The Political Forecast & Review
March 2, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Though Mitt Romney captured both the Michigan and Arizona primaries earlier in the week, his result in the Wolverine State, the place where he grew up and his father served as Governor, only gave him a tepid margin of victory over Pennsylvania former Sen. Rick Santorum, and no advantage in delegates won.
Arizona is another interesting case. Though Romney won convincingly here, the delegation could be the subject of a challenge should the nomination fight remain in doubt all the way to the Republican National Convention scheduled for Tampa, FL in late August. According to RNC rules, no state may award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis until after Super Tuesday, March 6th. Arizona doing so will likely subject their contingent of delegates to a challenge, and one that could be successful.
Now the presidential campaign turns to eleven states that will vote beginning Saturday in Washington, and continue through the Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota caucuses on Tuesday in addition to voters in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia going to the polls to participate in primaries. Romney is a lock in Massachusetts and Virginia (only he and Rep. Ron Paul qualified for the ballot), and probably in Vermont. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appears to be leading in his home state of Georgia, while Santorum is well ahead in critically important, and manufacturing oriented, Ohio, while also performing well in Oklahoma and Tennessee. The four caucus vote states appear as wild cards.
If the Super Tuesday vote splits, as is likely at this writing, then the candidates will move forward to the next round of voting, only slightly closer to seeing a break-out candidate building momentum toward locking down the nomination.
A wild week of happenings occurred in Senate races, mostly confined to two states. In Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe shocked the political world with her announcement that she will not seek re-election later in the year. Immediately, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud began circulating nominating petitions for the Senate seat, but then backed away two days later and announced he would seek re-election to the House instead of running statewide.
Maine’s other Democratic Representative, Chellie Pingree, will likely run. Former Gov. John Baldacci is also publicly considering the race, as is Independent former Gov. Angus King. Republicans have been slow to enter the race to replace Snowe but state Senate President Kevin Raye, already in the 2nd District congressional race against Michaud, may jump to the statewide campaign.
But it is King who could be the most intriguing of the contenders, should he decide to run. Maine is known to elect Independent candidates to high public office, so the fact the former Governor would run as a side option is not a problem, as it is before some electorates. One key advantage for King is that, as an Independent, he does not have to officially file to run until June. The major party candidates must declare their intentions by March 15th, though that deadline could conceivably be extended. King is a viable statewide candidate and his presence would set up a very interesting three-way race.
In Nebraska, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), who two weeks ago said he would not attempt a political comeback, reversed course and is now in the race. Though the former Senator has not lived in the Cornhusker State since departing politics in 2001, he will still be a serious candidate. Republicans are now only slight early favorites to convert this seat, held by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D) for the past twelve years. The Democrats are very much back in the battle here and again have the potential to win.
Both of these developments make it much harder for the Republicans to capture the Senate majority in November. In this context, it was a good week for Senate Democrats.
The big news for House races, and it was a welcome development for the GOP, is the special three judge federal redistricting panel releasing the revised Texas congressional map. The directives from the U.S. Supreme Court that were the basis for the justices rejecting the previous judicially constructed plan were adopted in this new map and that will benefit Republicans. Should freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) hold his marginal district, the GOP would likely win a 25-11 majority within the 36-district plan.
The map is not yet final, however, since the San Antonio trio of federal judges did not issue an order with the plan’s release. That will come later after expected challenges are heard and ruled upon. Still, this new map is likely what will be used for the 2012 elections and we are a giant step closer to seeing the Texas re-mapping process finally draw to a close. It is also likely that the Texas primary, originally scheduled for March 6th but then moved to April 3rd, will now occur on May 29th, with a subsequent run-off election for candidates not securing a majority of their respective vote on July 31st.
Jim Ellis is a professional election analyst who has worked in national campaign politics and grassroots issue advocacy since 1978. He currently writes and speaks as a member of the PRIsm Information Network.