A 2012 field without a frontrunner
1. A new Gallup poll shows no 2012 Republican candidate winning more than 20 percent of the vote, a muddle from top to bottom that virtually ensures a large field and a wide-open race for the right to take on President Obama.
The survey showed four candidates taking double digit support: former Gov. Mitt Romney (19 percent), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (16 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (16 percent) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13 percent).
No other candidate took more than six percent. Likely candidates like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty received four percent support while the buzziest candidate inside the Beltway -- Sen. John Thune (S.D.) received just two percent.
There was also little difference between the candidates' support across the ideological spectrum. Romney had 18 percent support among conservatives, 21 percent among moderate/liberal Republicans. Ditto Palin -- interestingly -- who took 16 percent among conservatives and 14 percent among moderate/liberals. The biggest differentials in terms of support along ideological lines were for Huckabee and Gingrich, both of whom had five percent more backing among conservatives than moderates/liberals.
It's not terribly surprising that the 2012 field is not well-defined at this point and that polls, like this one, are reflective almost exclusively of name identification. But, unlike in cycles past when there was a clear frontrunner in terms of popular support at this stage of the game, that simply isn't the case.
In a memo detailing the results, Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones says the field could be the most wide open since 1972. Curt Anderson, a Republican consultant who worked for Romney's 2008 campaign said simply: "There has never been a field as wide open as this one is. Ever."
What does the frontrunner-less GOP field mean? Two things.
First, that if you ever entertained an interest in running for president, now is the time to do it since there isn't any titan in the field that you have to position yourself against or get by to win the nomination.
Second, that candidates and the campaign they run will matter greatly. With no clear frontrunner, strategy -- and the ability to execute on that strategy -- takes on greater importance.
In short: It's going to be a fun next 18 months.
2. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is staying on for another cycle at the party's campaign arm and his top staff will join him.
Cornyn was unanimously reelected to the post by his peers on Tuesday. Meanwhile, an NRSC source tells the Fix that executive director Rob Jesmer, finance director Dorinda Moss and communications director Brian Walsh will all return for another cycle as well.
The consistency at the senior staff level ensures that Republicans will keep intact a nucleus that helped them win seven seats this cycle.
The NRSC source said the decisions to stay with the committee stem from loyalty to Cornyn and a sense that the party can retake the Senate this coming cycle. Cornyn has said for months that retaking the majority would likely be a two-cycle process; Republicans currently hold 47 of 100 Senate seats, meaning they would need a net gain of four to succeed.
Republicans have to defend just 10 seats in 2012, compared to 21 for the Democrats. Two independents who caucus with Democrats are also up for reelection.
The retentions at the NRSC stand in contrast to the situation at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is still looking for its chairman.
3. With all of the write-in vote tallied, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) took 100,868 votes to attorney Joe Miller's (R) 90,468, a margin of 10,400 votes.
Murkowski, who ran as a write-in following her loss to Miller in an Aug. 24 primary, issued a release Tuesday night noting that even if the 8,153 ballots challenged by Miller's camp were subtracted from the totals, she still led by 2,247 votes.
Murkowski's camp says it will not declare victory until all overseas ballots are counted, which could be as early as today.
"Throughout the past several days, Joe Miller has said that he will not continue to contest the election if the votes don't add up," Murkowski's campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said in a statement. "By the end of the day tomorrow after every Alaskan vote will have been counted, we expect Mr. Miller to keep his word."
Miller's camp on Tuesday took aim at the state Division of Elections for granting the campaign to inspect precinct registers but not the voting machine tapes that keep track of the total votes cast.
"At the end of six days of ballot counting, the race between Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski is still very close," Miller spokesperson Randy DeSoto said. "If current trends continue, Murkowski's final unchallenged tally will be in close proximity to Miller's total. Additionally, there are hundreds of ballots yet be counted including those from overseas military personnel, which may draw the overall numbers between the Miller and Murkowski even closer. The race is far from over."
Meanwhile in the House, Illinois Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean lost her re-election bid to Republican Joe Walsh, according to an unofficial tally of votes in the closely-contested 8th District race.
Walsh took 98,115 votes to Bean's 97,825, a margin of 290 votes out of nearly 200,000 cast.
Bean called Walsh Tuesday night to concede; she also has a news conference planned for this morning in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Walsh's win increases Republicans' gains in the House to 61 seats. Six other House races in California, North Carolina, New York and Texas currently remain uncalled; Republicans are ahead in four of them.
4. As House Democrats convene today to vote on their leadership for the 112th Congress, a CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that the party's voters are divided on whether or not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should stay on as Minority Leader.
According to the poll, 47 percent of Democrats say that they'd like another Democrat to take the House leadership reins, while 45 percent would like Pelosi to stay on in the 112th Congress.
Interestingly, even among self-described liberals, only 38 percent would like Pelosi to stay on as leader while 55 percent said they'd prefer another Democrat at the helm.
Pelosi had the highest unfavorable rating among the Senate and House leadership; 52 percent of all adults viewed her unfavorably, compared with 35 percent who said the same of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 23 percent for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 22 percent for incoming House Speaker John Boehner.
Worth noting: Pelosi's favorability rating - while only at 33 percent - was still the highest among the four. Her higher favorability and unfavorability ratings are due at least in part to the fact that she's better known to voters: only 7 percent of adults said they'd never heard of her, compared with 24 percent for Reid, 29 percent for Boehner and 31 percent for McConnell.
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition and former NFL quarterback, is challenging Pelosi in today's leadership election but is unlikely to get very far due to her strength among liberals in the Democratic caucus.
"When I played in the NFL, and you lost significantly, you were replaced, and I had that conversation direct with her," Shuler said on Tuesday.
5. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is dropping some of the strongest hints yet that he will run for president in 2012.
A top political adviser to Gingrich said he expects him to run, and Gingrich himself says he will decide by February of March.
Longtime Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord told the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont that Gingrich is ready to pull the trigger. "I would be very surprised if he doesn't run," Gaylord said.
Gingrich, though, isn't ready to make an announcement right now. He told Beaumont that he will likely announce whether he is in or out of the race by February, but in a separate appearance in the state suggested it might take as long as March.
Gingrich waited until late September 2007 to say that he would not run for president in 2008, meaning his time frame is significantly accelerated this time.
Gingrich told the Register that he sees the country "at the precipice of a very large fundamental change" and that, if he feels like he can lead a new movement, it would be "overwhelmingly attractive."
With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez
| November 17, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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