2020 Senate Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 25, 2018 — Only nearing the end of March in the off-year, already a great deal of early 2020 Senate action has occurred. Thus, it is a good time to begin reviewing all 34 statewide federal races that will adorn next year’s ballot in a three-part series. Today, we look at the first dozen in alphabetical order:

  • Alabama – Sen. Doug Jones (D) – From the Republican perspective, this could be the most important race in the country. The GOP must convert this seat in order to provide a better cushion to protect their Senate majority.
    The 2017 special election became a debacle for the Republicans that allowed Sen. Jones to unexpectedly slip past politically wounded former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Already, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) and state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) have announced their 2020 Senate candidacies. Judge Moore claims to be seriously considering running again, which could again create the same adverse situation that previously plagued the Republicans. Toss-up

  • Alaska – Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) – At this point, there seems little in the way of opposition developing either in the Republican primary or general election against Sen. Sullivan. Safe Republican

  • Arizona – Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) – Another critically important Senate race that has already featured substantial action. Sen. McSally’s appointment came after her defeat in the 2018 Senate race and she faces a difficult campaign ahead to win the 2020 special election. Whoever wins next year serves the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. The seat next comes in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2022.
    Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), has already announced his candidacy and will be a major candidate. In early April, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), whose ex-wife, Kate Gallego, was just elected Mayor of Phoenix in a special election, is expected to enter the Democratic primary. Since Arizona holds a late August primary, a tough Democratic nomination fight would benefit McSally just as her difficult 2018 Republican primary played to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s advantage. Toss-up

  • Continue reading

New CNN National Numbers Are Out

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2019 — The CNN television network released their new national survey of the Democratic presidential contest (conducted by SSRS research company; March 14-17; 1,003 US adults, 456 self-identified Democrats and those Independents who lean to the Democratic Party, 448 self-identified Republicans and those Independents who lean to the Republican Party), and while the ballot test results were consistent with most other polling, some different and interesting questions were asked.

CNN compared this poll to their previous study conducted during the Dec. 6-9 period. The first four finishers remain in relatively the same order, but the percentages have shifted and some significantly.

In the current poll, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the pack of 17 tested candidates. He tops the field with 28 percent, down from the 30 percent support he held in December. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is second with 20 percent, making a big jump from the 14 percent base CNN found three months earlier.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) surpasses former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), and tripled her preference from December. Sen. Harris leaps from 4 to 12 percent support. For his part, O’Rourke drops to fourth but still gains two percentage points in comparison to December (rising from 9 to 11 percent). All of the others remain in single-digits, though Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) doubled her support from 3 to 6 percent.

Continue reading

Biden’s Strong Rebound, and a
Michigan Senate Surprise

By Jim Ellis

March 21, 2019 — Earlier this week, Emerson College Polling released a survey of Wisconsin Democrats that found Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leading former Vice President Joe Biden, 39-24 percent, but an even newer Emerson offering detects that the tables have already turned.

According to the latest Emerson Michigan poll (March 7-10; 743 registered Michigan voters; 317 likely Michigan Democratic presidential primary voters), it is Biden who is claiming 40 percent support within the Democratic sample, while Sen. Sanders pulls 23 percent. As is the case with the Wisconsin poll, California Sen. Kamala Harris is third, well back with 12 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) follows with 11 percent. All others fall into low single digits. New entry Beto O’Rourke was not included on the survey questionnaire.

The results are not surprising. Biden has long been a favorite of the private sector unions, which are a strong force in Michigan politics. Additionally, President Obama, with Biden on the ticket, ran strongly here. In 2012, he defeated Mitt Romney, 54-45 percent. The former Republican nominee’s father, George Romney, is a past governor of Michigan. Four years earlier, Obama’s margin over John McCain was an even greater 57-41 percent.

Michigan is an important state on the Democratic nomination circuit, eighth largest of the 57 voting entities. Currently scheduled for a March 10 primary, the Wolverine State is awarded 125 elected delegates, ballooning to an aggregate 147 when Super Delegates are added to the total. The Super Delegates, or party leaders, may not vote on the first ballot, but are eligible if more than one roll call becomes necessary.

Continue reading

Understanding Independent Voters

By Jim Ellis

March 20, 2019 — In most elections, particularly in today’s polarized political climate, the independent vote is often the determining factor. As the non-affiliated share grows within the American electorate, these individuals become even more important.

But, who are the independents and how different are they from the average partisan Republican or Democrat? The Pew Research Center released a new study at the end of last week about the independent voter. Their data sources were a compilation of polls taken during the past few years, up to and including 2019.

The Pew conclusions are interesting in that the study basically reveals the lion’s share of independents align very closely with partisan Republicans and Democrats. Or, in other words, they generally vote with one party or the other, hold similar views and values as one of the major parties, but don’t want to associate themselves with the particular entity.

Based upon the sourced data, Pew denotes that approximately 38 percent of the electorate considers themselves to be independent. This compares with 31 percent who self-identify as Democrats and 26 percent who say they are Republican. Within the aggregate independent segment, 46 percent align with the Democrats while 35 percent identify with Republicans. Therefore, 19 percent of this group can be considered the true swing voter.

While those identifying more closely with the Republican Party are fewer, they have a higher voter turnout proclivity. According to the 2018 midterm election statistics, 54 percent of the Independent/Lean Republicans cast a ballot versus 48 percent of those generally identifying with the Democrats. The greater turnout figure for Republicans, even in a more Democratic year like 2018, suggest that the two parties are basically at parity within the independent voting sector.

Continue reading

NC-9: Ten Republicans File

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

March 19, 2019 — Candidate filing for the upcoming special election cycle closed for North Carolina’s 9th District on Friday, and the official field now features 10 Republicans, one Democrat, and two minor party candidates.

The special election is necessary because no winner was officially declared in the 2018 general election due to voter fraud accusations in one county. If the special cycle extends through the full calendar, which will happen if any one of the nomination battles are forced into a run-off, the special general won’t occur until Nov. 5, a day short of what will be a full year since the 2018 votes were cast.

We already know the Democratic Party won’t require a runoff. The 2018 nominee, Dan McCready, will be unopposed for the special election nomination, meaning he is guaranteed a ballot position in the general. Minor party candidates Allen Smith (Green) and Jeff Scott (Libertarian) will also advance because they, too, are unopposed in their respective party primaries.

But, with 10 Republicans running, there is a good chance that none of the GOP contenders will reach the 30 percent threshold necessary to claim a plurality nomination. If the Republicans nominate someone in the May 14 primary, the special general then moves to Sept. 10. If, however, a runoff is required, the campaign then stretches to the aforementioned November date.

Continue reading

Now That Beto Is In,
What Are His Chances?

Beto O’Rourke | Facebook Photo

By Jim Ellis

March 18, 2019 — Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, as expected, officially joined the Democratic presidential race with a formal announcement while traveling to Iowa to begin campaigning.

O’Rourke’s entry now means that the Democratic field features 14 candidates, with more, including former Vice President Joe Biden, soon to join.

O’Rourke comes into the field generally viewed as a top-tier candidate, though he has been dropping into mid-single digits in the latest national polls. He appears to be battling Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for fourth position behind Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

As we remember, O’Rourke was hyped as a major US Senate candidate with the opportunity of converting Republican Texas to the Democratic column with an upset win over first-term incumbent and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R).

Though he fell three points short of victory, losing to Cruz 51-48%, he did prove his prowess as a national fundraiser. O’Rourke attracted over $80 million from across the country for his Senate race.

In the Texas campaign, then-Rep. O’Rourke moved left to appeal to the national Democratic donor constituency, which worked. And, his voting record over three terms in the House supported the issue positions he was advocating during his statewide campaign.

Continue reading

Sen. Tillis’ Potential Primary Fight

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

March 15, 2019 — According to an article in The Hill newspaper earlier this week, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R) may be headed for a serious Republican primary battle next year. The article, written by The Hill reporters Scott Wong and Alexander Bolton (THE HILL: GOP’s Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump), details several local Republican county chairmen expressing displeasure with Sen. Tillis’ stand against President Trump’s emergency declaration for the southern border situation.

The article also points out that Sen. Tillis led the Republican efforts to protect Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s role in investigating the president over possible Russian collusion and other tangential issues. This is yet another issue stance that pits Sen. Tillis against his Republican base.

The article suggests that three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) could be testing the waters to make a senatorial run, reporting that the congressman has conducted a statewide poll. According to the Walker Camp only Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/ West Asheville) has higher name identification among the delegation members. At this point, Congressman Walker appears not to be eliminating any political option.

During the 2016 US Senate campaign, Sen. Richard Burr (R) indicated that he would not seek re-election after he completes his third term in 2022. Therefore, Walker may be looking not so much at a primary challenge to Sen. Tillis but could already be preparing for an open seat run three years from now.

Continue reading

Beto Heads to Iowa:
The Latest Candidate Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

March 14, 2019 — As the old saying goes, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” which is quickly becoming the case with respect to the Democratic presidential nomination campaign.

With the announcement that former US representative and 2018 Texas Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke is making his first trip to Iowa this weekend and is joining the presidential fray, it’s a good time to recap exactly who is in, out, and still straddling the fence.

Counting an O’Rourke for President operation, there are now 14 active Democratic presidential candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden looks to be weeks away from announcing his candidacy, while at least two others are also making moves to enter. And, an additional five more could also become contenders before the first televised debates begin in June of this year.

Here’s where they currently stand:
Continue reading

Rep. Moulton Sees A Different Path

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2019 — While former New York City mayor and media magnate Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) both backed away from entering the presidential campaign because they couldn’t see a path for themselves to win the Democratic nomination, a different Democratic office holder appears to be taking the opposite view.

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem)

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) was one of the leaders of the group who attempted to deny Nancy Pelosi a return to the speakership. Therefore, with little thought of becoming a factor in the current House Democratic majority, Moulton is looking at other opportunities.

While he didn’t expressly deny examining a potential primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey (D) earlier in the year, such a move no longer appears to be on the congressman’s horizon. Rather, he appears to believe his chances might be a bit better in trying for the “big prize.”

Scheduling visits to neighboring New Hampshire and then over to Iowa in the coming weeks, Rep. Moulton is clearly testing the waters to enter the presidential race. And, according to reports from people close to his effort, a national campaign announcement is likely forthcoming at the end of April or beginning of May.

Rep. Moulton, who served four tours of duty in the Iraq War and saw significant combat action, is a liberal Democrat, but he seems to be a hybrid in falling between the socialist Democrats such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and his Massachusetts colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the former Blue Dog Democrats who trend more centrist.

Continue reading

The Outer Banks Battle

By Jim Ellis

The late longtime North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones Jr. / Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Feb. 12, 2019 — The death of veteran North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-Farmville) on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 — his 76th birthday — has sent the state’s 3rd District into a special election that will likely last all the way to Sep. 10, and the campaign will be unusually competitive.

Since the district was drawn in its current configuration in 2011, the Democrats have spent only an aggregate of $53,000 in challenging Rep. Jones. In 2018, he was unopposed. Two years earlier, Democratic nominee Ernest Reeves placed his name on the ballot but literally spent no money. During the four post-2010 census elections, Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote, and 66.0 percent when the uncontested campaign is removed from the configuration.

But, the special election campaign looks very different and will be the first truly competitive campaign in this part of eastern North Carolina since Jones unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster all the way back in 1994.

On Friday, candidate filing closed and no less than 26 Republicans, Democrats, and minor party candidates filed to run in the April 30 primary. With so many names on the ballot it is possible that both major parties could be forced into runoff elections even though North Carolina has only a 30 percent runoff rule.

For the Republicans, 17 individuals filed including a two-time primary opponent to Rep. Jones, three sitting state representatives, and the state Republican Party vice chair. But the Democrats, for the first time in more than two decades, have legitimate contenders in a district that should continually elect Republicans. The six-person Democratic field contains two former mayors, one of Greenville, the other New Bern, and two retired Marine Corps officers.

Continue reading

With Brown Bowing Out,
Does That Mean Biden Will Begin?

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – not running for president

March 11, 2019 — Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, another of the potential Democratic presidential candidates who most observers thought would enter the race, is not.

His announcement late last week was a bit surprising considering his home state with 136 first-ballot delegates and 153 overall (the seventh largest state delegation at the Democratic National Convention) moved the primary to March 10, partially with the idea of giving him a boost.

Sen. Brown’s decision provides us a clue as to what else may happen, however. He, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, basically said the reason for not becoming a candidate is that the victory path is not evident. The underlying conclusion is they obviously believe former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.

Though all three men (Biden, Bloomberg, and Brown) certainly must be considered liberals on the ideological scale, they are not part of the far-left faction that Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and others are attempting to attract. Therefore, if the Bloomberg and Brown paths are blocked, then it is Biden who is their most formidable impediment.

If the former vice president and Delaware senator enters the race, and some say he will do so early next month, is he a lock for the nomination? Polling indicates he would jump to the top of the current heap but would be nowhere close to the majority of delegate votes required to win the nomination on the first convention ballot. In four late February national polls of likely Democratic primary voters, Biden tops them all but with preference percentages of 27, 30, 29, and 31 – hardly dominating numbers.

Continue reading

Bloomberg & Other Surprises

By Jim Ellis

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D)

March 8, 2019 — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision earlier this week not to enter the Democratic presidential race becomes the first major surprise move of the early campaign.

It was clearly expected that he would become a candidate. After all, he was talking about committing $500 million of his own money to the effort, he’d hired key campaign staff, designed a presidential campaign logo, and even organized an announcement tour beginning in his birthplace of Boston, Massachusetts.

Speculation continues to surround former Vice President Joe Biden’s decision regarding whether or not he may also ultimately decide to take a pass on the race; Bloomberg’s reasoning provides us a key clue that at least he thinks Biden will soon form a campaign.

So far, 11 Democrats have become candidates with two more filing exploratory committees. The pair remaining in pre-candidate status are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

It is conceivable that one or both of the latter women could decide not to become candidates. Rep. Gabbard has run into organizational trouble, is being attacked for her foreign policy positions, and now has drawn serious primary opposition for her congressional seat. Just recently, state Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) has earned public endorsements from former governors and key Hawaii Democratic Party leaders.

While many in the media cast Sen. Gillibrand as a top-tier candidate, she has gone nowhere since her exploratory announcement, failing so far to even break one percent in any released poll.

Continue reading

2020 Democratic Presidential
Field Narrows by Three

By Jim Ellis

March 7, 2019 — Three prominent potential Democratic presidential candidates, almost in unison, just said they would not join the 2020 campaign. Two of the decisions were expected, but the third was a surprise.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had hired a staff, was in the process of designing a presidential campaign logo, and planning an announcement tour to begin in his birthplace city of Medford, Mass., said late Tuesday afternoon that he would not seek the presidency in 2020. Instead, he will devote his efforts to founding a new organization entitled, “Beyond Carbon,” with the goal of virtually ending America’s reliance on oil, gas, and coal by the year 2050. He said he believes, through this group, that he can best help to defeat President Trump.

Former secretary of state, US senator, First Lady, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also confirmed that she will not be a candidate next year but will remain active on the political scene. This result was more expected even though speculation had increased recently that she might again become a presidential candidate.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), another potential presidential candidate, announced that he will seek a third term in the Senate, which kills any chance of his entering the presidential campaign. His fate was virtually sealed when leaders of his own party, including Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR), refused to change Oregon election law to allow an individual to simultaneously run for more than one office.

The Bloomberg move could have an effect on the overall campaign and may be a signal that former Vice President Joe Biden will soon be entering the race. Reports suggest that Bloomberg believed his path to the party nomination involved appealing to the more centrist element of the Democratic Party, a segment where Biden is strong.

Continue reading

Hickenlooper & Inslee:
Former Governor & Governor
Join Democratic Presidential Fray

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Photo, Moritz Hager) Right: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

March 6, 2019 — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Democratic presidential field over the weekend, following Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who jumped in last Friday. The pair became the 12th and 13th official Democratic presidential candidates, and the first governor and former governor to join the campaign.

But what are the paths to actual nomination for each man? Neither has high national name identification and both are from states moderate in size: Washington has 107 total Democratic National Convention delegates, and Colorado 80. This places them as the 14th and 17th largest states among the 57 voting entities that will comprise the Democratic delegate pool.

It’s hard to see a viable way to the nomination for Gov. Inslee. Without a strong geographical base or high name ID, the two-term Pacific Northwest governor is attempting to carve a niche for himself as the climate change candidate, but that is a space already heavily populated. Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular stresses the climate change issues as part of his portfolio, as do most of the other candidates at least to a degree.

It’s possible Inslee also doesn’t see much of a path for himself, which explains why he answered so vociferously that he is not ruling out running for a third term in his present position when asked during his announcement event. With almost two-thirds of the bound delegate votes likely being decided on or before March 17, 2020, Inslee will have plenty of time to pivot back into a governor’s race because the Washington candidate filing deadline doesn’t elapse until May of that year.

Continue reading

PA-12 NOMINEE KELLER IMMEDIATELY HITS OPPONENT, PELOSI, SANDERS, CORTEZ

Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania state Rep. Fred Keller
(R-Mifflinburg)

March 5, 2019 — On Saturday, during a seven-hour marathon special district convention marked with controversy, the central Pennsylvania Republican delegates chose state Rep. Fred Keller (R-Mifflinburg) as the party nominee for 12th District Congressman Tom Marino’s (R-Williamsport) vacated seat. Marino resigned from the House at the end of January due to professional and health reasons.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement special election for May 21. Under Pennsylvania election law, the various political parties call a district convention or meeting for purposes of choosing a special election nominee. Originally, 24 potential Republican candidates expressed interest in running, but only 14 were successful in having their names placed into nomination before the 200-plus assembled delegates.

After Rep. Marino’s unexpected announcement, Democrats responded quickly and re-nominated their 2018 candidate, local college professor Marc Friedenberg, who advances into the special general election hoping to perform better than he did against Marino. In November, Friedenberg lost 66-34 percent while spending just over $90,000 on his federal campaign.

Saturday’s convention became controversial once the Club for Growth organization began sending mailers to the delegates attacking state Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-Williamsport), over his record on tax issues as a legislator first elected in 2014. Prior to gathering in Williamsport, Wheeland appeared as the candidate most likely to become the delegates’ choice.

But, the convention was rocked when the representative’s stepson distributed a letter detailing how Wheeland abused he and his mother. The combination attack was enough to drive Wheeland from the race just before the fourth ballot, yielding the victory for Keller.

Continue reading