Monday
Mar312014

Realignment

In a report issued earlier this week, the Gallup organization, which has been charting partisan affiliation by age since 1992, detected clear voter behavior shifts.  Among senior citizens, defined as those in the aged 65 and older group, a plurality is now aligned with the Republican Party.  According to Gallup, 48% of this group identifies with the GOP as compared to 45% who affiliate with Democrats.  In 1992, when this individual voting segment was much younger, the split was 53-39% in the Democrats’ favor.

Among the remaining voters in the aged 18-64 category, the Dems have made serious gains.  While this group, when younger in the early 1990’s, broke 46-45% Democratic, they now have expanded that affinity margin to 48-40% while growing older.

The swing within the senior group, however, is more dramatic particularly when considering that Democrats held the advantage with them from 1992 all the way to 2009.  The senior group is of enhanced importance because the individuals contained in this demographic subset have the highest voter participation level.  And, in a lower turnout midterm election, scoring big with this sector could mean the difference between winning and losing for a great many candidates.

The Gallup study may be indicative of why the Democratic strategy of attacking the Republicans for “cutting” Social Security and Medicare may not be gaining as much traction as they originally projected.  In addition to the conclusions presented in this study, further evidence came to the surface in the Florida special congressional election that elected Republican David Jolly (R-FL-13) over favored candidate Alex Sink (D) on the western Tampa Bay peninsula back in early March.  

Sink, the Democratic Party, and their allies hit Jolly long and hard over the Social Security privatization issue.  And, why not?  Lobbying for a group that was exploring ways of privatizing the government retirement program, a repeated charge that Jolly never denied, the GOP standard bearer should have been an easy target for such a message to score big points.  The fact that he was still able to carry the Democratic leaning district that ranks sixth of the 27 Florida House districts in population over age 65, says that the attack largely became irrelevant.  With such a result in this Florida district, the Democratic strategists may need to develop a more effective line of attack as the election cycle progresses.

Examining the swings throughout the charted twenty-two year period: when Democrats created landslides such as in both 1996 and 2006, their vote totals within the aged 65+ demographic segment was 53-40%.  When Republicans scored big in 1994 and 2010, the 65+ margin broke 48-44% Democratic in ’94, but switched to 49-43% Republican in ’10.  Within the 18-64 age demographic, Democrats commanded a 48-42% advantage in ’96, expanding to 51-41% in 2006.  In the big Republican years within this same 18-64 demographic, the GOP scored a 46-44% edge in 1994, identical to their split in 2010.

Consistent with conclusions from every other poll, the Gallup research also finds Republicans disconnecting with racial demographic segments irrespective of age.  While the non-Hispanic whites aged 65 and over break 53-40% Republican in terms of party affiliation, non-whites in the same age group split by an overwhelming 76-18% in the Democrats’ favor.

To read the entire Gallup analysis, click the attached link.  The complete report features an interesting chart that records the segment’s preferences throughout each group’s aging period.

Monday
Mar312014

Other Udall Strong; NM Numbers

NM-Senate

While most of the recent western political attention has focused on Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D) - the air wars with Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) and their respective allies have already begun in earnest - little attention is being paid to his cousin, Sen. Tom Udall (D), from the square state directly to the south.

As an incumbent Senator in 2014, not receiving any political attention is a good thing.  The just-released Public Policy Polling survey (3/20-23; 674 NM registered voters; 327 Democratic primary voters), the first such published New Mexico poll for this election cycle, proves that point for Sen. Udall, but not necessarily for the Democratic gubernatorial candidates.  

According to this new data, the Senator maintains a very comfortable lead over both of his Republican challengers, former New Mexico GOP chairman Allen Weh, and local Dona Ana Republican Party ex-chair David Clements.  With a very strong 52:33% favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio, the Senator leads Mr. Weh by an almost identical 53-33% split.  Against Mr. Clements, the first-term incumbent fares even better, 55-33%.

With all of his political vital signs looking strong, Mr. Udall is in strong early position for re-election and is the least of the national Democratic Party leadership’s worries.

Governor

But, the more important race in the Land of Enchantment is the re-election of first-term Gov. Susana Martinez.  A Republican woman of Hispanic descent from what can be at times a western swing state, it is a sure bet that Gov. Martinez will be on the very short list as a potential 2016 GOP Vice Presidential nominee should she post a strong re-election score later this year.

According to the new PPP results, Gov. Martinez leads all Democratic challengers, but with varying margins against the particular individuals.  Her job approval ratio, though not as good as Sen. Udall’s, is strong, especially for a more high profile Republican Governor in what is mostly a Democratic state.  PPP finds 52% of the respondents approving of her performance in office as compared to 40% who disapprove.

Against nomination leader Gary King, the state’s Attorney General who is the son of former Gov. Bruce King (D), Ms. Martinez claims a 47-42% advantage.  She is beyond the margin of error against an opponent from the majority party with high name identification, so those are positive takes for her, but consistently falling below majority support indicates the door may be open for a potential upset.

Her numbers are substantially better against the rest of the Democratic field.  She scores a 47-36% count over former Albuquerque city official Lawrence Rael; 48-34% when paired with state Sen. Howie Morales; 50-36% over state Sen. Linda Lopez; and 48-32% opposite magazine publisher Alan Webber.  

Turning to the subset of Democratic primary voters, it is Mr. King jumping out to a sizable lead, claiming just over one-third of the available support (34%).  Next is Sen. Morales with 15%, followed by Sen. Lopez’s 13%, with Messrs. Rael and Webber in single-digits at seven and five percent, respectively.

With Sen. Udall cruising toward re-election, the New Mexico political attention will turn toward the Governor’s race, especially when considering that this particular re-election battle will carry future national political ramifications.  Though Ms. Martinez is personally popular, expect a competitive general election when all of the campaigns begin to hit full stride. 

Monday
Mar312014

Edwards Up; UT Candidates; Begich Ad

LA-6

Last week, we made mention that 86-year old former Governor and ex-convict Edwin Edwards (D) is making another political comeback by running for the House this year.  Mr. Edwards’ last year of congressional service was in 1972, when he resigned to begin the first of his four terms as Louisiana Governor.  

Now, a new automated poll from the local Louisiana Glascock Group consulting firm(released 3/20; 718 LA-6 registered voters) finds the former Governor leading the jungle primary that will occur concurrently with the November 4th general election.  If no candidate receives an outright majority, the top two will advance to a December 6th post-election run-off.  

According to the Glascock data, Edwards, possessing 100% name identification, draws 43% of the respondents’ votes.  In second place is Republican state Sen. Dan Claitor with 20%, followed by businessman Paul Dietzel (R) at 19%.  So far, eight Republicans have announced for the seat, with Edwards being the only prominent Democrat.  Therefore, even though the Baton Rouge-anchored seat is overwhelmingly Republican, Edwards coalescing the Democratic vote could certainly qualify him for the run-off. He would have a difficult time winning a one-on-one match-up with a Republican but, in a crowded primary field, the former Governor may find himself living to fight another day.

Utah

Candidate filing closed in Utah and, with no US Senate or gubernatorial race leading the ballot this year, the four congressional races take center stage.  Three of the state’s House incumbents are seeking re-election.  The only retiree is the delegation’s lone Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4).  

In the 1st District, Rep. Rob Bishop (R) again draws minimal opposition.  He faces a frequent candidate before the Republican state convention, an event in which the Congressman will easily surpass the 60% threshold required for nomination sans a primary election.  He will cruise to a seventh term in November.

In the 2nd District, freshman Rep. Chris Stewart (R) drew three minor Republicans at the convention (if no candidate receives 60% of the delegate vote, the top two finishers then qualify for a primary), and state Sen. Luz Robles (D) for the general election.  The fall campaign may be slightly more competitive than one might normally expect in Utah because Sen. Robles appears poised to make a serious run for the seat.

Third District Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) filed to run for a fourth term and he faces two minor Republican candidates at the convention, and a Democratic placeholder in November.  The Congressman should have another easy run for re-election.

In the open 4th District, Saratoga Springs Mayor and former congressional candidate Mia Love (R) returns after losing to Matheson by one percentage point in 2012.  Love has drawn three Republican opponents, state Board of Education member Jennifer Johnson, radio talk show host Tim Aalders, and businessman Bob Fuehr.  Ms. Love stomped to victory in the 2012 Republican convention against a favored candidate, so she remains the strong favorite in the 2014 delegate format.  For the general election, the eventual Republican nominee will likely face Democrat Doug Owens, son of the late Rep. Wayne Owens (D-UT-2).  Mr. Owens served four non-consecutive terms in the House, and lost races for both the US Senate (twice) and Governor.  He died in 2002.  The UT-4 seat is the top Republican conversion target in the country.

AK-Senate

Earlier this month, we wrote an article about one of Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) television ads, and were critical of its convoluted message and strategy.  In a turnabout, a new positive bio piece from the Putnam Partners media firm for the Begich campaign is an excellent piece.  The minute long format and strong cinematography makes the ad prominent.  It is attached for your viewing.

Sunday
Mar232014

The Senate Picture

Today, most political pundits and election handicappers are suggesting that Republicans will successfully wrest the Senate majority away from the Democrats in the November election, but is the GOP victory path really so clear?

To recap the situation for both sides, Democrats are risking 21 of the 36 in-cycle Senate seats, and the Republicans fifteen.  The GOP needs a net conversion of six Democratic seats to claim the majority.  Therefore, Democrats can lose five of their own seats and not gain a single Republican state, yet still retain control.  Because Vice President Joe Biden (D) breaks any Senate tie vote, the Dems will retain the majority if the partisan division is 50-50.

Building the Republican and Democratic victory models from scratch, the Democrats begin with 34 hold-over seats of the 55 they currently possess.  The Republican ratio is 30 (hold-over) to 45 (total seats).

The Democrats

Today, it appears that ten of the 21 Dem in-cycle seats are well beyond any margin of polling error: Delaware (Coons), Hawaii (Schatz or Hanabusa), Illinois (Durbin), Massachusetts (Markey), Minnesota (Franken), New Jersey (Booker), New Mexico (Tom Udall), Oregon (Merkley), Rhode Island (Reed), and Virginia (Warner).  

The Republicans

Republicans look to be headed for victory in 16 seats, including three Democratic opens: Alabama (Sessions), Idaho (Risch), Kansas (Roberts), Maine (Collins), Mississippi (Cochran), Montana (Daines converting from Walsh), Nebraska (R primary winner), Oklahoma (Inhofe), Oklahoma (R nominee), South Carolina (Graham), South Carolina (Scott), South Dakota (Rounds converting from Johnson), Tennessee (Alexander), Texas (Cornyn), West Virginia (Capito converting from Rockefeller), and Wyoming (Enzi).  

The Conversions

The three Democratic retirements in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia are critical to Republican majority chances.  Sweeping this trio of states will put them in launching position to assume Senate control, so it is imperative, from the GOP perspective, that the candidates run mistake-free campaigns in each place.  

Counting the three conversions, Republicans would then have clinched 46 seats as compared to the Democrats’ 44, with ten undecided.  Eight of the ten are now in Democratic control, meaning the Republicans have achieved their early cycle goal of expanding the political playing field.  It is also possible that three more states could conceivably become competitive before November arrives, each in Democratic control.  Those are: Minnesota (Franken), Oregon (Merkley), and Virginia (Warner).

The Primaries

Republicans could hit a major bump in the road if they stumble in several primaries, resulting in weak general election candidates such as occurred in both 2010 and 2012, in certain instances.  The situation in Georgia and Mississippi, and potentially Kansas, could yield primary upsets, which may well change the general election picture.  

The Calculations

Assuming no surprises in the aforementioned 26 campaigns (16 R wins; 10 D victories), the majority will be decided in the ten most hotly contested general election races.  They are: Alaska (Begich), Arkansas (Pryor), Colorado (Mark Udall), Georgia (open Chambliss), Kentucky (McConnell), Iowa (open Harkin), Louisiana (Landrieu), Michigan (open Levin), New Hampshire (Shaheen), and North Carolina (Hagen).

Of these ten, Republicans gain the majority by winning any five races, exactly half of the subset.  Doing so would propel them to 51 seats.  Democrats retain control by winning any six of the ten.  A half-dozen victories within this group would allow them to land exactly on the 50 seat mark, the bare minimum Democrats need to retain the majority.

Once more, the importance of Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia emerges for Republicans.  Converting the seats actually permits them to win a smaller number of the battleground states than their counterparts, even though the former begins in a distinct minority.  Failing to sweep the aforementioned three returns the edge to the Democrats, and greatly diminishes GOP chances of seizing majority control.

Should the playing field expand to include Minnesota, Oregon, and Virginia, then Republican chances grow even stronger because all are Democratic-held states.  If the battleground number does increase, then the GOP would only need to win five of the 13 to gain control, whereas Democrats would be forced to win nine to retain power.  

Today, it is realistic to project that both parties will fall between 49 and 51 seats.  Forecasting GOP gains is clear, but whether their win total is high enough to establish a new majority remains murky.

Sunday
Mar232014

Illinois Results: Tighter Than Forecast

Primary voters went to the polls in the Land of Lincoln yesterday and the predicted winners performed as expected, but several victory margins were a bit of a surprise.  

In the Governor’s race, businessman Bruce Rauner, who personally spent lavishly on his own campaign, managed to clinch the Republican nomination but the race proved much closer than polling had indicated.  Rauner defeated state Sen. Kirk Dillard, 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford by a 40-37-15-7% split, respectively, far below what late polling was projecting even though the order of finish was correctly predicted.

Mr. Dillard, just as he did four years ago, came on strong at the end and came up just short of placing first.  In 2010, he finished only 193 votes statewide behind Mr. Brady.  Last night, Dillard’s deficit was considerably larger, but he still managed to come within three percentage points of winning the election.

On the Democratic side, vulnerable Gov. Pat Quinn easily became his party’s 2014 standard bearer, yet a full 28% of his own party primary voters cast their ballot for a minor candidate.  A Quinn-Rauner general election battle promises to be hard fought and close all the way to November.

In the Senate race, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) was unopposed for renomination.  On the Republican side, state Senator and frequent political candidate Jim Oberweis won the nomination, as expected, but again with a closer than predicted margin.  Oberweis claimed only 56% of the Republican vote against a minor Republican candidate who was virtually non-existent on the campaign trail.  Sen. Durbin will coast to a fourth term in November.

In the congressional races, 15 of the state’s 18 incumbents ran unopposed.  In what proved to be the closest challenge to a sitting member, former Miss America Erika Harold, enjoying strong Tea Party support, showed some political strength in her Republican primary challenge to freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13).  Mr. Davis was projected the winner with 54% of the vote, compared to Ms. Harold’s 41% featuring a turnout of just over 50,000 GOP voters.  A third candidate captured the remaining four percent.  

The 13th District, stretching from Champaign to Bloomington to Decatur to Springfield, promises to be a highly competitive campaign in the fall.  Mr. Davis had the lowest 2012 win percentage of any House Republican (46.5%), illuminating certain political weakness despite his win.  Coupled with his closer-than-expected 2014 primary victory, the 13th District has to be viewed as a serious Democratic conversion opportunity.

In the Democratic primary, the party favorite, former Judge Ann Callis, claimed the nomination over college professor George Gollin, but this race, too, was far from a major landslide.  With all of the votes counted, Ms. Callis won a 54-32-14% victory against Gollin and minor candidate David Green.  With both candidates scoring 54% in their respective primaries, each will need to strengthen their party bases but will have time to do so because, with almost eight full months before Election Day, Illinois has one of the longest general election campaign cycles in the country.

In the surprisingly hotly contested 11th CD, state Rep. Darlene Senger won a tight 38-32-26% victory over county Commissioner Chris Balkema and businessman Bert Miller.  The latter, a major local manufacturer, was the largest money raiser in the primary campaign, but his financial edge did not help him greatly in the end.  Ms. Senger will now face a very uphill general election contest opposite Rep. Bill Foster (D), who was unopposed in his primary campaign last night.

Elsewhere, the other two Representatives facing primary challenges each easily won renomination.  In Chicago’s 4th District, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) topped 74% against two opponents.  To the west and south of the city, two-term Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) took his primary election without suspense, capturing 78% of the vote against GOP opponent, David Hale.