Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Challengers Chances in Virginia’s Tuesday Primary; Quiet in South Carolina; First Iowa Numbers

In Election Analysis on June 9, 2014 at 11:31 am

Tomorrow’s Virginia primary is decision day for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Republican primary challenge. Conservative college professor David Brat has raised over $200,000 with minimal outside support for his effort to dislodge the sitting incumbent, but he is very likely to meet the same fate as the others who have challenged the national Republican leaders.

Earlier in the primary season, senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY; 60 percent of the vote) and John Cornyn (R-TX; 59 percent) were renominated against challengers from the right, as was House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8; 69 percent).

Rep. Cantor is outspending Brat by more than a 20:1 ratio, and has taken a surprisingly active and negative track in this campaign. His strategy is an interesting one in that he is attempting to deflect a hard right offensive by portraying Brat as being insufficiently conservative. Naturally, Brat makes the same argument against Cantor. As was the case for McConnell, Cornyn, and Boehner, the outcome in terms of the Majority Leader winning his race is not particularly in doubt. But, his victory percentage will certainly be a point of interest for tomorrow night.

Turning to the Washington, DC suburbs, the open 8th District – Rep. Jim Moran (D) retiring – will be decided in the Democratic primary. Here, former lieutenant governor and local automobile dealer Don Beyer appears to have the inside track within a field of nine candidates. State Sen. Adam Ebbin, Delegate Patrick Hope, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, and radio host Mark Levine are the other major candidates. The 8th District is one of three heavy Democratic seats in VA, meaning tomorrow’s winner will become Rep. Moran’s successor.

South Carolina

Two-term Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) is on the ballot for renomination, and the crowded field (six Republican candidates challenging him) means topping the majority mark for the often controversial incumbent is more difficult than in previous elections. On the other hand, the challenger field is weak and the chances of Graham actually losing are slim. Whether or not he is forced into a two-week run-off secondary election (decided June 24) might be another story.

With such a tight run-off time frame, it would be difficult for his lone opponent to mount a winning challenge against an incumbent with heavy resources, such as Graham, even if the senator fails to make the majority mark. The likely outcome, however, is that the senator claims renomination outright, but his victory percentage will likely only be in the low to mid-50s.

With Gov. Nikki Haley (R) unopposed for renomination, and only representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC-2) and Assistant Majority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6) having minor primary opponents, the South Carolina primary election will largely be a quiet event.

Iowa

The first two Iowa post-primary polls have been released and both show newly crowned open seat Republican Senate nominee Joni Ernst jumping out to the first lead any Republican has scored over Rep. Bruce Braley (R-IA-1). Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.

Rasmussen Reports (June 4-5; 750 registered Iowa voters) gives Ernst, a state senator hailing from southwestern Iowa’s small Montgomery County, a one-point 45-44 percent edge over the eastern Iowa Democratic congressman. The survey questioning period began the day after Ernst scored an impressive win in the Iowa Republican primary. The same poll gives five-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) a 49-40 percent lead over veteran state Sen. Jack Hatch (D).

In a survey conducted during the same time period, Loras College (June 4-5; 600 likely Iowa general election voters) projects Ernst to a bigger 48-42 percent lead. Their sample selection is refined for purposes of more accurately predicting a 2014 midterm turnout model. Though their methodology – segmenting the sampling universe only among people who voted in the 2010 general election or those who are newly registered to vote – probably skews the results in Ernst’s favor, it may prove a better general election turnout predictor.

The Loras numbers were also more favorable to Gov. Branstad. This data posts the governor to a 52-38 percent margin over Sen. Hatch.

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