Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

What They’re Missing

In Courts, Redistricting on June 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The analyses and coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is typically missing a very subtle but highly important point.

As mentioned in many articles and interviews, now that the official formula determining whether a jurisdiction must adhere to US Justice Department supervision is invalid, the laws previously stayed through the denial of pre-clearance procedure have taken effect. A representative sampling of recent laws that failed the pre-clearance test but are now fully enforceable are several polling place voter identification statutes from various states.

In terms of political district map drawing, there is now another crucial factor present in some places. Most states have what is commonly described as a “county line law.” The statute typically says that a county must be kept whole unless more population is needed to reach the proper district target figure. Often times counties are split between or among two or more districts for purposes of adding more minorities to a congressional or legislative district in order to protect that seat under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that the elimination of Section 4 effectively debilitates Section 5, the county line laws will presumably be stronger than the VRA, the reverse of what had, heretofore, been the usual practice.

Florida could be the state most quickly affected by the county line situation. In 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative that defined new and additional redistricting criteria. One of the included items is the county line provision. Currently, the state is embroiled in live redistricting litigation, and apparently headed for a January trial in Leon County (Tallahassee). The Supreme Court’s opinion this week will likely bear major influence upon the state judge’s ultimate decision, and it is probable that the tables have turned in the plaintiffs favor. If they do in fact win at the lower and upper court levels, new congressional and legislative maps will likely be mandated, and that could happen as early as the 2014 election cycle.

Florida is particularly vulnerable on the county line issue. The state has seven counties that are larger than a congressional district. Within those seven counties is enough population to complete 10 CDs. The  Continue reading >

Montana In Play

In Senate on June 27, 2013 at 11:03 am
Montana

Montana

A new Public Policy Polling survey previews a tight race evolving in the Montana open-seat race. Those eventually becoming candidates will vie for the right to succeed Sen. Max Baucus (D), who is retiring after what will be 40 years in Congress.

The new data seems to poke holes in the prognostication that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) would run away with the open-seat race should he decide to run. Other potential candidates have been hanging back awaiting his decision, but the former governor humorously quipped last week that it might be some time before he ultimately decides his 2014 plans.

Referring to his occupation as a soil scientist, Schweitzer said to a local news reporter, “…the most important thing a soil scientist has an understanding of is time-glacial time … I look at a mountain and I’m able to visualize how that mountain was created over 6 million years. You’re a journalist. You read time as next week, tomorrow. I think of time geologically. When you see me say ‘soon’ you may be thinking days — but I think of time in millions of years sometimes.” Thus, it appears his answer won’t be coming any time soon.

According to the PPP poll, Schweitzer would actually trail former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot (46-47 percent) even though the Democrat’s favorability index is much higher. Schweitzer scores 54:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, while Racicot only posts 43:37 percent, yet Racicot clings to a small lead.

Considering that Racicot is not likely to run, how does Schweitzer do against a more probable candidate? Paired with at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R), a freshman who ran strong in his first statewide campaign,  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Altered; Markey Wins

In Courts, Senate on June 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

Voting Rights Ruling

The Supreme Court, ruling for the plaintiffs in the Shelby County (AL) case on a 5-4 decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) saying that the formula determining VRA jurisdiction is no longer applicable. In 2006, Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act for the succeeding 25 years but did not change the triggering election. Until yesterday, dropping below the turnout pattern dictated in the 1972 presidential election would bring a municipality, county, or state under VRA coverage. Had the court not acted, that triggering mechanism would have stayed in place at least until 2031, or almost 60 years.

The high court majority members made clear they are not striking down the Act itself, only the formula for determining which jurisdictions will come under federal supervision. Doing so eliminates the Department of Justice’s power to pre-clear election laws after a covered jurisdiction enacts statutory changes. Because the formula is now declared unconstitutional, all of the laws previously denied pre-clearance now take effect. This could greatly change matters in several states, and very quickly. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), for example, announced that he would immediately begin enforcing the state’s voter identification law that had been previously stayed by the DoJ’s refusal to pre-clear the legislation.

The states that could be most affected by this ruling, even as early as the present election cycle, are the three hearing live redistricting litigation. The trio of states are Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. Depending upon the outcome of the various lawsuits, and yesterday’s ruling that strengthened the plaintiffs hands against their state in all instances, it is possible the congressional and state legislative lines could conceivably be re-drawn before the 2014 election.

Massachusetts

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), as we’ve been predicting for several weeks, successfully claimed Secretary of State John Kerry’s (D) former Massachusetts Senate seat, but his margin of victory was a bit under what a  Continue reading >

Will Gov. Haley Commit?

In Governor on June 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Gov. Nikki Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley

According to a report in the Florence (SC) Morning News, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is not yet committed to running for re-election next year.

The governor, a former state Representative who was elected to South Carolina’s top post in 2010, is eligible to seek a second term under the state’s election law. But, she told a Florence news reporter in an interview, “… if we look and it’s too much on the family, I could absolutely see (not running again).”

If Haley did not seek re-election, it would not be altogether surprising. First, her husband is currently deployed in Afghanistan and the couple has young children. Second, computer hackers broke into the state revenue department’s online system, thus compromising the state taxpayers’ confidential financial information, which has caused the governor major political problems. Third, her election victory percentage against state Sen. Vincent Shaheen (D) was underwhelming: 51-47 percent in what proved to be a landslide Republican year. Fourth, Shaheen has already announced his 2014 candidacy.

Should Haley run again, and she did stress in the interview that her campaign apparatus is ready to go, the race will be competitive despite South Carolina’s strong Republican disposition. There will be much more to come from the Palmetto State.

Massachusetts Senate Snapshot

In Senate on June 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

The long-anticipated special US Senate election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry (D) is being held today, and the final three polls all favor Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) to carry the vote over Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez.

Suffolk University (June 19-22; 500 likely Massachusetts voters) projects Markey to a 52-42 percent advantage. New England College (June 18-20; 579 likely voters) gives the congressman an even wider 56-36 percent majority. Finally, the Western New England University Polling Institute (June 16-20; 503 likely Massachusetts voters) shows a much closer 49-41 percent spread.

There has been no poll throughout the entire special election cycle that projected Markey to be trailing. One survey, a Republican study from McLaughlin & Associates, showed the congressman in the lead at one point, but that is as close as challenger Gomez has gotten.

The Suffolk U. and Western New England polls are clearly more reflective of each other, and in line with the vast majority of surveys commissioned during the previous weeks. The New England College poll appears to be skewed in favor of the Democratic nominee.

Though Gomez conducted a spirited campaign, it is not likely that the magic surrounding former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in his 2010 special election victory will reappear in this battle. There is simply no evidence to suggest that this Republican is close enough to score an upset victory.

Despite Rep. Markey being poised to win the race, his percentage might be below that of usual Democratic performance in Massachusetts. In such an open seat special election race, a Bay State Democratic nominee should finish in the high 50s. By most accounts, Markey will likely score in the low to mid-50s.

The winner of today’s election will serve the balance of Kerry’s term and be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2014. If Markey does win, as predicted, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will then schedule a new special election for his 5th Congressional District. Already several candidates are actively campaigning for this post, in anticipation of a Markey win today.

Maine’s Musical Chairs

In Governor, House on June 24, 2013 at 11:35 am
Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage made a surprising public comment Friday that he is considering running for Congress instead of re-election. A little more than a week ago, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee for purposes of challenging the incumbent, thus creating the possibility of an open 2nd District. ME-2 contains about three-quarters of the state’s land mass and includes the cities of Bangor, Lewiston, Auburn, Caribou, and Presque Isle.

The Maine gubernatorial race is an interesting one because it will again be constructed as a major three-way race. In 2010, LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, rode to victory in a similar configuration. Taking advantage of Independent Eliot Cutler’s strong candidacy, the Republican was elected with just 37.6 percent of the vote, but that standing was strong enough for a first place finish. Cutler was a close second with 35.9 percent and the Democratic nominee, then-state Sen. Libby Mitchell, fell way back to 18.9 percent. Cutler has already announced his intention to run in 2014, guaranteeing another three-way race.

But, will the congressional seat be open? Two years ago, when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced her retirement, Rep. Michaud immediately jumped into the statewide race. When former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King then became a candidate, Michaud quickly retreated to his House district fearing that he could not win the developing three-way campaign.

The 2014 Governor’s race looks more winnable for either Cutler or a Democrat because LePage’s approval numbers are low. The last statewide poll that gauged his job approval came from Public Policy Polling back in January when he registered only a 39:55 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Still, even with a low rating, LePage continued to top a three-way field. According to PPP, the Governor led  Continue reading >

Senate Candidate Update

In Election Analysis, Senate on June 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Continuing our periodic reporting about who is currently running for the Senate next year, below is the latest look.

The following 13 senators do not yet have an announced significant opponent:

  1. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
  2. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)
  3. Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  4. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
  5. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  6. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)
  7. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
  8. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island)
  9. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina – special election)
  10. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)
  11. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  12. Mark Warner (D-Virginia)
  13. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming)

And the remaining state match-ups:

Alaska
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Begich (D) – originally elected 2008
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell
Joe Miller – 2010 nominee who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary
Arkansas
Incumbent: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) – originally elected 2002
Republicans: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4)
Notes: Rep. Cotton is a possible candidate. Lt. Gov. Darr is highly likely to run for a different office than the one he currently holds. He announced his intention to run for the Senate but there is a good chance, should Mr. Cotton enter the statewide campaign, that he would instead run for the Congressman’s vacated 4th Congressional District.

 Continue reading >

Obama’s Ratings

In Polling on June 20, 2013 at 11:18 am
Photo: The White House

Photo: The White House

The Pew Center for the People and the Press just completed their monthly presidential approval survey (June 12-16; Princeton Survey Research Associates International; 1,512 US adults; 758 on landlines, 755 on cell phones, 575 Independents, 487 Democrats, 388 Republicans) and find that President Obama’s ratings are largely unchanged despite the multiple scandals building around him. According to the data, 49 percent approve of the president’s job performance versus 43 percent who do not. In May, the ratio was 51:43 percent.

While he continues to score high on his handling of the terrorism issue, 56:35 percent positive to negative, his worst numbers come, not surprisingly, in the area of privacy and civil liberties (42:51 percent). Considering the revelations surrounding the IRS and National Security Agency (NSA), the results again continue the phenomenon of largely not blaming the President himself for his own Administration’s policies and practices.

Economy

On the economy, the respondents’ outlook is still largely negative but clearly improving. Forty-four percent say they approve of the president’s handling of the economy versus 50 percent who disapprove, but that is up from his 40:56 percent ratio when last asked in Pew’s Feb. 13-16 poll.

Impressions of how the economy will perform in the future is up substantially just since their March 2013 study. Thirty-three percent of the current respondents view the economy as being better a year from now,  Continue reading >

Governors on the Edge

In Election Analysis on June 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

Some newly released polling shows three individual governors in serious re-election danger. Recording poor approval ratings for an extended period of months, governors Rick Scott (R-FL) and Pat Quinn (D-IL) were known to be in obvious trouble, but a Quinnipiac University poll from last week (June 5-10; 1,065 registered Colorado voters) also indicates that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is beginning to teeter. The Q-Poll projects that former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) is pulling to within just one-point (42-41 percent) of the Rocky Mountain chief executive. Such a result puts this governor, who was previously thought to be almost politically invincible, into a potentially competitive race.

In Florida, Republican Scott continues to trail two key Democratic potential opponents, but his standing is improving. To the northwest in Illinois, Democrat Quinn is also behind his top rivals — in this case fellow party members attempting to deny him re-nomination — and, he too, is on the upswing.

Florida

Quinnipiac just published the results of their new Florida poll (June 11-16; 1,176 registered Florida voters). They find that Gov. Scott has fought back to an almost even standing on his job approval rating (43:44 percent favorable to unfavorable), but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and Sen. Bill Nelson, both by a substantial 10-point margin. Crist, the former Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, holds a 47-37 percent lead over the incumbent. Sen. Nelson, fresh from winning election to a third term this past November, scores an almost identical 48-38 percent margin against Scott. The senator claims he’s staying in his current job, but never fully closes the door on the issue of challenging the governor. It is unlikely he will do so, but such rhetoric certainly keeps his name and profile at the political forefront.

Crist is a different story, however. He will almost assuredly run, and his favorables are surprisingly high considering his ignominious temporary exit from Florida politics in 2010. You will remember that Marco Rubio, at the time a former state House Speaker, was building such strong momentum that Crist, even as a sitting Republican governor, was forced out of the Republican Party, and then chose to run for the Senate as an Independent. In the  Continue reading >

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