Tag Archives: Nebraska

New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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New Year Senate Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2018 — Now that we are officially in election year 2018, it is a good time to set the stage for the coming campaign season. With Democrat Doug Jones converting the Alabama special election last month, and new Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) standing for a concurrent special election this November, a different picture exists for the coming Senate election campaigns.

THE REPUBLICANS

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Before Alabama, it was a virtual mathematical certainty that the Republicans would retain Senate control after the 2018 vote because the Democrats had too few viable conversion targets. The Jones’ special election victory to permanently replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate in order to accept his Trump Administration position, now gives the Democrats a path to attaining the majority but they still must overcome the GOP’s strong defensive wall.

Only forced to defend eight of the now 34 in-cycle seats, the Republicans are most at risk in Nevada and Arizona.

In the Silver State, first-term Sen. Dean Heller (R) currently defends his statewide position against two known opponents, only one of which is a Democrat.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who has lost campaigns for five different offices (state Senate, Secretary of State, US Senate, Congressional District 4, and Congressional District 3), is nevertheless 4-1 in Republican primaries. Therefore, Sen. Heller’s first task is to secure the GOP nomination in June. Already we have seen erratic polling, with the Tarkanian camp and some national pollsters posting him ahead of Heller, but the senator and other independent research firms countering with the opposite result.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part II (of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-2-of-3-Recovered

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 24, 2017 — Continuing our holiday recap of the Senate races (Happy Thanksgiving all — hope you had a great day), today we cover Michigan through North Dakota.

• Michigan: The major event occurring this past week was Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who had been seriously considering launching his own Senate campaign, announcing that he will instead run for a 17th term in the House. On the heels of Rep. Upton’s decision, wealthy venture capitalist Sandy Pensler (R) declared his own candidacy. Already in the Republican field are manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James, and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is running for a fourth term.
Rating: Likely D

• Minnesota: Months ago, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced for re-election after flirting with a gubernatorial campaign. She will face little competition in her quest for a third term.
Rating: Safe D

• Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) could face primary and general election competition. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellis County) says he will shortly decide whether to challenge Sen. Wicker or run for lieutenant governor in 2019. He came within half-percent of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in 2014, proving he can run a viable race. McDaniel would attack Sen. Wicker from the right if he chooses to run. In the general election, Brandon Presley, chairman of the state Public Service Commission and cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, is a potential Democratic candidate but has so far stopped short of launching any formal political effort. Sen. Wicker will be running for a second full term.
Rating: Safe/Likely R

• Missouri: The Show Me State Senate race is basically set, as first-term Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is challenging incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Four polls were taken during the summer, and all show Hawley claiming a small lead. The most recent survey, from Remington Research (Oct. 11-12; 956 likely Missouri voters), sees Republican Hawley leading the two-term Democratic senator, 48-45 percent. This race has the potential of becoming the nation’s premier Senate campaign.
Rating: Toss-Up

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Turbulent Senate Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.

While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.

But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.

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The Alabama Debacle

By Jim Ellis

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Nov. 14, 2017 — Senate Republicans have a major advantage in the current election cycle, but may be on the precipice of giving it away.

Looking at the 2018 Senate map, Republicans have only to defend eight of the 33 in-cycle seats. Considering that six of the eight are the safe Republican states of Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and the Democrats need a net gain of three conversion seats to claim the majority, it appears unattainable even if the latter party converts legitimate targets in politically marginal Nevada and now open Arizona.

But the mathematics change if Democrats score an unlikely upset in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12, and the latest unfolding events there suggest that such an outcome is far more likely to happen.

As we know, Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the twice removed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been accused of sexual impropriety with at least one teenage girl when he was 32 years old in 1979. Washington, DC Republicans, who appear to be taking the Washington Post story and the woman’s allegations at face value, are urging Moore to remove himself from the race. Alabama Republicans are still standing firm for Moore, refusing to accept the story without proof. For his part, Judge Moore denies the incident happened.

Three polls have already surfaced telling us that Moore has suffered a major hit. Earlier surveys found him leading in low double-digits, but Opinion Savvy, Gravis Marketing, and JMC Analytics & Polling immediately went into the field to test the Alabama electorate’s reaction.

Opinion Savvy (Nov. 10; 515 likely Alabama special election voters) conducted their survey just hours after the Moore story broke. Their results find that Moore’s lead has evaporated into a 46-46 percent tie with Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US Attorney.

Gravis Marketing launched their poll just as quickly (Nov. 10; 478 likely Alabama voters) and finds a similar ballot test tally: 48-46 percent in Moore’s favor.

JMC Analytics (Nov. 9-11; 575 registered Alabama voters) sees Jones pulling into a 46-42 percent lead (48-44 percent when leaners to both candidates are added), but an over-sampling of female voters could account for the Democratic advantage. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were female and they break for Jones, 46-40 percent. Men favor the Democrat 46-45 percent.

Considering these polls were taken immediately as the story was breaking and the questionnaires included an explanation of what was being said about him, the results for Moore are not devastating. For the most part, Republican voters are taking Moore’s side while Democrats believe the accuser. The fact that the division is roughly even suggests that Moore has a chance to rebound if he can effectively tell his story.

While Republican leaders may be calling upon Judge Moore to remove himself from the ticket, realistically and legally, he cannot. Under Alabama election law, the ballot cannot be changed within 76 days of the election. That period began Sept. 28. Now comes talk that Gov. Kay Ivey (R) could be approached to postpone the election, or call a special session of the legislature to pass a new emergency election statute. The governor says she is not inclined to even think about such an option.

Additionally, some absentee packets containing Moore’s name have already mailed, thus making it logistically difficult, if not illegal, to inject a new ballot into the campaign. Therefore, the outlook is virtually certain that the election will proceed as scheduled on Dec. 12.

Another idea suggests that the Senate refuse to seat Moore if he wins the election. Should all Democrats vote against Moore, only three Republicans would need to break ranks to keep the seat in abeyance. Presumably, the state could then call a new election, but there would be nothing preventing Moore from running again. Should that be the case, Gov. Ivey then could appoint another interim senator or even keep Sen. Luther Strange (R) in the position. Also, a new election would allow him to run again, too.

For their part, Democrats are remaining publicly quiet. They are likely doing so for two reasons. First, they are adopting the old axiom, “if one’s political opponents are in process of destroying themselves don’t stop them.” Second, they may soon be faced with another vote to eject a senator. Should New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez be found guilty in his corruption trial, there will likely be a move to expel him. Democrats would find themselves in a bind if they make a public spectacle of denying entry to Moore, and then quickly pivot to do the opposite in order to save Menendez.

The Roy Moore saga is far from over but at the outset, the situation appears perilous for Republicans. Since losing this seat would endanger their majority standing in 2018, the stakes for how the majority leadership chooses to handle the Alabama situation becomes even more challenging.

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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Bannon: How Much a Factor?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 5, 2017 — Several articles have appeared in the past few days contemplating former presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s perceived political strength, most specifically regarding his actions involving recruiting Republican primary challengers against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) loyalists.

While Bannon appears in good stead vis-à-vis financial backers — with the billionaire Mercer family serving as his monetary base — those running the McConnell-aligned outside political operation downplay just how strong the insurgents might be opposite 2018 Senate GOP incumbents standing for re-election.

Valid points resonate with both sides. Buoyed by Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in last week’s special Republican run-off election, the Bannon forces, who heaped attack ads on the interim incumbent, were naturally taking a great deal of credit for the victory. And, without doubt, anyone thinking of challenging a sitting senator is greatly encouraged after seeing the Alabama outcome.

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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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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.

More Races Called

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2016 — As outstanding and absentee votes continue to be tallied, more races are being decided. Yesterday’s biggest development was concluding the year long toss-up battle between New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) in what proved to be a laboriously slow counting process. With the election dust finally settling, we now see a victory for Gov. Hassan. From more than 707,000 votes cast, her unofficial victory margin appears to be just 716 votes.

Sen. Ayotte’s loss means the Republican majority margin will likely end at 52-48, since the Dec. 10 Louisiana run-off election will probably yield a John Kennedy (R) win. Kennedy, the four-term state treasurer, placed first on Tuesday night in a field of 24 candidates followed by Democrat Foster Campbell, a Louisiana public service commissioner and multiple-time statewide candidate.

This isn’t an easy race for Kennedy, however. Often, after one party wins a national election an emotional let down can occur in a quick subsequent vote, and a lack of enthusiasm allows the losing party to rebound. Additionally, we merely have to retreat to October 2015 to find the last time the Democrats won a Louisiana statewide election (governor’s campaign: John Bel Edwards-D defeated Sen. David Vitter-R).

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House Becoming Clearer

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2016 — The late turnout trends, as influenced greatly by how the presidential race is closing, may well be increasing Republican/right-of-center voter participation. If so, this will have great effect upon the House races, potentially holding down Democratic gains because more heavily contested GOP incumbents will survive.

Looking at all House as we head into the final weekend of campaigning, it appears that 226 seats are rated as Safe Republican, Republican Favored, or Lean Republican. Democrats look to have 189 seats where their candidates are rated as safe, favored or leaning to their party.

The remaining 20 are toss-up campaigns. Sixteen of these are in current Republican CDs, while the remaining four are Democratic.

Included in what we can refer to as the “decided count”, are five Republican seats headed to the Democratic column and one Dem seat returning to the GOP. Four of these six turning districts are directly related to the mid-decade redistricting process in Florida and Virginia.

The one Democratic seat going Republican is the open northern Florida seat of retiring Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee). Because the adjacent 5th District was drawn to elect a minority candidate in a drastically different manner than the previous 5th District, a major chunk of Rep. Graham’s Democratic base was removed from her 2nd District. Without a reasonable place to run for re-election, Graham retired after one term, but we will likely see her in the 2018 open governor’s race. The new 2nd District will go to Dr. Neal Dunn, who won a two-point Republican primary victory in late August. Under the new draw, the GOP nomination is tantamount to election in the fall.

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House in Flux?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2016 — Several analysis articles have appeared in the last few days indicating that the House majority might well be in play for the Democrats. Is this reality, wishful thinking, or just a partisan rhetorical ploy to engage the party base?

To re-cap, the Republicans have their largest House majority since the 1928 election, currently standing at 247-R to 186-D, with two Democratic vacancies. In order for the Democrats to secure even a one-seat majority, they would have to re-elect incumbents and candidates in all 188 of their current districts and then convert 30 Republican positions.

Initially, not all 188 Democratic seats are secure. In fact, at least one is surely coming the GOP’s way. After the court-mandated mid-decade redistricting operation in Florida, the 2nd District became a virtual Republican gimme seat. Freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) choosing not to seek re-election guarantees a Republican victory.

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The Backfired Ploy

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2016
— The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took a big chance in the closing days of the Nebraska primary just concluded, and their ploy crashed and burned.

The DCCC, understanding that Tea Party supporting former state senator and county commissioner Chip Maxwell (R) would be an easier opponent for their freshman incumbent, Rep. Brad Ashford, to beat bought over $400,000 worth of ad time to contrast Maxwell and retired Air Force General Don Bacon (R).

Their ad (above) portrays Maxwell as the “Tea Party conservative” in the Republican primary and urges GOP voters to “look up the facts” about the two candidates. In directly appealing to the group of base conservative voters the Dem party leaders hoped to confuse them in order to promote the weaker general election Republican candidate.

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Trump Towers

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2016 — Though his presidential campaign opponents have dropped out of the race, it was still a point of curiosity to examine Donald Trump’s recorded percentages in the last two Tuesday primaries.

It was a foregone conclusion that he would win West Virginia – he’s done very well in coal country, and this state is in many ways the industry’s home – but Nebraska is likely a state that would have voted for Sen. Ted Cruz had the contested campaign continued.

True to form, Trump broke 75 percent of the vote in West Virginia and topped 60 percent in Nebraska. This suggests that many establishment Republicans coming out against him during the past week had little effect on the individuals voting in these two primaries.

Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. After she spoke out earlier about shutting down the coal industry — something that wouldn’t go over well in West Virginia — it was expected she would falter in the Mountain State. She did. True to form, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. However, Clinton did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

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