2012 Presidential Matchups (via Rasmussen Reports)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mitt Romney has now jumped to his biggest lead ever over President Obama in a hypothetical Election 2012 matchup. It’s also the biggest lead a named Republican candidate has held over the incumbent in Rasmussen Reports surveying to date.

The latest national telephone survey finds that 45% of Likely U.S. Voters favor the former Massachusetts governor, while 39% prefer the president. Ten percent (10%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

A week ago, Romney trailed Obama 44% to 41%.  The week before that, he held a slight 43% to 42% edge over the president. The two candidates have been essentially tied in regular surveys since January, but Romney remains the only GOP hopeful to lead Obama in more than one survey. Despite Romney’s current six-point lead, his latest level of support is in line with the 38% to 45% he has earned in matchups with the president this year. However, Obama’s 39% is a new low: Prior to this survey, his support has ranged from 40% to 46% in matchups with Romney.

The remainder of this story can be accessed at: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2012/election_2012_presidential_election/2012_presidential_matchups

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National Milk Producers Federation Take on Passage of the Dairy Security Act

In a recent interview with DairyLine Radio, the National Milk Producers Federation’s Chris Galen (Senior Vice President of Communications) offered NMPF’s view as to the 2012 timeline for passage of the Dairy Security Act.

The audio can be accessed at http://www.nmpf.org/latest_news/dairyline

Could 2012 Be the Most Competitive Senate Election in Years? (via The Washington Post)

Twenty Senate seats have changed hands since 2006, the most competitive back-to-back-to-back election cycles since the 1940s. And it might only get more competitive in 2012.

The nature of the map and the high number of quality candidates who have stepped forward in the first year of the 2012 election cycle could put upwards of half of the 33 Senate seats in play.

Already, the Cook Political Report lists 10 Senate races as toss-ups — more than at this point in the 2010, 2008 or 2006 elections. Cook also rates 21 races as being at least somewhat competitive at this point, which is at least five more than any of the three preceding elections.

And if the Senate is indeed at stake — Republicans need to gain three seats for a tie and four for the majority — it appears as though it won’t be decided in just a couple states, but rather by competitive races all over the country.

In recent weeks, the 2012 map has taken a turn for the competitive.

Two of the seats that have long been at the top of the Line — North Dakota and Nebraska — both look like they are something closer to toss-ups today, especially if Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) seeks reelection.

Meanwhile, other states that don’t appear on the Line are starting to look even more competitive. Republicans have new hope in states like Florida, Hawaii and Michigan, while Democrats say they could have a third bona fide pickup opportunity in Arizona and some hope in Indiana if Sen. Richard Lugar (R) loses his primary.

In any other year, all or most of those states would have a good chance at making the Line. But the top 10 Senate races this time around are genuine toss-ups at the moment.

So what does it all mean? Practically, it means the national parties and outside groups could have a lot of races competing for their attention.

If so many toss-ups remain on the map, Republicans will again have to decide whether to go after the cheaper states or the states that appear the most winnable. For example, are they going to go to great lengths to defend Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the Boston media market, or try to win an open seat New Mexico, which is much cheaper the play in?

Translation: it should be a fun cycle. And we shouldn’t lose track of the Senate races even as the presidential race heats up.

10. New Mexico (Democratic-controlled): Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) made very clear recently where her party stands in the contested primary between Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas. “We recruited Rep. Heinrich, and we think he’s doing a great job,” she said at a recent press briefing. While that statement won’t make some in the Hispanic community happy, Heinrich is the more proven commodity and, at least according to recent polling, the stronger nominee against former congresswoman Heather Wilson, the heavy favorite in the GOP primary. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Wisconsin (D): This is perhaps the most wide-open and interesting primary of the cycle on the GOP side. Former governor Tommy Thompson (R) has problems on his right, but he just got the endorsement of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, which should help (to what degree, we don’t know). Former congressman Mark Neumann, meanwhile, has got the backing of tea party-aligned Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). And to top it all off, the National Journal recently argued that state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald also has a path to victory. The winner gets Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D). (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Ohio (D): This race has already taken a turn for the bizarre, with Democrats crying foul over a U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad that they say makes Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) look bad. State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) has raised lots of money, but we’re still waiting to see what the 34-year-old’s campaign is all about. And as we’ve noted before, Brown is formidable. (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Virginia (D): In a race that hasn’t changed much since it became clear that former governor Tim Kaine (D) and former senator George Allen (R) would run, the recent early debate between the two amounted to big news. Post-game handicapping suggested that Kaine had won the day, although it’s far from clear that a debate nearly one year before the 2012 election will have any significant impact on the dynamic of the race. We continue to believe that this race will be the marquee contest of the 2012 Senate cycle for three reasons: the size of the two personalities involved, the competitiveness of Virginia at the presidential level and the likelihood that this race will be very, very close. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. Montana (D): Democrats gleefully moved around a poll conducted by the Montana Chamber of Commerce that showed Sen. Jon Tester (D) leading Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) 42 percent to 37 percent. Other data suggests that the race is closer and, given the state’s Republican lean, it’s hard to imagine Tester winning by more than a point or two. But the very fact that Tester is in the game — given the anti-incumbent sentiment in the country — speaks to the fact that his personal brand may be able to weather the problems the national Democratic Party will have in the Last Best Place. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Nevada (Republican-controlled): Normally, the fact that Sen. Dean Heller was appointed to the job — on an interim basis — that he is seeking to hold full-time next year would be a major political blessing. Not so much in a year like this one. Democrats note that Heller is the only person in Congress to vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan twice — once in the House, once in the Senate — and Heller has been outraised by Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley of late. The whole shebang in this race is Clark County (Las Vegas). Berkley needs to win it — and win it big — to offset losses in the more rural reaches of the state that Heller represented in the House. Lucky for her, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) showed her the way during his 2010 win. (Previous ranking: 4)

4. Missouri (D): Republicans continue to insist that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is in deep trouble while Democrats insist that she is inoculating herself from President Obama and her party — look at her recent call for a permanent earmark ban — and that a lackluster field of GOP candidates could save her. Of the GOP field, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) recently told the Wall Street Journal: “We have a three-way primary, and it really depends on who’s nominated, whether they are able to withstand what they know is coming at them in a general election.” (Previous ranking: 3)

3. Massachusetts (R): This race, more than any other, has been climbing up our list in recent months. That’s because a series of polls continue to show Democrats in better and better position. The most recent is a Boston Herald poll from last week that shows Elizabeth Warren taking a seven-point lead on Brown. More importantly, the poll showed Brown falling out of favor with Massachusetts voters, with his personal favorable and approval numbers dropping. And given the state’s heavy blue lean, he needs to remain a very popular Republican to win reelection. (Previous ranking: 6)

2. Nebraska (D): The question here is whether Sen. Ben Nelson (D) seeks reelection and that announcement is coming soon. If Nelson doesn’t run, this seat probably moves to the top spot on the Line with the GOP being heavily favored to pick it up. His exit may also open up the race to someone like Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who is so popular that he would be a shoo-in. As in Missouri, the GOP field here is something of a question mark. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. North Dakota (D): Democrats are convinced that the political handicapping world — or at least the Fix — has this race all wrong. Yes, they have a quality candidate and proven vote-getter in former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp. Yes, Rep. Rick Berg, the near-certain Republican nominee, is nowhere near as popular as Sen. John Hoeven was when he swept to the Senate in 2010. But North Dakota is likely to go strongly for the Republican presidential nominee — no matter who it is — in 2012, and it’s hard to imagine Heitkamp overperforming Obama by 10 or more points. (Previous ranking: 1)

Chris Cillizza contributed to this report

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) Won’t Seek Reelection (via The Washington Post)

Nelson, 70, could announce his retirement as early as today, according to sources familiar with his plans. The news was first reported by Politico.

The national Democratic Party had spent more than $1 million in advertising this year driving up Nelson’s personal approval rating, perhaps in hopes of convincing him that he could win in a dark red state. But Republican-aligned groups also spent heavily trying to define the moderate Democrat as an enabler of President Obama, particularly because Nelson voted for Obama’s health care bill.

His reelection race was expected to be an uphill battle either way, but there also remain questions about the strength of the GOP field that is vying to run against him. The field is led by state Attorney General Jon Bruning and also includes state Sen. Deb Fischer and state Treasurer Don Stenberg, a favorite of the tea party.

There has been some talk in recent weeks that popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) might also run, but he has shown little interest. Other possibilities, now that Nelson is out, include members of the state’s all-GOP congressional delegation, particularly Reps. Lee Terry and Jeff Fortenberry.

It was not clear who might replace Nelson on the Democratic side, as Democrats’ bench in Nebraska is pretty thin. But former senator Bob Kerrey has been mentioned and would instantly give his party a fighting chance in a state where Obama took just 42 percent of the vote. At the same time, Kerrey said recently that it is “highly unlikely” he would replace Nelson on the ballot.

Businessman Scott Kleeb, the 2008 Democratic nominee in an open seat race against now-Sen. Mike Johanns (R), told The Fix on Tuesday that he “has no interest.”

Over the last decade, Nelson has carved out one of the most conservative records of any Democrat, often irritating the party’s liberal base by voting with Republicans.

But when it came to the health care bill, Nelson delivered what many saw as the deciding vote. In return, he also got some concessions, derogatorily referred to as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” Early GOP advertising efforts have focused heavily on this arrangement, which included exempting his home state from paying billions in Medicaid expansion costs.

LIKE: Seven Rules and 10 Simple Steps for Social Media in Your Campaign

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, is co-author of a new book, LIKE: Seven Rules and 10 Simple Steps for Social Media in Your Campaign.  Well suited for the individual with little to no social media experience, LIKE outlines the steps and strategies for utilizing social media platforms in delivering key messages – whether an individual is running for the local school board, leading an organization or seeking a seat in Congress.

The project, in collaboration with Kelly Groehler, Greg Swanholm and Bass Zanjani who met through the Policy Fellows Program at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, explores the gaps in social media used by candidates in the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race. The project was presented in June of 2011 and, since that time it has been viewed nearly 1,800 times online – and is one of the 10 most clicked-through links in the history of the Minnesota-based Pollen network newsletter.
 
The authors have combined the study findings with their own professional experiences in corporate communications, marketing communications, public policy, campaigning and grassroots organizing. This work led them to pinpoint a very real challenge facing elected officials, leaders, and others running today’s campaigns and businesses: their strategies aren’t keeping pace with the use of social media by today’s citizens. With nearly 90 percent of registered U.S. voters actively using social media, the millions of “likes” and “dislikes” they share every 60 seconds can easily make or break a campaign.
 
Next month, a solution to this challenge will be unveiled.  The forthcoming publication of LIKE: Seven Rules and 10 Simple Steps for Social Media in Your Campaign (in Politics, Business or Otherwise), offers common-sense advice on how to engage within a socially–networked democracy and campaign with confidence.
 
The premise of LIKE is simple: follow the rules, and take the right steps to use social media in any campaign. The rules of LIKE explain how social media has permanently shifted conversations with constituents – people who no longer wait for one candidate to identify a problem or its solution for them, but instead expect to be engaged as a part of the process.
 
This is not a book for the self-ascribed social media expert or the experienced user of its tools. Rather, it’s well suited for the individual with little to no social media experience, who seeks an easy-to-follow set of steps that outline the right ways to get anyone into the habit of using social media – whether running for the school board, for the United States Senate, or in leading any organization. With the 2012 election cycle underway, we believe more candidates than ever will be faced with this permanent shift in constituent engagement. LIKE can help them navigate the “likes” and “dislikes” facing their own campaigns. 
 
LIKE will initially be available in eBook format through online retailers Lulu Marketplace, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Our Twitter account is currently live – @LIKESEVEN10. We will publicly announce the book once we have a confirmed availability date, and simultaneously activate LIKE pages via Google+ and Facebook for those seeking more information, links to shop, hard copy requests, or just want to ask us questions.

https://twitter.com/#!/LIKESEVEN10/

More Young People See Opportunity in Farming (via Fox News)

A Wisconsin factory worker worried about layoffs became a dairy farmer. An employee at a Minnesota nonprofit found an escape from her cubicle by buying a vegetable farm. A nuclear engineer tired of office bureaucracy decided to get into cattle ranching in Texas.

While fresh demographic information on U.S. farmers won’t be available until after the next agricultural census is done next year, there are signs more people in their 20s and 30s are going into farming: Enrollment in university agriculture programs has increased, as has interest in farmer-training programs.

The full story can be accessed by visiting http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/21/more-young-people-see-opportunity-in-farming/

BP Biofuels Takes Exception to Wall Street Journal Commentary

Recently The Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled “The Cellulosic Energy Debacle”, which can be accessed at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204012004577072470158115782.html.

The response from BP Biofuels was as follows:

Dear Sirs,

Very few game-changing technologies have been born overnight. Cellulosic biofuels are no different.  (“The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle,” December 13.) 

The biofuels industry is not yet mature enough to improve its technology and grow at scale without support. But it is an industry that will create significant jobs for rural communities and help deliver energy security to the US. 

True, some earlier entrants have dropped out. But those that remain are making great strides in commercializing cellulosic biofuels. Any premature termination of policy support, particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), will squander the gains already made.

Those gains include a proprietary technology for cellulosic biofuel production developed by BP’s Global Biofuels Technology Center in San Diego. We know our technology makes cellulosic biofuels because we are doing it today at our demonstration facility in Jennings, Louisiana.  We also know we can access land and grow energy crops because we are doing that today in Highlands County, Florida. Our first commercial-scale facility is being designed, and will generate 600–800 construction jobs and 200 operating jobs.

Bringing all these pieces together does take time, but we are on the cusp of commercialization. In the meantime, assistance like the RFS will help create a market to drive these economic benefits. 

A diverse energy portfolio is essential for creating jobs, growing the economy and providing for the nation’s energy security. And part of that portfolio includes fuels that help lower greenhouse gases.  We have no doubt that ongoing patience and support will ultimately pay economic and energy dividends for America.

Sue Ellerbusch

President, BP Biofuels North America

Grassley Urges USDA to Appeal COOL Ruling (via Thom Petersen)

Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the Obama administration to appeal a World Trade Organization panel decision that, while validating the U.S.’s authority to have Country of Origin Labeling for meat products, strikes down the Country of Origin Labeling regulations which implement the law. Grassley joined 18 senators to send a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “Family farmers take pride in the fact that the crops they harvest make it to dinner tables around the world. People want to know where the food on their tables comes from, and makes Country of Origin Labeling a no-brainer,” Grassley said. “Nearly all products sold in the United States show where the product was made.

In fact, other countries label where their meat originated. It’s completely legitimate for us to show if the meat we buy originated in the United States.” From here, the panel decision will either be adopted by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body or the decision can be appealed to the WTO Appellate Body. Grassley joined senators Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso of Wyoming, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kent Conrad and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and John Thune of South Dakota in signing the letter.

Conservation Well-Positioned for the 2012 Farm Bill (via Agri-Pulse Communications)

Conservation: Well-Positioned for the 2012 Farm Bill

By Bruce Knight

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Although the Congressional Super Committee appointed to address our nation’s deficit fell apart, one of the positive outcomes from that process was a template for moving forward on the next farm bill. Initial discussions were shrouded in secrecy; however, a lot of folks provided input, and the outline for an agreement has begun to emerge.

Now we have an opportunity to complete a bill with far greater transparency through public hearings. It’s time to roll up our shirtsleeves and put together a farm program that is forward-looking enough to meet the risk management needs of farmers and also unleash the productive capacity necessary to feed the nine billion souls who will be sharing our planet by 2050.

To produce a farm bill next year, I believe that farm, nutrition and conservation groups must coalesce, and Congress must move swiftly. Realistically, the timeframe is always very short in a presidential election year. Ideally, the yet-to-be-unveiled draft bill should be introduced soon after Congress returns in January, and hearings must take place and committee markups completed before the Easter recess. Congress then must pass the bill before Memorial Day and have it on the President’s desk for him to sign before July 4. (Remember, Congress only tends to get things done before a holiday recess.) Otherwise, it’s unlikely to happen.

Thus far, conservation appears to have fared okay in the farm bill discussions. Of the estimated $23 billion in reductions to baseline spending envisioned for farm bill programs, about $6 billion would come from conservation. Of course, there is always a chance that overall agricultural cuts to meet deficit concerns could go deeper, but at $6 billion, conservation would certainly have given its fair share and should not take any greater hit.

How can we reduce spending and yet ensure that farmers have the support they need while we safeguard the environment and increase productivity? Several strategies are key: consolidating programs, reducing overhead and minimizing reductions in program benefits.

Current thinking suggests the next farm bill may combine the Agricultural Management Assistance program (AMA), the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) into one robust cost-share program that helps farmers meet their conservation needs. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would drop to about 25 million acres, with provisions for haying and grazing on some of those acres in exchange for a lower payment rate—similar to the recommendations I shared on this blog for a 10-10-10 CRP last June. Good land needs to come out of CRP and move into productive use; environmentally fragile land should remain in CRP.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would continue as a separate program focusing on heightened conservation objectives and productivity improvements. (Note that sign-up for the current CSP closes January 13, with potential enrollment of nearly 10 million acres, so farmers need to move quickly if they want to apply this year.) In addition, under a new farm bill there would probably be some consolidation of easement programs including the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

These are the major changes to conservation programs now likely in the next bill. However, as we’re developing it, we need to consider other efficiencies as well, such as linking crop insurance purchases and conservation commitments, expanding research and improving the environmental performance of rural development programs, which I plan to discuss in greater detail in a future blog.

The bottom line is that now is the time to move the next farm bill forward. With consensus on the basic outline for the farm bill and the cost-savings required, it’s time to work on the details of the bill in an open and transparent way, with public hearings and appropriate debate.

About the author:

Bruce I. Knight, Principal, Strategic Conservation Solutions, was the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 2006 to 2009. From 2002 to 2006, Knight served as Chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service. The South Dakota native worked on Capitol Hill for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Rep. Fred Grandy, Iowa, and Sen. James Abdnor, South Dakota. In addition, Knight served as vice president for public policy for the National Corn Growers Association and also worked for the National Association of Wheat Growers. A third-generation rancher and farmer and lifelong conservationist, Knight operates a diversified grain and cattle operation using no-till and rest rotation grazing systems.

For more news go to: http://www.agri-pulse.com

Frustration with Congress Could Hurt Republican Incumbents (Pew Research Center)

GOP Base Critical of Party’s Washington Leadership

Public discontent with Congress has reached record levels, and the implications for incumbents in next year’s elections could be stark. Two-in-three voters say most members of Congress should be voted out of office in 2012 – the highest on record. And the number who say their own member should be replaced matches the all-time high recorded in 2010, when fully 58 members of Congress lost reelection bids – the most in any election since 1948.

The Republican Party is taking more of the blame than the Democrats for a do-nothing Congress. A record-high 50% say that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly two-to-one (40% to 23%) more blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for this. By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done, and less honest and ethical in the way it governs. And for the first time in over two years, the Democratic Party has gained the edge as the party better able to manage the federal government.

The poll can be accessed by visiting http://www.people-press.org/2011/12/15/frustration-with-congress-could-hurt-republican-incumbents/