Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Texas-Sized Upset in the Making?

In House on July 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

Yesterday, we covered the races being decided in today’s run-off (Texas) and primary elections (Georgia) and mentioned that former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz has a legitimate chance of upsetting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Lone Star State’s US Senate Republican run-off. The release of the new Public Policy Polling data for Texas underscores that the trends are supporting an upset result. According to their survey (July 28-29; 665 Texas GOP likely run-off voters) Cruz has a 52-42 percent lead over the lieutenant governor. The Dewhurst campaign countered with their internal Baselice & Associates poll showing their candidate with a 48-44 percent lead, but these results appear out of line with the other publicly presented trends.

Perhaps most disconcerting for the Dewhurst camp, the PPP numbers report Cruz to be leading 63-33 percent among those who are most excited about voting in the run-off election. Additionally, the ex-solicitor general leads the veteran statewide office holder among those considering themselves as Tea Party voters by a huge 75-22 percent split. In a low turnout election where 70 percent identify themselves to be somewhat or very conservative, this type of spread could well be the defining factor.

Typically, Texas primary and run-off elections record very low turnouts. More than 1.4 million people voted in the May 29 primary election, but a considerable smaller number will vote in the secondary election. The likely turnout projection suggests a participation rate of less than one million voters.

Ohio’s LaTourette to Retire

In House on July 31, 2012 at 11:11 am

Latourette

Nine-term Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-14) abruptly scheduled a news conference for later today to announce that he will not seek re-election in November, despite winning renomination in March. Reports indicate he experienced a falling out with the majority leadership in relation to future committee assignments.

The 14th District, politically marginal in nature, is located in the northeastern corner of the state between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border. Both President Obama and John McCain received 49 percent of the vote here in 2008.

Local Republican Party officials throughout the district will subsequently meet and choose a replacement candidate. Democrats have accountant Dale Blanchard as their nominee. Blanchard has twice lost to LaTourette and he has yet to even file a 2012 FEC financial disclosure report meaning he has yet to raise $5,000 for the campaign. Unless the Democrats can get Blanchard to withdraw from the ballot, they will be left with a sub-standard nominee in a competitive district.

OH-14 now becomes the 61st open seat in the current election cycle. Much more will be forthcoming from here in the next few days.

Eyes on Georgia’s 9th CD

In House, Reapportionment on July 30, 2012 at 1:13 pm

In Georgia, only of a few of the state’s 14 districts are in contested situations tomorrow. The biggest news will be what happens in the newly created 9th Congressional District in the northeastern sector of the state. The seat, awarded to Georgia in reapportionment because of the state’s robust growth rate during the past decade, is drawn to elect a Republican. It is likely that state Rep. Doug Collins and radio talk show host Martha Zoller will head to a run-off contest on Aug. 21.

In the Augusta-based 12th District, in what is likely to be the most hotly contested general election race in the state, four Republicans battle for the opportunity to challenge veteran Rep. John Barrow (D) in a re-configured district. Barrow, seeking his fifth term in the House, only represents 53 percent of the new 12th CD’s constituency. A run-off is probable, most likely between state Rep. Lee Anderson and businessman Rick Allen. Much more will be heard from this campaign before the final votes are cast later this year.

In Atlanta, veteran Rep. John Lewis faces a Democratic primary foe but is expected to easily win renomination. Former judge Michael Johnson is a credible candidate, but no match for the 13-term congressman and former Civil Rights leader.

Texas Run-off Tomorrow

In House, Polling, Senate on July 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Dewhurst | Cruz

Voters go to the polls in Texas tomorrow to choose US Senate as well as several congressional nominees. The big Senate battle is on the Republican side, where three-term Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fights to save his political credibility against former state solicitor general Ted Cruz. In the May 29 primary, Dewhurst placed first with 44.7 percent of the vote versus Cruz’s 34.1 percent.

The primary results place Dewhurst in a gray area as to whether he can develop a winning run-off coalition in a two-way race. Most often, a well-known candidate who fails to secure a majority of his own party’s vote in the primary election loses the subsequent run-off because the majority opposition only has one choice. Turnout and the candidate who has the most energized base tend to be the determining factors.

Internal polls released from both camps show their own candidate leading in the high single-digit range. The Cruz polling was conducted just among May 29 primary voters while the Dewhurst samples are from a likely voter model. The methodology difference lends more credence to the Cruz polls. The chances of seeing an upset win here are at least 50/50.

On the Democrat side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired educator Grady Yarbrough battle for a ticket to the general election. Realistically, the winner of the Dewhurst-Cruz contest easily defeats the Dem winner in November, so tomorrow’s GOP run-off is likely race-determining.

On the congressional level, run-off voters in several districts will effectively choose House members. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the 33rd Congressional District is one of four new seats awarded the state. A Democratic battle between Ft. Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state representative and Dallas City Councilman Domingo Garcia is peaking. The race has become a rivalry contest between the two Metroplex cities. With more of the Ft. Worth area included in the new 33rd and placing first with a 37-25 percent margin, Veasey is viewed to be the favorite tomorrow. The Democrat winner claims the seat in November.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the new 34th Congressional District is anchored in the city of Brownsville and travels along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Filemon Vela will likely win the Democratic nomination tomorrow against former congressional aide Denise Saenz Blanchard. Vela, an attorney, is the son of ex-federal judge Filemon B. Vela and former Brownsville mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela. His wife, a Republican, is a sitting district judge. Vela placed first in May with 40 percent of the vote against only 13 percent for Blanchard. The large spread suggests Vela is in strong run-off and general election position.

For the Republicans, in the district stretching from the southern tip of Tarrant County (Ft. Worth) into western Travis County (Austin), former Secretary of State Roger Williams, assuming that financial wherewithal is a determining factor, is poised to score a run-off victory against Tea Party activist and college professor Wes Riddle. Williams is projected to outspend Riddle by an 8:1 margin, but the latter should have a grassroots advantage. In a low turnout election, that could be significant but it is unlikely he can overcome Williams’ many advantages.

In the state’s fourth new district, the 36th CD to the north and east of Houston, first-place finisher Mark Takach, a financial advisor who placed just 350 votes ahead of former Rep. Steve Stockman in the primary, face each other tomorrow. The outcome here is difficult to predict. Takach is an unknown and Stockman served only one term back in 1995-97 in an adjoining area. The winner, however, becomes the prohibitive favorite for November.

In the open 14th District, the seat veteran congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, two strong Republicans, state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris, are fighting for the right to face ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in the general election. The district clearly favors Republicans, but Lampson represented the Beaumont-Galveston region for four terms until his defeat in the redistricted 2nd CD that took him out of his regional base.

From the expansive district that stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, another defeated congressman, Ciro Rodriguez, is attempting yet another comeback. He placed first in the May 29 Democrat primary and now faces state Rep. Pete Gallego in tomorrow’s run-off. The Democrat establishment is clearly behind Gallego, who most believe will be the stronger opponent to freshman Republican Rep. Quico Canseco, but the San Antonio base still appears to be a Rodriguez asset. The general election will be a toss-up in what is Texas’ only real marginal congressional district.

Sherman Up 17 Points in CA-30

In House, Polling on July 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

In California, a just-released Feldman Group poll (July 14-19; 503 registered CA-30 voters) for Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-CA-27) campaign gives their client a 46-29 percent advantage over fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA-28) in this much-publicized general election incumbent pairing.

The new 30th District is a western San Fernando Valley congressional seat anchored in the cities of Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills, and Northridge. Sherman represents 58 percent of the new constituency, while Berman only sees a 20 percent carry-over from his present district. The seat is heavily Democratic. Both men have spent a combined $6.8 million through June 30. The campaign has the potential of becoming the most expensive race in the history of the House of Representatives.

Under California’s new primary system, the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation. The results yielded six Democrat vs. Democrat campaigns, of which CA-30 is one, and two Republican on Republican.

Mass. Senate Race Still Up for Grabs

In Polling, Senate on July 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Brown | Warren

The widely watched Massachusetts U.S. Senate race continues to be one of the country’s top campaigns and, as polling released this past week reveals, the contest remains too close to call. It has grown ever tighter over the past four months.

Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren is challenging incumbent and first-term Sen. Scott Brown. The Commonwealth, normally considered bedrock blue in a political context, chose Brown in early 2010 during a hard-fought special election campaign after veteran Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) passed away. Brown became a national name after becoming the first elected Republican senator in Massachusetts since 1972.

According to a poll released this past Tuesday from the MassINC research group for WBUR, the Boston National Public Radio station, Warren was shown to be leading with 40 percent support, while Brown registered 38 percent. The study, taken during the July 19-22 period, had a sample size of 503 registered voters. While the survey projects Warren to a two-point advantage, the margin of error factor is 4.4 percent; therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the race remains a dead heat. In June, Public Policy Polling also released a survey putting the two in a virtual tie, with Sen. Brown running well among Independents.

Voters in Massachusetts appear to be warming to both Warren and Brown. This week’s poll reveals that Warren’s favorability rating stands at 47 percent, which is a 13-point jump from the last MassINC poll conducted in April. Brown’s positive index increased, too, reaching 50 percent, which is up from 46 percent as measured three months ago.

One category to watch here is the undecided vote. Historically in Massachusetts, the undecideds tend to move back toward their party’s incumbent as the election draws near. Should the undecided Democrats return to support Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in November, Warren could also benefit. If this current undecided model projection is correct, it will be Warren who has the greater room to grow, mostly because there are so many more Massachusetts Democrats than Republicans.

Sen. Brown is formerly a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives (1998-2004), and then the state Senate (2004-2010). He is also a practicing attorney and considered to be a moderate Republican, voting with his party approximately 80 percent of the time. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, is considered to be an American bankruptcy law expert who provided oversight to the 2008 bailout program and oversaw the establishment of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.

Both candidates bring unique qualities to the race and, as polling has consistently indicated over a period of months, this battle appears to be too close to call. It is certainly a race to watch over the next 102 days.

Interesting Michigan Polls

In House, Polling, Senate on July 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

With the Michigan primary fast approaching on Aug. 7, some new numbers suggest a tightening of the US Senate race while a separate poll provides a clue as to how a reapportionment-created incumbent pairing might end.

Rasmussen Reports (July 23; 500 likely Michigan voters) delivers findings that are much different from other previously published polls. Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has been consistently running substantially ahead of former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2). Looking at four polls conducted since May 1, including an earlier one from Rasmussen, Stabenow has led Hoekstra by an average of 12 points. In the latest RR July survey, her lead has shrunk to just six, 46-40 percent. When paired with Hoekstra’s Republican primary opponent, attorney and charter schools advocate Clark Durant, the senator’s advantage is 47-39 percent.

Durant has been trailing badly in polling but is now making a serious stretch drive effort, spending the more than $2 million he has raised for the race and benefiting from at least one $400,000 Super PAC expenditure. Hoekstra, however, is still the heavy favorite for the party nomination.

Turning to Detroit, two-term Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-MI-9) move to the 14th District in order to challenge his Democratic colleague, freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13), may yet pay dividends. Despite the large African-American population in the 14th, Peters’ strategy of splitting the black vote among several candidates appears to be working. According to an automated 685 likely Democratic voter survey for local Fox 2 News, Peters has a 45-27 percent lead over Clarke, with the three second-tier candidates dividing the remaining votes.

Presidential Popular Vote is Even

In Polling, Presidential campaign on July 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

President Obama. / Photo: The White House

A series of new presidential election polls reveals a further tightening of the campaign on the national level, though President Obama maintains a lead over Mitt Romney in the most competitive states.

The two daily tracking pollsters, Gallup and Rasmussen Reports, both give the president only a one-point national lead, 46-45 percent and 45-44 percent, respectively. Looking at an actual benchmark survey, Public Policy Polling, conducting their study (July 19-22; 1,000 registered voters) for the Daily Kos national liberal blog and the Service Employees International Union, projects a flat 46-46 percent tie.

The only national poll not showing a dead heat, taken over virtually the same time frame as PPP’s survey with an identical sample size (July 18-22; 1,000 registered voters) from Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, actually stakes the president to a 49-43 percent advantage. Based upon the available data, though the polling methodology appears sound, the McInturff/Hart result appears to be an outlier.

National Public Radio released their poll of the 12 commonly viewed battleground states (conducted by the Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps organizations, July 7-12; 1,000 voters nationwide with an oversample of 462 from the battleground states) but its aggregate result is of little consequence. Though this poll, too, shows an Obama-Romney tie at 46 percent, such a figure is virtually useless because the combined popular vote in the most hotly contested states doesn’t translate into specific electoral votes.

What is valuable are battleground voters’ perceptions and attitudes about the candidates. As we have seen for months, there is severe polarization between the two major parties. By almost a 9:1 majority, Democrats believe the president has performed well in office. Conversely, the same virtual ratio of Republicans believes he has not. Independents tend to fall more on the Republican side, slightly rating Obama’s job performance more negative than positive. Also, Independents in these states generally oppose the Obama healthcare law and, by a slight margin, believe that the Supreme Court decision upholding the law is incorrect. This could prove significant as the campaign continues to evolve.

One thing that does deviate somewhat from at least the conventional wisdom, the NPR battleground state poll does show that both candidates have a strong base. Especially for Romney, this is a change. Before, most data indicated weakness among Republicans for their presumptive nominee, but the NPR data gives both contenders right around 90 percent support within their own party voter cell sample. This finding is good news for both men.

New individual key state surveys stack up relatively well for the president in the fact that he leads in most, but in no case is his advantage more than mid-level single-digit numbers.

Rasmussen Reports gives the President a six-point, 48-42 percent advantage in Michigan. Survey USA finds a similar five-point, 48-43 percent margin for Obama in all-important Florida; and We Ask America returns similar 49-42 percent and 49-43 percent spreads (in Obama’s favor) in Wisconsin and Nevada, respectively. Magellan Strategies produced a much closer 50-46 percent Nevada model. Quinnipiac University shows a tie in Virginia, and the Civitas Institute projects Romney to a one point, 49-48 percent razor-thin edge in North Carolina. Though it’s not a battleground state, Survey USA detects only a 46-40 percent advantage for the president in liberal Minnesota, which is a surprise.

The cumulative effect of the most recent survey data makes the president and his advisers uncomfortable. These are not the type of results strong incumbents would be seeing at this point in the election cycle. It’s going to be quite a remainder of the year.

Is a Serious Race Developing in PA?

In Polling, Senate on July 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Yesterday, we mentioned two Senate races bridging the gap toward competitiveness, Florida and Ohio, but is a third campaign on the cusp of becoming a serious? A new Rasmussen Reports survey suggests that the Pennsylvania Senate contest, despite incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D) holding a comfortable lead, is not yet clinched. Though Sen. Casey has had a controversy-free first term, he still does not exceed 50 percent support in various statewide polls. Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Pennsylvania voters) gives Casey a 49-38 percent lead over the Republican nominee, businessman Tom Smith.

Casey destroyed former senator Rick Santorum 59-41 percent in 2006, but the 2012 political climate may be different. If this year is anything like 2010, when Republicans captured the other Senate seat, the governorship, gained five congressional seats, and won both houses of the state legislature, the Senate campaign could be headed toward battle status.

With President Obama running ahead in the Keystone State, but lagging behind where most Democrats begin in the state, Smith could become the beneficiary of a hard-fought, polarizing national campaign. Having enough personal money to become relevant, Smith may just seize the opportunity of putting this state in play. The period between now and Sept. 1 is a critical positioning time for the challenger. If he proves his viability during the current segment, then count on a wild finish.

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