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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Alabama -- 02

AL 02: Love (R) +2

The fact that third-term Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, a Democrat, is within two points in this southeastern Alabama district speaks volumes about what kind of year it is. Still, Bright's had Blue Dogs in to campaign for him, promising to be a voice independent of the Democratic Party in Congress. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll of 400 likely voters was conducted 10/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. State Rep. Jay Love and Bright were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Love (R).......47 / 7 / 74 / 45 / 51 / 43
Bright (D)...45 / 89 / 14 / 50 / 44 / 46

Internal polls conducted for both candidates show a tight race for retiring Rep. Terry Everett's open seat. This poll is further evidence of that, despite the heavy Republican lean of the district. Everett never won re-election with less than 63% of the vote.

AL: Bright +10

No matter who wins a southern Alabama seat held by retiring Republican Terry Everett, Montgomery has a good chance to keep Everett's seats on two prominent committees. Both parties have said their candidates, Democratic Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and Republican State Senator Jay Love, will get slots on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees should they come to Congress.

A new poll, conducted by Capital Survey Research Center, shows Bright maintains the early lead. Conducted 8/6-7, the poll surveyed 505 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Both Bright and Love were tested among a sample made up of 35% Democrats, 31% Republicans and 34% independents and those who prefer other parties.

General Election Matchup
Bright.........47
Love..........37

The poll mirrors results from a survey taken for Bright's campaign last week, which also showed the Democrat leading by ten points. But Republicans say the poll is skewed towards Democrats, given that Capital Survey Research Center also conducts polls for the Democratic-leaning Alabama Education Association. The head of the company, former Auburn University Political Science Department chief Dr. Gerald Johnson, dismisses GOP complaints and points to his long track record.

No matter whether Love or Bright wins the seat, neither will be able to recoup Everett's seniority any time soon. The retiring Republican is the second-ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee and the fourth-ranking member of the GOP on Armed Services. Everett is also the second-ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Democrats hand out their committee assignments through Steering Committee recommendations, which are ratified by the full caucus. It is rare that a Steering Committee recommendation is overturned by the caucus.

For Republicans, the Steering Committee has the final say over committee assignments. While a vote on Love's appointments isn't a guarantee of getting either seat, Minority Leader John Boehner's endorsement is a strong indication that Love would get both seats.

AL: Dueling Polls

According to two new polls released in Alabama, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and State Senator Jay Love lead their respective races for Congress. The two polls make the situation clear as mud because both Bright, a Democrat, and Love, a Republican, are their party's nominees in the race for the same seat, held by retiring Rep. Terry Everett.

Love's poll, conducted by Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely voters between 7/21-22 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Bright and Love were tested.

General Election Matchup
Love.....................41
Bright....................39

Generic GOP.........48
Generic Dem.........34

McCain..................55
Obama...................30

Love's poll shows Republicans John McCain and Governor Bob Riley are hugely popular in the district, with favorable ratings of 63% and 70% respectively. National Democrats Nancy Pelosi (19% favorable to 49% unfavorable) and Barack Obama (39% to 47%) have upside down ratings.

Bright's poll tells a much different story. The poll, conducted by Democratic firm Anzalone Liszt Research, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/3-6 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Bright and State Senator Jay Love, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Bright........50
Love.........40

The district is more conservative than both Rep. Don Cazayoux's Louisiana seat and Rep. Travis Childers' Mississippi seat, which Democrats won in special elections earlier this year. The district gave President Bush a two-to-one margin in 2004, and Everett never had a problem carrying during his eight terms in Congress.

Bright, mayor of a city that comprises a significant portion of the district, has a strong 63% favorable rating compared with just 16% who see him unfavorably in his own poll. Bright and Love each have strong name recognition around the district, with four in five voters recognizing the Democrat and three in four recognizing his Republican opponent.

It is no coincidence that Anzalone Liszt is polling for Bright. The firm, based in Alabama, conducted polls for both Cazayoux and Childers, and their client roster is heavy on Democrats in the South who are sticking closely to an economic script that has so far proven effective this year. On the other hand, trying to tie Bright to Obama and Pelosi might not prove effective for Love. An internal audit of those two special elections, in which Republicans attempted to make the same ties, found those tactics didn't work.

Georgia Incumbents Win

Despite what looked like spirited challenges, two Georgia incumbents easily won their primaries last night, likely guaranteeing them a seat in the 111th Congress, while Republicans got the candidates they wanted in two runoffs in Alabama.

In the northern Tenth District, freshman Republican Paul Broun, who has been in Congress for just a year, took 71% of the vote to knock off State Rep. Barry Fleming. Broun will face Democratic nominee Bobby Saxton, an Iraq war veteran, in November, but in a district that gave President Bush a thirty-point win, he is expected to coast to victory.

South of Broun's district, in a seat that encompasses both Savannah and Augusta, two-term Rep. John Barrow survived a primary challenge with surprising ease, as many suspected State Senator Regina Thomas, who is African American, would have a good chance to knock off Barrow in a 45%-black district. But Barrow, who got help in the form of a radio ad featuring Barack Obama, won a wide 76%-24% victory. He will face former Congressional aide John Stone in November.

Democrats came a step closer to settling on a Senate candidate to take on Republican Saxby Chambliss, as well. DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones led the Democratic field, taking 40% of the vote, while former State Rep. Jim Martin finished second, with 34%. The two will head to a runoff on August 5, though polls have showed Chambliss easily leading both candidates.

Runoffs can be costly politically. In Alabama, two Republicans who came through runoffs last night start in a hole now, having to scramble to catch up to Democratic nominees who settled their races months ago.

With the retirement of Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer, Republicans have a shot to take back a seat that votes heavily for their candidates on a presidential level. President Bush won the northern Fifth District by twenty one points in 2004, but Cramer, who held the seat for eighteen years, never had a serious battle for re-election. This year, State Senator Parker Griffith won the Democratic nomination early, while advertising executive Wayne Parker had to wait until last night to secure the GOP nod. He beat attorney Cheryl Guthrie by a whopping 79%-21% margin.

Farther south, Democrats actually have a shot to pick up a Republican-held seat based in and around Montgomery and vacated by Republican Terry Everett. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright cleared the Democratic field, while State Rep. Jay Love and State Senator Harri Anne Smith had to fight over the Republican nomination that was decided yesterday. Love, who spent heavily out of his own wallet, won a surprisingly close 53% to 47% margin. The two nominees will face off in what will be one of the most closely-watched races in the South.

GOP Involved In AL

Despite a pledge not to get involved in its own primaries, the National Republican Congressional Committee knows who it wants to see com out of two competitive runoffs in Alabama, and they're making their preference known. In both cases, the leading Republican failed to win enough votes in the June 3 primary to avoid a runoff, and the GOP has no interest in losing what will be two competitive southern seats.

In the southern Second District, where Republican Terry Everett is retiring after eight terms, State Rep. Jay Love and State Senator Harri Anne Smith will duke it out in the July 15 runoff. The initial front-runner, Smith finished with 22% of the vote, while Love took 35% in the six-candidate field. Last night, national Republicans held a fundraiser for Love, who has largely self-funded his campaign, attracting many top House GOP leaders.

Technically the event was not sponsored by the NRCC, and was held at the offices of an insurance industry group in Washington. But spokesman Ken Spain heaped praise on Love when the Associated Press asked about the race, making clear the committee's intent. The winner of the runoff will face Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who won the Democratic primary outright.

Up north, Democrats hoping to keep retiring Rep. Bud Cramer's seat on their side will lean on State Senator Parker Griffith, who coasted to a Democratic primary win in early June. Republican insurance executive Wayne Parker barely missed his chance to win his nomination outright, winning 49% of the vote to attorney Cheryl Baswell Guthrie's 18%.

The Republican Parker has received checks in the mail from five of his GOP colleagues already in office, including fellow Alabaman Spencer Bachus. While the NRCC has not endorsed any candidate, it doesn't leave a lot to the imagination when chairman Tom Cole hands Parker a $5,000 check, as Roll Call's John McArdle writes today.

Both races will be tough for Republicans -- Griffith represents his district's population center and Bright is the popular mayor of a major city -- but it's doable. Cole has started to weed out the weaker candidates, something he'd been criticized for failing to do in special elections earlier this year. Better late than never, one would suppose.

Two AL GOP Races Headed For Runoff

The Republican nominees in two open Alabama congressional seats will not be known for six weeks after no candidate was able to win 50% of the vote in the primaries yesterday. The top two finishers in both districts will now face each other in a July 15 primary-runoff.

The Second District has been in Republican hands since 1964, and Rep. Terry Everett has held the seat since defeating the son of former Gov. George Wallace in 1992. State Rep. Jay Love and state Sen. Harri Anne Smith led a six-candidate field -- Love won 35% and Smith finished second with 22%. The runoff winner will take on Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, a highly-touted recruit by the DCCC, in the general election.

Love and Smith come from opposite ends of this heavily-Republican, G-shaped district, which covers most of the southeast corner of the state. Love is from the capital city of Montgomery and Smith comes from Slocomb, close to the Florida border. Most of Montgomery County, which cuts into the northern section of the district, falls inside the Third District, but the majority of Montgomery city resides in the Second District. Pres. Bush won 67% of the vote here in 2004, and Terry Everett never won re-election with less than 63%.

In the northern Fifth District, insurance executive Wayne Parker fell just short of securing the nomination outright, winning 49%-18% against attorney Cheryl Baswell Guthrie in a six-candidate field. The winner of the runoff between the two candidates will face Democratic State Sen. Parker Griffith, who hails from the district's population center in Huntsville. Griffith easily won the democratic primary, winning 90% of the vote against David Maker, an optical physicist.

This district has never sent a Republican to Congress, despite its recent trend of voting for Republican presidential candidates. Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer, a Blue Dog, has represented the district since 1990 and won his last five re-elections with at least 70% of the vote. He was unopposed in 2006.

--Kyle Trygstad

Primary Season Begins

Sure, South Dakota and Montana mark the end of the presidential primary season, but for down ballot races the fun is just starting. Eleven states will hold their local and federal primaries this month, kicking off a summer swing through primary electorates that will determine how well both parties will do in November.

The primary season started on Super Tuesday in February, when Illinois voters headed to the polls to pick Congressional nominees. The process ends September 20, when Hawaii voters choose their nominees. To kick off the big sprint tomorrow, voters in Alabama, California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will head to the polls. In four of those states, hot contests are emerging. Throughout the day we'll preview the contests to watch tomorrow, starting with Alabama.

The race to replace retiring Reps. Bud Cramer and Terry Everett take precedence in Alabama. While the Democratic nominee in Cramer's northern district is likely to be State Senator Parker Griffith, Republicans will choose between Cheryl Baswell Guthrie, an attorney who has run unsuccessfully before; former State Rep. Don Mancuso; advertising executive Wayne Parker and Ray McKee, who is literally a rocket scientist. Baswell Guthrie and Parker are seen as the two front-runners in a district likely to go for John McCain yet which Cramer, a Democrat, held easily.

In Everett's southern Second District, Democrats have largely coalesced around Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who, courted by both parties, sent an early signal about Democratic chances in the ruby red Deep South. Several Republicans are vying for the seat, including State Reps. David Grimes and Jay Love, State Senator Harri Anne Smith, dentist Craig Schmidtke and television station executive David Woods.

Love, Smith, Schmidtke and Woods have all contributed huge amounts to their own campaign, with Schmidtke leading the way at more than $500,000 spent. Love and Smith are seen as the two front-runners to face Bright in November, when they should have an advantage in a seat that is likely to vote heavily for John McCain. Still, if Barack Obama inspires a heavy African American turnout, Democrats have a good shot, and as a special election last month in Mississippi proved, the GOP brand isn't in much better shape down south than it is anywhere else in the country.

State Democrats are also likely to pick State Senator Vivian Figures to take on Republican incumbent Senator Jeff Sessions in November. Sessions has $4 million in the bank, compared with just $14,000 on hand for Figures, and some polls have suggested that the contest will be a blowout.

The Bright Stuff

As we wrote on Monday, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright's entry into the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Terry Everett gives Democrats hope in one of the most ruby-red areas in the country. A poll taken in October for the DCCC and released this week shows just how strong that hope should be.

The survey, conducted by Democratic firm Anzalone Liszt Research, an Alabama-based firm that has a long history of contracting with the DCCC, surveyed 400 likely voters between 10/2-4 for a margin of error of +/- 5%. Along with Bright, the poll tested State Rep. Jay Love and State Senator Harri Anne Smith, both Republicans.

General Election Matchups
Bright 43
Smith 38

Bright 46
Love 27

Bright's biggest benefit, Roll Call's John McArdle reports, is his home base. The Montgomery media market will cover about 60% of the district's voters, and Bright's high name recognition there will give him a leg up on Smith, Love or any of the other Republicans seeking the seat. Bright also boasts a high favorable rating in the area.

Still, the poll shows Bright under 50% against both Republicans, and in a long race, especially with a presidential contest at the top of the ticket, the GOP maintains an excellent chance at retaining the seat. The district is more than 29% African American, and while President Bush won by huge margins near 30 points both times he ran, it will be interesting to note black turnout this November.

If Barack Obama heads the Democratic ticket, Alabama's Second District could be one of a few he helps bring with him. If turnout among African Americans is up big, Bright has more than a fighting chance.

Dem Competes In AL

When Rep. Terry Everett, an eight-term Republican from southeast Alabama, announced he would not run for re-election next year, Democrats crowed that yet another House Republican was abandoning ship. Still, few but the most optimistic Democrats thought the party had a realistic chance of taking the seat, which favored President Bush by 34 points in 2004 and by 23 in 2000. In fact, no Democrat has held the seat since 1965.

But tomorrow, Democrats will get a serious candidate when Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright makes his campaign official, the Montgomery Advertiser and the Associated Press report. Bright won re-election in 2006 by a wide 58%-33% margin, and in representing the state's second-largest city, he brings a solid electoral foundation to the race.

The district, which stretches from Montgomery south to the border with the Florida panhandle, includes most of the city, which has a population of just over 200,000, as well as several counties where African Americans make up a majority of the voting population -- they comprise nearly 30% of the district as a whole. Still, more conservative areas toward the south-central section of the state make up the bulk of the district's voters.

Bright will head to heavily Republican territory to make his announcement, speaking in Ozark, in the southeast corner of the state, at the Dale County Courthouse. His family, Bright said, comes from the area, where he grew up, and he told local media he wanted to make his announcement surrounded by family and friends.

The only trouble Everett ever faced was in his first election, in 1992, when he took just 49% of the vote against two candidates, one of whom was George C. Wallace, the former governor's son. In subsequent re-election bids, Everett never dipped below 63%. Bright may benefit, though, because the Mayor's office in Montgomery is non-partisan, meaning at least a few Republican voters in the district are used to casting ballots for him.

Still, the crowded Republican field is likely to produce a candidate who should be considered the favorite. State Reps. David Grimes and Jay Love are already in the race, as is State Senator Harri Anne Smith. Smith and Grimes have yet to file with the FEC, and Love loaned his campaign $300,000 and raised an additional $70,000 through December. Republicans will face off in the state's June 3 primary.