Category Archives: Primary

The Primary Analysis

By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2020 — The COVID-19 virus is causing obvious problems worldwide, and it’s changing the United States’ electoral system. Several states all with primaries on or before June 23 have already moved their date or are discussing such an option.

First, a total of six states already have held primary events and three general election cards are set. On March 3, full state nominating elections were held in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. Illinois followed suit on March 17. Ohio was also supposed to also vote on March 17 but halted their election at the last minute and moved to June 2. Four of the six early voting states hold runoffs, and three will host some significant secondary nominating elections.

With a 30-percent runoff law, North Carolina only has one congressional finalist election, the open 11th District Republican battle between former Haywood County Republican Party chair Lynda Bennett and investor Madison Cawthorn. Texas has a 50 percent runoff law, and the state will feature a Democratic runoff in the Senate race along with five Democratic congressional runoffs and seven on the Republican side. Though Arkansas requires 50 percent to win a party nomination outright, no federal runoff elections are necessary. Therefore, we have full sets of general election nominees for all regular 2020 races in Arkansas, California, and Illinois.

News came from Alabama yesterday when Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that the state is transferring the March 31 runoff all the way to July 14. The significantly longer cycle will potentially change outcomes, the Senate race in particular.

As you will remember, former US Attorney General and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions finished second in the March 3 primary, one point behind retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Until yesterday, the two were heading for deciding the nomination at the end of the month. All polling was suggesting a Tuberville victory. Now, with almost four full months until the runoff, this contest has the potential of changing. Sessions will now have adequate time to alter his campaign message and has the opportunity to rebound and capture the nomination. The winner faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

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Biden Wins Easily; Lipinski Loses

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden (D)

March 18, 2020 — In a night that was originally scheduled to have two full state primaries and two stand-alone presidential contests that would determine if a Democratic candidate could reach majority support on the first ballot, last night’s results proved somewhat anticlimactic.

Voters in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois cast their ballots, with only the latter state conducting its full primary. Ohio, which also had its statewide primary scheduled for yesterday, postponed their vote likely to June 2 because of COVID-19 virus precaution.

As expected, former vice president Joe Biden wrapped up three easy victories, beginning with capturing the Florida primary with a whopping 62-23 percent margin over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from a Democratic electorate that topped 1.72 million voters. The total includes the early votes, even though the outcome of this stand-alone primary election became a foregone conclusion just after Super Tuesday.

The vote totals were somewhat closer in Illinois, but still a landslide victory for Biden. The former vice president captured 59 percent of the Land of Lincoln Democratic vote as compared to 36 percent for Sen. Sanders. The turnout here was just slightly over 1.5 million, but the entire statewide and district office campaigns were also on this ballot, which helps accounts for what appears to be a fairly large turnout.

In Arizona, the race was much closer, as Biden’s victory margin rather surprisingly dropped to 44-31 percent with approximately 12 percent of the ballots outstanding. The turnout is not expected to reach 600,000 when all the ballots are counted. A quarter of the Arizona electorate voted for one of the also-ran candidates, which compares to 15 percent doing so in Florida and just five percent in Illinois.

Delegate wise, Biden looks to have captured about 159 Florida delegate votes with Sen. Sanders only clinching 60 bound first ballot delegates. The Illinois total projects a 95-60 Biden advantage, while in Arizona the total split looks to be approximately 39-28 if the present pattern continues. Without the Ohio primary taking place, the total delegate universe yesterday was 441, with Biden unofficially clinching 293 of them, or 66 percent of the March 17 bound first-ballot votes.

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Primary Day; Ohio on Hold

By Jim Ellis

Ohio’s Congressional Districts

March 17, 2020 — Today is a defining day for the Democratic presidential primary but it looks like former vice president Joe Biden will easily march toward the party nomination without participation from Ohio.

Originally, the Buckeye State primary was planned for March 10, but then re-scheduled for today, March 17. Yesterday, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) requested a judge stay the primary election in response to the COVID-19 virus but was turned down. Then, in a statement late last night, the state health director stepped in to halt the primary voting process under a statewide emergency order. The governor and secretary of state are working on ways to increase mail and absentee voting, but how and when people are supposed to vote remains uncertain.

This means only Arizona, Florida, and Illinois voters are casting their ballots today. State officials in each of those places are moving forward with voting as planned. Of this group, only Illinois, like Ohio, is scheduled to hold its state primary.

Regardless of Ohio not being in the mix, at the end of voting this day, Biden will effectively become the Democratic presidential nominee, but not yet officially. Perhaps more importantly, at least as it pertains to Ohio, is what happens to the candidates running for the down-ballot offices.

There is no US Senate race in Ohio this year, but all 16 congressional seats are on the ballot as well as 115 electoral contests for the state legislature (16 state Senate seats; all 99 state House seats), and a large number of local offices.

The confusion surrounding the primary could well become the foundation for eventual lawsuits from some of the candidates who may eventually lose close votes. Therefore, the decision to postpone could result in a very long primary, and post-primary cycle.

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Texas Turnout

By Jim Ellis

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

March 16, 2020 — There is some budding political chatter promoting a theory that the 2020 Texas primary turnout numbers suggest Democrats are poised for a good election later this year in the Lone Star State, but a deeper dive into the numbers and patterns doesn’t clearly support such a conclusion.

The turnout theory loses its steam when actually comparing the participation numbers not only with 2020 Republican turnout and understanding that the GOP has a virtually unopposed presidential candidate for its nomination, but also when overlaying recent political history.

When studying the numbers, one sees that the 2008 Democratic primary’s participation rate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton far exceeded the numbers posted in this year’s primary, which was held on March 3 – Super Tuesday. In 2008, we see that 33.2 percent of the registered voters participated in one of the major party primaries. This year, the combined turnout represented 25.2 percent of the registered voter pool.

And, 12 years ago, according to figures published in this March 6 Texas Tribune article, two-thirds of those voters chose a Democratic ballot to vote in the Obama-Clinton primary versus just one-third who entered the Republican primary to support John McCain over former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee.

This year, 12.8 percent of the registered Texas voters chose the Democratic primary versus 12.4 percent who picked a Republican ballot even though there was no competitive GOP contest. Furthermore, the combined 25.2 percent total participation factor is actually the second-lowest turnout in the past four elections.

Most importantly, however, as a gauge toward predicting general election turnout and result, while two-thirds of the 2008 voters chose the Democratic ballot in the primary in the largest percentage turnout of the century, Republican John McCain would later post a 55-44 percent general election victory within the Texas electorate.

While Democratic statewide turnout did exceed the number of Republicans voting early or visiting the polls this year, the difference was minuscule. A total of 2,071,745 individuals voted in the Democratic primary while 2,008,385 participated on the Republican side. Since the presidential race was likely the turnout driver, the fact that a highly charged Democratic primary among several competitive contenders barely out-polled a Republican race where the incumbent president was virtually unopposed is of no tangible significance as a predictor of general election preference.

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Not Quite a Sweep for Biden

By Jim Ellis

March 11, 2020 — Former vice president Joe Biden expanded his lead for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he didn’t quite deliver the knockout blow that many predicted.

He racked up big percentages over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in Michigan (53-37 percent), the biggest delegate prize of the night with 125 bound first-ballot votes, Mississippi (81-15 percent), and Missouri (60-35 percent), and carried Idaho with a smaller margin (49-43 percent), but looks to have fallen short in North Dakota (42-49 percent), and Washington (33-33 percent).

Biden earned an approximate total of 211 bound first-ballot delegates as opposed to Sen. Sanders’ projected 138, as the following unofficial list suggests (updated vote totals as reported in the Daily Kos Elections website; delegate projections from The Green Papers website):

Idaho (99% reporting)

Biden ……………….. 48.9%
Sanders …………….. 42.5%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 20
Biden ……………….. 11
Sanders …………….. 9
Turnout: …………… 103,577   |   2016 Turnout: 23,884 (caucus)


Michigan (99% reporting)

Biden ……………….. 52.9%
Sanders …………….. 36.5%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 125
Biden ……………….. 73
Sanders …………….. 52
Turnout: …………… 1,557,615   |   2016 Turnout: 1,205,552


Mississippi (98% reporting)

Biden ……………….. 81.0%
Sanders …………….. 14.9%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 36
Biden ……………….. 34
Sanders …………….. 2
Turnout: …………… 262,252   |   2016 Turnout: 227,164


Missouri (100% reporting)

Biden ……………….. 60.1%
Sanders 34.6%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 68
Biden ……………….. 44
Sanders …………….. 24
Turnout: …………… 664,305   |   2016 Turnout: 629,425


North Dakota (78% reporting)

Biden ……………….. 42.4%
Sanders …………….. 48.5%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 14
Biden ……………….. 6
Sanders …………….. 8
Caucus: North Dakota does not report caucus turnout figures


Washington (67% reporting – all mail vote)

Biden ……………….. 32.5%
Sanders …………….. 32.7%
Warren ……………… 12.3%
Bloomberg …………. 11.1%
Total First-Ballot Delegates: 89 (projected results)
Biden ……………….. 43
Sanders ……………….. 43
Bloomberg …………. 2
Warren ……………….. 1
Turnout: …………… 1,024,530 (in progress)   |   2016 Turnout: 26,314 (Caucus)


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