Tag Archives: North Carolina

Looking Ahead Towards the 2012 Presidential Map

Even though the 2010 election results aren’t yet finalized, speculation among political pundits about President Obama’s re-election chances already is running rampant.

Whether or not certain Republican candidates can win their party’s nomination and defeat Obama are topics for another day. The main purpose of this report is to simply analyze the mathematics that govern each side’s ability to win the next national election.

Photo: The White House

In 2008, President Obama secured his victory by winning 365 electoral votes (EVs); 270 are required. With reapportionment becoming official before December 31st, the 2012 map will begin to take shape. Right now, though, we know that Obama’s winning coalition of states will yield fewer electoral votes than it did in 2008.

Assuming that Texas gains four congressional seats from reapportionment, and Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah all add one, a grand total of eight more electoral votes would be assigned to the group of states that supported ’08 Republican nominee John McCain. Obama states like Ohio (down two), New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa look to lose districts, thus meaning another 10 votes would be deducted from the President’s previous total. The only McCain state poised to lose a district is Louisiana. Florida, Nevada, and Washington are Obama states that look to gain representation, so add three EVs back to his total. Therefore, the new Obama state configuration would fall to an apparent total of 358 EVs.

The McCain coalition, on the other hand, would see a net gain of seven votes, giving this group of states a future total of 180 electoral votes. Assuming that pre-apportionment estimates are completely correct, which is unlikely (Oregon is in good position to gain and Missouri might lose, for example), the total swing away from the President when merely considering population shifts will be approximately 14 votes, or the size of a state like Michigan or Georgia.

If this analysis is correct, then the Republicans, in order to unseat Mr. Obama, would have to convert states with an electoral vote value of 90 votes, in addition to winning every previous state they claimed in 2008.

How can this be done? From a Republican perspective, they first must regain the states Obama won that traditionally vote for the GOP nominee. Indiana is priority #1, North Carolina is priority #2. Switching Indiana from blue to red would give the Republicans 11 more votes and take away the same number from the Obama total. An N.C. win is a swing of 30 EVs, thus bringing the EV count down to 332 to 206 and putting the GOP within 64 votes of denying the President a second term.

Next come Florida and Ohio. With Texas (38 electoral votes in the next presidential campaign) being the only large state that the Republicans traditionally carry, Florida and Ohio become central to a GOP win. A Democratic candidate can lose both of these states and still win the election, but it is virtually impossible for a Republican to do so. With Florida and Ohio added to the hypothetical Republican total, the adjusted electoral vote count moves to 286 to 252, still in favor of the Obama coalition. This leaves the generic Republican candidate 18 EVs away from winning.

While that can be done by taking Pennsylvania or the president’s home state of Illinois, neither seems likely today, especially the latter. Therefore, the Republicans must add multiple states. Two small swing states that could return to the GOP fold are New Hampshire (4 EVs) and Nevada (6 EVs).

If all the above happens, then the Republican nominee would go over the top by winning just one of the following states: Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, or Colorado. Another option, if this latest group of states all remain loyal to Obama, is to carry Iowa and New Mexico (11 total EV’s). These two places are the only ones that have consistently flipped between the two presidential party nominees in the 21st century and must be considered competitive for both the eventual 2012 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

Though much will happen to define campaign 2012, the mathematical formula leading to victory will remain as described above.

The House in 2012: The Vulnerables

Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.

Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?

One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.

If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.

Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.

Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.

The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.

California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.

Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.

Outstanding House Races Nearing Decisions

There are three congressional campaigns still possessing uncounted ballots. Two more are now headed to official recounts.

Recounts:

  1. In Texas, Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) is paying to have recounts conducted in six counties of the Rio Grande Valley district. He officially trails Republican Blake Farenthold by 799 votes after all ballots have been recorded.
  2. In NC-2, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) has officially requested a recount of his losing result versus Republican Renee Ellmers. Election officials there have also counted and canvassed the entire ballot universe and Ellmers leads by 1,489 votes. Both of these margins will likely vary by only a few votes through a recount because no new ballots will be added to the process. Considering the original counts were verified by a canvass process means the ballots have already effectively been counted twice.

The three races where more ballots could still arrive are in IL-8, NY-1, and NY-25.

Uncounted:

  1. In the suburban region north of Chicago in IL-8, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) trails GOP opponent Joe Walsh by 350 votes. According to election officials, “hundreds of provisional votes” remain to be counted and absentee ballots can still come in from overseas. Today is the final deadline for the latter category.
  2. In NY-1, where a voting machine counting error has flipped the election night result in favor of challenger Randy Altschuler (R) by 383 votes, Rep. Tim Bishop (D) has already gone to court to request a hand count of the entire district. Less than 10,000 ballots remain to be counted, and the clerks are reporting that 4,200 are from voters in parties supporting Altschuler and 3,900 carry labels from parties that endorsed Bishop. New York law allows military and overseas ballots to be counted as long as they arrive prior to Nov. 24.
  3. A similar situation exists in the Syracuse-based NY-25. A count of the 7,000+ absentee ballots already received began yesterday, but the process won’t be completed until Nov. 24, as explained above. GOP challenger Ann Marie Buerkle leads freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) by 659 votes.

Thus, the 2010 election continues …

Some Interesting House Stats

The new House of Representatives will feature at least 94 new faces in the 112th Congress. Right now, it looks as if 430 races are either decided, or just about done.

Republican Keith Fimian conceded to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), so the total of uncalled campaigns drops to seven. NC-2 – Renee Ellmers (R) defeating Rep. Bob Etheridge – will go to a recount but the spread there (almost 1,700 votes) appears to give the challenger enough of a cushion to secure victory. In TX-27, challenger Blake Farenthold (R) is almost 800 votes ahead with everything counted. Incumbent Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) has until Friday to request a recount, a procedure that he must finance. The chances that Ortiz will overturn the outcome of this election are slim. Virtually the same situation exists in KY-6, where Rep. Ben Chandler (D) holds a 600+ vote lead with everything counted. Challenger Andy Barr (R) will likely fall short, but is already suggesting that he seek a re-match in 2012.

The races that are legitimately still undetermined begin in California where districts 11 and 20 still are not finished with the initial ballot count. Democrats Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa appear fairly well positioned to hang on, however, when projecting the number of outstanding votes and overlaying from where they are coming. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) is now less than 400 votes behind, so this one is still in doubt. Additionally, the two New York districts, 1 (Rep. Tim Bishop (D) vs Randy Altschuler (R)) and 25 (Rep. Dan Maffei (D) opposing Ann Marie Buerkle (R)) are still very much undecided, though the two GOP challengers lead both campaigns.

Let’s look at some of the new House statistics (all are unofficial until the outstanding races are decided):

  • Number of incumbents re-elected …………………… 336
  • Number of pure freshmen ………………………………… 91
  • Number of ex-members returning ………………………. 3
  • Incumbent running in a different district …………….. 1
  • Freshmen who are previous office holders ………… 54
  • Freshmen never holding public office ……………….. 40
  • Freshmen Republicans …………………………………….. 85
  • Freshmen Democrats ………………………………………… 9

Several Races are Done; New Close Ones Emerge

Since Friday the electoral picture has become both clearer and cloudier. It is still unclear whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has won her write-in campaign after being defeated in the Republican primary, but it is obvious that either she or GOP nominee Joe Miller will win the race because Democrat Scott McAdams is too far behind to be a factor. This means the new Senate will feature 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 of the 2010 Senate campaigns and lost 13, a strong win percentage of .650, but not enough to take the majority. The Republicans converted six Democratic states and lost none of their own.

The Governors are virtually done, too. With the Connecticut race now being officially called for Democrat Dan Malloy, it appears the GOP will end the election cycle controlling 29 Governorships versus 20 for the Democrats. Former Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island governor’s race as an Independent.

The House still has nine races where questions abound. Two were called over the weekend: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) was declared the winner in a close contest over former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, and local official and 2000 congressional nominee John Koster (R) conceded to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the hard-fought WA-2 campaign. A sizable number of ballots still remain in Washington, but with Larsen actually gaining as the new votes are being counted, the obvious conclusion is that he would win the final tally.

Conversely, two new campaigns joined the question-mark category. An accounting error in New York has apparently allowed NY-1 challenger Randy Altschuler to grab a several hundred vote lead over Rep. Tim Bishop (D), after the latter was projected to be the victor. In North Carolina, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) is claiming that enough ballots still remain to change the outcome of that campaign, despite mathematical projections awarding the race to challenger Renee Ellmers (R).

Four races are close to being over but will undoubtedly go through a recount process. It appears that Democratic incumbents Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) will survive by the barest of margins, but certification still has not been sanctioned in either case. The same appears true for Republican challengers Joe Walsh (IL-8; versus Rep. Melissa Bean) and Blake Farenthold (TX-27; against Rep. Solomon Ortiz). Both of these campaigns could conceivably turn around (each is in the 6-800 margin range), but the candidate leading at this juncture usually wins the race.

Three of the battles feature large numbers of absentee and provisional ballots to count, possibly as high as 100,000 in the CA-20 race between Rep. Jim Costa (D) and challenger Andy Vidak (R). Costa leads 51-49%, but only about 65,000 votes have been counted. Up toward the Bay Area, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is barely clinging to a 400+ vote lead against attorney David Harmer (R). Finally, some 8-10,000 absentee ballots remain uncounted in the Syracuse-based NY-25, where freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) now trails former city Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) by a little over 650 votes, so this outcome is clearly still in doubt.

Right now the current trends suggest that Democrats hold with Chandler and Connolly, and probably carry McNerney. Republicans have the edge with Walsh, Farenthold, and possibly Vidak, though it’s hard to get a good reading on the trends with so many ballots outstanding. The Maffei-Buerkle race is legitimately too close to call, but Buerkle has rebounded strongly to take the lead after it looked like she would go down to a close defeat. The NY-1 situation is a mystery, but it is clear that neither candidate has a lock on victory at this writing.