Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Buttigieg a Clear Factor in Iowa

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 19, 2019 — Selzer & Company, again polling for the Des Moines Register publication (Nov. 8-13; 2,012 active registered Iowa voters, 500 likely Democratic Caucus attenders), finds South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg pulling away from the rest of the field. YouGov, polling for CBS News (Nov. 6-13; 856 registered Democratic voters), projects a different perspective, however, in finding a virtual four-way tie.

Selzer sees Mayor Buttigieg leading the pack with 25 percent, nine points ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 10 points beyond both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

YouGov, however, finds Sanders and Biden tied at the top with 22 percent, while Buttigieg is only one point behind. The top pair leads Sen. Warren by four points. All are clearly within the polling margin of error.

The numbers again suggest that the Democratic caucus, now less than three months away on February 3rd, is a wide-open affair. All of the most recent polling also yields that Mayor Buttigieg has transformed the campaign, at least in Iowa, into a legitimate four-way race. There is also no recent poll suggesting that any one candidate is in position to secure a majority vote among the prospective Iowa Caucus attenders.

How the Iowa vote will affect the rest of the primaries is anybody’s guess at this point, but the state has proven to be a trend-setter in the past. Whether a strong showing for Mayor Buttigieg will keep him in the top tier as the process moves through New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina prior to Super Tuesday is difficult to currently assess.

Louisiana Elects a Governor;
Bevin Concedes in Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), left, and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone (R)

Nov. 18, 2019 — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) defied typical southern electoral history on Saturday as an incumbent winning a run-off election. Usually, when an office holder is forced into a run-off because he or she failed to secure majority support in the primary election, that individual loses the secondary vote. Not so, for Gov. Edwards as he scored a 51.3 – 48.7 percent victory over Baton Rouge developer Eddie Rispone (R).

Late polling suggested a different outcome, as the latest data proposed a trend line where Rispone might have well gone over the top. A new JMC Analytics poll (Nov. 12-13; 600 likely Louisiana voters) showed that Baton Rouge developer Rispone could slip past Gov. Edwards by a 46-45 percent count. The one-point margin was not particularly significant, since the result meant the two candidates were locked in a virtual tie, but the aggregate late-polling trend was more telling.

Since Nov. 1, five studies have been publicly released from five different pollsters and each find the spread ranging from a flat tie to four points. But even the four-point margin, 50-46 percent from Targoz Market Research (Nov. 7-13; 803 likely Louisiana voters) in Edwards’ favor, is inconsistent with the others. Removing this poll, with its strong sample size but long sampling period, means the average percentage difference between the two candidates from the four remaining surveys is only 1.25.

The actual turnout said something different, however, and the first clue came from early voting. According to the latest count on Thursday night, 46 percent of the early votes were coming from Democrats as compared to 38 percent from Republicans. In the jungle primary election, the Democratic early voting advantage was only 44-41 percent, and the GOP candidates secured 52 percent of the vote.

The Daily Kos Elections site authors calculated the percentages that Gov. Edwards would need to attain in key parishes in order to reach 50 percent. We see that the governor reached his projected benchmark in 13 of the 15 representative parishes selected, which accounts for his statewide total.

Over 1.5 million voters participated in the election, meaning a turnout percentage of 50.7 percent of registered voters. This was up 4.8 percent from the recorded primary turnout figure. Four years ago, when Gov. Edwards was first elected in defeating then-US Sen. David Vitter (R), just 40.2 percent of registered Louisiana voters cast their ballots.

Rispone centered his campaign around attacking Edwards over Louisiana ranking near the bottom of state statistics in job creation, and that he was fully in President Trump’s camp. The President came to the state to hold one of his rallies for Rispone, but even this did not help engender a victory.

Edwards’ campaign contended that Louisiana is in the top 10 of fastest growing state economies, that the $2 billion deficit the governor inherited is now a surplus and that was accomplished while increasing teacher pay and expanding Medicare.

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Alabama & Arkansas: The Filings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2019 — Candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle is now closed in two states, Alabama and Arkansas, and several individuals unexpectedly became candidates.

First, in the presidential race, not only did former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg file in Alabama, as was widely reported last week, but he also submitted papers for the Arkansas presidential primary. This doesn’t necessarily mean he will enter the national race, but it certainly gives him the option to become an active candidate.

Reports are now surfacing, however, that Bloomberg will not file for the New Hampshire presidential primary at today’s deadline. This move is even more surprising in light of his filing in Alabama and Arkansas. Polling must tell him he would be shut out in the Granite State and, with only a total of 24 first-ballot delegates, skipping the state would not greatly affect his potential delegate acquisition count.

Another surprise came in Arkansas where, at least for now, first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R) has no Democratic opponent. When filing closed, Fayetteville Democrat and former congressional candidate Josh Mahony complied with the deadline requirements and said in his exit statement said he had been working the state for six months in order to lay groundwork for his statewide campaign. Before the day ended, however, he decided to rescind his candidacy.

Mahony said a family issue keeps him from running, but the Arkansas Republican Party had also just filed an ethics complaint against him, so it is possible that this development also had some influence on his decision to leave the race. In any event, Mahony is no longer a candidate even though he would have been unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

At this point, the Democrats have no Senate candidate, but state law will allow the party members to meet and choose a new nominee to oppose Sen. Cotton. Either way, Cotton’s re-election prospects appear completely sound.

Of course, the Alabama Senate race, now that former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, is returning in an attempt to re-capture his previous position, has drawn the most political attention. The entire Republican field for the office includes the aforementioned Sessions, Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 special Senate nominee Roy Moore, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and businessman Stanley Adair.

The other somewhat surprising filing came in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, where state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) will run to oppose three-term Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock). The 2nd District, which is comprised of the Little Rock metropolitan area, is the most politically marginal of Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

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Buttigieg Pulls Ahead

By Jim Ellis

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Nov. 14, 2019 — As more potential Democratic presidential candidates, like former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and even Hillary Clinton begin to re-emerge on the campaign’s outer horizon, the party nomination contest is moving into a sustained state of flux.

It is obvious that the potentially returning candidates are flirting with a new effort because they don’t perceive any of the active contenders as being in position to win the nomination outright or who can successfully oppose President Trump in the general election.

Now, we see a new complicating factor as an Iowa poll released Tuesday finds South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg grasping the lead away from both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

According to the new Monmouth University survey (Nov. 7-11; 451 likely Iowa Democratic caucus attenders) Buttigieg claims first place with a 22 percent preference factor. Biden and Warren follow with 19 and 18 percent, respectively. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) secures fourth position with 13 percent.

The Monmouth poll is attracting headlines because it produces a new leader, and thus a new story line for a media horde always looking for a different narrative or angle. It may, however, be premature to suggest this one poll is the beginning of a new trend in the Democratic battle especially when it is the only survey drawing such a conclusion.

Two other pollsters ran surveys in a similar time frame and arrive at entirely different results. The Morning Consult large sample online survey (Nov. 4-10; 16,400 likely Iowa voters) projects a ballot test standing like we saw when the campaign was in its early stage: Biden 32 percent; Sanders 20 percent; Warren 19 percent; Buttigieg eight percent.

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Rep. Peter King to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2019 — Over the Veterans holiday weekend, long-time New York Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford/ Islip) announced that he will not seek re-election to a 15th term next year, ending what will be 28 years of service in the US House.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2)

Prior to winning the South Shore Long Island seat in 1992, King served as the Nassau County comptroller for 11 years. In 1977, he was elected to the Hempstead Town Council, his first political campaign.

King, a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, represents New York’s 2nd District, bordering the Great South Bay, which travels along the Sunrise Highway from Bayport through Babylon all the way to Seaford. The district leans Republican. President Trump carried the seat 53-44 percent in 2016, though both Mitt Romney and John McCain fell several percentage points short of winning here.

Through his 14 elections, King has averaged 55.4 percent of the vote through different configurations of the district. In 2018, the congressman defeated business consultant Liuba Gretchen Shirley, 53.1–46.9 percent, in a race where his opponent raised just under $2 million. For his part, the congressman spent almost $3.2 million.

There had been retirement speculation surrounding the 75-year-old King, for several months. Earlier it had been assumed that the congressman’s daughter, Erin King Sweeney, would run to succeed him when he eventually left office but apparently that will not happen. In September, Sweeney announced that she would not seek re-election to her current position as the Republican leader on the Hempstead Town Council because her husband accepted a position in North Carolina and the family is moving.

While 2018 Democratic nominee Shirley has not announced that she is returning for a re-match, Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D) did declare her candidacy. Additionally, Trump impeachment activist Max Sax is in the Democratic field. Now that the 2nd District has become an open seat we can expect to see stronger Democrats come forward to make the race. A crowded Republican primary is also forecast.

The New York candidate filing deadline is not until April 2, so Democratic and Republican Party leaders have sufficient time to fully develop a credible group of candidates. The New York state primary is June 23. We can expect two competitive primaries and a tight general election. The early rating for this new open seat is Lean Republican.

King now becomes the 32nd sitting House member who will not seek another term in office. Within this group, more than two-thirds, or 22, are currently Republican-held. Ten are from the Democratic side of the political aisle.

As reported earlier, four of the seats are vacant and headed to a special vote before the next general. The elections for resigned Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) seats have already been scheduled. The governors of New York and California must still schedule special votes to replace resigned Reps. Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) and Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale).