Decision 2014 (Testing the TEA Party in Texas, and a March 6 snapshot)

JMCEL’s Scorecard

  • Obama job approval (3/5 Real Clear Politics average): 43-53% approve/disapprove;
  • Generic Ballot (3/5 Real Clear Politics average):: 42-42% Democrat/Republican;
  • “Obamacare” support (3/5 Real Clear Politics average):: 38-52% support/oppose;
  • Congressional filing has closed in 12 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia) that have 127 House and nine Senate races;
  • Upcoming filing deadlines:  California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia – 153 House and 12 Senate seats are at stake among these states;
    Unopposed House members: 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats (out of 127 districts) (was 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans);
  • House retirements:  22 Republicans and 17 Democrats (was 19 Republicans and 13 Democrats);
  • Senate retirements: 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans (no change from February);
  • Gubernatorial retirements: 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans  (no change from February)

Upcoming primaries/special elections

  • March 11: Florida House District 13 special election;
  • March 18: Illinois primary;
  • April 22: Florida House District 19 special election primary

Lay of the Land – Texas Primary

Now that Texas has conducted its primary, the 2014 (primary) election season has begun. This primary was an early test of the potency of the TEA Party in Republican primaries: they fielded challengers against GOP incumbents in the Senate race and in one of the House races. In each of those two contests, they came up short, as two term incumbent Senator John Cornyn received 59% of the vote against seven challengers, while the GOP House incumbent (Pete Sessions of Dallas) was re-nominated in his House race with 64% of the vote in a head to head race.

There was one GOP incumbent who was forced into a runoff last night, however, although his troubles had nothing to do with the TEA Party: in northeast Texas, 34 year incumbent Ralph Hall, who is 90 years old and a former Democrat, only received 45% of the vote against an opponent who was endorsed by the Dallas paper.

There are several things worth noting about the Texas primary: (1) Enthusiasm on the GOP side was substantially higher than on the Democratic side: 71% of those participating yesterday voted in the GOP primary, (2) overall turnout was 13% less than it was in the 2010 primary, (3) Democratic turnout was 20% less than in 2010, while GOP turnout was down 10%, and (4) The Democratic runoff actually has a candidate who is an adherent of fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche and whose platform advocates impeaching President Obama.

While the TEA Party came up short in Texas, the 2014 primary election picture still has a way to go before it can be filled in: there are other contests in Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Kentucky that will enable us to make a more complete assessment of the strength of the TEA Party wave this year.

Lay of the Land – Upcoming races

Now that the Texas primary has concluded, there are two contests this month we are focusing on: (1) next week’s special election in Central Florida for a vacant House seat in a swing area that supported Obama 50-49%, and (2) in two weeks, Illinois is having its statewide primary. After that, there is little election activity before May 6, when three states (Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio) have its primaries.

We have a final thought on the special election in Florida: polls are all over the place, but what once was a solid lead for Democrat Alex Sink (who actually lives in a different district and narrowly lost her 2010 race for Governor) has tightened, and it’s a neck and neck race now.

And even though, from a primary election perspective, March and April are the “calm before the storm”, to a large extent, the context for the November elections will be determined over the next 26 days, as 16 states will have filing deadlines for Congressional/Senate races. Those 16 states represent 35% of the House and 33% of the Senate races this fall. In fact, the month of March will see the most activity with regards to candidate filing before concluding on August 26 (Louisiana and Massachusetts have the latest filing deadlines – in August – of the 2014 election season).

While candidate “playing fields” are being set, there have been more retirements – all on the House side. A month ago, 32 incumbents decided not to run again. As of yesterday, 7 more have decided to retire, guaranteeing at least 39 new faces in the House next January.