Tag Archives: President Obama

Why Nebraska’s 2nd District Matters So Much in 2012

The 2nd District of Nebraska, which is basically the Omaha metropolitan area, might matter more than any congressional district in the country during the 2012 election. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that split their Electoral Votes – both states award two votes for winning statewide and one each for every congressional district carried – and, for the first time in the modern political era, the division actually occurred in 2008. Four years ago, President Obama scored a bare one-point win in NE-2, which gave him one extra Electoral Vote and allowed him to gain from a state he lost.

After this past Tuesday’s Nebraska primary, this district proved it will again be important because both newly crowned Republican Senatorial nominee Deb Fischer and Rep. Lee Terry (R) will need to run well here, as will presidential nominee Mitt Romney. If Romney fails to win this lone congressional district, it could mean carrying another entire state just to compensate. There is one plausible election scenario that gives Romney all four of the top priority conversion states – North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio – in addition to taking New Hampshire. Should he lose NE-2 in this mix, as John McCain did – the race could end in a tie. Therefore, the voters of this district could very well be choosing more than a congressman and US senator on Nov. 6; they could ultimately decide the presidency.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Today’s spotlight takes us to southern California to underscore just how much difference redistricting and election law changes can make in campaign strategy. The new CA-26 was deliberately designed as a 50/50 seat, and the state’s novel primary law is forcing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) into making some rather unorthodox spending decisions.

CALIFORNIA (current delegation: 34D-19R) – The new 26th District is fully contained within Ventura County, which sits between cities and counties of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to the latest census count, Ventura has 823,318 residents, which makes it a major political division. The new 26th was designed with the idea of creating a marginal district that would remain competitive throughout the decade. As an open seat, because Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) is retiring, the district appears to be performing as intended.

Sixty-four percent of the district’s territory comes from Gallegly’s 24th District. Thirty-five percent is added from Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd CD, with just a sliver from Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) current 30th (1 percent). Though President Obama captured 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, the 2010 numbers tell a completely different story. In the governor’s race, Democrat Jerry Brown, the eventual winner, came up one point short in the 26th, as Republican Meg Whitman nipped him 47-46 percent. Republican Carly Fiorina came in ahead of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by an almost identical 47-45 percent spread. Finally, to counterbalance the Obama double-digit win, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Steve Cooley, notched a 49-38 percent score against Democrat Kamala Harris, the statewide winner by less than half a percentage point.

In addition to redistricting, the other major California electoral change concerns how the state nominates candidates for the general election. Instead of featuring a closed primary election system that sends one Democrat, one Republican, and multiple Independent candidates to the general election, the new system puts forth only the two top vote-getters regardless of political party affiliation. The new procedure is creating havoc in District 26.

The Democrats were solidly behind their Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bennett, early in the race. Both the local and national party felt Bennett gave them their best chance of attaining victory in the marginal seat. After officially entering the race, Bennett decided to return to local government instead, and withdrew from the congressional campaign. This left the Democrats without a strong candidate until they were able to recruit three-term state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley; but the heart of her current legislative district is in Santa Monica and not Ventura County. For their part, Republicans coalesced around state Sen. Tony Strickland, who had twice been a statewide candidate.

It is the second supervisor in the race, Republican Linda Parks, who will test just how the new law works. Instead of running as a Republican, knowing that Strickland would take the majority of the GOP primary votes, she decided to declare herself as an Independent, thinking that this would be her best chance of snatching a run-off position away from the Democrats. Parks is a major Ventura County political figure, serving her third term on the Board of Supervisors after winning election as mayor of Thousand Oaks after serving on the locality’s city council. This contrasts heavily with Brownley, though representing some of Ventura County, who actually hails from Santa Monica in Los Angeles County – a point that Parks consistently reiterates.

The set-up here is forcing the DCCC to involve itself in the June election because they fear that both Strickland and Parks could qualify for the general, thus leaving them without a candidate in a seat that they can certainly win.

The DCCC is therefore actively communicating with voters, sending mailers that “Photoshop” Parks into a setting with Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin and former president George W. Bush. Others drive home the point to Democratic voters that Parks is actually a Republican. But Parks counters by highlighting other campaign messages from her previous opponent, ironically Sen. Strickland’s wife, Audra, who challenged her for the board two years ago, that identified her as a liberal and being too aligned with the Democrats. Parks is cleverly juxtaposing both mail messages to prove that she is, in fact, independent because both parties have launched similar attacks against her.

Redistricting and the election law process were done to change the voting system in California, and it appears those goals have been accomplished. The developments in the 26th District until the June 5 qualifying election will be very interesting to watch. It is clear we are seeing unusual happenings here, which are expected to continue.

Inmate Scores 40% vs. Obama in W.Va.; N.C., Wis. Updates

West Virginia

Perhaps the biggest surprise of last night’s primaries came in West Virginia, where Keith Russell Judd, an inmate in a Beaumont, Texas federal prison currently serving a 17-year sentence, scored a full 40 percent of the vote against President Obama in the West Virginia Democratic primary. This clearly suggests that West Virginia will be a solid Mitt Romney state in the fall.

North Carolina

A lot of action also occurred in the North Carolina primary. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton posted a 45-38 percent victory over former Rep. Bob Etheridge. Dalton will now face 2008 gubernatorial nominee and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) in the general election. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) is retiring after one term.

In open seats, former state Sen. Robert Pittenger and Mecklenberg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph will square off in a June 26 Republican run-off election for retiring Rep. Sue Myrick’s 9th District. The Charlotte suburban seat will go to eventual GOP nominee in the general election. In the Asheville-based 11th CD, being vacated by the retiring Rep. Heath Shuler (D), two non-elected officials, businessmen Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson will battle each other in the Republican run-off. The winner faces Shuler’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, who won the Democratic nod. Redistricting makes the GOP nominee the general election favorite. Finally, in new District 13, former US Attorney George Holding won the Republican nomination outright and will be the heavy favorite in November.

Turning to challenger primaries, state Sen. David Rouzer won a see-saw Republican primary battle with 2010 nominee Ilario Pantano. He now faces Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in what will be a highly competitive general election. In Rep. Kissell’s 8th District, a run-off will occur between business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Hudson, a first-time candidate, came within eight points of winning outright. Kissell is highly endangered in the general election.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, Democrats again nominated Milwaukee mayor and former congressman Tom Barrett to face Gov. Scott Walker (R) in a June 5 recall election. Barrett easily defeated Dane County ex-Executive Kathleen Falk by a 58-34 percent count. The Walker-Barrett campaign is a re-match from 2010, when the Republican won 52-46 percent.

Lugar Trounced in Indiana

The final weeks of the Indiana Senatorial campaign showed six-term Sen. Dick Lugar spiraling downward in his Republican primary battle with state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, and it ended last night with an emphatic 61-39 percent victory in the challenger’s favor. Turnout exceeded 665,000 voters, which is high. This is nowhere near the 1.2 million plus voters who participated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, but much more than the 412,000 who voted in the Republican presidential primary of that same year.

The general election will now feature Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) who was unopposed in last night’s Democratic primary. The Republican outcome now suggests a competitive race here in the fall, though Mourdock is a much stronger candidate than those conservative challengers who defeated 2010 Republican incumbents or nomination favorites in various states, and then proceeded to lose their respective general elections.

Though President Obama became the first Democrat to carry Indiana since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it does not appear the state will be a major target in 2012. In fact, Indiana isn’t even on the first list of states where the President’s campaign is buying television advertising time. That translates to less of a boost for Donnelly as we turn toward November.

The biggest Indiana surprise of the evening, however, was former Rep. David McIntosh (R), the favorite coming into Indiana’s open 5th District primary race, failing to win his party’s nomination. He lost a 30-29 percent decision to ex-US Attorney Susan Brooks. Ms. Brooks is also an Indianapolis former deputy mayor. She will be the heavy favorite to defeat state Rep. Scott Reske who won the Democratic nomination.

As expected, former state Rep. Luke Messer was an easy winner in the 6th District Republican open seat primary. He becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace Rep. Mike Pence in November. Pence, unopposed tonight, is now the state’s official GOP gubernatorial nominee. In Donnelly’s open 2nd District, as expected, Democratic businessman Brendan Mullen will face former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) in a competitive general election. Because of redistricting, Walorski has to be considered at least a slight favorite. All other Indiana incumbents won renomination last night.

Is a Surprise Coming in the North Dakota Senate?

Since Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced that he would not seek re-election this year, both Republican and Democratic election analysts forecasted that the GOP would convert the open seat. These rankings even held when a November poll gave Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general and defeated gubernatorial nominee, a five-point lead over at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) soon after she announced her candidacy. The results of a new just-released survey means the supposed Heitkamp advantage can no longer be dismissed.

DFM Research (April 18-26; 478 registered North Dakota voters), polling for the North Dakota Democratic Party, now stakes Heitkamp to a 49-44 percent lead over Berg. Though the long nine-day sampling period suggests reliability questions, the same polling sample returns a 51-32 percent lead for Mitt Romney over President Obama, thus largely dispelling claims of a Democratic skew. Furthermore, though Berg and the Republicans have reported investing campaign dollars into polling, no public releases have yet been forthcoming. This again suggests that Heitkamp leading is an accurate depiction of where the race stands today.

Much will happen between now and Election Day to alter the outcome of this Senate race, and Berg is still in good position to win when considering the state’s voting history in presidential elections. But, it is now clear that the North Dakota Senate race can no longer be considered an easy Republican win and we can expect a competitive general election campaign.