The Political Forecast & Review
April 6, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Once again, Massachusetts former Governor Mitt Romney won a series of primaries - this week in Maryland, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia - but his victory percentages were unimpressive.
In DC, without Pennsylvania former Sen. Rick Santorum on the ballot, Romney racked up 70%. But, in neighboring Maryland with all candidates eligible but no one spending any money to contest Mr. Romney, his winning percentage still fell below 50%. So, despite no one else actively campaigning, 51% of the Maryland Republican primary voters chose a candidate other than Romney. In Wisconsin, clearly the most important primary of the day, the former Governor scored a 43-38% win over Santorum but again a majority (57%) of the voters supported a candidate other than the presumed front runner.
Next, the campaign moves on to Mr. Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, which is clearly a must-win for the Keystone State’s favorite son. Also that day, four places where Romney should perform strongly, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New York, will also host their presidential primaries.
The delegate count continues to tell the story of this nomination effort. Romney’s performance on Tuesday keeps him moving toward securing the 1,144 delegates he needs to become the Republican standard bearer, but he is only barely ahead of the minimum pace needed to obtain the necessary number of delegate votes.
Nineteen states remain to vote, including big states such as the aforementioned Pennsylvania and New York, along with North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas, and California. This race is likely to touch all 56 states and territories before it concludes.
Three new polls were released this week in states featuring Senate races projected as toss-ups. The survey conclusions support such a designation in each case.
We begin in Montana, where first-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) is in a tight battle with At-Large Congressman Denny Rehberg (R). Because the state has only one congressional seat, Rehberg has actually won many more statewide races (7; six in Congress and one for Lt. Governor) than Sen. Tester. The new Rasmussen Reports poll taken on April 2nd gives the Republican challenger a 47-44% lead.
Staying in the west, Public Policy Polling tested the Nevada Senate race featuring appointed incumbent Dean Heller (R) and Las Vegas Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D). PPP was in the field during the March 29-April 1 period and talked to 553 Nevada registered voters through automated interviews. The sample size is small and the contacts were made over a weekend, which tends to cast dispersions over reliability and accuracy. But, the results do appear to be in line with the findings of other polls. PPP’s results: Sen. Heller leading 46-43%.
In the southwest, New Mexico is another state that often features toss-up elections. This year’s Senate race again falls into the swing category as Republicans feature former Albuquerque Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is a strong statewide general election candidate. Against the man who now has her House seat, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), Wilson trails 42-46%. Paired against the other Democratic candidate, state Auditor Hector Balderas, Wilson is staked to a one-point 43-42% advantage.
Expect all three of these races to remain close throughout the election cycle and be the source of many political stories between now and November.
Another retirement occurred this week in the House as six-term Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL-15), despite winning his re-nomination election on March 20th, withdrew from the race and will exit Congress at the end of the year.
The surprise announcement comes with the Democrats still trying to determine a winner from their own March 20th primary. With military and overseas ballots being held for tabulation purposes until April 20, 2010 congressional nominee David Gill, a physician, leads Greene County State’s Attorney Matt Goetten by 143 votes. It is probable that Gill will hold on.
Without Johnson in the race, all of the GOP county chairmen comprising the new 13th District’s territory will caucus and choose a new nominee to replace the retiring Congressman. One possible option is turning to Bill Brady, a former state Senator who came within one point of defeating Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in the 2010 statewide general election. Brady ran for Congress the last time this seat was open, losing to Johnson who was then a state Representative. At that time, the district was numbered 15.
The marginal nature of the new 13th District, which starts in the Bloomington-Normal area and then travels southwest to pick up Decatur and Springfield before going all the way to the Missouri border, could make this campaign a highly competitive one in November.
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.