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Tea Party Candidate Crushes Lugar in Indiana Senate Primary     Permalink

In an echo of three Senate primaries in 2010, an insurgent tea party candidate, Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, crushed six-term Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) by a margin of 60% to 40% in yesterday's primary. Lugar, although conservative, was a genteel and highly respected senator who was willing to work with the Democrats to get laws passed and problems solved. He is most famous for working with the former Democratic senator from Georgia, Sam Nunn, on a program that helped Russia destroy thousands of poorly guarded nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This strength--his willingness to actually govern--became a weakness in the campaign as Mourdock relentlessly accused him of the sin of working with the Democrats.

Unlike the 2010 Senate races in Colorado, Nevada, and Delaware, in which a tea party candidates won surprise primary victories over shoo-in establishment candidates and then went on to defeat in November, Lugar saw it coming. Obviously, he could not change his 35-year voting record in the Senate, but he could have run his campaign as a fierce partisan who hated President Obama and all other Democrats as a matter of principle. But Lugar was too principled to campaign on a lie and paid the price.

Also present were some local factors specific to Lugar. He has not maintained a permanent residence in the state for decades. Although this is specifically allowed by Indiana law, Lugar's lack of a house in Indiana let Mourdock attack him as a "creature of Washington." Lugar's age (80) didn't help either. Also, he hasn't had to wage a serious campaign in years, so his campaigning skills are a bit rusty.

What many of Lugar's supporters wanted him to do was use the tactics that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used in his 2010 Senate primary against tea party candidate J.D. Hayworth. McCain quickly amassed a huge war chest and just pounded Hayworth mercilessly with extremely negative ads from the instant Hayworth announced his challenge, defining him before Hayworth had a chance. While Lugar could have done that, it is just not his style and temperament.

This election has both short-term and long-term consequences. In the short term, the Democratic senatorial candidate in Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), a conservative Blue Dog, now has a serious shot at winning the general election. He and the DSCC are already attacking Mourdock as an extremist. Indiana remains a red state, but historically it has sent Democrats to Washington, including Evan Bayh and his father, Birch Bayh, who together served five terms in the Senate.

However, the Indiana senatorial general election is not quite the same as the three races in 2010 where tea party candidates won the primaries but lost in the general election. The main difference is that Mourdock is a serious, albeit very conservative, politician and has won statewide office twice, in 2006 and in 2010. None of the tea party candidates running in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada in 2010 had ever held statewide office before. That could make a difference, both in the candidate's preparation and in the voters' perception.

In the long term, the defeat of such a respected conservative senator (who the Democrats didn't even bother to oppose in 2006), is going to send a signal to all Senate Republicans that any deviations from tea party orthodoxy and any attempts to work with the Democrats to actually govern, will result in a (possibly career-ending) primary challenge. The consequence will be to make the clubby Senate more like the House, where every Republican opposes anything the Democrats want in principle, and to a somewhat lesser extent, vice versa. In the current House, if Nancy Pelosi were to propose a 10% tax cut for millionaires, the entire Republican caucus would oppose it on the grounds that it wasn't big enough. Historically, the Senate was not like that because members represent entire states, not small gerrymandered districts, and serve for terms long enough for the voters to forget what they did 4 or 5 years ago. Possibly no more.

Barrett Wins Democratic Gubernatorial Primary for Wisconsin Recall Election     Permalink

Republicans weren't the ony ones with a nasty intraparty primary yesterday. The Democrats matched them attack for attack in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is facing a recall election in June. After a sufficient number of signatures were submitted to make Walker face the voters again after barely a year in office, the Democratic establishment quickly settled on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Their reasoning was that Barrett ran against Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial election and lost by only 5% during a Republican landslide, so in a special election he would be a strong candidate. Unfortunately for him, the state's unions decided to back a liberal candidate, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, rather than the moderate Barrett. This led to a nasty ideological primary, that Barrett won easily 58% to 34%. Polls of the June election show Walker leading Barrett 48% to 47% among likely voters. Expect an especially vicious campaign leading up to it.

North Carolina Voters Ban Same-Sex Marriages Again     Permalink

The North Carolina referendum banning same-sex marriages passed 61% to 39%. In a sense, such a referendum was not necessary since state law already bans them, but the referendum went further and also said that civil unions are not recognized under state law. The outcome was never in doubt and shows why President Obama is still on the fence over this issue: a significant number of voters oppose the idea, especially in North Carolina, a state he won by the narrowest of margins in 2008 and will have to fight strenuously to win in 2012. A sign that he is going to try is the fact that the Democrats are holding their national convention in the state's largest city, Charlotte.

Romney Wins in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia     Permalink

Mitt Romney won three more primaries yesterday, but his losing 20% of the vote to candidates no longer in the race shows that he has not yet unified the party. Here are the results.

State Romney Paul Santorum Gingrich
Indiana 64% 15% 14% 7%
North Carolina 66% 11% 10% 8%
West Virginia 70% 11% 12% 6%

While Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are out of the race, Ron Paul is still in there fighting. In states that have already held a caucus, Paul supporters are fighting to capture actual delegates. However, even in a one-on-one race with Romney, Paul is not winning the hearts and minds of the actual voters. The best he could do yesterday was 15% in one state (Indiana). While he would like to be a factor at the convention, it doesn't look like he is going to get enough votes to make that happen.

Redesign of This Site to be Launched Soon     Permalink

A new and much more modern design for the this site will be launched soon. That is when we will start tracking the state polls daily. Stay tuned. It won't be long.

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Previous headlines

May08 Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia Vote Today
May08 Key Senate Primary Today in Indiana
May08 North Carolina Votes on Gay Marriage and Civil Unions Today
May08 Obama's Reelection Campaign Begins with 5 million ad buy in Swing States
May03 Gingrich Quits--Really
May03 Initial Analysis of the Presidential General Election
Apr28 Sarah Palin Endorses Richard Mourdock, for Senate in Indiana
Apr28 Sarah Palin Endorses Richard Mourdock for Senate in Indiana
Dec31 Romney Sweeps all Five Northeast Primaries
Dec31 Tom Smith Wins Pennsylvania GOP Senatorial Primary
Dec31 Critz Defeats Altmire in Pennsylvania Democratic House Primary
Apr25 Romney Sweeps all Five Northeast Primaries
Apr25 Tom Smith Wins Pennsylvania GOP Senatorial Primary
Apr25 Critz Defeats Altmire in Pennsylvania Democratic House Primary
Apr16 Three Republican Senate Seats Up for Grabs
Apr11 Santorum Quits Race
Apr10 Competitive Races for Democratic Senate Seats
Apr04 Romney Wins a Tripleheader
Apr04 Obama to Run Against Ryan
Apr03 Romney Advisors Trying to Decide Whether to Unleash the Candidate
Apr03 Primaries in D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin Today
Apr03 Federal Mandates Have Been Around for over 200 Years
Mar30 Supreme Court Could Become an Election Issue
Mar27 Lose to Win?
Mar25 Santorum Continues His Southern Winning Streak in Louisiana
Mar25 Can Romney Clear the Etch a Sketch?
Mar24 Santorum Headed for Win in Louisiana Primary Today
Mar24 Club for Growth Buying Airtime Against Lugar
Mar21 Romney Wins Illinois by 12%
Mar21 Maine Senate Race Candidates Now Known
Mar20 Romney Expected to Win Illinois Primary Today
Mar20 Republicans to Propose Major Tax Reform Today
Mar19 Romney Wins Puerto Rico
Mar18 No Results from the Raucous Caucus
Mar18 Puerto Rico in the Spotlight Today
Mar11 Santorum Wins Kansas Caucus
Mar10 Santorum Favorite to Win Kansas Caucus Today
Mar10 Angus King Endorses Obama
Mar07 Romney wins Ohio and five other states, Santorum wins three states
Mar06 Today is Super Tuesday