Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Texas Redistricting Map Released

In Redistricting on February 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

The three-judge federal panel in San Antonio yesterday released the latest version of the Texas congressional map, along with those for the state House and Senate. It is clear the panel adhered to the mandate the US Supreme Court delivered when the body rejected the original court map because the population was not equally dispersed among the 36 districts, and some of the minority districts did not meet previous federal directives.

The Texas Legislative Council released partisan numbers for the new seats, but not minority counts. Once the complete data is available, a full analysis can be provided.

At a cursory glance, it appears Republicans will fare much better with this map than under the previous court plan. Because the three-judge panel was forced to give deference to the legislatively passed map, the elected body’s original footprint has been restored.

The map appears to improve the seats of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), both of whom were given marginal districts in the first court plan. Freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) will continue to battle in a marginal 50/50 district, but has a better draw now than previously.

In the East Texas 14th District, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), the Galveston-Beaumont region is again together, which favors former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 and 22), but is even more Republican than in past versions. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25) is placed in the 35th District, a seat that stretches from Travis County, the Congressman’s home, into Bexar County. It will be a heavily Hispanic district. The new 25th District then becomes an open Republican seat that begins in western Travis County and meanders northward toward Ft. Worth.

It appears the GOP would be favored in 25 seats and the Democrats in 10, with the Canseco district being in toss-up status. A more detailed analysis will be conducted once the full demographic and political data becomes public.

Snowe’s Retirement a Blow to Republicans

In Senate on February 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

In perhaps bigger news that Mitt Romney’s Tuesday wins in Michigan and Arizona, three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) sent shock waves through the political world by announcing that she has decided not to seek re-election in the fall. Despite high favorability and poll ratings, Snowe indicated she is leaving the Senate at the end of the term rather than serve in a Republican caucus that is trending far to the right of her individual ideological perspective.

The retirement is a blow to Republican chances of regaining the Senate majority, as the Maine seat appeared secure. Without Snowe in the race, Democrats become the favorites in an open seat race.

Expect Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to give serious consideration to running, as might former Gov. John Baldacci (D). Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has to be considered a strong potential candidate, but he has given no early indication that he will run.

Because Maine has a penchant for electing Independents in statewide contests, one also must consider who could run without being associated with a major party. Former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King would top this list of potential contenders.

Sen. Snowe becomes the 10th Senator to retire at the end of this Congress, meaning that 30 percent of the 2012 in-cycle seats will be open. Of the 10 upcoming vacancies, six are currently held by Democrats, one by an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman), and three Republicans.

What Do Mitt’s Tuesday Wins Mean?

In Presidential campaign on February 29, 2012 at 11:40 am

Mitt Romney won a close victory in Michigan last night and a landslide victory in Arizona, but his performance still doesn’t knock out Rick Santorum. Because of what appears to be only a three-point victory in the Wolverine State, Romney probably will score only two more delegates from this state than does his chief opponent.

Arizona, on the other hand, is setting itself up as a winner-take-all state (29 delegates due to penalty), but that format is in defiance of Republican National Committee rules. Expect a major challenge here if the race goes all the way to the national convention.

With splits predicted for the upcoming Super Tuesday states, including the Washington caucuses this Saturday, the outcome of the GOP nomination battle will likely not be settled even after those states pass. Much more to come in this presidential race.

Weekly Redistricting Update

In Redistricting on February 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.

Is Kerrey In After All?

In Senate on February 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), who hasn’t lived in Nebraska since leaving office in early 2001, may be reconsidering the decision he made two weeks ago to jettison a political comeback attempt in the Cornhusker State. Kerrey is reportedly now telling Democratic leaders that he has changed his mind and will enter the race as a candidate for the Senate. The former Senator served two terms from 1989 through 2001. Prior to his service in Washington, Mr. Kerrey logged one term as Nebraska’s governor. In 1992, he ran an ill-fated campaign for president.

The Kerrey decision may be more than simple equivocation, however. This could be a well-planned and shrewd move. Under Nebraska’s candidate filing law, current office holders must file for re-election or another office by Feb. 15 during this particular election cycle. Non-office holders have until March 1. The unique law allowed Kerrey the luxury of standing back to see what popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) actually decided about his own Senatorial candidacy. Heineman never appeared serious about running for federal office, but he also failed to publicly close the door on a bid. Polling showed that the governor would be the strongest candidate in either party.

With Heineman out and no strong Democrat on the horizon, the way is clear for Kerrey to return to political action. Should he run, he will face either Attorney General Jon Bruning or state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the general election. Even against Kerrey, the Republicans still might have a slight edge. With Sen. Ben Nelson (D) retiring, the GOP is in prime conversion position as President Obama, at the top of the ticket, is not projected to run strong here. The Nebraska seat is critical for both parties in terms of winning majority status.

Super Tuesday: Ohio Races

In House, Redistricting on February 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Super Tuesday marks not only an important day for the Republican presidential campaign, but also kicks off the 2012 congressional elections. Ohio holds its statewide vote on that date, making it the earliest congressional vote in the nation. Originally Texas also was scheduled for March 6, but legal wrangling over redistricting has postponed that primary to much later in the year.

Of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, a trio of Ohio US House primary contests will, for all intents and purposes, elect new members for the 113th Congress next week:

OH-2: The Schmidt Challenge

In the Cincinnati-anchored 2nd District, four-term Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faces surgeon Brad Wenstrup and two other minor Republican candidates. Wenstrup challenged Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in 2009 and managed to score 46 percent of the citywide vote. He has not been particularly aggressive in this race against Rep. Schmidt, however, raising slightly under $245,000 for his primary challenge according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing that was due Feb. 15. As revealed in the report, he had only $103,000 left to spend for the final drive. Schmidt, on the other hand, had raised just under $600,000 for the race.

Though Wenstrup has an apparent base in the eastern part of Cincinnati, an area he carried in the mayoral race and which is part of the new OH-2 congressional district, he has little presence in the six rural southwestern Ohio counties that comprise the remainder of the seat. Though Schmidt has never fully solidified her hold on the 2nd District since her original 2005 special election victory when she replaced Sen. Rob Portman (R) as he departed Congress to become President George W. Bush’s US trade ambassador and then budget director, she should comfortably turn back the Wenstrup challenge.

OH-3: Will Kilroy Return?

Turning to the new 3rd District in Columbus, former one-term Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is attempting to return to Congress in this newly created, heavily Democratic district. In the 2001 redistricting plan, there was no planned Democratic seat in the Columbus area, an odd situation for a major city that has, as the state capital, a large government employee population and hosts a major university (Ohio State). As a result, two seats that were originally intended for Republican incumbents were becoming highly competitive. The 2011 Republican redistricting plan to concede a new open Columbus seat to the Democrats allows the GOP to protect both the 12th (Rep. Pat Tiberi) and the 15th CDs (Rep. Steve Stivers) for the ensuing decade.

Such being the case, next Tuesday’s election will choose the new 3rd District member. Kilroy is being challenged by former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, now in an administration position at Ohio State, and state Rep. Ted Celeste, the brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste.

Kilroy released an early poll giving her a huge lead, but Beatty countered last week saying her internal Public Policy Polling survey places her just one point behind the former congresswoman 34-35 percent. Beatty did not release the actual PPP study, however, so it is difficult to determine its methodology and questionnaire. Celeste is a distant third in all scenarios.

Ms. Beatty, an African-American in a district where blacks account for more than 28 percent of the population and a much greater percentage in a Democratic primary, is a substantial candidate and a threat to derail Kilroy’s comeback attempt. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, himself once mentioned as a possible candidate for this congressional seat, has endorsed Beatty, which may prove important in terms of turning out the primary vote.

OH-9: Kaptur vs. Kucinich

The new 9th District, which stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline, features a Democratic paired-incumbent contest between Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich.

Kaptur represents at least 100,000 additional constituents in the new 9th than does Kucinich. While keeping the larger Cuyahoga communities of Parma (population 77,274) and Lakewood (50,251), Kucinich loses North Olmstead (31,053), Westlake (30,331), and Garfield Heights (27,479). Kaptur, on the other hand, retains her entire Toledo (316,238 inhabitants) base. She also keeps Ottawa and Erie Counties, as well.

Though Kucinich has raised more money during the current election cycle than did Kaptur ($965,000 to $370,000), she has a very large cash-on-hand advantage, due to her many years of service on the important appropriations committee.

Endorsements favor Kaptur. Never representing any part of the Cleveland metropolitan area, the congresswoman has won the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper endorsement. This is likely due more to Kucinich’s unpopularity than Kaptur’s positive image but, regardless, this is an important endorsement in a Democratic primary. She also receives public support from Republican former senator and governor George Voinovich. This carries some weight, even in a Democratic primary, because Voinovich was the Mayor of Cleveland before running statewide. His imprimatur provides her one more Cleveland credential. Conversely, Kucinich has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga Democratic Club, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, singer Willie Nelson, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), thus indicating the flavor of the campaign.

Kucinich also is drawing flack about his foray into running from another state. When the national reapportionment was announced and it became known just how poorly Ohio fared, Kucinich, knowing that his seat would become a redistricting casualty, stated that he would not run against another incumbent and actually started searching for open seats in Washington and Hawaii. He said he had done well in those two states during his presidential campaign, and thus had a base of support in each place. This bizarre idea quickly faded, and he “returned” to Cleveland to challenge another Democratic incumbent, after all. But the locals haven’t forgotten.

Now, in his first advertisement of the campaign, a radio ad running only in Cleveland, Kucinich actually attacks “Toledo politics” inferring that the city is corrupt – the place that is now the largest community in his new district.

With the March 6th primary election fast approaching, there is nothing to suggest that anything other than a convincing Kaptur victory will result. Considering Kucinich was only able to muster 50.32 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary vote against four opponents in his own CD-10, it becomes evident that even his Cuyahoga base is weak. It is already becoming clear that Dennis Kucinich will become the first incumbent electoral casualty of the 2012 election season.

Wisconsin Poll: Good for Obama, Bad for Baldwin

In Polling, Presidential campaign, Senate on February 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The Marquette Law School polled voters on the presidential race and upcoming open US Senate contest in what will be a pivotal 2012 political state. The survey (Feb. 16-19; 716 likely Wisconsin voters) finds President Obama faring well in at least one of several Great Lakes states that could foretell the final national election result.

According to the Marquette survey, Obama would lead former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who does best among the Republican contenders, by a 51-40 percent margin. He enjoys a 53-38 percent edge over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and even larger spreads when paired with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (56-33 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (52-36 percent).

Zeroing in on the Republican primary, it is Santorum who has a big lead in a state that will likely matter greatly in the GOP nomination contest (primary: April 3). The Pennsylvanian leads Romney 34-18 percent. Rep. Paul attracts 17 percent support and Gingrich 12 percent. Since the state has same-day voter registration and an open primary, all Wisconsinites will have the opportunity to participate in the Republican selection process. In sampling those who self-identify as Republicans, Santorum’s lead over Romney is even greater. Among this group, support for Santorum more than doubles over that for Romney, 44-20 percent.

Turning to the Senate race, the news is not overly good for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who is the consensus Democratic candidate. Though Baldwin actually leads two of the three announced Republican candidates (she slips past former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) 44-40 percent and enjoys a bigger edge, 45-37 percent, over state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald) her level of consistent support in all scenarios suggests a stagnant candidacy. When paired with former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, she trails. The former Wisconsin chief executive holds a 48-42 percent lead over Ms. Baldwin.

Notice that in all instances, even against Mr. Fitzgerald who has a low statewide name ID and fares the worst of all GOP candidates on the ballot test, the congresswoman falls within the same 42-45 percent support range. Opposing an extremely well-known Republican, but one with relatively high unfavorable ratings (Thompson), she scores 42 percent. Against an opponent with a hard name ID factor of less than 50 percent (Fitzgerald), she moves only to 45 percent. Paired with a former congressman and statewide candidate (Neumann) who hasn’t been on a general election ballot since 1998, she notches just 44 percent.

Her static performance against a rather diverse group of Republican candidates suggests that she may have an early support ceiling far below what will be necessary to win a general election.

Adding the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker (R) that will occur sometime between April and June, depending upon the resolution of several legal challenges to the presidential and senatorial contests, Wisconsin promises to be the hottest political state in the Union this year. How Wisconsin goes, so could the country.

Bachmann’s New District: Good News and Bad News

In House, Redistricting on February 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a least-change map of the state’s eight congressional districts this week, and in doing so dealt Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) – who, of course, came to fame in the presidential race – some very good news sprinkled with a little bit of bad.

The good news is that her 6th Congressional District, which needed to shed a whopping 96,487 people (this in a state that came within 15,000 individuals of losing a congressional district) becomes four points more Republican on the Obama 2008 scale, and she already represents 94.8 percent of the new seat. The bad news is that her home is in the 5.2 percent of the previous territory not included within the new CD. Therefore, she is technically paired with liberal Rep. Betty McCollum (D) in the new 4th District. This is a minor problem for Bachmann as federal law does not require a member of Congress, or candidate, to reside in the district in which they represent or seek election, and she has already publicly laid claim to the new 6th.

Though Minnesota has a primary, its strong party convention system generally designates the partisan nominees. Assuming Ms. Bachmann is in good standing with the 6th District state convention delegates, she should have little trouble in winning re-nomination. Since John McCain carried the new district by a 55-43 percent margin, she will be the odds-on favorite to rather easily secure a fourth term in November.

The Super Tuesday Scorecard

In Polling, Presidential campaign on February 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm

It’s quite possible that Super Tuesday, designed to give one presidential candidate a boost toward the eventual party nomination, may not be particularly definitive in 2012.

Initial polling has been published, or trends are clear, in nine of the 13 states hosting caucuses or primaries on or before Super Tuesday; the preliminary information suggests that the race will move toward the next group of states in close fashion.

Currently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds definitive leads over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Ohio (66 delegates – 42-24 percent, Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 15), Oklahoma (40 delegates – 39-23 percent, The Sooner Poll, Feb. 8-16) and Washington (53 delegates – 38-27 percent, Public Policy Polling, Feb. 16-19). He also has a close lead in Michigan (30 delegates – 38-34 percent, Rasmussen, Feb. 20). The grand total of delegates apportioned in the aforementioned Santorum states is 189.

Romney has no published polling data for the states where he commands a definitive advantage with the exception of Virginia, but the outcomes are unquestioned. He will win his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates), along with Vermont (17 delegates) and Virginia (49 delegates). He has a close lead in Arizona (29 delegates – 36-33 percent, PPP, Feb. 17-19).

The Old Dominion is becoming more important than originally projected. Christopher Newport University conducted a poll of Virginia Republican primary voters (Feb. 4-13) and found Romney leading Rep. Ron Paul 53-23 percent. Remember, only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot, meaning one of the candidates will win a majority of the vote – almost assuredly Romney. Breaking 50 percent is important because under Virginia delegate apportionment rules, any candidate receiving a majority of the vote receives unanimous support from all 49 delegates. Therefore, the inability of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to recruit enough petition signatures to participate in the Virginia primary will cost them dearly.

Adding the delegate contingents from the aforementioned Romney states produces an aggregate count of 136.

Georgia is now becoming extremely interesting. With the delegate penalty sanction assessed to Florida for its defiance of Republican National Committee rules, the Peach State now becomes the fourth-largest contingent with 76 delegates. According to a survey from the Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (Feb. 20), Gingrich leads his GOP opponents with 26 percent, but he is followed closely by Romney and Santorum with 24 and 23 percent, respectively. Therefore, it is clear that Georgia is anyone’s game. But, if the vote stays this evenly divided, the candidates will likely split the pool of delegates almost evenly, thereby giving no one a clear upper hand.

There is no available polling for Tennessee (47 delegates), or the caucus states of Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32 delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates). Combined, states total 134 delegates – so far unaccounted for. The aggregate number of delegates contained in the universe of Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday cusp states is 535, or 23.4 percent of the entire Republican National Convention delegate universe.

It is reasonable to expect momentum to shift toward one candidate should either Santorum or Romney sweep the pre-Super Tuesday states of Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. If this happens, then Super Tuesday itself could become definitive after all.