Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Conflicting Polls in Ohio, Florida Senate Races

In Election Analysis, Senate on March 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm

New polls are in the public domain from Ohio and Florida with some very divergent results, particularly relating to Ohio.

Within the same timing realm, Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports sampled Ohio voters and questioned them about the upcoming US Senate race between first term incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) and newly chosen Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer. Quinnipiac conducted their survey during the March 20-26 period and interviewed 1,246 registered Ohio voters. Rasmussen launched a one-day poll, March 26, and questioned 500 likely voters. Quinnipiac gathers its responses through live telephone interviews. Rasmussen Reports employs an automated system.

Therefore, the two methodologies are quite different. Many polling analysts question Quinnipiac’s long sampling period, while believing Rasmussen is not in the field long enough. Most pollsters attempt to complete their surveys in three calling days. This allows for a compact “three-day track,” which can help detect sudden movement relating to particular happenings. Both pollsters weight their answers to bring samples in line with demographic complexion, political party disposition, and voting trend history. Yet, as you will see, their results are diametrically different.

The latest Q-Poll shows Brown leading Mandel 46-36 percent, which is similar to their Feb. 7-12 poll that posted the incumbent to a 48-35 percent advantage. But Rasmussen Reports reveals a totally different finding, placing the two candidates in a 43-43 percent tie. Several other polls have shown this race to be close, but most have reported margins closer to the Q-Poll. Since both candidates are well-funded and Ohio will be such a battleground for the presidential election, expect this race to be close by Election Day regardless of how the two candidates are positioned today.

In Florida, after a series of polls revealed the race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) to be close, Quinnipiac’s March 20-26 poll (1,228 registered Florida voters) is posting the Democrat to a 44-36 percent lead. This is a seven-point swing in Nelson’s favor when compared to the January Q-Poll (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) that gave the senator only a one-point lead, 41-40 percent.

There are a couple of reasons explaining the swing. First, the January Q-Poll sampling universe was more favorable to Republicans. In that sample, 35.1 percent of the respondents self-identified as being members of the GOP, versus only 26.6 percent saying they were Democrats. The remainder, 38.1 percent, claimed to be Independents or “other.” The March sample was more in the Democrats’ favor. In this group, 31.0 percent described themselves as Republicans and 31.9 percent as Democrats. Independents and others comprised 40.3 percent of the respondent pool. The actual breakdown of Florida registered voters is 36.1 percent Republican; 40.5 percent Democrat; and 23.3 percent Independent and “Other.”

But the sample pool is only one reason why Nelson may be gaining support. Former interim Sen. George LeMieux, opposing Mack in the Republican primary, is on television and radio with attack ads, attempting to distinguish Rep. Mack from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R), and likening the former to renegade actor Charlie Sheen because of reported bar fights in the younger Mack’s past and episodes of what the LeMieux ads call the congressman’s “road rage.” The swing toward Nelson in the latest Q-Poll can be at least partially attributed to the LeMieux ads.

As we know, a poll is merely a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and many times anomaly results do occur. To get the best understanding of campaign movement, it is important to consider many polls over a long period of time. What is important is the trend toward election day, and not necessarily the individual numbers themselves.

Since there have already been several inconsistencies in both of these states, we can reasonably expect greater movement in the coming months as the Nov. 6 election nears. Count on both the Ohio and Florida Senate races being among the most interesting in the country.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign, Republican Primary Race on March 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.

Analyzing Shocker Senate Polls in Ohio and Nebraska

In Senate on March 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Two polls hit the public domain yesterday that give the Democrats reason to pause. According to Rasmussen Reports, Ohio GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who many political professionals have long believed possesses the best candidate skills of all Republican contenders, has pulled into a 43-43 percent dead heat with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Mandel scored 63 percent of the Republican vote in the March 6 primary, so he is already the official GOP nominee.

This new Rasmussen Reports poll, (March 26; 500 registered Ohio voters) is not the first to show Mandel getting close to Brown, but certainly is the survey turning in the best Republican numbers to date. Fifteen polls have been commissioned here since March 2011, and the only other one showing the campaign even in the realm of a toss-up was Rasmussen’s Feb. 8 survey that put Mandel within four points of Brown, 40-44 percent. Another study that had Mandel even within ten points of the senator was Public Policy Polling’s Oct. 13-16 survey that revealed a 48-40 percent spread.

The one finding that all 15 polls have in common, however, is that none show Brown over, or even at, 50 percent. A polling axiom has always been that incumbents are in political trouble when they fall below the majority mark. Such does not always prove to be the case in practice, but it is interesting that Sen. Brown’s poll numbers remain stagnant between a relatively small 43-49 percent segment in 15 polls from four different pollsters over a 12-month period. This data, coupled with Mandel’s strong fundraising ability (he had raised $5.8 million to Brown’s $6.5 million by year’s end, clearly the best of any Republican challenger nationally) does suggest that the Ohio Senate race will become more competitive as the campaign progresses.

Many Democrats claim that Rasmussen Reports, largely because of their small sample draws and employing an automated questionnaire model, tend to skew their results toward their own conservative bias. Comparing RR polls, however, to actual results generally does not support such criticism. The Democrats certainly howled when Rasmussen released the first Nebraska poll after former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) returned from New York to enter the 2012 open seat Senate race. The RR data (March 5; 500 registered Nebraska voters) gave GOP Attorney General Jon Bruning, the leading Republican senatorial contender, a 55-33 percent lead over the former Democratic senator.

Yesterday, the Democratic survey research firm Public Policy Polling (March 22-25; 1,028 registered Nebraska voters via automated calls) surveyed the Cornhusker State electorate and actually found a similar result to the Rasmussen study. According to PPP, Bruning enjoys a 54-37 percent advantage, certainly within the same range as the RR conclusion. Obviously, this is not good news for former Sen. Kerrey and the Democrats, who know the former statewide office holder is their best chance of keeping the seat in the Democratic column.

Compounding Kerrey’s problem is that he trails even lesser known and lightly supported Republican primary candidates. Against state Sen. Deb Fischer (R), who is unfamiliar to more than 60 percent of the electorate, Kerrey trails 38-48 percent. When paired with state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who himself trails Bruning 18-46 percent in the commensurate GOP nomination poll of Nebraska voters, the former senator is behind 38-52 percent. On top of that, he is viewed favorably by just 36 percent of the people as compared to 51 percent who possess an unfavorable opinion of him.

At least in the early going, the Kerrey re-entry into the Nebraska Senate race has certainly not tipped the balance of power toward the Democrats.

Weekly Redistricting Update

In Redistricting on March 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Now that almost all of the 43 multi-congressional district maps are legally in place, little is occurring on the redistricting front, meaning that the election year 2012 political playing field has basically been established. This notwithstanding, some action did occur in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate committee of jurisdiction passed a new state Senate map to replace the one the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down. Full Senate action is expected shortly. Expect the legal challenge to the congressional map to drag on until election timing forces a decision, a similar pattern to what has occurred in many other places. Regardless of how the lower courts rule, the congressional plan will eventually come before the Florida Supreme Court. The most difficult issue to resolve is whether the congressional map complies with the voter-enacted redistricting initiative and the measure’s inherent conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – Looks like it’s back to the drawing board yet again. The state House, which previously approved the congressional map, now has voted it down, sending it back to committee for re-drawing. The state Senate and House are still miles apart on a four-district map, meaning the process could still find its way to court for a judicial draw. Kansas will likely be the last state to complete redistricting. The Sunflower State primary is Aug. 7.

LOUISIANA (current delegation: 6R-1D; loses one seat) – The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Louisiana may not proceed with its reapportionment lawsuit this year. The state was arguing that the reapportionment formula should only be allowed to count legal residents. Louisiana lost one seat in 2010 reapportionment. The high court’s ruling means any eventual ruling on the merits of the state’s case will not affect the 2012 elections.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The Granite State, with the easiest redistricting job in the country (the current lines are only 254 people out of balance) will soon pass a new congressional map, as its state legislative leaders indicated this past week. The final version will be a “least change” plan, since so little is required to bring the lines into reapportionment compliance. The approach is bad news for Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), whose western district is much more Democratic than its eastern counterpart. Bass is again being challenged by the woman he beat only 48-47 percent in 2010 – Ann McLane Kuster (D).

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – After losing their legal challenge to the new South Carolina congressional map last week, the Democratic plaintiffs have decided to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. So far, the high court has postponed action on such lawsuits (e.g., the SCOTUS decision regarding the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuits), thus keeping the legally processed maps intact for the current election cycle. It is reasonable to believe this appeal will be handled in a similar manner, and that the Palmetto State map will stand for at least the 2012 election.

Energy Policy and Presidential Politics

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign on March 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The energy issue, as it often does in national elections, will again be front and center in the 2012 presidential election, especially with gas prices assured to be at an all-time high. The Gallup organization just released a report about Americans’ attitudes and impressions of energy-related issues. The results suggest a movement toward the Republican position of increasing domestic energy production and reveals President Obama to be on the short side of the Keystone Pipeline controversy.

In relation to Keystone, by a margin of 57-29 percent, the respondents favored building the oil transport structure that would begin in Canada and extend to refineries in Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and export terminals along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Even a plurality of self-identified Democrats (44-38 percent) support the pipeline construction.

But the swing within the electorate, and a potential electoral problem for the President, is decidedly toward energy production versus concern for the environment. For only the second sustained time since 2001, more people (47-44 percent) favored energy development than environmental protection. The swing in this direction has been marked since 2001. Today, the gap among Republicans on this question has swung 29 points in favor of production. Independents have gone from a +24 for environment to just a +8. Even Democrats have moved 10 points closer to development from a +32 pro-environment gap in 2001 to a +22 today. Continuing these trends could give the GOP a boost as the November election draws near.

Santorum Win Louisiana; Argues Delegate Count

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign, Republican Primary Race on March 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Rick Santorum accomplished his goal Saturday night in Louisiana, easily outdistancing Mitt Romney 49-27 percent, with Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) posting 16 and 6 percent, respectively. Of Louisiana’s 46 delegates, only 20 of them were at stake in the primary and Santorum stands a good chance of capturing 14. The remainder will be chosen at the state Republican convention to be held June 1st and 2nd.

Louisiana was the type of victory Santorum needed to re-establish momentum before going to the April 3 primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Of the three, DC, where Romney is expected to easily romp, is a Winner-Take-All entity, so all 17 delegates should go his way. Wisconsin and Maryland both use the same allocation system. Delegate votes are awarded for winning statewide and for carrying each of their respective eight congressional districts. Wisconsin has 42 total delegates and Maryland 37. The Wisconsin vote will likely to be close, while Romney has a chance to sweep Maryland and convert all 37 delegates.

Again we saw a familiar pattern in Louisiana. Though Santorum swept all the parishes except one, Mr. Romney placed first in the state’s most urban area – New Orleans. Such a result has been consistent throughout the campaign. Romney does well in the most urbanized areas of a state, but poorly in the rural regions and very poorly in the south. Having a Republican nominee weak in the party’s base areas is not an enviable position for the GOP when they face President Obama later this year. Romney will not be able to count on commensurate urban support against the incumbent Democratic nominee.

But, it’s the overall delegate count that is the subject of much discussion and fraught with misconception. The CNN number is a good benchmark for the media counts. The broadcast organization shows Romney with 549 delegates through Illinois and Santorum with 249, Gingrich 137, Paul 69, and 137 delegates unallocated from the 33 states and territories already voting.

The Republican National Committee official count, however, tells a much different story. Factoring out those delegates who the individual states have not yet chosen nor bound for at least a first ballot vote, Romney would have 339 delegates, Santorum only 95, Gingrich 107, and Paul 22 with 300 unallocated. Using the official RNC accounting, Romney is 805 votes away from committing the 1,144 delegates required to clinch victory, rather than 595 as the media depicts.

The pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Super PAC has an even different count. Where the RNC does not yet add recent Santorum victory states because their delegates still must be officially chosen at convention, the inclusion of states like Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas changes the picture greatly. According to Red, White, and Blue, the count is: Romney 344; Santorum 193; Gingrich 160; Paul 33; Unallocated 411. Therefore, the Santorum Super PAC projection, in similar fashion to the RNC, shows that Romney is still a whopping 800 committed votes from the magic number.

So, despite all of the aforementioned entities, and then some, looking at exactly the same results, highly diverse accounting results continue to emerge. It again proves that this Republican nomination campaign still has a very long way to go.

Illinois Congressional Match-ups

In Election Analysis, House on March 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Now that Tuesday’s Illinois primary produced a slate of nominees for both parties in the 18 congressional districts, the general election cycle officially begins. Illinois is the Democrats’ most gerrymandered state in the nation and the one place where they can make significant gains in House races.

To re-cap, the current delegation stands at 11R-8D. The state loses one seat in reapportionment, which forced GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) into the same district. Kinzinger, the freshman, proved to be the surprisingly easy 54-46 percent winner Tuesday night and faces only an Independent in the general election. The pairing of the two Republicans in the down-sized state, however, cost the GOP at least one seat.

    The safe Democrats, based upon voter history and quality of GOP opponents are:

  • District 1: Rep. Bobby Rush (D) – Obama ’08: 80.8%
  • District 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) – Obama ’08: 81.1%
  • District 3: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – Obama ’08: 58.3%
  • District 4: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) – Obama ’08: 80.5%
  • District 5: Rep. Mike Quigley (D) – Obama ’08: 69.8%
  • District 7: Rep. Danny Davis (D) – Obama ’08: 89.4%
  • District 9: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – Obama ’08: 68.6%
    The safe Republicans, based upon voter history and quality of Democratic opponents are:

  • District 6: Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – Obama ’08: 51.3%
  • District 14: Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – Obama ’08: 50.6%
  • District 15: Rep. John Shimkus (R) – Obama ’08: 42.8%
  • District 16: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) – Obama ’08: 50.0%
  • District 18: Rep. Adam Schock (R) – Obama ’08: 44.1%

Six districts will set the tone for the general election. The Democrats believe they can make a net gain of four seats. Originally, they thought a fifth seat was in their grasp, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) drew little in the way of primary opposition and the man who Democrats’ believed to be their best candidate appears to have lost Tuesday’s primary. With 2010 nominee David Gill clinging to a lead of 143 votes, now with 100 percent of the vote counted, it appears Johnson will face an opponent he has twice beaten. The 13th is much more Democratic than his previous 15th CD, but the 54.6 percent Obama score is one of the lesser in the state. Johnson now becomes the decided favorite in this new district that stretches from him home region in Champaign to the southwest through Decatur and Springfield.

But the real battles will come in the Chicago suburbs and western Illinois. In the new 8th District, probably the most difficult seat for the Republicans to hold, freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) is taking his chances in a tough general election instead of running this past Tuesday against fellow GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in the 14th CD. In a district where President Obama scored 61.5 percent, Walsh will face former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq War veteran, who challenged Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District back in 2006 when the seat was open and took 49 percent of the vote. Tuesday, Duckworth notched an impressive 67-33 percent win over former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi who spent over $1 million in the Democratic primary race. Ms. Duckworth begins the general election as the favorite to unseat Walsh.

In the new 10th CD, a district that encompasses the Chicago suburban territory north of the city and hugs Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin border, freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) must defend his seat that gave 63.0 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008. Dold is a strong campaigner and had the advantage of seeing the Democrats fight it out in a tough primary that produced attorney Brad Schneider as the nominee. Schneider scored a 47-39 percent win over activist Ilya Sheyman and two others. Sheyman was the liberal base candidate, so the Democratic turnout drive in the general may be lessened a bit. It is unlikely Obama will score as well here as he did four years ago, so Dold has a chance to survive despite the gaudy Democratic political numbers.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will face former Rep. Bill Foster (D) in the new 11th District that stretches from her home area in Hinsdale southeast to include Joliet, the latter region brand new to the seven-term congresswoman. The general election will be a major fight here, but the political numbers give Foster and the Ds a clear advantage. Obama scored 61.4 percent under the new district confines. Foster, who lost his 14th District in 2010, has his own weaknesses, so this general election begins as a toss-up with a tilt toward the Dems.

The new 12th CD, anchored in the Democratic stronghold of East St. Louis and moving south all the way to Kentucky, is very much in play for November. Without incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello (D), who is retiring, the Democrats must now rely on former St. Clair County School Superintendent Brad Harriman in a district where the President received 54.7 percent of the vote. This is the only Illinois Democratic seat where the Obama percentage lessened significantly from the previous draw. The Republicans nominated their former lieutenant governor (2010) candidate Jason Plummer. With a strong campaign, the GOP could conceivably steal this seat, thus off-setting some of their other likely Illinois losses.

Finally, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) must defend his new 17th CD against East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos, who scored a 58 percent win Tuesday night against two Democratic candidates. The 17th was made more Democratic and now actually reaches into the city of Rockford from its traditional population anchor in the Quad Cities region. Obama posted a flat 60 percent here in 2008, meaning Schilling has tough sledding in 2012 with the President again leading the ticket. Still, this is a competitive race and with a strong campaign, Schilling has a chance to win a second term.

What’s Next for Santorum?

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign, Republican Primary Race on March 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

After sustaining a predicted 35-47 percent loss in Tuesday’s Illinois primary, but securing a minimum of 12 delegates under the state’s loophole rule (the people directly vote for individuals running for delegate), Rick Santorum now proceeds toward two critical states, Louisiana this Saturday and Wisconsin on April 3.

Magellan Strategies, in a Louisiana poll conducted on March 19, posts Santorum to a 37-24-21 percent advantage over Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, respectively. Winning Louisiana is a must if Santorum is to regain some of the momentum he lost in Illinois this week. He will then have to rebound for a win in the Great Lakes State of Wisconsin, where his blue-collar manufacturing/traditional values message should resonate well within the GOP voter base. Romney is likely to cruise to easy winner-take-all victories in Maryland and the District of Columbia on that same day, thus increasing Wisconsin’s importance for Santorum.

Another state on the May 8 horizon where Santorum appears strong is North Carolina, with its large base of 55 delegates. A new Survey USA poll (March 16-20; 403 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) gives the former Pennsylvania senator a 34-26-18 percent edge over Romney and Gingrich.

Though the delegate spread is growing in Romney’s favor, there are still many opportunities for Santorum to close the gap and force an open convention.

Illinois Primary Answers

In Election Analysis, House, Presidential campaign, Republican Primary Race on March 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary last night finishing exactly as the late polls predicted, 47-35 percent over Rick Santorum. Delegate-wise, it is more difficult to project this soon into the post-election process because Illinois is a “Loophole Primary” and voters were actually choosing individuals on the ballot to fill 66 of the 69 delegate positions. Romney will very likely exit Illinois with more delegates than the other candidates; but will he have enough to stay on track to reach the 1,144 committed delegates prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa? It still may be too early to answer that question.

The congressional primaries brought few surprises, though the margin of veteran Rep. Don Manzullo’s defeat at the hands of freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) raised more than a few eyebrows in the new 16th District. Polling had forecast an even race and it appeared Manzullo had the forward momentum toward the end of the campaign, but this clearly proved to be a misconception. Kinzinger won a 56-44 percent victory, a raw vote total of more than 9,000 votes. Since the Democrats did not file a candidate in the 16th District, Kinzinger is a lock in the general election. The county chairmen do have the power to meet and choose a nominee, but such a person would start in a major deficit position after this victory performance in what should be a reliable Republican seat.

In the lakeside 10th District, attorney Brad Schneider won a 47-39 percent win over political activist Ilya Sheyman, a favorite of the liberal “Netroots” organizations. He will oppose freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in what will be a highly competitive general election race.

To the southwest in the new Chicago suburban 11th CD, Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will attempt to convert the marginal seat intended as a Democratic pick-up. Former Rep. Bill Foster, who lost his 14th District seat in 2010, won the Democratic nomination with 59 percent of the vote against two other opponents. This also will be a race to watch in the fall.

In the western Illinois 17th District, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos cracked the 58 percent mark against two other candidates and will give freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) all he can handle in the general election.

It is reasonable to expect heavy competition in six of the state’s 18 congressional districts. Democrats hope to net four seats when the dust settles in November. It is unclear how many they will actually win, but Dem gains are expected in the Land of Lincoln especially with favorite son Barack Obama again leading the top of the national ticket.