Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Dianne Feinstein’

Do Dems Have a Shot at Gaining Calif. House Seats?

In House on June 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

After the June 5 California primary, most observers were stunned to see two Republicans, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R), qualify for the general election in San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District. Considering that this new seat should normally vote Democratic in at least six of every 10 elections, the double Republican primary outcome had not been foreseen. His party’s San Berdo setback did not deter Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY-2) from continuing to declare that his team will gain at least four to five California House seats, however.

A look beyond the Obama-McCain 2008 numbers on the newly crafted California Citizens Redistricting Commission congressional map tells a different story. Right now, it appears the Democrats are safe in 28 California seats and Republicans’ 13, with 12 seats in competitive Democrat vs. Republican situations. If these numbers are correct, then the D’s would have to win 10 or 11 of the dozen most competitive districts to reach Israel’s projection of leaving California with 38 or 39 Democratic seats.

Though President Obama carried all 12 of the marginal seats in 2008, he did so under his statewide 61 percent winning percentage in every district. Looking beyond the surface of the presidential race, we find that the Republican attorney general nominee, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ended up losing statewide by less than one percentage point, actually carried all 12 of these CDs. Additionally, and possibly even more telling, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), a 52-42 percent winner statewide two years ago, lost nine of the 12 districts to Republican Carly Fiorina. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a 54-41 percent victor over Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, won eight of the competitive dozen.

Therefore, with Republican performances such as these, what are Israel and other Democratic partisans looking at when they predict lofty Golden State gains, numbers they must attain to have any chance of competing for the House majority?

One argument is that the turnout model will certainly be different from the one that came to fruition in 2010 because, as the theory goes, President Obama will energize the electorate and increase Democratic turnout. That the voter participation rate will exceed the 2010 mid-term performance is almost certainly true, but with a virtually uncontested presidential race in California and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) facing little credible re-election opposition, will the turnout drive be as strong as the national Democrats believe? Conversely, with a public employee pension reform measure on the statewide ballot and considering the cities of San Jose and San Diego already passed similar propositions in June, could this issue actually provide more juice for Republicans and right of center Independents as opposed to Democrats? The answer is, quite possibly.

Turning to some of the individual races, in order to achieve their statewide goal Democrats would have to beat at least three of the four following incumbents: Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52).

But only in San Diego, despite Republicans outnumbering Democrats 36-33 percent in the new 52nd District, is there a legitimate crack at a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Rep. Bilbray received only 41 percent in the jungle primary but new Democratic opponent Scott Peters, who placed second with only about 23 percent, has vulnerability from his previous controversial service on the San Diego City Council. So, even here, which seems to be the Democrats’ best chance to unseat an incumbent, their conversion bid is far from secure.

Republicans also look to have the upper hand in Districts 21 with Assemblyman David Valadao reaching almost 60 percent in the open seat Central Valley primary, the marginal 26th where they have the stronger candidate, Ventura County state Sen. Tony Strickland, and even in Democratic leaning District 41 (Riverside County), where the combined Republican primary vote formed a majority. Additionally, the Democrats feature a general election candidate there who has already lost three previous congressional campaigns, while the Republicans are promoting a powerful county Supervisor.

Right now, the Democratic victory total is nowhere close to winning 10 or 11 of these 12 seats, as the realistic sum appears closer to five. Instead of gaining four or five California districts, it’s more feasible that the parties will remain constant in their 34D-19R delegation ratio, or quite possibly lose a seat. Such a result virtually guarantees the continuance of the House Republican majority.

Is Calif. Sen. Feinstein Vulnerable?

In Senate on September 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

According to a new poll released late last week by the California-based Field survey research organization, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is suffering from the lowest approval ratings of her nearly two-decade tenure in the U.S. Senate. The survey comes as troubling news for the former San Francisco mayor, just 14 months before she must again face the voters in the nation’s most populous state.

The Field Poll of 1,001 registered California voters (Sept. 1-12; 3.2% error factor) shows 44 percent of voters surveyed would not send Feinstein back to Washington for a full fourth term if the election were held today. Forty-one percent indicated that they would support the senator’s reelection bid. This is the first time in Feinstein’s senatorial career, which began in 1993, that her re-elect rating has been “upside down.”

For the past two decades, Ms. Feinstein’s job approval ratings, according to Field’s research, have been consistently positive by comfortable and sometimes impressive margins. Currently, however, they have shrunk to worrisome levels. Forty-one percent of the respondents said that they approve of the job she is doing in the Senate while 39 percent disapprove. The +2 margin is the slimmest of Feinstein’s career. Her approval/disapproval numbers are 60-21 percent among Democrats, but just 40-32 percent among unaffiliated and independent voters.

Feinstein’s California Senate colleague, Barbara Boxer, who won reelection by 10 percentage points in 2010, is also experiencing an approval ratings decline. Boxer’s latest job approval score is upside down at 39-42 percent.

California voters give Congress as a whole its lowest rating since 1992 with just a 9 percent approval and an overwhelming 86 percent disapproval score.

However, the fact that California is one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic states obviously cuts in Sen. Feinstein’s favor, as it did for Boxer in 2010 when she faced the most serious challenge of her career against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R).

Potential opposition is also an obvious vulnerability factor and this is where California Republicans normally suffer. Finding a candidate with a high enough name identification to become a viable statewide candidate is a difficult task. With a population of 37.2 million people, 23.6 million of whom are registered to vote, a Republican challenger either must begin with virtually universal name identification, such as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, or have so much money that they can spend their way into familiarity.

In a race against Feinstein, one such GOP candidate could possibly be emerging. Michael Reagan, the adopted son of President Ronald Reagan and a former national talk show host, is reportedly considering launching his candidacy. The latest Field numbers will undoubtedly capture his interest, but he is reportedly a long way from committing to a statewide race. The Senator, for her part, hasn’t yet announced that she will even run for re-election. Now 78 years old, Ms. Feinstein decided against running in the open governor’s race last year, a job she always coveted, even when it looked to be hers for the taking.

Though a Feinstein-Reagan race would clearly be competitive, and give the Republicans at least a chance at scoring a huge upset, neither candidate is firmly in the race. In the end, Feinstein will clearly be favored, but these new Golden State developments are at least worthy of serious attention.

Berman Strikes First in California’s 30th District

In House on September 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

One of the most interesting 2012 congressional races will undoubtedly be the pairing of veteran Democratic congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) in the state’s new 30th district. Both men are Los Angeles County political powerhouses. Mr. Berman, 70, first elected to the House in 1982 after spending a decade in the state Assembly, where he served as majority floor leader, is the former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. Along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-30), the two dominated Los Angeles County politics with their famed Waxman-Berman political machine for the better part of four decades. Mr. Sherman, 56, was elected to the House in 1996 after serving as chairman of California’s Board of Equalization, a statewide panel that handles tax-related issues.

With the two now in the same district, an epic internal Democratic battle is beginning, and Mr. Berman just fired the first shot … and, it hit home. Yesterday, he announced that Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), Rep. Waxman, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) have all agreed to serve as his campaign co-chairs. Berman is also expected to raise huge sums of money from the Hollywood community, including an event headlined by mega-movie producer Steven Spielberg. To his credit, Rep. Sherman already has amassed almost $3.7 million in campaign cash over the past several years in anticipation of this fight, more than double Berman’s $1.5 million.

The two will square off in the June Democratic primary, but will likely face each other again in the general election under California’s new nomination law that sends the two top vote-getters to November, regardless of political party. This means the CA-30 confrontation will be the most expensive, and longest, congressional campaign in the entire United States. Round one, of many to come, goes to Mr. Berman.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

In Senate on January 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.

Toss-ups

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.

Questions

Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
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After Hutchison, Who’s Next?

In Senate on January 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm

At the end of last week, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) became the first 2012 re-election cycle senator to announce her retirement. Who else may follow her lead?

At first glance, considering the senators who are either elderly, already trailing in pre-election polling, or about whom retirement speculation has publicly abounded, several have not yet committed to seeking re-election.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R), originally elected in 1994, always runs hard-charging political campaigns. At the end of September, he uncharacteristically had $620,000 in his campaign account, a low number for someone who spent over $15.5 million during his 2006 campaign. We will have a strong sense about whether Sen. Kyl is running when the 2010 year-end financial reports are entered into the public domain, something we can count on seeing in early February.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will be 79 at the time of the 2012 election. The fact that she did not enter the 2010 California Governor’s race when her road to Sacramento would have been a relatively easy one, suggests that she is winding down her career. Her campaign account is rather flush, holding $3.7 million at the end of September. In 2006, she only had to spend $8 million, so if 2012 is anything like her competitive state six years ago, and it appears to be, the decision of whether to run again will likely be a personal and not a political one.

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is telling supporters that he will seek a fourth term in 2012, despite being 88 at the time of the next election. He had $76,000 in his September bank account, which isn’t a telling factor since action happens late in Hawaii politics.

Speculation continues to center around Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), and the fact that he has not announced a 2012 campaign. His circumspect statements about re-election lead people to question whether he will retire from elective politics after just one term. Sen. Webb will turn 65 in February. He is promising a definitive announcement in the next few weeks. Webb’s September financial filing revealed $471,000 cash-on-hand. He spent $8.6 million in 2006.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), another incumbent who will be closing in on 80 at the time of the next election (he turns 76 in February), also has not committed to seeking a fifth term in 2012. This is of particular importance because just-defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings and will clearly run if Sen. Kohl decides to retire. With the late Wisconsin primary, the senator has the luxury of waiting for most of this year to make a final decision. Mr. Kohl had only $26,000 in his account in September but, being a multi-millionaire, his campaign financial situation is not particularly indicative of what may be his ultimate political plan.

There is another group of three senators who are actively seeking re-election, but whose political fortunes appear challenging. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and John Ensign (R-NV) all trail substantially either in primary (Ensign) or general election (Lieberman, Nelson) polling. Should their political outlook fail to improve, it is not out of the realm of possibility that some or all from this group could decide to drop out of the race prior to the candidate filing deadline.

Right now, it is difficult to project just which states beyond Texas will feature open senate races, but you can believe that several will evolve in that manner.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

In Senate on January 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

Though we are just at the beginning stage of the 2012 election cycle, action already is beginning to occur in certain Senate races. Below is a quick look at the situation in some of the first half of the in-cycle states. More will be covered in the near future.

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (R) – Retirement rumors are swirling. Should Mr. Kyl decide not to seek a fourth term, look for a free-for-all in both parties. If he does run, the state becoming more politically marginal suggests a competitive campaign battle.

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – The senator is safe if she runs again, but turning 79 before the next election, retirement considerations are a factor. The seat should remain in Democratic hands regardless of the situation, however.

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) – The senator is already discussing re-election plans, but his favorability ratings are among the lowest of any 2012-cycle incumbent. He will have strong Democratic opposition, possibly in the person of Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). It’s unclear what the Republicans will do. Defeated GOP nominee Linda McMahon is talking about running again. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) is also a potential GOP alternative.

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper (D) – Right now, the senator is in strong shape for re-election. Defeated GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell is not yet out of the public eye, so another Senatorial run for her is not out of the question. Carper becomes the prohibitive favorite if O’Donnell enters the race.

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (D) – Mr. Nelson begins the cycle in relatively strong shape, leading all potential opponents in early polling but only scoring mediocre approval ratings. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos has announced his intentions to run. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is a potential candidate. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has already dismissed a Senate candidacy.

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R) – Another octogenarian at the time of the next election, Sen. Lugar says he will seek re-election. A Tea Party challenge could be on the horizon, however. Democrats will take a wait and see approach here.

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R) – With Republican Sen. Brown facing the voters for a full term in 2012, it appeared earlier that he might be the most vulnerable of GOP incumbents. The early numbers suggest a different story, however. He leads all potential Democratic opponents by comfortable margins and enjoys high job approval ratings.

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) – Considering the strong Republican sweep here in 2010, Sen. Stabenow has to be rated in the vulnerable category. Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is mentioned as a possible challenger. This is a race to watch.

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker (R) – After winning the special election in 2008, Sen. Wicker will try for a full term in 2012. He should have no trouble in a state that is proving to be a national Republican stronghold.

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) – This is shaping up to be another close statewide contest in the Show Me State. Former Sen. Jim Talent is a potential Republican candidate. Ex-state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman has already announced her intention to run. A toss-up all the way.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) – Sen. Tester must defend the seat he won in a close contest over an incumbent back in 2006. At-large Rep. Denny Rehberg is a top Republican potential candidate. Former lieutenant governor candidate Steve Daines (R) has already announced his candidacy.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson (D) – With the senator’s favorability ratings among the lowest of those standing for re-election and trailing two statewide Republican office holders, Nebraska is the most endangered Democratic seat. Should Nelson not seek re-election, this becomes an easy Republican conversion.
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