A big day is in store today for election fans across the nation. The party nominees for several interesting November battles will be decided today, along with a special election to
fill a vacant seat in Arizona.
Most of you are aware of Gabrielle Giffords' tragic, life-threatening gunshot wound suffered at the hands of a misguided psycho early last year. After a courageous recovery,
the remarkable woman returned to her congressional seat representing Arizona's 8th district. Then early this year, she decided to resign from that seat stating that she has "more
work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office."
The vacancy her departure leaves behind will be filled today by a special election. Indications are that a tight
election will ensue. While I could find no polls on the race, my hunch is that the Democratic candidate, Giffords’s former district director Ron Barber, will prevail over 2010 nominee
and Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly. Kelly's attacks on Giffords during their battle 2 years ago are front and center in this contest. The attacks, while nothing unusual under
normal circumstances, are hurting him this time given the tragedy Giffords faced since then.
On the primary front, a couple of important battles will take place today. In Virginia, George Allen and Tim Kaine are expected to formalize their duel for the Senate seat of
outgoing Democrat Jim Webb. And in Nevada, interim Republican Senator Dean Heller and Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley look to fill the slate for November's Senate
battle in the Silver State. Primaries are also being held in Maine, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In the coming days, I'll be updating the state pages for these states to reflect the results of today's primaries as well as the special election in Arizona.
Last night saw Mitt Romney fend off a strong challenge in Michigan by Rick Santorum. After falling well behind a couple weeks out from this critical Republican nomination
battle, Romney more than made up lost ground over the last few days to forge a close but significant win in his native state. Even though he'll largely split the delegates there due to
Michigan's proportional allotment system, the momentum he'll enjoy from the victory is no small thing. Being on the top line of the results affords him the chance to maintain, and even
solidify, his front runner status. Had he not prevailed, Santorum would have stolen the news cycle, and Romney would have been forced to go on the defensive. Instead,
Romney will be able to continue to bash Obama rather than focusing solely on his primary opponents. To that point, Romney's victory speech last night included a plethora of digs at
the President while excluding completely any mention of Santorum, Gingrich or Paul.
In Arizona, Romney's convincing 20-point victory was not unexpected, though the overwhelming margin was a bit of a surprise. Until mid-February, Romney led Santorum by
a couple dozen and appeared set to breeze to the win there. Then, overnight, polls showed Santorum closing the gap dramatically. At one point, Romney's average lead in the
polls had dwindled to just 5 points. That was a week ago. At that point, Romney once again regained the upper hand in the polls, and his projected victory steadily swelled to
the low double-digits. The trend was definitely in his favor, but a 20-point margin is well outside where the aggregate stood when the polls opened yesterday.
The bottom line from yesterday: Romney confirmed his front runner status by taking both primaries, and any chance of him losing the nomination now lies with Santorum's performance
in Ohio on Super Tuesday in six days. Currently, Santorum's lead there is in the high single digits. Expect that margin to tighten on the wings of Romney's victories last
night. If Romney can overtake Santorum in the Buckeye state, call it a night and turn out the lights. It'll be time for Republicans to concentrate on beating Obama.
Here are Election Projection's predictions for tomorrow's Republican primary elections in Michigan and Arizona. The Grand Canyon state is easy to peg - Romney will win easily, of
course. The Great Lakes state is more difficult to predict. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have gone back and forth over the last couple weeks, and the very latest trend
seems to be settling squarely on the "it's anybody's game" spot.
But, if you've read me for long, you know I can't resist picking a winner even in the closest of toss-ups. So here we go again.
Michigan Republican Primary Predictions
Mitt Romney - 39%
Rick Santorum - 38%
Ron Paul - 13%
Newt Gingrich - 10%
Arizona Republican Primary Predictions
Mitt Romney - 44%
Rick Santorum - 28%
Newt Gingrich - 18%
Ron Paul - 10%
Check back later for links to the Arizona and Michigan primary results.
Tomorrow, voters in Arizona will cast their ballots for one of four Republican candidates still in the race for the GOP nomination and the chance to battle President Barack Obama in the
general election. For much of the primary season, Mitt Romney has held a very large lead in the Grand Canyon state. Then in mid February, Rick Santorum quickly closed the
gap to 5 or 6 points. Since then, however, Romney has steadily stretched his lead back out. On the eve of the primary, Romney's advantage is in the 13-14 point range.
Here are the latest polls out on tomorrow's contest.
Mitt Romney has seen his frontrunner status severely challenged by Rick Santorum recently. Polls for upcoming primary battles last week showed Santorum gaining ground on him in
Arizona and passing him in Michigan. The latter is considered to be pivotal for Romney since it is his home state.
Over the last several days, Santorum's momentum appears to have stalled, and Romney looks to be on the rise again. In Arizona, where Santorum cut a 30-point lead to just 5 on Feb
20, Romney has moved out to a double-digit lead in the latest three polls.
In Michigan, the reversal is even more striking because Santorum's rise there actually put him ahead by 9 points just 10 days ago. Now, Romney has moved back in front by a couple points, and, if the trends continue this weekend and into Monday, he should see that lead extended to several points by primary election day on Tuesday.
The "Tour of the 50 States" moves from the cold arctic to the hot desert today as we take a first look at Arizona.
Reapportionment and Redistricting: Arizona's population increased enough between 2000 and 2010 to garner an extra congressional district this year.
The new district brings the state's delegation to nine. Charlie Cook's assessment of the resulting redistricting process reports that Democrats should gain the additional seat.
Presidential Race: Democrat Bill Clinton won Arizona in 1996, breaking a string of GOP victories dating back to Harry Truman. Since then, the GOP has started
another winning streak here, winning the last three presidential elections. Expect another mildly comfortable win for the Republican nominee in 2012.
Strong GOP Hold.
Senate: When Republican Senator Jon Kyl decided to retire earlier this year, this senate seat lost its invulnerable status. Still, the GOP has a decided
advantage in the race and it should stay in the red column. Candidate caliber and presidential focus here from the national parties will impact how competitive this race turns out to
be. For now, we'll call it a Mod GOP Hold.
Governor: In 2010, Jan Brewer, Republican, won election to a full term as governor. The champion of illegal immigration control cannot run for another term
in 2014. Since she served a partial term before being re-elected, Arizona law says she is serving her second term currently and, thus, is term-limited.
House: Congressional races in Arizona have been marked in recent memory by an abundance of close races. This cycle should be no different.
Election Projection starts off the election season with 4 of 9 states on the hotly-contested list. First is District 1 where freshman Republican Paul Gosar faces a rematch against
former Congresswoman Anne Kirkpatrick. This race starts off as a Mod GOP Hold. Next we move to District 5. In an
interesting development here, incumbent Dave Schweikert is now running in District 6, leaving behind a competitive open seat. Democrats have a decent chance to pick up this
Weak GOP Hold.
Third, District 8 representative, Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who has fought gallantly to recover from an idiot's senseless violence, seems to be a
perennial occupant of EP's House race list. I'm not sure how this race will pan out, but, even as a Republican, I almost wish Giffords would be granted this seat for as long as she
wants it. But elections aren't run that way, so, for now, call it a Mod DEM Hold. Finally, there's the new seat, District 9. Using the Cook
assessment I mentioned earlier where the Democrats are projected to pick up a seat in Arizona and given that EP projects no other seats to flip sides, this new District starts off as a
Weak DEM Gain, mostly by default. We'll know much more once the redistricting battles are complete.
Don't miss the Arizona state page for lots more information.
Next tour stop: ArkansasUpdate: Charlie Cook's latest House ratings update has removed
Giffords' race from the competitive category. As a result, I have removed it from my list as well. Among the pundits I use to compute my House projections, only Larry Sabato
continues to carry AZ-8 as competitive.
On the heels of yesterday's announcement in Virginia that Democrat Jim Webb has decided to retire at the end of this term, another senator - this time a Republican - makes public his
decision to forego a run at re-election to the Senate. Jon Kyl, a solid bet to keep his Arizona Senate seat, will also retire. His seat doesn't immediately become competitive, but
Democrats will be happy to challenge a non-incumbent instead of the popular three-term senator.