Cradle of a Nation

The state where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written still holds a strong voice every election day. Pennsylvanians are steadfastly independent – and yes, many cling to their guns, their God, and their heritage with pride. It is a swing state, like Missouri, largely because it has two dependably Democratic cities separated by an unpredictable countryside strewn with farmers and small businesses.

My Pennsylvania Rasmussen disclaimer: In 2004, Rasmussen Reports polling showed Kerry leading Bush in Pennsylvania by two, 49% to 47%. Kerry won by two, 51% to 49%. In the 2006 Pennsylvania governor’s race, Rasmussen polling showed Rendell defeating Lynn Swan by 18, 56% to 38%. Rendell won by 20, 60% to 40%. In the race for US Senate, Rasmussen polling showed Bob Casey defeating Rick Santorum 55% to 42%. Casey won 59% to 41%, the only race to finish outside the margin of error. In Pennsylvania during the 2008 campaign, Rasmussen Reports polling showed Obama winning the state by a 52% to 46% margin. Obama won 55% to 44%.

Things got off to shady start when it became obvious to the White House that Pennsylvanians were fed up with Arlen Specter’s political opportunism, and tried to buy-off retired Vice Admiral Joe Sestak from opposing Mr Specter in the Democratic US Senate primary. Mr Sestak demurred and beat Mr Specter 53% to 47% for the nomination last May. That victory gave Mr Sestak, a sitting US Representative, a bounce from a 2-point deficit to Mr Toomey, a US House Member from 1999 to 2005, to a 4-point lead. That evaporated within the month, and Mr Toomey surged to a 45%-38% lead, where the race remains today. Six percent (6%) prefer another candidate and 10% are still undecided[1].

In Pennsylvania, as nationwide, a majority of voters favor repeal of ObamaCare (61%), while 35% oppose repeal. This is a bit higher than support for repeal nationwide and includes 46% who Strongly Favor it and 24% who are Strongly Opposed. 71% of the group that Strongly Favors repeal support Toomey (32.66%), while 77% of those Strongly Opposed to repeal back Sestak (18.48%). Also following national trends, 58% of voters in the Keystone State favor a law like Arizona’s anti-infiltration law, while 32% oppose such a law. Mr Toomey gets the majority support of those who favor the law cracking down on infiltrators, and Mr Sestak win most of the votes of those who oppose a law like Arizona’s.

20% of Pennsylvania voters hold a Very Favorable opinion of Toomey, while 12% view him Very Unfavorably. Sestak is viewed Very Favorably by 19% and Very Unfavorably by 18%. Toomey picks up 76% of the Republican vote, while Sestak earns 63% support from voters in his party. Reflecting Admiral Sestak’s attractive candidacy (he has run an honest and honorable campaign), he is one of the few Democrats nationwide to hold a modest lead among Independents.

I’m listing Pennsylvania as a Toss Up at this point, but could go either way – the wild card here is Governor Ed Rendell, who is desperately trying to get Washington to something, anything, for small business. He recognizes the dissatisfaction of small business owners with the administration’s proclivity toward concentrating power in Washington and paying for it with higher taxes. This is poison for Democrats in the countryside, which is dominated by farms and other small businesses. With his own budget strapped, like most states, he is constantly pleading with the administration to help Democrats in the countryside by helping small business.

If I had to bet at this point, I would bet that Governor Rendell will get no relief from Washington and Pennsylvania will go Republican.

[1] Rasmussen Reports, Election 2010: Pennsylvania Senate, July 28 2010.

Anchor of the Rust Belt

If Missouri is a bellwether, Ohio is a swing state – close presidential elections have hinged on the outcome here.

Here’s my Ohio disclaimer for Rasmussen. In 2004, Rasmussen polling showed Bush defeating Kerry in Ohio by a 50% to 46% margin, Bush won 51% to 49%. In the 2006 Ohio race for US Senate, Rasmussen showed Sherrod Brown beating Mike DeWine by 11 points, 54% to 43%, and Brown won by twelve, 56% to 44%. In 2008, Rasmussen showed Obama and McCain tied at 49% in Ohio, in a race Obama won 51% to 47%. All well within the margin of error.

Sitting Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is pitted against Republican Rob Portman, a former Congressman who served as Director of OMB and as US Trade Representative [both, George W Bush], and who is leading in the polls 44% to 40%[1]. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and 11% are still undecided.

When polling on this race started on March 2, 15% of likely voters in Ohio had a very favorable opinion of Mr Portman, and 10% viewed him very unfavorably. Mr Fisher had very favorables of 15% and very unfavorables of 13%. After winning the primary on May 6, Mr Fisher was viewed very favorably by 13% of likely Ohio voters, and very unfavorably by an identical number (13%). Mr Portman’s very favorables were also at 13% and his very unfavorables were at 6%. Currently, Mr Portman is viewed very favorably by 16% and very unfavorably by 9%, and 27% are undecided. Mr Fisher earns very favorable marks from 13% and very unfavorables from 15%, while 19% are undecided. Since March, Mr Portman’s base has grown by 1-point, while his “anybody but” anti-base has shrunk by a point. Governor Fisher’s base has shrunk by 2-points, and his “anybody but” anti-base has grown by two. This reflects the race as a whole, where the Portman/Fisher numbers have wandered around in a very narrow band with a large number of undecideds (11%).

You can get a feel for Governor Fisher’s predicament by noting that Mr Portman has support from 85% of Republicans, while Mr Fisher is backed by only 69% of Democrats, with Mr Portman leading among voters not affiliated with either major political party by 20 points. The jobless “recovery” is really hurting Democrats in Ohio, where a lot of heavy industry and manufacturing is located. On other issues, 59% of voters favor repeal of ObamaCare. That’s a bit higher than support for repeal nationally. 58% of likely voters in the state disagree with DoJ’s decision to challenge AZ’s new anti-infiltration law in court. That’s comparable to voter sentiments nationally. Opposition to both of these Democratic policies provides a winning majority for the Republicans.

Polling is still inside the margin of error (±4½%), and with a statistically significant number of undecideds (11%), I am carrying Ohio as a Toss Up state, but given the momentum of events (and barring an October surprise), I will probably be moving it to Leans GOP before long.

[1] Rasmussen Reports, Election 2010: Ohio Senate, August 2 2010.

Is Show Me Showing Us?

The five states just discussed consist of what I consider test cases for the Tea Party movement. The first four – Colorado, Florida, Kentucky and Nevada – contain elements that make them susceptible to Tea Party influence, and the last one – West Virginia – sports a probable winner that is susceptible to Tea Party influence. The outcomes of the first four, and Joe Manchin’s behavior once in office, will demonstrate the effectiveness of the Tea Parties – at least in those five states.

I have received some comments about using the “Republican” polling firm Rasmussen Reports for the bulk of my numbers in these state examinations. Let me say two things about that. First, any accurate polling service in today’s political climate is going to look like a Republican outfit – that’s just the mood of the country right now. Secondly, I use Rasmussen because they have proved to be the most accurate polling firm over the past few years – In 2004, Rasmussen projected the national vote totals for both George W Bush and John Kerry within half-a-percentage-point; in 2008, they projected nationally that Obama would defeat John McCain by a 52% to 46% margin. Obama won 53% to 46%. In Missouri, Rasmussen polling showed McCain and Obama tied at 49% each. McCain edged out Obama 50% to 49%. These represent the most accurate results of any national polling firm over the period.

I now move to three key swing states that will be an early litmus test for 2012 – Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. All three exhibit tight races, and all three are attuned to the nationalization of this year’s races. Again, I will take them in alphabetical order.

Missouri is interesting, not just because the Show Me state tends to be a bellwether, but because the two candidates are from well-entrenched political families. Republican Roy Blunt, a member of Congress since 1997, has held the number two GOP position in the House, serving as minority whip. His son (Matt) was governor of Missouri from 2005 to 2009. Democrat Robin Carnahan is the daughter of an ex-senator and a former governor (Mel). The seat for which they are contesting is being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond[1].

The latest polling shows Mr Blunt leading Ms Carnahan 49%-43%, with 4% wanting some other candidate and 4% undecided[2]. Inside those numbers we have 16% of likely voters in the state who have a Very Favorable opinion of Blunt, and 21% who view him Very Unfavorably. Carnahan is viewed Very Favorably by 28% and Very Unfavorably by 31%. Assuming that all 16% of Mr Blunt’s Very Favorables also view Ms Carnahan as Very Unfavorable, that still leaves 11% of those who view Mr Blunt as just Favorable or No Opinion that view Ms Carnahan as Very Unfavorable[3]. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that Mr Blunt holds a 25-point lead among voters not affiliated with either the Democrats or the Republicans. These numbers constitute a headwind that Ms Carnahan must overcome to achieve a majority on November 2; turning out more Democrats than Republicans plus Independents will be vital to her cause.

Each candidate has found an issue that has moved the numbers. Ms Carnahan spent the month of May trying to tie Mr Blunt to major oil and by association to the spill in the Gulf, and the early June numbers moved him downward into a 45%-45% tie with her – a low-point for Mr Blunt and a high-point for Ms Carnahan. In June, Mr Blunt endorsed the “Repeal ObamaCare” movement, and by late-June had moved back to a 48%-43% lead, which he has held since. On August 3, a referendum on ObamaCare appeared on the primary ballot – Proposition C – that ask voters if they wanted to reject the mandate to buy insurance or be fined. By an astounding 71% to 29% they do.

To address some of the spin, I’m going to have to get into the weeds a little. One complaint is that because the Republicans had more competitive races in the primary, more Republican voters turned out, skewing the anti-ObamaCare numbers beyond a true reflection of the electorate. While that may be true, it also reflects the realities of what November will look like, absent some October surprise. If 10% fewer Republicans show up in November and 10% more Democrats show up, that still spells a 61% to 39% tilt against ObamaCare. A resounding defeat for President Obama’s signature issue, and likely to translate into Democratic fates in the state. It’s going to be all about voter enthusiasm in November, and as of now, the Republicans have it and the Democrats don’t. The other main spin has to do with the fact that Prop-C is what is called a negative initiative – it asks for a “Yes” vote to negate something (mandated coverage) and a “No” vote to affirm (mandated coverage). Those who lose these ballot initiatives always claim the electorate was confused by the ballot language, and may have voted the wrong way by mistake. Despite the heavy TV and print advertising by both sides, let’s assume that, again, 10% of voters went the wrong way – that means that 7.1% of the “Yes” votes should have been “No” votes, and 2.9% of “No” votes should have been “Yes” votes. That would yield an outcome of 66.8%-33.2% against ObamaCare. Twice the confusion (20% wrong votes) still yields a 62.6%-37.4% defeat for ObamaCare in Missouri. Proponents of ObamaCare are also quick to point out that Prop-C isn’t binding, and that’s true, but it does show a sense of the electorate about how things are going.

Missouri is, and always has been, politically volatile, which is why I’m still cautiously listing the Show Me state as Leans Republican. Mr Blunt’s strategy should be to keep ObamaCare in the forefront of the political conversation statewide, and alternate it with the lackluster performance of the trillion-dollar “stimulus” in Kansas City and St Louis – two cities that will go Democratic, but keeping the jobless “recovery” and ObamaCare up front will turn out Republicans in those two venues.

[1] In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I have run campaigns for Roy Blunt, Mel Carnahan and Kit Bond.

[2] See Rasmussen Reports, Election 2010: Missouri Senate, July 27 2010.

[3] This also assumes that all 4% of those wanting another candidate view both of these as Very Unfavorable.

Replacing an Institution

On the morning of June 28, Robert Byrd, the longest serving Member of Congress in our nation’s history, passed away, having spent 58 of his 92 years in the House and Senate. Senator Byrd was a Constitutional expert, the go-to guy on Senatorial procedure, and brought nearly a billion dollars worth of projects back home to West Virginia. Robert Carlyle Byrd is a legend.

The Mountain State, like most, allows for the governor to appoint an interim place-holder until the vacated seat naturally comes up for election (2012, in Senator Byrd’s case). Democratic Governor Joe Manchin would have no problem doing that, keeping the balance of power in the Senate, except for one pesky thing: already midway through his final term as governor, he wants the seat himself. He could always appoint himself and be done with it, except for one pesky thing: the modern record of gubernatorial self-appointment to open Senate seats is dim, since voters like to reserve for themselves the choice of their senators. Out of nine such moves since 1933, just one governor-turned-senator, Kentucky’s Albert “Happy” Chandler, managed to hold onto the post in the next election. The ideal solution for Governor Manchin would be to win a special election to fill-out Senator Byrd’s term, he enjoys a 71% approval rating by West Virginia voters, except for one pesky thing: there would be barely three months to organize primaries and a general election to add to the November ballot. Under a provision of West Virginia law, the governor can set dates for special elections, solving that problem, except for one pesky thing: as Florida voters found out, the United States Supreme Court holds the view that setting rules and parameters for elections is the purview of legislatures, not the judiciary and not the executive.

Governor Manchin called a special session of the West Virginia legislature to establish special elections (primaries and a general) to fill-out Senator Byrd’s term. After adjourning the first session without agreeing on a bill, at the last minute on Friday July 16, they passed legislation to hold primaries on August 28 and a special general election on November 2, the same day as the regularly scheduled 2010 general election. He immediately announced that his former chief counsel, Carte Goodwin (D), would be the interim senator until the November special election.

Given his popularity, any Democratic primary challenge to Joe Manchin would be token. The two most likely Republican challengers are Betty Ireland, the 28th Secretary of State of West Virginia, the first woman elected to the executive branch of the government in the state and the first Republican elected to that position since 1972; and Shelley Moore Capito, the daughter of longtime Governor Arch Moore and a member of Congress since 2001. According to a July 8 poll, Governor Manchin leads Secretary Ireland 65%-26%, and Representative Capito 53%-39%.

By July 22, Ms Ireland announced that she would not seek the office, and Ms Capito decided that she would rather try for governor, so businessman John Raese took up the Republican banner against Governor Manchin. In a Rasmussen survey of 500 likely voters on that date, Mr Manchin leads Mr Raese 51%-35%, with 5% wanting some other candidate and 9% undecided. A total of five Republicans have filed for the race, but Mr Raese is the best known.

This race is interesting because there isn’t an Obama-Pelosi-Reid win in the cards in West Virginia. Any Republican win, unlikely as that might be, would, obviously, diminish Democratic power in the Senate. A Manchin win, however, would look more like Nebraska’s Ben Nelson or Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman than Robert Byrd. Joe Manchin has accumulated his popularity in West Virginia by being anti-cap-and-trade (it’s a coal state), anti-tax (West Virginia is a poor state that depends on small business to augment the coal mines in providing jobs), and resisting the Party line on ObamaCare (64% of West Virginians support repealing the law) and Arizona’s anti-infiltration law (65% want a similar law in their state, and nearly the same number (64%) disagree with Justice’s decision to challenge the law), John McCain carried West Virginia 56% to 43% in 2008. The plurality (43%) of West Virginia likely voters view Governor Manchin as being politically moderate, 33% see him as being at least somewhat conservative, and just 20% see him as liberal.

I’m listing West Virginia as a Solid Democrat state, but think a Manchin win will still weaken the Democratic strangle-hold on Congress.

Reiding the Tea Leaves

In a race where “any Republican” could beat Harry “the-war-in-Iraq-is-lost” Reid, Tea Party political naïvité sacrificed the electable to the ideological. Faced with an opponent that is the only thing in Nevada less popular than snake-eyes, perhaps the Tea Party felt it could test its limits in this race. Inexperience, however, has led to a couple of fundamental mistakes – they didn’t vet their candidate with anything but litmus paper; and Nevada has a “none of these candidates” choice on ballots. Mr Reid doesn’t need a majority to win – which he can’t get – but just a plurality over Sharron Angle and “None of the Above” – which he could.

After shepherding the least popular agenda in modern memory through the Senate, Harry Reid “represented” a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, and the second highest foreclosure rate. The first “Anybody But Reid” signs started appearing shortly after Mr Reid, in league with various environmental groups, got Nevada Energy to halt development of a $5 billion coal-fired power plant in Ely, killing around 5,000 jobs. That was in February 2009.

A year later, when polling began tracking senate races for the 2010s, Mr Reid trailed three Republican candidates by an average of 11 points[1]. That relationship roughly held through the June 9 primaries where Tea Party-endorsed Sharron Angle shocked Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, and businessman Danny Tarkanian, son of the legendary former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. The first post-primary poll had Ms Angle leading Mr Reid 50%-39%[2]. Living my “Goofy Candidate” caveat[3], Ms Angle has since wrenched defeat from the jaws of victory, trailing Mr Reid by two points in the latest polls[4].

Ms Angle gained her name as a rabble-rouser when her dissatisfaction with her local school board led her to champion home-schooling, and in 1985 she rallied hundreds of parents behind her successful effort to pass a bill through the Nevada legislature allowing parents to home school anywhere in the state. She has a conspiracy-theory-sounding opposition to fluoridation of water; in her eight tumultuous years in the state legislature, she gained a reputation for casting the lone “no” vote on spending bills[5]; despite Nevada’s record unemployment, Mrs Angle is not impressed by Mr Reid’s desire to extend unemployment benefits – “This only incentivizes folks not to work,” is her outspoken, if unpopular position[6]. Her complaints about the press (“too mean”) has her coming off as a bit of a whiner.

With the primary bloom off the rose, the two candidates are running neck-and-neck, leaving the election to the independents (20% of Nevada voters), and they are waiting to see how Ms Angle comports herself in the face of Reid’s nasty campaign against her. “Only Harry Reid thinks he’s too big to fail,” she tells reporters, “he runs personal attacks on whoever runs against him because he can’t run on his record here. When Reid assumed the leadership of the Senate, Nevada unemployment was at 4.5% … it’s 14% today[7].”

After left-wing groups have poured more than $11 million into Nevada to tar and feather both Sharron Angle and the Tea Party movement, she is only 2 points behind, and Senator Reid can’t move the demographics – Angle leads among white voters 48% to 41%; Angle leads among seniors 48% to 43%; none-of-the-above plus undecided have held steady at 11% since polling began[8].

I have moved Nevada from Toss-Up to leans Democratic only because of the political savvy-gap between the candidates. Harry Reid is a more sophisticated campaigner than Sharron Angle, and that may carry the day if she keeps saying goofy things out loud. We’ll see.

[1] Rasmussen Reports, Election 2010: Nevada Senate, March 3 2010.

[2] Rasmussen Reports, Election 2010: Nevada Senate, June 10 2010.

[3] See Watch for IEDs (Incidentally Exploitable Developments), EagleWatch, June 1 2010.

[4] Rasmussen Report, Election 2010: Nevada Senate, July 27 2010.

[5] The press began calling these votes “62 to Angle”.

[6] See Stephen Moore, Angling for Harry Reid, in Wall Street Journal, July 17 2010, p. A11.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See Erick Erickson, Sharron Angle is in a Good Position Against Harry Reid, in Red State, July 29 2010.

I Saw a Space Ship!

A highlight of my recent time in Florida had to be watching a space ship streak low across the sky early one morning. Not a UFO – a Rockwell/Boeing orbiter, hull number OV 103, named Discovery – was decelerating through Mach 7 as it passed some 80 miles to the East, trailing a bright luminous trail of ionized gas – plasma – as it shocked the air out of its way, heating it into the visible range and stripping it of its electrons. A full minute later the distinctive BOOM-boom announced its arrival in Florida airspace.

The 131st space transport system mission – STS-131 for short – was the last flight of Discovery, the oldest orbiter still flying. The swan song for Discovery was International Space Station resupply mission 19A. OV 103 has a proud history, including launching the Hubble Space Telescope; taking Senators Jake Garn and John Glenn into LEO (low Earth orbit) on separate flights; conducting five classified DoD missions; putting ten communications satellites into orbit and repairing five others; and launching five scientific spacecraft. Discovery made a total of 38 flights, completed 5,247 orbits, and spent 322 days operating outside the atmosphere, more than any other orbiter in the fleet.

Atlantis will fly its last mission in November (STS-132) and Endeavor its last in February (STS-133). After that, the American taxpayers will pay the Russian space agency $50 million per astronaut for lift into LEO (they charge $20 million to transport civilians into orbit). This will continue until the Orion spacecraft comes online. We will have voluntarily ceded leadership in space to the Chinese and Russians.

Sad that.


Pronounced KEN-ta-KEE, it’s an Iroquois word meaning “meadow land”, and I thought it appropriate because this is one of the Tea Party’s showcase races, and during the Founding Days, that is what the territory that is now Kentucky was called. Candidates for the US Senate are running for the seat of retiring GOP Senator Jim Bunning. Both parties selected their candidates in May 13 primaries.

John McCain carried Kentucky by 17 points over Barack Obama, 58% to 41%, in November 2008. As of March 4, when polling started on this race, 37% of Kentucky voters approved of the job President Obama was doing, and 59% disapproved. These findings include 20% who Strongly Approved and 49% who Strongly Disapproved. This gives President Obama a much lower job approval rating in Kentucky than he earns nationally (24% Strongly Approve; 41% Strongly Disapprove). Opposition to the healthcare plan proposed by the president and Congressional Democrats was much higher in Kentucky, too. Thirty-four percent (34%) favored the plan, with 18% who strongly favored it, and 61% were opposed, including 53% who are strongly opposed. Sixty-two percent (62%) of Kentuckians said a better strategy to reform healthcare would be to pass smaller bills that address problems individually. Thirty-two percent (32%) said the economy will be stronger a year from now, but 43% say it will be weaker. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Kentucky voters thought it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were not reelected this November. That’s the backdrop, and that’s why Kentucky was ripe for a conservative movement with which they could identify.

At that point in the race, Rand Paul, son of Texas Libertarian representative Ron Paul, and one of two Republican candidates, led Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General and one of two Democratic candidates, by 15 points, 49% to 34%. In that match-up, 4% preferred another candidate and 13% were undecided. Fast forward to May 19, after the primaries, General Conway held steady and Mr Paul bounced to a 59% to 34% lead, picking up the 10% of undecdideds that fell away: Some Other Candidate held at 4%, while Undecided dropped from 13% to 3%. President Obama’s strong approval ratings in Kentucky raised a point from 20% to 21%, while his strong disapproval rating raised by two to 51%. During that same period, the president’s strong approval national numbers raised by one, and his strong opposition raised by three. Nothing there to explain the draining of undecided Kentuckians to Rand Paul. Opposition to the national healthcare [by May 19] law in Kentucky remained higher in Kentucky than it is nationally: 65% favoring repeal and just 29% opposed. That’s up twenty points from March’s Strongly Disapprove numbers, and up eleven points from the Strongly Approve numbers. That matches Mr Paul’s bounce, but the rise in support for ObamaCare didn’t benefit General Conway’s numbers.

By late June, Mr Paul’s 25-point lead had melted to seven, 49% to 42%. Some Other Candidate dropped just one to 3%, but Undecided picked up three points to 6%. That leaves seven percent (7%) that moved from Mr Paul to General Conway. The president’s Strong Approval rating dropped one point to 24%; and his Strong Disapprove dropped three to 41%. Again, nothing there with which to attribute Mr Paul’s large swing. By this time, Kentuckians who favor repealing ObamaCare had dropped five points to 60%, while those opposed to repeal gained seven points to 36%. Those numbers include 44% who Strongly Favor repeal and 26% who Strongly Oppose it. Mr Paul receives 75% support from the former, while 72% who of the latter back General Conway, who’s best showing is a 43%-43% tie by the discredited Public Policy Polling firm, who had to admit to cooking their numbers to please their Democrat clients.

I’m carrying Kentucky as a Leans GOP, and would probably list it as Solid GOP except for Mr Paul’s rookie status – and as we are seeing daily, inexperience can find corporeal ways to squander abstract popularity. So far, the Kentucky Senate race seems driven more by issues and perceptions than by a direct opposition to President Obama. Mr Paul’s swings seem to mirror movement in Kentuckians’ views on issues, even if at greater amplitudes. This would make perceptions of Mr Paul’s ability to serve as a national representative of Kentucky the wild card in this race, and the Tea Party movement can make or break that perception.