Tuesday provided some of bits of reinforcement for a handful of generally accepted facts in American politics:
- Rick Santorum has virtually no chance of being the Republican nominee for president in 2012.
- Newt Gingrich has even less of a chance of doing so.
- Waukesha County (Wisconsin) still cannot count votes for shit.
Aside from that, this week underscored a number of prevailing trends that have developed over the course of this 2012 cycle. With each passing week, it becomes more and more apparent that Mitt Romney is both the inevitable Republican nominee and also a decidedly weak one. Furthermore, the locking down of the Republican nomination hasn't yet translated into any burgeoning support for Romney in a general election. Sure, that surge could still certainly come, but it certainly is not there yet.
Downballot, we got a genuine "WTF" moment in a key House race, a handful of Senate polls in races that may determine which party holds the majority post-2012, and some new numbers in Wisconsin's pending gubernatorial recall.
All that (and more!) in this week's slightly belated (for the Daily Kos Elections crowd, at least) holiday edition of the Weekend Digest.
THE BATTLE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
THE REPUBLICAN FIELD: On the GOP front, there hasn't been a great deal of change, and that is exceptionally poor news for Rick Santorum. While his numbers haven't cratered nationally, they have dipped notably in his home state of Pennsylvania, where one pollster (PPP) even has pulled Mitt Romney into a slight lead. What's more: other states that were at least in the ballpark for Santorum at one point (California and New York) are now pure blowouts. It raises an obvious question: if these polls are anywhere close to correct, how the hell does Rick Santorum stay relevant in this race?
The simple answer: he probably won't be.
And if Santorum isn't relevant, what the hell purpose does Newt Gingrich serve in this race? The answer: it gives Ron Paul's campaign someone in their weight class to beat in every primary, conceivably.
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney 41, Santorum 26, Paul 11, Gingrich 10LOOKING AHEAD TO NOVEMBER: President Obama, as has been the case for most of the GOP primary season, retains middling job approval numbers and considerably more robust general election numbers as we head into April. Those swing state numbers from Gallup noted the probable cause: an absolutely giant gender gap, with women favoring the Democrat by close to twenty points (Obama also comes close to breaking even with men).
NATIONAL (YouGov): Romney 29, Santorum 26, Paul 14, Gingrich 12
CALIFORNIA (SurveyUSA): Romney 44, Santorum 23, Gingrich 12, Paul 12
INDIANA (Howey Report/DePauw): Santorum 27, Romney 26, Gingrich 6, Paul 6
NEW YORK (Quinnipiac): Romney 54, Santorum 21, Gingrich 9, Paul 8
NORTH CAROLINA (Civitas Institute—R): Romney 23, Santorum 23, Gingrich 12, Paul 12
NORTH CAROLINA (High Point University): Romney 31, Santorum 25, Paul 15, Gingrich 12
PENNSYLVANIA (PPP): Romney 42, Santorum 37, Paul 9, Gingrich 6
PENNSYLVANIA (Quinnipiac): Santorum 41, Romney 35, Paul 10, Gingrich 7
PENNSYLVANIA (Rasmussen): Santorum 42, Romney 38, Paul 7, Gingrich 6
One cautionary note: the Civitas poll from North Carolina is a bit of a strange one. It was released earlier this week, but the poll's website says that it is their February poll. Which raises a rather obvious question: why in the heck do you release a poll 5-8 weeks later? To say these numbers might be a tad dusty would qualify as an understatement.
NATIONAL (Gallup): Obama d. Romney (49-45); Obama d. Santorum (51-43)
NATIONAL (Rasmussen): Obama d. Romney (47-44); Obama d. Paul (43-40); Obama d. Santorum (49-40); Obama d. Gingrich (48-38)
NATIONAL (YouGov): Obama d. Romney (47-44); Obama d. Paul (48-41); Obama d. Santorum (49-42); Obama d. Gingrich (51-38)
"CORE FOUR STATES"—FL/NC/OH/VA (Rasmussen): Obama d. Romney (47-44); Obama d. Santorum (47-44)
"SWING STATES"+ (Gallup): Obama d. Romney (51-42); Obama d. Santorum (52-41)
CALIFORNIA (SurveyUSA): Obama d. Romney (62-31); Obama d. Santorum (63-28); Obama d. Gingrich (64-26)
INDIANA (Howey Report/DePauw): Romney d. Obama (49-40); Santorum d. Obama (46-41)
MAINE (Maine People's Resource Center): Obama d. Romney (55-37)
MASSACHUSETTS (Univ of New Hampshire): Obama d. Romney (49-33)
MONTANA (Rasmussen): Romney d. Obama (49-40); Santorum d. Obama (48-41)
NEVADA (PPP): Obama d. Paul (49-42); Obama d. Romney (51-43); Obama d. Santorum (54-40); Obama d. Gingrich (54-39)
NEW YORK (Quinnipiac): Obama d. Romney (56-33); Obama d. Santorum (59-30)
NORTH CAROLINA (Civitas Institute—R): Obama tied with Santorum (47-47); Obama d. Romney (48-46); Obama d. Paul (46-42); Obama d. Gingrich (50-43)
NORTH CAROLINA (High Point University): "Generic Republican" d. Obama (47-42)
(+): Swing States defined by Gallup as the following twelve states--Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin
THE BATTLE FOR THE U.S. SENATE
AT THE POLLS: The rather large array of numbers this week at the Senate level generally is an exercise in confirmation. The ability of the Democrats to steal a Senate race in Indiana is directly incumbent upon the fortunes of the upstart challenger in the Republican primary. If Richard Mourdock pulls off the unthinkable, that race vaults onto the Democratic target list in a big way. Meanwhile, another unthinkable pickup depends, apparently, on the post-partisan moodiness of one Angus King. Because it is pretty damned clear that King is the bettor's choice down East. Aside from that, expect Massachusetts and Nevada to stay on the Democratic wish list (though both GOP incumbents have recovered somewhat), and expect New Mexico to be a Republican target (though Martin Heinrich seems to have a thin edge there).
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
CA-SEN (SurveyUSA): Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) 51, All Republicans 12, Other Democrats 2, Independent Candidates 2
IN-SEN (Howey Report/DePauw): Sen. Dick Lugar (R) 50, Joe Donnelly (D) 29, Andy Horning (Lib) 7; Joe Donnelly (D) 35, Richard Mourdock (R) 35, Andy Horning (Lib) 7
IN-SEN—R (Howey Report/DePauw): Sen. Dick Lugar 42, Richard Mourdock 35
MA-SEN (Univ of New Hampshire): Sen. Scott Brown (R) 37, Elizabeth Warren (D) 35
ME-SEN (Maine People's Resource Center): Angus King (I) 56, Charlie Summers (R) 22, Matt Dunlap (D) 12
ME-SEN—D (Maine People's Resource Center): Cynthia Dill 20, Matt Dunlap 17, John Hinck 6, Benjamin Pollard 2
ME-SEN—R (Maine People's Resource Center): Charlie Summers 28, Bruce Poliquin 12, Rick Bennett 7, Debra Plowman 6, Scott D'Amboise 4, William Schneider 4
MT-SEN (Rasmussen): Denny Rehberg (R) 47, Sen. Jon Tester (D) 44
NV-SEN (PPP): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 46, Shelley Berkley (D) 43
NM-SEN (Rasmussen): Martin Heinrich (D) 46, Heather Wilson (R) 42; Heather Wilson (R) 43, Hector Balderas (D) 42
NY-SEN (Quinnipiac): Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) 57, Robert Turner (R) 27; Gillibrand 58, Wendy Long (R) 25; Gillibrand 57, George Maragos (R) 23
NY-SEN—R (Quinnipiac): Turner 19, Long 11, Maragos 7
- This doesn't quite qualify as a "poll", so I moved it down here. But advocates for the campaign of Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch have done their own survey of potential delegates to the state GOP convention. Their numbers are somewhat troubling for the incumbent. Hatch locks down 50 percent of the delegates polled, while his chief rival, state legislator Dan Liljenquist at 19 percent. While that's a pretty solid lead, it falls below the automatic nomination level. What's more: the 31-point margin is significantly less than a 46-point lead last week in a similar survey of delegates. However, Hatch still looks decent for the nomination—should no one get 60 percent of the delegates, the race proceeds to a primary where Hatch would almost certainly be favored. His biggest fear is a replay of what happened to former Senate mate Bob Bennett—two other Republicans edging him for the golden tickets to the primary. These surveys make that scenario exceptionally unlikely.
- As the filing deadline closed this week in Tennessee, we finally see what the Tennessee Democratic Party meant when they said they were looking for nontraditional options, including those from the entertainment industry, to challenge freshman Sen. Bob Corker. Speculation quickly centered on names like country singer Tim McGraw (who has professed both affinity for the Democratic Party and some modicum of political ambition in the past). Instead, the Q rating is a little lower for the person the Tennessee Dems actually had in mind: Park Overall, a longtime fixture in Hollywood as a character actress, best known for her time on the comedy "Empty Nest" (1988-95). With even minimal effort, Overall would be the favorite in a field of eight Democrats that is simply teeming with "Some Dudes."
- This story out of Ohio was a coin flip between the Senate section and the "Air Ball" section, quite frankly. Dear lord, and I am not saying this because he's younger than me (and looks about 20 years younger), but man ... has Josh Mandel done anything to bolster the case that he is qualified to serve in the office to which he is already elected, to say nothing of the U.S. freaking Senate?!
THE BATTLE FOR THE U.S. HOUSE
AT THE POLLS: After a couple of thin weeks on the House polling front, we get a handful of numbers, both of the primary and general electoral variety. If there is a general theme that can be divined from these numbers, it would be that this does not, on the surface, appear to be a 2010 redux in the offing. Both Republicans in Maine run well behind the margins put up by their partisan cohorts a couple of years back (despite being, arguably, better candidates than the GOP offered up in 2010). Meanwhile, embattled New York Democrat Tim Bishop felt good enough about his chances to release an internal poll showing him up seventeen points on the man he barely defeated in the 2010 tsunami.
Meanwhile, here is both an exciting and potentially problematic scenario for Democrats. If the latest poll out of CA-30 (conducted for Brad Sherman) is legitimate, the GOP could easily get shut out in the new "top two" primary rules in place for the 2012 elections in the Golden State. That bit of "good news", however, is quickly offset by the fact that such a scenario means that Sherman and Berman would fight a rematch in November, and suck up a lot of available oxygen (to say nothing of cash) here in SoCal.
CA-30 (Feldman Group for Democrat Brad Sherman): Sherman 40, Howard Berman (D) 17, Mark Reed (R) 12, Susan Shelley (R) 5, Navraj Singh (R) 4, Michael Powelson (G) 2, Vince Gilmore (D) 1ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
ME-01 (Maine People's Research Center): Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) 61, Jon Courtney (R) 28
ME-02 (Maine People's Research Center): Rep. Mike Michaud (D) 53, Kevin Raye (R) 37
NY-01 (Global Strategy Group for Rep. Tim Bishop): Rep. Tim Bishop (D) 53, Randy Altschuler (R) 36
WA-01 (Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders for GOP candidate John Koster): John Koster (R) 37, Darcy Burner (D) 11, Laura Ruderman (D) 4, Steve Hobbs (D) 4, Suzan DelBene (D) 3, Roger Goodman (D) 1, Darshan Rauniyar (D) 1
- It's reasonably rare that this happens, but we had a post-primary retirement this week in downstate Illinois (IL-13). Veteran Republican Tim Johnson, whose district was made a bit tougher in redistricting, elected to step down after securing the Republican nomination in a primary late last month. Johnson cited family obligations, but other potential motivations have been bandied about from the left and the right. Down With Tyranny's Howie Klein offered via Twitter that Johnson was discouraged by polling post-primary pairing him with likely Democratic nominee David Gill. GOP operatives, to the contrary, posited midweek that it was Gill's primary victory that actually spurred the retirement in quite a different way: Johnson assuming that Gill can be beaten without his trappings of incumbency. Whatever the reason, Johnson is out, and the Republican Party can now begin the process of picking a replacement.
- Meanwhile, Maryland became the latest state to finalize their candidate rosters for November. In the lone targeted race in the state (MD-06), incumbent Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett was hugely underwhelming in winning his party nomination. Bartlett led a multi candidate field with just 43 percent of the vote. He will face Democratic financier John Delaney, who defeated state senator Rob Garagiola by a fairly wide 54-29 margin. In the lone "upset" of the night, the most well financed Democrat in the red-leaning MD-01 (a seat held by freshman Rep. Andy Harris) appeared to have lost his primary bid. Physician John LaFerla trailed fellow Democrat Wendy Rosen by 124 votes.
- More states have seen their filing deadlines come and go. As always, the crew at Daily Kos Elections has been on top of it, though we caution that the Colorado list appears to be incomplete.
THE BATTLE FOR THE STATE HOUSE
AT THE POLLS: Not a ton of polling this week, but what exists is pretty decent news for Democrats, save that North Carolina poll (which, remember, is actually pretty old by this point). Mike Pence, despite being considerably better known to Indiana voters than Democrat John Gregg, still is well under 50 percent, though he'd have to still be considered a betting favorite in November. This race, in some ways, is reminiscent of the 1996 gubernatorial race in Indiana, when Republican Steven Goldsmith (the mayor of Indianapolis) had a huge early lead over Frank O'Bannon (the state's Lt. Governor). As name recognition equalized, however, the margins narrowed. Could happen here, though O'Bannon was looking to replace a (then) popular Democratic governor, which is not the case here.
Meanwhile, with another new poll showing Democratic frontrunner Jay Inslee stronger than prior polling suggested, one has to really begin to wonder if his call to resign from the House was an inspired way to reignite his campaign. The lack of contrary data from GOP frontrunner Rob McKenna helps to convince me that Inslee has really clawed his way back into parity with the man that led him handily for most of the last few months.
IN-GOV (Howey Report/DePauw): Mike Pence (R) 44, John Gregg (D) 31, Rupert Boneham (Lib) 5ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
NC-GOV (Civitas Institute—R): Pat McCrory (R) 47, Bob Etheridge (D) 32; McCrory 49, Walter Dalton (D) 29, McCrory 48, Bill Faison (D) 28; McCrory 49, Dan Blue (D) 27
NC-GOV—D (Civitas Institute—R): Bob Etheridge 18, Walter Dalton 12, Dan Blue 5, Bill Faison 3
WA-GOV (Grove Insight for SEIU): Jay Inslee (D) 38, Rob McKenna (R) 34
WI-GOV (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner—D): Tom Barrett (D) 48, Gov. Scott Walker (R) 47; Gov. Scott Walker (R) 48, Kathleen Falk (D) 47
WI-GOV (Rasmussen): Recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) 52, Don't Recall 47
- Man, Republicans in Missouri have to be pissed at their fortunes, don't they? After the high-profile, slow-motion implosion of their former frontrunner, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, their new establishment pick, businessman Dave Spence, is also crapping the bed with astonishing frequency. This week's contributions: the revelation that, contrary to his earlier claims, he participated in a decision as a bank director to stiff the federal government by not paying back money the bank received as part of the 2008 bailout. Also, revelations of late tax filings, which his campaign weakly swiped at by saying that Missouri voters understand how gosh darned busy people get sometimes. And that was after Spence's greatest hit: claiming on his website to have an economics degree from Mizzou that turned out to be a home economics degree from that institution. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon might be the luckiest incumbent in America!
- Meanwhile, despite some decent polling (see above), there is also cause for Republicans to possibly feel a bit lucky in Wisconsin. The reason: a Democratic gubernatorial primary that may prove to be a little more worrisome than folks might have bargained for. The issue—labor, which has driven so much of the passion that has made Wisconsin possible, has a very clear preference for Kathleen Falk in this primary. Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who is arguably the Democratic frontrunner, has something of a mixed past with unions. While nobody doubts that they'd prefer any Democrat to Scott Walker, a recall like this is going to have depend on a hell of a lot of enthusiasm, especially given the paltry amount of time (four weeks) between the primary and the general.
- This week's installment of "every vote counts" comes from a special election this week in the great state of Oklahoma. In a state House special, the Democratic candidate (Dan Arthrell) appears to have flipped a previously Republican seat in the Tulsa area. By three votes. Needless to say, Republican opponent Katie Henke will be seeking a recount.
THE ELECTIONS DIGEST “AIR BALL” OF THE WEEK AWARD
This may well be the most diverse "air ball" cast we have seen in quite some time. We have a presumptive presidential nominee, a Democratic member of Congress, and a pair of Republican members of Congress, at least for the time being.
It's a smorgasbord of political inanity (and, by the way, a damned tough call) in this week's edition of the "air ball":
Rep. Steve King (R-IA): King, like his House colleagues Joe Walsh and Allan West, is such a bombastic fool that he probably merits his own wing in the "Air Ball" Ring of Honor. This week's contribution—a statement that might qualify as the dumbest comment on health care ... ever. You see, over the course of history, there have been people that have never spent a dime on health care. And they lived long lives. So, there. Of course, if you want to read the definitive discussion of King and his mania on the issue of health care, you simply must check out Hunter's contribution from Sunday Kos last week.
County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R-WI): In this age of unemployment that is still far too high, I have a lot of questions about how to find people jobs. But, after reading that Waukesha County, Wisconsin, jacked up the fairly simple process of tabulating votes in a high-profile election (yes...again), I have a different question: how the hell does this woman still have a job?! The belated counting in Waukesha, were it not for a few percentage points, could have been pivotal on Tuesday night. Waukesha essentially padded Romney's lead by three points. Can anyone imagine the shitstorm that would've ensued if the Romney-Santorum race took the same trajectory as the Prosser-Kloppenburg race in 2011? She will be handing over the vote counting duties for the recall elections to a deputy, but that seems like a small gesture. Election integrity in Wisconsin will continue to be an issue as long as her fingerprints are anywhere to be found.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (R-WI): Won't someone please think of the caterpillars?!
Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA): As always, Mittens is a fountain of "Air Ball" material. But, really, this recurring theme is always a favorite of mine: the Hater-ade over a certain institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The Harvard-bashing bullshit would be kinda dumb, in any event. Given the resources, most parents would go apeshit if their kid matriculated at Harvard. But it is even more asinine for this guy to keep getting after Obama for "spending too much time" at Harvard. Given that ... well, you know ... he spent more time there than Obama did, and paid out some of his vast family fortune to send three of his kids there. Well, I will say this—it does prove quite clearly that you don't have to be smart to go there!