Evans-Novak Political Report

Breakdown of Final Primaries Shows Some Hope for Clinton

Outlook

 

  1. The overriding question in the Democratic presidential contest is whether Sen. Barack Obama(D-Ill.) has overcome the slump resulting from the controversy about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s (D-N.Y.)supporters are hoping for further controversy to slow down the Obama express.
  2. It is clear now that the nominee will be selected by the super-delegates prior to the Denver convention late in August. They will be guided in no small part by polls to determine which candidate is more electable. It is not the happy choice between two acceptable candidates it seemed a month ago. Rejecting Obama risks alienating the vital African-American vote. Accepting him is increasingly seen among Democrats as a risk.
  3. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is benefiting from the Democratic distress, but he and his campaign are a long way from being organized for the general election. He is being advised to lay off the "straight talk," such as admitting that he does not know much about the economy. McCain has made a decision not to craft the platform to his own wishes and to let it stand. He won’t make the mistake Bob Dole did in ’96.
  4. McCain won’t pick a running mate any time soon. But the front-runner in the VP derby may be Rob Portman — former Ohio congressman, former U.S. trade representative and former OMB director. He appears to have fewer negatives than any other possibility.
  5. McCain’s big problem is fundraising. He raised in all of February what Obama raised in a week. Does this reflect delayed acknowledgement of McCain’s securing the nomination, or does it reflect real Republican luke-warmness about their candidate?
  6. The conventional wisdom among Republicans is that they would much rather run against Clinton than Obama. But McCain insiders see Obama as more vulnerable to McCain than Clinton in the West, partly because of the Hispanic vote — in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

 

Democratic Presidential

Future Primaries: Nine states plus Puerto Rico have primaries or caucuses remaining. Here is an early glimpse at these contests:

Pennsylvania, April 22, 158 Delegates: In one glance, you can see this is Clinton country. Like Ohio, Pennsylvania is more geriatric, more female and whiter than America as a whole. It also has a stagnant population and in many places a stagnant manufacturing economy (or former manufacturing economy).

Obama can call on the black vote in Philadelphia and the liberal white Democrats in the collar counties. Offsetting Obama’s natural advantage in the suburbs is Gov. Ed Rendell‘s endorsement of Clinton. Rendell, former Philly mayor and long-time Clintonista, won many of these socially liberal, fiscally moderate voters over to the Democratic Party.

Clinton has long held a large lead in polls here, and that lead has slightly expanded since her March 6 victories. Clinton could make a big dent in Obama’s national lead here, possibly netting 30 delegates. On the other hand, it’s possible that Obama could end the race with an upset win here. Likely Clinton.

Indiana, May 6, 72 Delegates: This, too, is Clinton turf. This is a shrinking state in many ways, with many ethnic white Democrats worried about the economy. Demographically, the state is not as bad for Obama as Ohio or Pennsylvania are, but it’s still an uphill climb.

The black population is not huge (9 percent) and the pool of white liberals is also limited, with a pocket in Bloomington. On the other hand, the elderly population and female population are on par with the rest of the country.

Sen. Evan Bayh, the state’s leading Democrat, has lined up behind Clinton. Chances are that the delegates here will break fairly evenly, with neither candidate getting a significant bump. However, coming on the same day as the North Carolina primary, this one will matter for spin purposes, which are crucial for Clinton at this point.

The media presentation of this as a fair-fight, 50-50 state helps Clinton spin this. Leaning Clinton.

North Carolina, May 6, 115 Delegates: Clinton is eyeing the Tar Heel State as a major upset possibility, and the polls are becoming muddled.

By all rights, Obama should win here. This is a fast-growing state with both a large university population (in the Research Triangle and elsewhere) and a large black population (22 percent). While there are pockets of depressed manufacturing, the economy is, in general, doing well.

Overall, Obama holds significant leads in polls here, but few of the surveys are reliable, and the reliable ones show him below 50 percent. If he ends up losing here, it will reflect a serious swing in momentum, exactly the fodder Hillary needs to win over super-delegates nationwide. Leaning Obama.

West Virginia, May 13, 28 Delegates: Clinton figures to dominate here. She could possibly gain a net of 10 delegates. Likely Clinton.

Kentucky, May 20, 51 Delegates: This white rural state without much of a liberal base leans strongly towards Clinton. Obama’s chances here are slim. Likely Clinton.

Oregon, May 20, 52 Delegates: Oregon, packed with West Coast liberals, leans towards Obama. There are no recent Clinton-vs.-Obama polls here, but the general election polls show his advantage (he beats McCain, while she loses to McCain). Leaning Obama.

Puerto Rico, June 1, 55 Delegates: This contest has been moved from June 7 to June 1 and changed from a convention to a primary. Clinton is the favorite here because neither of Obama’s bases have a presence. There are no reliable polls of the island, though, and Gov. Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá and his Popular Democratic Party are backing Obama. Leaning Clinton.

Montana, June 3, 16 Delegates: A conservative state with liberal Democrats, like much of the Mountain West this state tilts towards Obama. Leaning Obama.

South Dakota, June 3, 15 Delegates: Obama won every state that borders South Dakota, and he is the early favorite here. Leaning Obama.

Congress 2008

California-4: State Sen. Tom McClintock (R) will face off against former Rep. Doug Ose (R) in the fight for the GOP nomination in the district of retiring Rep. John Doolittle (R).

McClintock — a long time conservative soldier in the battle for the heart of California’s ailing GOP — has stepped on the toes of an ally, former state Rep. Rico Oller (R), who jumped in the race immediately upon Doolittle’s retirement announcement and was the early conservative in the primary. Oller, who would have been in a tough battle against the popular and well-funded Ose, was nudged aside by McClintock and has endorsed him to unify conservatives. Oller, ironically, was one of the last people to be standing behind McClintock in his bid for governor in 2003.

Also dropping from the race and endorsing McClintock is Eric Egland, an Iraq War veteran.

A critic of the Republican establishment from Gov. Pete Wilson (R) to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), McClintock has failed to win state office three times: for lieutenant governor in 2006, governor in 2003, and controller in 2002. The primary looks like a tougher fight than the general election.

Ose, a wealthy developer who started the race with nearly $500,000 on hand, will need whatever advantage he can get to overcome the name recognition of McClintock, a perennial hustler. In McClintock-commissioned polls in early February, McClintock showed a 43 percent to 11 percent edge over Ose.

Neither candidate lives in the district currently: Ose lives in a neighboring district and McClintock had a residence in Placer County. With the carpetbagger attack likely disarmed, the primary could focus on issues, where there are significant differences.

Once the dust settles in the battle of conservative versus moderate factions for the Republican nomination, the winner will face Democratic candidate Charlie Brown, who narrowly lost to Doolittle in 2006.

New York Overview: The announced retirement of Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) creates a second open congressional seat in upstate New York, setting up Democrats for further conquest of the Empire State.

  1. Democrats’ three pickups last year continued a decade-long trend of their progressively dominating the congressional delegation. Their 17-to-14 majority after the 1994 elections has grown to a 23-to-6 majority (two seats were eliminated in reapportionment after the 2000 Census), with Democratic gains almost every election since Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) knocked off freshman Rep. Daniel Frisa (R) 1996.
  2. The early stage (1996 to 2002) of the Democratic takeover was centered in Long Island suburbs. This was part of the Democratic takeover of white, upper-middle-class suburbia. Democratic takeovers here brought Long Island in line with Westchester County and the other demographically similar bedroom communities in New York and New Jersey.
  3. The more recent spate of Democratic pickups has been in upstate New York, in blue-collar cities surrounded by rural counties. These are some of the most economically depressed parts of the country, with voters who are more socially conservative. The three-seat pickup last year and the two to three seats likely to go Democratic this year suggest that the Bush Administration, the Iraq War, and recent Republican incompetence and corruption play a real role here.
  4. The upstate districts — in their demographics and in the issues that helped Democrats win — mirror much of the turf Democrats conquered in 2006, such as the Ohio River Valley seats. Cast in terms of the presidential election, this is Clinton country.
  5. While Republicans will probably have only three or four U.S. congressional seats in New York after the 2008 elections, things can certainly get worse. The three safe New York Republican representatives this year — Peter King in Long Island’s Nassau County, Vito Fossella of Staten Island, and John McHugh from the Northern end of the state — all occupy seats that could go to Democrats upon these GOPers’ retirements.
  6. Although they face real troubles these days, thanks to disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), Democrats in Albany could control both legislative chambers and the governorship in 2010. Redistricting that year (which could involve the loss of a seat in reapportionment), could bring New York’s Republican congressional delegation down to zero.
  7. Below are analyses of the most competitive House races in New York this year. This chart tracks Democrats’ progressive takeover of the delegation:
New York’s Congressional Delegation
Election
Democrats
Republicans
Gains and Losses
1994
17
14
CD 1: Mike Forbes (R) defeats Rep. George Hochbrueckner (D).
1996
18
13
CD 4: Carolyn McCarthy (D) defeats Rep. Daniel Frisa (R).
1998
18
13
 
2000
19
12
CD 1: Rep. Mike Forbes switches from (R) to (D). Forbes loses (D) primary, and Felix Grucci (R) wins open seat.
CD 2: Rep. Rick Lazio (R) runs for Senate; Steve Israel (D) wins open seat.
2002
19
10
Redistricting eliminates the districts of Rep. John LaFalce (D) and Ben Gilman (R).
CD 1: Tim Bishop (D) defeats Rep. Felix Grucci (R).
2004
20
9
CD 27: Rep Jack Quinn (R) retires; Brian Higgins (D) wins open seat.
2006
23
6
CD 19: John Hall (D) defeats Rep. Sue Kelly (R).
CD 20: Kirsten Gillibrand (D) defeats Rep. John Sweeney (R).
CD 24: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) retires; Michael Arcuri (D) wins open seat
2008 (prediction)
25
4
CD 25: Rep. James Walsh (R) retires; Dan Maffei (D) favored.
CD 26: Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) retires; Jon Powers (D) favored.

 

New York-21: Rep. Michael McNulty (D) is a rare retiring Democrat, but he leaves his Albany seat in safe Democratic hands.

The early front-runner here appears to be Clinton staffer Tracey Brooks (D), who has lined up the support of Albany’s mayor and other leading local Democrats, including the influential McNulty clan (though the retiring congressman has not endorsed anyone).

Other Democrats include community activist Lester Freeman, businessman Gary Mittleman, former U.S. House staffer Darius Shahinfar, and Albany County Legislator Phil Steck.

The only Republican in the contest so far is Schenectady County Legislator Jim Burhmaster. George Bush won only 43 percent here, and Republicans generally struggle with the white ethnic population in this area. Likely Democratic Retention.

New York-24: Republicans held this district two years ago, but they now appear to have given up on it. Freshman Rep. Mike Arcuri (D) picked up this sprawling Upstate district after the retirement of Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R). Not a single Republican has announced to run here yet. While there is still time before the July filing deadline, for the foreseeable future this district will be represented by a Democrat. Likely Democratic Retention.

New York-25: The matchup appears set in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jim Walsh (R), and it still looks like a Democratic takeover in this Syracuse-based district.

Former Capitol Hill staffer Dan Maffei (D) barely lost to Walsh in 2006, and he is the Democratic standard-bearer right now. Maffei has strong liberal backing and is a skilled campaigner who now has experience. Currently, he is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

The only Republican in the race right now is former state fair director Peter Cappuccilli (R). Cappuccilli is inexperienced, and there are murmurs that the National Republican Congressional Committee is giving up on this district to focus on stopping losses elsewhere.

Although held by a Republican in recent years, this is really a Democratic district. A third of the population lives in Syracuse, which is a Democratic town. Walsh benefitted from his family connections — his father was Syracuse mayor and a congressman — but still, in his narrow ’06 win over Maffei, Walsh lost the city and won on the strength of the rural vote, which has benefitted from his pork-barrel spending.

In short, any Republican but Walsh would be hard-pressed to win this district, and Maffei is a strong candidate. Maffei is a favorite now, and by the fall, he could be a shoo-in. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-26: Rep. Tom Reynolds (R), perhaps facing electoral defeat, will retire this year after an ignominious stint as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Fittingly, he looks to be leaving his district to the Democrats.

Reynolds’ district in Western New York voted for Bush in 2004, but Reynolds barely held on in 2006 after revelations about his handling of the Mark Foley scandal.

Democrats have two strong potential candidates: wealthy businessman and two-time candidate Jack Davis, and Iraq War veteran Jon Powers, who was already engaged in a challenge to Reynolds. Davis could fund his own race, and Powers has backing among liberal bloggers who showed real success raising funds in 2006.

Republicans failed to get their top candidate, State Sen. George Maziarz. State Assemblyman Jim Hayes is currently the leading Republican. Republicans have an enrollment edge here, but the sagging economy and the Democratic cash advantage tilt this one towards the Democrats. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-29: Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) could be the next New York Republican to fall. His Western Tier district spanning eight counties is largely rural and basically Republican, but that’s no guarantee he can hold it.

This year he faces a rematch against his 2006 opponent Eric Massa (D), who outraised him and lost by only 6,000 votes. In the past, Kuhl has had trouble garnering support from conservatives here (Conservative Party nominee Mark Assini picked up 17,000 votes against Kuhl in 2004), and his personal problems, stemming from ugly incidents in his divorce papers, continue to plague him. Massa will have serious support from the liberal blogosphere and the DCCC and will likely outspend Kuhl.

The district’s makeup, however, gives Kuhl the edge. If he could hold on in his first re-election — by far the hardest historically — in such an awful year, he should be able to hold on in 2008. This is no sure thing, however. Leaning Republican Retention.


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