Category Archives: Senate

California On, Maine Off

By Jim Ellis

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

Oct. 17, 2017 — Last week we reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced her decision seek a fifth full term next year, and that state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) was considering launching a challenge against her from the ideological left.

Sen. de Leon made good on his threat. He will risk his state Senate seat, and legislative leadership position, to enter the US Senate campaign. This will be a prototypical example of the insurgent left attacking the Democratic establishment.

In his announcement address Sen. de Leon said that California “deserves a senator that will not just fully resist the Trump presidency, but also understands the issues that most Californians face every day: that’s fighting for Medicare for all. That’s fighting for our Dreamers. That’s fighting against climate change.” This tells us that he plans to echo many of the Bernie Sanders’ themes forged against Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

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The Latest Alabama Data

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Oct. 16, 2017 — The Cygnal polling firm just released the latest survey for the special Alabama Senate race (Oct. 2-5; 497 likely Alabama special election voters), and it yields a spread between the two major political party nominees that is beyond the margin of polling error. But, these results come with a qualification: the last Cygnal poll for this race, before the Aug. 15 primary election and prior to the September run-off, badly missed the final outcome.

According to this small sample poll, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) leads ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), 49-41 percent. Some of the more interesting segmentation includes a significant gender gap. Men prefer Moore 53-38 percent, while women give Jones a one-point edge, 46-45 percent. Jones also leads with voters 49 years of age and younger (a five percentage point advantage), but Judge Moore has a 12-point margin among those 50 and older. This latter spread is a more important advantage for Moore because the oldest age group has the highest propensity to vote in low participation elections.

This latest Cygnal poll is the first the organization has conducted in Alabama since before the special primary. They did not go into the field during the Sept. 26 run-off cycle.

In late July (20-21st), just under four weeks from the Aug. 15 primary, the firm released data that appears to badly miss the mark, but a closer analysis shows they correctly projected the strength of two of the top three candidates.

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Could Bannon Cost the GOP?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13 2017 — Several articles have surfaced this week speculating that former presidential advisor Steve Bannon wanting to find and support challengers to Republican Senate incumbents could cost the GOP its majority. It appears individuals making such a claim have forgotten how to count.

Keeping in mind that the Democrats must protect 25 of 33 in-cycle Senate seats, there are simply not enough legitimate targets available for the minority to change their status within the chamber, even though they need a net gain of only three seats. Yes, the Dems are forcing Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) into toss-up situations, but the remaining six GOP incumbents are some of the safest in the Senate. So, even if Bannon or other conservative insurgents recruit opposition to incumbents, the chances of the eventual Republican nominee losing the general election in these particular states are extremely low.

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The Missouri Move


By Jim Ellis

Oct. 12, 2017 — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) officially announced his long-awaited challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) on Tuesday this week. The move had been expected since even before he formed a senatorial exploratory committee at the beginning of August. Hawley then found himself encouraged to run for the Senate literally from the first few days after his election as the state’s AG in November.

Saying Sen. McCaskill has turned her back on many key Show Me State constituencies and industries, that she has been in Washington “forever”, and simply “doesn’t represent Missouri” anymore, Hawley declared his new US Senate candidacy via campaign video featuring he, his wife, and two young sons (above).

Already, a McCaskill-Hawley general election race is being viewed as the Republicans’ top conversion opportunity. Though Hawley must get past several lesser GOP primary candidates, including state Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific/Franklin County), he is the prohibitive favorite to become the party nominee next August.

The McCaskill Campaign and the national Democratic political apparatus has been readying a defense plan against a Hawley offensive for several months. In his campaign for attorney general, Hawley used ladders as props in his ads to symbolize politicians who win one office and then immediately turnaround and jump to another. Now, doing exactly what he campaigned against, we can expect a steady barrage of attacks over what McCaskill and the Democrats will claim is Hawley’s “hypocrisy.”

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Yes, She Will

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

Oct. 11, 2017 — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announced this week that she will seek a fifth full term next year despite, at 84 years of age, being the Senate’s oldest member. Curiously, her recent comments about President Trump and gun control have created some problems for the senator within the far left of her California Democratic Party. Thus, Feinstein’s decision to run again has engendered possible opposition from at least one prominent Democratic elected official.

Sen. Feinstein was first elected in 1992, when she defeated appointed Sen. John Seymour (R) after Gov. Pete Wilson (R) selected him to fill the Senate vacancy. Then-Sen. Wilson was elected governor in 1990, thus creating the vacancy. Two years later, Sen. Feinstein nipped then-Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara) 47-45 percent in the 1994 general election, the last close California Senate race. She would go onto win easy re-elections in 2000, 2006, and 2012.

A few weeks ago, Sen. Feinstein made the public comment that Donald Trump actually “can be a good president,” which drew the ire of many of his ardent Golden State opponents including state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who seemingly has become the chief anti-Trump spokesman in California. After the Las Vegas shooting, Sen. Feinstein made the further statement that “no gun laws could have prevented the Las Vegas massacre.” Predictably, this comment was also met with derision from the far left, including Sen. de Leon.

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With Murphy Out in PA, Corker Out in TN, Who Will Fill the Vacancies?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Tim Murphy  (R-Pittsburgh)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Oct. 9, 2017 — A new special US House election will soon be on tap, this time in southwestern Pennsylvania in PA-18. Beleaguered Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) succumbed to the negative publicity leaking out about his extra-marital affairs, abortion hypocrisy, and internal relations with staff members to announce late last week that he will resign his congressional office effective Oct. 21. This, just a day after he made public his intention not to seek re-election but serve the balance of the current term.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call a special election to choose a replacement. Since the Nov. 7 municipal elections occur less than three full weeks after Rep. Murphy departs, that means holding a new special congressional contest concurrently with the regular off-year vote would be impossible. Therefore, it is probable a mid-December or post-January 1st election will be scheduled.

There will be no primary period. Under Pennsylvania law, the parties will meet in district conclaves and local delegates will select the respective nominees.

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Pennsylvania’s Importance

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2017 — In every election, it seems one or two states become that cycle’s political focal point and we can already identify which places might serve in such a role for 2018. Along with California for House races, political fortunes in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania could well influence national Senate and House outcomes, while strongly contributing to the national redistricting outlook when the state’s competitive governor’s race is ultimately decided.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) seeks re-election with improving favorability ratings and will be in a targeted 2018 campaign. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is running for a third term and drawing considerable opposition, particularly from US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). US House competition is projected for as many as 11 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, some of which coming in primaries, and a live political gerrymandering lawsuit before the state court system could potentially radically change Pennsylvania’s redistricting maps prior to the next election. Therefore, we see a state teeming with political activity in each of its four corners.

Gov. Wolf came from nowhere in 2014 as a successful York business owner to capture the Democratic nomination, and then proved to become the only member of his party to unseat a Republican governor in what was otherwise a Republican wave election year. He will face his own highly competitive re-election battle next year, as the GOP must re-capture this statehouse to protect its congressional and state legislative gains as a new redistricting cycle will begin during this next governor’s term.

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First Alabama Poll

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2017 — The Opinion Savvy research firm went into the field to test the Alabama electorate immediately after last week’s special Republican run-off election, and found the winner of that special primary election, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, holding only a tenuous lead over his Democrat opponent, ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Left: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R)
Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

The survey results, which other pollsters will probably soon confirm, should lead to the Democratic leadership launching a major offensive campaign here with the long shot goal of stealing the Republican stronghold seat. They have the resources but are hamstrung in this cycle because few offensive Senate opportunities exist; hence, they must make a serious play for this seat that would not normally be in play.

The Opinion Savvy poll (Sept. 27-28; 590 registered Alabama voters; 514 “definite” Dec. 12 special general election voters; 76 “considering” whether they will vote) finds Judge Moore leading Jones, 50-45 percent. Among the definite voters, Moore’s margin expands slightly to 51-44 percent. Within the lesser-motivated voting group, the Republican’s edge slides to just one point, 46-45 percent.

As we saw during the Republican run-off, a huge split – with diametrically opposite totals – exists between self-described evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Considering that the Census Bureau classifies 49 percent of the entire state population as evangelical, and 55.6 percent of this polling universe, this demographic segment was obviously a crucial block in determining the outcome of the Republican run-off and will have an equally large say in the upcoming special general.

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Arizona Rep. Sinema Makes Her Move

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 3, 2017 — It has been apparent for some time that three-term Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is preparing for a statewide race, and on Friday she officially made her intentions known. Rep. Sinema announced that she will run for Senate, challenging first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R) or whomever the Republican nominee might be.

Former state senator and US Senate candidate Kelli Ward is Sen. Flake’s current Republican opponent and she leads him in the latest polls, but others could still enter if they continue to see Flake in a prone political position and Ward not perceived as a top-tier candidate. The Arizona partisan primary cycle is a long one. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2018, and with the filing deadline not until May 30 plenty of time remains for the final candidate field to gel.

It became obvious that Sinema was looking at either the Senate or governor’s race at the beginning of the year when her fundraising increased precipitously even though her Phoenix congressional district is now politically safe. Having more than $3 million in her campaign account by June 30 (the same amount as Sen. Flake, incidentally) became the strongest clue that she would run statewide despite her “announcement” during a Phoenix radio interview that she would seek re-election to the House.

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The Primary Fallout

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2017 — Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory in Tuesday’s special Senate run-off election has created a media narrative suggesting that statewide GOP primary challenges will soon be sweeping the political scene, but such simply won’t happen.

While Judge Moore’s win may give legs to one adjacent budding Senate primary challenge, the number isn’t going expand due to the 2018 electoral set-up. That is, few Republicans, eight to be exact, are in-cycle for the coming election and the two most vulnerable situations already feature incumbents engaged with primary opponents.

Additionally, the Moore-Sen. Luther Strange contest had unique characteristics that made a primary victory over this particular incumbent more likely, if not probable. Strange, then Alabama’s attorney general, receiving the vacancy appointment in “swamp-like” fashion from a governor trying to avoid impeachment, and using the Senate appointment process to game the system so that he could later choose the person who would continue the legal investigation of himself, cast Strange in a negative light from his very first day in Washington.

Furthermore, the new senator attracted only 32 percent in his first election, meaning that two-thirds of his own party’s Aug. 15 primary voters turned away from him at their first opportunity, was a clear signal that Strange’s appointment was met with widespread dissatisfaction and that the former AG wouldn’t last long in his new job.

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More on the Moore Win in Alabama;
Tennessee’s Corker to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 28, 2017 — Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, twice removed from the court for disobeying federal court orders that violated his conservative principles, scored a robust victory Tuesday night over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the special Republican Alabama Senate run-off election. Judge Moore now advances to the Dec. 12 special general election against the Democratic nominee, former US Attorney Doug Jones.

Sen. Strange went down to a 55-45 percent crushing defeat, just as pre-election polls predicted.

The Moore victory was expansive in that he took 63 of the state’s 67 counties, losing only in the Birmingham area (Jefferson and Shelby Counties), Huntsville (Madison County), and Sumter County in the western part of the state that hugs the Mississippi border. Moore racked up big wins in Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan, and scored well over 60 percent in all rural areas.

Turnout was up from the first election. In August, 423,282 people voted in the Republican primary. Tuesday night, more than 480,000 individuals cast ballots in the Moore-Strange race, an increase of 13.5 percent for the run-off. The upsurge is unusual, as run-off participation normally falls below the numbers recorded in the primary.

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Alabama: Strange vs. Moore

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 27, 2017 — Voters returned to Alabama polling places yesterday, as Republican run-off participants voted to choose a nominee to advance to the Dec. 12 special general election. To re-cap, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the Aug. 15 special Republican primary election, taking 40 percent of the vote from the over 423,000 individuals who cast their ballots. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange took second with 32 percent, which allowed both to move into yesterday’s run-off election. That’s almost exactly the way election turned out yesterday. Judge Moore scored a robust victory last night over Sen. Strange in the special Republican Alabama Senate run-off election. Sen. Strange went down to a 55-45% crushing defeat, just as the pre-election polls predicted. Judge Moore now advances to the Dec. 12 special general election against the Democratic nominee, former US Attorney Doug Jones.

Sen. Strange was the choice of the GOP establishment, which, in this case, somewhat surprisingly included President Trump, who usually lines up on the other side. But all the firepower this group brought to bear and Strange’s minimum 3:1 spending advantage was insufficient to overtake and defeat the former state Supreme Court chief, who was twice removed from the bench for disobeying federal court orders that violated his principles.

Since the primary, polls had shown Judge Moore holding the advantage heading into yesterday’s vote. So did the very last published polls released within the past 48 hours preceding election day.

The Trafalgar Group, proving to be the most accurate pollster from the 2016 election through the special elections held earlier this year, went into the field during the Sept. 23-24 period and interviewed 1,073 likely run-off voters. According to their results, Judge Moore’s lead was major: 57-41 percent, far beyond any reasonable margin of error.

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Senate Candidate Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2017
— Yesterday, we reviewed the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Today, the remaining 17 states are covered.

As a reminder, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

NEVADA — TOSS UP
Sen. Dean Heller (R)
Danny Tarkanian (R) – Businessman, frequent candidate
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) – US Representative, 3rd District
Rep. Dina Titus (D) – US Representative, 1st District

NEW JERSEY — LIKELY D
Sen. Bob Menendez (D)
• Sen. Menendez federal trial has frozen potential Democratic and Republican Senate hopefuls. After the Menendez legal situation is decided, much could happen in this state.

NEW MEXICO — LIKELY D
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)
Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commission member
Richard Berry (R) – Albuquerque mayor
John Sanchez (R) – Lt. Governor

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Senate Candidate Review

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 25, 2017 — After Friday’s review of the open House races, today we update the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Tomorrow, we will complete the remaining 17 states.

In contrast to the House where 26 regular cycle seats are open, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

ARIZONA — TOSS UP
Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
Kelli Ward (R) – former State Senator
Jeff DeWit (R) – State Treasurer
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative
State Rep. Randy Friese (D) – Physician; Tucson area state legislator
• Sen. Flake is in trouble in the Republican primary largely due to his personal feud with President Trump. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) waits in the wings. Should she enter the race, there is a strong chance the Democrats coalesce behind her.

CALIFORNIA — SAFE D
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)
State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Indications are suggesting that Sen. Feinstein, now 84 years old, will seek re-election. She should have little in the way of opposition, but state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) made public statements about challenging the senator after the latter made a favorable comment about President Trump. Unlikely such a challenge will actually happen, however.
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It’s All About the Evangelicals

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 20, 2017 — A brand new poll may be providing some last-minute life for appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange as he continues to trail for the upcoming Sept. 26 Republican run-off election.

Yesterday, we covered a Voter Surveys & Consulting firm poll that found the interim senator behind former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore by only a single point, but the Senate Leadership Fund, major financial supporters of Strange, sponsored the poll. This brings their 41-40 percent results into question because all other recently published surveys give Judge Moore a comfortable, if not substantial, lead. Additionally, Voter Surveys did not release their supporting data.

JMC Analytics & Polling released their new data yesterday (Sept. 16-17; 500 Alabama GOP run-off likely voters based upon previous primary participation; automated system) that provides much more in the way of tangible numerical information. According to JMC, Judge Moore’s advantage over Sen. Strange is 47-39 percent with 13 percent undecided, which represents a definitive swing toward the appointed incumbent. In their mid-August poll, the firm’s pollsters found Judge Moore leading 51-32 percent. Thus, the new tally means a net 11-point swing in the senator’s favor.

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