Tag Archives: Virginia

2012 Senate Polls – Already!

Public Policy Polling is already releasing new and rather interesting data on proposed 2012 U.S. Senate match-ups. The firm is testing two first-term Democrats, both of whom appear vulnerable because they are from states that tend to vote Republican in national elections. Though the polls certainly show incumbent vulnerability and foretell close races, each Democratic Senator is in better political shape that one might guess considering the results of our most recent election.

In Virginia, the clear choice among Republicans to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D) is none other than the man who lost the seat in 2006, former Senator and Governor George Allen (R). When asked of 400 “usual” GOP VA primary voters, 46% answered that Allen would be their choice. Eighteen percent prefer soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), though there is no indication that the Congressman would entertain a statewide race since he will already be one of the top congressional leaders. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli places third with 16%, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA-11) are tied with 4% apiece.

In hypothetical general election match-ups (11/10-13; 551 registered VA voters) Webb leads Allen 49-45%; the Senator has a 49-38% advantage over Bolling; and the margin is 49-39% in a Webb-Cuccinelli pairing.

Since Sen. Webb has been somewhat circumspect when answering questions about whether or not he will run for re-election, PPP tested former Gov. and current Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in his stead. The Democrat leads each of the potentially serious Republican contenders. Kaine’s advantage over Allen is 50-44%; 48-41% against Bolling; and 50-40% when paired with AG Cuccinelli.

The third Democrat tested was Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), who just lost his seat to Rep-Elect Bob Hurt on November 2nd. In these trial heats, two of the three Republicans lead the outgoing Congressman, but even here the margin is very tight. Allen tops Perriello 47-42%; Bolling leads him by a single point, 42-41%; but Perriello manages to maintain a slight 44-41% advantage over Cuccinelli.

This particular small-sample poll does not have very positive opinions about any of the contenders. Kaine scores the best with a 43:40% favorable to unfavorable personal approval ratio. All of the others are hung with negative ratings above their positive scores.

Considering that the Republicans just gained three House seats in the Virginia delegation, these results are basically welcome news for the Democrats. Since Virginia, along with New Jersey and New York, each led the nation in turnout drop-off from 2008 (each state registered more than 47% drop-off; that is, 47% of the people who voted in the 2008 presidential election did not return to cast a ballot in 2010), still suggests that the Democrats are more than competitive in a high turnout election, such as would be expected in the next presidential election. It looks like a long Senate campaign ahead for Old Dominion voters and it appears that either side can win.

The other state PPP tested is Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) faces the voters for the first time after unseating three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R) back in 2006. Here, Tester does not fare as well as his colleague Sen. Webb, but is certainly in position for a strong re-election bid.

According to the Public Policy Polling results (10/11-13; 1,176 registered MT voters), at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) leads Sen. Tester 48-46%. The Senator leads former Lt. Gov. nominee Steve Daines (R) 48-37%, but trails former Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot 42-49%.

This early data suggests that Montanans, too, can expect another close, rough and tumble campaign season in 2012. Protecting only 10 of 33 seats in the next cycle, the GOP would need a net gain of four to secure a new majority. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Montana are top states on the potential Republican conversion list.

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.

The Upside Down Landslide

The 2010 election cycle proved unique in many ways – it’s the first time that the House of Representatives switched party control without the Senate also doing so, for example – but probably it’s most surprising characteristic is the reverse nature of the results.

Normally in landslide years, the statewide elections set the tone for incumbent defeats. Not so in 2010. Only two US Senators, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, were unseated Tuesday night. Likewise, only two Governors, Ohio’s Ted Strickland and Iowa’s Chet Culver, were politically fired. In the US House races, however, at least 49 (47 Democrats; 2 Republicans) incumbents lost their re-election battles, and the number could go as high as 59 depending upon the outcome of the 10 House elections that are still undecided. At the state legislative level, the number of incumbent defeats rose into the hundreds. Republicans gained more there than at any electoral level, and increased their total number of legislative seats by at least 680 nationally. They will control a minimum of 54 legislative chambers, a modern-day political record.

The voting public’s willingness to change political course in 2010 is unusual because the anti-incumbent fervor actually increased as people moved down the ballot (into races where the candidates’ names are less familiar) instead of waning. Thus, the sense that this is an “upside down landslide” victory for the Republicans.

As mentioned above, 10 US House races remain unresolved. In all cases, large numbers of absentee and/or provisional ballots remain to be counted that could certainly change the results. Whether such alteration means a different candidate will eventually win the election as opposed to the one who is now leading remains an open question in each of these elections. The 10 are (in alphabetical order):

  • AZ-7: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) vs. Ruth McClung (R)
    Grijalva leads 62,459 to 58,376 – all precincts are counted
  • AZ-8: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) vs. Jesse Kelly (R)
    Giffords leads 120,175 to 117,826 – in both AZ races all precincts are counted but thousands of absentee ballots remain
  • CA-11: Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) vs. David Harmer (R)
    McNerney leads 82,124 to 82,003 with thousands of ballots remaining to be counted
  • CA-20: Rep. Jim Costa (D) vs. Andy Vidak (R)
    Vidak leads 32,521 to 30,708 – the low vote total suggests huge numbers of votes remain uncounted
  • IL-8: Rep. Melissa Bean (D) vs. Joe Walsh (R)
    Walsh leads 97,403 to 96,850 – again large numbers of absentees remain
  • KY-6: Rep. Ben Chandler (D) vs. Andy Barr (R)
    Chandler leads 119,845 to 119,245 – the high vote total suggests the absentee ballots remaining are relatively few, but are enough to change the outcome
  • NY-25: Rep. Dan Maffei (D) vs. Ann Marie Buerkle (R)
    Maffei leads 95,286 to 93,090 with 96% of the precincts counted
  • TX-27: Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) vs. Blake Farenthold (R)
    Farenthold leads 50,954 to 50,155 – all precincts are reporting; low voter turnout; absentee ballots remain
  • VA-11: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) vs. Keith Fimian (R)
    Connolly leads 111,615 to 110,695 – absentee ballots remain
  • WA-2: Rep. Rick Larsen (D) vs. John Koster (R)
    Larsen has just pulled into the lead 97,931 to 97,224 – but only 71% of the vote has been counted; Washington’s unique all-mail system that allows ballots postmarked on Election Day means this one will take a long time to resolve

Only two Senate races remain outstanding. In Alaska, it will take some time to determine if Sen. Lisa Murkowski has won re-election via write-in after losing the Republican primary. It is clear, however, that Republicans will retain the seat. In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray maintains a lead of 27,464 votes, but a quarter of the statewide vote remains to be counted.

On the gubernatorial front, five races remain outstanding. Democrats have small leads in Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, and Vermont. Republican Tom Foley has a slight lead in Connecticut. Several percentage points worth of votes remain to be counted in all five states.

A Look at the Trend Setters on Election Night

Today we’ll look at which races are the most important to watch in order to detect any sort of national trend as the votes begin streaming in on Election Night. The first states to report their votes are Indiana and Kentucky. Both are must-wins for Republicans at the Senate level. In the House, the GOP can begin their move toward along a majority track with wins in two of the four most hotly contested House campaigns in the Hoosier and Blue Grass States: IN-2 (Rep. Donnelly vs. Walorski), IN-8 (Bucshon vs. Van Plaaten), IN-9 (Rep. Hill vs. Young), and KY-6 (Rep. Chandler vs. Barr). So keep a careful eye out there.

Next, we look to Pennsylvania. Of the nine most competitive Keystone State congressional races, including two already held by Republicans, the GOP must win five to keep on pace to gain House seats somewhere in the mid-40s range. Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15), now in a toss-up US Senate battle with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), must convert the seat for the GOP in order for the party to gain significant ground.

Though New York is an important state, their ballot counting tends to be very time consuming, so results there will be very late in coming. Florida, then, becomes a better point state in the Eastern Time Zone. Marco Rubio (R) must nail down his three-way race for the Senate, and the GOP must gain at least three seats in the House. Incumbent Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd (FL-2), Alan Grayson (FL-8), Ron Klein (FL-22), and Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) all could lose, as each are fighting strong Republican candidates. The open FL-25 seat also is a Republican must hold.

Other bellwether states appear to be Virginia (where the GOP needs two seats), Ohio (GOP +3; and the Senate race), and Michigan (+2). Republicans also will need to grab two more states in the east, most probably somewhere among NH-1 (Rep. Shea-Porter vs. Guinta), GA-8 (Rep. Marshall vs. Scott), SC-5 (Rep. Spratt vs. Mulvaney), and NC-8 (Rep. Kissell vs. Johnson). And they must win Senate races in all four of these states, a very achievable goal with less than one week remaining.

Therefore, before exiting the Eastern Time Zone and moving west to other results, the Republicans must have a net gain of one Senate seat and 18 congressional districts to have any chance at taking the majority in either house next Tuesday night.