Monthly Archives: April 2016

Where We’re Headed

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2016 — The 2016 presidential campaign has taken a dramatic turn in a very short amount of time. Is the race reaching its end, or will we see yet another twist?

Before last week’s New York primary, Donald Trump was reeling, clearly experiencing the most significant momentum downturn since his campaign began. Then came the primary, and he exceeded his pre-determined delegate goal, thus righting the ship. In this week’s eastern regional primary, the real estate mogul performed in similar fashion and even topped his New York finish. Now, it is Sen. Ted Cruz who is suddenly facing elimination as the Indiana primary quickly approaches next Tuesday. For Trump to remain on his first-ballot victory track, he must take at least 39 votes from the 57 Indiana Republican delegates.

According to The Green Papers.com website that compiles political statistics, Trump has a first-ballot delegate count of 956, which tells us he is 281 away from winning the nomination. This means that the GOP front-runner must obtain 56 percent of the remaining 502 delegates from the 10 states yet to vote. Trump is the only candidate who can qualify for a first-ballot victory and do so without the aid of unbound delegates. Sen. Cruz and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) can now only band together in hopes of denying Trump the outright majority in order to force a contested convention.

Now it is Sen. Cruz who desperately needs a win. Since his new goal is to deny Trump as many delegates as possible, any sizeable Indiana victory will blunt his opponent’s momentum and stop the march toward a first ballot nomination. Gov. Kasich’s decision to not campaign there will help, but there will have to be a sizable push from the Ohio governor to encourage his Indiana supporters to vote for Cruz. With a series of recent polls finding Cruz trailing Trump from five to eight points, the Kasich push is a critical component for the Texas senator to move into first place. Failure to win Indiana may prove fatal to Sen. Cruz’s 2016 presidential aspirations.

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Indiana Now Becomes Critical

By Jim Ellis

April 28, 2016 — Indiana now becomes critical for Donald Trump. Originally projected as a victory state for Sen. Ted Cruz, this winner-take-all by congressional district Hoosier State is now leaning toward Trump. Three polls, all conducted between April 18-22 from three different pollsters (Public Opinion Strategies, Fox News, and CBS/YouGov) find Trump topping Cruz in each instance, but the spreads are tight.

The Trump range is between 41 and 37 percent in the three polls, while Cruz attracts between 31-35 percent. Gov. John Kasich is significant in each survey, placing third with support figures in the 16-22 percent realm. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, now working with Cruz to deny Trump a victory, says he will step away from Indiana in order to give the Texas senator a better shot, could give Cruz the needed boost he needs to slip past Trump.

Indiana is unique in that its at-large delegate contingent is equal to those coming from the congressional districts (27). Indiana has 57 Republican delegates, 27 at-large and 27 from the nine congressional districts (three apiece) in addition to the state’s three Republican National Committee convention votes. The three Republican National Committee delegates are unbound. It appears certain that next Tuesday, Indiana will set the tone for the final stretch in this marathon nomination campaign.

The statewide winner takes the at-large base, and the respective congressional district delegates are awarded to the first-place finisher in each individual CD. For Trump to remain on his first ballot victory track, he must take at least 39 votes from the Indiana contingent.

Trump, Hillary Closing In;
Van Hollen, McGinty Post Solid Wins

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2016 — Donald Trump exceeded expectations in last night’s eastern regional primary and looks to have won 112 of the available 118 delegates in the five voting states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island). He needed at least 103 to stay on course for a first-ballot nomination victory.

The GOP front-runner captured a majority in every state, ranging from a high of 64 percent in Rhode Island to a low of 55 percent in Maryland. More importantly, he swept the winner-take-all by congressional district states in Connecticut and Maryland, winning each of the combined 13 congressional districts. Not only did Trump win every district and thus score backdoor winner-take-all victories in the congressional district domains along with adding the one at-large winner-take-all state (Delaware) to his column, he went so far as to win every county in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The April 26 primaries came on the last day that featured more than two states — until we reach the nomination finale on June 7. That day, an additional five states will host primary voting, including California. With its 172-delegate contingent, the Golden State is the nation’s largest delegation and will likely decide whether Trump can score a first-ballot victory or if the nomination battle falls into a contested convention.

For the Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton placed first in four of the five states and easily expanded her delegate take. Sen. Bernie Sanders took the Rhode Island primary, and came close in Connecticut, but Clinton easily captured the bigger states of Maryland and Pennsylvania. She also won a strong victory in Delaware. In all, Clinton likely captured about 200 delegates according to preliminary counts, well beyond the 27 percent she needs to average from the outstanding delegate pool in order to clinch the nomination.

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Maryland, Pennsylvania
House Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

Maryland

April 26, 2016 — With representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) and Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) locked in a Senate Democratic nomination battle that is now favoring the former, we take a look at the state’s House primaries that will be decided in today’s election.

Though all but one Maryland House incumbent faces primary opposition, the real action is in the state’s two open seats. No incumbent primary challenge is viewed to be serious including that of former state Delegate Mike Smigiel who, along with two others, is opposing the lone Republican incumbent in the congressional delegation, three-term Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1).

MD-4: The 4th District, Edwards open seat, features former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who badly lost the 2014 gubernatorial campaign to now-Gov. Larry Hogan (R). He squares off in a multi-candidate contest with former Prince Georges County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, College Park state Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, retired Army officer Warren Christopher and psychologist Terence Strait. The winner takes the heavily Democratic seat in the general election. Brown is attempting to resurrect his political career after losing embarrassingly to Hogan even when cast as the early favorite.

MD-8: Van Hollen’s open 8th District is an overwhelmingly Democratic seat anchored in Montgomery County before going all the way to the Pennsylvania border. Today, the multi-million dollar mega-Democratic primary to replace him concludes. Since Maryland has no run-off law, the Democratic nomination, and therefore the seat, will be decided today. Continue reading

Graham Out; Senate Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2016 — Ever since the Florida State Supreme Court decided to re-draw the congressional boundaries halfway through the decade, freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D, FL-2, Tallahassee) has been in the political wilderness. The court declared eight of the state’s districts unconstitutional last July and finished the new map earlier this year, radically changing the original plan as enacted by the legislative and executive branches.

After the preliminary map became public it was evident that Rep. Graham was becoming a political casualty. Wanting to draw a minority 5th District that stretched from Jacksonville to Tallahassee instead of the traditional draw that began in J’ville and then meandered through Gainesville and Sanford on its way to Orlando, the court sacrificed Graham by removing the Democratic base from the 2nd District seat and transferring it to the new District 5.

Rumors were rampant that Graham, the daughter of former governor and US Sen. Bob Graham (D), would enter the open Senate race. As time passed with no movement in that direction, it was apparent she saw her career heading in a different direction. Yesterday, Rep. Graham announced that she will not seek re-election, and broadly hinted that running in the open 2018 governor’s race is within her political future.

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The Stretch Drive Begins Now

By Jim Ellis

April 22, 2016 — Donald Trump’s major New York Republican primary win on Tuesday (he captured 90 of the state’s 95 delegates, exceeding expectations by at least 10 convention votes) revives talk of a first ballot victory, but is such speculation realistic?

The evening propelled Trump to 847 bound delegates, or 390 away from clinching the GOP presidential nomination. In the remaining 15 states that will complete the primary/caucus process, the Republican front-runner must secure 57 percent of the outstanding convention votes in order to score a first-ballot victory without the aid of unbound delegates.

On April 26, voters in five eastern states will visit the polls. The aggregate bound delegate contingent hailing from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island through their various apportionment systems is 112. The minimum combined number Trump must secure is 92 from these states.

His 83 percent available delegate quota from the eastern pool is high for two reasons. First, he is heavily favored in all five states headed into Election Day. Second, he must run up the score in the east to neutralize at least three states where he likely won’t do well: Indiana (May 3), Nebraska (May 10) and South Dakota (June 7). Since Nebraska and South Dakota are Winner-Take-All states, it is probable that Trump will be shut out in both places.

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RNC Convention Rules Fight — Already!

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2016 — There is no doubt that Republicans are headed for a major convention rules fight the week before their national conclave begins, and it appears the brawl is already underway.

Controversy is arising over a proposed rule change to ditch the US House rules that have governed the national convention for decades in favor of Robert’s Rules of Order, which would give more control to the 2,472 individual delegates by allowing them to raise objections and points of order. US House rules give the convention chairman — at this point House Speaker Paul Ryan acting on behalf of the party leaders — the power to deny such motions. RNC Oregon National Committeeman Solomon Yue is officially bringing the idea for rules committee consideration as the panel prepares to meet at the Republican National Committee spring meeting next week in Florida.

Already personalities are clashing as Yue and rules committee chairman Bruce Ash (RNC Arizona committeeman) are accusing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus of stonewalling the measure in order to prevent a full rules committee vote. Priebus and RNC legal counsel John Ryder, the Tennessee national committeeman, claim not referring the proposal to the committee was merely an oversight.

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New York Landslide a Precursor?

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2016
— Donald Trump exceeded expectations last night in New York by capturing what appears to be 90 of the Empire State’s 95 delegates. Needing to score approximately 80 delegates to get back on track for a long-shot first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention in July, Trump did significantly better in his home state than pre-election projections foretold.

Trump garnered 60.5 percent of the statewide vote, making this the first time he has scored a majority in a primary. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) was second with 25.1 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could manage only a 14.5 percent vote total.

Ironically, the only one of the 62 counties Trump failed to carry was New York County, or Manhattan Borough, which is his home. Gov. Kasich took Manhattan, and won the remaining five NY delegates.

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Cruz Wins in Wyoming;
McCain Ties in Arizona

Wyoming

By Jim Ellis

April 19, 2016 — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) scored another victory in a Republican state convention system that features no direct voting. Like North Dakota and Colorado, Wyoming has historically chosen its delegates through the state convention process, and did so again over the weekend.

Earlier in the process, county caucuses chose 12 of the state’s 29 national convention votes. On Saturday, the state convention delegates elected the remaining 14 national delegates. The final three are the Republican National Committee members: the state GOP chairman, the national committeeman, and national committeewoman.

The end result is 23 delegates for Sen. Cruz versus one for national front-runner, Donald Trump. The others remain uncommitted or attached to other candidates. But, Wyoming is one of the unbound delegations, meaning the members can still change their votes unless subsequent party directives and rules enforce pledged loyalty.

According to the GreenPapers.com political information website, Trump now leads Cruz 758-558 in the national delegate count. This means Trump needs another 479 votes to clinch the nomination. To win on the first ballot, Trump would have to claim just over 62 percent of the outstanding 769 Republican delegates.

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New Maryland, New York Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 18, 2016 — In anticipation of the April 26 primary, the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey research conglomeration studied (April 5-9; 775 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters, 368 likely Maryland primary voters) the Maryland electorate and found the seesaw Senate Democratic primary continuing to change.

These latest results find Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) again taking a lead over fellow Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County), this time a 44-38 percent margin on the most recent ballot test. Last week, the Washington Post and University of Maryland released their own poll posting Edwards to a 44-40 percent advantage. The race will continue to be very close all the way to primary Election Day. The eventual Democratic nominee will succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) in a state where Republicans have little chance of winning a statewide federal contest.

On the presidential front, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened a wide 58-36 percent advantage over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT). Clinton needs only 30 percent of the remaining delegates to capture the Democratic national prize. The Free State has 118 Democratic delegates. With victories in New York (291 delegates) next Tuesday, and Maryland on the 26th, Clinton will be knocking on national victory’s door.

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Florida Rep. Crenshaw to Retire

By Jim Ellis

April 15, 2016 — Jacksonville area Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-4) has announced he will not seek a ninth term in office, thus ending a congressional career that began with his initial election in 2000.

He becomes the 44th House member not to seek re-election in 2016, and the 29th Republican, making this the third consecutive election cycle with an abnormally large number of open seats. In 2012, 63 districts were open; 2014 saw 48 campaigns without an incumbent running. Normally, open seats number in the 30-35 range. Crenshaw’s unexpected retirement means that seven of Florida’s 27 US House seats will be open for the coming election.

Previously, the 71-year-old lawmaker served in the Florida state House and Senate for a combined total of 14 years. In 1992, Crenshaw became the first Republican in almost 120 years to be elected as president of the Florida state Senate. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

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Are Both Sides Rigged?

By Jim Ellis

April 14, 2016
— Earlier in the week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump charged that some GOP officials were “rigging” the nomination process against him. Now that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is beginning to reap the benefits of his campaign laying the groundwork in key places during the past several months, particularly in unbound delegation states such as Colorado and North Dakota, Trump is finding himself on the short end of the delegate selection process.

Because Colorado did not have a primary or caucus but went only to a state convention, Trump is saying such a move is out of bounds. The North Dakota Republicans did the exact same thing a week earlier, but he didn’t levy the same charges toward the Peace Garden State GOP leaders.

Simultaneously, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman claimed that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) is trying to “rig” the Democratic system by attempting to convince Super Delegates who have already announced for Clinton to change their minds.

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Trump’s Achilles Heel

By Jim Ellis

April 13, 2016 — Donald Trump’s flap over the Colorado delegation’s action this past Saturday reveals his campaign’s biggest weakness. While he has performed better than any other Republican candidate in attracting votes in the primary/caucus process to date, the Trump organization has paid scant attention to delegate selection mechanics in the various states. Now, the omission is beginning to cost him.

Trump is crying foul because the Colorado Republican Party met in convention instead of scheduling a primary or caucus, but theirs was not a random, or unheard of act. In fact, North Dakota used the same procedure the previous weekend without raising the Trump campaign’s ire.

“Though [Trump] has placed first more often than any other Republican candidate in primaries and a few caucuses, he has still garnered support from just 37 percent of voters casting ballots in a primary or caucus, far from obtaining majority status.”

Colorado Republicans have always employed a nominating convention. Prior to the 1980s, the only ballot access a candidate for any partisan office had was to obtain at least 20 percent of the convention vote. For the past 25-plus years, however, candidates can opt to bypass the convention and directly qualify exclusively through the signature petition process.

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Sanders & Cruz Win Again;
Tennessee Filings

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2016 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) won his seventh consecutive Democratic nomination event as he scored a Saturday afternoon 56-44 percent Wyoming Caucus victory over Hillary Clinton. Though he realistically cannot close the delegate gap, mostly because of Clinton’s overwhelming strength among the party’s free agent Super Delegates, Sanders has still managed to win the popular vote in 17 states and territories as compared his opponent’s 20.

Wyoming has only 18 Democratic delegates, and while Sanders decisively won more state delegates in their caucus system, Clinton is coming away with more national convention delegate votes thanks to the aforementioned Super Delegates.

Once the regular and Super Delegate votes are tabulated, Clinton looks to have scored a positive 11-7 margin, despite the state delegate tally cutting against her.

According to The New York Times, the updated unofficial national count finds Clinton with an overall 1,756 to 1,068 advantage. This means the former Secretary of State is 627 votes shy of obtaining the 2,383 delegates required to claim the nomination with 20 states and territories yet to vote. Therefore, she needs less than one-third of the remaining delegates to win.

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Why Cruz Visited The Bronx

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2016 — Many people are questioning why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went to The Bronx last week in preparation for the April 19 New York primary, a little over a week from now.

Significantly trailing both front-runner Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) in the latest released polling (Monmouth University; April 2-3; 302 likely New York Republican primary voters; Trump 52 percent, Kasich 25 percent, Cruz 17 percent), which is consistent with earlier data in the public realm, it appears that the senator may not be using his limited time wisely in visiting a place with so few Republican voters. But, there is a method to Cruz’s “madness”.

New York has a complicated Republican delegate apportionment system. For a candidate to qualify for any of the 11 at-large delegates, he must break the 20 percent vote threshold. If, on the other end of the spectrum, a candidate exceeds a statewide majority the at-large delegates then become Winner-Take-All.

The 27 congressional districts are designed in similar fashion. If a candidate breaks the 50 percent barrier in an individual district, that seat’s three delegates are all awarded to the top finisher. If the district winner falls between 20 and 50 percent, he wins two delegates and the person in second position receives one.

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