Swing State Project came down with a rare case of Saturday Night Fever over the weekend, with regularly scheduled primaries in Louisiana and the Senate special primary in West Virginia.
• Louisiana: For a brief moment there, back in June, David Vitter vs. Chet Traylor looked like it was going to be a fascinating GOP primary. In the end, though, Traylor’s failure to raise money or increase his profile, along with Louisianans’ decidedly laissez-faire (or is it laissez-les-bons-temps-rouler?) approach to their politicians’ peccadilloes, let Vitter escape with an 88-7 victory. That’s actually better than Charlie Melancon’s 71% against no-name opposition.
Two House races also had some drama. In LA-02 the question was more one of whether state Rep. Cedric Richmond could avoid a runoff against Juan LaFonta, rather than whether he could get the most votes. In the end, he did, winning 60-21 — despite a late financial onslaught from a deep-pocketed LaFonta-backing attorney, Stuart Smith, who created an anti-Richmond PAC called Louisiana Truth PAC — and will face endangered GOP accidental incumbent Joe Cao in November. In LA-03, former state House speaker Hunt Downer was the presumed frontrunner, but barely even squeaked into a runoff with attorney Jeff Landry; Landry got 49.6% to Downer’s 36%. Maybe it’s not that surprising, as Downer got in late and Landry had been running and fundraising all cycle; also, Landry had the teabagger cred while Downer was dragged down by the twin lead zeppelins of “establishment” and “former Democrat.” Downer has shrugged off calls for him to withdraw and avoid prolonging the fight, so the battle in the runoff (for the right to face Dem Ravi Sangisetty) will be for those 14% of voters who went for fellow teabagger Kristian Magar.
• West Virginia: Not much drama was expected here, and none was to be found. Gov. Joe Manchin won the Democratic nomination against a challenge from the left from former Rep., former SoS, and former Truman (!) administration official Ken Hechler, 73-17. He’ll face John Raese, whom you may remember spending millions of his own money in 2006 to finish in the mid-30s against Robert Byrd. Raese won the 10-person GOP field, drawing 71%. (The only other GOPer to break double-digits, at 15, was Mac Warner, last seen losing the WV-01 primary this spring.)
The Alaska Libertarian Party will not swap its chosen nominee for Sen. Lisa Murkowski if she loses the GOP nomination.
“We have decided that we will not offer the nomination to Lisa Murkowski for the Senate seat, even if came to that, because of fundamental differences,” said Alaska Libertarian Party Chairman Scott Kohlhaas.
The prospect of getting a sitting United States Senator to change colors must have been a hard thing to turn down for a party that doesn’t even have any elected state legislators, but at the end of the day, it seems that the Libertarians had too many issues with Murkowski’s voting record. At the end of the day, though, this is good news for Democrats: polling has shown that Democrat Scott McAdams has the best shot against Miller in a two-way race. Of course, now the possibility exists that Murkowski could run as a write-in, should she lose the GOP nomination to Miller.
In other Alaska news, the latest updated tally of uncounted votes is now north of 25,000: 15,720 absentees, 663 early votes, and 9,117 questioned ballots. The Alaska DoE says that about 7,000 votes will be counted tomorrow, which should give us a good indication of just where this race will end up.
Meanwhile, Joe Miller sounds like a 2004-era tinfoil hatter, as his attorney is sounding the alarm over Murkowski supporters potentially tampering with the state’s “vulnerable” Diebold voting technology with their iPhones. God, this cat fud looks so tasty that even I may need to take a bite!
EPIC-MRA for Detroit Free Press (pdf)(8/21-23, likely voters, 6/12-15 in parentheses)
Virg Bernero (D): 29 (34)
Rick Snyder (R): 51 (49)
Undecided: 20 (17)
When Rick Snyder started looking, at the end, like he might win the GOP gubernatorial primary in Michigan, it raised an interesting question, given that Snyder was thoroughly dominant in pre-primary polls of the general election while the Dems were within striking distance of Peter Hoekstra and especially Mike Cox. Is it better to have a situation where, at the very worst, Michigan’s governor is a relatively sane, pleasant guy (albeit, at the end of the day, a Republican), or a situation where there’s a chance (though less than a 50% chance, given the nature of the year) of a Dem winning (but a greater than 50% chance of a truly odious creep being the next governor)? At any rate, once the dust settled on primary night, we were left with the former option, and now we’re seeing Snyder even further dominating Dem nominee Virg Bernero in polling. (The best post-primary result for the Dems actually comes from Rasmussen.)
The favorables tell pretty much the whole story here: Bernero’s “angry mayor” shtick doesn’t seem to be wearing well (he’s at 22/27), while Snyder’s post-partisan positioning gives him a remarkable 48/12 standing. Bernero — who over the weekend chose Southfield mayor Brenda Lawrence as his running mate, which should help a bit in terms of African-American support and presence in the Detroit area — may improve his numbers as he gets better-known, but it may be too late for him to do much to define Snyder. With that in mind, Swing State Project is moving this race to “Lean Republican” from “Tossup.”
Another day, another dose of protein-enriched cat fud from the bitter Republican ballot battle between Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski. This is what it’s all about, people.
The New Math: The Alaska Division of Elections announced over the weekend that they now have 23,472 ballots (and counting) to process. That number includes 13,740 absentee ballots (out of 16,000 that were requested), 9,069 questioned ballots, and 663 uncounted early votes. It bears repeating, of course, that not all of these ballots are Republican, and that some will inevitably be invalidated rather than counted. The first batch of votes will be counted on Tuesday, with additional counts on September 3rd and 8th. We don’t know how many votes will be counted tomorrow, but the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the DoE will determine the number at some point today.
Hope for Murkowski?: The Juneau Empire took a closer look at where the absentee ballots are coming from, and finds that a “slightly larger” portion of the absentees are coming from Murkowski-friendly areas:
Fear and Loathing in the Mat-Su Valley: Joe Miller’s sure been off to a great start in displaying Senatorial temperament, first getting nailed by us for comparing the Murkowski/Libertarian Party situation to prostitution and now snarling in the direction of the NRSC:
The biggest portion of the ballots remaining to be counted are absentees, which share some significant traits with a type of ballot that has already been counted: early ballots.
Both early votes and absentee votes were cast by voters who sometimes weren’t exposed to the last days of the campaign, which saw Sarah Palin making automated phone calls to Republican voters on behalf of Miller and Tea Party Express-funded ads making attacks on Murkowski.
While Miller won election-day voting 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent, Murkowski won 54.1 percent to 45.9 percent among early voters.
About three-quarters of the votes cast Tuesday were in the hotly contested Republican races for governor, lieutenant governor and senator. If that margin holds and the absentee votes mimic the early votes, that could eliminate Miller’s lead, the Empire’s analysis shows.
Also, a slightly larger proportion of the absentee votes come from areas where Murkowski ran strongly. Her strongest areas were in Southeast, where she was born, in Anchorage, which she represented in the Alaska Legislature, and in the Bush. Miller, from Fairbanks, was most strong in the Interior and the Mat-Su Valley.
Miller telephoned POLITICO Friday night, in an apparent preemptive strike against absentee-ballot challenges by Republican officials.
“We’re very disturbed over the fact that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has chosen to send a group of high-powered lawyers up here to Alaska to interfere with our election process,” Miller said.
“It appears that they’re trying to steal an election. The fact of it is, is that they only have one [goal], and it certainly is not the integrity of the election. It’s to skew the results against Joe Miller.” […]
“We’ve received calls from many people that have been queried – absentee voters who are asked who they voted for,” Miller said. “We believe that the votes ought to be counted appropriately, as they always have, without the interference of lawyers that are out there calling Alaskan voters to see how they voted, and without making challenges to the ballots.”
Way to make friends, Joe! Of course, Miller can publicly abuse the NRSC as much as he wants, and that organization will react as stony-faced as the Queen’s Guard staring down a throng of ill-mannered children. At the end of the day, the committee will offer their full support to Miller — should he be the nominee — but you can bet they’ll be grimacing on the inside if they need to do so.
In the Anchorage Daily News, Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto doubled down on the allegations, saying that the NRSC is engaged in a “nefarious” scheme to “throw out ballots” marked for Miller. I note with some amusement that Miller is accusing Murkowski of attempting to “pull an Al Franken”, while also drawing attention to the fact that one of Norm Coleman’s recount lawyers is apparently providing assistance to Murkowski. I guess the phrase “pulling a Norm Coleman” doesn’t have the same cachet in teabagger circles.
The Libertarian Option: Joe Miller’s tweet became a lot more famous than the article to which it was attempting to draw attention, but there was some good dirt in that particular Daily Caller article from Alaska Libertarian chair Scott Kohlhaas:
Scott Kohlhaas, state chairman for the Libertarian Party of Alaska, told TheDC that a number of things have to happen before any decision is made. “Rumors are flying but I really have no comment on them because, I mean, Lisa would have to decide to do it and then our candidate would have to decide to voluntarily step down [and] then our executive committee would have to vote on a decision.”
Kohlhaas said he has no illusions about the fact that Murkowski is not a Libertarian, but says that having her run as one would be a way to get more publicity for the Party and possibly help the Party gain seats in state legislatures. “There are 7,000 state legislative seats out there and we don’t have one,” he said. “As far as getting the name out there, this episode is doing that much better than any one state legislative seat would. And in terms of morale for our Party a state [senator] would be a real gain for us.”
At the end of the day Kohlaas recognizes that having Murkowski run as a member of the Libertarian Party would certainly “confuse some people because she is not libertarian.”
“But that happens all the time. Our job is to educate and get the philosophy out there,” he said. “If we decide to do this it will advance the Party and believe me we won’t do this for nothing.”
Kohlhaas said that it will ultimately be up to David Hasse to decide if he would be willing to step aside.
“Yesterday, he was inclined to do this but today maybe not,” Kohlhaas said.
A lot of “ifs” there, of course. Murkowski certainly has her share of supporters who would like to see her commandeer the Libertarian line, including Andrew Halcro, who says that he’s shelling out for a Dittman Research poll in order to see how Murkowski would do in a three-way race against Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams. (Of course, we’ve already seen a poll like that, but perhaps Dittman will find more encouragement for Murk.)
Facing the Nation: Miller appeared on CBS yesterday to give us all a taste of his overwhelmingly tea-stained agenda, and he had headlines like this one to show for it back home:
Miller: Alaska should forgo federal help
Uncle Ted this guy ain’t! Miller also stuck by his openness to privatize Social Security, moderating himself only to say that those who have paid into the program already can keep their benefits (this despite also suggesting that Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional). How magnanimous of him! Of course, that’s the kind of talk that tickles the erogenous zones of the nutters at the Club for Growth, and The Creative Team Who Brought You Bill Sali is now saying that they’ll direct fundraising dollars to Miller.
The Real Deal: Meanwhile, tacked on at the end of a piece on the booming salmon harvest up in Alaska, we have some more color on Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, who sounds like a staunchly reality-based dude:
At a press conference after the primary election, McAdams, who grew up in Petersburg, said commercial fishing “goes to the core of my identity.”
“I learned to read, write and reason in a town where 85 cents on the dollar came from commercial fishing,” McAdams said. “I spent five years as a deckhand working in fisheries throughout the state.
“I seined in Southeast, Kodiak, I hand-bait longlined in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. I have an appreciation and a great affinity for the lifestyle and the culture, and for the need for commercial fishing in our state.”
McAdams also picked up the endorsement of the Alaska AFL-CIO over the weekend (along with his fellow Democratic ticket-mates… and EFCA-backer Don Young). I’m looking forward to hearing more from and about McAdams once this Republican cat fud buffet is closed.
Research & Polling for the Albuquerque Journal (8/23-27):
Martin Heinrich (D-inc): 47
Jon Barela (R): 41
The good news is: Heinrich is in the lead, unlike his performance in that nasty SUSA poll from a month ago. The bad news is that this is a real race, and one that Democrats cannot afford to take for granted. After pasting the extremely hyped Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White by 11 points in 2008, few thought that Heinrich would be in trouble this cycle against a lesser-known foe. But you can’t ignore the numbers — this is what some would call “striking distance”.
Barela beats Heinrich among independents by 51-45 and takes 33% of the Hispanic vote. Unlike SurveyUSA, though, the unimaginatively-named Research & Polling finds Heinrich up on Barela by 20 points among 18-to-34 year-olds. If you recall, SUSA had Barela running ahead by three points among that demographic.
Meanwhile, we also have some pretty amazing NM-02 numbers:
Harry Teague (D-inc): 45
Steve Pearce (R): 42
I say “amazing” because the general vibes I’ve been getting from from this race haven’t been particularly strong for Teague. Teague trailed Pearce by two points in a PPP poll back in February, but the national (and local) mood has not improved since then. Teague did release an internal poll claiming a one-point lead on Pearce back in April (up from a 10-point Pearce lead a year ago), but we haven’t seen any additional polls until now.
Perhaps one factor moving the numbers for Teague is the $325K ad buy against Pearce by the Defenders of Wildlife. (The New Mexico Independent has their latest ad, if you’d like to watch it.) The fact that Teague is apparently hanging in there while so many frosh Dems are struggling to tread water is pretty remarkable.
Research & Polling Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal (8/23-27, no trend lines):
Diane Denish (D): 39
Susana Martinez (R): 45
Woof. Martinez wins a fifth of Democrats (including a quarter of Hispanic Democrats), 38% of independents (vs. 32% for Denish), and edges Denish among women by 42-41.
While Lt. Gov. Diane Denish looked like a solid player for the Democratic bench in New Mexico, Martinez’s cross-over appeal, Democratic disengagement, and the lingering baggage of Bill Richardson’s unpopularity are making this race a much tougher prospect for Democrats than was conceived a year ago.
Note: It’s unclear from the Journal’s article if this poll was of likely or registered voters. For Denish’s sake, let’s hope they were using an LV model…
Public Policy Polling (8/27-28, likely voters, no trend lines):
Scott McAdams (D): 39
Joe Miller (R): 47
Scott McAdams (D): 22
Joe Miller (R): 38
Lisa Murkowski (L-inc): 34
Scott McAdams (D): 28
Lisa Murkowski (R-inc): 60
Folks, we have ourselves a race here! In a head-to-head matchup against Miller, McAdams trails Miller by only 8 points — that’s about the best poll we’ve seen for a Alaska Democrat this cycle. McAdams holds 81% of Democrats (to Miller’s 73% of Republicans) and splits independents down the middle with Miller at 42% apiece. And that’s before most Alaskans are acquainted with McAdams! Joe Miller has a favorable rating that’s already underwater at 36-52, while McAdams is at 23-24, with 53% claiming “not sure”.
The poll also solidifies that this race would be dead in the water with Murkowski as the Republican nominee. Murkowski has stronger favorables among liberals than she does conservatives, and has a higher approval rating among Dems (52-41) than Republicans (47-47). In a three-way race as a Libertarian, Murkowski would take a plurality of independents (38%), a significant chunk of Democrats (28%) and nearly a third of Republicans (32%). As Tom Jensen notes, Democrats should actually be hoping that Murkowski does not pull the Libertarian trigger, as her supporters align behind McAdams by a 47-23 margin in a two-way race against Miller.
Of course, the dynamics of three-way races are always unpredictable, and as we’re seeing in Florida right now with Charlie Crist’s difficulties, they can present difficult needles to thread for the outsider candidate. However, for the time being, it would appear that Democrats should be hoping that Murkowski loses the final count — and that this stays as a two-way race.
A few posters asked me for the basis of my prediction that the Republicans would probably gain between 40 and 60 seats. While I lean closer to a number in the low 40s, I break down every seat that I could consider possibly at play in this environment based on the following factors:
1) Open Seat or Not
2) Seat that has been held by a Republican since 2003, but flipped to the Democrats since 2003
3) Seats that are represented by a Democrat, but voted for Bush and/or McCain
Here is how I break down the race per seat. I have this in a chart, but have had problems uploading it to the site. To view it in chart form click here.
11:32pm: One final update to play us out: The AP has indeed called a runoff for LA-03 (R). Jeff Landry must be gnashing his teeth at his 49.6% haul. Hunt Downer will probably have a hell of a time turning things around, having taken just 36.1%, and since I’d have to guess Kristian Magar is much more likely to endorse Landry. Still, this is probably good news for Dem Ravi Sangisetty in this long-shot race, since the runoff won’t take place until October 2nd! Anyhow, that ends the show.
11:07pm: Only a single precinct remains, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to bump Landry from 49.6% back up to 50. Runoff time!
10:50pm: Just three precincts are outstanding in LA-03, and Jeff Landry has fallen below the runoff line — to 49.6% of the vote. One precinct is left in Landry-friendly Jefferson, and another in Lafourche, which split its votes fairly evenly between Landry and Downer.
10:40pm: The AP also calls LA-02 for Cedric Richmond, and over in LA-03, I may have spoke too soon. There are still 10 Downer-friendly precincts left, all in Terrebonne Parish, in the remaining 14.
10:34pm: We’re up to 96% done in LA-03, and Landry is holding steady at 50.3%. Looks like Hunt Downer is finished.
10:30pm: Things are tiiiight in LA-03, where Jeff Landry must hold the line at 50.2% (with 82% reporting) in order to avoid a runoff.
10:26pm: As noted in the comments, WWL-TV has called LA-02 for Cedric Richmond. With 21% in, Richmond has 63% of the vote. I’ll keep an eye on that one for a little longer, though.
10:14pm: We’re up to 11% of precincts in LA-02, and Richmond’s rolling with a 63-16 lead over LaFonta.
10:11pm: Chalie Melancon has won the Dem Senate nod in Louisiana. The AP has called the race for him, with 67% of the vote.
10:04pm: Landry now has a 52-33 lead on Downer with 43% in.
10:00pm: The AP has called the GOP Senate nod for David Vitter.
9:45pm: What a Downer! Landry now has a 51-37 lead on Downer with about 10% in.
9:43pm: Richmond’s now up to a 63-19 lead on LaFonta with 9% in. This is good news for Dems so far.
9:38pm: In LA-02, which is, from my perspective, the race with the most at stake tonight for Team Blue, Richmond now leads LaFonta by 58-20 with 6% of precincts reporting.
9:34pm: With six precincts reporting in the 3rd, Landry leads Downer by 48-44. Ultrabagger Kristian Magar has 9%. Whether or not this one goes to a runoff could be a close call.
9:30pm: Thanks to GOPVoter in the comments, we have some actual LA-02 results (neither the AP nor the SoS are reporting anything there so far). With 4% of precincts reporting, Cedric Richmond leads Juan LaFonta by 56-22, a few points above the runoff threshold.
9:19pm: Chet Traylor has surged all the way up to 8%, vastly exceeding expectations. In the 3rd, Landry has a 52%-38% lead on Downer, but we’re only looking at a couple hundred votes there so far.
9:08pm: With one precinct reporting (check out the LA SoS site), Melancon has 71% and Diaper Dave is at 92%. In the 3rd, Landry leads Downer by 3 votes.
9:02pm: Polls have now closed in Louisiana. This thing is about to go off.
8:51pm: It’s time to send this race to a farm upstate. The AP has called the GOP Senate nod for ’06 loser John Raese. He’s winning with 72% of the vote — a nearly equal share (in terms of %, not raw vote total) to Manchin’s 73%.
8:31pm: You don’t need money. You don’t need fame. You may not even need a credit card to ride the Ken Hechler train, but that’s a one-way express to nowhere. The AP calls the Dem Senate nod for Gov. Joe “The Manchine” Manchin. No call yet for the Republicans, even though Raese is cruising with nearly 70% of the vote.
8:11pm: I’m smelling an upset brewing. With almost 1% of precincts in, Hechler is hot on Manchin’s heels at 73-19.
7:55pm: And we’re off! A batch of early votes from Marion County are in, and Joe Manchin leads Ken Hechler by 83-10. (Stunner.) For the GOP, John Raese leads Mac Warner by 63-17.
Polls are now closed in West Virginia, where fireworks are about to go off as Joe Manchin faces off against the formidable 95 year-old Ken Hechler for the special Democratic Senate primary. Polls in Louisiana will close at 9pm Eastern.