Tag Archives: Virginia

Allen and Kaine Likely to Square Off in Virginia

The stage appears to be set in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a 2012 political campaign that could determine the partisan balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) retirement vacancy after a single six-year term likely will be filled by either former GOP senator and governor George Allen or Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair and former governor Tim Kaine. The race promises to pit two candidates who have each won statewide office twice:

  • Allen – Governor, 1993; U.S. Senator, 2000
  • Kaine – Lt. Governor, 2001; Governor, 2005

In this pairing, however, control of the Senate could realistically be the ultimate prize for the victor’s party.

After the 2010 mid-term elections were over, Allen wasted little time in declaring his intention to reclaim the Senate seat he barely lost to Webb in 2006. The former Republican senator and governor announced that he would again run more than two weeks before Webb announced his retirement on Feb. 9. Since becoming an official candidate in January, Allen has been in full campaign mode, traveling the state and staking out positions on issues likely to surface in the general election. He will face only token opposition in the Republican primary.

By contrast, Kaine has been taking a very cautious approach toward a Senate race, only recently letting it slip to a University of Richmond law school class that he was “increasingly likely to run.” Still, the DNC chair insists he has made no final decision on his potential candidacy as of yet.

The former governor would clearly be the Democratic Party’s strongest nominee in terms of name recognition and fundraising capability. If Kaine doesn’t run, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his Fifth District congressional seat in November, seems likely to enter the race, but the ex-representative says he won’t oppose Kaine.

It appears that the pressure on Kaine to become a candidate is enormous. The early 2012 cycle Democratic Senate retirements of Akaka (HI), Bingaman (NM), Conrad (ND), Lieberman (I-CT), and Webb (VA), and the large number of Democratic seats to defend (23 of the 33 in-cycle contests) has put the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recruiting efforts in the spotlight.

Virginia is a critical state from a national perspective. The White House is fully aware of the benefits of a strong Virginia Democratic ticket, as Pres. Barack Obama became the first Democrat since Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to carry the Old Dominion. It is a must-win state for the GOP if the 2012 Republicans are to seriously contest the President’s re-election. Therefore, Obama blunting the GOP offensive in Virginia could clinch his second national victory.

With Kaine as a candidate, the Virginia contest is likely to be one of the most closely watched Senate campaigns in the nation. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Feb. 24-27 of 524 Virginia voters showed Allen and Kaine in a dead heat with 47% support for each. Call this race a toss-up with colossal stakes for now, and it will likely remain as such all the way to Election Day.
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Senate Contests Already Taking Shape

With announcements from senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Ensign (R-NV) earlier this week that they will retire at the end of the current term, becoming the seventh and eighth such in-cycle senators to do so, it’s time to re-cap who is jockeying for position to succeed all the outgoing incumbents.

Arizona: (Sen. Jon Kyl) – Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is an announced Senatorial candidate. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is considering running, as is ex-Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1). For the Democrats, Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) says he is looking at the race, but has taken no action to begin assembling a campaign as yet. Not much movement yet for the Dems, but they will have a credible nominee and this will likely become a competitive campaign.

Connecticut: (Sen. Joe Lieberman) – Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is an announced candidate and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) will challenge him in the primary. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2), after considering the race, says he will seek re-election. Republican 2008 nominee Linda McMahon is considering running, but the Ds have the inside track in what is a reliable state for them.

Hawaii: (Sen. Daniel Akaka) – Democrats are looking at a crowded field, as this is the first open Senate seat there since 1976. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) and Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are potential candidates. Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and former Honolulu mayor and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann are other possibilities, as is ex-Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2). Republicans have two potential candidates in former Gov. Linda Lingle, who is likely to run, and ex-Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1). Some Democrats are urging Akaka to resign before the term ends and allow Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) to appoint a replacement, thus avoiding what could become a difficult and nasty Democratic primary late in September of 2012. Akaka, however, has given no signal that he favors such an idea. Much action will occur here in the coming months.

Nevada: (Sen. John Ensign) – Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is the key person here. It is expected that he will soon enter the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle are also making statements of interest, but both could also run for Heller’s open House seat if he does in fact vacate. The Republicans will need a clean primary to win in what is becoming a very marginal state for them. Democrats have several options. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will decide over the summer as to what she will do. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is a likely candidate. Secretary of State Ross Miller is expressing interest but says he wants to see what Berkley will do first before he makes a final decision. Should she run statewide, Miller could become a candidate for what will likely be her open safe Democratic House seat. This race will be in the toss-up category all the way to election day.

New Mexico: (Sen. Jeff Bingaman) – Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) is officially a Republican candidate. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is making noises that he might run, setting up the same type of toxic primary that defeated Wilson in 2006 and gave Sen. Tom Udall (D) an easy run in the general election. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM-2), the man who defeated Wilson for that nomination and came back to re-claim his House seat against an incumbent in 2010, hasn’t ruled out another Senatorial run, but he’s likely to seek re-election instead. Democratic state Auditor Hector Balderas is virtually certain to run. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) is a potential candidate. Should Wilson win the primary, this could become a competitive race.

North Dakota: (Sen. Kent Conrad) – Republicans are poised to convert this open seat, just as they did in 2010 with Sen. John Hoeven. The GOP has multiple options, including freshman at-large Rep. Rick Berg, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Public Utilities Commissioner Brian Kalk, among others. Democrats have a weak bench and are unlikely to field a top tier candidate.

Texas: (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison) – Texas will feature a crowded Republican primary and a sure run-off. In the race are recently resigned Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, along with former Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is expected to run but will likely announce after the legislative session concludes in June. Democrats have already coalesced around former state Comptroller John Sharp, who has lost his last two statewide races, to current Gov. Rick Perry and Dewhurst, both for Lt. Governor. Republicans have the inside track to holding the seat regardless of who eventually becomes their nominee.

Virginia: (Sen. Jim Webb) – All eyes are on former Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Clearly a person who could become the party’s consensus candidate, Kaine has still not made any announcement and reportedly is truly undecided about running. The more time elapses, the less likely it becomes that Kaine will become a candidate. Defeated Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5) is someone to whom the Democrats will likely turn without Kaine in the field. Former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA-9) is being mentioned as a potential contender, but he’s unlikely to run. Former Sen. and Gov. George Allen, the man Webb unseated in 2006, is back for another run and should easily capture the Republican nomination. Allen’s numbers are still relatively weak, as he ties Kaine in early polling and leads the others by only small, single-digit margins. This will be another tough Senatorial contest.

To secure a new majority in 2012, Republicans will have to convert at least two of these aforementioned seats and hold all of the ones they are risking. The GOP needs a minimum switch of four net seats to return to majority status. Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 in-cycle races.
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Democrats Announce First Frontline Group

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made public their first list of 15 Frontline candidates, those they believe will need the most help to win re-election in 2012. Redistricting, however, will have much to say about the fortune of these members and many others.

The list begins with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), still recovering from the senseless and tragic shooting that put her life in grave danger. Remember, however, that she won by just 1.5 percentage points over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly in November, which puts Giffords’ re-election status as unclear. Some even still mention her as a potential Senate candidate. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: Giffords’ 8th district will change. The Arizona Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing new seats, and it is quite possible the members will craft a compromise to give Giffords a safe Tucson-based seat, should she be able to run, while the new Arizona congressional district would then become more Republican. Too much uncertainty exists to make an accurate contemporary prediction.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is in a similar political situation to that of Giffords. A new statewide redistricting commission will also draw the California districts. Right now, without the state even having its census block numbers yet, it is virtually impossible to gauge how McNerney will fare as population changes in the Bay Area appear significant. Another in an unknown situation is Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), where the Hawkeye State is the only one in the country not to allow political considerations, or even the incumbent’s residence, to affect how the map is drawn.

The two New Yorkers listed, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) and Bill Owens (D-NY-23) are also both in temporary limbo as is almost everyone in the Empire State. Slated now to lose two seats to apportionment, it remains to be seen what legislative compromise, or court action, will eliminate which seats. It is unlikely that Bishop can be collapsed because he occupies the far eastern end of Long Island, and being in a corner is always a plus when enduring redistricting.

The members currently viewed as vulnerable who are more than likely to benefit from redistricting are Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11). Since Minnesota did not lose a seat in apportionment and they have split government, expect an incumbent-oriented map. Therefore, Walz’s seat should improve for him. With Republicans having an 8-3 advantage in Virginia, expect the Democratic districts, like Connolly’s 11th, to get stronger.

Though there is a slight unknown factor for Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) because of their state government’s also being under split control, it is probable that both get equivalent or better districts than they respectively represent today.

The remaining six Frontline members all have serious redistricting problems, as Republicans hold the pen in their states:

  • Both Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) are likely to face very adverse constituencies under the new North Carolina map.
  • Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) is expected to be paired with veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) because Michigan loses a seat. Under this scenario the new Peters-Levin district would be heavily Democratic, but the two would be forced to duel each other in a primary battle.
  • A similar situation could occur in Pennsylvania where Reps. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) and Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) could find themselves fighting for one district. Like Michigan, Pennsylvania will lose one seat.
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3), another razor-thin election survivor, could find himself as the odd-man-out in Missouri’s delegation reduction. His district and that of neighboring Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) are the two least populated in the state. Clay is likely to survive because the Republican legislature and Democratic Governor are unlikely to collapse an African-American district and will want to protect St. Louis city as the dominant population center in one seat.
  • Finally, with Utah gaining a seat, will the Republican legislature and governor concede a seat to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), or draw a pie-shaped map emanating from Salt Lake City? The latter option would give the GOP good odds to defeat Matheson and win all four districts. But, it’s too early to tell what might happen.

With redistricting having such a major factor upon virtually all states, it is very difficult to accurately determine political vulnerability until the new maps are set. Thus, the Frontline member group composition will likely change drastically between now and Election Day 2012.
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The Redistricting Bell Sounds

The Census Bureau delivered the individual block data to four states at the end of last week, and scheduled an additional quartet for this week, thus officially opening the deci-annual national redistricting process. Since New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia all have odd-numbered year elections and operate within the tightest timeline to complete their state and local redistricting processes, it has become traditional for them to receive their vital population statistics ahead of all others. The four states scheduled for this week are Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland. Expect Illinois and Texas to be done soon, too, as both states have early March 2012 primary elections and each has a different number of congressional districts in the new national apportionment.

New Jersey: In the first group of four states now equipped to begin the re-mapping process, each has some hurdles to clear before a final congressional map can be completed. New Jersey, which draws their districts via special commission, loses a seat, and will be reduced from 13 to 12. All 13 current districts are under-populated, hence the underlying reason for reducing the Garden State’s level of representation. The population shift trends reveal the most significant inhabitant drain in the middle of the state. Actually, the majority minority seat in northern New Jersey, CD 10 in Newark, must gain about 100,000 new residents but will not be collapsed. It will be reconstructed for purposes of protecting the large African-American voting base.

Districts 8 (Rep. Bill Pascrell; Paterson, West Orange) and 9 (Rep. Steve Rothman; Hackensack, Ft. Lee) have to gain more than 70,000 people apiece, suggesting that it might be easiest to eliminate one of these two. Districts 5 (Rep. Scott Garrett; Paramus, part of Bergen County) and 6 (Rep. Frank Pallone; Plainfield, New Brunswick) each must gain more than 60,000, so these too could be candidates for removal. Rep. Rob Andrews’ 1st district (Camden) also must gain more than 60,000 people, but the geography and political characteristics affecting this seat point to preservation.

Mississippi: With a split state government and the Obama Justice Department holding map pre-clearance power over Mississippi, the Republicans will be very fortunate to protect their 3R-1D split in the Magnolia State congressional delegation. The Voting Rights Act-protected 2nd district (Rep. Bennie Thompson) needs to gain over 73,000 people, presenting the Democrats with a substantial stumbling block to fulfill their goal of creating two districts of their own. Their most likely target, Rep. Gregg Harper’s 3rd district (Jackson/Pearl; Starkville) has to shed 15,000 people, which makes it more difficult to make drastic changes.

Louisiana: Though the Republicans are now in total control of the Louisiana redistricting apparatus thanks to a party switch in the state Senate, their new status won’t force the Democrats to absorb the loss of a congressional seat. Largely because of post-Katrina population drain, Louisiana is one district down in reapportionment. The only Democratic position in the delegation, the New Orleans’ based 2nd district (Rep. Cedric Richmond), also is a VRA district and cannot be retrogressed. With the 2nd needing to gain an incredible 272,000 people and the 3rd district (Rep. Jeff Landry) directly to its south requiring an additional 118,000 inhabitants, it is very likely the 3rd will be eliminated and its people spread to neighboring districts.

Currently hosting a 6R-1D split in the congressional delegation, Louisiana will almost assuredly send five Republicans and one Democrat to Washington for the balance of the new decade.

Virginia: The Virginia map, which currently yields eight congressional Republicans and three Democrats, has significant areas of population loss and gain. Holding steady with eleven districts for the coming political decade, means that substantially re-shifting the seats’ population centers becomes a necessity. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is low, as both Reps. Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott must each gain significant population. The northern Virginia seat of Rep. Frank Wolf, CD 10, is over-populated to the tune of 142,000+ people. Thus, the overflow will have to be dispersed to other seats in the region, but the effect of such a population roll will change the complexion of the other seats, as well.

Since legislative elections will be conducted this year in Virginia, don’t expect the congressional map to be drawn until early 2012. With both parties striving to gain full control of the legislature, the power to re-construct the congressional map becomes a spoils for the victor in the 2011 election cycle. At the end of the process, Republicans will find themselves in very strong position if they are simply able to maintain the status quo 8R-3D split. Whether or not this occurs is yet to be decided.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.

Toss-ups

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.

Questions

Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
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