Tag Archives: West Virginia

Our 2012 Senate Outlook – Part II

Continuing our early analysis of the 2012 election cycle, we now look at some more select states featuring a senate race next year. Be sure to read through our post on Jan. 5 for our analysis of the initial group of states that we looked at.

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) – The fallout from a highly publicized sex scandal still leaves Sen. Ensign in a vulnerable position both in the Republican primary and the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will announce by mid-February whether she will run for the Senate. This is the GOP’s most tenuous situation in the country.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – New Jersey political insiders suggest that bio-tech entrepreneur John Crowley (R) will challenge Sen. Menendez next year. Crowley, currently president and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics headquartered in Cranbury, NJ, is the inspiration for the 2010 movie “Extraordinary Measures” starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The film depicts Mr. Crowley’s efforts directing his previous company to find a cure for Pompe Disease, a serious and life-threatening muscular disorder that infected two of his three children. Although he has significant personal resources, Crowley’s business connections and “star power” put him in position to raise the necessary funds to be competitive. If Crowley runs, the NJ Senate campaign becomes a race to watch.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) – Recently, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) made some public statements suggesting that she is considering challenging Sen. Bingaman, a five-term incumbent. Her entry into the race would certainly give the Republicans a credible candidate, but Mr. Bingaman appears to be in strong political shape. He will have the edge against all comers.

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) – With strong Republican victories at the Senatorial and congressional level in 2010, the GOP will mount a strong challenge to Sen. Conrad, particularly noting the fate of his Budget Committee counterpart, defeated Rep. John Spratt (D-SC-5). Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee; Spratt held the same position when the Democrats controlled the House. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are the names most often mentioned as potential Conrad opponents.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – The stage appears set for newly elected Lt. Governor Mary Taylor to take a shot at Sen. Brown next year. For her part, Taylor is uncommitted to such a race, but the other potential candidates, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), appear to be either dropping out or taking no action to run. This will be a highly competitive race.

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – Despite the Republicans’ current poor position in the Ocean State, they are not without some credible potential candidates to oppose Sen. Whitehouse. Outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is not closing the door on a future political run and has not ruled out challenging Whitehouse next year. John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well in the 2010 Governor’s race – placing second to Independent Lincoln Chafee but ahead of Democrat Frank Caprio – is also a possibility. Though the Democratic nature of Rhode Island, particularly in a presidential election year, lends considerable strength to the Whitehouse campaign, either Carcieri or Robitaille could give him a run for the money. Whitehouse is the favorite in 2012 against all potential opponents, but this race could get interesting.

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Despite saying she would resign her seat before her run for governor that ended in a stinging defeat, it is still not clear whether she will seek another term in the Senate. Most believed Texas would feature an open seat election in 2012, but such may not be the case. If she does retire, then look for a mega-Republican primary that will contain several statewide elected officials and maybe a congressman or two. The Democrats seem pretty set with former state Comptroller John Sharpe as their candidate. He has lost two races for lieutenant governor since leaving his post. Whatever happens on the Republican side, the GOP will be heavy favorites to win in November 2012. As in most every year, the Democrats will claim to have a chance, brandish polls showing them in good position, but then lose by 12 points.

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) – This promises to be one of the top races in the country. Sen. Webb has curiously not yet committed to seeking re-election and murmuring even among Democrats suggests that it’s possible he will retire after just one term. If he does, watch for Democratic National Committee chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine to enter the race. Ex-Gov. and Sen. George Allen (R), the man Webb beat in 2006, is gearing up for a re-match. He appears to have the inside track to the Republican nomination. Polling shows a tight Webb-Allen race. The Democrats will likely be stronger with Kaine as their nominee.

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – Like Sen. Gillibrand, newly elected Sen. Manchin must also stand for election again in 2012, as he won only the right to serve the final two years of the existing term in the last general election. With all of the focus on the state’s basically open gubernatorial race, the position Manchin vacated to run for Senate, he begins the current election cycle as a prohibitive favorite.

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (D) – There has been intense speculation that Sen. Kohl, who will be nearing his 78th birthday at the time of the next election, will retire. If he does, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings. Should Kohl seek re-election to a fifth term, he will be a heavy favorite and likely escapes a strong challenge. Most Republicans are looking to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) to run if the seat opens, but he may decide the stakes are too high to risk defeat in a state that normally trends Democratic, 2010 notwithstanding. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is another potential Republican candidate.
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To Run or Not to Run

Already, potential candidates are musing publicly about running for higher office in 2012. Since two challengers are officially off and running — Florida state

Florida state Sen. Mike Haridopolos.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) lining up against Sen. Bill Nelson (D), and ex-Missouri state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) hoping to qualify in the general election versus Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) — more appear to be making, or at least scheduling, decisions.

In West Virginia, newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may already have dodged a pair of bullets. The man he defeated in November to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s unexpired term, Republican businessman John Raese, is saying he won’t run again. And Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), clearly the Republicans’ strongest statewide contender, looks to be more interested in a run for Governor than Senator.

In Nevada, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will decide in early February whether to challenge embattled Sen. John Ensign (R). And finally, defeated Reps. Glenn Nye (D-VA-2), Tom Perriello (D-VA-5), Patrick Murphy (D-PA-8), and Chet Edwards (D-TX-17) all are saying they “haven’t ruled out” a run to re-capture their old seats; likewise for Republican challenger Ilario Pantano, who lost to veteran Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7). Each will be looking at a much different district after redistricting, so such talk now is highly premature.

A Quick Look at Election Day Trends

On Election morn, the Senate now appears to be the body with the most question marks. With the House trending toward a Republican majority, the Senate GOP races are now apparently closing in upon majority status, too. Throughout electoral history there has never been an election where the House flipped to a different party without the Senate. Thus, if the Republicans do gain control of the House and not the Senate, 2010 will make history because this will be the first time such a configuration has occurred.

The latest trends suggest that Nevada (Majority Leader Harry Reid), Illinois (Burris open), Pennsylvania (Specter open), and Colorado (appointed Sen. Michael Bennet), are all tilting the GOP’s way. Add those to the Democratic states of Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, all of which that secure in the Republican column, and that would mean the party is realistically approaching 49 seats. Thus, one of the following states would have to vote Republican to force a 50-50 tie: California, Connecticut, Washington, or West Virginia. Two wins in these four states would mean a companion Senate Republican majority.

In the final day, California looks to be tightening but incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer still has a slight lead. In Connecticut, Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal looks to have a lead beyond the margin of error. The race in Washington is approaching dead heat status; and in West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin has a slight lead, but is by no means secure. The Republicans need to throw a perfect political game tonight, and though attaining the majority in the Senate is still unlikely, one can at least see the goal from the current Republican perch.

The Last Re-Cap

As you know, tomorrow is Election Day and the 2010 cycle will soon be at a close, more than likely entering the history books as a defining vote to alter direction in public policy. While Democrats will likely hold onto the Senate by a vote or two, Republicans do appear positioned to regain control of the House of Representatives – but the size of the assumed new majority remains a question. The GOP also looks to hit or break the number 30 in gubernatorial offices held. The party may also control a record number of state legislative chambers when the sun rises on November 3rd.

In the Senate, the late trends favor Democrats in Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal) and West Virginia (Joe Manchin). Illinois remains too close to call between Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D). Incumbent Democrats appear to be headed for close victories in California (Sen. Boxer) and Washington (Sen. Murray), but neither can be rated as secure just one day before the final voting.

Republicans look strong in all of their open seats, especially with Rand Paul pulling away from Attorney General Jack Conway in Kentucky. Alaska has turned into a debacle, with GOP nominee Joe Miller’s campaign deteriorating daily. The question remains as to whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski can win re-election as a write-in candidate. It is unlikely that Democrat Scott McAdams will benefit from enough of a GOP split and pull through with a win. Late trends appear to favor the Republican candidates in Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey), Colorado (Ken Buck), and Nevada (Sharron Angle). Four Democratic states are headed the Republicans’ way: Arkansas (Rep. John Boozman defeating Sen. Blanche Lincoln), Indiana (former Sen. Dan Coats returning), North Dakota (Gov. John Hoeven succeeding Sen. Byron Dorgan), and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson unseating Sen. Russ Feingold).

In the House, Republicans look to have a net gain of 35 seats nailed down with another 22 trending their way or simply being too close to call. Upsets are definitely possible in CA-47 (Loretta Sanchez), CT-5 (Chris Murphy), FL-22 (Ron Klein), IL-17 (Phil Hare), MS-4 (Gene Taylor), NY-20 (Scott Murphy), OH-6 (Charlie Wilson), OH-18 (Zack Space), PA-8 (Patrick Murphy), PA-10 (Chris Carney), PA-12 (Mark Critz), TX-23 (Ciro Rodriguez), TX-27 (Solomon Ortiz), and VA-11 (Gerry Connolly).

Eight races in the Democratic column still appear too close to call: AZ-5 (Harry Mitchell), AZ-7 (Raul Grijalva), AR-1 (Open-Marion Berry), GA-8 (Jim Marshall), NJ-3 (John Adler), NM-1 (Martin Heinrich), SD-AL (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin), and WV-1 (Open-Alan Mollohan). Two GOP seats, IL-10 (Open-Mark Kirk) and HI-1 (Charles Djou) also remain as Toss-ups with one day remaining.

New entries to the Republican conversion list based upon late breaking data include CO-3 (John Salazar), FL-2 (Allen Boyd), MI-7 (Mark Schauer), and SC-5 (John Spratt). Spratt, Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) and Chet Edwards (TX-17) appear to be the most senior members heading for apparent defeat. Most of the others are freshmen and sophomores.
Though the 22 seats in our Upset and Toss-up categories are not over, the GOP will likely win the preponderance of these campaigns. Thus, a GOP gain number in the low 50s is quite possible tomorrow night.

In the Governors races, the Republicans are poised to end the night with approximately 30 state houses in their column; a gain of six or more. Of the campaigns still rated as too close to call, only Florida has major national redistricting implications. If Democrat Alex Sink can score a victory in the Sunshine State, the map will likely be drawn by a federal three-judge panel, the normal course of action when the political parties divide a state’s executive and legislative branches of government. The other toss-ups, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have little or no affect upon congressional redistricting. The big conversion prizes apparently headed the GOP’s way are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. All are key in the next redistricting fight.

Will Delaware Save the Senate for Democrats?

In the Senate, the latest Delaware polls continue to show Democrat Chris Coons leading controversial Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell in a race that may well save the Democratic majority. With California (Barbara Boxer) and West Virginia (Gov. Joe Manchin vs. John Raese) now trending better for Democrats, and Colorado, Illinois, and Washington in pure toss-up mode, it will be very difficult for the GOP to claim the Senate majority largely because they have so many of their own seats to defend.

Thus, entering the final phase of campaign 2010, it is more than conceivable that the Republicans will secure enough Democratic conversion seats to secure a working House majority and end the Senate cycle with between 47-49 members.

Turning to the states, the GOP is in position to command 30+ Governors, and could possibly gain a record number of state legislative chambers. This, in a redistricting year that will have a major influence over the political landscape in the ensuing decade.

Though 2010 is shaping up to be an election of historic proportions, it’s only the beginning of a series of major political events. Right after the election Congress will return for an important lame duck session, apportionment numbers will be released before the end of the year – meaning we will know for sure which states will be gaining and losing congressional districts and exactly how many – followed by 2011 redistricting where battles in all 50 states will soon begin (43 with multiple congressional districts are naturally of the highest importance), and, of course, the 2012 presidential election campaign commences in earnest.

The fluidity in our contemporary political time rivals that of any point in American history. It is an exciting time to be involved.