Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

House Happenings

In House on December 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

Some district updates from around the country:

LA-3

The final 2012 House campaign is nearing a conclusion. Under Louisiana law, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote on Election Day, a run-off between the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, is to be held at a later date. That time, in the case of the LA-3 contest between Republican Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7) and Jeff Landry (R-LA-3), is a week from Saturday, Dec. 8. The two incumbents were forced into one southwest Louisiana district because the state lost a seat in reapportionment. Seventy-six percent of the new 3rd District comes from Boustany’s current 7th CD.

A newly released poll, from Red Racing Horses/PMI (Nov. 27-29; 600 likely LA-3 voters), gives Rep. Boustany a 51-33 percent lead over Landry. In the original election among five candidates (three Republicans, one Democrat, and one Libertarian), Boustany placed first with 44.7 percent of the vote versus Landry in second tallying 30.1 percent, a difference of 45,596 votes from 311,393 ballots cast. Boustany looks to be in strong shape in terms of past performance, polling spread, and geography, but a substantially lower Dec. 8th turnout could yield a much closer electoral affair.

IL-2

As predicted, the Illinois legislature just passed a bill that will move the IL-2 special general election to April 9 from March 19. Under Illinois election law, the seat must be filled within 155 of the vacancy occurring, hence the original schedule. But, with local and municipal elections already scheduled for April 9, it made financial and practical sense to combine all of the contests on the one date. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) will sign the bill.

In this case, the general election is a mere formality as the Democratic primary winner will easily hold this seat. The date of that first election, Feb. 26, does not change. It is here that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s replacement will effectively be chosen.

The Democratic field now stands at seven candidates, which includes former US representatives Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) and Mel Reynolds (D-IL-2), state senators Donne Trotter, Toi Hutchinson and Napoleon Harris, Cook County CEO Robin Kelly, and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale. Pastor Corey Brooks and Chicago Alderman Will Burns have removed themselves from consideration.


CA-51

Another vacancy has occurred in the House, but only until the new Congress convenes. This means one less vote for the Lame Duck session. Rep. Bob Filner (D) resigned from Congress to officially become mayor of San Diego, a position he won in the November general election. His replacement in Congress, state Sen. Juan Vargas (D), will take office as a regular-term freshman in January.

MO-8

A quirk may soon occur in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R). Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has reportedly asked Republican Party leaders to consider appointing him as the replacement Republican nominee. The local county committees from both parties will choose nominees in lieu of a special congressional primary.

The succession process for filling a vacancy in the office of Missouri lieutenant governor is unclear. Therefore, it is quite possible that Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will be able to appoint Kinder’s replacement should the latter be elected to Congress in the yet-to-be-scheduled special general election. If Nixon appoints a member of his own party, which is a certainty, the Democrats would then control every statewide constitutional office despite the state’s strong tilt to the right in federal elections. This would leave Sen. Roy Blunt as the sole Missouri Republican statewide elected official.

Another House Vacancy

In House on December 4, 2012 at 11:15 am
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson

The new congressional session has not even begun yet, and already two special elections are being called in early 2013. In previous reports we have covered the resignation of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) and the primary and special general that will be held in his former district on Feb. 26 and March 19 respectively, but now another new extraordinary election cycle will begin in Missouri.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO-8) announced that she will leave the House in early February to assume the presidency of the Rural Electrical Cooperative Association. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will schedule one special election more than likely within 100 days after the seat officially becomes vacant. Under Missouri election law, the local county parties will choose their replacement nominees, so no primary voting will occur.

Missouri’s 8th District occupies the southeastern sector of the state, a rural 30-county region that contains the Ozark National Scenic Riverway, the Mark Twain National Forest, the state’s “boot heel” region found at the most southeastern point of Missouri that effectively splits Arkansas and Tennessee, and the town of Cape Girardeau – the boyhood home of conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh.

MO-8 is the second-most Republican district in the state, behind only the adjacent 7th CD. It gave President George W. Bush 62 percent of its votes in 2004, and John McCain 60 percent in 2008. The Obama-Romney 2012 numbers are not yet available by Missouri congressional district, but it is a virtual certainty that Republican nominee Mitt Romney also topped 60 percent. Despite Missouri losing a seat in reapportionment, the 8th kept 86 percent of its territory from the previous redistricting cycle.

Emerson served in the House since 1996, replacing her late husband Bill Emerson who was originally elected in 1980. After her original special election victory, she went onto win a full term in November of ’96 and has cruised to re-election ever since. Her last competitive race came in 2010, when former Army Special Forces Major Tommy Sowers raised over $1.6 million to challenge the congresswoman, but couldn’t even muster 30 percent of the vote. Pres. Barack Obama then appointed Sowers to replace now Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Already mentioned as possible Republican congressional candidates are Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith, former state treasurer and recent US Senate candidate Sarah Steelman, and at least four state legislators. Smith is a former chief of staff to Emerson. Lt. Gov. Kinder is a former staff member to the late Congressman Emerson.

This should be an easy Republican hold in a special election, but the party has performed poorly in these sorts of campaigns during the recent past. Much more will unfold very shortly.

Senate Balance of Power is Murky

In Election Analysis, Senate on October 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

The nation’s presidential choice is not the only political decision still undetermined at this late date. It now appears that as many as 13 US Senate races are either in the toss-up category or on their way to being categorized as such. In addition to the mainstay toss-up campaigns, we find that the Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Indiana, Florida and Ohio races are not yet put to bed, either.

Swings and shifts in places like North Dakota, Arizona, Connecticut and Pennsylvania suggests that once perceived clear-cut trends in those places are now less certain.

With the presidential race likely coming down to the votes from a state or two, the Senate majority could as well. The Republicans need a net gain of four states to secure a bare minimum 51-seat majority, while the Democrats need to hold their losses to three in order to maintain chamber control.

A probable Republican loss in Maine and possibly failing to retain Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts means the GOP would have to convert six Democratic seats. Since former Sen. Bob Kerrey does not appear particularly competitive in Nebraska, the real majority number recedes to five. Converting the open Democratic seat in North Dakota is now considered a must-win situation. And, taking at least two of the three pure toss-up campaigns in Virginia, Montana, and Wisconsin now becomes a requirement. Additionally, the Republicans would still have to win at least one long-shot campaign, from a state such as Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Connecticut, and possibly Pennsylvania. The long-term toss-up seat in Missouri appears to be breaking Sen. Claire McCaskill’s way.

But all of the aforementioned presumes the Republicans hold their own seats in Arizona, Indiana and Nevada, none of which are tightly secured at this writing.

Early in the cycle, with the Democrats having to protect 23 seats as compared to the Republicans’ 10, it was assumed that the odds favored forging a new Republican majority. Now, there are fewer people expressing such a sentiment. If Pres. Obama and the Democrats catch a wave going into the election’s final days, Republicans losing seats must also be considered within the realm of possibility.

So, as Election Day draws nearer, the Senate campaign picture is appearing more cloudy.

States That Favor Obama or Romney: The Weakest Links

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign on October 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

In this presidential election, we’ve spent a lot of time considering and analyzing the swing states, saying that those not now clearly favoring one candidate or another are going to be the ones that determine who wins on election night. While this is largely true, today we are going to analyze if there any states commonly believed to be in each candidates’ camp that still could slip to the other side.

Right now, 11 states routinely appear in the toss-up column, 23 states are safe/likely/lean for Mitt Romney, and 17 are rated safe/likely/lean for Pres. Barack Obama. Of those now believed to be trending toward a particular candidate, are some weak enough that the opponent might make a late run for their electoral vote contingent? Yes. As we get closer to the election and trends become firm, it is possible that one of the candidates will have no other choice but to throw a “Hail Mary pass” in one or more of these places.

In the 23 Romney states, three may be weaker than the remaining 20. They are: Arizona, Missouri and Indiana. In the 17 Obama states, the three potentially less than solid domains are Oregon, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Understanding that the preponderance of polling shows the state as expressing only moderate to weak support for either Obama or Romney, let’s examine each place’s voting history to determine if any could be a prime switch candidate.

    Arizona: Lean Romney

  • Republican governor
  • Two Republican senators
  • 5R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 1996
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: twice (1948, ’96)
    Indiana: Lean Romney

  • Republican governor
  • Two Republican senators
  • 6R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 2008
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: twice (1964, ’08)
    Minnesota: Lean Obama

  • Democratic governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 4R-4D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 1988
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: three (1952, ’56, ’72)
    Missouri: Lean Romney

  • Democratic governor
  • One Republican senator; one Democratic senator
  • 6R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 1996
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: seven (1948, ’56, ’60, ’64, ’76, ’92, ’96)
    New Mexico: Lean Obama

  • Republican governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 2D-1R congressional delegation
  • Democrats control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 2004
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: nine (1952, ’56, ’68, ’72, ’76, ’80, ’84, ’88, ’04)
    Oregon: Lean Obama

  • Democratic governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 4D-1R congressional delegation
  • Democrats control the state Senate; the state House is a 30D-30R tie
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 1984
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: nine (1948, ’52, ’56, ’60, ’68, ’72, ’76, ’80, ’84)

As you can see, the states with the most recent history of being in the swing category on multiple occasions are Missouri and New Mexico. Democratic Oregon has actually gone for the other party just as many times as New Mexico, tied for the most among these six, but the last time it strayed to the Republican presidential candidate was all the way back in 1984.

It is probable that these six states will remain right where they are currently forecast, but as the election draws near and patterns begin to formulate in the 11 toss-up states, don’t be surprised if at least one of the candidates begins to look elsewhere in an attempt to expand the political playing field. If so, such a move will likely occur within this universe of six states.

The VP Debate and a Changing Map

In Election Analysis, Polling, Presidential campaign on October 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm

The vice presidential candidates took center stage for one night last evening, and at least the in the CNN poll (conducted by Opinion Research Council of 381 debate watchers via post-event telephone interviews), results suggested that Paul Ryan fared better than Vice President Joe Biden.

A 48-44 percent pro-Ryan division relating to winner perception was recorded, though a slight over-sampling of Republicans was present in the CNN respondent universe. Ryan scored more favorably on two critical perception points, being more likable (53-43 percent) and better expressing himself (50-41 percent). Of those sampled, 28 percent said they are now more likely to vote for Mitt Romney because of this debate, versus 21 percent who made similar comments in relation to Pres. Barack Obama.

Thus, the debate ended with neither candidate scoring a knock-out blow or inflicting serious damage upon their own campaign effort. It is likely the after-effects from this forum will be short-lived, which likely helps Romney because he has the current momentum.

Last night, Real Clear Politics also released their version of the new electoral map. According to them, based upon all polling data to which they have access, the president has a safe/likely/lean count of 201 electoral votes from 16 states and the District of Columbia, while Romney’s commensurate total is 181 from 22 states. Curiously, RCP lists Missouri in the Undecided/Uncommitted column. Based upon complete voting history since 2000, inclusive, and the fact that Romney has led in virtually every Show Me State poll, it is more than plausible to add their 10 Electoral Votes to the Romney column. If so, the challenger would pull within 10 votes of the president, leaving 146 votes in 11 states as uncommitted.

Among the states moving into the Undecided/Uncommitted category are two places with a clear Democratic history in presidential elections, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Once the votes are completely counted, it is more than likely that both of these domains will remain in the president’s column but the fact that he is having to fight so hard to keep them is indicative of his weakening national standing.

The remaining nine states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada are the ones we have been analyzing for some time. It is clear that some combination of these states will make the final electoral determination in early November.

Assuming the moving of Missouri to Romney and Michigan and Pennsylvania to Obama prove correct, then the Republican would need 79 Electoral Votes to win the Presidency and Obama 33. Of the Undecided/Uncommitted states on the current board, the Republican’s easiest path to victory would include Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada. This would give Romney a bare 270-268 victory and send him to the White House.

While originally it was thought that a challenger would have to carry Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to defeat Obama, it is now possible to win with taking Florida and only one of the latter two. With more states firmly in play, the Romney campaign now has several options to possibly cobble together a winning coalition of states in order to reach the magic 270 electoral vote plateau.

Getting through last night’s VP debate with both sides intact, means the stakes for the remaining two debates grows even higher. Pressure will continue to mount upon both candidates and what remains true is that the final defining events for this particular presidential election have yet to occur.

The Stretch Drive Begins for Senate, House Races

In House, Senate on October 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

October is here and the political stretch drive is beginning, so it is appropriate to examine where the Senate and House campaigns stand from an aggregate party division perspective.

For most of the election cycle, Republicans appeared to be on the precipice of capturing the Senate majority, taking it away from Harry Reid and the Democrats. But, new swings in momentum show a more Democratic trend.

Recently, Democratic incumbents in Florida and Ohio have gained strength and open seat contender Tammy Baldwin has seized the initiative in the open Wisconsin campaign. Sunshine State polls have been erratic, but Sen. Bill Nelson now seems to have built a consistent and sustained advantage. First-term Sen. Sherrod Brown has also seen the polls ebb and flow, but his mid to high single digit edge over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel is stabilizing, at least for the short term. Baldwin’s ad offensive and Republican former governor Tommy Thompson’s recent comments about dismantling entitlements has posted the Democratic nominee to a slight lead.

After some flirtation with breaking toward the Democrats, the pure toss-up campaigns in Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg), and Virginia (ex-senator George Allen and former governor Tim Kaine) have re-established themselves as dead heat campaigns. All three of these races will likely go down to the wire.

Additionally, there is movement toward Republicans in at least two long shot states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while Democrats are making Arizona a race. By most polls, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) still leads Republican Linda McMahon, but the gap is closing and the latter has gained the offensive.

The sleepy Pennsylvania Senate race has finally arisen, and Republican Tom Smith’s recent ad blast appears to be bringing him to within a single-digit deficit of first-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. Democrats are still likely to prevail here and in Connecticut, but there is no question that Republican candidates in both places have created some current positive momentum.

Democrat Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General, is pulling much closer to Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in their open seat battle according to most polls. As in Connecticut and Pennsylvania for the Democratic candidates, Flake still must be considered the favorite to prevail.

The Missouri campaign between Sen. Claire McCaskill who, at the beginning of the cycle appeared to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent standing for re-election, and the mistake-ridden Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is still in toss-up territory. Most believe, however, that activity in the final stretch will favor the Democratic Senator.

Republicans were thought early to be clear favorites in North Dakota and Indiana, but polling is still indicating that both of these campaigns remain close. The GOP appears to be a lock to convert Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) open Nebraska seat, and Independent Angus King continues to maintain the inside track in retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine, though the numbers are closing.

Today, Democrats look to be ahead in enough states to give them a 49-47 aggregate lead in the Senate, with four races in the toss-up column; three of which are currently Democratically held. Hence, the majority remains in abeyance.

The House has been the most stable of the federal political entities in the 2012 cycle. Post-census redistricting will prove to be the determining factor here and that favors the Republicans. It appears the partisan swing will deviate between a +/- three seat margin in terms of aggregate gains and losses for the two parties, but Republican control seems secure.

Democrats could be gaining as many as three seats in Florida and potentially the same or more in Illinois. Republicans are positioned to score similarly in North Carolina. New York and California remain as wild cards.

While the GOP appeared to be in position to gain seats up until the last two weeks, Democrats are enjoying a swing in some House races, too. The best estimate indicates Republicans will comfortably retain control, but Democrats could make an aggregate gain in the low single digits.

Today, it appears that 233 seats are safely or trending Republican as compared to 186 headed to the Democrats. Sixteen seats are considered too close to call, with 11 of the 16 being in GOP currently held districts.

Senate Trends

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign, Senate on September 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

Rep. Todd Akin

More is becoming known about the nation’s US Senate races, and trends are forming. With seven full weeks to go until Election Day, much can still change but at this point, both parties could be headed to the 50-seat mark. Ironically for Republicans, it could well be Todd Akin’s fate in Missouri, the candidate national GOP leaders attempted to replace because of his unintelligent comments, that will decide which party controls the body in the new Congress.

As we know, of the 33 in-cycle seats, Democrats are defending 23. Today, they appear safe in 10 of those: California (Feinstein), Delaware (Carper), Maryland (Cardin), Minnesota (Klobuchar), New Jersey (Menendez), New York (Gillibrand), Pennsylvania (Casey), Rhode Island (Whitehouse), Washington (Cantwell), and West Virginia (Manchin).

Two more are headed toward the Independent column, and those winners will either caucus or vote with the Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) runs as an Independent but joins the Democratic conference. Angus King, the Independent former governor, is strong favorite for Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) seat as the campaign turns into the home stretch. He is projected to caucus with the Democrats, but has yet to commit to do so. If the fate of the majority comes down to King, it is unclear what might happen.

Trending toward the Democrats appears to be the races in Hawaii (open seat – Rep. Mazie Hirono), Michigan (Stabenow), New Mexico (open seat – Rep. Martin Heinrich), and Ohio (Sherrod Brown).

Hawaii polls have been erratic, but the preponderance of polling data gives Rep. Mazie Hirono a clear lead. Same is true in Michigan for two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow and first-term incumbent Sherrod Brown. Though polling shows Rep. Martin Heinrich well ahead of former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), this is another race that could turn. Wilson’s strength with Independents in the state could make a difference if Democratic turnout is even slightly low.

Republicans are safe in fives seats: Mississippi (Wicker), Tennessee (Corker), Texas (Cruz), Utah (Hatch), and Wyoming (Barrasso).

Trending toward the GOP are the races in Indiana (open seat – Richard Mourdock), Massachusetts (Scott Brown), Nebraska (open seat – state Sen. Deb Fischer), Nevada (Heller), North Dakota (open seat – Rep. Rick Berg), and Wisconsin (open seat – former governor Tommy Thompson).

The Indiana race is tight – some polls show it about even – but Richard Mourdock has not made any mistakes in his battle with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). Hoosier State voting trends at the top of the ticket – Mitt Romney appears headed for victory over the President here and Rep. Mike Pence is a solid favorite in the governor’s race – should help pull Mourdock across the finish line.

Recent polling in Massachusetts and Nevada is giving senators Scott Brown and Dean Heller small, but consistent and discernible leads over Elizabeth Warren (D) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), respectively.

While the North Dakota seat has been tight for most of the campaign, more recent polling indicates that Rep. Rick Berg is opening up a lead well beyond the margin of error.

All post-primary polls in Wisconsin give former governor Tommy Thompson a lead over Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). All of these races could turn away from the Republicans before Election Day, but today, the GOP candidates look to be in the winning position.

Questions abound in the following campaigns:

• Arizona (open seat): Though Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is favored here, some polls are detecting a close race and Democratic nominee Richard Carmona is making this campaign a battle.

• Connecticut (open seat): A combination of factors have come together to make this race, at least in the short term, more competitive than expected. GOP nominee Linda McMahon being awarded the Independent Party ballot line, new polling showing the two candidates running close, and a personal financial situation involving Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) are all minor individual items that taken in the aggregate could become significant.

• Florida: Polling has been extremely inconsistent in the Sunshine State, but more surveys favor Sen. Ben Nelson than Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). The campaign is trending Nelson’s way now, but the presidential final wave will have a lot to say about its final outcome.

• Missouri: Right after the August primary, Rep. Todd Akin made rape-related abortion comments that stirred a national hornet’s nest. Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) jumped well into the lead, but the margin has since dissipated and the race is back in toss-up range. McCaskill is the most vulnerable of all Democratic incumbents standing for re-election, and Akin is the Republicans’ weakest national challenger. This one is far from over.

Montana: The political battle between first-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has been close for months. In the past eight weeks, the polling was detecting a slight Rehberg advantage. A new survey released last week, however, showed Tester regaining the lead. The presidential election will weigh heavily on this race, and Mitt Romney seems to be enjoying a healthy advantage in Big Sky Country. This race will likely go down to the wire.

• Virginia: Possibly the closest race in the country, the campaign between former senator George Allen (R) and ex-governor Tim Kaine (D) has been dead even for the better part of a year. As in Florida and Montana, the presidential race looms large in the Virginia Senate race. The result is too close to call.

To recap, if this analysis is correct, the Democrats are safe or ahead in 16 races, including the two Independent candidates, and Republicans are safe in 11. Under this model, the GOP would attain the majority 51 number if they win any three of the six questionable races isolated above.

The Senate: Post-Labor Day

In Senate on September 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Now that we have moved past the Labor Day weekend, the traditional general election cycle has officially begun. That being the case, what is the current status of our nation’s Senate races especially now that all 33 campaigns have official, or soon-to-be official, nominees?

According to our latest PRIsm Information Network count, the majority Democrats, who must defend 23 of the 33 in-cycle seats, are ahead in 18 races. Republicans, who need to gain four net seats in order to establish a new majority, lead in nine states. Six feature races that are too close to call. If the ratings prove correct, Democrats would control 48 seats and Republicans 46 with the six “toss-ups” coming from a trio apiece of Republican and Democratic states.

Starting with the toss-ups, even though the Missouri race between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) has been the topic of recent political conversation; the polling swing seems to be reverting back to the Republican, so the race must again be placed in the outcome unclear column. McCaskill is the weakest Democratic incumbent standing for re-election and Akin stumbled badly, as did the national Republican leaders who immediately pounced on him, but the polls are again showing an even race despite major controversy over his rape-related abortion comment.

The Virginia (open: Tim Kaine-D, vs. George Allen-R), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester-D vs. Rep. Denny Rehberg-R) and Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown-R vs. Elizabeth Warren-D) contests are all dead even and have been for some time. Recently, the Bay State race has turned in more favorable numbers for Sen. Brown, but the Democratic voting history here clearly will give Warren a strong push.

The Indiana and North Dakota races are proving interesting. Both should be solidly Republican this year, but polling consistently shows neither performing as such.

The defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary has certainly opened the door for Democrat Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2), but how far? With Lugar losing a landslide renomination effort to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, it has become apparent that the congressman would have likely fared better had Lugar eked out a close victory. More traditional voting patterns should take hold here as we move closer to Election Day, especially with President Obama not targeting the state. This should help Mourdock.

When Sen. Kent Conrad (D) announced his retirement early this year, it was assumed that at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) would succeed him with little fanfare. Quite the opposite is occurring as popular Democratic nominee Heidi Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, continues to perform well in polling. After being rated as decidedly lean Republican, this race now must be considered a toss-up.

Six more states are in the lean Democratic column, two of which show signs of heading toward toss-up status. Both the Florida and Ohio contests feature Democratic incumbents that polling shows are in competitive races in states that will probably play a defining role in the presidential contest. Senators Bill Nelson (FL) and Sherrod Brown (OH) may see their own political futures determined by an end-of-campaign wave either for President Obama or challenger Mitt Romney. The flow of the campaign currently suggests that both of these Senate races will be subjected to final trends.

The Connecticut open (Rep. Chris Murphy-D vs. Linda McMahon-R), Hawaii (Rep. Mazie Hirono-D vs. former Gov. Linda Lingle-R), Michigan (Sen. Debbie Stabenow-D vs. former Rep. Pete Hoekstra-R), and New Mexico (Rep. Martin Heinrich-D vs. former Rep. Heather Wilson-R) campaigns are also trending close but decidedly toward the Democrats. They are each competitive enough where significant movement could occur late in the cycle.

Three seats are in the Lean Republican column, one of which, the Wisconsin open (former Gov. Tommy Thompson-R vs. Rep. Tammy Baldwin-D), just recently moved from the toss-up category. The other two lean R states are Arizona, where Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ-6) overwhelming victory in the GOP primary makes him a clear favorite over former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D), and Nevada where appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) continues to hold a defined edge, though one that is becoming slimmer according to the latest surveys, over Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1).

Four Democratic seats are in the Likely D column, including those in New Jersey (Sen. Bob Menendez), Pennsylvania (Sen. Bob Casey Jr.), and Washington (Sen. Maria Cantwell). Maine’s Independent former Gov. Angus King should win retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) seat, and it is likely that he will caucus with the Democrats. Polling suggests some competition exists in this quartet of states, but the voting history supporting the current numbers gives an even more decided advantage to each Democratic incumbent. Sen. Cantwell, in her race against state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R), is moving closer to the safe Democratic category.

Just one race is in the Likely Republican category, the open Nebraska (Sen. Ben Nelson retiring) campaign between former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) and state Sen. Deb Fischer (R). All polling gives Fischer overwhelming leads, suggesting that the most likely outcome here is a Republican conversion.

Thirteen states are rated as safe: eight for the Democrats (CA, Feinstein; DE, Carper; MD, Cardin; MN, Klobuchar; NY, Gillibrand; RI, Whitehouse; VT, Sanders (I); and WV, Manchin), and five for the Republicans (MS, Wicker; TN, Corker; TX-open, Cruz; UT, Hatch; and WY, Barrasso).

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.

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