The Battle for America 2010: State-by-State Roundup, 9-15-10 (Texas added)

CALIFORNIA

Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate

Tim Daniel reporting:

While controversy in the Delaware primary is garnering a majority of headlines, plenty of interesting news stories hit the wires this week in California.

First off, the nation's best-funded business advocacy group, the United States Chamber of Commerce, came out swinging in an ad campaign focused on Barbara Boxer.

Many political observers today question "what Congress is smoking these days." Perhaps we know now, as a Boxer senior aid was busted with pot in a Senate office building. There's precedent too -- in 2008 Boxer's senior policy adviser Jeffrey Rosato was busted for child pornography.

Are Fiorina's Farmers Boxer's Dead Fish? This week Carly Fiorina addressed a group of San Francisco tea party activists, noting a key weakness in Barbara Boxer land -- her connection to the Central Valley farmer water shutoff/Endangered Species Act controversy.

Nancy Pelosi, Witch Hunt -- Polling shows him trailing far behind in California's 8th Congressional District, but John Dennis came up with a very clever ad portraying Nancy Pelosi as a Wizard of Oz-inspired "Wicked Witch of the West." The Pelosi camp actually took the ad lightheartedly, and we are looking forward to many more in this series leading up to the November election.

CONNECTICUT

Key Race: US Senate, McMahon (R) vs Blumenthal (D)

Jane Genova reporting:

Connecticut Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, has 53% of likely voters versus former WWE executive Linda McMahon’s 44%, according to the latest Rasmussen poll .  Since March, his poll numbers have ranged from 48% to 60%. Hers had been stuck in the 30s until May, when the New York Times disclosed that Blumenthal had misrepresented his military service.

Overall, current poll numbers show Blumenthal not at the top of his game. This is despite his high-profile victory in removing adult services from Craigslist, heavily covered on Connecticut television. A setback might be that his court win in keeping Pratt & Whitney high-paying jobs in Connecticut seems to be falling apart. The company has been reducing headcount through individual layoffs versus the earlier plan to relocate those jobs out-of-state.

McMahon’s shot at winning is excellent if GOP voters show up on election day. She’s backed by 75% of the state GOP, while Blumenthal is backed by 83% of state Democrats. Recent national polls, ranging from Gallup to NBC/Wall Street Journal, show two things. One is that the GOP could lead with its largest popular vote margin since the 1920s. Two is that registered GOP voters, who usually have a larger number of actual voters than Democrats, are expected to turn out to vote in order to show their disapproval of President Barack Obama.

Interestingly, McMahon’s TV ads have added gravitas. There had been an oddball one which had her close friend, an upper-middle class woman, gushing about McMahon’s great sense of humor and how she knows how to laugh. More recently, the candidate has been depicted in TV commercials as less gregarious and less a member of the privileged class. The ad's focus is on jobs and the content more inclusive of class, race, and ethnic origins.

Blumenthal could lose some of his momentum as a populist now that the Connecticut alternatives noted last week that, just like McMahon, he resides in elite Greenwich. The wealth is from his wife’s family real estate holdings, which include the Empire State Building.

FLORIDA

Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate

Stephanie Maier reporting:

As Florida’s gubernatorial campaign begins the home stretch, campaigns on both sides of the aisle are still providing few real answers as to what will bring the state out of its current financial crisis. Corporate millionaire and Republican candidate Rick Scott promises to sell the state’s jet as a cost-cutting measure, a move that is still debated by Tallahassee officials such as Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson (R), who claims that the sale would severely limit the practical need of government officials to navigate Florida’s large terrain when dealing with emergencies and other official business.

Democrat Alex Sink’s latest television ad accuses Rick Scott of focusing on negative attacks against Obama instead of on Florida’s economic crisis. The Scott campaign says the attacks are necessary because the Obama economic plan is part of the problem in Florida rather than the solution. In a burst of enthusiasm, Scott’s running mate, Rep. Jennifer Carroll (Jacksonville), said last week in a visit to Lakeland’s Republican headquarters that she and Rick Scott were “Batman and Robin, the dynamic duo.”

Both the Scott and Sink campaigns continue to duck the pervading issue as to how they will fix the broken state procurement system responsible for managing one billion dollars in annual contracts.

ILLINOIS

Key Race: U.S. Senate, Kirk (R) vs. Giannoulias (D)

Bill Baar reporting:

Last week found Alexi Giannoulias throwing a protectionist punch at Mark Kirk over jobs to China. A fan at Illinois’ Capital Fax blog said of Alexi’s jab: "Blaming China is kind of like complaining about the bartender who over-served you and let you run a tab. Who’s the problem?"

Kirk opened with an appeal as the "Lame Duck Killer" to Illinois’ ticked-with-Kirk conservatives. He told them to please remember they’ll be voting twice for U.S. senator: once to immediately fill the court-ordered Roland Burris vacancy, and the other to be sworn in January 2011. Put Kirk in that Senate-Duck blind and he’ll bag those Lame-Ducks before winter’s migration.

No punches landed though, or appeals much heard: both candidates are still polling well under 50%.

Kirk’s best hope may be coattails from the once too-conservative-for-Illinois-voters state Senator Bill Brady. Brady’s race against the reformer, and now hapless, Governor Pat Quinn is becoming part of Sean Trende’s miracle in the Rust Belt:

"Even in Illinois, probably the bluest state in the region, Rasmussen Reports now has Republican Bill Brady, a conservative Republican, leading incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn 50 percent to 37 percent."

A Brady-wave might surf Kirk over these inconclusive bouts with Giannoulias.  Who would have thought a social conservative could have done that for Kirk in Illinois?

MARYLAND

Key Race: GOP Gubernatorial Primary, Bob Ehrlich vs. Brian Murphy

Michael Swartz reporting:

The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least in Maryland. Unlike neighboring Delaware, the Tea Party hasn't made inroads on statewide election results.

All congressional incumbents won their primaries easily, as did longtime Senator Barbara Mikulski. The only question remaining among statewide races seems to be who will face Mikulski -- the battle of 11 contestants for the GOP U.S. Senate bid is coming down to either Jim Rutledge or Eric Wargotz. Both tried to outconservative the other, and early on it's a seesaw battle both have led at times. Wargotz has more notoriety for the “political insidersaurus” commercial, but Rutledge counters with more grassroots support.

But even Sarah Palin couldn't help upstart candidate for governor Brian Murphy, who was soundly defeated by former Governor Bob Ehrlich by about a 4:1 margin.

Leading the GOP charge for Congress will be Andy Harris in the First District against vulnerable first-term Congressman Frank Kratovil. Harris has easily dispatched challenger Rob Fisher and takes on Kratovil, who was the lone Democratic incumbent congressman to not draw a primary opponent.

MISSOURI

Key Race: U.S. House, MO-4

Ex Notitia Vera reporting:

Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton (D) has glided into his 4th District D.C. seat since 2000 with an average 67% of the vote.  Skelton’s district includes two military bases (Whiteman AFB and Fort Leonard Wood), and he has wisely paid close attention to them, evidenced by the VFW’s recent endorsement.  But within Skelton’s district is also a huge swath of the passionately conservative southwestern Missouri quadrant.

The voters in this chunk of geography are in a disposition well beyond their normal fervent conservativism. In the primaries, they summarily rejected two respected (establishment) state senators to replace Congressman Roy Blunt (7th District) in favor of Billy Long (R), a recognized businessman but political newbie.

This sentiment is rapidly creeping district wide and Skelton’s Republican opponent, Vicky Hartzler, endorsed by Sarah Palin, is mining it for votes. With success. According to an 8/17 WeAskAmerica poll, Hartzler has snuck up to within 3% of Skelton (45%-42%).  The internals show Hartzler with surprising support among Dems (15%) and significant support from indies (41%).  “Independents are no different than Republicans -- and many Democrats, I might add,” Hartzler points out. “They’re tired of Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, and Skelton has voted 94% of the time with her. That’s got to stop.”

Apparently the wavering independents are making Skelton’s campaign edgy. Here’s their website header: “Ike Skelton stands up for our men & women in uniform & is an independent voice for the people of rural Missouri.” Like Dems nationally, Skelton appears to be running from his party; nowhere on his website does he say which one he belongs to.

Ex Notitia Vera is a Tea Party leader in the state of Missouri.

NEVADA

Key Race: U.S. Senate, Angle (R) vs. Reid (D)

John Ransom reporting:

Polls this week still show conservative grassroots favorite Sharron Angle neck and neck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Nevada U.S. Senate race. While that’s good news for Angle’s up-and-down campaign, Republicans are beginning to worry that Angle is running out of chances to put Reid away.

Last week, Angle suffered more setbacks, at least one of them self-inflicted.

Angle backed out of a scheduled debate with Harry Reid to be hosted by Las Vegas columnist Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun. The schedule snafu made for several days of back-and-forth, he-said-she-said between Ralston and the Angle campaign. Not to be outdone by the cross-town rivals, the Angle campaign also picked up the endorsement of the Las Vegas Review Journal, but then got sued by the LVRJ for copyright infringement. The Angle campaign apparently posted the endorsement in its entirety on the campaign website. The LVRJ is suing 86 websites for similar copyright infringements.

As other Republican challengers in other U.S. Senate races enjoy high single- and double-digit leads, some GOPers are getting concerned about the Angle race, while others are a little more sanguine.

“The Reid-Angle race will be one of the races where the gap of undecided voters comes in late,” said Alfredo Rodriquez, a principal with Marsh Copsey Associates, a Republican political consulting firm. “Reid can’t avoid taking responsibility for Obama’s failed economic policies that have given Nevada triple digit unemployment, record foreclosures and record bankruptcies. I think come November 2nd Harry Reid will lose.”

A win against Reid would not just be a stinging rebuke to Obama’s legislative program, which has been carried by the Senate majority leader from Nevada; it could also help secure a new conservative majority in the U.S. Senate. It would probably also help the challenger in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Joe Heck, defeat freshmen Democrat Dina Titus, expanding what’s widely anticipated to be a Republican takeover of the U.S. House.

PENNSYLVANIA

Key Race: U.S.. Senate, Pat Toomey (R) vs. Joe Sestak (D)

Joe Wilson reporting:

Joe Sestak, keenly aware that he trails in every poll, has upped the ante in his ads. He has finally focused on his own positives (primarily relating to his long and distinguished military career), and bringing in former President Clinton to campaign for him; he has also requested the first lady, rather than President Obama, join him on the campaign trail in October. Given Clinton’s considerable popularity in the state, and Obama’s lack of it, especially outside the Philadelphia metro area, these are shrewd moves.

Still, Sestak cannot resist meaningless attack ads on Toomey, ads that inevitably backfire by raising issues that evanesce upon inspection. In his latest attempt, he has resurrected comments made by Toomey in 2007 on abolishing corporate taxes. Sestak’s folly abounds if he thinks that those remarks will offend anyone save Pelosi and Obama’s most ardent fellow travelers. Sensible Pennsylvanians, exhausted by years of reckless spending in Harrisburg and D.C., are seeking politicians eager to reduce spending rather than to enhance revenue, especially with the state looking for ways to fill another projected budgetary shortfall.  Sestak would be better served if he did not do Toomey’s campaigning for him.

Toomey, for his part, needs to avoid complacency. His fairly significant poll leads in Reuters/Ipsos, PPP, and Rasmussen, reflect polling data for likely voters. Toomey will have to campaign hard to guarantee a strong turnout among the Republican faithful, independents, and moderate Democrats. He has picked up another key endorsement, from former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and he has been able to counter Sestak’s laughable effort to portray himself as a maverick within the Democratic Party (Sestak has voted with Pelosi about 98% of the time). If Toomey keeps his base energized and lets Sestak’s own record undo the Democrat, he should deliver the Senate seat to the Republicans without too much difficulty.

VIRGINIA

Key race: U.S. House, VA-5: Hurt (R) vs. Perriello (D)

Mary Beth Niemeyer reporting:

Behold Republican challenger Robert Hurt’s first TV spot:

This is an answering salvo to incumbent Tom Perriello’s “Jobs” ad, and the viewer walks away with two primary impressions:

1) Robert Hurt likes to sit in the dark by himself staring at black and white pictures which for some reason have been scanned into a Carter-era movie projector.

2) At some point in the past couple of weeks or so, Washington, D.C., transformed into Edwardian-era London.

Not to be outdone, Perriello, who apparently is too big for just one Internet, has updated his campaign website with a somewhat terrifying section intoning “TOM EVERYWHERE.”  I’m fairly sure this is supposed to inspire a sense of technological superiority, which might be more effective if the Twitter button weren’t leading to YouTube, and the YouTube button pointing to Twitter.

Update:

TEXAS

Key Races: Governor, US House Districts 17, 23, 29

Kristin Esparza reporting:

As Election Day in the Texas governor’s race draws near, voters in second largest state are left wondering if either candidate is interested in truly taking a leadership role, or just running against the opponent. The incumbent Republican Rick Perry, refuses to debate his opponent Democrat Bill White until the former Houston mayor releases his personal income tax records. To which White has replied that he would “debate an empty chair.” Perry, the longest serving governor in the state, may not need the debate. The latest Rasmussen numbers show the governor holding onto his office with a 49% lead over White’s 41%.

Tired of the back and forth politics between the GOP and the Dems, or the game of ‘chicken’ as one commentator noted,  it looks as if Texas voters are increasingly being attracted by the Tea Party. A recent University of Texas poll found that as many as 31% of registered voters in Texas consider themselves a part of the movement.

In Texas congressional district 29 however, Roy Morales is leading a GOP mission with his campaign entitled “Take America Back.” In a primary upset, Morales garnered 58% of the vote from a base that is 63% Hispanic showing that in Texas, Hispanics are often surprise voters.

Another turn in the state is occurring in district 17 where Bill Flores, a Republican new-comer is challenging six year democratic incumbent, Chet Edwards who began his career in the early 1980’s in the State Senate. At one point Chet Edwards was considered such a strong candidate, that it was speculated he was being considered as Obama’s running mate.

Flores is jumping aboard the anti-status quo bandwagon, and the first line of his campaign website reads, “[W]e are limited government conservatives who are deeply troubled by the direction Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are taking our country.”  Current numbers have Flores winning by a margin of between 2-3% which would provide another Hispanic candidate for Republicans.

With weeks still left to Election Day, the state of Texas looks to be solidifying its role in congress as a Red state. The few remaining blue districts are turning, Hispanic voters are changing the way they cast their ballots, and in sporadic districts across the state constituents are beginning to favor more conservative candidates in favor of long-standing incumbents.