Monthly Archives: January 2017

Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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Poll: Hatch Reportedly Languishing

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 30, 2017 — Five years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) publicly stated during his tense sixth re-election effort that he was running his last campaign. With the current term now beginning to approach what might be the end of his senatorial service that spans more than 40 years, Sen. Hatch’s most recent political statements indicate that he is at least considering seeking re-election yet again.

Local Utah polling firm Dan Jones & Associates recently conducted a survey (Jan. 9-16) of 605 of the state’s registered voters for the Salt Lake City Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics. The findings suggest that the overwhelming majority of Utahans feel that Sen. Hatch should, in fact, retire. According to the respondents, 78 percent said they don’t believe he should seek re-election, and 58 percent describe their opinion as definite. In terms of job approval, however, Hatch’s favorability ratio is better: 51:47 percent positive to negative.

From the Dan Jones poll, former Gov. Jon Huntsman would defeat Sen. Hatch in a Republican primary by a whopping 62-21 percent, but this is a misleading statistic. The sample group is comprised of 605 registered voters at large, not only Republicans. When just self-identified GOP voters are segmented (the number is not released), Huntsman’s margin decreases to 49-35 percent. This latter tally is obviously not favorable to Sen. Hatch either, but it’s obviously an improvement when compared to the general sample response.

The previous results are skewed because Democrats and Independents are rendering input for a Republican primary, which, in Utah, doesn’t happen. While the Democrats hold open primaries here, Republicans do not. Therefore, only registered Republicans are eligible to participate in a GOP primary. Additionally, when isolating the Republican cell segment from this poll, we see a group that is almost assuredly too small – likely considerably less than 300 — to draw an accurate conclusion for a statewide campaign.

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Two Kansas Races:
Retirement & Special

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2017 — Rep. Lynn Jenkins bows out of politics, opening up the KS-2 congressional district, and Rep. Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as CIA director under President Trump opens up the KS-4 congressional district. Here’s a look at how those openings are expected to play out:

KS-2

It was expected that five-term Kansas Rep. Jenkins (R-Topeka) would not seek re-election in 2018, but her actual announcement contained a surprise. Most politicos believed Rep. Jenkins would enter the open governor’s campaign, but that will not be the case.

The congresswoman did, in fact, announce that she will leave the House at the end of the current term, but will not be running for governor or any other office. Jenkins intends to return to the private sector after completing her final term in Congress.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, and a great many names have been mentioned as potential statewide candidates. Now that Rep. Jenkins will not be a gubernatorial contender, the race to succeed Brownback becomes even more wide open. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), and Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are attracting attention as prospective candidates. For the Democrats, 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis, the former state House minority leader, resides in this district and could potentially become a congressional candidate.

CD-2 lies in eastern Kansas, stretching in a north-south direction from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The two largest population centers are the capital city of Topeka and Lawrence, the home of Kansas University. The seat is reliably Republican but has elected Democrats from time to time. President Trump carried the 2nd, 56-37 percent. Four years ago, Mitt Romney out-polled then-President Obama, 56-42 percent.

Once this open seat race takes shape, the eventual Republican nominee will be viewed as a strong favorite, but a Democratic wave year, if such were to form, could potentially make this open seat race competitive.

KS-4

Since Rep. Pompeo (R-Wichita) immediately resigned his congressional seat upon being confirmed as President Trump’s CIA Director earlier in the week, Gov. Brownback (R) scheduled the replacement election for Tuesday, April 11. The two parties will determine for themselves how their nominees will be chosen, but it will be through an internal party procedure that must be completed by Feb. 18.

The Republicans have already announced that the 126-member 4th District Republican Committee will choose the special election nominee. The eventual GOP candidate will likely be a prohibitive favorite to win in April. Democrats have not yet announced their nomination structure.

The 4th is a strongly Republican seat. President Trump scored a 60-33 percent victory here over Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s victory margin over then-President Obama was 62-36 percent.

In anticipation of the special election, several individuals have already announced their candidacies, including former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R). Also petitioning the Republican committee members are state Treasurer Ron Estes, Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner, former radio talk show host Joseph Ashby, petroleum company CEO George Bruce, and Trump Transition Team member Alan Cobb.

For the Democrats, former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney and international relations consultant Laura Lombard are the two most prominent announced candidates.

Kansas’ largest city, Wichita, anchors the 4th District that occupies the south-central region in the state, just along the Oklahoma border. Much more will develop on this special election now that the vacancy is official, and with a newly defined short election cycle.

Election 2016: Urban vs. Rural

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2017 — Now that the election returns are official and divided into congressional district and county totals, we can now see exactly how the presidential election unfolded.

It became clear from early Election Night totals that Donald Trump won the national vote because of his performance in the outer suburbs and rural areas in the 30 states that he carried over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His margins there, largely because of turnout, were enough to compensate for Clinton’s larger-than-expected advantages in the major cities and inner suburbs.

In looking at the country’s largest metropolitan statistical areas, we find that Clinton scored an average 59.9 percent of the vote, when averaging her percentage performance in the nation’s 10 most populous urban regions. This compares to President Trump’s 35.8 percent. Keep in mind that the national popular vote percentage total was 48.1 – 46.0 percent.

In the rural areas surrounding these specific urban centers, the numbers dramatically changed. Counterbalancing the Clinton margins in the metroplexes, Trump’s lead in the outer suburban and rural regions in the states he carried was roughly equivalent to the former secretary of state’s urban advantage but with greater turnout. In the corresponding Trump state rural regions, the new president averaged 56.8 percent as compared to Clinton’s 39.7 percent.

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Election 2016:
How the Electoral College Won

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2016 — Over the past few decades we have witnessed a great debate in American politics involving the Founding Fathers’ implementation of the Electoral College to govern the presidential election. The just-completed 2016 contest provided many definitive answers to questions surrounding whether the system has outlived its usefulness, or is even needed.

Understanding that the Electoral College was created largely to protect the lesser populated states, rural issues and concerns, and prevent the large population areas from dominating the outcome at all others’ expense, 2016 proved all of those tenets are still salient in the modern political era.

Looking at the presidential election results divided into congressional districts and counties, we can begin to pinpoint the ebbs and flows of the Trump and Clinton vote characterizations and begin to understand how this election truly unfolded. We knew from Election Night that the 2016 electorate was badly polarized in terms of the metropolitan areas versus outer suburb and rural regions, but now we have the tools to see just how deep a divide actually exists. Such appears to be cavernous.

Breaking down the top 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) relating to population, we generally see an overwhelming support trend in Hillary Clinton’s favor, which makes the increased turnout and overpowering Trump advantage in the outer suburban and rural areas all the more stunning.

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The Cross-Districts

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2017 — With all but North Carolina now publishing their final county returns –- a glitch in absentee balloting still remains unsolved, so the final Tar Heel State numbers are not yet officially reported –- we can now look at which congressional districts split their votes.

In 2016, for the first time in electoral history, we saw all Senate race states voting consistently. That is, each of the 34 states holding a Senate race voted for one party’s candidates at both the presidential and senatorial levels.

In House districts, we see some divergence, but again very little. As in the 2012 campaign, when only 7.1 percent of the districts chose one party’s candidate for president and the other’s for the US House, a similar pattern arose this time. In the election just completed, voters in 400 CDs chose the same party’s candidates for president and the US House. In 2012, that number was 404.

While Hillary Clinton was carrying the national popular vote, and Donald Trump took 30 of the 50 states, the Republican also carried a majority of House districts, 230-205.

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A Perplexed America

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2017 — On the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States this past Friday, new surveys just out suggest the American people are polarized about how they view the present and future.

While Trump was sworn in as the fifth minority president (in terms of popular vote) since 1960, his 46.1 percent share of the popular vote is not the lowest among the last 10 to attain the office. Actually, looking at the initial election of Presidents #35 (Kennedy) to 45 (Trump), his popular vote total is actually close to the average election percentage of this relatively contemporary group. When first winning office, and not counting President Lyndon B. Johnson who assumed the position after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the average incoming presidential victory percentage is 48.5 percent. Of the group, the two lowest are Presidents Bill Clinton (43.0 percent) and Richard Nixon (43.4 percent).

Trump is the oldest person ever to be sworn in as the nation’s chief executive, at 70 years and 220 days. The previous two oldest were Presidents Ronald Reagan at 69 years, 349 days, and William Henry Harrison who was 68 years and 23 days of age. The youngest to be sworn in was Theodore Roosevelt at 42 years, 322 days, while John Kennedy aged 43 years, 236 days, was the youngest to be elected. Roosevelt assumed office after President William McKinley was assassinated.

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South Carolina’s Political Conundrum

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 20, 2017 — Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) confirmation hearing to become US Ambassador to the United Nations and an expected quick Senate approval vote will ignite a rather unique South Carolina constitutional and political situation. Tangentially, the evolving lieutenant governor office quandary also has an effect upon the upcoming special congressional election in the state’s 5th District, to occur once incumbent Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) is confirmed as Office of Management & Budget director.

When Gov. Haley resigns to accept the UN position, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will immediately ascend to the governorship. Under the state’s constitution, at least until right after the 2018 election, the Senate President Pro Tempore, a powerful legislative leader, automatically becomes lieutenant governor. In this situation, however, the sitting President Pro Tem does not want to be lieutenant governor, preferring to keep his Senate post.

Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), who is 85 years old and is a 36-year veteran state senator, has little interest in relinquishing his more powerful leadership position in exchange for a largely ceremonial statewide office. His problem, however, is that the state Supreme Court just ruled that he has no choice. According to the Court’s directive, Leatherman, or whoever sits in the Senate Pro Tem’s office, must fill an open lieutenant governor’s office.

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A Hillary Comeback?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 19, 2017 — On the eve of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, we again hear talk about a potential political campaign involving the woman he defeated in November, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There has been conjecture during the past couple of weeks from Democrats and Republicans both in and out of New York City that Clinton may make a political comeback in the upcoming New York City mayoral election to be held later this year. The rumors are fueled because Clinton is not denying interest, instead she simply is not saying anything about the subject.

Why would she challenge incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who supported her, especially when he commands relatively strong support among Democrats, the city’s dominant political party?

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More Virginia News

By JIm Ellis

Jan. 18, 2017 — Yesterday, we wrote an update that quoted a December Public Opinion Strategies (POS) survey testing the Virginia gubernatorial candidates (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters; Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) 43 percent — ex-RNC chairman Ed Gillespie 38 percent) and made the statement that the poll is still worth considering because not much would politically change over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Apparently, such is not the case.

A more current study (Mason-Dixon Polling & Research; Jan. 5-10; 625 registered Virginia voters) shows a different result. According to the Mason-Dixon data, it is Gillespie who leads, forging a 44-41 percent advantage over Lt. Gov. Northam.

In the previous POS poll, the other Republican potential candidates, Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner, were within basically the same range as Gillespie.

That’s inconsistent with Mason-Dixon, however. In this poll, Northam does considerably better against Stewart, leading him by a relatively robust 45-38 percent spread. Wagner was not tested, probably because the state legislator had less than 10 percent name identification according to this same sampling universe.

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Gillespie vs. Northam: New Polling

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2017 — It’s hard to believe, but already we are not particularly far from a series of new election campaigns taking center stage. In addition to the five special congressional elections, the significant regular 2017 contests include the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, along with the New York City mayor’s race.

At the end of last week, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) filed paperwork to run for governor, as expected, but is rather strangely refusing to confirm that she will actually become a candidate. Rumors are swirling that Hillary Clinton is considering challenging Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but little realistic chance exists that such a race will materialize.

Late this week, polling surfaced in the Virginia governor’s race, a contest that may well become the flagship campaign on the 2017 political calendar. A group called Conservatives for Clean Energy contracted with reliable Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (POS) to survey the candidates vying for the Commonwealth’s top position.

Though the poll was conducted in December (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters), the results are similar to those found in a corresponding Quinnipiac University survey (Dec. 6-11; 1,098 registered Virginia voters). Normally, such outdated studies would provide us very little usable data, but with the Christmas holidays occupying a great deal of the time between the polling and release dates, the data has remained salient because little has changed politically in the intervening time period.

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Open Seat News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 13, 2017 — Continuing our review of the eight known open House districts, today’s update concludes with the final four seats either headed to a special election or whose electorate will choose a new incumbent in the regular 2018 cycle.

NM-1: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) has already announced that she will enter the open 2018 governor’s campaign. Incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term in office. The 1st District houses the city of Albuquerque and 95 percent of the state’s dominant county, Bernalillo. So far, no one has yet come forward to declare an official congressional candidacy, but many Democratic state and local officials would be well positioned to run. For Republicans, should they choose not to run for governor, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and outgoing Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry would become prospective congressional contenders.

SC-5: President-Elect Donald Trump’s choice of South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) as Director of the Office of Management & Budget yields a special election in the north-central section of the state soon after the confirmation process concludes. The Palmetto State is very clear in terms of the special election schedule, thus leaving Gov. Nikki Haley (R) with no wiggle room pertaining to the campaign calendar. The primary contests will occur on the 11th Tuesday following an official declaration of the vacant seat. The run-offs, if necessary, will come on the 13th Tuesday after an official vacancy, with the general election transpiring on the 18th succeeding Tuesday. This means the special election cycle will consume just over four months. Therefore, if Mulvaney is confirmed sometime in February, we can expect a new 5th District Representative at a point in June.

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Open Seat News — Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2017 — With the new Congress scarcely a week old, we already know of eight open House districts. Assuming all of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees coming from the House are confirmed for their new positions, the action will lead to five mid-year special elections.

Additionally, one sitting member has been appointed California attorney general and is moving through the state confirmation process. Two more have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, and another just made a public pronouncement that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Below is a re-cap of the first four (alphabetical) CDs. The remainder will follow in the succeeding Update.

CA-34: Thirteen-term Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was appointed attorney general to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris (D). Becerra is currently going through the legislative confirmation process, which means a hearing and vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Once the congressman is confirmed for his new position, assuredly before January ends, he will resign from the US House. When the vacancy becomes official, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will call a special election to occur between 126 and 140 days after his order. Both the special primary and general elections must occur within this time frame.

All candidates will participate in a jungle primary. If one candidate receives a majority vote, such individual is elected outright. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the special general election. Already 14 candidates have announced for the seat (11 Democrats, two Republicans, and one Green Party contender). The most likely scenario would find two Democrats advancing to the special general, which will most likely occur at the end of May or in early June. The leading candidates appear to be Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former LA City Council aide Sarah Hernandez (D).

GA-6: When Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services and resigns his northern Georgia congressional seat, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will call a special replacement election. Deal will have wide scheduling discretion, as his requirement is that the vote be no less than 30 days after his call. The process will be three-tiered, featuring partisan primaries, partisan run-offs if necessary, and a general election. Most likely, the entire cycle will end sometime in June.

Republicans will be heavily favored to hold the seat. Former GOP Secretary of State Karen Handel (unannounced) and Republican state Sen. Judson Hill (announced) appear to be the leading early contenders.

KS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Wichita) selection as CIA Director will likely result in the special election with the shortest cycle calendar. Under Kansas law, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will call the election for between 45 and 60 days after his pronouncement. If Pompeo resigns in February, the replacement election will then be held sometime in April.

The officially recognized political parties will determine for themselves how they will choose their nominees. Republicans have already announced that the 4th District Republican Committee of 126 voting members will vote for a special election nominee. Democratic leaders have not yet indicated how their process will unfold.

Once nominees are chosen, the candidates will participate in one election. Independents will have the right to petition onto the ballot, but the high signature qualification requirement will be over 17,000. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the southeastern Kansas seat. Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), state Treasurer Ron Estes (R), oil company executive and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R) are among the high profile candidates being mentioned.

MT-AL: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary. Once the at-large seat becomes vacant, presumably sometime in February, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will call the election for between 85 and 100 days post his declaration, meaning a vote sometime in late May or early June. The political parties will meet in convention to determine their nominees, so voters will go to the polls only once.

The special election could become competitive. Democrats hold two of Montana’s six statewide offices and before the November election actually controlled five. Already four Democrats and three Republicans have announced their candidacies. For the Democrats, three contenders are state representatives, including 2014 US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis, along with one businessman. The GOP side, so far, features two state senators, including Senate President Scott Sales, and one state representative. Democrats could turn to former state schools superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau. The latter lost to Rep. Zinke in November by a 56-41 percent count.

Johnson to Retire; A Cruz Opponent?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2017 — Venerable Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Vietnam War and a 32-year veteran of elective politics, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Counting all of the Trump cabinet appointees from the House and the two members who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, we already have seven open House seats in coming elections.

Johnson will be 88 years old at the time of the next regular election and would retire after serving 14 terms in the House and another three in the Texas House of Representatives. He had been re-elected to a fourth term in the legislature just before winning a special election to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Bartlett (R), who had resigned after winning election as Mayor of Dallas.

The 3rd District is a safe Republican seat, though it dipped a bit in the presidential race. Though Donald Trump carried this north Texas CD, he did so with only a 55-41 percent margin. Mitt Romney carried the same district, 64-34 percent, four years ago.

TX-3 lies north to northeast of Dallas and contains the cities of Plano, McKinney, Frisco, and Allen. The Sam Rayburn Tollway borders the district on the north end and the President George Bush Turnpike nears the southern boundary. All of the overlapping state legislators are Republican in addition to the congressional representation.

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Scanning the Country – Part V

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2017 — Completing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the final nine states — Tennessee through Wyoming — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Tennessee: Like many states in 2018, Tennessee features an open governor’s race and a US Senate campaign. Sen. Bob Corker (R) will either run for a third term, or possibly take a shot at the governor’s office. Rumors had arisen earlier that Sen. Corker was considering opting for a governor’s contest, but less is being said about that now. Assuming the senator seeks re-election, he will likely draw little in the way of credible opposition.

The main focus will be on the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R). At this point, Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) appears to be the only House member from either party looking at the governor’s race. Many state officials and legislators are jockeying for statewide position, however. Democrats are looking toward either former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is also being mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Corker, or Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

All of the House incumbents appear secure, even Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg). After sex scandals with several of his former patients were revealed soon after his original election in 2010, DesJarlais survived two particularly tough Republican primary challenges. Still in office, the worst is clearly behind the now-four term congressman.

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