Author Archives: Jim Ellis

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.

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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.

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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:
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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THE UPCOMING NC-3 SPECIAL ELECTION;
WILL A REPUBLICAN PREVAIL IN
A STATE THAT LEANS DEMOCRATIC?

North Carolina Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

March 1, 2019 — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced the special election schedule for his state’s 3rd Congressional District, vacant since 13-term incumbent Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away on Feb. 10.

Candidate filing will close March 8, a short official period largely because eight individuals have already declared their candidacies. The partisan primary elections will be held April 30, followed by runoff elections, if necessary, on July 9. A secondary election will occur if no candidate receives at least 30 percent of the vote in their respective nomination election.

Should all parties nominate on April 30, then the special general will move to July 9. Otherwise, the final vote will be held Sept. 10. It is presumed that the State Board of Elections members, who have the power to schedule the succeeding District 9 election because no general election winner was certified, will follow the governor’s lead on Monday and schedule that special election within these same schedule guidelines.

With six Republicans, including three sitting state representatives already in the race, and more likely to come, the chances of the GOP being forced to hold a runoff election are extremely high.

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As Joe Goes, So Go the Democratic Presidential Contenders

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden: is he in or out of the 2020 presidential campaign?

Feb. 28, 2019 — A new national Morning Consult poll (Feb. 18-24; 15,642 registered US voters likely to vote in a Democratic primary via online questionnaire) finds former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pulling away from the rest of the Democratic presidential field.

Sen. Sanders is clearly getting a boost from his formal announcement. According to the Morning Consult regular tracking, he is up six points from just before he became an official candidate. It remains to be seen if his rise begins a trend or is just a polling blip because of increased media attention.

Overall, the MC data finds Biden’s national lead among the segmented Democratic voters dropping to just two points over Sen. Sanders, 29-27 percent. But, the pair are now well ahead of the remaining contenders. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) drops a point in her own support, meaning she lost a net seven percent to Sanders from the last poll. Her new national total is 10 percent, three points ahead of both Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

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Colorado & Hickenlooper —
Decisions, Decisions

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 27, 2019 — Saying he’s “not cut out to be a senator,” former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said that he will either run for president in 2020 or no office at all. He further stated that, “Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups … But I’m not sure that’s my — I’m a doer. That’s what gives me joy.”

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – not running for Senate (Photo Moritz Hager)

While Hickenlooper is definitive that he won’t enter the Democratic senatorial primary to challenge first-term GOP incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, he also has made lesser-than-expected moves toward entering the presidential race.

With already a dozen Democrats either officially entering the race or forming exploratory committees, and ex-Vice President Joe Biden set to announce his decision about becoming a candidate in the coming month, Hickenlooper, with low national name identification, may be waiting too long to generate a serious effort. Therefore, the more time that passes, the greater the chances of this ex-two-term governor and Denver mayor not being on the ballot at all in 2020.

The Monday announcement was certainly good news for Sen. Gardner. Possibly in the most vulnerable position of any Republican senator standing for re-election in 2020 – largely because his state has voted decidedly Democratic in the past several elections – the Colorado and national party leadership had hoped to recruit Hickenlooper into the Senate race. Most political observers clearly believe he would be Gardner’s strongest general election challenger.

Right now, mostly minor candidates have announced for the senate in Colorado. The two most prominent Democratic figures are former state House speaker and defeated US Senate and congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff, and ex-state senator and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, who finished third in the 2018 party primary that nominated current governor, Jared Polis.

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Tracking Trump’s Approval Ratings
Against Electoral College Results

2016 Electoral College Results map (270toWin)


By Jim Ellis

Feb. 26, 2019 — Already beginning to project where the states might fall in the 2020 presidential election, the Gallup organization released a 50-state survey tracking study Friday that summarizes their cumulative research collected throughout the past year.

Gallup finds President Trump slightly improving his standing over a similar project conducted from their aggregate 2017 data. Meanwhile, the Civiqs polling organization projects, as do all other pollsters, that Trump’s job approval remains upside-down. In the good news category for the president, however, the latter organization finds that he is viewed more positively than either of the national political parties.

Nationally, Trump carries a 44:52 percent job approval ratio according to the Civiqs poll of registered voters (polled continually from Oct. 12, 2015-Feb. 23, 2019; 181,729 responses during that multi-year tracking period). The Democratic Party, however, posts a lesser 39:52 percent rating, while the Republican Party lags behind both the president and their political party counterpart. The GOP registers a poor 26:60 percent index.

But these numbers are not particularly unusual because the same trend among the three polling subjects has been consistent for many months. The more telling conclusion is that the deviation factor among the approval ratings has remained constant for well over a year, suggesting that the electorate continues locked in a highly polarized and negative status.

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Alabama Senate Race Begins

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Republican, formally announced his candidacy for the Senate.

Feb. 25, 2019 — One of the critical 2020 US Senate contests is beginning to take shape. Over the past few days, Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) formally announced his statewide candidacy with the goal of opposing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won the controversial 2017 special election that attracted national attention.

The Jones victory, defeating beleaguered Republican Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, represented the first time a Democrat won an Alabama statewide federal election since incumbent Sen. Howell Heflin secured his final term in 1990.

Prior to that, Richard Shelby, then a Democratic congressman, unseated Republican Sen. Jeremiah Denton in 1986. Shelby then switched to the Republican Party immediately after the 1994 election. Prior to the Denton victory on the same night that Ronald Reagan was first elected president, no Republican had won an Alabama seat for more than 100 years.

The Yellowhammer State Senate race could well be the lynchpin to determining which party will control the chamber after the 2020 election. With the electoral map favoring the Democrats because Republicans must defend 22 of the 34 in-cycle seats, including the Arizona special Senate election, Alabama becomes a virtual “must-win” for the GOP.

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