In our previous installment, we analyzed the twin victories for the GOP in two special Congressional elections. In both cases, the “Obama plunge” (explained here) resurfaced – it was a 9 point plunge in New York, while in Nevada, the plunge was 13 points. These types of dilutions in Democratic support, if they continue, will be ominous for President Obama as he seeks to get re-elected next year.
While the Louisiana race is on everyone’s mind (more on that later), West Virginia has a special election on October 4 for governor, where the appointed Democrat (Earl Ray Tomblin) faces a stiff challenge from Republican businessman Bill Maloney. Louisiana is holding its elections on Saturday, October 22 (in person early voting is from October 8-15). This is an election where Democrats appear to be focused on holding on to what they have, rather than lining up candidates to challenge each and every Republican. In all the statewide races, no Democrat of any significance signed up, and those Democrats who did show up are only offering minor challenges in the race for Governor, Insurance Commissioner, and Agriculture Commissioner.
A similar scenario is shaping up in the legislature. Not only did scores of legislators run unopposed (at press time, 20 senators out of 39 are unopposed, while 42 out of 105 representatives are unopposed), but there have been candidate withdrawals even after last week’s withdrawal deadline (so far, 6 Democrats and 2 Republicans have withdrawn).
What is not mentioned (but should be) is that there just isn’t a lot of interest in legislative or statewide elections this year. For example, even though 82 legislative seats (19 in the Senate and 63 in the House) will be competitive, (9/21/2011 PM UPDATE) at least 48 (35 in the House and 13 in the Senate) of those 82 races will be settled in October, because only two candidates are running. In practical terms, this means the maximum number of legislative runoffs possible is 34 (28 in the House and 6 in the Senate). When you compare this to the 46 legislative runoffs (36 in the House and 10 in the Senate) that Louisiana had in November 2007, you begin to realize that this will be one of the quieter election cycles.
Louisiana’s elections take a back seat to the rest of the nation on November 8, as you have governor’s races in Kentucky and Mississippi. There are also legislative races in Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia.
In Mississippi, Democrats are similarly disengaged (according to Brett Kittredge at Majority in Mississippi, Democrats are not contesting three statewide races, while in two other races, they have weak candidates), and the Republican Lt. Governor is a shoo in for the Governor’s chair that is being vacated by Haley Barbour. There is a little more suspense to legislative races, as Republicans control the Senate, while Democrats control the House. An interesting subplot is that neither party could agree on legislative reapportionment, so elections are being held under the 2001 district lines.
In Kentucky, the incumbent Democratic governor has managed to compile a record favorable to most voters, and it appears that he is able to deflect the negative opinions that most Kentucky voters have about President Obama and national Democrats. In fact, the campaign manager for his Republican opponent actually said that he was “hoping and praying for resources.” The last poll we have available shows the Democrat leading 55-26%.
In Virginia and New Jersey, legislative elections are being held. Republicans control the House (but not the Senate) in Virginia, and Republicans are obviously hoping to take the Senate back. On the other hand, in New Jersey, a state that elected Chris Christie governor in 2009 returned a solidly Democratic legislature to power, and Republicans are hoping to change that in this year’s elections.
If runoffs are necessary in Louisiana, the runoff date will be November 19 (in person early voting is from November 5-12).
Once the fall elections have concluded, our focus will turn to the 2012 Presidential election season.