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Under the Dome – SPECIAL EDITION POLITICAL UPDATE December 8, 2014


The Advocate is a bimonthly publication for AGC PAC contributors, and contains the latest political news from “inside the beltway.”

Here is the latest news:

Louisiana Voters Head Back to the Polls Saturday

All indicators point to a Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) pending victory over Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in tomorrow’s Louisiana statewide run-off election. Five post-primary polls give the Baton Rouge Congressman an average 15.6% lead over the three-term Senator, with the high/low range stretching from 21 to 11 points. More than 78% of all run-off television commercials have been either pro-Cassidy or anti-Landrieu, and the early vote tabulation suggests more Republicans and fewer Democrats mailed in ballots than did so in the original November 4 election.

Should Cassidy claim victory, Republicans will increase their new majority total to 54 seats, almost a complete reversal of the Democrats’ current 55-45 split.

Expect a Republican sweep in the two House run-off campaigns as well. In the open 5th District, the northeastern Louisiana CD that denied freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R) advancement to the run-off, it appears that Dr. Ralph Abraham (R), a first-time candidate, will score a win over Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D).

In Rep. Cassidy’s open 6th District, former Jindal Administration official Garret Graves (R) is poised to defeat four-term Governor, ex-Congressman, and ex-felon Edwin Edwards (D) in what has been an entertaining contest to say the least. Edwards placed first in the primary election, but the strong Republican nature of the Baton Rouge-anchored district will lead Graves to a convincing political triumph.

Should these two races go to Republicans, the new House partisan breakdown will be 246-188. It will give the GOP its largest majority since World War II.

No President Portman in 2016

On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced that he would not seek the presidency in 2016, and will instead run for re-election.

In a released statement, he said “With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That’s where I believe I can play the most constructive role. I don’t think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”

In the last few elections, Mr. Portman has played Al GoreJoe LiebermanJohn Edwards and Barack Obama in the debate prep for the GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees. It is rumored that he was also on the VP shortlist for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and frmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). Mr. Portman would likely be considered again for the #2 spot, but he has stated that he would prefer to not be considered for the job. That doesn’t mean the next nominee won’t have him high on his or her list.

Before returning to Congress, Mr. Portman served as President George W. Bush‘s Director of the Office of Management and Budget after a short stint as the Administration’s US Trade Representative. Before that, the Senator was elected to six terms in the House.

The move may make it more likely that Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) will eventually enter the race. Having two Ohioans in the race would have certainly detracted from both men’s political and financial base, thus likely disqualifying each from serious competition. Now that Portman has taken himself out of consideration, the Governor may now have the opportunity to engage in some “open field” political running.

Will He or Won’t He

Gov. Mike Pence (R), whose name does appear from time to time on the ever-growing list of Republicans considering a presidential run, appears to be drawing at least one name opponent for the 2016 Indiana statewide race. The Hoosier State is one of eleven entities to hold their gubernatorial vote in the presidential election year, thus putting a potential crimp into any plan the Governor may have about entering the national campaign.

Most believe Mr. Pence will seek re-election to a second term, especially since political heavyweights Evan Bayh, the Democratic former governor and senator, and former gubernatorial nominee John Gregg have both said they will not run for governor in 2016.

But, former US Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) is making moves to suggest that he will enter the contest. Leaving his DC lobbying firm and moving back to Indiana, Mr. Hill is reportedly setting a financial budget as to what he will require to launch and conduct a competitive campaign.

Hill served ten non-consecutive years in the House, and belongs to a small group of members who have twice lost their seats as incumbents. Mr. Hill was originally elected to the House in 1998, and fell to businessman Mike Sodrel (R) in the Bush re-election year of 2004. Undaunted, he ran once more two years later and re-claimed the seat in the 2006 Democratic landslide. But, in the Republican wave of 2010, Rep. Hill once again found himself with fewer votes than his opponent on Election Night, this time attorney Todd Young (R) who was easily re-elected (62-34%) to a third term last month.

With Pence posting job approval ratings over 60% in recent public opinion polls, ex-Rep. Hill has his work cut out for him to deny the Governor a second term. This is particularly true when remembering Indiana has trended so heavily Republican in the past three elections. One thing a proposed Hill candidacy will likely accomplish, however, is making Pence decide earlier than he would like about joining the presidential campaign. Though Hill is going to be a clear underdog in a challenge to Pence, he is a serious candidate who will, at the very least, keep the Governor bogged down on the political home front.

National Turnout Down Compared to 2010

Now that states are beginning to report their certified election numbers, we can better gauge the 2014 turnout patterns. It appears that over 8 million fewer people voted in this mid-term election than did in 2010. This is a large number to be sure, but much of the participation fall-off comes from places that featured little in the way of competitive elections.

Thirty-five states are reporting turnout figures that are lower than their respective voter participation tabulations for 2010. This is a substantial number in any event, but even more so when one is cognizant of the fact that virtually all states have increased population and higher registered voter totals now than they did four years ago. Conversely, 15 states saw an increase in aggregate voter turnout when compared to 2010.

The three states with the steepest turnout drop are Missouri, California, and Nevada.

The Show Me State found 34.2% less people voting in this past election than in the last mid-term, but that is likely due to the fact that the only statewide contest was for the office of Auditor, and none of the eight congressional races were viewed as competitive heading into Election Day. With California Gov. Jerry Brown‘s (D) re-election being a foregone conclusion and no Golden State US Senate contest, mid-term turnout in America’s largest state dropped 27.6%. California did have a host of competitive congressional contests, but they were not enough to balance the turnout model.

Nevada is likely the state where the low turnout led to the biggest changes in state politics. Because voter participation dropped 24.1% from the past mid-term election and, based upon the results, an overwhelming number of Democratic voters comprised the non-participation universe, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) recorded a landslide re-election and the GOP gained a Democratic congressional seat, allowing them to now claim three of the state’s four US House members. Perhaps more importantly, Republicans gained control of both houses of the state legislature.

But the three states with the largest turnout increase, Louisiana, Colorado, and Wisconsin, all had highly competitive statewide campaigns that obviously spurred greater participation.

Louisiana, with the big money Senate race that will be decided in a run-off vote tomorrow, saw a 16.4% increase in turnout when compared to 2010, the largest such positive swing in the nation. Colorado, with hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, saw turnout rise 14.2%. With Republicans winning the Senate race and Democrats the gubernatorial contest, it appears that both parties increased their voter participation figures. Finally, Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker was embroiled in his third tough electoral contest in four years, saw 11 percent more voters going to the polls in 2014 versus 2010, but still over 105,000 fewer than voted in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election.

State Primary Dance Already Underway

The calendar turning to 2015 ushers in new political jockeying. Come January, we will be reading many stories describing how political party leaders are attempting to move their state into a prime nomination position for the upcoming presidential campaign. With an open national race upon us for the first time in eight years, and on the threshold of what could become the most exciting political contest in generations, the schedule of primaries and caucuses become of tantamount importance.

With several exceptions, Republicans and Democrats generally have the same respective nominating schedule as it relates to voters participating in primaries or caucus events. Though the dates are not yet finalized, a projected schedule can be constructed. Most of the political musical chairs tends to occur on the Republican side because GOP leaders in states like Florida have a history of jumping ahead from their historical primary position into a more prominent spot.

From a big state, the Floridians gain significant leverage if they hold their primary just before what is normally pegged as “Super Tuesday”, the large gathering of mostly southern state primaries held on the same day in early March of the election year. But, the Republican National Committee has previously punished state delegations for threatening the early positioning of the four sanctioned states. In fact, Florida itself has been stripped of their entire slate of delegates in a previous presidential year, only to have their voting privileges restored at the national convention, but long after it became obvious as to who would win the party’s nomination.

The four officially sanctioned states that, by party rule, may hold an official nominating event prior to March 1 are Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Iowa and Nevada are caucus states, while New Hampshire and South Carolina hold primaries. South Carolina’s primary is held on a Saturday because it is a party run event, and not an official state election. Therefore, it is up to state Republican Party officials and volunteers to administer the entire voting process.

Yet, it may not be Florida that causes the controversy this year, but North Carolina instead. With Republicans controlling the office of Governor and the state House and Senate for the first time in the modern political era, a new election law was enacted that, among many other changes, moves the state’s primary election. Normally slotted in the early May grouping, the enacted legislation places the Tar Heel State primary on the first Tuesday after the South Carolina Saturday primary, so long as the latter place holds its nominating event before March 15.

Though the state has acted in this case, and not the individual political parties, the national Republican leadership is still not likely to show lenience with regard to invoking penalties when moving away from a traditional primary slot. Therefore, we can expect an internal party fight over the Tar Heel actions, and if and when other states attempt to follow the North Carolinians lead.

Now looking at what could be the earliest schedule, keeping in mind that the states have not finalized a calendar, Iowa, always the first state to vote, may conceivably hold their caucus as early as January 5, 2016. New Hampshire could then follow suit and hold its first-in-the-nation primary on January 12. This could put South Carolina on Saturday, January 23, meaning North Carolina primary on Tuesday, January 26. A Nevada precinct caucus event would then be slotted for February 6.

Chances are the states would not move as early as this potential calendar suggests, but with Republicans scheduling their national convention no later than mid-July, expect significant voting activity well before March 1.

Political Snippets from across the Country

Presidential Race

Rand Paul: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also indicated that he will run for re-election to the Senate as he moves forward in preparing a presidential run. Since Kentucky election law does not allow individuals to appear on the state ballot for more than one office, Paul and Republican leaders will have to consider various options before the Kentucky primary in May of 2016. One alternative would be for the state party to change their nominating system to a caucus format. Their downside, however, is the political party itself would have to finance the statewide caucus as opposed to the state government which must pay for a primary election.

Poll: The CNN/ORC International poll (11/21-23; 1,045 registered voters; 510 Republican and “right-leaning Independent voters”; 457 Democratic and “left-leaning” Independent voters) tested both prospective hypothetical national party primaries. For the Republicans, 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney topped the field with 20%, followed by surgeon Ben Carson with 10%. Dr. Carson has scored surprisingly well in early polling. Next comes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The men score nine, eight, and seven percent, respectively. For the Democrats, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton is dominating the field with 65% of the Democratic primary vote, according to this CNN/ORC poll. Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren follow with 10 and nine percent.

US Senate Races

Alaska: Defeated Sen. Mark Begich (D), rumored as possibly considering a 2016 run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), or even taking a shot at at-large veteran Rep. Don Young (R), may instead be looking to regain his former position. Apparently, Begich may be close to announcing that he will become a candidate for the open Anchorage Mayor position, the job he held before being elected to the Senate six years ago.

Georgia: Last week, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) publicly stated that he will seek a third term in 2016. This week, one of the top Democratic potential candidates, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, says he will not challenge Isakson, bowing out with a complimentary assessment of the two-term incumbent. He reiterated, however, his interest in potentially running for Governor in 2018 when Republican Nathan Deal, winning a 53-45% victory earlier this month, will be ineligible to seek a third term.

Illinois: With speculation growing that Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) will challenge Sen. Mark Kirk(R) in 2016, career advice was given to the woman just elected to her second House term this week from an unlikely source…Kirk himself. The Senator is publicly suggesting that Rep. Duckworth wait until 2020 to run for the Senate when, he says, incumbent Dick Durbin (D) is likely to retire. Kirk goes on to say that losing to him in 2016 could seriously damage her budding political career.

Nevada: Though speculation is percolating that incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) will retire when his seat again comes before the voters in 2016, the opposite appears true. Sen. Reid is saying privately and even publicly that he intends on seeking re-election, and is actively interviewing potential campaign managers. Meanwhile, Republicans will likely field someone beyond the scope of their top three picks to run against Reid. Gov. Brian Sandoval and Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) and Joe Heck (R-NV-3) are all indicating they will not run for the Senate in two years.

New Hampshire: Democratic leaders are hoping to convince Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), fresh from her less-than-expected 52-47% win over businessman Walt Havenstein (R), to challenge first-term Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in 2016. The Senator’s approval ratings are good, so any Democratic nominee will have an uphill challenge. But, New Hampshire’s swing voting patterns since 2006 means all federal races have the potential of becoming highly competitive. Gov. Hassan has not said whether she is considering a Senate run. New England College (12/1; 541 NH registered voters) released the findings of their first 2016 cycle poll where they paired the two women. The result: Ayotte 48 – Hassan 42%.

Ohio: With Sen. Rob Portman (R) now saying he will not launch a presidential campaign and instead will seek re-election, speculation is beginning as to which Democrat(s) will challenge him. Columbus MayorMichael Coleman (D), who just this week announced he will not seek a fifth term in office during 2015, is interested in the race but unlikely to enter, according to people close to him. Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who was defeated by current Gov. John Kasich in 2010, is making some moves to prepare for a potential challenge to Mr. Portman. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld confirms he is considering the race. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) is also mentioned, as he almost always is for potential statewide campaigns. Despite Ohio being the quintessential swing state, and again promising to be a presidential battleground region, Sen. Portman will be considered a strong favorite for re-election.

US House of Representatives Races

AZ-2: In a positive development for Republican challenger Martha McSally, an Arizona district judge rejected Rep. Ron Barber‘s (D) motion to add provisional ballots to the recount process. Arizona election officials expect the recount of McSally’s purported 161-vote victory will stretch well into mid-December.

Gubernatorial Races

Missouri: Political moves are continuing in Missouri, as potential candidates are vying to replace term-limited Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in the 2016 election. Democrats are looking to US Sen. Claire McCaskill as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Attorney General Chris Koster, the Republican-turned-Democrat who is serving his second term, is likely to run. For Republicans, State Auditor Tom Schweich, who turned down previous overtures to run against both McCaskill and Nixon, is now looking favorably toward entering the upcoming open gubernatorial contest. Former MO House Speaker Catherine Hathaway (R) is already an announced candidate. Former US Senate candidate John Brunner and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO-3) also remain mentioned as possibilities. This is expected to become a highly competitive open seat campaign.

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