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Election Insights is a political analysis publication of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC). BIPAC is an independent, bipartisan organization, that is supported by several hundred of the nation’s leading businesses and trade associations. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of our organization.
November 19, 2014
What to Expect in the Louisiana Runoffs
By Bo Harmon
Louisiana is unique in many ways, but one is how it conducts elections. All candidates, regardless of party, run on the November general election ballot without first conducting primaries. If one candidate gets over 50% of the vote, they are the winner. Often though, with multiple Republicans, multiple Democrats and some third party candidates running, no candidate reaches the 50% threshold and then the top two vote getters, again, regardless of party, go to a runoff, held this year on December 6th. The U.S. Senate race and two Congressional seats will be settled in a runoff this year. While immediate majority control of the Senate or House is not at stake, the Senate race in particular COULD determine majority control in the next Congress. In 2016, Senate Democrats face a favorable election map just as Republicans did this election cycle and they will be looking to retake the majority. Whether they have to win four seats to do that rather than five could determine their success.
October 29, 2014
Democrats Hold the Senate:
Democrats holding the Senate is the least likely scenario. It would mean that Republicans won no more than two of the following: MI, NH, NC, CO, AR, AK, IA and/or lost seats in Georgia or Kentucky (or Orman wins Kansas and immediately announces as a Democrat). Given the consistent polling advantage Republican candidates enjoy a week before the election, this is an unlikely scenario. Likelihood: 15%
Republicans Win the Senate:
For Republicans to know on November 5th that they will be in the majority in the Senate in the next Congress is more likely than Democrats knowing that THEY will be in the majority, but still not certain. For this to happen, with Louisiana still out, would mean that Republicans won three or more of the races listed above AND swept GA, KY and KS. With Republicans leading in polls in AR, CO, IA and AK, the first part of that equation is possible, but the second part is dicier. A possible scenario is Roberts wins Kansas, GA and LA go to runoffs. In this case, Republicans would have 51 and be in the majority regardless of the outcome of Georgia or Louisiana runoffs. Likelihood: 40%
Majority Control is Unclear:
An equally likely scenario is that we still won't know who will control the Senate on the morning after the election. If current polling holds through Election Day, Republicans would hold KY and pick up CO, IA, AR and AK, Democrats would hold NH, MI and NC. KS and GA are both tied and LA is already headed to a runoff. That puts Republicans at 50 seats and Democrats would retain control with Vice President Biden as the tie-breaking vote when needed. Likelihood: 45%
October 22, 2014
Less Than Two Weeks To Go and ANYTHING Could Happen
By Bo Harmon
There are 10 U.S. Senate races that are toss-ups with the candidates within five points of each other and no candidate polling over 50%.
- Approval ratings for both parties are at historic lows.
- Confidence in Congress to solve even minor problems is at a historic low.
- There has been more money spent on midterm elections than ever before. By a lot.
- Voter enthusiasm and engagement is significantly lower than 2006 or 2010 midterms.
That is a recipe for unpredictability.
There are two really remarkable things about this mid-term Senate election. The first is the sheer number of highly competitive Senate races. The second is just how close so many of them remain with less than two weeks before Election Day.
In recent weeks, polling has tightened in two races that had been considered likely to go Republican - South Dakota and Georgia. Other races that had already been considered competitive are seeming even more so in the closing weeks.
In a typical election cycle, there are four or five Senate races that are considered highly competitive. This year, there are 10. Two held by Republicans and eight held by Democrats. Two additional Democratic held seats in Montana and West Virginia are likely to switch to Republican control. If that happens, Republicans would need to net four additional seats to take control of the Senate.
If Republicans lose either Georgia or Kansas, currently held by Republicans, it makes it very difficult for them to win a majority in the Senate. The seats that have long been considered competitive, currently held by Democrats, all remain so. Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Dakota are states all carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 with Democratic incumbents and have been top Republican targets for over a year. Other Democratic held seats that could go either way include Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire.
Polling averages in ALL of these races have less than a five point difference between the top candidates and none have a candidate breaking 50%. With less than two weeks to go, that is truly unprecedented.
In a political environment where both parties' approval ratings and public confidence in the ability of Congress to solve even minor problems has dwindled to record low levels, there is such broad dissatisfaction with Washington and politics, it makes for a very volatile electorate. Polling results are increasingly unreliable and even more so in an unpredictable, low turnout, mid-term election. The result is less clarity about what may happen on Election Day than at any time in recent history.
We have seen some unexpected results already, most notably the surprise loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his primary. More such surprises are likely in store for November 4.
October 8, 2014
We are now 27 days out from the election and into the final stretch. Below is BIPAC's Senate Rankings for 2014, and today's EIS will focus on the current trajectory of the competitive races, including the Lean Republican, Toss Up and Lean Democrat.
Typically races move on or off the competitive playing field as the election cycle progresses, but this cycle has remained remarkably steady with the races that were thought to be competitive a year out, still being the ones that are competitive less than a month out and with very few new races creeping into the competitive category. All of the races outlined below are still considered highly competitive, but some are beginning to drift one way or another and are designated as "lean" towards one party or the other.
AR: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) has been on the list of most vulnerable Democrats for a while now, and not much is changing. Pryor is relatively well liked and his family has been involved in Arkansas politics for years, but Arkansas is a solidly red state now at the federal level. Romney won by 24 points in 2012 and Pyror is the only Democrat left in the federal delegation. Most polls have Rep. Tom Cotton (R) leading the race by an average of four points, with Pryor stuck around 40% - bad numbers for an incumbent.
GA: Democrats fielded an impressive candidate in Michelle Nunn (D), who has given Republicans a competitive race in Georgia. However, now that the Republican primary is over and David Perdue (R) has coalesced the Republican base, he is starting to pull away in the polls and currently leads by about three points. While Perdue is leading, both candidates are still under 50%, and if neither get a majority of the vote, this race will go into a runoff on January 6th. Runoffs tend to favor Republicans, especially in a midterm election year, and depending how the other races flesh out on Election Day, this could be the race that decides the control of the Senate.
KY: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has been an impressive candidate, but Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) has double downed and with Pres. Obama's dismal approval ratings in this coal state, the race is looking less and less competitive as we head into October. Currently, McConnell leads on average by about five points, with his lead widening in the past few weeks. This is still a competitive race, but McConnell has the advantage in the home stretch.
LA: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) continues to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle. With no candidate in this race polling above 50%, it is likely the race will be decided in a runoff on December 6th. If Democrats hold the Senate, Landrieu will become Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Democrats hoped would give her an edge in this race. Cassidy however has run a good campaign and President Obama's approval rating in Louisiana is underwater. Control of the Senate may come down to the LA runoff, and in the runoff polling, Cassidy leads by about six points.
AK: Sen. Mark Begich (D) is faring better than some of his colleagues this cycle, but still faces an extremely competitive race against former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan. Polling in Alaska has been all over the place the past few months, with Begich and Sullivan both leading at one point or another. With a very late Republican primary over, Sullivan has begun his general election campaigning in full and is leading the polls by 3-6 points. However, polling in Alaska is notoriously difficult. This could go either way at this point.
CO: This is a tossup race that no one had on their radar a year ago, with Rep. Gory Gardner (R) entering the race in March. Since Gardner entered, polls have shown him statistically tied with Sen. Mark Udall (D) and that has continued throughout the summer and into the final stretch. Pres. Obama won Colorado in 2012 by five points, but his approval ratings continue to drop, hurting Udall's chances. Gov. Hickenlooper (D) also faces a competitive election this cycle, which could further hurt Udall's reelection campaign. Expect this race to stay a tossup until the election.
IA: Since Joni Ernst (R) won the GOP nomination in June, this race has been a tossup. Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley (D) has had trouble connecting with voters and like most other Democrats running this cycle, has had to distance himself from Pres. Obama's negative approval numbers in the state. He also does not have the advantage of incumbency, like several of the other Democratic candidates this cycle. Ernst has run a strong campaign and Republicans are hopeful that having popular Gov. Branstad (R) on the ticket as well will help her chances. Ernst currently leads Braley by an average of two points - still within the margin of error.
KS: Kansas has become the wild card race this election cycle. Sen. Pat Roberts (R) faces a surprisingly competitive general election after being damaged in the primary. The Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, had little name ID or funds for the general election. He has been removed from the ballot, presenting a clear path for a challenge to Roberts by Independent candidate Greg Orman. Orman has affiliated with each party over the years and describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. He has not indicated which party he would caucus with if elected. On average, Orman is leading Roberts in the polls by five points though Roberts and outside groups have just begun attacking Orman who had been running months of positive ads, so the race is expected to tighten as the attacks sink in with voters. Further complicating Roberts' reelection chances is Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who is also up for re-election this cycle and is losing support from the more moderate wing of the Republican Party in Kansas. This Senate race is currently a tossup and Roberts has become the most vulnerable Republican Senator this cycle.
MI: For the past few months, Rep. Gary Peters (D) has been leading in the polls against former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R). Michigan went for Pres. Obama in 2012 and is the only state Pres. Obama is visiting with a Senate race this fall, showing his national brand is not as damaged in Michigan as it is in other Senate states. Peters is up by an average of seven points and this seat is leaning in his favor.
NH: Carpet bagging attacks against former MA Senator Scott Brown (R) don't appear to be sticking and this race is getting closer and closer as we approach November. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) had a double digit lead in the summer, but now only leads by an average of five points. While NH is currently in the lean D column, it could soon be moved to toss up, if the poll numbers continue to tighten. Shaheen is well liked in the state, but Pres. Obama is underwater in NH and Brown is campaigning heavily on foreign policy, nationalizing the race. New Hampshire, more than any other state, has a tendency to sway with the political winds, going heavily Democratic in strong Democratic years and strongly Republican in good GOP years. If anyone could survive those powerful electoral winds, it would be Shaheen but the state's electoral tendencies run deep with the voters here.
NC: Once of the more vulnerable Senators running for re-election, Kay Hagan (D) has started to pull away from state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) in the polls, and if this trend continues, will be favored for re-election. Tillis, coming from an unpopular legislative session, has been dropping in the polls, and his favorability ratings are less than Hagan, with only 36% of voters having a favorable view, compared to Hagan's 42%. The North Carolina race has turned into a lesser of two evils race, with Hagan currently in the lead.
October 1, 2014
While Republicans are expected to expand their majority in the House due to a significantly higher number of Democrats facing competitive races and the Republican lean of the election cycle, there are always a few surprises on election night. Below are a few of the races that haven't topped most political radars, but are proving to be some of the most interesting contests in the country.
Rep. Mike Michaud's (D) open seat features one of the most interesting political dynamics in the country. Maine has a history of centrist consensus builders like Rep. Mike Michaud, former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), Sen. Angus King (I), Sen. Susan Collins (R) and former Sen. Bill Cohen (R). The Democrat nominee, 35 year old State Senator Emily Cain, seems cut from a similar cloth and has a reputation of open-door, consensus building in the state legislature admired even by her political opponents. Bruce Poliquin, who beat an Olympia Snowe protégé in the primary with a tea-party oriented message on taxes and spending, is the Republican nominee. The district tilts slightly Democratic but as an open seat, it is very much a toss-up.
Democrat incumbent John Garamendi is facing Republican State Senator Dan Logue. Garamendi won in 2012 with less than 55% of the vote and Logue's Assembly district is almost wholly within the Congressional district. While it is a Democrat leaning seat, with an off-year electorate, an incumbent who is to the left of the voters and a reform oriented Republican with a record of bi-partisanship, CA-3 is a ripe opportunity for a surprise on election night.
Dynamics on the ground however are making this one of the most interesting races in the country to watch. Democrat Speaker of the House Pat Murphy is up against first time candidate Republican Rod Blum. An early September poll showed a two point race - closer than the open 3rd district seat which had been considered to be much more competitive. Blum has surprised many with his adept campaign ability and slow and steady work to win over voters. With Murphy so far to the left of the district and a popular Governor Branstad (R) driving turnout at the top of the ticket, Iowa's first district could be at the top of the list of races with a surprising result.
Republican French Hill and Democrat North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays will compete in the race to fill the open seat of Rep. Tim Griffin (R). On the surface, it seemed a safe bet to hold the seat for Republicans, but it has become one of the sleeper races the Democrats hope to pick off. It is Arkansas' most Democratic district and voted for Obama by 8 points more than any other Congressional District in the state. Senator Mark Pryor will be pushing a big Democratic turnout in Hays' Little Rock backyard if he is going to have a chance at reelection and Hays has focused like a laser on job creation, running some of the most effective TV ads of the cycle. Observers in the state still give an edge to Hill, but Hays has proven to be a much more formidable candidate than anticipated and Hill's patrician demeanor in the most Democratic leaning district in the state COULD result in a surprise Democratic pickup in the deep south.
You would think a Republican in a district carried by Barack Obama who was caught on camera threatening to kill a news reporter and being under FBI indictment would pretty much end his chances at reelection. If so, you aren't familiar with the political dynamics on Staten Island and Rep. Michael Grimm. Staten Island has always felt itself different and separate from New York, even voting to secede as recently as 1993. They are the picked on little brother who gets little but scorn from the rest of the cosmopolitan world capital. Michael Grimm is one of them. On a visceral level, he understands and relates to them - and vice versa. The district also has a couple of precincts in Brooklyn, which may as well be in Connecticut for the impact they have on the thinking of the district. It is from one of these precincts that Democrat Councilman Domenic Recchia hails. Staten Island has the highest percentage of Italian ancestry in the country according to the Almanac of American Politics. Grimm and Recchia both have Italian heritage, but Grimm's Staten Island roots and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) unpopularity in the district may show that Grimm, despite the politics of the district, despite federal indictments, despite threats to reporters, has a real chance to hold his seat. If he does, it will be one of the most remarkable results of the election.
September 10, 2014
NH: Former MA Senator Scott Brown won the Republican nomination with 50% of the vote. He is challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in November.
MA-06: Rep. John Tierney was defeated by Iraq War veteran and political newcomer Seth Moulton in Tuesday's primary. Moulton received 51% of the vote, Tierney, 40%. Scandal plagued Tierney, who faced his most competitive primary yet. He barely won his 2012 re-election, winning by one point when President Obama carried the district by 11. Moulton now faces 2012 Republican nominee former state Sen. Richard Tisei (R).
NH-01: Former Mayor of Manchester and Rep. Frank Guinta won the Republican primary with 49% of the vote, with former UNH Business School Dean Dan Innis receiving 41%. Guinta previously won the seat in 2010 and was defeated in 2012 by Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). They will face off again in November, in what is expected to be another competitive year for the district.
NH-02: State Rep. Marilinda Garcia won the Republican nomination with 50% of the vote. Garcia, who gained the support of the more conservative wing of the party, defeated former state Senator Gary Lambert. Republicans are excited about Garcia, a 31 year old Hispanic woman, who has gained support across the Republican spectrum. Rep. Ann Kuster (D) has the advantage in this race, but it is not one to count out as competitive.
August 27, 2014
What Issues May Impact the 2014 Elections?
By Bo Harmon
Former Natural Resources Commissioner and Attorney General Dan Sullivan has won the Republican nomination in the Alaska Senate race with 40% of the vote. Sullivan beat Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and former Senate nominee/Tea Party candidate Joe Miller in Tuesday's primary. Sullivan faces vulnerable Sen. Mark Begich (D) in the general and with Sullivan as the nominee, the GOP is optimistic of their chances to flip Alaska.
With primary season almost complete and political campaigns nearing the final sprint to Election Day, it is a good time to review which races are most competitive heading into Labor Day. In the Senate, Republicans need to pick up six seats to win a majority and control both houses of Congress. The last three years of a divided Congress (Republicans controlling the House, Democrats controlling the Senate) has led to gridlock in Washington. Congress can't even muster the political fortitude or agreement to name Post Offices and bridges anymore, much less pass things like an annual budget or appropriations. The result is the lowest approval ratings of Congress in history. Dissatisfaction with Washington is at depths never measured since polling began tracking such things.
Three seats currently held by Democrats are highly likely to switch to Republican control. Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota are all Democratic held seats in very heavily Republican states with well-funded and well-liked Republicans. So, with three seats "in the bag" for Republicans, they need three more to win control of the Senate. The most competitive seats where they will try to do that are:
Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu is running against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy and a handful of other candidates. Louisiana voted for Romney by 18 points and holds an open primary on Election Day with all candidates on the ballot regardless of party. If no candidate receives 50%, a runoff election is held in December between the top two finishers, again, regardless of party. Polls show Cassidy and Landrieu neck and neck, but both under 50%, meaning the two will likely face off in a December 5 runoff. In a run-off scenario, Landrieu would face an uphill struggle to turn out base Democratic voters in a non-traditional election time. Landrieu's family's political legacy and her ability to bring independent and some Republican crossover votes make this an enormously competitive race.
Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan is facing Republican state house Speaker Thom Tillis in what has been the most expensive election to date. Outside groups have already spent over $15 million on this race with pledges of much more to come. This attests to the very close split in the campaign. The massive number of attack ads already aired has had the effect of diminishing both candidates severely and many North Carolina voters already view the election as a choice for the lesser of two evils as each candidate is highly unpopular and there is a much larger number of undecided voters than would be expected at this point in an election. Polling has the race neck and neck with each candidate in the low 40s.
Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor faces a tough re-election bid in 2014. He is being challenged by freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. While Pryor is relatively well-liked in Arkansas, President Obama's approval numbers in the state are dismal. The state is trending red and went to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by over 20 points but has a solid history of electing Democrats to the Senate and Governorship. Both candidates are showing impressive fundraising numbers and polling on average has Cotton up three points. However, taking on an incumbent is hard, especially for a newcomer like Cotton against Pryor whose family has generations of elected service in the state.
The fourth Democratic incumbent running in a state carried by Mitt Romney is Mark Begich, who won the seat following the indictment and scandal surrounding longtime Senator Ted Stevens (R). Begich is the former Mayor of Anchorage whose father was a leading political figure in the state until his death in a plane crash in the 70’s. Begich is the first Democrat to win federal office in Alaska in over 30 years. He faces former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan who won the GOP primary against Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and Tea Party activist Joe Miller. Polling has the race neck and neck.
Democratic Senator Mark Udall appeared to be safe in his re-election bid until Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in the race in February. Once Gardner entered, polling soon showed the two candidates statistically tied. Colorado went to President Obama (D) in 2012 by six points. As is the trend nationally, Obama's approval ratings have dropped significantly in Colorado, hurting Udall's election chances for 2014. Gardner got a boost when Bob Beauprez won the GOP nomination for Governor making that a competitive seat as well, rather than the highly controversial Tom Tancredo which would have forced a large amount of ticket splitting for Gardner to win. Udall was helped when the anti-fracking ballot initiatives were shelved recently. The ballot issues caused a huge rift between the business community and environmentalists, both of whom Udall needs to be successful and having them off the ballot means he will not have the difficult balancing act he had before. This race is generally seen as the barometer of whether Republicans will sweep a large number of seats or not. If Colorado goes Republican, it is probably an indication of a larger Republican wave. If it remains Democrat, it likely means the Democrats have held off the worst of the GOP attacks.
Senator Tom Harkin (D) is retiring, leaving an open seat for 2014. The Democrats quickly rallied around Congressman Bruce Braley, while the Republicans had several candidates compete for the nomination. State Sen. Joni Ernst overwhelmingly won the GOP primary, despite the crowded field and that created momentum that has carried her into one of the most competitive races in the country. Ernst has proven to be an impressive candidate and is running one of the most disciplined campaigns in the field this year. Even in the primary, she consolidated Tea Party supporters with more traditional GOP support and that broad appeal has served her well. Braley is a standard issue Democrat and even though Iowa has tilted Democratic at the Presidential level the last few years, Braley has made a number of unforced errors including disparaging comments about farmers and senior Senator Charles Grassley who is highly popular in the state. Also helping Ernst's prospects is the highly popular Governor Terry Branstad running for re-election who has made high turnout amongst Republicans a priority. Branstad is close to Ernst and is putting the full force of his political organization to work to support her election. Polling at this point shows a dead even race.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell faces a competitive race from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell also had a primary challenger, but McConnell's superior fundraising and organizational capacity left him little to worry about. The real competitive race is the general, and this is one of the Democrat's two opportunities to pick up a seat in 2014. Current polling has the race very close despite the outsized Republican performance in Kentucky at the Presidential level. McConnell is known for his fundraising and campaign prowess, but Grimes is holding her own and even recently outraised the Senator. Grimes, 35, has a political pedigree in the state and has proven her ability to win statewide in the Republican-heavy state as she currently serves as Secretary of State. The position, as in most states, is administrative and she hasn't had to take any difficult votes and is attempting to position herself outside of the Obama administration, which is highly unpopular in the state, especially in the coal producing areas. McConnell, meanwhile, is the embodiment of "Republicans in Washington" as the Senate GOP leader, and has served as Senator for almost 30 years in a year when members of Congress generically are literally held in lower esteem than Darth Vader.
This open seat features Democrat Congressman Gary Peters against Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. The state went for Obama by 10 points in 2012 but has a Republican Governor, Republican Legislature and a majority of its Congressional seats are Republican. When Land was elected Secretary of State, it was with the highest percentage of the vote of any Republican running statewide in recent history. She also has the ability to partly self-fund the campaign and has already put in over $2 million of her own money. Union groups in the state, especially autoworkers, are furious with Governor Rick Snyder for passing Right to Work legislation last year and have vowed an all-out voter mobilization and turnout effort that would benefit Peters should it materialize. While every state tends to see non-Presidential year electorates that are slightly older and less minority than Presidential year turnouts, this is especially pronounced in Michigan for some reason, giving Republicans an almost even playing field in off-year elections as opposed to Presidential year turnout. Peters has still been able to maintain some lead in the polls and the Democratic tilt of the state make it an uphill climb for Land though it is a race both parties are heavily invested in.
Republican business executive Mike McFadden is taking on Democrat incumbent Al Franken. Franken has been a reliably Democratic vote, sometimes at the expense of home state interests but has proven himself to be a serious policy maker who gets the job done for his constituents. McFadden is an attractive candidate with the ability to raise substantial financial resources. Franken won in 2008 by less than 1000 votes however, polls to date show him with a consistent lead but still with less than 50% of the vote, and Obama with a surprisingly weak approval rating in the state.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) beat back a challenge from Tea Party candidate state Rep. Joe Carr last Thursday, 50% to 41%. There were several other Republicans in the race as well, though none garnered more than 5% of the vote each. Tennessee was the last chance for Tea Party groups to take out an incumbent Senator this cycle, after failing to take down McConnell in Kentucky, Cochran in Mississippi, Graham in South Carolina and Roberts in Kansas. While Carr was a more credible and less controversial candidate than others, such as Milton Wolf, Alexander took his primary challenges seriously and started rallying his base early in the campaign, leaving little money or support left for Carr. While the Tea Party has had some success in 2014, it is clear that taking on incumbents is still an uphill battle. Senator Alexander is safe in the general.
TN-03: Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) narrowly beat his primary challenger, Weston Wamp, 51% to 49%. Wamp positioned himself as a moderate candidate, trying to win the seat that his dad, Zach Wamp, once held. This primary was not the traditional tea-party/establishment race we have seen this cycle, but it was very close and another example of how hard it is to beat an incumbent, even with a good candidate in a district that isn't ideal for the incumbent. Fleischmann has never won a majority in the primary but this was the first time there weren't multiple candidates to split the remaining vote.
TN-04: One Tea Party oriented candidate could find success in Tennessee, Rep. Scott DesJarlais. DesJarlais faced an extremely competitive challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy, who had the backing of the Tennessee business community, Republican establishment and outraised and outspent DesJarlais. Much of DesJarlais' trouble came from the scandals that plagued him in 2012, however, two years is a long time for voters. Many appeared to have forgiven DesJarlais for his digressions, and were more focused on his conservative policies in the House and his recent disclosure that he has cancer, both helping his re-election bid. DesJarlais is currently ahead by 35 votes, but the race is still under consideration and has not been finalized by the Secretary of State. Some absentee and provisional ballots may remain and Tracy can call for a recount.
The most competitive Democratic Senate primary to take place this cycle is still too close to call. After Saturday's election, Sen. Brian Schatz currently leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by 1,635 votes. The special election is for the final two years of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who passed away in December, 2012. Inouye had requested that Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) appoint Rep. Hanabusa to serve the remainder of his term after he passed, but Abercrombie instead named his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, setting up the beginnings of the primary challenge. While the Republicans' intraparty fight is playing out in Senate races across the country, the Hawaii race is a microcosm of what is going on within the Democratic Party. It pits Schatz, a young, very liberal Democratic against Hanabusa, a more moderate liberal and senior candidate. Schatz has gained the support of the Democratic establishment, liberal groups and President Obama while Hanabusa has gained the endorsement of Emily's List. Two precincts have not held their elections yet due to Tropical Storm Iselle, and will hold their elections on Friday. Those results could have an impact on the primary. The eventual winner of the primary faces businessman and former state Rep. Cam Cavasso (R), but the seat is likely to stay in Democratic hands.
HI-01:State Rep. Mark Takai easily won the crowded Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Hanabusa, with 45% of the vote. Former Rep. Charles Djou won the Republican nomination. The district leans Democratic but with a competitive Governor's race and a talented candidate on the GOP side in Djou who has held the seat before, this race could be competitive.
There were no competitive primaries in Connecticut.
Businessman Mike McFadden (R) won the GOP primary to take on Sen. Al Franken (D), with 72% of the vote. McFadden was the GOP endorsed candidate going into the primary and was favored to win. Franken, who won in 2008 by only 312 votes, was expected to be one of the Republicans' top targets in 2014. Franken however, has done a good job of winning over his critics and is currently favored to win re-election though Obama has surprisingly low approval ratings in the state and McFadden has the ability to spend substantially on the race through personal funds and has demonstrated a strong ability to raise money. Franken has already spent almost $15 million, more than any other candidate to date, and remains under 50% in polling, a dangerous place for incumbents. Republicans believe Minnesota is the state most likely among the "second tier" states of VA, NH, OR and NM to jump to the highly competitive category as we approach November.
MN-06:Former State Rep. Tom Emmer (R) won the Republican primary with 72% of the vote to succeed retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). Emmer already won the GOP party's endorsement at the August convention and was expected to win the primary over Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Emmer was able to bring together a wide base of support. He faces Sartell mayor Joe Perske, but this is a very Republican seat and Emmer should be safe.
MN-08: The key players in this competitive race have been set for a while, with Rep. Rick Nolan (D) being challenged by Mills Fleet Farm Vice President Stewart Mills, III (R). This northern, rural, iron range district has been getting more and more competitive over the years, and Mills has proved himself a credible candidate. Mills has a unique appeal and polling shows this is a tight race.
MN-07: Rep. Collin Peterson (D) is being challenged by state Sen. Torrey Westrom (R), in what is expected to be a competitive race. Peterson is one of the few remaining farmers in Congress and is ranking member on the Agriculture committee having demonstrated a strong tendency to work across the aisle to find consensus on issues. With Peterson and Westrom being on the same side of many policy issues, Westrom's campaign is focusing on the need for change, and linking Peterson to the Obama administration. Right now, Peterson has a small advantage, but this is a race to pay attention to.
WI-06: State Sen. Glenn Grothman won the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R). Grothman received 39% of the vote, while state Sen. Joe Leibham got 29% and state Rep. Duey Stroebel received 29%. Grothman was running to the right of the GOP candidates in the group, while Stroebel labeled himself as an outsider and was able to self-fund. The Democratic nominee is Winnebago county executive Mark Harris, though Grothman has the advantage in this Republican district.
Senator Pat Roberts (R) will be back in the Senate for a fourth term after defeating his primary challenger radiologist Milton Wolf. Wolf had a campaign plagued with scandal, after he posted x-rays of his patients on Facebook. Roberts, however, had his own campaign issues to deal with, more specifically the criticism that he lives in Virginia. He owns a home in Kansas, but leases it out. Roberts is safe in the general election.
KS-1: Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) easily beat back a primary challenge from Alan LaPolice, a former school superintendent. Huelskamp, a Tea Party favorite, took heat from the agriculture and ethanol industries in Kansas for his recent policy standings. Huelskamp is favored in the general.
KS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) beat back a challenge from former Congressman Todd Tiahart. Pompeo had a cash advantage and was leading in the polls up to the election. Tiahart, who had endorsed Pompeo in his previous Congressional races, was running to Pompeo's left in the election, a rare occurrence in GOP primaries. This is a safe Republican seat and Pompeo is expected to easily win the general.
Rep. Gary Peters (D) and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) faced no primary opposition in their Senate bids to succeed retiring Senator Carl Levin (D). As such, they have been campaigning for the general election for weeks now. Michigan went to President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Peters has been leading in the polls, however Land has proved to be a serious candidate and this will be an extremely competitive race.
MI-1: Congressman Dan Benishek (R) had a primary challenger, but the competitive race in this district is the general. Benishek handily defeated Tea Party candidate Alan Arcand on Tuesday. He now faces Jerry Cannon (D), a former county sheriff and retired Army Major General, in what could shape up to be a race to watch.
MI-3: Rep. Justin Amash (R) staved off a primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis. Amash is safe in the general.
MI-4: State Sen. John Moolenaar won the GOP nomination to succeed Rep. Dave Camp (R). Moolenaar was endorsed by both Rep. Camp and Tea Party groups. Paul Mitchell self-funded his campaign. The race was tight up to Election Day, with the candidates close in the polls. This is a safe Republican seat and Moolenaar will be the next Congressman.
MI-8: Former State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) and Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing will be vying to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Rogers (R) in the general election. Bishop was backed by Rep. Rogers and is favored in the general election, but this is still a race to watch.
MI-11: Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R) becomes the next incumbent to fall in the primary season. He had a competitive primary on his hands this year, after being dubbed an accidental candidate in 2012, when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) failed to qualify for the ballot. This year, BIPAC Action Fund endorsed candidate attorney Dave Trott challenged Bentivolio and as expected, beat the Congressman. Trott will face Bobby McKenzie in the general election. Trott starts with the advantage.
MI-12: Debbie Dingell (D) has been the heir apparent to the open seat of her husband, Rep. John Dingell (D), for some time, and it is now official. Dingell is a Democratic strategist, former GM executive and chairwoman of the Wayne State University board of governors. She faces nominal opposition in November.
MI-14: Four Democrats ran in this race to succeed retiring Rep. Gary Peters (D) with Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence winning the nomination. This is a solid Democratic district and Lawrence will be the next Congressman.
There were no competitive primaries in Missouri, and will no competitive general election races.
WA 4: Rep. Doc Hastings (R) is retiring, giving another Republican a chance to hold this seat. Eight Republicans ran for the seat, along with two Democrats and two independents. Washington is one of the few states that does all mail ballots for elections, and the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election. Two Republicans, former state Agriculture Commissioner Dan Newhouse and Clint Didier, a former NFL player advanced to the general. Newhouse was the frontrunner going into the primary, as well as the establishment choice, and will continue to have the edge for November.
WA-1: Tea Party oriented Robert Sutherland edged Microsoft Executive Pedro Celis (R) to challenge Rep. Suzan DelBene (D) in November. Celis was one of four Republican candidates vying for the nomination and was considered the best shot for Republicans to make this race competitive. DelBene is favored to return to Congress.
Primary & Runoff Recap - CO, MD, NY, OK & UT
June 11, 2014
Primary Results in ME, NV, ND, SC & VA
By Briana Huxley
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor defeated by conservative challenger
VA-7: In a huge upset, Randolph-Macon economics Professor David Brat defeated GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, 56% to 44%. Turnout in the 7th district was low, around 12%. Though Brat was Cantor's most serious opponent in over a decade, Cantor was expected to easily defeat him on Tuesday, according to the polls. Brat faces Democratic nominee Jack Trammell, who is also a professor at Randolph-Macon College, in the general. This is a conservative district, but depending on the quality of the candidates, could become a race to watch.
The results for the remainder of Tuesday's primaries are below.
ME-2: Rep. Mike Michaud (D) is running for Governor, which set up competitive primaries for the Democrats and Republicans in the 2nd district. The Democratic primary was a fight between a progressive rising star, state Sen. Emily Cain and a socially conservative, pro-union candidate, state Sen. Troy Jackson. Cain had a slight edge going into the primary and won with over 70% of the vote. On the Republican side, Kevin Raye, a businessman-state Senator and former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin faced off for the nomination. Poliquin won with 56% of the vote. This blue collar district has a slight Democratic edge, but is still expected to be competitive in the general.
NV-3: Democratic National Committeewoman and political consultant Erin Bilbray (D) is now the official nominee to take on Rep. Joe Heck (R) in the general election. This will be Nevada's closest watched race in 2014, though Heck is currently favored.
NV-4: Assemblyman Cresent Hardy won the Republican nomination in the district. The 4th district has the potential to become competitive, if the political environment continues to trend in the Republican's favor, but for now Rep. Steven Horsford (D) is sitting comfortably.
At-large: Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) had no primary opposition and his at-large seat is safe in the general.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) was able to avoid a runoff yesterday, receiving over 50% of the vote. While he faced six challengers in the Republican primary, none of them were able to gain traction or raise the funds necessary to take on Graham. Graham is not expected to have a tough general election race.
There are no competitive primaries or general elections in the Congressional delegation.
Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman and lobbyist, won the Republican Senate nomination this past Saturday at a party convention. Gillespie was the most credible Republican challenger to Sen. Mark Warner (D), though he still has a long way to go to make this race competitive. His fundraising numbers have been impressive, but polling still gives the advantage to Warner.
VA-8: With Rep. Jim Moran (D) retiring, seven Democrats were vying for the nomination in this safe Democrat seat. Don Beyer, a former Lieutenant Governor and car dealership owner, won the nomination with 46% of the vote. Beyer had been the frontrunner in the race since he entered and is favored to be the next Congressman from the 8th district.
VA 10: The nominees for the open seat due to Rep. Frank Wolf's (R) retirement were decided in March and April. State Delegate Barbara Comstock won the Republican nomination in a firehouse primary, beating back conservative firebrand, state Delegate Bob Marshall. Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust became the official Democratic nominee in March when he was the only candidate to file. This will be a competitive general election.
June 4, 2014
June 3rd Primary Results
By Bo Harmon
In perhaps the most watched race of the day, Senator Thad Cochran and tea-party challenger Chris McDaniel will advance to a run off because neither broke 50% of the primary vote and ended less than 1% away from each other in the final tally. The runoff was a completely unexpected scenario as a little known third candidate in the primary ended up with less than 2% of the vote, but it was enough to hold both Cochran and McDaniel under 50%. The runoff will be held June 24. The winner will face former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in the general election.
All Incumbents won their primaries and are not expecting difficult general election challenges. Of note, in MS-4: Republican Congressman Steven Palazzo held off a primary challenge from former Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor who had represented the district for many years and switched parties to run for his old seat in the primary. Palazzo won 50-43 with other minor candidates taking the balance.
Joni Ernst overwhelmingly won the Republican nomination against a crowded field including former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs and US Attorney Matt Whitaker. Ernst took over 55% of the vote to Jacobs' 17% with the balance going to the remaining candidates. Clearing the 35% threshold means Ernst wins the nomination outright without having to go to a state nominating convention, which could have presented great uncertainty to the process. Ernst will now face Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley in the general election and the race is expected to be one of the most competitive of the cycle.
Congressmen Dave Loebsack and Steve King both won their primaries easily and do not face strong general election challenges.
IA-1: In the Bruce Braley held open seat, Democrat Pat Murphy won the nomination with 37% of the vote over Swati Dandekar and Cedar Rapids Congresswoman Monica Vernon. Murphy has served as Speaker of the Iowa legislature for many years. He will face Republican Rod Blum in the general election which has the potential of becoming competitive but has been a consistently Democratic district to date.
IA-3: In the Tom Latham open seat, Republicans Brad Zaun and Robert Cramer will advance to a district convention to determine the nomination as no candidate received over 35% of the vote. The eventual nominee will face Democrat Staci Appel in what is expected to be one of the most competitive elections of the cycle.
Steve Daines secured the Republican nomination for Senate to take on Democrat John Walsh who was appointed to the seat upon Max Baucus’ confirmation as Ambassador. Daines is the current at-large member of Congress. Daines has maintained a lead in most polls to date and Republicans consider this one of their most likely pick up opportunities.
In the open seat race for the state's sole Congressional seat, Republican Ryan Zinke will face Democrat John Lewis, a long time staffer to Sen. Baucus in the general election. The seat is expected to remain in Republican hands.
AL-6: In the six person primary to fill retiring Republican Spencer Bachus' seat, Republicans will face a runoff between Paul DeMarco and Gary Palmer in what is the most Republican district in one of the most Republican states in the country.
In California, the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.
CA-7: Rep. Ami Bera (D) and former Congressman and businessman Doug Ose (R) made it out of the primary, with 47 and 27 percent, respectively. This is a top race to watch going into the general.
CA-10: Rep. Denham (R), from the 10th district, will face bee farmer Michael Eggman (D) in the general election. This could be a race to watch as the general shapes up, but Denham starts out with an advantage.
CA-11: In the 11th district, Rep. Miller (D) is retiring, and the field quickly cleared for state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D). He advanced to the general, along with Republican Tue Phan though DeSaulnier is the easy favorite to win the general in this heavily Democratic seat.
CA-15: Eric Swalwell will face Republican Hugh Bussell who edged out a Democrat who was seeking to upset the incumbent Democrat. Swalwell is expected to retain the seat in the general election.
CA-17: Democrats have been dealing with a family feud in the 17th district, with former Obama administration official Ro Khanna (D) challenging sitting Rep. Mike Honda (D). Both advanced to the general, with Honda winning 49 percent of the vote and Khanna pulling in 26 percent. This could become a competitive race, but Honda currently has the advantage.
CA-21: Former Congressional aide Amanda Renteria (D) received 24 percent of the vote and will challenge Rep. David Valadao (R) in the general. Renteria is a top Democratic recruit and this will be a competitive general election race.
CA-25: The race to replace retiring Rep. McKeon (R) led to a competitive primary between three of the candidates, Lee Rogers (D), Tony Strickland (R) and Steve Knight (R). Strickland and Knight will advance to the general election, so the seat is assured to remain republican.
CA-26: Freshman Rep. Julia Brownley (D) will face off against Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R) in November. A member of the U.S. Navy Reserve and a former prosecutor, Gorell is a formidable challenger and could make this race competitive.
CA-31: The 31st district has been a top target for Democrats, especially after Rep. Miller (R) announced his retirement. With four Democrats on the ballot and two serious Republican contenders, Democrats were worried that once again, the Democrats' votes would be too split and the two Republicans would make it out of the primary. The general election will be Republican businessman Paul Chabot against Democrat Pete Aguilar in this Democratic-leaning district.
CA-33: The 33rd district had a whopping 18 candidates running to replacing outgoing Rep. Waxman (D) in this reliably safe Democratic seat. Former LA Controller Wendy Greuel (D) and state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) battled it out on the Democratic side while most Republican votes went to Elan Carr. Lieu and Carr will advance to the general election.
CA-35: State Sen. Norma Torres (D) and Christina Gagnier (D) won the top two spots in the 35th district to succeed Rep. Negrete McLeod (D). Torres is expected to easily win the general.
CA-36: In the 36th district, Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) formalized their general election. Ruiz is vulnerable going into the general. This will be a race to watch.
CA-45: With Rep. Campbell's (R) retirement, the top two spots went to state Sen. Mimi Walters (R) and Democrat Drew Leavens. Walters is the favorite to become the next Congresswoman from the 45th district.
CA-52: In the 52nd district, former member of the San Diego City Council Carl DeMaio (R) became the official challenger to vulnerable Rep. Scott Peters (D). This will be a competitive general election.
NJ-3: Rep. Jon Runyan (R) is retiring, setting off a competitive Republican primary and general election. In the primary, former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur beat former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan 60-40. MacArthur was leading Lonegan in the polls and is the best bet for Republicans to hold this seat. Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard (D) won the Democratic nomination with 84 percent of the vote.
NJ-12: Rush Holt's (D) retirement in this safe Democratic seat led to a four-way race in the Democratic primary. The two frontrunners were state Sen. Linda Greenstein and state Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. Coleman won with 43 percent of the vote and is expected to become the next Congresswoman in the Trenton area district.
Businessman and former state Republican Chair Allen Weh won the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Tom Udall (D). The Senate race is not expected to be competitive, and Tom Udall will keep his seat.
The nominees are officially set for the open U.S. Senate seat due to Sen. Johnson's (D) retirement. Former Gov. Mike Rounds won the Republican nomination, as expected. Rick Weiland is the Democratic nominee. South Dakota is one of the Republican's best chance at a pickup in 2014 and Rounds goes into the general election as the favorite.
All other incumbents easily won their primaries and none anticipate difficult general election battles.
May 21, 2014
Primary Results for GA, ID, AR, KY, PA and OR
By Bo Harmon
May 20 was a big day for primaries around the country. Here is a recap of some that took place.
Runoff: July 22
Senate: David Perdue and Jack Kingston advanced to a July 22 runoff. Vote percentages for all candidates were: David Perdue: 30%, Jack Kingston: 26%, Karen Handel: 22%, Phil Gingrey: 10%, Paul Broun: 10%. The eventual winner will face Michelle Nunn who secured the Democratic nomination with no real opposition. The general election may be competitive and is a top target of national Democrats.
House: With three House members running for Senate, there were three open seats in Georgia. In addition, Congressman Hank Johnson faced a tough primary challenge in his heavily Democratic district. All three open seats are in solidly Republican districts and are not expected to be competitive in the general election.
GA-1: Jack Kingston's open seat, centered in Savannah, had a field of six candidates and State Senator Buddy Carter and physician Bob Johnson will advance to a runoff. The general election is not expected to be competitive.
GA-4: Congressman Hank Johnson barely held off primary challenger DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown. Brown outraised Johnson financially, but ultimately came up short. This is a solidly Democratic district and not competitive in the general election.
GA-10: In Paul Broun's open seat, covering much of the east-central portion of the state, six candidates vied for the nomination with Mike Collins and Jody Hice headed to a runoff. Jody Hice is an evangelical preacher and radio talk show host who focused his campaign on social issues while local trucking company operator Mike Collins is the son of former Congressman Mac Collins. The general election is not expected to be competitive.
GA-11: Congressman Gingrey's suburban Atlanta district also had six people on the ballot with former Congressman Bob Barr and State Representative Barry Loudermilk advancing to the runoff. Loudermilk ran as a champion of tea party values while former member of Congress Bob Barr pointed to his record of conservative activism as reason to return to Congress. The general election is not expected to be competitive.
GA-12: Democrat John Barrow is one of the last remaining Blue Dog Democrats in the Congress and will face Augusta businessman Rick Allen who won a crowded Republican primary with over 50% of the vote. This top Republican target district went for Romney by 12 points.
All other Congressional incumbents won their primaries and none are expected to be competitive in the general election.
Senate: Republican Leader Mitch McConnell easily beat tea party challenger Matt Bevin in the GOP primary. Bevin was championed by conservative groups around the country but McConnell's superior fundraising and organizational capacity left him little to worry about. Democrats see this seat as a pick up opportunity with their nominee Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Current polling has the race very close despite the outsized Republican performance in Kentucky at the Presidential level.
House: All house Incumbents won their primaries and none are expected to be competitive in the general election.
Senate: Incumbent Jim Risch won his primary and the seat is not expected to be competitive in the general election.
House: In the second district, Congressman Mike Simpson easily defeated tea party financed challenger Bryan Smith. The general election is not expected to be competitive.
Senate: Nominations were formalized for incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican challenger, Congressman Tom Cotton. Neither faced primary opposition. The general election between the two will be among the most closely watched in the country and is a key component to Republican attempts to retake Senate control.
AR-2: Retiring Congressman Tim Griffin's seat is expected to now go to Little Rock banker French Hill who won the Republican primary in this solidly GOP seat.
AR-4: In the race to fill Tom Cotton's open seat, State Senator Bruce Westerman beat young businessman Tommy Moll in the Republican primary. He will face former FEMA director James Lee Witt in the general election. The seat is solidly Republican, but Witt's high profile makes this a seat to keep an eye on.
Incumbents Steve Womack and Rick Crawford both won their primaries and do not expect difficult reelection battles in the general election.
Senate: In the Republican Primary, physician Monica Wehby defeated State Rep Jason Conger and a handful of minor candidates to win the nomination to challenge Democratic Incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley. Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, has run close with Merkley in recent polling.
House: All Oregon incumbents won their primaries and none are expected to have difficult reelection fights in the general election.
PA-6: In the race to replace retiring Rep Jim Gerlach, nominations were formalized for Republican Ryan Costello and Democrat Manan Trivedi. Costello is a business-oriented County Commissioner and Trivedi is a physician and Iraq War veteran who ran twice previously against Gerlach. Neither faced primary opposition and though the district leans Republican, Trivedi is an experienced candidate with a strong biography that could make the seat competitive.
PA-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick will face Democratic challenger Kevin Strouse who defeated Shaughnessy Naughton in the Democratic primary 53-46 and presents a potentially serious challenge to Fitzpatrick in this suburban Philadelphia district though Fitzpatrick has consistently outperformed other Republicans in the district.
PA-9: Congressman Bill Shuster easily held off tea party oriented challenger Art Halvorson who partly self-funded a challenge to the incumbent. Shuster is not expected to have a significant general election challenge.
PA-13: In one of the most interesting races of the day, State Rep. Brendan Boyle handily won the Democratic nomination in this heavily Democratic open seat vacated by Allyson Schwartz. With four compelling and talented candidates, each with very different appeals and paths to victory, Boyle gathered almost 55% of the vote. He will face Republican Carson Adcock in the general election though it is not expected to be competitive.
All other Pennsylvania incumbents won their primaries and are not expecting difficult re-election fights.
May 7, 2014
Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio Primary Recap
By Briana Huxley
Primary season is upon us, with eleven states holding their primaries in May. Yesterday, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio kicked us off, with the results below.
U.S. Senate: In one of the most closely watched races on Tuesday, state Assembly Speaker Thom Tillis (R) garnered more than 40% of the vote in the GOP Senate primary and was thus able to avoid a runoff. There were eight candidates in the GOP primary, with physician Greg Brannon and Pastor Mark Harris being the two strongest challengers, both from Tillis' right. Polls show Tillis in a very close race with incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in November.
U.S. House: There were several North Carolina Congressional races to watch, especially in the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 12th Districts. In the 2nd District, Rep. Ellmers (R) easily beat her primary challenger, Frank Roche, but it was the Democratic primary that gained all of the attention. Three candidates were running; "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken, former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco and mental health counselor Toni Morris. Aiken had a strong name ID going into the primary, but Crisco outspent Aiken, leading to a competitive primary. Aiken currently leads by 369 votes, with 41% of the vote. There is no declared winner yet. This will be an uphill climb for Democrats; Romney took the district with 58 percent of the vote in 2012.
One of the most vulnerable incumbents in the first round of primaries was Rep. Walter Jones (R - NC 3). Challenged by former Bush administration official Taylor Griffin in the primary, Jones had his toughest race to date. Griffin had the backing of establishment Republicans, but his background as a Bush staffer and lobbyist had some questioning whether he could win over this libertarian leaning district. In the end, Jones was able to hold on to his seat, beating Griffin, 51 percent to 45 percent. The general is not expected to be competitive.
With Rep. Coble (R) retiring, the open seat in NC 6 will go into a runoff, as expected. Frontrunner Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. made it into the Republican runoff, along with Baptist Pastor Mark Walker. Whoever wins the GOP runoff is the favorite for the general election. Romney won the 6th district with 58 percent of the vote in 2012. In NC 12, state Rep. Alma Adams (D) narrowly avoided a runoff, winning just over 40% of the vote in both the special and regular primaries. Rep. Watt (D) resigned from this safe Democratic seat earlier this year.
In the 7th district, former state Sen. David Rouzer beat out former state Sen. Woody White, 53 percent to 40 percent in the Republican primary. This is a conservative seat, with Rouzer now favored to win the general. The seat is being vacated by Blue Dog Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) and is considered one of the Republicans' best chances for a pickup.
In Ohio, the field is now set for the two most competitive races in the Buckeye state for 2014 - the 6th and 14th districts. In the 6th district, Rep. Bill Johnson (R) will face former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D). In the 14th district, freshman Rep. David Joyce (R) survived his primary challenge from Matt Lynch. This was Joyce's first primary election. He was appointed to the general election ballot after Rep. LaTourette (R) retired after winning the primary nod in 2012. Attorney Michael Wager is now the official Democratic challenger. Both of these races are on the DCCC's radar and could shape up into competitive general election races. Speaker John Boehner (R) also easily survived a primary challenge from JD Winteregg, taking 69 percent of the vote.
Indiana has been relatively quiet in 2014. There were no major primary challengers to incumbents.Of the nine congressional seats, only Rep. Walorski's (R - IN 2) is shaping up to be a competitive race. Walorski won the open seat in 2012 by fewer than 4,000 votes. Joe Bock, a University of Notre Dame professor, won the Democratic primary. This is a race that could become competitive, but Walorski has the upper hand for now.
April 16, 2014
2014 Primaries: Turnout to Impact the November Ballot
By Ashley Cox and Mary Beth Hart
More and more, voters believe the only thing that matters is whether or not a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican. Some even see it as a game of R's versus D's-with the Republican team leading the U.S. House with 240 players to the Democrat's 192, while the Democrats lead the U.S. Senate by four seats over the Republicans. In a game like this, voters are distracted from a candidate's platform on important issues and instead base their decisions on party ties. A primary election does not change the score of the game, but it does determine the caliber of the party's player come November. As primary elections continue, it's time to shift focus away from partisanship and toward the important issues affecting our nation and our economy.
It is time to get involved in the primary and become educated on primary candidate platforms. By doing this, voters will be able to shape the general election ballot. Let's make the primaries PRIMARY.
Primary election turnout has historically been lower than general election turnout-despite the fact that primary results directly determine the general election ballot. Average voter turnout in the 2012 statewide primaries slumped to the lowest level since presidential primaries proliferated in 1972. Based on the 41 states which held statewide primaries in both parties, turnout was 17.3%, a 40-point underdog to the nearly 60% turnout in the actual presidential elections1. In order for the November ballot to accurately represent the voice of a candidate's district, voter turnout must be strong in the primary election.
Low primary turnout means that less of the electorate has shaped the general election ballot.
Primary election voters tend to be more radical voters who support their candidate regardless of electability in the general election2. In recent years, U.S. House and Senate primary election candidates who were considered more ideologically-extreme, defeated well-established and comparatively moderate candidates. For example, in 2012 Tea Party candidates, Richard Mourdock (IN), Sharron Angle (NV), and Ken Buck (CO) all who triumphed in primary elections over more mainstream candidates, proved unpalatable to the general electorate in November and were not elected to office.
Primary election participation is especially pertinent to ensure the best viable candidate in each party is on the ballot for the general election.
Primary election voters determine the caliber of candidates for November's ballot while general election voters tend to vote along party lines. Furthermore, because approximately 60% of congressional districts are not swing districts3, a dominant party's primary candidate who makes it to the November ballot will most likely be elected. These primary elections are especially competitive in the advantaged party of constituencies in which one party has a clear advantage in terms of voter loyalties.
It's time to make the primary election the important election. Learn about the primary elections in your district and educate yourself on your primary candidate's platform. Together, we can shape the November ballot and bring the focus back to electing candidates based on their stance on the issues important to our success.
- "National Primary Turnout Hits New Record Low." Bipartisan Policy Center, 10 Oct. 2012.
- Gerber, Elisabeth R. "Primary Election Systems and Representation." Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1998): 304-24.
- Hirano, Shigeo, James M. Snyder, and Michael M. Ting. "Distributive Politics with Primaries." The Journal of Politics 71.04 (2009): 1467-480.
April 9, 2014
The Rising Cost Per Vote
By Bo Harmon and Briana Huxley
The cost of elections is increasing. Swing districts and voters are decreasing. Billions of dollars are being spent to target a smaller and smaller number of voters.
The 2014 elections are projected to be the most expensive midterms to date. Each election cycle, the cost of elections increases substantially. In 1998, candidates, parties and outside groups spent $1.6 billion total on Congressional races. By 2012, that figure more than doubled to $3.7 billion and is expected to rise again in 2014.
Counterintuitively, while election spending increases each cycle, there are fewer swing seats and competitive races taking place. According to the Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index, there were 164 swing seats in the House in 1998. By 2013, that had dropped to 90. Even fewer, maybe 20-30, are actually competitive.
It isn't just the reduced number of competitive seats, there are fewer and fewer swing voters available to be persuaded in the competitive elections that DO exist. BIPAC uses a formula to determine the number of true swing voters in a given state or district. Over the last eight years, we take the lowest performance of ANY Republican and the lowest performance of ANY Democratic candidate and assign that low-water mark as a partisan baseline. We estimate the number of votes likely to be cast in 2014 and subtract the percentage that is base Republican and base Democratic and are left with the number of real swing votes in a state. You can see from the chart below that a very small number of votes are actually at play in the most competitive Senate races. In several states, the swing voters represent less than 20% of expected turnout. Only 13% of expected voters in NC are swing, 12% in GA, 18% in AK and 12% in CO. More money may be pouring into races, but there are increasingly fewer voters to persuade.
|STATE||EXPECTED TURNOUT||GOP BASE VOTE||DEM BASE VOTE||Votes needed to WIN||SWING VOTERS|
March 12, 2014
Republican David Jolly Wins Florida 13 Special Election
By Bo Harmon
In a race that polls had neck and neck through Election Day, David Jolly was declared the winner of the special election in Florida's 13th district to replace deceased Congressman Bill Young. Republican David Jolly won by approximately 3500 votes out of over 183,000 votes cast against former state CFO and 2010 Gubernatorial candidate Democrat Alex Sink. Unofficial results had the final tally at 48.5% for Jolly and 46.5% for Sink with the balance for the Libertarian candidate.
Going into Election Day, 125,000 votes had already been cast through early or absentee voting in the Tampa-area district, with Republicans casting 4600 more than Democrats (though WHO the votes were for is obviously not known). This mirrored the registration percentages in the district which has 37% registered Republicans, 35% Democrats and 24% Independents. It was a district that Obama carried narrowly in both 2008 and 2012.
More than any shift in the balance of power in the House, the race represented a first test of messaging and tactics in a swing area for both parties. Both parties invested heavily to test advertising themes and hoped to gain momentum heading into the summer campaign season. Over $5 million was spent on behalf of Jolly while almost $4 million was spent to support Sink.
Ultimately, the campaign does little to change the dynamics of Congress for the remainder of the year and there will likely be a rematch in the general election in November with wider turnout. It is impossible to predict at this point which candidate benefits. With a virtual tie going into Election Day in both polling and, more importantly, early votes cast, the "on the ground" turnout efforts made the difference.
March 5, 2014
A Shifting Political Landscape
By Bo Harmon and Briana Huxley
The political landscape has shifted pretty dramatically in just the last two months. Since January 1, numerous additional retirements have been announced and several candidates have picked up significant new challengers. There are now 38 House retirements, including several of the Congress' longest-serving members, many in districts that will not be competitive in a general election. While some of these districts have heirs apparent, many do not and it is in these primaries where votes will really count.
Many of the House retirements or resignations over the last eight weeks have come in strongly Democratic-leaning districts. Some races already have likely replacements lined up, including long-serving members, George Miller (CA-31) and John Dingell (MI-12) (State Senator Mark DeSaulnier the likely replacement in California and Rep. Dingell's wife, Debbie Dingell, in Michigan). Most open seats already have crowded, competitive primaries. These include Rob Andrews (NJ-1), Mel Watt (NC-12), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4), Jim Moran (VA-8), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35), Ed Pastor (AZ-7), and Henry Waxman (CA-33). In NJ-1, state Sen. Donald Norcross has gathered support from Rep. Andrews, along with other top ranking state Democrats, but faces a primary challenge from Mayor Frank Minor. Both NC-12 and NJ-12 have a large field of Democratic candidates, including several state representatives and senators. Expect both primaries to be competitive.
In McCarthy's open seat, Democrats seem to be rallying around Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, though others are still considering getting into the race, including Nassau Legislative Minority Leader Kevin Abrahams. Moran's open seat in Virginia is another district with an extremely crowded primary. The early frontrunner is former Lieutenant Governor and car dealership owner Don Beyer. The race for McLeod's open seat is just shaping up, but state Senator Norma Torres has already announced her bid. Pastor's open seat in Arizona has gained several candidates, and it is even rumored that Congresswoman Sinema (AZ-9) may switch to the solidly Democratic 7th seat to run in 2014. In CA-33, two frontrunners have emerged from the crowded race: former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel and state Senator Ted Lieu.
In addition, there have been a handful of recently announced retirements (and one resignation) in solidly Republican districts including Trey Radel (FL-19), Cory Gardner (CO-4) and Buck McKeon (CA-25). Radel's Florida seat will be filled by special election, where several candidates have announced, including state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto. The race to replace Gardner, who is running for Senate, is still in the early stages, though Ken Buck who was running for Senate, has dropped his bid and will now run for Gardner's seat. McKeon is retiring from Congress and former state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) is running for his seat in this Republican-favored district.
In the Senate, a few races have changed dramatically over the past few weeks. Senator Pat Roberts' challenge from physician and Tea Party candidate Milton Wolf became more competitive than expected, though the race remains in Roberts' favor. The Mississippi Senate race is one of the most competitive Republican primaries to watch in 2014. Additionally, Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner's (R) announcement that he will challenge Sen. Udall (D) made that race suddenly competitive. The Virginia Senate race is one that also may move into the competitive category as Republican Ed Gillespie's campaign continues to take shape.
While the broad strokes remain the same - the Republicans have a reasonable shot at taking the Senate majority and are expected to hold the House or possibly extend their majority - the details of who will be sitting in Congress have been shaken up over the past 8 weeks. This shifting political landscape presents a number of crowded and competitive primaries.
February 19, 2014
2014's Most Important Primaries
By Bo Harmon
With a handful of exceptions, the most competitive and consequential primaries are in the Republican Party this cycle. The Democrats have cleared the field for their chosen nominee in their most competitive Senate races without an incumbent. In South Dakota, Michigan, Montana, Georgia, West Virginia, Iowa, and Kentucky, none of the Democrats face a competitive primary. Additionally, no Senate Democratic incumbents face significant primary opposition, except in Hawaii where Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is challenging Senator Brian Schatz. Several of the challenger and open seat Republican races have significant primaries as well.
Let's take a look at the most consequential primaries of 2014.
Republican Senate Primaries:
Iowa: This primary has become a 3 way race between state Senator Joni Ernst, former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs, and US Attorney and former University of Iowa football star Matt Whitaker. There are several additional candidates with niche followings who could have a big impact here though. If no candidate receives at least 35% of the vote in the primary, the nomination is determined by convention and delegates are allowed to select anyone they choose, not being limited to the top vote getters or even candidates who ran in the primary.
Georgia: With eight names on the ballot and a conceivable path to victory for several of the candidates, this primary is one of the toughest in the country. Three sitting members of Congress are running - Jack Kingston, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey each have geographic voter and fundraising foundations. Former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David Perdue (cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue) has personal resources and the mantle of political outsider to boost his chances. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel is the only woman in the field and only candidate to have run and won statewide.
Alaska: Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell faces former DNR Director Dan Sullivan for the right to take on Democrat Senator Mark Begich. Sullivan has jumped to an impressive fundraising lead but Treadwell maintains name ID advantage from serving in statewide office and current polls show the primary to be a dead heat. 2010 Tea Party nominee Joe Miller is also running but has raised little money and has done himself few favors with the voters since upsetting Lisa Murkowski in the primary in that year. To complicate matters further, a wholly separate Dan Sullivan currently serves as mayor of Fairbanks, the state's second largest city, and is also on the ballot, running for Lt. Governor.
House Democrat Primaries:
IA-1: In the open seat to replace Bruce Braley who is running for Senate, we see a seat that is likely to remain in Democratic hands in the general election. In the Democratic primary, former state Senator Swati Dandekar is running in addition to veteran state Rep. Pat Murphy and Cedar Rapids Councilwoman Monica Vernon. The winner is likely to take on Republican state Rep. Walt Rogers in the general election.
CA-33: Henry Waxman's announced retirement opens this Los Angeles area seat for the first time in generations. State Senator Ted Lieu and former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Gruel have jumped to the early lead in this heavily Democratic seat. Lieu is expected to receive the state Democratic Party's endorsement at their March 9th Convention. Gruel has been endorsed by Emily's List, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and AG Kamala Harris. Local businessman Bill Bloomfield, who won 46% of the vote as an Independent against Waxman in 2012, has announced he will not run again.
House Republican Primaries:
MI-3: Congressman Justin Amash, a Tea Party hero, is being challenged by businessman Brian Ellis in this Grand Rapids district. Amash has opposed Boehner for Speaker and been very publically vocal in his criticism of the Republican establishment for not going far enough to support Tea Party ideals.
ID-2: Congressman Mike Simpson is being challenged by Tea Party candidate and lawyer Bryan Smith in the Republican primary. Smith has criticized Simpson for not reflecting the conservative values of the district and for his positions, such as voting to end the government shutdown.
TN-4: Scandal plagued Rep. Scott DesJarlais is being challenged in the primary by former insurance agent and state Senator Jim Tracy. Tracy is currently leading DesJarlais in fundraising.
GA-10: The 10th district is solidly Republican and the competitive election will be the GOP primary. There are several candidates already in the race, including evangelical minister and Tea Party talk show host Jody Hice, businessman Mike Collins, former state Rep. Donna Sheldon, Columbia County GOP Chair Brian Slowinksi, attorney Gary Gerrard, and businessman Stephen Simpson. There are no clear frontrunners right now, but watch out for Hice, Sheldon, and Collins who are all running well.
IA-3: The 3rd district is a crossover district that voted for a Republican Congressman in 2012, but went to President Obama by 4 pts. It is the most competitive district in Iowa. The Democratic frontrunner appears to be state Senator Staci Appel, who had entered the race before Latham announced his retirement. On the Republican side, there are several candidates including frontrunners former Chief of Staff to Sen. Grassley, David Young, state Senator Brad Zaun and Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Like in the Senate race, Republicans will hold a nominating convention if no candidate receives more than 35% of the vote in the primary. With the large number of candidates in the GOP primary, it may be hard to avoid the convention, making it more likely that Iowa Republicans could choose a more ideologue, conservative candidate that may struggle in the general election. Right now this race is a tossup.
ME-02: This is an open seat, with Democratic Rep. Michaud running for Governor. The district leans Democratic, but has a credible Republican candidate, former state Senate President and businessman Kevin Raye. Raye currently leads the polls in the primary and general. He has a primary challenger, former treasurer Bruce Poliquin. The frontrunners on the Democratic side are state Sen. Emily Cain and state Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson.
VA-10: Republican Congressman Frank Wolf is retiring, setting off a competitive race in the 10th district primary and general elections. The frontrunner on the Republican side is state Delegate Barbara Comstock. She will face several candidates, including social conservative state Delegate Bob Marshall in the firehouse primary.
IL-13: Freshman Rep. Rodney Davis is being challenged in the primary and general election. He won in 2012 with less than 1% of the vote. This is a swing district that went to President Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Davis faces Former Miss America Erika Harold in the GOP primary.
January 22, 2014
Retirement Fever Hits Washington
By Bo Harmon
An outbreak of retirement fever has struck Washington. So far 8 US Senators have announced retirement (though no more Senate retirements are expected). On the House side, there are 30 members who will not be running for their old seat and more are expected over the coming months. Of those 30, 16 are retiring and 14 are running for other office. Out of 435 seats, 30 retirements may not seem like a lot, but it is a matter of WHO is retiring that should be concerning to the business community. The wave of retirements from centrist-oriented consensus builders started in 2012 and unfortunately continues this election cycle. 2012 saw Senate retirements from consensus builders such as Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Jim Webb (D-VA).
One of the most striking similarities of all the retirement announcements this year is that they come largely from members who were the most likely to seek compromise and reach across the aisle to get things done. In the Senate, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Tim Johnson (D-SD) regularly sat on bi-partisan boards or study committees tasked with finding consensus on issues as varied as immigration, the budget, debt ceiling, and entitlement reform. Similarly in the House, consensus-builders such as Jim Matheson (D-UT 4), Mike McIntyre (D-NC 7), Jon Runyan (R-NJ 3), Tom Latham (R-IA 3), Frank Wolf (R-VA 10), and Jim Gerlach (R-PA 6) are all going to be missing from the Chamber next year. Jo Bonner (R-AL 1), Spencer Bachus (R-AL 6), Bill Owens (D-NY 21), Howard Coble (R-NC 6), Buck McKeon (R-CA 25), and John Campbell (R-CA 45) were all consensus builders as well. None are running for other office, they are all just leaving Washington.
In an era of hyper partisanship and gridlock, these members were at the forefront of maintaining the civility and functionality of Congress. While every one of these members have individual reasons for retiring from Congress, one of the things heard most frequently in off the record conversations is that they are fed up with the inability of Congress to work together and the partisan gridlock that is so frustrating to Americans outside of the beltway as well. All in all, 2012 saw 10 Senate retirements and 25 House retirements (additional House members ran for other offices) and in almost every single case, the retiring member has been replaced by someone less likely to reach across the aisle, someone MORE partisan than the member who retired.
While campaign consultants and ideologues may cheer the decline of bipartisan cooperation, it is bad news for the business community and we have seen the results. No formal budget for three years, constant threats to default on US debt, wholesale abandonment of issues such as tax reform, immigration reform, patent reform, intellectual property protections, etc. It is the very people who left Congress in 2012 and are leaving at the end of 2014 that gave even a glimmer of hope to such things.
January 8, 2014
What to Expect From Congress in an Election Year
By Bo Harmon
There are a number of legislative items that members of both parties acknowledge need to be addressed. Implementation of ObamaCare. Immigration reform. Tax code and entitlement reform. A long term solution to the debt ceiling crisis. Privacy security. Patent reform. Trade. With all of these issues, the public increasingly frustrated with gridlock in Washington, and an election coming up where Congress will want to be able to talk about their accomplishments, we should expect to see some major legislative action in 2014, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong. There is actually a glimmer of hope that 2014 will produce more than 2013. Though, that's a bit like saying "we scored zero points last game and expect to do better than that this time."
The reason that Congress hasn't accomplished much since 2010 is the same reason we don't expect to see much more in 2014. With the House in the hands of Republicans and the Senate and White House controlled by Democrats, and each side increasingly responsive to the most ideological polarizing parts of their base, they disagree on how to proceed. Both sides understand the things that need to be addressed, but there is zero consensus on how to do it.
The ObamaCare debate is a prime example. Not a single Republican in either chamber voted for original passage though many key features of the legislation were included in previous GOP health care reform bills. Once Republicans took the House in 2010, GOP leadership took the position that repeal of the legislation in total was the only option and have refused to offer or support tweaks or fixes to problems. The Republicans believe "it's not possible to 'fix' something fundamentally incompatible with our ideology." Politically, they also believe if the legislation fails they will benefit and thus have little political incentive to improve the law. From their perspective, it is BETTER politically to have as many things go wrong with ObamaCare as possible.
This same standoff occurs on issue after issue - taxes, immigration, entitlement reform, etc. But, it is a new year and in our optimistic resolutions, we see some possibility of federal action on a handful of bills. There was a small bright spot in December when a two year budget compromise passed that would avoid the possibility of a shutdown and eliminated some of the most irrational sequester cuts. This rare bipartisan effort was criticized by many however as small ball for not addressing bigger, long term issues. Even still, it was the best that could be achieved in the current gridlock environment.
The environment is also different than it was in 2013. At that time, Democrats were emboldened by the President's popularity and felt little need to compromise, believing they had received a mandate from the 2012 elections to do as they wanted. With the President's approval ratings significantly lower now, the confidence to act as boldly is similarly evaporating. Conversely, Republicans spent 2013 in fear of retribution from the Tea Party. Now, Boehner in the House and McConnell in the Senate have openly broken ranks with the Tea Party and seem almost eager to act in ways that show consensus.
The budget deal and the changed political environment provide the foundation for some compromise legislation to take place on issues that need to be addressed. Small, incremental changes to a handful of issues is possible, likely driven by the middle. We may see some movement on immigration, trade, patent reform, etc; even if more contentious things like tax reform remain unlikely. This is where the business community can lead the way.
While many would like to see more comprehensive solutions and small, incremental changes to immigration or ObamaCare implementation may not be at the top of your industry agenda, we are dealing with a situation where NOTHING has been getting done and we need to make an effort to support and reward even baby steps at basic government functionality. Only then will members of Congress have the political courage to attempt larger, more comprehensive changes and take a look at issues that ARE at the forefront of your industry agenda. It is a shame that we have reached this point where expectations for our Congressional "leaders" is so low but they have demonstrated over the last three years that nothing else can be expected from divided government driven by ideological extremes. We can and should work to change THAT dynamic as well, but for the immediate legislative year, we must play the cards we have been dealt and those have been shown to bear very meager return, but there is hope. Happy New Year!
December 4, 2013
2014 Senate Landscape
By Bo Harmon
With 2013 coming to a close, the attention now turns to 2014 and the Senate midterm elections. Currently controlled by the Democrats, 2014 presents an opportunity for the Republican Party to change control of the chamber, given the high number of Democratic seats up for re-election. The current Senate is split with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, essentially 55-45. There are 35 races in 2014 and Republicans must win 6 seats total (in addition to defending all current seats) to win the majority.
Republicans are optimistic of their chances because 7 of the Democratic seats up in 2014 are in states that voted for Romney in 2012, including Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Three of these Senators have announced retirement making them open seats - Baucus (D-MT), Johnson (D-SD), and Rockefeller (D-WV). This leaves challenger races for Republicans in Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Additional open Democratic held seats are in the Obama carried states of Iowa and Michigan and there are 2 Republican retirements but both in the Romney carried states of Georgia and Nebraska. In total, there are the 7 Democratic held seats in Romney won states and 2 additional open seats in Iowa and Michigan that Republicans see as the most likely pick up opportunities.
The Democrats may be on the defensive this cycle, but Republicans will face their own challenges going into 2014. Democrats are eying challenges in the open seat in Georgia and possible challenges in Obama won states like Maine, as well as in Kentucky against Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Furthermore, the 2 Republican open sets, Georgia and Nebraska, will have Republican primaries where out of the mainstream candidates could turn the seats Democratic. This is similar to Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada in 2012 where Republicans felt confident of their opportunities prior to the general election.
While the election landscape for 2014 looks to benefit Republicans, there are several factors at play. The current congressional and political parties' favorability is dismal, and with a year out from the election, there is still a lot that can happen. Right now, Republicans are poised to gain seats in the Senate; though winning a net gain of 6 seats is still an uphill battle.
Among the most competitive seats:
Alaska - Currently represented by Democrat Mark Begich, the state voted for Romney with 55% of the vote and has a Republican Governor and other Senator. The Republican primary is between Lt. Governor Mark Treadwell, Dan Sullivan, and tea party candidate Joe Miller. Current polling has Begich running near even against either Treadwell or Sullivan but with a substantial lead against Miller.
Arkansas - Currently represented by Democrat Mark Pryor, the state voted for Romney with 61% of the vote. Congressman Tom Cotton has cleared the primary for the Republican nomination and polls show the two running neck and neck. Arkansas has a history of voting Republican for President, but electing Democrats to other offices, as the election of Pryor has demonstrated as well as current Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.
Georgia - Currently held by Republican Saxby Chambliss who has announced his retirement, this will be an open seat in a state carried by Romney with 53% of the vote. Democrats have cleared the primary field for Michelle Nunn, daughter of long time, highly respected Senator Sam Nunn. Republicans have an extremely crowded 8 person primary with 6 "legitimate" candidates with polling showing no clear front runner at this point. A bloody and highly unpredictable Republican primary and a strong Democratic candidate both make this a race to watch.
Iowa - Currently held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin, Iowa voted for Obama with 52% of the vote. Like Arkansas, Iowa has a history of voting across party lines regularly with a long time Republican Governor and a very conservative Republican as one Senator and a liberal Democrat as the other. Democrats have cleared the primary field for Congressman Bruce Braley while Republicans face a crowded primary with at least 5 candidates, each positioning themselves in different ways. An unusual Republican nominating process could lead to any number of outcomes which could make this race highly competitive or make it likely to remain in Democratic hands depending on the GOP nominee.
Kentucky - Represented by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Democrats see this as an opportunity to "take down the leader" even though the state voted for Romney with 61% of the vote. The highly polarizing McConnell faces a primary challenge from a tea party backed candidate and a general election opponent in Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes who has cleared the primary field and is raising money from across the country as Democrats look for an opportunity to be on offense. Current polling has the general election very close.
Louisiana - Democrat Mary Landrieu is running for reelection in this state which gave Romney 58% of the vote. Republicans have two candidates running, Congressman Bill Cassidy, who is backed by the NRSC, and tea party backed Rob Maness. Louisiana's unique "jungle primary" system where all candidates run on the same primary ballot, regardless of party, gives Landrieu the opportunity to win the election outright if she garners over 50% of the vote at that point, while the Republican vote would be split between Cassidy and Maness. If she does not exceed 50%, she would go to a runoff with the next highest vote getter - a runoff which would work in the way a general election typically would. In a runoff scenario, current polling has her with a small lead over either challenger.
Michigan - With Democrat Carl Levin retiring, an open seat in this state carried by Obama with 54% of the vote represents another pick up opportunity for Republicans. Primaries in both parties have been cleared, leaving Republican Terri Lynn Land facing Democratic Congressman Gary Peters. Land won her election as Secretary of State by a greater margin than any Republican winner in Michigan history and is willing to partially self-fund the campaign. Current polling shows Peters with a 1-5 point lead a year out from the election.
Montana - Retiring Democrat Max Baucus represents this state carried by Romney with 55%, creating an open seat Republicans hope to pick up. Congressman Steve Daines has cleared the GOP primary field and will face either current Democratic Lt. Governor John Walsh or former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger. Polls currently show Daines with a substantial lead over either possible challenger.
North Carolina - Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is running for reelection in a state that was one of the closest in the last two Presidential elections. Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis is facing tea party backed Dr. Greg Brannon and two others in a GOP primary. Polling shows a neck and neck race for Hagan whichever opponent she faces.
South Dakota - South Dakota is another open seat in a state carried by Romney with 58% of the vote. Democrat Tim Johnson is retiring, setting up a race between Democrat Rick Weiland and former Republican Governor Mike Rounds, who faces a tea party backed challenger, Dr. Annette Bosworth, in the primary. Polling shows a substantial lead for Rounds to turn this seat Republican.
West Virginia - The third Democratic held open seat in a state carried by Romney with 62% of the vote comes as Jay Rockefeller retires, leaving a race between Republican Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito and Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Despite heaving supporting Romney for President, West Virginia has two Democratic U.S. Senators and a Democratic Governor, showing a strong ability to cross party lines in elections. Even still, current polling shows Capito with a commanding lead.
November 20, 2013
The Government Shutdown and the 2014 Elections
By Bo Harmon
Many have wondered what the impact of the government shutdown will be on the 2014 elections. Historically, such issues burn brightly in the media spotlight and quickly fade from voter's minds as more pressing, long term issues such as jobs, taxes, healthcare, education, etc. come to the fore. This is especially true when such an incident happens more than a year from the election. There are important landscape shifts that took place as a result of the shutdown, which are difficult to quantify in polls, but will likely play a large role in the 2014 elections. Chief among these are long term reputational damage to Washington, further fueling anti-incumbent sentiment and a more open war within the Republican party between the strongly anti-government faction and the pro-growth, pro-stability faction. The business community has begun to recognize the need to mobilize on behalf of pro-growth, pro-stability candidates where they are challenged by fervently anti-government candidates.
In terms of which party is held responsible for the government shutdown, the landscape has shifted quickly. Initial polling data indicated large majorities found Republicans in Congress to be primarily responsible. In the subsequent weeks however, voter's views of responsibility for the shutdown have shifted. In Virginia, a state particularly affected by the shutdown because of the large number of federal employees and contractors in the DC suburbs, exit polls from November 5th's Gubernatorial election showed that voters split almost evenly between holding Republicans in Congress and President Obama as primarily responsible for the shutdown. Voters who indicated that the shutdown directly affected their household (1/3 of all voters in Virginia) voted for the Democrat McAuliffe by a 56-37 margin. Voters not directly affected by the shutdown supported Cuccinelli 50-43. This would lead one to believe that being impacted by the shutdown trended against Republicans, but these voters are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Northern Virginia suburbs which has historically trended Democrat by such margins, so it is difficult to say that the shutdown extended Democratic margins beyond their normal parameters.
Who is More to Blame for the Government Shutdown?
Did the Shutdown Affect Anyone in Your Household?
Similarly, voters tended to break along predictable patterns in terms of which candidate they supported based on who they held primarily responsible, indicating that Republicans tend to blame Obama and vote for the Republican candidate and Democrats tend to blame Republicans for the shutdown and support the Democratic candidate. All of this contributes to the sense that, as an issue driving voting patterns, the shutdown and responsibility for it had faded to traditional partisan differences within a few weeks of being resolved, making it even less likely that it will play a role as a vote motivator in the 2014 elections for most voters.
While the effect of the shutdown on voting behavior may be minimal, there are more subtle changes that likely WILL impact the elections in significant ways.
Gallup reported large drops in approval ratings of Congress from September to October, dropping from 20% overall to 11%. The all-time low in the history of the poll is only 10%, reached in February and August of 2012. The abysmal view of Congress in general by the public, fueled in this case by the shutdown, contributes to a "pox on both their houses" mentality which puts incumbent members of both parties at risk and increases the appeal of "outsider" candidates in challenger or open seat races. If Congress continues the partisan gridlock and issues such as the government shutdown, possible debt default, the sequester, and other signs of an inability to handle basic functions of government continue, voters may move towards a "throw them all out" mentality and place more Congressional seats in the competitive category, but without a partisan tinge to the result.
The other primary result of the shutdown on the 2014 elections is being played out within the Republican Party as "anti-government" factions battle "pro-growth" factions. Terms such as "tea party" and "establishment" are becoming less useful because they denote ideology and the battle within the GOP isn't really an ideological one. It is one of priorities. Some Republicans see their role primarily as disrupting and reducing a dysfunctional federal government that has gotten too big and too intrusive and they want to stop that at any cost. Others see their role as providing a stable, functional government that can be pared back and shaped to be more effective and responsive. Often these priorities are able to work in concert. The shutdown pitted them head to head. The business community has quickly come to realize that disrupting the business environment with non-targeted sequester cuts, government shutdowns that could last a couple of days or a few weeks, and enormous uncertainty on possible government debt default is the result of actions taken by the "anti-government" faction within the Republican Party and is as dangerous to the economic climate as anti-competitive policies from the far left.
As a result, the business community has quickly begun to mobilize to support "pro-growth" candidates in primaries. The first test was a special election runoff in Alabama's First Congressional District pitting business friendly candidate Bradley Byrne against fervent anti-government candidate Dean Young. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were deployed on Byrne's behalf through contributions and independent expenditures in the final weeks of the election by the business community in Alabama and around the country. Byrne won 52-48, but almost certainly would have been defeated without the last minute push by the business community. The tough win has served as a bellwether that with more planning and better coordination, the business community can be even more effective in producing general election candidates that won't threaten the foundations of the economy and business climate.
While the shutdown will not likely push many voters from one candidate to another by itself, it may have a huge impact on which candidates emerge from primaries and the overall number of competitive seats if voters conclude that ALL of Congress needs a makeover.