Category Archives: Senate

Feinstein Loses

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 17, 2018 — Five-term Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) lost the official California Democratic Party endorsement to her general election rival and fellow Democrat, state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), this past weekend in Oakland, attracting an embarrassing seven percent of the vote among the Democratic Party delegates.

Sen. Feinstein knew she was headed for defeat within the party structure formal endorsement process, so she was campaigning for the delegates to vote “no endorsement.” This ploy garnered more votes than she received, as 28 percent of the delegates supported the party taking no official action in the Senate race. Thus, Sen. de Leon received 65 percent of the delegate vote, exceeding the minimum threshold of 60 percent to claim the party endorsement.

The action means that de Leon will be designated the official party candidate on the ballot, obviously an unusual situation for a challenging Democrat opposing an incumbent of the same party. So unusual, in fact, that in no other race where two Democrats are facing each other in the general election, from the statewide contests through the state assembly races, did the party delegates choose the challenger over the incumbent.

In winning the party endorsement, Sen. de Leon will be entitled to direct party funding and access to the state party’s fundraising and voter databases. Though having access to these resources should result in him raising an estimated several hundred thousand dollars, such an amount is just a drop in the bucket as to what a candidate in the nation’s most populous state needs in terms of financial resources necessary to compete.

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Gauging the Enthusiasm Gap

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJuly 13, 2018 — Much has been written over the past few elections cycles about voting enthusiasm and whether it is a predictive political factor. It has been seemingly apparent that the party members most interested in participating in an election, most particularly for a midterm or special election vote, generally see its candidates enjoy the greater success.

Yesterday, we looked at the extensive just-released Survey Monkey-Axios Media data that covered 13 US Senate races. The combined number of states also hosts a minimum of 15 competitive US House races. To re-cap, while the Survey Monkey analysts posted results under various turnout models in each of the tested states, it generally became clear about which candidate has the current advantage from the Senate contests in question.

Democrats were performing well in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, where incumbents in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia all held substantial leads over their Republican opponents.

The GOP held the upper hand in Indiana and North Dakota challenge races. In the South, Republican Gov. Rick Scott looks to be topping Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has opened a substantial lead over Tennessee former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Turning to the West, Democrats are moving ahead in both Arizona and Nevada and securely lead in Montana.

The Missouri contest between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) stretches from a five-point Democratic lead all the way to a five-point Republican advantage depending upon the turnout model.

The Survey Monkey pollsters tested voter enthusiasm in all 13 states. They asked the following question:

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New Nevada Poll Numbers Are Mixed

By Jim Ellis

Nevada-mapJuly 3, 2018 — Gravis Marketing released their latest Nevada statewide poll (June 23-26; 630 likely Nevada voters “using an online panel of cell phone users and interactive voice responses”), and the findings provide some uptakes for both political parties.

According to the Gravis results, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) assumes a 45-41 percent lead over Sen. Dean Heller (R) in the critical US Senate race, while Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt edges Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, 43-41 percent in the open governor’s race.

We see mixed results throughout the poll on the underlying questions, thus leading one to believe that the two key Nevada campaigns are pure toss-ups.

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) continues to post approval ratings that make him the most popular public official in the state. The Gravis favorability index posts the governor at 62:29 percent positive to negative. President Trump, not surprisingly from a state that he lost 48-45 percent, has a 43:53 percent upside-down job approval ratio. Interestingly, however, his approval numbers among Hispanics are dead even, with 46favorability approving of his job performance and an additional 46favorability disapproving. His numbers among White/Caucasian respondents are similar to what is found among Hispanics, 49:50favorability.

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Examining The Tuesday Turnout

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 29, 2018 — In continuing the effort to monitor primary turnout as a potential indicator of how the general election may unfold and whether a Democratic wave is forming, today we examine the preliminary participation numbers from the June 26 primaries.

Previously, in the 26 states where primaries were held, it appears that a normal turnout pattern had developed. Generally, more Democrats were voting in the states that typically vote Democratic, while more Republicans participated in those places where Republican candidates win the greater number of offices. In the five pure primary (non-run-off) states that held primaries on Tuesday, such a pattern continued. Utah was not included in the following analysis because the state did not feature any political contest where both Democrats and Republicans held a primary vote.

Democrats decisively turned out more people in Maryland (the Senate Democratic primary attracted 560,477 votes while the Republicans only produced 169,047), as one would expect, since the Free State is one of the strongest Democratic entities in the country. Conversely, more Republicans than Democrats voted in the Oklahoma primary (452,194 to 395,038 in the gubernatorial race), and that ratio, too, was anticipated.

Colorado, generally considered a swing state but one moving toward the Democrats in most elections, again saw more Democrats participating in Tuesday’s election. In the open governor’s race, 627,839 Democrats voted in the gubernatorial primary as compared to 493,445 Republicans. Once more, these numbers are predictable and represent a rather normal voter turnout pattern.

While talk of a “blue wave” continues and polls continue to show that more Democrats are interested and enthused about the coming midterm elections in the fall, such is not apparent in actual voting behavior within the two largest and most prolific Democratic states. In California, as we previously reported, while more Democrats than Republicans voted in the statewide jungle primary, in the seven targeted congressional districts more people voted for Republican candidates in six of those seven.

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Today’s Primaries

By Jim Ellis

June 26, 2018 — Five more states vote in nominating primaries or run-off elections today — Colorado, Oklahoma, South Carolina (run-off), the New York federal primary and the Utah races.

the-primariesCOLORADO

Leading the Centennial State ballot is the open governor’s race, which feature spirited contests for both parties. The Democratic race is largely between US Rep Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, the officially endorsed party candidate. Polling suggests that Rep. Polis has the advantage, even though Kennedy is the party insider’s favorite. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, and former state Sen. Mike Johnston complete the Democratic field.

For the Republicans, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the officially endorsed party candidate, looks to be leading the GOP battle for the nomination. His strongest competition appears to be coming from former state representative and businessman Victor Mitchell. Former Small Business Administration state director and ex-Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, and investment banker Doug Robinson round out the Republican field. The individuals nominated today will battle to succeed outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who is ineligible to seek a third term.

The open 2nd District campaign will be waged in the Democratic primary, with today’s winner being a lock to succeed Rep. Polis. Ex-University of Colorado Regent Joe Neguse is favored over former Boulder County Democratic Party chairman Mark Williams.

Democrats are fielding a primary campaign in what is commonly known as the “western slope district,” where three party members are fighting for the nomination to challenge four-term Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez). Former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, ex-Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon, and former Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi are the Democratic contenders with Bush commonly viewed as the favorite. Rep. Tipton will be favored in the general election.

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Poll: Manchin Up, But Questions Arise

By Jim Ellis

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

June 22, 2018 — A new West Virginia statewide survey testing the important US Senate race between Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) done by Monmouth University was just released showing Manchin leading Morrisey 50-43 percent, but the polling sample spurs methodological questions.

Monmouth surveyed 653 West Virginia voters between the June 14-19 period, but 428 of them were from the 3rd Congressional District. The sample was heavy in the state’s open southern CD because the pollsters were also testing the US House contest between state Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) and state House Majority Whip Carol Miller (R-Huntington). The northern 1st District contributed only 87 voters to the sample, while 138 came from the 2nd CD.

To ensure a more representative statewide sample, the Monmouth pollsters weighted the data to compensate for the major discrepancy. But, the weighting still reports that 34 percent of respondents are from the 1st District, 34 percent from the 2nd, and 32 percent from the 3rd, which still gives the latter district the overwhelming preponderance of respondents.

Monmouth reports results under several turnout models. A “potential” voter is one who has participated in at least one election since 2010. A series of responses were also included under a “likely voter” model in what they describe as a “standard midterm election”, while a final response set comes from one that projects a “Democratic surge.”

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Wisconsin Gerrymandering Ruling;
Greitens Still Lingering

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

June 20, 2018 — The United States Supreme Court issued their long-awaited ruling on the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case on Monday, and it basically sends the parties back to the drawing board. At one time it was thought that Wisconsin was the vehicle for the high court to issue a definitive ruling regarding political gerrymandering, which continues to be the subject of many live redistricting lawsuits. Instead, on a rare 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the necessary standing to bring the action.

The plaintiffs came from four Wisconsin Assembly districts who claimed they were personally harmed by the state legislative boundaries the legislature and governor adopted back in 2011. The court ruled that such plaintiffs did not have adequate standing to bring a statewide lawsuit.

The court did issue some orders, however, that will make later political gerrymandering suits more difficult to bring because certain technical standards must now be met in future action. As part of the plaintiffs’ standing ruling, the justices vacated the lower court ruling that ordered the state assembly districts re-drawn. It is now likely that political boundaries around the country are finally set for the 2018 election.

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US Senate Candidate Ratings

By Jim Ellis

daily-kos-fox-news-pollingJune 19, 2018 — Two organizations just released 2018 US Senate race ratings, and though the differences are few it is worth analyzing the aggregate comparison.

Fox News and the Daily Kos Elections site published their updated ratings at the end of last week. Fox is a bit different in that they do not distinguish a “safe” race from one where the current favorite is a “likely” winner. Therefore, they have only five categories instead of the traditional seven.

While both organizations place eight Senate races in their Toss-up category, there are differences. The most glaring variance appears to be the Nevada race featuring Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson). The other is the Tennessee open campaign that finds Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former governor, Phil Bredesen (D), vying to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). The Tennessee primary is not scheduled until Aug. 2, but there is no doubt that both will advance into the general election.

Daily Kos rates the Nevada race a toss-up, but Fox favors Rep. Rosen as it puts the campaign into the Lean Democratic column. The Fox rating is curious in that current polling is tight, Sen. Heller is the incumbent, winning in 2012 even though President Obama scored a 52-46 percent victory in the state over Mitt Romney, and he also has three other statewide conquests to his credit, as secretary of state, dating back as far as 1994.

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Today’s Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2018 — Today brings another set of primaries, this time from five states: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

MAINE

the-primariesSen. Angus King (I) stands for a second term, and today’s primary will be a non-event. Both the Republicans and Democrats have only one candidate on the ballot. State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Kennebec County), who was the Maine State Director for the 2012 Ron Paul for President campaign, will be the GOP nominee, while teacher Zak Ringelstein is the Democratic candidate. Sen. King is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

The open governor’s race is a wild affair for both parties. Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The Democrats are fielding seven candidates and the Repblicans, four. Expect the general election to be competitive.

The 2nd District Democratic congressional primary is of keen interest, as a three-way contest culminates among state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), wealthy conservationist Lucas St. Clair, and former Islesboro Selectman Craig Olson. The resource battle is between Golden and St. Clair, and both figure to spend more than $800,000 in attempting to secure the party nomination. The winner will challenge two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the general election.


NEVADA

The Silver State political card is full with contested races for Senate, governor, and three House races.

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Latest Post-Primary Developments

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 7, 2018 — Featuring eight primaries and the Minnesota political party endorsing conventions immediately preceding the state’s candidate filing deadline, the week has brought a whirlwind of political activity. We’ll update the latest developments.

Over the weekend, Minnesota Democrats and Republicans met in convention, as they do in every election cycle, to issue formal party endorsements. It is the typical practice in this state for the un-endorsed candidates to end their campaigns instead of forcing an August primary. But, 2018 is proving to be an unusual year.

While the Republicans re-endorsed their 2014 gubernatorial nominee, particularly when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty chose not to compete in the endorsing convention, it became clear that there would be an active Aug. 14 Republican primary between the ex-state chief executive and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

The Democratic process was even more interesting, however. When the delegates voted to endorse state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), state Auditor Rebecca Otto announced that she would end her campaign. On the other hand, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who said weeks ago that he would force a primary if he lost the party endorsement, confirmed that he will activate an Aug. 14 primary against Murphy.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2018 — Voters chose their general election nominees in eight states last night with most races ending as predicted, though a few surprises also occurred. Here’s the rundown:

ALABAMA

the-primariesGov. Kay Ivey scored an outright Republican primary victory, defeating Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and two others. The governor scored 56 percent of the GOP primary vote. She will now face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the general election. Maddox defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, 55-29 percent, in last night’s Democratic primary. None of the other four candidates even reached 10 percent support.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) placed first in her multi-candidate primary, but scored only 39 percent support. She will now advance to a July 17 run-off election with party-switching former Democratic Congressman and ex-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recorded 28 percent of the vote. In 2010, Roby unseated then-Democratic incumbent Bright, so the run-off will be a re-match of sorts. Her low vote total suggests that Rep. Roby is in danger of losing re-nomination in the secondary election. The winner faces business analyst Tabitha Isner who won the Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote. Either Roby or Bright will be favored in the general election after the run-off concludes.

In the other challenged primary race, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) notched a 61-39 percent win over businessman Clayton Hinchman. Earlier, this looked to be a significant challenge, but Rep. Brooks easily secured re-nomination.


CALIFORNIA

The California tabulation is incomplete as votes can still be received through Friday. Ballots postmarked yesterday will count as long as they reach the county elections office by 5 pm on Friday. Therefore, some second place finishes in the various races are somewhat undetermined though the current leader for the final general election qualifying position will likely hold on through the final counting phase.

As expected, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) finished first (33 percent) in the open governor’s race and advances into the November general election. Republican attorney and former presidential candidate John Cox (26 percent) clinched second place making both the state GOP leadership and Newsom happy. The Republicans needed a statewide candidate in the general election to help with voter turnout for the down ballot races, while Newsom clearly wanted a Republican against him in the general as opposed to another Democrat. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa finished third (13 percent) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was fourth (10 percent). In all, 27 individuals received votes for governor in the state’s jungle primary format.

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Big Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 5, 2018 — Today voters in eight states — Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — will choose nominees for the 2018 general election in the single primary election day with the largest number of voters participating. Here’s a rundown on where things stand in each of the eight states:


ALABAMA

the-primariesThe most interesting race on the Alabama primary card is the state’s governor’s race. Incumbent Kay Ivey (R) runs for a first term after succeeding resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R), when he left office last year as part of a plea bargain agreement for campaign finance violations.

Polling gives the governor wide leads to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and Baptist minister Scott Dawson. For the Democrats, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are vying for the party nomination. Gov. Ivey is the favorite today and in November.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) faces a multi-candidate Republican primary, including former US Rep. Bobby Bright, the man she unseated in 2010 when he was the Democrat incumbent. Also in the race is state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and former Roy Moore campaign manager Rich Hobson. Rep. Roby is favored, but the possibility of being forced to a run-off exists if she fails to obtain majority support.

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Arizona Senate: Filing Closes,
New Poll Shows Surprise

Arizona-mapBy Jim Ellis

June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.

Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.

While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.

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Poll: New Jersey Closing

By Jim Ellis

new-jersey-mapMay 31, 2018 — A new curious poll was released right before the Memorial Day break that suggests the New Jersey Senate race is already closing.

Since presumed Republican nominee Bob Hugin, the former chairman and CEO of the Celgene pharmaceutical corporation, has already spent $3.7 million on his campaign in conjunction with the June 5 primary, it is not particularly surprising that the margin between he and Sen. Bob Menendez (D) is getting tighter.

What appears unusual are the raw numbers from the recent Fairleigh Dickinson University survey, however. The poll (May 16-21; 856 registered New Jersey voters) looks to be sound methodologically, and the numbers reported for various approval ratings and other data points seem consistent with previously released research. The ballot test, however, raises questions because the incumbent’s support figure is so low and the undecideds high (46 percent). According to the F-D study, Sen. Menendez leads Hugin only 28-24 percent.

Despite the veteran senator seeing the federal bribery case against him fall apart and charges dismissed, his reputation has still suffered. The F-D report finds the senator’s favorability index at 33:39 percent favorable to unfavorable with only 51 percent of Democrats answering with a positive response. In comparison, the state’s junior senator, Cory Booker (D), posts a 55:27 percent ratio and a positive rating among Democratic respondents of 79 percent.

Demographically, the senator’s numbers are weak across the board. Even while leading Hugin in every category, his margins are tight and overall support figures poor. Sen. Menendez gets 27 percent among men, 29 percent from women, 27 percent with white voters, and just 30 percent from non-white voters. Even the college-educated voters, usually a strength segment for Democratic candidates, favor him only 32-24 percent.

This May poll is drastically different from published university polls in April and March. But Hugin’s strong early campaign provides at least a partial explanation. The former corporate leader is so far self-funding to the tune of $7.5 million and had raised almost $700,000 from individuals as listed in the May 16 pre-primary disclosure report.

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The Primaries Through May:
Setting November, Part II

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

May 25, 2018 — With primaries having been completed in 13 states we review the key run-off and general election pairings that these primaries produced. Today we’ll look at Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Yesterday we reviewed Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Carolina.


Ohio: A competitive open governor’s race is underway, featuring Attorney General and former US Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and ex-Attorney General Richard Cordray (D). Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) begins the general election in the favored position over Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). A special election in the 12th District between state Sen. Troy Balderson (R) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) occurs on Aug. 7. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) defends his seat against Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Former NFL football player and businessman Anthony Gonzalez (R) is heavily favored to succeed Rep. Renacci in the open 16th District.


Oregon: The only competition here is occurring in the governor’s race, where incumbent Kate Brown (D) runs for her first full term against state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend). The governor is a clear favorite for re-election.


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