Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

In Senate on May 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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The Bogus Tie

In Polling, Senate on May 30, 2013 at 10:02 am
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
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Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

In Senate on May 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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Rep. Bachmann to Retire

In House on May 29, 2013 at 10:37 am
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6)

Former presidential candidate and four-term US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced via video that she will not seek re-election next year. Drawing a parallel between the eight-year term limit placed upon the office of president, Bachmann said that such amount of time was appropriate for a House member to serve as well.

Last week, a Public Policy Polling survey showed her trailing her 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves who has already announced his intent to run again, by a two-point 45-47 percent margin. Though saying said she is confident of her re-election next year, even though she scored only 50.5 percent against Graves in ’12 and has no concern over the FEC investigation of her presidential campaign accounts, the congresswoman believes the time is right for her to leave the House.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state (Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 56.5-41.5 percent), so the new GOP nominee will be considered the favorite to defeat Graves, particularly in a lower turnout mid-term election. Bachmann becomes the 14th House member to either announce their retirement or resign from the House since the last election.

NRCC Moving Targets

In House on May 28, 2013 at 10:17 am

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.
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Terry McAuliffe’s Risky Strategy

In Governor on May 24, 2013 at 10:35 am

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and current party nominee for Virginia governor, just launched his second general election television advertisement (see link above), but his media strategy should raise questions.

The ad explains and emphasizes that McAuliffe lobbied Democratic legislators on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) controversial transportation bill. The underlying message credits McAuliffe’s involvement as a key factor in passing the legislation. The objective is to show his ability to deliver within the legislative process, while simultaneously proving that he reaches beyond partisanship in order to achieve the common good.

The ad graphics include a singular still photo of McDonnell and newspaper headlines that allude to “GOP infighting”, while an announcer mentions that “Tea Party Republicans refuse to support the plan.” The scene then fades to a banner illustrating that McAuliffe and McDonnell “congratulate each other” over achieving legislative success.

In our opinion, the ad is evidence that the McAuliffe campaign may be making some key strategic errors. First, they target “Tea Party Republicans” at a time when certain members of the Obama Administration are coming under intense fire for targeting Tea  Continue reading >

Gary Miller’s Wild Ride

In House on May 23, 2013 at 10:06 am
Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

After the 2011 California congressional redistricting maps were unveiled, it appeared that Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) would not be a member of the 113th Congress. But, he defied the odds and, in a rather stunning turn of events, won “re-election” from a district containing none of his previous constituents. Now representing a San Bernardino County seat that is the most pro-Obama district (57.2 percent) to elect a Republican congressman, it looks like unfolding developments may again play to his good fortune.

On the surface, Rep. Miller was dealt a bad hand in redistricting because he was originally paired with Rep. Ed Royce (R) in the new 39th District. But, in the adjacent new 31st CD where then-representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) and Joe Baca (D-CA-43) were paired, things began transpiring that would later open the door for Miller.

First, Rep. Baca rather surprisingly announced he would run in new District 35, a seat where he represented about 61 percent of the constituency but a place containing none of his home base of Rialto, a city of just under 100,000 people who had elected him to the state Assembly, Senate, and, for 13 years, Congress. Baca went to the 35th even though he knew state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D) would oppose him. She is his bitter political rival, and someone who represented more of the new district than  Continue reading >

South Dakota Dems: Going, Going . . .

In Senate on May 22, 2013 at 10:04 am

The Politico newspaper ran a story yesterday detailing a strategic political difference between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) over who should be the South Dakota Democratic senatorial nominee. The party is battling to hold retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat. We analyze a number of points related to this contest below.

First: Polling shows, and most people believe, that former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate. Sen. Reid was clearly in this camp, but Daschle was apparently a major force behind his former aide, Rick Weiland, entering the race. Last week, soon after Weiland’s announcement, the former congresswoman made public her decision not to run.

Analysis: While Herseth Sandlin showed best against GOP former governor Mike Rounds in early ballot test polling, she was still consistently trailing. Though she successfully served three terms, the ex-member did lose her House seat as a sitting incumbent. The fact that she fails to lead a poll in what could well be the apex of her candidacy is a good indication that she may not be the ideal 2014 Democratic standard bearer, and probably made the right decision in bypassing the race.

Second: The prevailing wisdom suggests that the Democrats should field a more conservative candidate who would have greater appeal to the South Dakota electorate. Conversely, Weiland argues, “You run a Republican against a Republican, you’re going to elect a Republican.”

Analysis: The record since 2006 seems to back Weiland’s assessment. Moderates of both parties have not fared well during this four-election period, as their ranks in both houses have become badly depleted. Particularly in 2006, ’08 and ’10, an anti-incumbency strain that affected both parties became more of a driving factor than  Continue reading >

Poll: Bachmann Already Trailing

In House, Polling on May 21, 2013 at 9:58 am
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ran a boisterous campaign for president last year, but after losing the Republican nomination she retreated to her House district to quietly run for re-election … and barely won. Against first-time Democratic candidate Jim Graves, a local Twin Cities area businessman, Bachmann only captured a scant 50.5 percent majority to secure a fourth term in the House.

Often times a US Representative reaching for a higher office, particularly president, and failing in the quest, leads to a less than stellar re-election performance. Such was the case for Rep. Bachmann. A new Public Policy Polling flash survey (May 15; 500 registered MN-6 voters) suggests that the congresswoman’s political troubles are not over.

According to the PPP results, Graves, who previously announced that he will seek a re-match, has jumped out to an early 47-45 percent lead. This, in a district that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried 56-41 percent. The 6th CD is the strongest Republican district in Minnesota, which is typically a reliable blue state. Romney carried only two of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Not surprisingly, since this poll shows Bachmann trailing in a partisan district that should be strongly in the Republican column, her personal favorability index is upside down. Forty-four percent have a positive opinion of Bachmann, while 51 percent expressed holding negative feelings toward her. Graves recorded a 39:33 percent favorable to unfavorable score, which isn’t particularly good either.
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