidates

Now that the dust has settled and the final results have been recorded from the Tuesday night vote, it is clear that Mitt Romney slightly underperformed on the aggregate delegate count. With his win in Hawaii and the sweep of American Samoa’s nine delegates somewhat off-setting his third-place finishes in Mississippi and Alabama, Romney looks to have secured approximately 42 delegate votes on the evening. This is four to five short of his projected bare minimum pace necessary to secure 1,144 delegates before the Republican National Convention begins. Since he will more than likely continue to fare poorly in the remaining southern states of Louisiana (March 24), North Carolina (May 8), Arkansas (May 22), and Texas (May 29) the Midwestern trio of states – Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3), and Indiana (May 8) – are must-win landslides if he is to maintain his victory chances.

In other races, several Republican incumbents claimed renomination on Tuesday night with uninspiring percentages against weak opposition. Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1), House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6) and freshman Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) all won their primary elections outright, but with percentages between 55 and 60 percent. This is hardly a normal result since such efforts against under-funded opponents usually find the incumbent exceeding 75 percent. Tuesday’s congressional vote, coupled with the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2) and former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH-15) last week in the Ohio primaries, could be an early indication that voters’ anti-incumbent sentiments, so prominent since the 2006 election, have yet to subside.

NC Rep. Sue Myrick to Retire

North Carolina Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC-9) announced yesterday that she will not seek re-election to a 10th term in the fall. The congresswoman, now 70 years old, is retiring from elective politics. Prior to her service in the House, she was the mayor of Charlotte and ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate.

Ms. Myrick becomes the 36th member to end their respective House careers. Twenty-one are retiring outright; 15 are seeking a different office. As a result of retirements, reapportionment, and redistricting, there are already 51 open seats – an extremely high number at this point during the election cycle. Of the departing incumbents, 21 are Democrats as compared to 15 Republicans. With this latest retirement announcement, a minimum of 226 members in the next Congress (beginning in January 2013) will have served three terms or less.

The 9th District becomes slightly less Republican under the new North Carolina congressional map, but is still a safe GOP seat. John McCain scored a 54-45 percent victory over President Obama in the 2008 national election within the new NC-9 boundaries. Candidates will soon be forthcoming for both parties. The 2012 race here begins in the “Likely Republican” category.