Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

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GOP Panic Premature in Missouri?

In Election Analysis, Senate on August 31, 2012 at 11:43 am

Rep. Todd Akin

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), who won the Republican Senatorial nomination and the right to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) on Aug. 7 and then turned around and made what most said were ludicrous abortion-related rape comments during a St. Louis TV station interview 12 days later, is surprisingly clawing his way back into contention.

You will remember that the Akin interview gained prolonged national media coverage and was swiftly denounced with outrage from Democrats, as well as many Republicans. The race, which GOP strategists initially believed to be a contest against the weakest of Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, seemed to snap strongly in favor of McCaskill as Akin immediately took a nosedive in the polls following the interview.

The GOP establishment was quick to respond by publicly pushing Akin to exit the campaign, however he refused to do so. Now running without the institutional support he once had from the party and business allies in Washington, as well as having seen many state and local candidates separate themselves from his comments, new polls are revealing increased viability despite his troubles.

According to polls released this week, the Missouri Senate race could be returning to “toss-up” status. Public Policy Polling released a research study yesterday showing McCaskill to be holding only the slightest 45 percent to 44 percent edge over Akin. PPP surveyed 621 likely Missouri voters Aug. 28-29 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The study revealed that approximately 77 percent of Missouri Republicans say they accept Akin’s apology. While only 33 percent of voters view Akin favorably, even that number is up 11 points from the PPP survey released the week before.

Another poll by the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group supporting Akin, actually projects the embattled congressman to be leading McCaskill 45 percent to 42 percent (surveyed Aug. 27-28; 828 likely Missouri voters; +/- 3.38 percent error margin). Conversely, however, Rasmussen Reports released their poll on Aug. 26 posting the senator to a 10-point, 48-38 percent, advantage (surveyed Aug. 22; 500 likely Missouri voters; 4.5 percent error margin).

Now national Republican leaders are in a quandary. Immediately upon Akin making his comments, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) publicly called for him to withdraw from the race. Karl Rove, who had previously promised a substantial advertising campaign to support Akin and disparage McCaskill, quickly said his American Crossroads organization was canceling their Missouri media reservations. Democrats are, of course, left with video tape of the Republican leaders’ comments, which will assuredly air in commercials as we head down the stretch. As a result, Akin’s own campaign fundraising apparatus came to a screeching halt.

Though the first deadline to withdraw from the Missouri ballot without cause has come and gone, Akin still has until Sept. 25 to formally decide if he will step down and allow his party to nominate a new candidate. At this point, now armed with more encouraging polling data, it appears that he is even less likely to exit. With his seeming rebound, will those aforementioned Republican leaders so willing to pile on him before the dust settled now be in a position to absorb as much criticism as Akin himself? While the seat still appears winnable, even for Akin, the Republican brain trust has made that task all the more difficult.

There is no question that Rep. Akin has taken a substantial hit from the comments he made over a week ago, but the damage may be subsiding. His own massive stumbles, and those of the Republican Party leaders’, have made Akin’s return to credibility much more difficult; however, it appears this race is not yet over. Continued polling results as we have seen in the past few days will shortly force this campaign back into the “toss-up” domain.

Texas Maps Tossed

In Redistricting on August 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

For the better part of this year, the Texas congressional and legislative maps have been before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The state submitted their proposed district lines to this body for pre-clearance purposes, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, instead of the Obama Department of Justice.

Clearly Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Texas Republican legal brain trust felt their approval chances were better going this route than the traditional one – the DoJ. It turns out they were wrong. The Court, yesterday, rejected all of their submissions: congressional, state Senate, and state House. Abbott said Texas will immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, so the interim maps, ironically drawn by a different federal panel, will hold for the 2012 general elections.

The DC high court ruled that the state eroded the Latino community’s “clout” and took the “economic guts” from the African-American districts. The decision was broader than many believed would be the case, particularly because the San Antonio federal three-judge panel had already drawn interim maps based upon US Supreme Court direction as it pertained to legislative intent. The main areas of concern are the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, particularly as it relates to new District 33 (open seat), which stretches between the two major cities, the Austin-San Antonio corridor, and District 23 (Rep. Quico Canseco) that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. But, if the African-American districts are also affected, then Houston could come into play, as well.

This ruling suggests major changes will come next year, as Texas redistricting will apparently, once again, begin anew.

Oklahoma, Arizona Results

In House, Senate on August 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

Rep. David Schweikert

As the Republican National Convention belatedly got underway in Tampa Tuesday, voters in four states went to the polls but only two of those places, Oklahoma and Arizona, hosted races of significance.

A run-off election was held in Oklahoma’s 2nd District for both parties in order to continue the replacement process for retiring Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2). Former Democratic district attorney Rob Wallace knocked off local Farm Bureau executive Wayne Herriman by a 57-43 percent count. Wallace will face businessman Markwayne Mullin who won the Republican nomination by the same margin. Democratic turnout, however, was much higher than that for the GOP, about 44,000 voters to just over 21,000. The Eastern Oklahoma 2nd District is viewed as a strong Republican conversion opportunity. Though the 2nd is the most Democratic seat in the state, Oklahoma voters are expected to support Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in such landslide proportions that additional momentum will be generated for Mullin in the congressional contest.

But the big prize in last night’s primary contests was Arizona. As expected, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) easily captured the Republican Senatorial nomination, defeating businessman Wil Cardon by capturing more than two-thirds of the Republican vote.

In the Scottsdale-anchored new 6th Congressional District, in a paired major battle of two incumbent freshmen Republicans, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ-5) defeated his GOP colleague, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3), by a 53-47 percent margin. This has been a hotly contested campaign since the beginning, with each candidate attempting to sell himself as the more conservative stalwart. Schweikert will easily win the general election and should be able to hold this seat for the remainder of the decade, barring any type of further significant primary challenge.

In the expansive eastern 1st CD, also producing no surprises, former representative Ann Kirkpatrick took the Democratic nomination and will face former state senator Jonathan Paton who was a landslide winner on the Republican side. The 1st is a highly marginal district, so expect a fierce battle in the general election.

In the new southeastern 2nd District, formerly numbered 8, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber (D), fresh from his recent special election victory, will attempt to win a full term against former Gulf War veteran Martha McSally (R).

The western 4th District was drawn as Arizona’s safest Republican seat, which explains why freshman Rep. Paul Gosar moved here from the marginal 1st District despite only representing one-third of the new constituency. The ploy worked as Gosar defeated state Sen. Ron Gould and GOP businessman Rick Murphy, while overcoming more than $800,000 in conservative independent expenditure targeted against him. The congressman should now have an easy ride in the general election, even though he only notched 51 percent of the vote against his two Republican opponents.

Back in suburban Phoenix, former Rep. Matt Salmon looks like he has won a ticket back to Congress with a solid victory over former Arizona state House Speaker Kirk Adams. The 5th District is another safe Republican seat, so Salmon now appears to be a lock for victory in November.

In the new marginal 9th District, also in the Phoenix suburbs, Democratic former state senator Kyrsten Sinema won her party’s nomination, defeating state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and former state party chairman and Clinton Administration official Andrei Cherny. On the Republican side, Paradise Valley Mayor and former congressional candidate Vernon Parker won a very close Republican primary contest, as he placed first against six other candidates.

Republicans had hoped Sinema would become the Democratic nominee because they believe she can be painted as too liberal for the CD-9 constituency. Expect a hot race here in the fall. Democrats should enjoy a slight advantage, and an edge that will likely expand throughout the rest of the decade due to demographic changes but, for now, the 2012 congressional battle must be considered a toss-up.

Presidential Race Tightening

In Presidential campaign on August 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Last week’s polling is now reflecting what the national trends have been reporting for some time: The presidential race continues to get closer.

During the past week, 12 polls were conducted in nine different places, all top and secondary battleground regions. The locations are, as you would expect by this time: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado and the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. You will remember that Nebraska splits its Electoral Votes, thereby allowing each of the state’s three congressional districts to award their own vote. In 2008, President Obama carried the 2nd District, giving him an extra national tally. In at least one 2012 scenario, the NE-2 vote could determine the difference between a tie or a two-vote win for one of the contenders, hence it remains important. In the dozen polls pulled from these domains, President Obama leads in nine of them, Mitt Romney two, and one place, the Commonwealth of Virginia, records a tie.

Two points merit attention. First, the average distance between the two candidates from this latest myriad of polls is only 3.75 percent.

Second, the peripheral target states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Nevada are already coming into range. Historical standards, despite the president holding small leads in almost all of these polls, suggest that Romney is actually in favorable position as a challenger.

Be cognizant of the fact that we are still in the pre-Labor Day period and that the crystallizing movement in a presidential race normally comes much later in the election cycle, usually in October. With Obama and Romney already running about even, this campaign promises to pack quite an exlplosive finish.

Arizona’s Primary: A Look at A Hotly Contested State

In Election Analysis, House, Redistricting, Senate on August 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Arizona voters go to the polls tomorrow to choose Senatorial and US House nominees in a myriad of places.

Looking at the Senate, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) has enjoyed the inside track for both the primary and general elections since Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement. Businessman Wil Cardon appeared to be mounting a serious early challenge but has curiously lessened his activity level as the election draws near, clearly a sign he has lost optimism about his chances of pushing past Flake to capture the Republican nomination. For the Democrats, former surgeon general Richard Carmona’s primary victory has long been a foregone conclusion. Assuming it’s Flake vs. Carmona after tomorrow, the Republican would begin the official general election campaign as the favorite.

The state gained a congressional seat in reapportionment and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission used it to shape a much different state map for the next 10 years. The Democrats should benefit the most from the plan, but more so beyond 2012 considering the changing demographics as the ensuing decade unfolds. For this election cycle several of the districts are highly competitive, making Arizona one of the most hotly contested of all states.

In the expansive 1st District that encompasses most of the northern and eastern geography, former representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who held a similar district for one term until freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R) unseated her two years ago, is mounting her political comeback and will easily win the Democratic nomination tomorrow. She will likely face former state senator Jonathan Paton (R) in the general election. On paper, this seat could go either way but it seems to have more Democratic tendencies. Such was clearly Gosar’s thought pattern, thus explaining his departure to the 4th District and eschewing re-election in the new AZ-1 even though he currently represents 75 percent of its constituents.

In the new 2nd District, formerly numbered 8 in Arizona’s southeastern corner around the city of Tucson, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) is running for a full term. He won the right to replace his former boss, ex-representative Gabrielle Giffords (D) who resigned the seat earlier this year to concentrate on her physical recovery from the tragic shooting that also wounded Barber. The new congressman will undoubtedly face Gulf War veteran Martha McSally who placed second to former GOP nominee Jesse Kelly in the 2012 special election. Kelly lost to Giffords by two points in 2010. A new poll shows Barber ahead of McSally by only five points, but he is the clear favorite in the general election race, nonetheless. Expect new Democratic polling numbers to soon show him pulling away.

In the new western state 4th District, the safest Republican seat in Arizona, the aforementioned Rep. Gosar seeks his second term in office. However, former state senator Ron Gould is attracting major support from conservative and Tea Party organizations to the tune of over $750,000 in uncoordinated independent expenditures; he will provide the congressman’s principal primary opposition. The winner of tomorrow’s contest takes the seat in November.

Turning to the Phoenix suburban 5th District, former representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1) and ex-state House speaker Kirk Adams vie for the Republican nomination in what has been a spirited and relatively expensive campaign. Similar to the situation in District 4, the winner of tomorrow’s Republican race will win the general election. In this case, the eventual GOP nominee replaces Rep. Jeff Flake who vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

The big shoot-out is in the Scottsdale-based District 6, where an incumbent Republican pairing battle will conclude between freshman Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5). Quayle represents two-thirds of the current constituency as compared to his colleague’s one-third. He has raised over $2 million to Schweikert’s $1.5 million. Either man can win. Each says he is more conservative than his opponent. Both claim the other should be running in the new marginal 9th District; one of them will prove to be right. The winner keeps the safe Republican seat for the rest of the decade; the loser will be out of politics at least for the short-term.

The new open eastern Phoenix suburban 9th District, the seat added in reapportionment, plays as a marginal domain in 2012 but will trend more Democratic as the decade progresses. No less than seven candidates have raised more than $200,000 for this race, with former state Democratic chairman and Clinton Administration official Andrei Cherny and ex-state senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) raising well over $800,000 apiece. The Republicans feature three current and formal local office holders including 2010 congressional candidate and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the early advantage, but this race is clearly a free-for-all tomorrow and possibly in November.

Presidential Paths to Victory

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign on August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Today we turn our attention to the national election between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney in order to determine each candidate’s path to victory as the political map begins to evolve and change.

It is evident that are there are approximately a dozen battleground states upon which the candidates are focusing. The competitive states considered to be in this swing category include, alphabetically: Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

Last year Obama advisers mapped out five different routes that would secure the minimum 270 Electoral College votes the president needs for re-election. Each path included Obama retaining some, but not all, of the swing states that he won in 2008. As we have seen through nationwide polling data, Team Obama’s strategic tenet in spreading the map as wide as possible is having some effect. Conversely, the Romney brain trust indicates that any realistic course to capturing their identified 270 votes requires them to win back historically Republican states that Obama carried four years ago, such as North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia.

Each candidate understands the importance of winning the quintessential large swing states of Florida (29 Electoral Votes) and Ohio (18). In 2008, Obama claimed these places and is now spending heavily in hopes of retaining both. Romney advisers see Florida as their candidate’s most important swing state because there is no realistic way to score a national victory without its inclusion. Simply put, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are too many to replace.

Currently, several polls reveal Obama as having the edge in Ohio but a recent Gravis Marketing poll of 728 likely voters shows Romney opening up a three-point lead in Florida.

In the past few days two Great Lakes states, Michigan and Wisconsin, are showing signs of teetering toward Romney. Recent polls in both places have returned conflicting results and each candidate can point to data showing him to be in the lead. But even a split decision in August is a positive trend for the challenger.

Michigan, a traditionally Democratic state but one that turned hard for Republicans two years ago, is a place where Romney will heavily contest. A fundamental reason for the strategic decision to do so is his Wolverine State family ties. It is here where the Republican nominee grew up and the electorate twice voted for his father as governor. The Obama senior strategists scoff at the idea that Romney can win Michigan, citing his opposition to the auto bailout and recalling that Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, publicly abandoned the state some six weeks before the election.

Wisconsin, home of vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, has been trending toward the Republicans in similar patterns to Michigan, cemented by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory earlier this year. With former governor Tommy Thompson running strong in the open Senate race, the Badger State is certainly in play for a close Romney victory.

Early in the cycle we, as most other analysts, suggested that after counting Indiana returning to the Republican camp, Romney would have to carry Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, and then one more 2008 Obama state to win the presidency. While such a formula remains valid, the president’s continued performance in Ohio and Virginia suggests that Romney will not likely sweep the four core states. But, numbers coming from the aforementioned Michigan and Wisconsin, and Midwestern and western states such as Iowa, Colorado and possibly Nevada, demonstrates other Republican victory paths are now possible.

Here are the scenarios:

• If the president carries Virginia, a Wisconsin-Iowa combination is the easiest way for Romney to neutralize this Obama core state victory. The Republican would still need one more state, such as New Hampshire, where Obama consistently leads, or Nevada or Colorado to claim national victory. New Mexico, normally a swing state, appears to be currently off the table as the President continues to score double-digit polling leads.

• If Obama wins Ohio, then Romney would be forced to win Wisconsin and Colorado. Under this scenario, Michigan comes into play. Unless Romney carries New Hampshire, Nevada, or Iowa, then the Wolverine State becomes his last neutralization option.

• Should the President carry both Ohio and Virginia, then Romney could still win by taking Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado or Nevada. All scenarios assume that Romney re-unites Nebraska by winning that state’s 2nd Congressional District and thus providing one more vote to his electoral column.

The overall state chart still favors the president, but the campaign’s recent fluidity suggests several new victory options are now attainable for the challenger.

Missouri Aside, Senate Polls Break Toward GOP

In Polling, Senate on August 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)

A spate of new US Senate polls is giving Republican Party leaders some solace in the face of the Todd Akin debacle in Missouri.

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 16-19; 1,115 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Sen. Scott Brown (R) to a 49-44 percent lead over consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren (D). This is the senator’s largest lead in months. Most recent polls showed him either trailing by a point or two, or tied.

Rasmussen Reports (Aug. 20; 500 likely Montana voters) gives Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) a 47-43 percent edge over Sen. Jon Tester (D).

Michigan-based Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 16; 1,733 likely Michigan voters), for the first time, posts challenger Pete Hoekstra (R) to a 48-46 percent advantage against two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).

PPP also released data for the Wisconsin Senate race, as did Marquette University Law School. According to the former (Aug. 16-19; 1,308 likely Wisconsin voters), Republican ex-governor Tommy Thompson has the upper hand over Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) by a five-point, 49-44 percent, spread. The latter survey (Aug. 16-19; 706 registered Wisconsin voters) shows Thompson with an even larger lead, 50-41 percent.

And, as we reported yesterday, Foster McCollum White & Associates (Aug. 17; 1,503 likely Florida voters) gives Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) his largest lead of the campaign, 51-43 percent, over two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

If the patterns in each of these campaigns were to hold, the Republicans would surely capture the Senate majority and see their conference grow to 52 members and possibly beyond. Much will change, however, between now and Nov. 6.

Several Stunning Polls

In House, Polling, Presidential campaign on August 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Across the nation, some eye-opening new polls have cast several races in a different light. Except for the Missouri debacle involving Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) and his quest for the US Senate seat, which has blown up on the Republicans over their candidate’s rape-related abortion comments, some other recently released data is decidedly breaking the GOP’s way.

In Florida, Foster McCollum White & Associates, in conjunction with the public affairs firm Douglas Fulmer & Associates, surveyed 1,503 registered Florida voters on Aug. 17 and found not only Mitt Romney leading President Obama by a heretofore unheard of 54-40 percent count, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), fresh from his strong Aug. 14 Republican primary victory, also jumped out to a 51-43 percent advantage over his opponent, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Mack has proved to be a stronger than anticipated candidate, thus paving the way for what is becoming a highly competitive campaign. This is the Republicans’ best Florida poll to date.

From an internal campaign survey taken over a month ago (OnMessage; July 16-17; 400 registered Colorado 7th District voters) for candidate Joe Coors Jr. (R) but just released now, the Republican challenger leads veteran Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) 45-36 percent. No data has shown anything close to this margin so far and the spread here doesn’t fit the district’s normal voting patterns. More data showing a similar trend will have to be released before such a result is confirmed as being accurate. Expect the Perlmutter campaign to shortly counter with a different set of numbers.

In Nevada’s new 4th District, another seat created via reapportionment, Public Opinion Strategies (Aug. 7-9; 400 likely NV-4 voters) polling for the American Action Network, gives GOP nominee Danny Tarkanian a 46-35 percent lead over state House Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D). Like the set of numbers mentioned above in Colorado, these numbers seem to paint a more rosy Republican picture than how the region normally votes. A Democrat candidate should have the advantage in this northern Las Vegas area CD, so more will have to be learned before such a result is fully accepted.

Finally, countering last week’s internal campaign poll from New York GOP nominee Chris Collins, which showed the Republican jumping out to a double-digit lead, Siena College (Aug. 12-14; 628 registered NY-27 voters) finds the former Erie County Executive to be leading freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) 47-45 percent. Since the new 27th CD is the safest Republican seat in New York, it is plausible that the Democrat incumbent would be trailing here. This race is a hotly competitive campaign and a must-win for New York Republicans.

Georgia Run-Off Results

In House on August 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Rick Allen (GA 2nd) | Rick Allen (GA 12th)

The Georgia US House run-offs occurred last night with two campaigns, rather amusingly, featuring a candidate named Rick Allen. In the new 9th District, state Rep. Doug Collins defeated radio talk show host Martha Zoller 55-45 percent in a contest that saw more than 71,000 Republican voters come to the polls.

Both candidates were claiming the conservative mantel and since the primary election yielded a virtual tie between the two candidates, yesterday’s run-off was a battle to determine which candidate could best deliver his or her votes to the polls. The answer clearly is Collins, who will come to Washington as this newly constructed district’s first congressman. The new 9th CD, which is the additional seat awarded Georgia in reapportionment, occupies the northeastern corner of the state and is heavily Republican. Therefore, yesterday’s vote meant much more than winning a nomination. The contest was actually a battle for the seat itself.

The Republican battle in District 12 has yet to be decided. As Rep. John Barrow (D) awaits his eventual opponent for what will be a highly competitive general election in a new district that fails to include the congressman’s home base of Savannah, state Rep. Lee Anderson and businessman Rick W. Allen find themselves separated by only 154 votes from a small total turnout of just over 27,000 individuals. Some votes remain outstanding, so it will likely be later today until we know who has won this nomination although in close contests the candidate leading going into the final ballot counting – in this case Anderson – usually comes out on top. Regardless of who finally becomes the nominee, the 12th District of Georgia will receive a great deal of attention between now and Election Day.

Over in the southwestern 2nd District, businessman and retired Army officer John House easily defeated the second Rick Allen to win the Republican nomination. Mr. House now faces Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) in a new 2nd District that heavily favors the Democratic incumbent. Not even 5,000 voters participated in this run-off.

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