Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent
Announces Departure

By Jim Ellis

Sep. 12, 2017 — A day after Pennsylvania conservative state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) officially declared his Republican primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown), the congressman announced that he would not seek an eighth term in the House.

It is unlikely the Simmons challenge forced Dent from Congress, but the overall political climate certainly contributes to his retiring. Dent has been one of President Trump’s top Republican critics. The congressman, age 57, reminded his supporters, however, that he originally planned to only serve five or six terms and will be in elective office for 28 consecutive years once his final term in the House comes to a close at the beginning of 2019. He was originally elected to the state House of Representatives in 1990, serving until his election to the state Senate in 1998, and then to Congress in 2004.

Democrats will now be looking to target the open 15th District, which stretches from the Allentown-Bethlehem area all the way west on Interstate 78 to the outer reaches of Harrisburg. The 15th District was more of a swing district before 2011 redistricting, however. Now, it performs as a reliably Republican seat.

The Allentown-Bethlehem district was solidly in Democratic hands from 1952 through 1978, when Republican Don Ritter upset eight-term Democratic Congressman Fred Rooney (D-Bethlehem) in that latter year. Ritter would represent the Lehigh Valley until 1992 when he lost to Democrat Paul McHale. McHale (D-Bethlehem) then retired after serving three terms. In 1998, businessman Pat Toomey (R-Allentown) converted the seat for the GOP and held it for three terms until he unsuccessfully challenged then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 GOP primary.

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Strange Still Down, Lashes Back

(Alabama Sen. Luther Strange campaign’s latest ad)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 11, 2017 — A new Alabama Senate Republican runoff poll was released late last week, and it provides a similar result but with potentially the same skew as we saw from earlier surveys.

According to the Southeast Research firm (Aug. 29-31; 401 likely Alabama GOP runoff voters), former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore enjoys a 52-36 percent advantage over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. But, in comparison with two other polls, the number of evangelicals who comprise the respondent universe may be overestimated. In this particular Southeast Research poll, 79.5 percent of the Republican respondents are self-identified evangelicals. Within this segment, Moore commands a 54-32 percent margin, and 58-32 percent among those who consider themselves conservatives.

Conversely, Sen. Strange performs best with those identifying as non-evangelical Christian voters. Within this much smaller segment, Strange receives a clear majority of 55 percent versus Moore’s 40 percent. The appointed incumbent also attracts stronger support with self-described moderates. Within this segment cluster, Strange’s edge is 49-39 percent.

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Another Trump Appointment;
A Double-Digit West Virginia Poll

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.

Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.

There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.

The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.

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Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

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Michigan Poll; Delaney for President

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 1, 2017 — A poll released last week that placed entertainer Robert Ritchie (Kid Rock) ahead of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) generated a great deal of news coverage, but the Delphi Analytica survey didn’t appear reliable. A new credible Michigan Senate survey followed, however, and actually seems to confirm that Ritchie could become a viable candidate.

The Delphi Analytica poll was never available on the reported web links and showing Sen. Stabenow, who is completing her third term with respectable approval ratings, with only 26 percent support failed to make sense.

The Trafalgar Group, on the other hand, is a reliable pollster. The only survey research firm to correctly forecast Donald Trump victories in Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Atlanta-based firm also projected Republican Karen Handel to defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia special congressional election last month when most pollsters were predicting the opposite. Now, the company’s new Michigan Senate study (July 25-27; 1,078 likely Michigan voter respondents from more than 50,000 attempted calls) finds Ritchie in a virtual dead heat with Sen. Stabenow.

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The Crystal Ball:
Points of Disagreement

By Jim Ellis

July 31, 2017 — University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato has released his latest “Crystal Ball” political ratings, but further arguments must come to the forefront about some of his individual race categorizations.

In the first part of his latest report, Sabato illustrates that the number of Democrats already running for Congress shatters the new candidate rate of previous off-election years. Currently, 209 Democrats have declared themselves as US House candidates at this point in the election cycle, obliterating the mean average of 42.6 derived from the period beginning in 2003 to the present. For Republicans, 28 non-incumbent candidates have currently declared, well below their non-election year average of 42.8 within the same post-2003 time frame.

But, so many Democratic candidates are declaring in the same districts, thus skewing the situation. For example, in the 14 seats where a GOP incumbent voted in favor of the healthcare legislation sitting in a district that Hillary Clinton carried, 57 Democratic candidates have already declared. In the seven competitive California Republican seats where national Democratic Party leaders pledge to heavily contest, 34 Dems have become candidates, though duplication does exist to some extent between the two aforementioned categories. In three more sites featuring presumed competitive 2018 campaigns: AZ-2 (Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson), FL-27 (open seat; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami), and VA-10 (Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean), an additional 23 candidates are competing within this trio of CDs.

Therefore, we find in these 16 unique, prime, targeted congressional seats, a total of 72 individuals who are active Democratic candidates. We also know today that 56 of these competitors will lose their primary because, of course, every district can only nominate one candidate per political party.

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More on the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — Yesterday, we examined the House’s post-special election status and speculated upon the Democrats’ chances of wresting majority control away from Republicans during the coming regular campaigns. One of the obstacles that make the Democrats’ task difficult is that only 15 early seats are open, and Republicans risk just nine of the total sum.

What could bring Democrats greater opportunity is the number of potentially open seats — that is, where members are, reportedly, considering running for another office. In this category, 18 incumbents are said to be contemplating different political moves that, if executed, would send their current seats into the open category.

Of the 18, only two are Democrats. Should Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) draw a major Republican primary opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is likely to jump into the Arizona statewide race thinking her victory chances become more realistic if Flake is forced to battle through a difficult intra-party contest. In Maryland, Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is still reportedly considering entering the governor’s race to challenge incumbent Larry Hogan (R). The Democratic field is expanding, however, with former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker just recently announcing their candidacies, so Rep. Delaney’s decision is likely becoming more difficult.

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Looking at the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — For a brief instant, until Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) resigns later this week, the House has a full compliment of 435 members, which means now is a good time to survey 2018 election cycle prospects.

There has been a great deal of speculation, particularly before the GA-6 special election that Democrats had hoped to win, that Republicans are in danger of losing their majority in the coming regular election. But, what do the numbers actually say?

In looking at the overall picture much depends upon realistic chances that congressional district maps in Pennsylvania and Texas could be changed via redistricting court rulings before the next election. Should this happen in the two states, certain districts currently rated safe or likely to go to one party or the other could be significantly altered. Therefore, this pair of domains with large Republican majorities (Pennsylvania: 13R-5D; Texas: 25R-11D) could become 2018 electoral wild cards.

Since the post-reapportionment maps were finalized after the 2010 census, three states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, have been re-drawn. The three new maps combined resulted in Democrats gaining a net of two seats, an increase far below what was projected. Potential exists for further re-drawing in Wisconsin and again in North Carolina, but the US Supreme Court agreeing to hear the former state’s political gerrymandering lawsuit now makes the timing for any court-directed map changes in the two places more difficult to implement for the coming election.

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Handel and Norman

By Jim Ellis

June 21, 2017 — It’s difficult to characterize a Republican candidate winning a Republican congressional district as an “upset”, but Karen Handel’s victory in the north Atlanta suburbs last night, at least in terms of the money spent, polling, and how the media covered the campaign, seems to qualify for such a description.

From a huge turnout of 259,622 voters, just about 58 percent of the entire registered 6th district universe and almost 50,000 more than participated in the last regular mid-term election, Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State, topped Democratic filmmaker and ex-congressional aide Jon Ossoff by a 52-48 percent margin, a spread of 9,702 votes when all of the ballots were counted. She retains for the Republicans Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s former congressional seat.

Simultaneously, over 200 miles away via Interstate 85 northeast of Atlanta in central South Carolina, Republican Ralph Norman claimed the evening’s other special congressional election with a surprisingly close 51-49 percent win over Democrat Archie Parnell from a small turnout of 87,840 voters. Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney left open this seat to assume his national position.

The GA-6 contest, which became a national election because of the record amounts of money spent — an aggregate total that will likely exceed $50 million when the final accounting is published, and where the Democratic leadership virtually invested their entire special election season budget and emphasis — is now a crushing defeat for the party and what is termed the “anti-Trump resistance.”

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A New Senate Contender
In Pennsylvania?

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2017 — There is renewed interest from Republicans in challenging Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., but the Senate campaign is still slow to materialize. Fresh from President Trump’s and Sen. Pat Toomey’s simultaneous but highly different wins in 2016, the GOP now has recent political victory paths from which to chart a new Senate campaign against the two-term Democratic incumbent.

This week, a new potential candidate may be coming onto the scene but, if so, he will have to quickly jump-start his campaign apparatus. Four-term Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton/Luzerne County) confirms that he is considering entering the Senate race, but his campaign treasury is a long way from being ready for a statewide campaign.

In many ways, President Trump and Sen. Toomey ran strategically opposite campaigns, yet both were able to win close Keystone State elections. The Trump strategy was to increase turnout, meaning the Republican vote in the outer suburbs and the rural areas, in order to counter the substantial Democratic margins coming from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas.

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Why Trump Is Right on the Polls

By Jim Ellis

May 2, 2017 — President Trump’s retaliatory attacks against the latest major media polls may actually be more correct than even he alludes. The nation’s chief executive predictably came out swinging against ABC and NBC News regarding their newly released polls that found just over 40 percent of their sampling groups approve of his job performance, the worst of any president after 100 days in office.

Trump reminded his audience that those two particular polls were wrong in their election predictions, but the survey representatives quickly shot back to point out that their pre-election projection of Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote was in fact accurate. These pollsters are correct in this particular assertion, but we all know that the individual state polling, particularly in the key Great Lakes states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, was badly flawed and completely missed the mark.

Digging deeper into the current and past election polls does produce a little known factoid, however, and one that the president should find comforting. While the ABC and NBC representatives say their data find Trump to be the most unpopular short-term president, they fail to draw upon a critical comparison factor from their own previous polls.

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House Financials as Predictors

By Jim Ellis

April 19, 2017
— As we all know, actions speak louder than words. The US House first quarter campaign finance reports (through March 31, 2017) were publicized Monday and, tracking those members who have publicly indicated at least some interest in declaring a Senate challenge, we now have some tangible information to gauge which individuals might be serious about making a statewide run. A look below at the Senate incumbent and House challenger(s):

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)
   $677,542 raised; $136,496 spent; $2,804,679 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Sinema has failed to confirm rumors that she is planning to run for Senate or governor. Considering that incumbent Sen. Flake is appearing in a more vulnerable state than Gov. Doug Ducey (R), it is more reasonable to think that a Sinema Senate challenge is the more likely. The congresswoman’s aggressive early campaign fundraising and already reaching just short of the $3 million mark in cash-on-hand makes her a very serious potential challenger.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
• Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee)
   $73,552 raised; $59,359 spent; $84,848 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Rooney indicated several times that he has not closed the door on challenging Sen. Nelson. With little fundraising effort in the first quarter and Gov. Rick Scott (R) positioning himself for a Senate challenge, the financial numbers confirm that Rep. Rooney will not enter the statewide race.

Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)
• Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg)
   $706,414 raised; $136,418 spent; $1,620,394 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
• Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg)
   $321,166 raised; $88,501 spent; $1,548,229 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Both congressmen Messer and Rokita have impressive campaign accounts and are well positioned financially to launch a challenge against Sen. Donnelly. Messer has been the more aggressive early fundraiser, but it is conceivable that both could enter the Senate race.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part III

By Jim Ellis

March 21, 2017 — Today, we continue to examine the latest happenings for the coming 2018 Senate campaigns.

• New Mexico:
The open governor’s race is attracting most of the early political attention in the Land of Enchantment. Once the field to replace term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez (R) solidifies itself, it’s possible we could see more interest develop for opposing first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry are all potential Republican gubernatorial candidates. So far, only State Labor Commissioner Mick Rich (R) is an announced US Senate candidate.

• New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is preparing for re-election to a second six-year term in 2018. Presidential overtones will affect this race, as the senator is being mentioned as a possible national Democratic candidate. Little in the way of Republican Senate opposition is forming against her right now.

• North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) attracted a great deal of media attention when President Trump first interviewed her for Agriculture Secretary during the post-election transition period. A 50-49 percent winner in 2012, Heitkamp defeated one-term at-large US Rep. Rick Berg (R), and now she prepares for a second term possibly against another at-large congressman. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) says he will decide whether to run for the Senate “in the next few months.” Obviously, a Heitkamp-Cramer race would be a hard fought contest, but it is far from certain that the congressman will make the challenge. This is clearly a race to watch, and a top Republican conversion target, especially if Rep. Cramer decides to run.

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The Trump 10

By Jim Ellis

March 2, 2017 — There already has been a great deal of talk about the difficult campaign road ahead that Democrats face in 2018. With having to defend 25 of 34 states in next year’s election, the minority party finds itself being forced to play defense in what should be a very offensive election cycle for them.

Republicans, theoretically, have a chance to gain seats in the midterms because they have offensive opportunities, similar to what the Democrats enjoyed in 2016. In that cycle, Republicans were forced to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle states, but were able to sustain their majority status, nonetheless.

The Trump 10 refers to the number of in-cycle Senate states that President Trump carried, where Democrats must defend. The following is a list of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election who should be in politically precarious positions. The group is listed in order of vulnerability, based upon the Democratic performance in the presidential race, the strength of the incumbent, and presumed challenger capability.

1) Indiana – Sen. Joe Donnelly – President Trump and the Republicans, ostensibly led by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, racked up large percentages in the Hoosier State. The trend, and the quality of potential Republican challengers such as representatives Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), arguably makes Sen. Donnelly the most vulnerable of Democrats seeking re-election.

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PA: Understanding What Happened

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2017 — Now that the 2016 presidential election result has been dissected into congressional districts, we have the ability to understand just how Donald Trump scored his upset presidential win. Pennsylvania was one of the key battleground states, and arguably the one that put President Trump over the top.

As in most states, Hillary Clinton performed very well in the cities and inner suburbs – usually even better than President Obama’s commensurate and victorious 2012 totals – but Trump’s performance in the outer suburbs and rural areas, where turnout notably increased, outdid her stout showing.

Examining Pennsylvania, and looking at the state through metro congressional districts and comparing them to those in outer suburb and rural regions, we see starkly different trends.

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