Monthly Archives: May 2016

Debbie’s Downfall?

By Jim Ellis

May 31, 2016
— Is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) headed for defeat in this year’s Democratic primary? Even though there has been a great deal of recent controversy swirling around the South Florida congresswoman, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, the answer is no.

Among other issues breaking against her, the congresswoman is coming under major attack for, in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ words, “rigging” the election for Hillary Clinton. This charge relates to the presidential campaign rules vis-à-vis delegate apportionment and Super Delegates. Sanders supports his bias charge by reminding anyone who’ll listen that Wasserman Shultz was one of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign co-chairs back in 2008, thus highlighting the strong personal relationship between the two.

Wasserman Schultz is also facing resignation calls from her position as national party chair. Though no major Democratic leader has called for her resignation, virtually none have rallied to her defense, either. Instead, people like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Leader-in-Waiting Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and to a large extent President Obama, simply refuse to make any comment about the situation.

Now, the national barbs are spilling over into her own US House re-nomination primary. Her major Democratic opponent, law professor Tim Canova, had already raised more than $1 million even before Sen. Sanders publicly endorsed him last week. Canova claims to have obtained an additional $250,000, mostly through Internet contributions, since receiving Sanders’ open support.

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They’re At It Again

By Jim Ellis

May 27, 2016 — Now the Republicans are doing it.

Before the May 10 Nebraska primary, we detailed how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was running television ads under their own acronym, advising Omaha Republican voters about who was the most conservative candidate. As we chronicled, the Democrats’ ploy to promote former state senator and Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell because they believed him to be the weaker contender, had little effect since retired Gen. Don Bacon (R) won a landslide Republican nomination victory.

Now, Republicans are replicating the tactic in California. Feeling they have a chance to advance a pair of Republicans in the open June 7 CA-24 jungle congressional primary, the National Republican Congressional Committee, under the disclaimer “NRCC”, is now attempting to “educate” the Democratic electorate about who is the more liberal candidate.

The new ad targets Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who the NRCC and most political analysts believe is the strongest Democratic candidate. The 24th District is open this year because veteran Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) is retiring.

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An Incumbents’ Night

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2016 — It was an incumbents’ night on Tuesday. For example, despite wide dissatisfaction with their federal elected officials, particularly among Republican voters, incumbents again scored well in the Georgia primary.

Georgia

Several House members have now been effectively re-elected for another term. Representatives Buddy Carter (R-GA-1), Jody Hice (R-GA-10), and David Scott (D-GA-13) faced no primary opposition and have no major party opponent for the fall campaign, thus effectively winning a new term.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA-9) prevailed in his multi-opponent re-nomination battle. He scored 61 percent of the vote against former Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10), who previously represented about half of this seat pre-redistricting and was attempting an ill-fated political comeback after losing the 2014 Senate Republican primary. Broun notched 22 percent, while the remaining three candidates split the outstanding 17 percent. With no Democratic opposition for November, Collins also won his re-election last night.

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VA GOP Challenge Rebuked

By Jim Ellis

May 25, 2016 — Monday, the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Virginia Republican congressional delegation’s lawsuit to overturn the new court-ordered federal district map. The high court ruled that the delegation did not have legal standing to bring the suit.

Since this was the final legal hurdle to making the new map permanent, it is now virtually assured that the Virginia map will remain intact for the remainder of the decade.

To review, back in mid-2015, a three-judge federal panel invalidated Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-Newport News) 3rd District, thus forcing a re-draw of the Tidewater area. In 2011, when originally crafting the map, the Republican map drawers made a basic mistake that eventually forced this geographic segment to fail.

Under previous court orders and legal precedent, when a federal district crosses a body of water it must remain in “line of sight” in order to adhere to the contiguous district requirement. The original 3rd CD violated this condition because it connected disparate regions along the James River. The 2011 3rd District, like the one that was drawn in 2001, began in Richmond and traveled southeast to the Norfolk area to encompass that city, the city of Portsmouth, and other land area portions around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Today’s Primaries

By Jim Ellis

May 24, 2016 — Voters in several states go to the polls in primary elections today, but only one group will vote for president.

Washington

Washington State Republicans will visit the polling places and cast ballots in the presidential contest even though the delegates were just chosen over the weekend. Though the state convention participants overwhelmingly chose Sen. Ted Cruz supporters as national delegates, they will still be bound to the voters’ choice on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention.

Turnout will likely be low because the nomination of Donald Trump is now a foregone conclusion, and the state primary, featuring the US Senate and House races, will not occur until Aug. 2. Therefore, today’s vote is a stand-alone Republican presidential contest since Democrats have previously voted in caucus.

Washington is a 20 percent threshold state, and there is a reasonable chance that Trump will be the only contender to exceed the minimum percentage. If so, he would be awarded all 11 at-large delegates.

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Two Sad Retirements

By Jim Ellis

May 23, 2016 — Two additional House members announced late last week that they would not file for re-election, both due to health reasons.

Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea/Honolulu) issued a public statement indicating that his pancreatic cancer is spreading and he is unable to seek re-election to a second term. Takai was diagnosed with the disease last year, had surgery in November, and doctors cleared him to run for another term.

Now, unfortunately, his health has taken a serious turn for the worse and he is forced to retire. Rep. Takai, 48 years of age, won a 51-47 percent victory in 2014 after serving 20 years in the Hawaii legislature.

Florida Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Bonita Springs/Ft. Myers) also announced that he will not seek re-election. He is returning to Florida to care for his ailing father. Clawson won a special election in 2014, and a full term later that year. Rep. Clawson, a multi-millionaire former business owner, is serving in his first elective office and says he doesn’t rule out again running for office in the future.

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McCain Teetering

By Jim Ellis

May 20, 2016 — A new Public Policy Polling survey (May 13-15; 896 registered Arizona voters, 443 likely Republican primary voters) provides further evidence that the Arizona Senate race will attract a great deal of attention in the fall campaign. If this data is accurate, then the Aug. 30 Republican primary will be noteworthy, too.

According to the results, five-term Sen. John McCain (R) holds only a 42-36 percent lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in the general election pairing. Though the ballot test presents an ominous sign for McCain, this data is actually better for him than an April Behavior Research Center study. That poll found he and Rep. Kirkpatrick tied at 42 percent.

But this PPP survey, for the first time, shows McCain becoming potentially vulnerable in the Republican primary. The senator has four Republican primary challengers, including former state Sen. Kelli Ward.

According to the primary ballot test question, McCain would only lead the GOP field with 39 percent, followed by Ward who registers 26 percent support. Adding all of the minor candidates together totals an additional nine percentage points, with 27 percent undecided. If McCain and Ward are isolated in a one-on-one contest, the two are actually tied with 41 percent apiece.

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More on Tuesday’s Primaries

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2016
— Once again Sen. Bernie Sanders performed well against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s primaries. While even Sanders is all but conceding a Clinton ultimate Democratic presidential nomination victory, he nonetheless won the Oregon primary. In the face of the latest Fox News poll (May 6-9; 304 likely Oregon Democratic primary voters) predicting a 15-point Clinton advantage, Sanders appears to have won by six. The final tally, because of Oregon’s all-mail voting system will take time to fully record.

In Kentucky, Sanders actually gained the lead with 95 percent of the precincts reporting, but in the end Clinton pulled out what appears to be a 1,900-vote victory. The count is not final at this writing, however.

Even though Clinton again badly under-performed in what should be a victory lap for her, she still moved closer to her goal of capturing the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination. There is no doubt she will deliver, but it’s going to take her until the primary season’s last day (June 7) to officially clinch, something that was not predicted at the beginning of the campaign. Most analysts believed she would become the presumptive nominee back on Super Tuesday (March 1).

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Kentucky, Idaho & Oregon

By Jim Ellis

May 18, 2016
— Primaries were held last night in three states, and there were no surprises to speak of, except perhaps how well Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to perform against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

Kentucky

Voters headed to the polls in the Blue Grass State to choose nominees for state and federal offices. Only Democrats cast ballots in the presidential contest. Republicans met in caucus back in early March, so there was no accompanying GOP primary.

Sen. Rand Paul (R) seeks re-nomination for a second term, and facing only two minor opponents, he easily won. His general election opponent will be Lexington/Fayette County Mayor Jim Gray (D), who glided to a landslide nomination win over six minor Democratic candidates.

None of the five incumbents seeking re-election had any serious nomination threat. Minister Nancy Jo Kemper (D) was thought to potentially be a serious opponent for two-term Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington) in the general election, but she had raised less that $150,000 for the race. All incumbents brushed back minor opposition. No Kentucky seat is expected to change hands in the general election. Continue reading

What Are They Seeing?

By Jim Ellis

May 17, 2016 — To listen to most media political pundits, the Democratic Party leaders, and even many Republican Party chieftains, one would think that Hillary Clinton is going to defeat Donald Trump in a November political tsunami.

Understanding that it is way too early to accurately predict the general election, the early polling numbers do not support the previous supposition. In fact, while the survey research certainly shows Clinton leading the race her margin is actually small, opposite to what one might conclude from watching and reading the various public pronouncements.

Six polls have been conducted since the 2nd of May from six different pollsters and all find Clinton leading the national popular vote. Now, we all know that the aggregate national vote does not elect a president, but it is a good gauge as to what people are thinking.

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The Backfired Ploy

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2016
— The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took a big chance in the closing days of the Nebraska primary just concluded, and their ploy crashed and burned.

The DCCC, understanding that Tea Party supporting former state senator and county commissioner Chip Maxwell (R) would be an easier opponent for their freshman incumbent, Rep. Brad Ashford, to beat bought over $400,000 worth of ad time to contrast Maxwell and retired Air Force General Don Bacon (R).

Their ad (above) portrays Maxwell as the “Tea Party conservative” in the Republican primary and urges GOP voters to “look up the facts” about the two candidates. In directly appealing to the group of base conservative voters the Dem party leaders hoped to confuse them in order to promote the weaker general election Republican candidate.

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Polls: Razor Thin Races

By Jim Ellis

May 13, 2016 — Quinnipiac University, releasing the Senate numbers from the three-state presidential polls they just conducted, finds toss-up campaigns emerging across the board.

In Florida, both nomination battles are far from clear or being settled. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), the Democratic establishment’s chosen candidate, and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), the conservative base contender who enjoys strong support from the Club for Growth — among other outside right-of-center organizations — were the strongest competitors for each party. It is important to note, however, that all potential general election match-ups were within small single-digit margins.

It is fair to say that representatives Murphy and DeSantis may have the best chance of advancing to the general election and, if they do, this might become the best campaign in the country. Such a race would feature two young, articulate office holders with leadership potential in their respective parties. That being said, the Q-Poll Florida data (April 27-May 8; 1,051 registered Florida voters) finds Murphy holding the barest of margins, 36-35 percent over DeSantis, meaning a virtual tie.

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Trump Towers

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2016 — Though his presidential campaign opponents have dropped out of the race, it was still a point of curiosity to examine Donald Trump’s recorded percentages in the last two Tuesday primaries.

It was a foregone conclusion that he would win West Virginia – he’s done very well in coal country, and this state is in many ways the industry’s home – but Nebraska is likely a state that would have voted for Sen. Ted Cruz had the contested campaign continued.

True to form, Trump broke 75 percent of the vote in West Virginia and topped 60 percent in Nebraska. This suggests that many establishment Republicans coming out against him during the past week had little effect on the individuals voting in these two primaries.

Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. After she spoke out earlier about shutting down the coal industry — something that wouldn’t go over well in West Virginia — it was expected she would falter in the Mountain State. She did. True to form, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. However, Clinton did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

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Nebraska, West Virginia Primaries

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2016 — Though the presidential nomination contests are virtually over, voters are still streaming to the polls for nine Republican and 13 Democratic intra-party elections. Now that we are progressing further into the election cycle more states include down ballot races along with the presidential contest. That was the case in Nebraska and West Virginia yesterday. Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. It was expected she would fall in West Virginia after coming out earlier for shutting down the coal industry. True to form, Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. She did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

Nebraska

It was interesting to see how presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fared in Nebraska, capturing 60 percent of the vote. Original projections slated this state for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and with it 36 winner-take-all Cornhusker delegates. Trump now wins, but the percentage is worth noting. The Midwest and Rocky Mountain region has been Cruz’s strongest territory, in addition to his home state of Texas, which is one reason Trump’s Indiana victory last week became so significant. The changing regional political winds in a state originally thought certain to go to Cruz helped end the race.

With many Republican establishment leaders publicly eschewing Trump’s candidacy, it doesn’t appear these actions hurt the future nominee and may actually have helped reinforce his independent, anti-establishment persona.

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Pivotal Minnesota

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2016 — If the Democrats are to have any chance of making major gains in the 2016 House of Representatives elections, they must take advantage of seats in states like Minnesota where they traditionally perform well. Now, it appears the slates are virtually set for the North Star State’s fall elections.

The Republicans held their party endorsing convention over the weekend, which likely produced their congressional nominees. The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) held their convention at an earlier date.

While the DFL candidates are challenging for two of the state’s three Republican seats, the Minnesota GOP also has two potential conversion opportunities.

The weekend’s major convention fight came in Rep. John Kline’s (R-Burnsville) open 2nd District. There, radio talk show host and 1990 congressional candidate Jason Lewis (R) prevailed on the sixth ballot to win the party endorsement. Normally, the convention victory is tantamount to nomination but two of the losing candidates in this district, manufacturing executive Darlene Miller, who enjoys outgoing Rep. Kline’s endorsement, and former state Sen. John Howe look to force an Aug. 9 primary.

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