Tag Archives: Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida Ends; Others Called

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2018 — In a final result where the candidates were divided by less than two votes per precinct statewide, Gov. Rick Scott (R) defeated Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the hotly contested Florida Senate race that proved a Herculean battle both before and after the election.

With the original vote falling within a half-percent margin, a mandatory machine recount commenced. Since it produced a separation of less than one-quarter percent between the two candidates, a mandatory hand recount began of the “under and “over votes”, i.e., those ballots where a voter either didn’t make their selection clear or appears to have marked more than one contender in the same contest.

Yesterday, when the afternoon hand count deadline produced a 10,033 vote margin for Gov. Scott, Sen. Nelson conceded the race and ended the seven lawsuits that had been filed by various parties contesting pools of votes and the post-election counting process.

The senator now completes a political career in which he served in elective office for 42 of the past 46 years as a state representative, US congressman, state insurance commissioner, and US senator. Counting his combined time in the House and Senate, Nelson will have served 30 years as a federal lawmaker when he leaves office in January.

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Florida Still Has Tight Satewide
Campaigns In Recount Mode

BROWARD COUNTY SAMPLE BALLOT – Click on this image to see the full-size ballot, or go to the jump page or scroll down to see it embedded in this post at a larger size.


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 19, 2018 — The state of Florida again has tight statewide campaigns in recount mode, reminiscent of the 2000 presidential campaign that saw George W. Bush winning the state by 537 votes that propelled him into the presidency. In that year, the recount and legal challenge process consumed 32 days.

In this election, the US Senate, governor, and agriculture commissioner races are all languishing with results that have yet to be finalized. Last Thursday, the 3 pm deadline for a statewide machine recount passed, and 66 of the state’s 67 counties successfully submitted new totals.

Palm Beach County was the lone electoral entity that was unable to complete the machine recount. Due to antiquated machines that broke down during the process, the county must redo all three statewide races and a state House contest that is fully contained within their jurisdiction.

There are more than 600,000 votes in the county, and all must be run again individually for each of the four races consecutively. Palm Beach is the only county in Florida using machines that cannot count multiple races simultaneously. Therefore, the recount will likely drag on here until late Sunday afternoon before new totals are released.

Here’s a snapshot of where things stand before that count comes through: After the machine counts, and including the Palm Beach original numbers that the county elections supervisor re-submitted because she had no updated information, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) now by 12,603 votes, an increase of 47 votes after the machine recount in the 66 counties that successfully completed their verification process.

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Sinema Wins in Arizona; A Florida Update

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)

Nov. 14, 2018 — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) was projected as the winner of the open Arizona Senate race Monday afternoon as the 460,000-plus post-election vote count continued laboriously forward.

With Sinema racking up a 130,000-plus vote margin from Maricopa and Pima counties, it was too much for Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) to overcome in the remainder of the state where the she had been able to build a 64,000-vote advantage.

Though McSally conceded this Senate seat, it is possible that she could still end up serving there soon. Appointed Sen. Jon Kyl (R) has said he planned to remain just through the end of this congressional year. Should he resign early next year, McSally — since she will be exiting the House at the end of the current term — would have to be considered a prime appointment prospect to serve until the next general election. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kyl on an interim basis when Sen. John McCain (R) passed away earlier in the year.

Should this happen, McSally, as the appointed incumbent, would be able to run again in 2020. Since Sen. McCain was re-elected in 2016, the seat must come before the voters in a 2020 special election with the winner serving the balance of the term. The 2020 victor would then be able to seek the full six-year term in 2022.

Should McSally be appointed, it could conceivably mean that she would run for the Senate in three consecutive election cycles. Just completing her unsuccessful 2018 campaign, and assuming she would run in the 2020 special election, the seat would again be contested in 2022, at which point she could finally run for the six-year term. But, all of this is pure speculation at this very early juncture.

The Sinema victory means the Democrats converted the two most vulnerable Republican seats: Arizona as well as Nevada, where Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) unseated GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Grabbing those two seats was absolutely necessary if the Dems were going to challenge for the majority. That didn’t play out, however, as the Democrats dropped at least three of their own seats (and possibly a fourth if Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) miniscule lead holds in Florida). That means the GOP will net gain at least one seat in the Senate and possibly two despite the loss of both key defense seats.

Turning to Florida, the three close statewide races: senator, governor, and agriculture commissioner, will all go to official recounts. Under Florida election law, election totals separated by less than one-half a percentage point are subject to an automatic recount. Republicans lead two of the three races, obviously all with very small margins.

Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was 12,562 votes at the time the recount was ordered. This from a total vote more that 8.183 million ballots cast. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) sees a slightly larger lead over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), some 33,684 votes. But, the closest of all is the ag commissioner campaign with Democrat Nikki Fried having a statewide edge over Republican Matt Caldwell of just 5,326 votes.

The 67 counties have until Thursday at 3 pm to complete their machine recount. Under Florida law, if the machine recounts drop any race below one-quarter of a percent between the two candidates, then a hand recount will begin.

The Broward County controversy will continue. Over 24,000 ballots did not record votes in the Senate race, which Democrats claim is either the result of a faulty ballot design or that marked ballots were not being properly read in the machines. I must point out that none of the other 66 counties in the state of Florida are reporting such a problem.

We can expect this process to drag on for a long period of time, and will undoubtedly see a multitude of lawsuits being filed from each side.

Election Day Recounts and Lawsuits

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 9, 2018 — Political overtime action is occurring in three states as very close elections for US Senate and governor still appear to be a long way from concluding.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has dwindled to just over 15,000 votes as more and more mail ballots are counted. Now further controversy has arisen in Broward County, which is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election that required 32 days and a US Supreme Court ruling to decide.

In this current instance, people are calling into question why there were 24,000-plus fewer votes cast in the US Senate race, which led the Florida ticket, than the other contests on the Broward County ballot. Democrats are suggesting the ballot design that placed the office on the lower left side is the a primary reason for the large drop-off and argue that the counting machines are not detecting marks made on individual ballots. Broward County election officials say they can only count what the machine reads.

Gov. Scott held a news availability last night to accuse the Democrats of attempting to “steal the election.” He is suing elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach County over their failure to meet certain legal deadlines in ballot counting and reporting and, in his capacity as governor, is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the situation.

The vote count change is also affecting the governor and commissioner of agriculture elections as well as the US Senate contest. All three have dropped within the half-percentage point margin that automatically triggers a recount. It is likely that all three contests will be recounted once a final vote is determined. Therefore, we can expect weeks of legal and administrative wrangling before these highly important elections are decided.

In Arizona, similar controversy is arising. With more than 450,000 ballots remaining to count in the US Senate race, local Republican county officers from Maricopa, Apache, Navajo, and Yuma counties are suing election officials in Maricopa, Pima, and Coconino counties over their process of “curing” absentee or mail ballots where the envelope signature appears different than what is on file. In such an instance, the election officials attempt to contact the individual to verify that he or she did cast the ballot.

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More Election Eve Updates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2018 — According to a CBS News report quoting University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Election Project, more than 113 million people voted in the 2018 midterm election, the first time turnout exceed the 100 million mark.

With voter participation approaching a majority of the eligible voting population for the first time since 1966, we see a continued increase in voter participation. The 2018 midterm is among the three top off-year elections with the highest turnout rate in the past 118 years. This high voting trend has largely been in effect since the 2000 election, though the 2014 midterm proved an exception with very low turnout.

Carrying through from media projections of uncalled races, it appears the Democrats will see a net gain of 31 seats, not counting the California races that still have millions of votes to tabulate. An incumbent race featuring New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) appears to be flipping back and forth in final counting.

The Golden State features an election system where at least 75 percent of the people vote through the mail and they allow ballots to be postmarked on Election Day. Therefore, it will be a couple of full weeks before we know the final totals in what appears to be five congressional contests that are still undecided, all in current Republican seats. It is probable that the Democrats will win at least two of the five and possibly even all of them.

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The (Mostly) Final Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2018
— The long 2018 midterm election cycle drew to a close last night and, as predicted, split government will return to Capitol Hill. Republicans held the Senate and saw their majority grow as Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO) 2018-mid-term-election-results-graphicfell to Republican challengers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likely will be forced into a recount to see if his just-under 40,000 vote advantage will be enough to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

The Montana race is undecided as Sen. Jon Tester (D) is on the precipice of losing but the outstanding vote suggests he could survive by a very small margin. The razor-thin Arizona race is a must-hold for the GOP. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) fought back a tough challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

If all of these follow their current trends, Republicans will gain a net of four seats and increase their majority margin to 55-45. If Montana and Arizona go Democratic, the division would slip to 53R-47D. In any event, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain two to four seats.

The new Senate will maintain their new majority split once the Nov. 27 run-off election is held and decided in Mississippi. In that new secondary election, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first in the Nov. 6 preliminary vote and ended with 41.5 percent of the vote, not close to secure the majority support that would have elected her outright and just ahead of Espy’s 40.6 percent. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) was third with 16.4 percent, likely denying Hyde-Smith the opportunity to win in the first round. He is eliminated from further competition.

As predicted, the House did flip to the Democrats and leadership elections will soon be held to determine who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is perceived that California’s Nancy Pelosi will again become the speaker after serving from 2007-11 and losing the post when the Republicans secured the majority in the 2010 election.

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A Polling Trifecta in 3 Key Races:
Indiana, Florida, Arizona

By Jim Ellis

CBS-YouGov-polling-senate-racesOct. 30, 2018 — CBS News/YouGov just published new numbers from three key Senate races, all conducted late last week during the Oct. 23-26 period, that largely confirm recent trends.

The Indiana race has seemingly turned toward Republican challenger Mike Braun in recent days, and the CBS/YouGov poll confirms the new direction. According to their poll (975 likely voters, online), Braun holds a 46-43 percent lead over Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). This is wholly consistent with other polling conducted since Oct. 14.

As we reported last week, Mason Strategies (Oct. 15-20; 600 likely Indiana voters) finds Braun up by an almost identical 47-43 percent margin, while American Viewpoint in polling for the Braun campaign (Oct. 14-17; 800 likely Indiana voters) sees a 44-40 percent spread.

CBS/YouGov then surveyed, as so many others have done recently, the Florida Senate race. After Sen. Bill Nelson (D) went ahead beyond the margin of error over Gov. Rick Scott (R) in a pair of polls, two more studies turned in the latter man’s favor. Then, St. Leo University (Oct. 16-22; 698 likely Florida voters), Strategic Research Associates (Oct. 16-23; 800 likely Florida voters), and Gravis Marketing (Oct. 22-23; 773 likely Florida voters) all saw Sen. Nelson rebounding with an advantage of nine, one, and four points, respectively.

But, CBS/YouGov finds the race returning to parity. Their results, from a pool of 991 randomly selected and weighted online respondents, peg the race as a flat tie, at 46 percent apiece.

The national media/polling partnership also tested the tight Arizona Senate race. Here, CBS/YouGov (972 likely voters) finds US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) re-claiming an edge over Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) by a 47-44 percent clip.

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Florida Polling: Inconsistent Results

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 23, 2018 — Four statewide Florida polls were just released, and we continue to see conflicting results across the board two weeks prior to Election Day. As usual, the Sunshine State political situation appears too close to call from a place that seems to specialize in razor-thin elections.

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

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

During the period of Oct. 17-21, St. Pete Polls, Survey USA, Quinnipiac University, and the Democratic polling firm of Schroth, Eldon & Associates all conducted Florida surveys.

In the Senate race, two of the surveys find incumbent Bill Nelson (D) putting some distance between he and his opponent, Gov. Rick Scott (R), while the other two project to give Scott a slight edge. In the governor’s race, three of these firms released numbers (Quinnipiac did not, but will likely do so today), and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, holds a varying lead over former US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R).

There is quite a difference in the Senate margins, and this is largely due to how the female vote is being recorded. Both Survey USA (Oct. 18-21; 1,050 Florida adults, 859 registered Florida voters, 665 likely Florida voters) and Quinnipiac (Oct. 17-21; 1,161 registered Florida voters) find Sen. Nelson holding full-sample leads beyond the polling margin of error, 49-41 percent (S-USA) and 52-46 percent (Quinnipiac). They see females breaking for Nelson, 49-37 percent (S-USA) and 59-39 percent (Quinnipiac). Men are going the opposite way, favoring Scott, 49-46 percent (S-USA) and 54-44 percent (Quinnipiac).

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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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