Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Major Swing State Polling Figures Show Obama Support

In Polling, Presidential campaign on June 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm

A series of new polls from three major swing states -Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania – reveals that voters basically support President Barack Obama’s immigration policy, but are split on his handling of the economy.

Quinnipiac University released their research data this week from polls simultaneously conducted in those critical swing states, and the results reveal that the president has a discernible advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the three places, the culmination of which could decide the election. The polls, all from the June 19-25 period, report the following ballot test findings:

• Florida: Obama 45 percent – Romney 41 percent (1,200 Florida voters)
• Ohio: Obama 47 percent – Romney 38 percent (1,237 Ohio voters)
• Pennsylvania: Obama 45 percent – Romney 39 percent (1,252 Pennsylvania voters)

Since 1960, history dictates that no one has won the White House without taking at least two of the three aforementioned states. In comparing these results with the similar May 3 Q-Poll findings that gave Obama an eight-point lead in Pennsylvania with Florida and Ohio in virtual dead heats, suggests that the president has gained recent momentum. Today, Obama has clear leads over Romney in the three critically important states and, if such a pattern continues throughout the summer and into autumn, he stands in good position to secure a second term. Keeping in mind that voter disposition over a four-month time period in the modern campaign era can quickly change, this new data again suggests that the 2012 presidential contest will be tight in these three major battleground states.

The polls yield several basic conclusions. Initially, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania polling respondents support President Obama’s new immigration policy and are divided over whether he or Romney would be better for the country’s economy and their personal finances.

In Florida, on the heels of the President’s recent decision to prevent deportation of younger Illegal immigrants, Mr. Obama holds a sizable lead among Hispanic voters. Specifically, the Q-Poll indicates an Obama support factor within the Florida Hispanic cell segment at 56-32 percent, compared to 49-39 percent in the May Quinnipiac University poll. The earlier survey was in the field prior to Obama and Romney each making their respective immigration policy speeches. Increasing Republican share of the Hispanic voting block is crucial to a Romney win formula.

Furthermore, Obama leads in other demographic group cell sectors as well, including 85-6 percent support among black voters, which actually could be a low number when compared with voter history from 2008. White voters in Florida back Romney 50-35 percent. Obama also leads among Sunshine State women, 47-40 percent, while men are evenly divided with 43 percent for Obama and 42 percent for Romney.

In Ohio, we find similar results as the Buckeye State Q-Poll reveals 52-38 percent support for the president’s immigration policy. By a margin of 45-38 percent, respondents say he would do a better job than Romney in handling immigration. Obama currently possesses a discernible lead among Ohio Independents, which historically have proven to be a bellwether in determining which way the state will swing.

Pennsylvania women are strongly backing the president according to the Keystone State Q-Poll (48-36 percent), with men tipping 42-41 percent toward Romney. Voters in Pennsylvania don’t necessarily approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling his job as president, split 45-47 percent favorable to unfavorable, but his numbers are better than Romney’s upside down 34:39 percent personal image ratio.

In conclusion, the Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania polls provide strong indications about which way the country will swing this fall. Today, it is fair to say that this race is still up for grabs, but the president clearly maintains the easier path to ultimate victory in November.

Polling on Healthcare Shows Intriguing Results

In Polling on June 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm

On the eve of the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision announcement, Public Policy Polling (June 21-24; 1,000 registered voters) conducted a national survey of attitudes and impressions regarding the political leadership associated with the healthcare issue. The results are interesting, and potentially disheartening for President Obama and his party.

In answering the question about which candidate the respondents trusted more pertaining to healthcare issues of the greatest importance to they and their individual families, by a surprisingly close 45-44 percent count, the polling sample favored presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Perhaps even more stunning, by a margin of only 47-43 percent, the cell group said they trusted the president on healthcare more than the congressional Republicans. For the better part of time since the 2006 election campaign, congressional Republicans in particular, have been scoring poorly on favorability index questions. So, it is unusual to see them virtually at parity with the President on his signature issue.

But, perhaps the most surprising response of all came to the question as to which candidate had the most clear stance on healthcare. Despite the passage of his healthcare plan being the president’s most significant domestic agenda accomplishment and Romney being less defined, Obama only tops the Republican by a slight 45-42 percent margin when claiming that one candidate or the other has the more clear stances on the healthcare issue.

As one more indicator that the healthcare issue will be one that helps determine the outcome of this presidential election, the PPP survey sample would vote for the president over Romney by a 48-45% margin, quite in line with their specific healthcare answers.

Sullivan Loses in Okla.; Other Incumbents Fare Well

In Election Analysis, House, Senate on June 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm

The big story of yesterday’s Oklahoma primary voting is the defeat of six-term Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK-1), who fell to military reserve pilot Jim Bridenstine by a substantial 54-46 percent margin. Sullivan becomes the fourth non-paired incumbent to fail in a renomination bid during this election cycle. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), Tim Holden (D-PA-17), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) are the other three.

In the open 2nd District of Oklahoma, both parties will feature Aug. 28 run-off elections. The Republicans will battle between businessman Markwayne Mullin (42 percent) and state Rep. George Faught (23 percent). Democrats will likely have a close contest between former district attorney Rob Wallace (46 percent) and Tulsa County Farm Bureau President Wayne Herriman (42 percent). Rep. Dan Boren (D) is retiring. This may be the Republican’s best conversion opportunity in the country.

Turning to South Carolina, the general election candidates are now set in the Palmetto State’s new 7th District. Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice was a strong 56-44 percent winner over former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer in the Republican primary. Rice is a prohibitive favorite now in the general election. In the run-off campaign that lasted just four official days after the Horry County court ruled that the Democrats must hold a secondary vote, former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu easily beat back attorney Preston Brittain, 73-27 percent. The run-off was challenged because votes for a withdrawn candidate were not originally included in the final tally.

In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch, as expected, was an easy 67-33 percent winner in his Republican primary battle with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Hatch will now cruise to re-election to a seventh term in November.

Another incumbent turned back a serious primary challenge with ease. Three-term Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5) repelled self-funding opponent Robert Blaha by a strong 62-38 percent margin despite the challenger spending more than $720,000 of his own money. Lamborn, who has had trouble solidifying what should be a safe Colorado Springs district, appears to be building the kind of strength one would expect to see from a now veteran incumbent.

Finally, in New York, a series of primaries produced no surprises. Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), challenged by four Democrats, again survived the onslaught but with only 45 percent of the vote. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was his closest challenger with 40 percent; former Clinton Administration official and 2010 congressional candidate Clyde Williams only recorded 10 percent of the vote.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D) was a 58-31 percent winner over New York City Councilman Erik Dilan. Velazquez will now represent the new 7th District, which contains 71.2 percent of her current constituency. Neighboring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9) was an easy winner in her primary with a huge 88 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, two individuals won open-seat New York City races that effectively punches their ticket to Congress. State Assemblywoman Grace Meng was an easy Democratic primary winner and will succeed retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman in the new 6th District. In Brooklyn, Democratic state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will replace retiring Rep. Ed Towns in the new 8th District.

New York City attorney Sean Mahoney won the right to challenge freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) in the new 18th District. Mahoney won despite the district being anchored in Westchester County. As expected, Rep. Bill Owens (D) will defend his marginal district against 2010 nominee Matt Doheny (R). And, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R) will face Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in a new district that heavily favors the Republicans.

Finally, in the US Senate race, conservative Wendy Long easily defeated New York City Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9), who had no legitimate chance of remaining in the House post-redistricting. Long, also officially carrying the Conservative Party line, will face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in a long shot November challenge effort.

Voters Choose Candidates Today in Utah, S.C., N.Y., Okla., Colo., Primaries

In House, Senate on June 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Voters in five states go to the polls today to nominate US Senate and House candidates.

• In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is encouraged by a new poll (June 12-19; 500 eligible Utah voters) from Key Research, a local Utah-based firm, in conjunction with the Utah Data Points research and information blog. According to the data, Hatch leads former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R) 51-22 percent among eligible GOP primary voters and 56-25 percent among those self-described “likely” voters.

South Carolinians in the new 7th Congressional District will choose both a Republican and Democratic nominee in the run-off vote. The Democrats now have an official run-off election after a local Horry County court judge ruled that votes cast for a withdrawn candidate do count, meaning candidate Gloria Tinubu, who was originally declared the victor, is now forced to a run-off with second place finisher Preston Brittain. The Republican race is between former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice, the latter of whom Gov. Nikki Haley (R) just publicly endorsed.

• In New York, Democrats are looking at eight contested primaries, including those for incumbents Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13). Republicans have just one seriously contested primary, that in the new 27th District for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D).

• Both Democrats and Republicans in Oklahoma will vote in the first round of polling in the open 2nd District (Rep. Dan Boren (D) retiring). Run-offs, to be held on Aug. 28, are likely for both parties.

• Finally, Colorado will also hold a primary. The only race of any significance is the Republican intra-party challenge to Rep. Doug Lamborn in the Colorado Springs-based 5th District. Wealthy businessman Robert Blaha is running a major self-funded effort against the incumbent, dropping more than $700,000 of his own money into the race even before the end of March.

We will provide results and analysis on Wednesday morning.

Assessing Congressional Decisions Facing S.C., Ill.

In Election Analysis, House on June 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm

SC-7: A Horry County court judge finally ordered the South Carolina Election Commission to conduct a Democratic run-off election in the state’s new 7th Congressional District, just days before the secondary election is to be held. The ruling came down Friday and the run-off election will be held as originally scheduled, tomorrow. Controversy arose on primary election night over whether to count the votes cast for withdrawn candidate Ted Vick, whose name appeared on the ballot because he officially left the race after the ballots were printed.

Relying on past Election Commission procedure, votes, for the purposes of determining whether a candidate obtained majority support from the participating electorate, were not typically counted for withdrawn contestants. Eliminating Vick’s votes in this instance allowed former Georgia state representative Gloria Tinubu to exceed the 50-percent mark and clinch the Democratic congressional nomination. Democratic officials objected to the commission ruling and asked a judge to overturn their decision not to conduct a run-off.

Since the court agreed with the plaintiffs, and Vick’s 2,341 votes now have officially been added to the aggregate total, Tinubu’s final tally drops from 52.5 percent to 48.8 percent. Second-place finisher Preston Brittain’s now scores 36.7 percent.

With a run-off campaign that will last just four official days, it remains to be seen if the Democratic vote will change much in such a short pre-election campaign period. Republicans Andre Bauer, the state’s former lieutenant governor, and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice continue to compete for the GOP nomination.

IL-12: Democrats now have a new nominee in Illinois’ 12th District. Local party county chairmen interviewed prospective Democratic candidates on Saturday and chose Illinois National Guard adjutant general and attorney William Enyart as the party standard bearer. He replaces Brad Harriman, the man who won the March 20 primary, but was forced to withdraw from the campaign due to health reasons.

IL-12 is a sleeper campaign on the national scene in that Republicans have an improving chance to win this election. The 12th, in open-seat status because veteran Rep. Jerry Costello (D) is retiring, is the only Democratically held district that did not precipitously improve it’s Obama-McCain 2008 score (new IL-12: 55 percent; current IL-12: 54 percent) under the Illinois congressional redistricting map. The Illinois plan is clearly the one in which Democrats can make their most significant national gains. The district ranks 13th of 18 Illinois seats on the Obama scale and is the weakest of the new Democratic seats. To put the Obama home-state performance in perspective, in only two Land of Lincoln congressional districts did the president fail to secure a majority in his 2008 race.

The new 12th CD begins in East St. Louis, encompassing St. Clair County. It then covers southwestern Illinois, including the area between the St. Louis metropolitan area and the Missouri and Kentucky borders at the southern tip of the state.

Gen. Enyart was the unanimous choice of the fourteen Democratic county chairmen who had authority to choose the replacement candidate. Seven prospective nominees were interviewed, including former representative David Phelps (D-IL-19), who served for two terms before losing a paired incumbent contest to Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in 2002, and state Rep. John Bradley. Obviously, having to launch a congressional campaign from ground zero three months after your general election opponent officially begins is a major disadvantage and one Enyart must quickly overcome in order to reach parity and ultimate victory.

The GOP features, as its 12th District congressional candidate, 2010 lieutenant governor nominee, Jason Plummer, who together with gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady came within one point of defeating Gov. Pat Quinn (D). The Brady-Plummer ticket carried the new 12th District two years ago. Since the Republicans are clearly on defense in the rest of the state, CD 12 represents one Illinois GOP conversion opportunity that the party can use to blunt what is otherwise a strong Democratic offensive.

Florida Senate Race Changes Shape

In Election Analysis, Senate on June 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Things are heating up in the Florida Senate challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). Former interim Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican race earlier in the week and, in a statement released early Wednesday, indicated that he believed the national Republican Party had thrown its support behind Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14).

Former governor Charlie Crist (R-I) appointed LeMieux to the Senate in 2009 to fulfill the unexpired term of Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after his abrupt resignation. Crist went on to run for the seat in 2010 without party affiliation and lost to freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The developments again reveal the power political establishment backing has over candidates, even those with relatively high familiarity with voters. The other late breaking development here, and the two are related, is the emergence of former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL-15), who just recently and surprisingly indicated that he is entering the Senate race. While Mack is still heavily favored over Weldon, the campaign is just now reaching the cusp of the stretch drive for the Aug. 14 primary when many things change. Aside from Weldon, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister is also in the Republican race.

In a poll released yesterday, Quinnipac University found that Sen. Nelson has a slight 43-39 percent edge over Rep. Mack, but the young Republican congressman appears to be the prohibitive favorite for his party nomination. The poll, conducted June 12-18, prior to LeMieux’s departure, surveyed 1,697 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points. Mack polled the strongest among the GOP contenders, with the others trailing Nelson in double digits: 47-32 percent (LeMieux); 45-34 percent (McCalister); and 47-31 percent (Weldon).

Nelson’s slight lead over Mack is a net five point increase for the senator compared to the virtual tie Quinnipiac found in their May 24 poll (Mack leading 42-41 percent).

In the Republican primary, the Q-Poll shows Mack posting 41 percent, LeMieux in second with 8 percent, and McCalister following with 5 percent, while the late arriving Weldon registered only 3 percent among the 698 self-identified Republicans tested.

Though Mack and Nelson are running close in both private and public polling, it is Nelson’s major financial war chest that has most GOP operatives concerned. The senator has compiled an almost $8 million financial edge over his competitors and even with so many hot races taking place in Florida this cycle, he will still have the wherewithal to position himself strongly in the most expensive of television markets. Now with LeMieux out of the primary and Mack now clearly the GOP favorite, some Republican resources that otherwise would have gone towards winning the mid-August election can now be saved for the general.

The senator, who won his 2006 re-election with 60.3 percent of the vote, faces new economic challenges in the Sunshine state and, while he remains as the favorite in the race, the contest will definitely come down to the wire. This is a bona-fide contest with national implications.

Polls Show Kerry Down in Neb.; Dems Close in Ariz.

In Polling, Senate on June 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Two new Senatorial polls hit the public domain this week, with both good news and bad news for each party. In Nebraska, Public Opinion Strategies for the Deborah Fischer (R) campaign (June 17-19; 500 likely Nebraska voters) posts their client to a whopping 58-33 percent lead over former senator Bob Kerrey (D). Fischer, a Nebraska state senator, was the upset winner in the May Republican primary. Kerrey served two terms in the Senate but has been living in New York City over the past dozen years after he retired from politics the first time. This data is consistent with what was produced in immediate post-primary polling.

The surprising poll comes from Arizona, where Public Policy Polling surveying for the group Project New America (June 4-5; 791 likely Arizona voters), finds GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) clinging to only a two-point, 43-41 percent, lead. This represents an 11-point net swing in Democrat Richard Carmona’s favor since their May 17-20 poll (Flake 48; Carmona 35).

The other point that should trouble the GOP brain trust, assuming this poll is not an outlier (a distinct possibility since the swing is large despite a political climate featuring seemingly little change), is a sampling universe slanting more Republican than the state as a whole. Prior to the last election, Republicans held a 36-32-32 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats and Independents. According to this PPP poll, the universe was comprised of 42 percent who self-identified as Republican versus 30 percent who called themselves Democrats, while only 23 percent professed their Independent status.

Do Dems Have a Shot at Gaining Calif. House Seats?

In House on June 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

After the June 5 California primary, most observers were stunned to see two Republicans, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R), qualify for the general election in San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District. Considering that this new seat should normally vote Democratic in at least six of every 10 elections, the double Republican primary outcome had not been foreseen. His party’s San Berdo setback did not deter Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY-2) from continuing to declare that his team will gain at least four to five California House seats, however.

A look beyond the Obama-McCain 2008 numbers on the newly crafted California Citizens Redistricting Commission congressional map tells a different story. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe in 28 California seats and Republicans’ 13, with 12 seats in competitive Democrat vs. Republican situations. If these numbers are correct, then the D’s would have to win 10 or 11 of the dozen most competitive districts to reach Israel’s projection of leaving California with 38 or 39 Democratic seats.

Though President Obama carried all 12 of the marginal seats in 2008, he did so under his statewide 61 percent winning percentage in every district. Looking beyond the surface of the presidential race, we find that the Republican attorney general nominee, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ended up losing statewide by less than one percentage point, actually carried all 12 of these CDs. Additionally, and possibly even more telling, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), a 52-42 percent winner statewide two years ago, lost nine of the 12 districts to Republican Carly Fiorina. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a 54-41 percent victor over Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, won eight of the competitive dozen.

Therefore, with Republican performances such as these, what are Israel and other Democratic partisans looking at when they predict lofty Golden State gains, numbers they must attain to have any chance of competing for the House majority?

One argument is that the turnout model will certainly be different from the one that came to fruition in 2010 because, as the theory goes, President Obama will energize the electorate and increase Democratic turnout. That the voter participation rate will exceed the 2010 mid-term performance is almost certainly true, but with a virtually uncontested presidential race in California and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) facing little credible re-election opposition, will the turnout drive be as strong as the national Democrats believe? Conversely, with a public employee pension reform measure on the statewide ballot and considering the cities of San Jose and San Diego already passed similar propositions in June, could this issue actually provide more juice for Republicans and right of center Independents as opposed to Democrats? The answer is, quite possibly.

Turning to some of the individual races, in order to achieve their statewide goal Democrats would have to beat at least three of the four following incumbents: Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52).

But only in San Diego, despite Republicans outnumbering Democrats 36-33 percent in the new 52nd District, is there a legitimate crack at a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Rep. Bilbray received only 41 percent in the jungle primary but new Democratic opponent Scott Peters, who placed second with only about 23 percent, has vulnerability from his previous controversial service on the San Diego City Council. So, even here, which seems to be the Democrats’ best chance to unseat an incumbent, their conversion bid is far from secure.

Republicans also look to have the upper hand in Districts 21 with Assemblyman David Valadao reaching almost 60 percent in the open seat Central Valley primary, the marginal 26th where they have the stronger candidate, Ventura County state Sen. Tony Strickland, and even in Democratic leaning District 41 (Riverside County), where the combined Republican primary vote formed a majority. Additionally, the Democrats feature a general election candidate there who has already lost three previous congressional campaigns, while the Republicans are promoting a powerful county Supervisor.

Right now, the Democratic victory total is nowhere close to winning 10 or 11 of these 12 seats, as the realistic sum appears closer to five. Instead of gaining four or five California districts, it’s more feasible that the parties will remain constant in their 34D-19R delegation ratio, or quite possibly lose a seat. Such a result virtually guarantees the continuance of the House Republican majority.

King Leading in Maine Poll

In Polling, Senate on June 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

A new MassINC Polling Group political survey (June 13-14; 506 likely Maine voters for television station WBUR) gives Independent former governor Angus King a huge 50-23-9 percent lead over newly nominated Republican candidate Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill, respectively.

The Maine Senate race could become nation’s most important, because there are two scenarios where King alone would decide if Republicans or Democrats control the majority in the next Congress, should he be elected. To date, the former governor, though a liberal, has not committed to joining either party. Should President Obama be re-elected and Senate Republicans reach 50, King caucusing with either side would make that party the majority. The same would be true if Mitt Romney unseats the President and the Democrats claim 50 seats.

State Sen. Dill has the most difficult path to victory in the three-way scenario. According to the MassINC data, Democrats choose King 60-17 percent over the now-official Democratic nominee. Interestingly, his mark among Democrats is even better than within the Independent sample cell. Of those claiming to affiliate with neither party, King records 57 percent. Though his margin is strong, it is not insurmountable, particularly in a three-way race. Gov. Paul LePage (R) was elected from a similar configuration two years ago with just 37.6 percent of the vote. If the Senate majority truly reverberates on Maine’s outcome, then expect the race to become heated as Election Day nears.