Category Archives: Senate

Texas by the Numbers

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas


By Jim Ellis

May 2, 2019 — The Lone Star State continues to move toward competitiveness, meaning the Texas political apparatus will see new approaches from both parties in the 2020 election campaigns.

A new Emerson College poll (April 25-28; 779 likely Texas voters, 342 likely Democratic primary voters, 344 likely Republican primary voters via Interactive Voice Response system) finds President Trump tied with two of the Democratic presidential candidates and only slightly ahead of the rest of the field. And, in Democratic Party trial heats, the results project an equally close potential finish for the state’s 228 first ballot delegates.

According to the Emerson numbers, President Trump would slightly trail former Vice President Joe Biden with each man finishing in the 50 percent realm. Trump is then slightly ahead of Texas former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) but, here too, both men are in the 50 percent realm.

The president fares better against the others, but even they are within striking distance of him in what is arguably his most important state. With 38 Electoral Votes, Texas was the only big state that Republicans could count upon winning without having to campaign, but apparently those days are over.

The next closest Democrat is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He trails by two points, 51-49 percent. The president has healthier margins against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ahead of both, 54-46 percent, and tops Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 53-47 percent. The fact that all scenarios present no undecideds tells us the pollsters prodded respondents for a definitive answer or are extrapolating some of the results.

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The Senate Approvals

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2019 — The Morning Consult organization released the first quarter approval ratios for all 100 senators, and it appears that quite a number of the 2020 in-cycle incumbents need to improve their ratings before facing the voters next year. In fact, when looking at the ratio spread from positive to negative, seven of the 10 weakest performers will be on the next ballot.

The senator with the highest positive score, 62 percent, is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont electorate is the most pleased with their senators. Not only did Sen. Sanders score a 62 percent favorable job approval rating, but his veteran seat mate, seven-term incumbent Patrick Leahy (D), is right behind him with a 59 percent positive total.

But, the swing between the individual positive and negative scores may be the better indicator of an office holder’s actual standing. The senator with the widest range, in his case seeing his positive score (55 percent) run 33 points higher than his negative (22 percent), is North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R).

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Texas Race Forming

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R)

April 25, 2019 — Three-term Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) is obviously anticipating a tough 2020 fight for re-election. During this year’s first quarter, he led all incumbents in fundraising bringing in $7.8 million to his campaign account and ending the period with $7.4 million cash-on-hand.

It appears the senator will have credible opposition, but quite possibly not the person who most people believed would enter the race.

Though he still hasn’t confirmed or denied that he will become a Senate candidate, reading the figurative political tea leaves suggests that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) will not run statewide. But, retired Army helicopter pilot, M.J. Hegar (D), will challenge the veteran incumbent who was Texas’ attorney general and a state Supreme Court Justice before running for federal office.

Hegar, who raised more than $5.12 million for her race against veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), to whom she lost, announced Tuesday that she is entering the Texas Senate campaign. Though her 2018 announcement video entitled “Doors” (below) — which detailed her wartime heroism and attracted more than 3 million viewers — didn’t result in victory in a strong Republican district against a popular incumbent (she lost 51-48 percent), it did put her on the national political map and raised her status to that of a national congressional candidate and led to her strong fundraising effort.


M.J. Hegar’s “Door” video


Earlier in the year, Rep. Castro began making statements strongly hinting that he would run for the Senate. But, his actions and the latest developments suggest otherwise.

First, there appears to be no internal momentum associated with his building a major campaign. Leading to that conclusion is Castro’s own first quarter fundraising support. From Jan. 1 through March 31, the four-term incumbent and former Texas state representative raised only $36,028 and has just $87,572 in his campaign treasury.
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A Momentum Poll For the Democrats

By Jim Ellis

April 23, 2019 — A new poll was released at week’s end last week, and it may be our best glimpse of the national Democratic presidential picture. As we know, the national count matters little in how the individual states will select delegates, but this polling category does provide a sound measurement of candidate momentum.

Change Research (April 12-15; 2,519 likely Democratic primary voters) just returned results from their latest field poll. Though the 538 statistical research organization only rates Change Research as a C+ pollster, the large respondent universe of just over 2,500 participants certainly gives us the largest national sample sector producing data. Contrast this, for example, with Emerson College’s national primary poll released last week that segmented only 356 respondents.

The Change results find Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pulling into a virtual tie with former Vice President Joe Biden. Looking at the numbers, Sen. Sanders polls 20 percent, just one point behind Biden’s 21 percent.

Jumping all the way to third place is South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a healthy 17 percent support factor. Dropping back into single-digits (nine percent) is former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren records her typical eight percent, within the tight range she finds in most surveys, which, in this case, is one point ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The latter senator’s seven percent also represents a considerable support drop, as much as 50 percent when compared to early surveys.

Change also surveyed the field without Biden included. Under this scenario, Sen. Sanders pulls just over a quarter of the sampling universe at 26 percent with Mayor Buttigieg moving into a strong second place with 21 percent, and O’Rourke rebounding to secure 14 percent and third place. Sens. Harris and Warren tie for fourth place with 10 percent.

From a momentum perspective, the Change poll provides further evidence that Sen. Sanders is clearly on the upswing, Biden has stalled just before what is expected to be his official announcement week, Buttigieg is the candidate leaping forward from the back, Harris and O’Rourke appear to be losing support, and Warren remains stagnant at a low level.

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New Senate $ Figures

By Jim Ellis

April 18, 2019 — The first of eight quarters comprising the 2020 election cycle is now complete and, with that, most of the first Senate financial disclosure reports have been published. Below are the latest available cash-on-hand figures for the 31 in-cycle senators who are seeking re-election.

As you can see, the overwhelming number of incumbents are in strong financial position with Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) having more in the bank than anyone. He will need a large war chest because Texas is such an expensive state.

In 2018, Beto O’Rourke, who was challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) before declaring his presidential candidacy, raised over $80 million — some $34 million more than his incumbent opponent. Combined, the two banked over $125 million, not counting substantial independent expenditures that helped both men.

Not surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) raised more money than anyone else in the first three months of 2019 — some $7.991 million, exceeding Sen. Cornyn but by just over $200,000.

The low-end senator is rather surprising, since she is again likely headed for a competitive campaign. Posting numbers that would even be low for a US House race, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) raised only $232,239 for the quarter and has just $218,703 in the bank.

The senator is again expected to face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). The two battled each other in the 2018 special election, with Sen. Hyde-Smith prevailing 54-46 percent in the Nov. 27 run-off. Hyde-Smith was appointed to fill the balance of Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R) final term. Cochran resigned his seat due to health reasons.

All of the following figures are current through March 31, 2019, with the exception of four senators: Cory Booker (NJ), Mike Rounds (SD), Ben Sasse (NE), and Tina Smith (MN). It is probable all reports were filed, but the Federal Election Commission has not yet published their numbers. Sen. Booker’s 1st-quarter fundraising is for his presidential effort, which is unofficially reported to exceed $5 million.

Below are the financial numbers from the highest
cash-on-hand senator to the lowest:

 
STATE
 
INCUMBENT
CASH-ON-HAND
(MARCH 31, 2019)
TEXAS John Cornyn (R) $7,407,942
KENTUCKY Mitch McConnell (R) $5,569,222
SOUTH CAROLINA Lindsey Graham (R) $4,619,235
VIRGINIA Mark Warner (D) $4,155,337
MAINE Susan Collins (R) $3,807,811
MASSACHUSETTS Ed Markey (D) $3,536,133
LOUISIANA Bill Cassidy (R) $3,448,675
COLORADO Cory Gardner (R) $3,414,5
GEORGIA David Perdue (R) $3,282,091
ALABMA Doug Jones (D) $3,094,916
MICHIGAN Gary Peters (D) $3,056,598
NORTH CAROLINA Thom Tillis (R) $2,920,475
ARKANSAS Tom Cotton (R) $2,831,908
IOWA Joni Ernst (R) $2,815,962
MONTANA Steve Daines (R) $2,547,795
ILLINOIS Dick Durbin (D) $2,433,345
ARIZONA Martha McSally (R) $2,108,915
ALASKA Dan Sullivan (R) $2,042,051
OREGON Jeff Merkley (D) $1,902,741
RHODE ISLAND Jack Reed (D) $1,803,356
NEW HAMPSHIRE Jeanne Shaheen (D) $1,521,776
NEBRASKA Ben Sasse (R) $1,361,057*
NEW JERSEY Cory Booker (D) $1,340,448*
WEST VIRGINIA Shelley M. Capito (R) $1,201,127
IDAHO Jim Risch (R) $1,157,171
DELAWARE Chris Coons (D) $1,063,646
OKLAHOMA Jim Inhofe (R) $887,344
WYOMING Mike Enzi (R) $544,216
SOUTH DAKOTA Mike Rounds (R) $511,538*
MINNESOTA Tina Smith (D) $433,782*
MISSISSIPPI Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) $218,703

*1st Quarter figures not yet published; numbers are through Dec. 31, 2018 for Booker, Rounds, Sasse, T. Smith