Tag Archives: West Virginia

West Virginia Numbers; Ilinois Developments

For an open Senate race in a cycle where the majority is up for grabs, the West Virginia effort to replace the retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) has attracted little attention. This is largely due to the fact that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) is the only major announced candidate from either party. Considering how political events have unfolded here to date, the Mountaineer State contest appears to be the best Republican conversion opportunity in the country.

The biggest Democratic name who could still become a Senate candidate is Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. She has yet to enter the campaign, but is reportedly at the top of national Democratic recruitment lists for the state.

Testing a hypothetical Capito-Tennant pairing, R.L. Repass & Partners, a Charleston-based survey research organization, went into the field (Aug. 15-22; 400 registered West Virginia voters) and found a potentially close political battle. According to the results, Capito would lead Tennant only 45-40 percent, but certain methodology points need addressing and explaining.

First, the eight-day polling period is much longer than normal and tends to weaken reliability. Most pollsters attempt to complete the questioning process within three days.

Second, the sample size of 400 is slightly low for a statewide campaign, understanding that West Virginia is a small state. This, too, decreases reliability.

Third, according to local analysts, 53 percent of the polling sample self-identifies as college graduates, yet only 17 percent of the actual residents fit into that category using the 2010 US Census figures as the benchmark source.

Similarly, 54 percent of the polling respondents reported an annual income of greater than $50,000, while only 26 percent of statewide residents fall into that category.

How the skewing affects the ballot test remains to be seen. In the past two cycles, Republicans have fared poorly with college-educated voters so, at least on face value, such a skew probably improves Democrat Tennant’s polling standing. Likewise, when examining West Virginia voting behavior since 2000, skewing with a higher income sample also probably helps the Democrat candidate.
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Re-Capping the Senate

Current Senate makeup

Current Senate makeup

With last week’s announcement that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) would challenge Sen. Mark Pryor (D), thus setting the Arkansas field for 2014, it is a good time to check the national US Senate picture.

In 2014, 35 Senate races are on tap, including campaigns in Hawaii and South Carolina to affirm political appointments. Of the 35, the following 18 senators currently have little or no pending opposition for 2014:

Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Scott (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Alaska:
Despite the potential of former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) running here, the likely 2014 pairing is first-term incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D) and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R). This will be a tight race, but Alaskans don’t often unseat incumbents.

Arkansas: The match is already set – Sen. Mark Pryor (D) vs. Rep. Tom Cotton (R). Arkansas is now trending Republican, but unseating an incumbent – especially one who ran unopposed in the previous election – is never easy.

Georgia: Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D), will be her party’s nominee. The Republican side is a free-for-all among five candidates, all of whom could conceivably win the nomination. The Republican general election candidate should have the advantage, but this primary battle could turn nasty.

Hawaii: Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz is drawing serious Democratic primary opposition from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The Dem primary, which must be rated a toss-up, will determine who wins the  Continue reading >

Hagan Expands Lead; Three Others Out

Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling recently conducted their monthly survey of North Carolina voters (July 12-14; 600 registered North Carolina voters) and found that Sen. Kay Hagan (D), widely regarded as being among the most vulnerable senators facing re-election, is gaining strength. But, the poll may contain certain slight methodological flaws.

According to the data, Sen. Hagan leads all potential Republican candidates between 10 and 15 points and, as we see on almost all PPP polls, the incumbent and her potential opponents have received consistently poor job approval and/or personal favorability ratings.

Though the voting patterns are weighted to correctly reflect how the state voted in the 2012 presidential and gubernatorial races, flaws seem to be present in gender, geographic distribution, and perhaps ideology.

According to the latest census numbers, females in North Carolina comprise 51.3% of the general population. The survey sample tops 53%. The Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point area appears to be over-sampled, while the Charlotte metropolitan area seems to have a smaller number of respondents than accurately reflects its size. Additionally, a southern state topping 30 percent in those claiming to be very and somewhat liberal as compared to only a 43 percent factor self-identifying as very and somewhat conservative tilts abnormally to the left.

All of the slight skews help Sen. Hagan. The over-sampling of female voters, trending more liberal than their male counterparts, would certainly help the liberal incumbent. Since the senator hails from Greensboro, the over-sample from that region at the expense of the Charlotte area should also help her. And, of course, a slight liberal skew would also aid her.

The conclusion that Sen. Hagan leads her largely unknown potential Republican challengers is not surprising, and undoubtedly accurate. But, because of the slight methodological tilts in her favor, the lead might be in the mid-to-high single digits as opposed to the low to mid-double  Continue reading >

A 2014 Senate Re-Set?

As we’re just coming through the off-election year July 4 break, it’s a good time to examine the progression of the current Senate and House political picture. Today, we look at the Senate landscape.

As we know, the current Senate’s party division stands at 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans, with the GOP “renting” the New Jersey seat until voters in the Oct. 16 special election choose a permanent replacement for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Though Gov. Chris Christie (R) appointed Republican Jeff Chiesa to serve in an interim capacity, the fact that the new senator didn’t choose to run for the seat leaves the GOP prospects to also-ran candidates who don’t have a realistic chance of defeating the eventual Democratic nominee. This being the case, in order for the Republicans to overtake the Democratic majority, a conversion swing of six seats still is necessary.

Of the 35 Senate seats that comprise the 2014 election cycle, we can segment the competition into three groups of three and two groups of two, for a grand total of 13 political situations that will determine the new majority’s complexion. Right now, the remaining 22 campaigns appear to be safe for the incumbent senator, or his party in the case of open New Jersey and Nebraska (Republican Sen. Mike Johanns retiring).

The three groups of three contain the nine Democratic seats that are fielding varying degrees of competition. All should be strong conversion opportunities, but only six realistically appear that way today.

First Group of Three: D to R

The first group contains the seats most likely to move from Democrat to Republican. The open contests in West Virginia (Sen. Jay Rockefeller retiring) and South Dakota (Sen. Tim Johnson retiring) look to be locks to move Republican in the persons of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) and former Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD). Democrats have yet to recruit a West Virginia candidate and they are already into the second tier in South Dakota. The third state in this category is the open Montana seat (Sen. Max Baucus retiring) where Republican prospects are growing. Though he could quickly up and enter the race without any pre-announcement fanfare, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is  Continue reading >

South Dakota Dems: Going, Going . . .

The Politico newspaper ran a story yesterday detailing a strategic political difference between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) over who should be the South Dakota Democratic senatorial nominee. The party is battling to hold retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat. We analyze a number of points related to this contest below.

First: Polling shows, and most people believe, that former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate. Sen. Reid was clearly in this camp, but Daschle was apparently a major force behind his former aide, Rick Weiland, entering the race. Last week, soon after Weiland’s announcement, the former congresswoman made public her decision not to run.

Analysis: While Herseth Sandlin showed best against GOP former governor Mike Rounds in early ballot test polling, she was still consistently trailing. Though she successfully served three terms, the ex-member did lose her House seat as a sitting incumbent. The fact that she fails to lead a poll in what could well be the apex of her candidacy is a good indication that she may not be the ideal 2014 Democratic standard bearer, and probably made the right decision in bypassing the race.

Second: The prevailing wisdom suggests that the Democrats should field a more conservative candidate who would have greater appeal to the South Dakota electorate. Conversely, Weiland argues, “You run a Republican against a Republican, you’re going to elect a Republican.”

Analysis: The record since 2006 seems to back Weiland’s assessment. Moderates of both parties have not fared well during this four-election period, as their ranks in both houses have become badly depleted. Particularly in 2006, ’08 and ’10, an anti-incumbency strain that affected both parties became more of a driving factor than  Continue reading >