Attack of the Attack Ads

(Sen. Perdue Ad)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 17, 2020 — All four Georgia Senate runoff candidates are already hitting the airwaves with new messages that telegraph just where they want their campaigns to head in the final weeks of 2020 political overtime.

As you know, Sen. David Perdue (R) faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff for the in-cycle six-year term, and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) opposes Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in the special election to fill the final two years of resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term. Loeffler was appointed when Isakson left office at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Both contests will be decided on Jan. 5.

The outcome will decide the Senate majority. If the Democrats sweep the two races, they will become the majority party because the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will break the 50-50 tie. If Republicans just win one of the two, they will maintain their current majority status, albeit smaller, at 51-49. Winning the pair means the GOP will have only lost a net of one seat in the 2020 election cycle as their majority would register 52-48.

Sen. Perdue set the tone of his runoff effort with a new ad (top) that highlights Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) saying, “when we (meaning the Democrats) take Georgia, we will change America.” The Perdue ad defines “the Schumer-Pelosi-Ossoff” change as “defund[ing] the police, voting rights for illegal immigrants, and making Washington, DC the 51st state.” The message then quotes Ossoff as saying, “change is coming to America.” The ad closes with the narrator saying, “believe them. Vote Perdue to stop them.”

(Jon Ossoff Ad)

Ossoff responds with an ad (above) solely devoted to COVID-19. The media consultants found virtually identical COVID related statements from President Trump and Sen. Perdue, and then runs their audio consecutively in an attempt to tie the two together. The ad closes with the narrator saying that “David Perdue ignored the medical experts, downplayed the crisis, and left us unprepared.”

The special election is taking a much different tone. Challenger Raphael Warnock, the Baptist minister who pastors the church over which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father once presided, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, re-visits Sen. Loeffler’s controversial COVID related stock transactions and creates an ad around this subject (below).

(Raphael Warnock Ad)

The script says Sen. Loeffler, “after receiving confidential briefings on Coronavirus immediately starts dumping stocks …making sale after sale and getting rid of $3.1 million before the market crashed.” The tagline ends with the narrator saying, “Kelly is for Kelly. Warnock is for us.”

The ad, of course, makes no mention of Sen. Loeffler’s transactions being investigated and cleared by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but it is more than probable that we will be hearing that part of the story in future Loeffler campaign communications.

Sen. Loeffler launched a hard-hitting new attack centered around her theme, “saving the Senate is about saving America.” The ad attacks Rev. Warnock for “calling police thugs and gangsters, host[ing] a rally for Communist dictator Fidel Castro, and prais[ing] Marxism in speeches and writings.” (below)

(Sen. Loeffler Ad)

With the campaign battle lines being drawn early in this two-month runoff campaign, we can expect this type of hard-hitting rhetoric to continue all the way to the Jan. 5 election as both sides attempt to motivate their base voters to return for the runoff.

The last time we saw a US Senate runoff in Georgia – Georgia and Maine are the only two states that require general election winners receive majority support – occurred in 2008 when Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) was forced into a secondary vote. The circumstances were similar. Sen. Chambliss placed first in the general election but, like Sen. Perdue, finished just a few thousand votes under the 50 percent threshold (49.8 percent). This forced Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin who received 46.8 percent, into a Dec. 2 runoff election of that year.

Sen. Chambliss prevailed in the runoff with 57.4 percent of the vote. In that year, 3.752 million people voted in the general election with 2.138 million returned for the runoff election for a drop-off rate of 43 percent. In 2020, a total of 4,945,702 individuals cast a vote in the Perdue-Ossoff Senate race, while the figure was approximately 37,000 people lower for the special election, 4,907,872. While a drop-off from the 2020 general election is expected, political intensity suggests it will likely not be as high as we saw in the 2008 US Senate runoff campaign.

Updating the Electoral Scoreboard

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2020 — With the presidential race still in the courts, the Nov.3 unofficial results yield the mirror image of the 2016 contest. In the previous election, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton with a 306-232 electoral vote margin. In the current election, the margin between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden is exactly the same, but this time it looks like the result is yielding a Democratic victory.

Four years ago, President Trump carried his final three states by a cumulative 77,000 votes. In this election, approximately 44,000-plus votes switching in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin would have re-elected the incumbent president.

The Senate contests are complete — until the Georgia runoffs occur on Jan. 5 and the outcomes of the Sen. David Perdue v. Jon Ossoff and Sen. Kelly Loeffler v. Raphael Warnock campaigns will determine the Senate majority.

A Democratic sweep would catapult them into a 50-50 tie and allow the incoming vice president, Kamala Harris, to send the Democrats into the majority. This assumes she resigns her California Senate seat in a timely fashion thus allowing Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to name a replacement and see the individual sworn into the office. Republicans would retain the Senate majority with a victory in just one of the two Georgia runoff campaigns.

Several House seats were called or conceded over the weekend. California challenger Young Kim (R) who lost by just under 8,000 votes two years ago, rebounded to unseat freshman incumbent Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda). Former NFL Super Bowl champion defensive back Burgess Owens (R) looks to have defeated Utah freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City) by 2,095 votes in a race that has unofficially drawn 372,369 voters, a turnout increase of 26.3 percent from the previous presidential election. This race is scheduled to be certified tomorrow.

Additional calls were made in New York where Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring), Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck), and John Katko (R-Syracuse) have all been projected as re-election winners though votes remain to be counted. The same for Republican Andrew Garbarino who holds retiring GOP Rep. Peter King’s seat on Long Island.

In Louisiana, state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) has qualified for the Dec. 5 runoff election in the state’s open northeast 5th Congressional District, holding off Democrat Candy Christophe by just 428 votes. Harris will oppose former congressional aide Luke Letlow in a double Republican contest.

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Calls, Uncalled, and a Recount

By Jim Ellis

New York state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R) wins the US House Staten Island District.

Nov. 13, 2020 — With the presidential race heading to the courts in order to resolve challenges and outstanding legal issues, and the final two Senate races advancing to Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia, we find the most recent relevant political action occurring in the outstanding US House races.

Two more congressional race winners have been officially called. In New York, Staten Island freshman Rep. Max Rose (D) yesterday publicly conceded defeat to state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R). While the counting substantial numbers of mail ballots continues, Malliotakis’ large 37,000-plus vote lead appears strong enough to defend against any last minute Rose charge.

The congressman indicated that he is conceding even though the vote gap is closing between he and Assemblywoman Malliotakis, a former New York City mayoral candidate. Rose stated his late-breaking progress would not be enough to overcome Malliotakis’ overall lead, thus he ends the race before the counting process concludes.

The Republican win boosts the party’s national gain total to a net seven official seats, but that number is likely to expand to at least nine and could go as high as a dozen once all of the races are completed and officially certified.

For the Democrats, Illinois freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) also capped her come-from-behind victory with an official call yesterday. After trailing for most of the counting period, Underwood surpassed state senator and frequent candidate Jim Oberweis (R) to secure a second term. Her unofficial margin is 4,604 votes from a turnout of just over 396,000 individuals, a record participation factor for this Chicago suburban district.

While other races are being called, one contest that had been declared on election night is now coming back into the undetermined realm. Originally, New Jersey freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) had been projected the winner over state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R), but now the Associated Press and New York Times have rescinded their victory calls. The reason is the post-election vote totals continue to favor Kean to a large degree, cutting the congressman’s lead to only 6,275 ballots with potentially as many as 60,000 votes remaining to be counted.

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Sights on 2022: The 52 Percent Club

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 12, 2020 — The 2020 election isn’t officially even in the books yet, but we do have enough info to surmise who might be some of the most competitive early targets in the 2022 elections.

Looking at the non-incoming freshmen House members, we see 24 Democratic and four Republican districts where the incumbent recorded 52 percent of the vote and below. Such a re-election performance paints a target on these members in anticipation of the next campaign.

Redistricting, however, will be a wild card for many members and potential candidates, and some who found themselves locked in close 2020 contests could greatly benefit from a re-draw. Of the 24 Democrats in this category, 10 are located in states that are positioned to lose congressional representation, which could possibly make the affected districts even more vulnerable.

Conversely, three of these incumbents are in states projected to gain additional seats, thus likely making it easier for them to improve their political standing.

Only four veteran Republicans found themselves falling in the 52 percent or below group, and two of the four are from states that will lose congressional representation.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are expected to lose seats while look to gain one apiece. Texas could add as many as three to its delegation.

Below are the affected members who would become potential early 2022 cycle political targets:


DEMOCRATS

STATE-DISTRICT WINNER PERCENT
AZ-1 Tom O’Halleran (D) 51.7
IA-3 Rep. Cindy Axne (D) 49.0
IL-14 Rep. Lauren Underwood (D) 50.4
IL-17 Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) 51.9
MI-11 Rep. Haley Stevens (D) 50.2
MI-8 Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) 50.9
MN-2 Rep. Angie Craig (D) 48.2
NH-1 Rep. Chris Pappas (D) 51.4
NJ-7 Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) 51.5
NV-3 Rep. Susie Lee (D) 49.2
NV-4 Rep. Steven Horsford (D) 50.8
NY-19 Rep Antonio Delgado (D) 50.3
NY-4 Rep. Kathleen Rice (D) 52.0
OR-4 Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) 51.7
OR-5 Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) 52.0
PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D) 51.1
PA-8 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) 51.7
PA-7 Rep. Susan Wild (D) 51.8
TX-7 Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D) 50.7
TX-32 Rep. Colin Allred (D) 51.9
VA-7 Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) 51.0
VA-2 Rep. Elaine Luria (D) 51.6
WA-8 Rep. Kim Schrier (D) 51.8
WI-3 Rep. Ron Kind (D) 51.5

GOP

STATE-DISTRICT WINNER PERCENT
MN-1 Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R) 48.6
NE-2 Rep. Don Bacon (R) 50.9
OH-1 Rep. Steve Chabot (R) 51.9
MO-2 Rep. Ann Wagner (R) 52.0

More Races Called in House & Senate

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

Nov. 11, 2020 — Though the North Carolina ballot reception period continues through tomorrow, Democratic US Senate nominee Cal Cunningham, after leading in polling throughout most of the race, conceded late yesterday to Sen. Thom Tillis (R).

The remaining votes are from people who requested absentee ballots that have yet to be returned. Estimates suggested approximately 116,500 could be returned but it became clear that not all of them would be sent. Each had to be postmarked on Nov. 3 and placed in the mail stream. With Sen. Tillis leading by exactly 95,000 votes and an estimated 30 percent of the absentee ballot requests going to Republican voters, it became obvious that there would not be enough available votes to turn the election Cunningham’s way.

The Tillis victory means that Republicans now control 49 Senate seats with only Alaska remaining until the two Georgia runoffs are held on Jan. 5. In Alaska, now with 69 percent of the vote reporting, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) leads Dr. Al Gross (I/D) by 52,995 votes or by a 58.5 – 36.4 percent margin. The Alaska ballot reception period lasts through Friday, so we should see this race being called shortly, and almost assuredly for GOP Sen. Sullivan.

In the House, we see several calls being made, some of which had been obvious for some time. Democratic Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34), and Kim Schrier (D-WA-8), along with Republican Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-42) and open seat contender Jay Obernolte (R-CA-8) were all declared official winners. All had been leading throughout the post-election period and it was just a matter of time before a declaration was made for each.

Two major competitive races were called yesterday. In California, where the post-election counting is moving along at a brisker pace than in the past, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel (R) has defeated freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) in the 48th CD. The district, which contains most of the Orange County coastline and was in Republican hands for 30 years in the person of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) before Rouda won the seat in 2018, returns to the GOP.

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