Tag Archives: President Obama

Primary Previews

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 8, 2018 — Today’s elections kick-off the prime time of primary season, with voters in four states — Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia — choosing nominees for November. Here is an outlook for each of the states:

Indiana

With no governor’s race on the ballot this year, the Republican Senate nomination campaign tops the Indiana political card, which is one of the more interesting campaigns in the country. Here, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are battling former state representative and Meyer Distributing and Meyer Logistics companies’ owner Mike Braun for the right to face first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November. Donnelly has no opposition for his party nomination.

Braun has gained national notoriety for his campaign, which has strategically melded both congressmen into basically one person. The Braun Campaign ads have characterized Reps. Rokita and Messer as being part of the Washington “swamp”, concentrating negatively on their budget and trade votes, as well as casting them as professional politicians. He even goes so far as to brandish two cardboard cutouts of the congressmen where they are dressed exactly alike and says they are both lawyers who never practiced, instead spending their entire careers in politics.

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Florida Senate Race: Now Official

By Jim Ellis

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

April 11, 2018 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) made official what everyone believed was happening for more than a year: launching a challenger offensive against three-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Gov. Scott entered elective politics in the 2010 election and said he never intended to assimilate himself into the way state politics has traditionally been run and claims to have kept that promise. He said in his announcement statement Monday that his intention is to have the same attitude toward going to Washington.

Worth in the neighborhood of $140 million and willing to spend a large amount of his personal wealth on his political campaigns, Gov. Scott had the luxury of waiting until relatively late in the cycle to launch his expensive statewide campaign. While the governor consistently said he would make his political plans known once the regular state legislative session ended, a loosely connected Super PAC was brandishing his accomplishments as Florida’s chief executive over the past year, and rallying support for Scott’s state issue agenda. So, this future Republican Senate nominee was very much in the middle of the Florida political scene even though he was not an announced candidate.

To no one’s surprise, the Florida Senate race figures to be a razor-thin contest. Since the famous 2000 presidential campaign when the national result depended upon the final Sunshine State vote (George W. Bush prevailed by an official 537 vote margin from more than 5.8 million cast ballots), and through four more one-point statewide campaigns in the ensuing presidential, governor and Senate races, Florida voting has become synonymous with very tight elections.

Two of those three one-point victory races went to Gov. Scott. He won in 2010, defeating then-state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink by a 1.2 percent margin, and was re-elected with one-point spread over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat who now serves in the US House of Representatives.

Except for a four-year break, Sen. Nelson has been in elective office consistently since winning his first election in 1972. He served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives, 12 years in the US House, and then ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1990, losing in the Democratic primary to US Sen. Lawton Chiles who would win the position later that year.

Sen. Nelson returned four years later with a victory in the treasurer, insurance commissioner, and fire marshal statewide office and was twice elected to that post. He then ran for the Senate in 2000, defeating then-US Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Orlando), who would later be elected state attorney general. Sen. Nelson topped US Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) for his first re-election in 2006, before beating then-US Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Ft. Myers) for his third US Senate victory on the same day that President Obama was re-elected.

Comments coming from Democratic activists concede that Gov. Scott was successful in winning two surprise victories for governor, but say that he has never faced as formidable an opponent as Sen. Nelson.

This assessment is open to question. When he first won in 2010, Scott, who would defeat McCollum for the Republican nomination, was the clear underdog. At the time, Sink was promoted as the best possible candidate the Democrats could field, so it was never believed that she was any second-tier contender.

Though Crist was a flawed candidate from his debacle in the 2010 US Senate race when he left the Republican Party and tried to run to Marco Rubio’s left as an Independent before switching to the Democrats in order to run for governor four years later, he still had universal name identification and was able to raise and spend almost $50 million on his campaign. Thus, the argument that Scott didn’t face anyone as tough as Nelson seems overblown.

Though we don’t likely need proof that the Nelson-Scott race will be close at the political finish line, we only have to examine the public polling for confirmation. Since August of 2017, 17 polls have been released of the proposed Senate race from 10 different pollsters. The results find Sen. Nelson leading in nine of the surveys, while Gov. Scott has the advantage in seven, and one was a flat tie. In 11 of those polls, the margin between the two candidates was four percentage points or less.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty to Retire;
An Analysis of the Now Open CT-5

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

April 4, 2018 — Three-term Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire/Waterbury), under fire for not responding to her chief of staff’s sexual and physical abuse of another staff member that even included a restraining order being issued, announced Monday that she would abandon her run for re-election.

When it surfaced that Rep. Esty allowed the chief to remain in his position for three months after the legal situation came to her attention, she began to suffer heavy criticism for not acting sooner to dismiss him. Several media editorial boards and local Democratic state legislators began calling upon her to resign. The congresswoman’s retirement announcement did not include a statement of resignation, however. Therefore, at this point, it appears she will serve the balance of the term.

Under the present Connecticut map, the 5th District is the most politically competitive in the state. Rep. Esty was first elected in 2012, winning a close 51-49 percent general election victory over then-state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R). She succeeded Christopher Murphy (D) who left the House to successfully run for the Senate. He seeks a second term this year.

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Balancing the Scale

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2018 — The Hill newspaper released an article entitled, “GOP Seeks to Avoid Dem Upset in Arizona” Wednesday, but there is little empirical evidence to suggest that any such result is in the offing.

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni ?

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko (above) facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni?

The Hill correspondents Ben Kamisar and Lisa Hagen report that the national Republican political apparatus in the form of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican National Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund (the latter organization loosely affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan), are investing a combined $570,000 to protect what should be a safe seat. The spending reference somehow provides substantiation that Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is potentially positioning herself to defeat former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko in the April 24 special election to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).

Fresh from a stinging loss in the western Pennsylvania special election, Republican House members and rank and file supporters would rebel if the political committees were not taking this impending race seriously. Therefore, the ingestion of what is a modest amount of money when compared to previous special election spending has much more to do with covering internal political bases than any reference suggesting trouble for Lesko.

Moreover, even in their own copy, the authors quote numbers from Democratic pollster Lake Research for the Tiperneni campaign that find Lesko’s lead registering 14 percentage points. The Republican campaign confirms, according to the article, that their internal polls also show a double-digit lead. The survey spread is then contrasted with President Trump’s 21-point victory from this district to suggest that Lesko is under-performing.

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An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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The Ohio Ins and Outs

Ohio-congressional-districtsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 15, 2018 — Since the turn of the century, the state of Ohio has become crucial in deciding national elections, and its status for 2018 is no exception. This week, several key moves were made that began to define the general election ballot even before candidate filing closes and the May 8 primary is conducted.

The Senate race was shaken last week when state treasurer Josh Mandel (R), the 2012 Senate nominee who had the inside track to again win the Republican primary in order to force a re-match with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), unexpectedly announced he was dropping out of the race due to a newly diagnosed health condition for his wife. Though investment banker Michael Gibbons was still in the race, a Republican void existed in a campaign that has all the underpinnings of becoming highly competitive. Even with President Obama leading the Democratic ticket and carrying Ohio six years ago, Mandel managed to hold Sen. Brown to only a 51-45 percent re-election victory.

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), who had been competing in the governor’s race, announced late last week that he would switch to the Senate campaign. The Republican gubernatorial primary underwent significant change in November, and both Renacci and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor found themselves on the outside looking in. Because attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine, and Secretary of State Jon Husted, the candidates who were running 1-2 in early polling, decided to join forces and form a ticket, the odds of either Taylor or Renacci upsetting the race leader, DeWine, grew to long-shot proportions.

While Taylor remains in the governor’s race, Renacci has now bolted for the Senate campaign to hopefully compete against Sen. Brown. The incumbent is clearly taking his re-election campaign very seriously, as the coming financial disclosure report will show his cash-on-hand figure to be already approaching $10 million. With Renacci’s ability to self-fund a statewide campaign and Republicans looking fondly on President Trump’s eight-point victory in Ohio, the eventual GOP nominee – whether it’s Rep. Renacci, Gibbons, or another late-entry candidate – will command the resources necessary to match whatever Brown and his Democratic allies spend.

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The Daily Retirement Briefing

California Rep. Darrell Issa

California Rep. Darrell Issa

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2018 — California Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Vista) latest re-election, a 1,621-vote victory over retired Marine Corps Colonel Doug Applegate (D) in CA-49, proved to be the closest US House result in the nation during 2016, but there will not be a re-match this year.

Rep. Issa announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to a 10th term, becoming the 48th House member to take this action in the current election cycle. With Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) reportedly primed to declare her Senate candidacy today, the number will quickly grow to 49. Issa’s action directly follows that of fellow California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/ Fullerton), who announced on Monday that he won’t run for a 14th term.

Both men faced difficult re-election battles, as do five other California Republicans that Democrats are targeting. Because President Trump fared so poorly in California, the Democratic strategists believe the same pattern will carry over into the midterm cycle. But, such a result remains to be seen.

Though Republicans are clearly in worse position without Rep. Royce running again, that might not be the case concerning Issa’s. With his negatives growing and a close call in the previous election, the party might actually fare better with a fresh face, particularly when the Democrats do not have a clear alternative. Though Applegate is running again, he is facing a stiff challenge from at least two other Democrats, wealthy attorney Mike Levin, and former US State Department and United Nations official Sara Jacobs. Real estate investor Paul Kerr rounds out the current Democratic field.

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An Ohio Curve Ball

Ohio Senate Candidate Josh Mandel

Ohio State treasurer and presumed Senate candidate Josh Mandel

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 9, 2018 — Most people believed the 2018 Ohio Senate general election would be a re-match of the 2012 contest, but now big changes are afoot. On Friday, presumed Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the Ohio State treasurer, announced that he will not file for the Senate race when the deadline expires on Feb. 7. Unfortunately, Mandel says that his wife’s undisclosed health situation, apparently just recently diagnosed, has forced him to the political sideline. He did not indicate whether or not he would seek re-election to his current position.

Mandel was quoted as saying, “[I] recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence,” and that it “has become clear to us that it’s no longer possible for me to be away from home and on the campaign trail for the time needed to run a US Senate race,” as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website.

This means there will not be a repeat performance between Mandel and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). The two ran against each other six years ago, with the Democratic incumbent winning 51-45 percent. At the time, Mandel, a first-term state treasurer elected only two years before, raised an impressive $18.9 million for the race, losing by only six points while Sen. Brown had the advantage of President Obama topping the Democratic ticket and carrying the Buckeye State. In comparison, Sen. Brown expended just under $21.5 million to secure his first re-election.

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Rep. Barton to Retire;
Major Ohio Moves

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis)  | Facebook

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 4, 2017 — Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, has apparently taken the advice he was reportedly receiving from many local Republican leaders and activists advising him not to seek re-election. Barton, recently coming under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced late last week through social media that he will end his 34-year congressional career when the current Congress adjourns.

Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas’ Dec. 11 candidate filing deadline. We expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open 6th District contest since 1984. Immediately, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright announced that he would enter the newly open Republican primary.

The 6th District performs as a safe Republican seat beginning in the Arlington area of Tarrant County, which is the population anchor, before continuing southeast to annex Ellis and Navarro Counties. President Trump carried the 6th, 54-42 percent, down a bit from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance of 58-41 percent against President Obama.

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A New Nominee; Another Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Nov. 15, 2017 — Though almost all of the weekend political media coverage focused on the Alabama Senate campaign and the sexual impropriety allegations against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), over 800 miles from the heart of Dixie another group of Republicans was choosing a nominee to fill a US House vacancy.

In late October, yet another sex scandal-tainted political figure, Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh), succumbed to the pressure against him and announced that he would resign from the House. Quickly, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called the special election to fill the new vacancy for March 13. Each 18th District political party organization then had the responsibility of meeting in convention to choose their respective congressional nominee.

On Saturday, 215 Republican conferees from the CD’s four counties decided among three candidates, all members of the Pennsylvania legislature. An additional state representative, Jason Ortitay (R-Bridgeville), originally announced that he, too, would stand for nomination but decided the morning of the convention to withdraw.

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Hensarling Retirement:
Open Seat Effect

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (TX-5)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (TX-5)

Nov. 2, 2017 — House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas) announced Tuesday that he will not seek a ninth term in Congress next year to represent Texas, the timing coinciding with his internal term limit as the major committee’s leader. Hensarling was first elected in 2002 when then-incumbent Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) decided to jump to a new safe north Dallas Republican district leaving open this south Dallas-anchored seat, which, at the time, was politically marginal.

In that redistricting year, Hensarling, a former aide to Sen. Phil Gramm (R) before taking positions in the private sector with financial and energy producing companies, won the Republican nomination outright against four other GOP candidates, scoring 53 percent of the vote. He went on to record a 58-40 percent November victory, and would then average 73 percent over his seven re-election campaigns without ever being seriously challenged.

Texas’ 5th Congressional District now encompasses a substantial part of east Dallas County, including the city of Mesquite, before stretching southeast to annex five full counties and a partial one. After Dallas and Mesquite, the district’s largest population centers are the cities of Palestine, Jacksonville, and Athens.

President Trump tallied a 63-34 percent victory over Hillary Clinton here in 2016, following Mitt Romney’s similar 64-34 percent margin four years earlier. Even Sen. John McCain in President Obama’s first winning election posted a 62-37 percent spread within the TX-5 confines. Therefore, the district is solidly Republican and should not be hotly contested in next year’s general election campaign.

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The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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Retirement Brings a Toss-Up

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2017 — Washington Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) announced earlier this week that he will not seek an eighth term next year. The congressman was first elected in 2004, succeeding veteran Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R), which proved to be only two-plus years before her untimely death.

In 2005, Reichert came to Washington after serving 33 years in the King County Sheriff’s office, his last eight as the county’s top law enforcement officer. It was in this position where Sheriff Dave Reichert gained national notoriety through apprehending the Green River serial killer. After conviction, Gary Ridgway confessed to committing 71 murders, 49 of which were confirmed. Some investigators believe his actual victim number may exceed 90. The totals make Ridgway the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Riding his local positive image, Sheriff Reichert was able to bridge the partisan gap in his first congressional race and won election to the increasingly Democratic 8th District. He would clinch three re-elections in the seat before the district lines were made more Republican. In his trio of difficult campaigns prior to redistricting, the congressman averaged 52.1 percent of the vote. Post 2011 redistricting, his average victory margin increased to 61.0 percent.

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One In, One Out

By Jim Ellis

July 13, 2017 — Two major announcements occurred during the last few days resulted in one individual becoming an official statewide candidate and another withdrawing from a campaign that had already begun.

West Virginia Senate

As had been expected for some time, two-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for the United States Senate. He will face two-term Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the Republican primary, with the winner drawing a difficult political match with Sen. Joe Manchin (D).

With average win percentages of 62 percent over two elections as governor (2004, ’08) in addition to a pair of Senate campaigns (2010 special election; 2012), Sen. Manchin appears to be in strong shape as he approaches his 2018 re-election. But, there are some cracks in his armor, hence the presence of two strong GOP opponents.

Though Sen. Manchin has attempted to cross the partisan line in his public relationship with President Trump and the Republican leadership on several issues, it is still a net negative for the senator to campaign on the same political landscape that proved to be the former’s second strongest state (69 percent).

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Virginia Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

June 13, 2017 — The Virginia governor’s campaign is becoming a national race in relation to prognosticating political trends, and we will be able to glean some partial answers this evening.

Initially, the eventual Virginia general election winner earns the redistricting veto pen for the 2021 redraw, and becomes the first newly elected governor to have such authority. All other states where redistricting is handled through the normal legislative process will elect their commensurate governors in 2018, 2019, and/or 2020.

Second, the Commonwealth’s Democratic primary race has evolved into an early microcosm of what Democrats may be experiencing throughout the country this year and next, and quite possibly beyond.

The split between the party’s more extreme Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren faction and the traditional liberal Hillary Clinton segment is portrayed in the Tom Perriello/Ralph Northam gubernatorial primary. Though former US Rep. Perriello is wrapping himself in the Sanders/Warren mantra, going so far as having them star in his ads along with film clips of President Obama extolling his virtue when he was a member of the House, Perriello’s initiative has driven Lt. Gov. Northam to adopt more leftward ideological positions, as well.

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