Tag Archives: Sen. Bill Nelson

Playing the Percentages —
Scott Up in Detailed Poll

By Jim Ellis

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Aug. 1, 2018 — Another new poll was released yesterday on the Florida Senate race, and the data provides us an in-depth look at where each candidate is strong.

For more than a year, three-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and two-term Gov. Rick Scott (R) have traded the polling lead — from the time it became evident that the latter man, ineligible to seek re-election to his own statewide office, would initiate a challenge for the federal position.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy pre-released their new Senate survey results (July 24-25; 625 likely Florida voters) after publicizing their gubernatorial primary data last week. According to their conclusions, Gov. Scott has a 47-44 percent lead over Sen. Nelson. While the two candidates have repeatedly superseded each other in various public surveys, the two have almost always been separated within the polling margin of error.

This is the fourth time since February of 2017 that Mason-Dixon has conducted a Florida Senate poll. But, this is the first where Gov. Scott has led. In their other surveys (Feb 2017, October 2017, February 2018, and the current July 2018), Sen. Nelson held an edge of five points (46-41 percent; Feb 2017) and a margin of one (45-44 percent; February 2018), or the two were tied (44-44 percent; October 2017). As you can see, in all four polls the two men are both in the 40s, with none ever commanding majority support. The current poll is no exception.

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Supreme Politics

By Jim Ellis

July 11, 2018 — President Donald Trump’s choice of US Circuit Judge of the DC Court of Appeals Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely fundamentally change the 2018 Senate election cycle.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the White House, where President Trump nominated him to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks at the White House, where President Trump announced Monday that Kavanaugh would be his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) already publicly indicating that he is planning to keep the Senate working through August, the Supreme Court confirmation process now guarantees such will happen. With majority Republicans having leverage over the confirmation hearings and vote schedule, we can expect a great deal of politics will be accompanying the legal rhetoric that awaits us during the remaining summer months.

The Senate political map helps Judge Kavanaugh in his confirmation battle. Both sides will mount crushing pressure on those members perceived as swing votes, and the eventual targets will be backed into such a position where it will be impossible to avoid political damage once their eventual vote is cast. The three Democrats who supported Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch when he was confirmed on April 7, 2017 are:

  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The three will naturally be the top targets for this confirmation battle, and there is a strong chance that each will also vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Already trapped in tough re-election battles, these senators will be hard-pressed by both sides pushing them to vote for or against Kavanaugh; but considering their respective states voted for President Trump in margins of 19 (IN), 36 (ND), and 43 (WV) percentage points suggests the density of pressure to support the nominee will overwhelm the opposition.

After last night’s announcement, Sen. Manchin issued a statement saying he is particularly interested about Judge Kavanaugh’s position on healthcare issues, especially those affecting people with pre-existing conditions as they relate to healthcare insurance coverage. Sen. Manchin says over 800,000 people in his state of West Virginia fall into this category.

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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.

A Florida Polling Bonanza

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 9, 2018 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is on the cusp of becoming one of the top political campaigns in the country, but polling has been scarce … until yesterday.

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Three different pollsters released data from their recent Florida electorate surveys, each testing the impending contest between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R). Though the governor has not announced his candidacy, a loosely affiliated Super PAC has been spending heavily touting his accomplishments through various substantial statewide media buys. Since no other Republican candidate is even contemplating running, few doubt that the governor will make the race.

That being said, Florida Atlantic University, the University of North Florida, and Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy all released surveys this week. Though each arrived at different ballot test results, and all three have some methodological flaws, it is clear that the overall conclusion tells us that the Florida campaign is already in the toss-up realm.

The FAU poll (Feb. 1-4; 750 registered Florida voters; 375 on-line, 375 via automated telephone system) returns the most surprising result. According to their sampling universe, Gov. Scott has a 10-point, 44-34 percent lead over Sen. Nelson. This seems far-fetched, especially in comparison with the two succeeding polls taken during the same time frame. Additionally, the polling sample contains too many Independents, and is a bit low for both Democrats and Republicans. This makes the ballot test response even more curious and suspect.

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New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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Scott Gaining Momentum in Florida;
Illinois Filing Closes

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2017 — In what should be a premier Senate race next year, the Florida political contest that likely will develop between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not yet drawn a great deal of national media coverage, but that will certainly change over time.

A new St. Leo University poll (Nov. 19-24; 500 Florida residents) finds Gov. Scott opening up a sizable lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent, 42-32 percent. The results definitely detect a swing toward the term-limited Republican governor; but previous polling conducted since Sept. 10 has forseen a much closer skirmish.

Two polls from September, St. Leo University (Sept. 10-15; 500 Florida residents) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 17-24; 615 likely Florida voters), both projected Gov. Scott to be holding a two-point lead over Sen. Nelson, 35-33 percent and 47-45 percent, respectively. The University of North Florida (Oct. 11-17; 834 Florida voters), however, gave the incumbent a scant 38-37 percent edge in mid-October, while Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (Oct. 17-19; 625 Florida voters) cast the two prospective candidates as tied at 44 percent each.

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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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Florida: Close Again

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 5, 2017 — Last week, Florida Atlantic University released new survey research data (Aug. 25-26; 800 registered Florida voters via online questioning and telephone automated response) that tested the Sunshine State electorate about the impending Senate contest between three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Though we haven’t seen numbers here for months, the FAU data shows little has changed since the last surveys were released. Accordingly, Sen. Nelson tops Gov. Scott by only a 42-40 percent margin, meaning a virtual tie. Close races are nothing new in Florida, as we all know, so the polling results seem plausible.

Gov. Scott is not yet an official Senate candidate and repeatedly says he is no hurry to make a decision. But, the Florida political establishment and other prospective candidates believe he is going to run, which explains why there is so little activity around a Democratic incumbent who could be vulnerable.

Through his first term, the governor had been routinely plagued with poor job approval ratings but still managed to win a close 2014 re-election battle against former governor and now Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg). Though the FAU poll did not publicize candidate favorability ratios, previous 2017 studies found the governor’s index significantly rebounding into positive territory. It is likely Gov. Scott is sustaining a positive image, since he continues run close to Sen. Nelson on the ballot test question.

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Senate: What the Money Says

By Jim Ellis

July 20, 2017 — Though electronic filing is still not yet required for US Senate candidates, several incumbents and challengers have made their financial numbers available via the public media. Outlets such as the Daily Kos Elections page, The Hill, Politico, National Journal, and local news organizations have allowed us to grasp where some of the key races stand financially.

There has already been a great deal of discussion in recent days about the upcoming Arizona Senate contest, and the dollars raised again reveal a familiar pattern. For the second quarter in a row, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who says she is not an active Senate candidate but is clearly readying herself in case an opportunity arises, i.e., incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake (R) attracting a strong Republican primary opponent, again raised $600,000 in a quarter, thus putting $3.2 million in her account, about $200,000 more than incumbent Flake.

Finances often give us clues as to impending political moves. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), the body’s oldest member at 84 years of age, raised just $600,000 in the second quarter and has $3.5 million in the bank. This is a low total for a senator from the nation’s largest state. This may be an indication that Feinstein may not seek re-election. In direct comparison, 83-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has been less committal about re-election than Sen. Feinstein and from a state a small fraction of California’s size, raised over $1 million in the quarter and has over $4 million cash-on-hand.

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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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More Sunshine Polling

By Jim Ellis

March 24, 2017 — The Sunshine State of Florida may set an aggregate polling record if the current surveying pace continues. Already we have seen four different pollsters test what may evolve into a US Senate political battle between incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), including two new studies released just this week.

More telling than the sheer polling volume is seeing all four surveying entities detect virtually the same result. That is, Sen. Nelson has a discernible lead, as one would expect from a three-term incumbent, but his advantage is small and he fails to top 50 percent in any of the publicized ballot tests.

Sen. Nelson was first elected to the House in 1978 after spending six years in the Florida legislature. He served until running for governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary to former three-term Sen. Lawton Chiles, who would go onto unseat Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to win the statewide political position. Nelson returned to win the office of Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshal in 1994, and then was elected US senator in 2000. He will be 76 years old in November of 2018, and has said on numerous public occasions that he will run for a fourth term.

Gov. Scott came to politics after a career in the hospital industry, which led to him forming his own venture capital firm. Politically, he seems to specialize in winning close, upset elections. He nipped then-Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary with a three-point margin of victory, and then defeated Florida CFO Alex Sink (D), 49-48 percent, in a contest that the latter was expected to win easily. Despite poor job approval ratings, Gov. Scott was able to slip past former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in his re-election campaign, in yet another one-point race (48-47 percent).

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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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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Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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