Tag Archives: President Obama

A Republican Double-Header Sweep

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Republicans, as the party’s candidates won two special congressional elections last night, Sept. 13.

The upset of the political season went to GOP contender Bob Turner, who defeated Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, thus converting the vacated Anthony Weiner congressional district to the Republicans. Prior to Weiner’s election to Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) held the 9th district for nine terms before being elected statewide.

Mr. Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, scored a 54-46 percent win in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 57-18 percent count. Only 22 percent of the registered voters participated in the special election, a key reason why the GOP nominee was able to win despite having such a small political base. He scored 48 percent of the vote in the Queens borough, which is NY-9’s population anchor. He won the race, however, in Brooklyn where he attracted an astonishing 69 percent of the vote.

In the closing days of the campaign four pollsters, McLaughlin Associates, Magellan Strategies, Siena College and Public Policy Polling, all produced surveys projecting Turner to be in strong position and headed to victory. Last night’s results certainly proved the pollsters correct. On a side note, the NY election result is a bad sign for President Obama, as his favorability ratings in this heavily Democratic district are poor. Carrying the seat over John McCain with 55 percent of the vote in 2008, the PPP poll showed the President actually trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (42-46 percent) and ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by just one percentage point (44-43 percent) in hypothetical presidential match-ups. Obama scores poorly on his handling of the economy and on issues concerning US policy in the Middle East, greatly influenced by the 36 percent of the district’s residents who are members of the Jewish faith.

Turning to the west, former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei easily won the congressional district seat that was vacated when then-Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to the US Senate. Amodei won easily, scoring a 58-37 percent margin of victory over Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall. Rep-elect Amodei now becomes an incumbent in a district that touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties, but will likely only occupy the northern half of the state post-redistricting. His toughest electoral challenge may still lie ahead, however. It is likely that 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle will challenge the new congressman in a Reno-Carson City anchored district during the regular 2011 election cycle. This will be a competitive race despite Mr. Amodei’s short-term incumbency.

Turnout for the Nevada election was much greater than the voter participation level in New York. Approximately 140,000 voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for Mr. Heller, about 35 percent of those registered, slightly higher than the average special congressional election draws.

The Turner victory restores the New York delegation to 21D-8R, the ratio found on election night 2010. Republicans lost the 26th District in a special election earlier in the year, so the two parties have now traded conversion districts.

The current House party division count now stands at 242 Republicans; 192 Democrats; and one vacancy (ex-Rep. David Wu, D-OR-1). The final vacant seat will be filled in a Jan. 31 special election.

Upset City in NY’s 9th CD?

The special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) congressional vacancy in New York City will be held tomorrow and the latest poll from the Siena College Research Institute (Aug. 6-8; 886 likely NY-9 special election voters) suggests a possible Republican upset in this heavily Democratic district.

According to the Siena survey, Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, leads Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin 50-44 percent. This is on the heels of a Magellan Strategies study (Sept. 1; 2,055 likely NY-9 voters via automated telephone calls) giving Turner a 45-40 percent advantage. Furthermore, within the last 10 days, McLaughlin Associates showed the race to be tied at 42 percent, prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to counter with their own Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 voters), which posted Weprin to a 47-39 percent lead. The high error factor (4.9 percent) for a poll with a large congressional district sample suggests that the GSG results may be from the “educated” ballot test, meaning that people were given further information about the candidates after the respondents made their initial candidate preference selection.

An upset in a New York irregular election would be nothing new. In the past two years, three special elections have been held in the state, each producing a winner different from the early projected favorite. The one special election where the favored candidate won, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-29), was held concurrently with the 2010 general election. The others, all in Republican seats, elected Reps. Scott Murphy (D-NY-20), who was subsequently defeated in the succeeding regular election, Bill Owens (D-NY-23), and Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26).

As in all special elections, turnout will be the determining factor. With a superior Democratic Party operation in the city, Weprin certainly has a chance to win regardless of the late polling results. If the Democrats are motivated to turn out, then Weprin can survive. If they are not inclined to do so in sufficient numbers, then we could see a GOP upset.

Should Turner win this seat, the Republicans will likely sweep the two congressional special elections being held tomorrow. The other, in Nevada’s 2nd district, will likely elect Republican Mark Amodei. Winning the New York seat, however, will almost assuredly have national ramifications and won’t make any Democrat, including President Obama, feel overly secure.
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Assessing the Nation’s Governors Contests

Often times the trends set in the nation’s governors contests become a precursor to the national presidential elections. This year, four states are choosing chief executives and, if anything, the patterns associated with these races suggest a return to more normal voting behavior. In Louisiana, now becoming a staunch Republican state, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is seeking a second term. To date, and candidate filing closes today, he does not even have a major opponent. Jindal is virtually assured a second term.

Next door in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who easily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed two-term Gov. Haley Barbour (R), appears headed for a landslide victory in November over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). If successful, Bryant will deliver the fifth consecutive Mississippi gubernatorial election for his party. Kentucky, one of the most loyal of Republican states in the presidential election but a place that almost always elects a Democratic governor, is again falling into a familiar voting pattern. While President Obama trails the top GOP candidates here according to the latest polls, incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed toward an easy re-election this November.

West Virginia, however, is bucking the landslide trend. In a special election to be decided Oct. 4 because Joe Manchin left the governorship to succeed the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate, interim Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) suddenly finds himself in a tight contest against GOP businessman Bill Maloney. The latest Public Policy Polling survey (Sept. 1-4; 708 likely West Virginia voters) gives the Democrat only a 46-40 percent lead, down from his previous double-digit leads. But closer races are becoming a more usual voting pattern for West Virginia, as the state continues to trend more Republican. Expect the campaign to tighten even more as Election Day approaches.

Can these normal gubernatorial elections suggest a return to a more predictable vote in next year’s presidential contest? Quite possibly. If so, expect a much closer result than we witnessed in 2008.
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Obama’s Job Approval: A Cause for Concern

Presidential job approval ratings can fluctuate widely based on a rather wide variety of factors. Among these are the status of the economy, whether the U.S. is at peace or war, the presence of real or suspected scandal, etc.

While President Barack Obama’s administration has been free of any significant scandal, the U.S. is currently engaged in somewhere between two and three wars, and is suffering from a painfully slow-growing economy and a 9.2 percent unemployment rate.

While the President’s approval rating has generally fluctuated in a relatively narrow band that has ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-40s for the last two years, the trend in recent weeks has become troubling for Democrats seeking office in 2012.

Yesterday’s daily Gallup presidential approval tracking poll shows Obama’s job approval rating now slipping to 39 percent. The Gallup poll takes a rolling three-day average of opinions expressed by 1,500 adults nationally. The margin of error in the survey is +/- three percent.

While Obama continues to receive broad support from African-Americans, his approval rating among Hispanics and whites has lingered at record lows in the past two weeks. Gallup noted that Obama’s approval rating among postgraduates and high-income Americans has seen a particularly steep decline since the late May-early June time period, which was the last time his average weekly job approval rating registered at least 50 percent.

At this stage of his presidency, Obama’s standing with Americans doesn’t compare very favorably with other post-WW II presidents. At the 940 days in office mark (Aug 20), here is how Obama compares to the other Presidents, since Harry S. Truman when polling of this type began:

  • Obama                  40%    Standing for re-election in 2012
  • Truman                54%    Re-elected in 1948
  • Eisenhower        71%    Re-elected in 1956
  • Kennedy              62%    Assassinated in 1963
  • Johnson              48%    Did not seek re-election in 1968
  • Nixon                   49%    Re-elected in 1972
  • Ford                      53%    Defeated for election 1976 (polled at 857 days in office)
  • Carter                   32%    Defeated for re-election in 1980
  • Reagan                 43%    Re-elected in 1984
  • Bush, G.H.W.    59%    Defeated for re-election in 1992
  • Clinton                 46%    Re-elected in 1996
  • Bush, G.W.         59%    Re-elected in 2004

Only Jimmy Carter fared worse than President Obama at this point in the term. The average for the 12 presidents after 940 days in office (857 for Ford) is 47.8%. Thus, Obama is almost eight percentage points below average at this point in time.

The low approval numbers do not mean that the President is doomed to lose his re-election campaign. History shows us that Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were all below 50% approval but went on to win impressive re-election victories. In fact, historic landslides were even recorded for Nixon and Reagan. Conversely, two Presidents with some of the highest approval ratings, George H.W. and George W. Bush, both registering a strong 59% positive ranking at this commensurate time during their terms in office, did not fare as well in their re-election campaigns. As we know, George H.W. Bush was defeated for a second term, and his son won a close battle against a below average Democratic candidate.

While President Obama can certainly rebound and win a second term in office at the end of next year, the low approval ratings must be a cause for concern in his campaign camp. Watch for the President to make significant moves to improve his standing in the coming weeks.
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GOP Survives Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Last night, Badger State voters went to the polls to decide the controversial Wisconsin recall elections in six state Senate districts. All featured Republican incumbents defending their seats. Next Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents will face the voters.

Democrats were successful in defeating two of the GOP incumbents but, overall, the results did not accomplish what the union organizers who gathered the necessary petitions to force a vote had desired. At the beginning of the evening, the Senate party division was 19R-14D. With the two Democratic victories, the worst case scenario for the GOP after the completion of all recall voting will be 17R-16D. Since only Democratic incumbents are before the voters on August 16th, the Republicans can only increase their majority or remain clinging to a one-seat advantage.

Turnout was predictably high. In most cases the numbers reached approximately 80 percent of what appear to be normal general election voter participation levels. This helped the GOP win two-thirds of the contests. Low turnout elections are normally won by the side that is most driven to turnout. Since the unions and Democrats were forcing the recalls to protest GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature’s actions to curtail the public employee union benefits and organizing rights, it was they who should have been more energized. The districts were largely Republican, but President Obama did win all eight of the jurisdictions back in 2008. So, it is conceivable the Democrats could have done better.

The two seats they won were rather expected. Sen. Dan Kapanke (R), who represents a southwestern Wisconsin seat including the city of Lacrosse, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 45-55 percent to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. Kapanke, you may remember, challenged Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) in their 2010 congressional race, losing 46-50 percent – a better result than he received last night in trying to defend his own position. Of the seats facing recall, this 32nd district was by far the most Democratic. The President received 61 percent here in 2008. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) who unseated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010, scored only 49 percent here. Walker posted 42 percent. In the other post-general election political race, the hotly contested 2011 battle for a key state Supreme Court seat, Republican incumbent Judge David Prosser, who won statewide, failed to carry the 32nd district. He registered only 44 percent. Last night’s recall here produced the biggest Democratic victory of the night, but in this type of district, such a result was largely expected.

The other Democratic victory featured a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent in the 18th district. Sen. Randy Hopper was the subject of controversy regarding an extra-marital affair and a messy divorce while the labor unrest in the state capitol was occurring. He lost his Senate seat last night by a tight 49-51 percent margin to Democrat Jessica King. Both new Senators will have to defend their seats in the 2012 general election, as that is the normal election time for the two even-numbered districts. Wisconsin state Senators receive four-year terms. The elections are staggered so that half of the seats stand for election every two years. The odd-numbers run with the governor; evens with the President. The 18th district is much more Republican than the previously mentioned 32nd district. Obama posted 51 percent in 2008. The 2010-11 District 18 results gave Sen. Johnson 59 percent, Gov. Walker 57 percent; and Judge Prosser 53 percent.

The Republican incumbents carried their districts last night with victory margins of 60 percent (Sen. Rob Cowles in District 2), 58 percent (Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10), 54 percent (Sen. Alberta Darling in District 8), and 52 percent (Sen. Luther Olsen in District 14). Of these, the Harsdorf victory is the most impressive, as the Republican numbers were not as strong as in the other districts. Judge Prosser, for example, failed to carry this seat in 2011, scoring 48 percent of the vote.

Though the GOP lost two seats in the recall process, they appear to have survived all of the post-budget crisis action in relatively good shape. In the face of superior labor union and Democratic Party political organizing, they turned back the Supreme Court challenge and held onto the state Senate majority after enacting the controversial public employee union legislation that rocked the state capitol with nationally covered protests and featured the Democrats failing to report to the Senate for weeks. All of this in a state that routinely elects Democrats to positions of power. Wisconsin will clearly be a major battleground state for the coming 2012 election.
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