Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Flake Opposition Mounting

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

By Jim Ellis

July 5, 2017 — With the Republican healthcare overhaul bill remaining in a controversial state, and Democrats already trying to use it as a rallying point for potential 2018 candidates, the Arizona Senate field is beginning to form. Currently, three potential challenger candidates continue to weigh their options on the political sidelines.

Because Democrats have so few targets in the present election cycle – Republicans must only protect eight of the 33 states holding Senate elections, and six of those are in arguably their strongest political domains: Mississippi (Wicker), Nebraska (Fischer), Tennessee (Corker), Texas (Cruz), Utah (Hatch), and Wyoming (Barrasso) – they have no choice but to go hard after the two GOP incumbents entwined in more marginal political situations: Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Though Arizona voters routinely elect many more Republicans than Democrats, despite many campaigns ending in relatively close fashion, the Dems are forced to make a major play against Sen. Flake because they simply have no other secondary place with as much 2018 competitive potential. On defense in 25 states, Senate Democrats will not win the majority because a net gain of two, including defeating Sen. Flake, would yield only a 50-50 tie. Such a division would allow Vice President Mike Pence to ensure that the GOP majority continues in his role as the body’s tiebreaker.

Last week, both Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the latter man coming to notoriety as the doctor who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-Tucson) life when an insane gunman tragically shot her, brought forth public attacks on the current healthcare legislation and began sounding like candidates.

Mayor Stanton and Dr. Friese confirm they are considering entering the Senate race, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or both men could announce their candidacy on the heels of the Senate healthcare vote, particularly if Sen. Flake supports the legislation. Both would be credible candidates and it is unclear at this writing if one would step aside in favor of the other.

Another individual hovering in the background of this Grand Canyon State political picture is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). She has been on a fundraising tear, and though already announcing her intention to seek a fourth term in the House, Sinema does admit to be considering a Senate bid if the circumstances are favorable. By that, she means Sen. Flake drawing a strong Republican primary challenger. It is also unclear if Rep. Sinema will risk her now safe Maricopa County House seat to join what could be a crowded Democratic primary against potentially top-tier candidates even if she perceives Flake to be politically weak.

As we will remember from the last campaign cycle, Sen. Flake became embroiled in a public feud with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and relations between the two men remain less than cordial. After the election, Flake’s internal Republican polling standing suffered greatly as a result, thus making him potentially vulnerable in next year’s Republican primary. Already, former state Sen. Kelli Ward is an announced GOP challenger, but she is not typically regarded as a heavyweight candidate even though she held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination percentage in the 2016 Republican primary.

At the end of last year, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R) was polling strongly against Flake, actually leading him in some internal polls, but has yet to come forward to announce a Senate challenge. He has said he will not seek re-election to his current position, however.

The Arizona race will clearly be an interesting one. Republicans still maintain a 1.259 million to 1.102 million voter registration edge over Democrats with 1.235 million categorized as Independents. Though the party registration figures are at virtual parity, the GOP electoral resume is strong.

The only Democrat to win a US Senate seat here since 1962 is Dennis DeConcini, who served three terms before retiring in the 1994 election cycle. The Dems have fared better in governors’ races during that same 55-year time span, electing six of the 13 state chief executives who have occupied the office. Currently, the US House delegation stands at 5R-4D, while the GOP controls both houses of the state legislature.

GA-6 – Dead Even

By Jim Ellis

June 15, 2017 — The long Georgia special election cycle is mercifully almost over, as this most expensive-ever congressional race draws to a close next Tuesday. Looking at the aggregate spending, this one House campaign will easily exceed $40 million in combined expenditures, probably topping $25 million for Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign committee alone when the financial books close at the reporting cycle’s end.

The polls have forecast a close race between Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) immediately upon both advancing from the April 18 jungle primary. The most recent study, from Survey USA polling for WXIA-TV in Atlanta (June 7-11, 700 registered GA-6 voters; 503 either likely June 20 participants or those who have voted early), finds the two again tied at 47 percent. This is a marked improvement for Handel in comparison to both S-USA’s previous poll and last week’s Abt Associates survey for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, both of which found Ossoff holding a 51-44 percent advantage.

All three of these polls, however, are apparently understating Republican strength. In party segmentation, the GOP/lean GOP cell has only small advantages over the Democrat/Lean Democrat grouping. This is largely due to over-emphasizing the close 2016 presidential race when constructing the respondent pool. Since Georgia does not register voters by political party affiliation, it becomes more difficult to determine an accurate party sample for polling purposes.

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Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins

By Jim Ellis

May 23, 2017 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigning Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), and the candidate filing deadline will occur even before the congressman leaves office.

Chaffetz announced last week that he will resign from the House effective June 30. It was thought there would be a battle over the UT-3 special election process because Utah election law sets no procedure parameters. The state has not hosted a special federal election since 1930.

Utah election law merely says that a special election will be scheduled in the event of a vacancy. Some in the legislature are indicating that they need to be called into special session to determine the procedure, i.e., primary schedule, whether a nominating convention will be held, etc.

But over the weekend, Gov. Herbert usurped such an idea and had Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) publicly announce the special election schedule.

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Arizona Politics in Flux

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2017 — The Grand Canyon State is looking to be a focal point for the 2018 election cycle. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for re-election amid poor approval numbers within his own Republican Party vote base, while an interesting movement is occurring in what promises to be a competitive re-election effort for 2nd District sophomore Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Tucson).

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

The Democrats have a fundamental non-correctable problem facing them in the 2018 US Senate cycle. That is, they must defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats with arguably only two conversion targets. In Nevada, which should be their top opportunity, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has yet to even draw a serious opponent, though it is still early. Therefore, the impending Arizona contest, highlighted by the public feud between Sen. Flake and then-candidate Donald Trump, becomes a more viable Democratic target than one would normally surmise based solely upon Arizona voting history.

The Senate race has already drawn early cycle attention, generally involving potential statewide candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the 9th District congresswoman. Seeing her raise almost $700,000 in the first quarter and holding $2.8 million in her campaign account was commonly interpreted as amassing funds for a statewide campaign.

Within the past 10 days, while being interviewed on a Phoenix radio show, Rep. Sinema indicated that she is running for re-election, seemingly removing herself from a Senate race. A day later her spokesperson claimed that nothing had changed and Sinema could well run statewide.

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Flake Dodges Political Bullet

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2017 — Arizona US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced at the end of last week in a Phoenix radio interview her intention to seek re-election next year, meaning she will not become a US Senate candidate.

Most observers believed she would be the strongest Democrat to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and her robust first-quarter fundraising activity seemed to suggest she had something in mind beyond simply securing what was once a politically marginal district.

In the quarter, Rep. Sinema raised just short of $678,000, and holds a whopping $2.8 million cash-on-hand. This latter number is one million dollars more than even Sen. Flake’s reported total. The senator was more aggressive in the first quarter, however, raising $1.3 million in 2017’s opening months, but began with less in his campaign account.

Sinema backing away from a Senate challenge doesn’t mean Sen. Flake is home free, however. His intra-party battle scars from a national feud with then-candidate and later Republican nominee Donald Trump have not fully healed, so the senator harbors some GOP primary vulnerability at the very least. And, a wounded incumbent moving into the general election from a state with the capability of electing someone from the other party is not a scenario the national Republican Party leadership wants to see.

Currently, the senator’s announced primary opposition — former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held veteran Sen. John McCain to a 51.2 – 39.9 percent Republican primary win in 2016 — has little in the way of assets with which to oppose Flake. According to her 1st quarter financial disclosure report, Ward raised $168,369 and has just under $104,000 in her campaign account.

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against  first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Ward is not Sen. Flake’s chief potential Republican threat, however. Waiting in the wings is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who has not yet entered the Senate race, but already has announced that he will not seek re-election to his current position. DeWit was President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, which could make this race all the more interesting if he were to become a Senate candidate.

Still, Sen. Flake’s electoral obstacles would not be in his rear-view mirror even if he only faces Ward in the primary and easily defeats her. With Rep. Sinema now out of the Senate race, a name moving up the Democratic potential candidate chart is state representative and doctor Randall Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and saved her life from what easily could have been a mortal gunshot wound.

Several years after the Giffords surgery, Dr. Friese (left) decided to enter politics and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, and then re-elected last November. He is now the body’s assistant minority leader. In addition to being an active trauma surgeon, the doctor is a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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Trump’s Approval; More Montana

By Jim Ellis

March 6, 2017 — In the early part of Donald Trump’s presidency, a wide chasm has opened surrounding his job approval polling ratings.

From the past 10 surveys, presented through seven different political pollsters over the period stretching from Feb. 21 thru March 1, the various results span from a plus-5-point differential all the way to minus-12. This is an incredibly large answer gap for one consistent question, but a simple explanation for the discrepancy is becoming evident.

The pollsters: Gallup (3 surveys), Rasmussen Reports (2), YouGov/Economist, Ipsos/Reuters, Politico/Morning Consult, Survey Monkey, and Public Policy Polling, were many of the same firms that continually tested the 2016 presidential campaign. As we remember, most of the results predicted a small national margin in Hillary Clinton’s favor, which is exactly what happened, though the individual state polling, particularly in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and even Florida was badly flawed.

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Flake Still Trailing
in Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2017 — Just after the Nov. 8 election, Remington Research conducted a Republican voters’ statewide Arizona survey (Nov. 15-16; 1,122 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), as we previously covered, and found Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to be in trouble … in his own primary. Now, a new poll seems to confirm Flake’s weakness.

The previous data showed the incumbent trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 42-33 percent, in a hypothetical Republican primary. The same sample found former state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward tied with Flake, 35-35 percent. Ward attracted 40 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican US Senate primary. In a three-way race, DeWit led Flake and Ward, 38-30-15 percent, respectively. Perhaps most disconcerting for the senator was his favorability index among the Republican sample group, 30:49 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Now comes a new Political Marketing International poll (Feb. 7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device) that again brings warning signs to Sen. Flake. According to this current data, Flake actually trails Ward, 23-30 percent. DeWit, who has not committed to run for Senate though he did announce that he’ll retire as state treasurer, was not tested in this particular poll.

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Election 2016: Urban vs. Rural

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2017 — Now that the election returns are official and divided into congressional district and county totals, we can now see exactly how the presidential election unfolded.

It became clear from early Election Night totals that Donald Trump won the national vote because of his performance in the outer suburbs and rural areas in the 30 states that he carried over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His margins there, largely because of turnout, were enough to compensate for Clinton’s larger-than-expected advantages in the major cities and inner suburbs.

In looking at the country’s largest metropolitan statistical areas, we find that Clinton scored an average 59.9 percent of the vote, when averaging her percentage performance in the nation’s 10 most populous urban regions. This compares to President Trump’s 35.8 percent. Keep in mind that the national popular vote percentage total was 48.1 – 46.0 percent.

In the rural areas surrounding these specific urban centers, the numbers dramatically changed. Counterbalancing the Clinton margins in the metroplexes, Trump’s lead in the outer suburban and rural regions in the states he carried was roughly equivalent to the former secretary of state’s urban advantage but with greater turnout. In the corresponding Trump state rural regions, the new president averaged 56.8 percent as compared to Clinton’s 39.7 percent.

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A Perplexed America

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2017 — On the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States this past Friday, new surveys just out suggest the American people are polarized about how they view the present and future.

While Trump was sworn in as the fifth minority president (in terms of popular vote) since 1960, his 46.1 percent share of the popular vote is not the lowest among the last 10 to attain the office. Actually, looking at the initial election of Presidents #35 (Kennedy) to 45 (Trump), his popular vote total is actually close to the average election percentage of this relatively contemporary group. When first winning office, and not counting President Lyndon B. Johnson who assumed the position after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the average incoming presidential victory percentage is 48.5 percent. Of the group, the two lowest are Presidents Bill Clinton (43.0 percent) and Richard Nixon (43.4 percent).

Trump is the oldest person ever to be sworn in as the nation’s chief executive, at 70 years and 220 days. The previous two oldest were Presidents Ronald Reagan at 69 years, 349 days, and William Henry Harrison who was 68 years and 23 days of age. The youngest to be sworn in was Theodore Roosevelt at 42 years, 322 days, while John Kennedy aged 43 years, 236 days, was the youngest to be elected. Roosevelt assumed office after President William McKinley was assassinated.

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A Hillary Comeback?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 19, 2017 — On the eve of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, we again hear talk about a potential political campaign involving the woman he defeated in November, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There has been conjecture during the past couple of weeks from Democrats and Republicans both in and out of New York City that Clinton may make a political comeback in the upcoming New York City mayoral election to be held later this year. The rumors are fueled because Clinton is not denying interest, instead she simply is not saying anything about the subject.

Why would she challenge incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who supported her, especially when he commands relatively strong support among Democrats, the city’s dominant political party?

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Open Seat News — Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2017 — With the new Congress scarcely a week old, we already know of eight open House districts. Assuming all of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees coming from the House are confirmed for their new positions, the action will lead to five mid-year special elections.

Additionally, one sitting member has been appointed California attorney general and is moving through the state confirmation process. Two more have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, and another just made a public pronouncement that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Below is a re-cap of the first four (alphabetical) CDs. The remainder will follow in the succeeding Update.

CA-34: Thirteen-term Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was appointed attorney general to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris (D). Becerra is currently going through the legislative confirmation process, which means a hearing and vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Once the congressman is confirmed for his new position, assuredly before January ends, he will resign from the US House. When the vacancy becomes official, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will call a special election to occur between 126 and 140 days after his order. Both the special primary and general elections must occur within this time frame.

All candidates will participate in a jungle primary. If one candidate receives a majority vote, such individual is elected outright. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the special general election. Already 14 candidates have announced for the seat (11 Democrats, two Republicans, and one Green Party contender). The most likely scenario would find two Democrats advancing to the special general, which will most likely occur at the end of May or in early June. The leading candidates appear to be Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former LA City Council aide Sarah Hernandez (D).

GA-6: When Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services and resigns his northern Georgia congressional seat, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will call a special replacement election. Deal will have wide scheduling discretion, as his requirement is that the vote be no less than 30 days after his call. The process will be three-tiered, featuring partisan primaries, partisan run-offs if necessary, and a general election. Most likely, the entire cycle will end sometime in June.

Republicans will be heavily favored to hold the seat. Former GOP Secretary of State Karen Handel (unannounced) and Republican state Sen. Judson Hill (announced) appear to be the leading early contenders.

KS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Wichita) selection as CIA Director will likely result in the special election with the shortest cycle calendar. Under Kansas law, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will call the election for between 45 and 60 days after his pronouncement. If Pompeo resigns in February, the replacement election will then be held sometime in April.

The officially recognized political parties will determine for themselves how they will choose their nominees. Republicans have already announced that the 4th District Republican Committee of 126 voting members will vote for a special election nominee. Democratic leaders have not yet indicated how their process will unfold.

Once nominees are chosen, the candidates will participate in one election. Independents will have the right to petition onto the ballot, but the high signature qualification requirement will be over 17,000. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the southeastern Kansas seat. Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), state Treasurer Ron Estes (R), oil company executive and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R) are among the high profile candidates being mentioned.

MT-AL: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary. Once the at-large seat becomes vacant, presumably sometime in February, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will call the election for between 85 and 100 days post his declaration, meaning a vote sometime in late May or early June. The political parties will meet in convention to determine their nominees, so voters will go to the polls only once.

The special election could become competitive. Democrats hold two of Montana’s six statewide offices and before the November election actually controlled five. Already four Democrats and three Republicans have announced their candidacies. For the Democrats, three contenders are state representatives, including 2014 US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis, along with one businessman. The GOP side, so far, features two state senators, including Senate President Scott Sales, and one state representative. Democrats could turn to former state schools superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau. The latter lost to Rep. Zinke in November by a 56-41 percent count.

Johnson to Retire; A Cruz Opponent?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2017 — Venerable Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Vietnam War and a 32-year veteran of elective politics, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Counting all of the Trump cabinet appointees from the House and the two members who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, we already have seven open House seats in coming elections.

Johnson will be 88 years old at the time of the next regular election and would retire after serving 14 terms in the House and another three in the Texas House of Representatives. He had been re-elected to a fourth term in the legislature just before winning a special election to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Bartlett (R), who had resigned after winning election as Mayor of Dallas.

The 3rd District is a safe Republican seat, though it dipped a bit in the presidential race. Though Donald Trump carried this north Texas CD, he did so with only a 55-41 percent margin. Mitt Romney carried the same district, 64-34 percent, four years ago.

TX-3 lies north to northeast of Dallas and contains the cities of Plano, McKinney, Frisco, and Allen. The Sam Rayburn Tollway borders the district on the north end and the President George Bush Turnpike nears the southern boundary. All of the overlapping state legislators are Republican in addition to the congressional representation.

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Closing the Book

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 23, 2016 — Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. This will be the final update of the 2016 election cycle. We will return at the beginning of 2017. Thank you for being a loyal Ellis Insight follower.

With the final election numbers having been reported in every state, we can now begin to delve below the numerical surface in order to highlight certain key electoral facts.

Despite the news media reporting on Election Night that the 2016 presidential turnout was low, the post-election data reveals a completely different story. With over 14 million votes received, counted, and recorded after Election Day, turnout swelled to 136,645,381 voters, the highest raw number count in American history. This shatters the previous record set in 2008 of 131,426,292 participating individuals.

Election Day, turnout swelled to 136,645,381 voters, the highest raw number count in American history.

The 2016 total doesn’t include participating individuals who failed to vote for president. Adding those voters mean that 138,884,863 people came to the polls or mailed a 2016 general election ballot.

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One More Special

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2016 — President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of four-term South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as Office of Management and Budget Director adds one more special congressional election to the growing number of second season political campaigns.

The SC-5 special election means that five House seats are headed for a replacement vote in addition to maybe a pair of Senate contests. Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4), Tom Price (R-GA-6), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) will leave their House seats pending confirmation to posts in the Trump Administration. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) has resigned his position to become California Attorney General, replacing Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D).

The Palmetto State’s 5th District is now a safe Republican seat, made so in the 2011 redistricting plan. Before Mulvaney, Rep. John Spratt (D-Rock Hill) held the district bordering North Carolina just south of the Charlotte metropolitan area for 14 terms, first winning in 1982. After Rep. Mulvaney converted CD-5 to the Republican column in 2010 upon Spratt announcing his retirement, the GOP legislature strengthened the seat for the new incumbent. This was accomplished by moving several Democratic communities into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-Florence) 6th District. The latter seat is now the only Democratic district among the state’s seven seats.

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Hamilton Electors Crushed

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 20, 2016 — According to state Electoral College counts from yesterday’s announced votes, it appears Donald Trump has officially won the presidency. The secret ballot results will be read before the Congress on Jan. 6, and at that time the presidential outcome, at long last, will become final.

The group calling itself “The Hamilton Electors”, whose goal was to convince at least 37 GOP electors to eschew Trump in favor of another Republican candidate, failed miserably as predicted. In fact, two of the key organizers, Colorado electors Polly Baca, a state senator, and teacher Bob Nemanich were replaced by the state officials because they were openly planning to violate Colorado’s law that requires electors to support the candidate who earned at least a plurality of the state’s election votes.

The state officials went to federal court to block Baca and Nemanich from voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton, the candidate who received 48.2 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 Election Day vote. Yesterday, all nine Colorado electors, sans Baca and Nemanich’s participation, voted for Clinton.

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