Tag Archives: Sen. Bill Nelson

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Jockeying for Position

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 21, 2016 — Already, there is a lot of talk about various senators considering races for governor in their respective states, while at least one term-limited governor publicly muses about running for Senate.

With 38 governors’ races coming to the forefront in the next 24 months — two (New Jersey, Virgninia) in 2017 and 36 in 2018 — we already know that 20 of these states, due to term limits, will choose new governors.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) cannot succeed himself after four years at the state’s helm. Virginia is still the only state in the country that limits its governors to just one term. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is ineligible to seek a third term. There is a chance, should Christie obtain an appointment from the Trump Administration, that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) would ascend to the governorship and be in a position to run as an appointed incumbent, however.

In the coming even-numbered year 36 gubernatorial chairs are in-cycle. Eighteen state chief executives are barred from seeking a third term (15 Republicans; 3 Democrats), while eight GOP governors and six Democrats can run for re-election. Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker is also eligible for a second term.

Continue reading

Florida Lines Finally Approved

Dec. 4, 2015 — The Florida Supreme Court finally enacted a congressional redistricting plan on Tuesday. The process began in early July when the high court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts and now culminates in approving a lower court judge’s statewide plan that changes 22 of the Sunshine State’s 27 CDs.

Currently, the delegation stands at 17R-10D. Democrats are poised for gains, but the actual increase may be smaller than intended. Two South Florida seats, those of Republicans Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), a freshman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), a 14-term veteran and former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appear designed to elect Democrats but these districts have a history of bucking voting trends at the congressional level. Though Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th CD voted 53 percent for President Obama in 2012, the congresswoman didn’t even draw an opponent in 2014 and notched a 60-37 percent win when last contested.

There is little doubt that Democrats will convert Districts 10 and 13, while Republicans will take back District 2, a seat they lost in the 2014 election.

The Orlando-anchored 10th District becomes 15 points more Democratic on the Obama scale and switches 13 points when looking at gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s (D) performance in his 2014 statewide losing effort. Incumbent Rep. Dan Webster (R) can’t win this seat, but he may survive by moving into neighboring District 11, an open CD because Rep. Rich Nugent (R) is not seeking re-election. The 11th gains a significant chunk of Lake County from Webster’s current 10th, meaning the congressman will have a foothold in the new district. If he can win nomination, FL-11’s Republican history will allow him to continue his congressional career.

Continue reading

Florida Senate Chain Reaction

April 15, 2015 — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as expected, officially announced his presidential campaign, which also put into motion the political war for what will be an open Florida Senate seat.

We already know that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is in the race, but with Rubio now out of the coming Senate contest the Republicans can start to make moves of their own.

Staying with the Democrats, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) continues to confirm interest in the race, and drops big hints that he will enter. He has said repeatedly that an early start does not equate to winning an election, so it is highly possible that he will begin his own campaign later in the year. Because he has the ability to self-fund, immediately constructing an external fundraising operation is not as important in this instance as for someone without such ability. Grayson appeals to the hard left, which is of significance in a Democratic primary battle.

In reviewing where the Florida Republicans stand, several decisions already have been made. As we reported yesterday, state CFO Jeff Atwater, after appearing to take every necessary step to prepare for a Senate race, abruptly announced that he would not run. Since he appeared to be performing best in preliminary polling, his absence now creates a wide-open political playing field.
Continue reading >

Jumping the Gun in the Florida Senate

Major action is happening in the upcoming Florida Senate race even without an official re-election or retirement announcement from Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. And now we see that at least two GOP officeholders are possibly leaping ahead to eye Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) re-election bid in 2018.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he would not simultaneously run for president and re-election to the Senate. Since it appears clearer by the day that he will soon enter the presidential contest, waiting for the statement that he will not seek a second term in the Senate appears relegated to mere formality status.

We previously reported that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is expected to officially announce his 2016 senatorial campaign next week. He says he’s running irrespective of what Sen. Rubio decides, but the Florida politicos are all proceeding as if Rubio will not seek re-election to a second term so he can run in an unencumbered fashion for president.

Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) said she will not run statewide next year. Considering her recent flap of troubles with part of her Democratic funding base and a controversy over whether she would politically attack President Obama if removed as Democratic National Committee chair, it is not surprising that she is retreating to the safety of her US House district.
Continue reading >

The Tri-State Q-Poll Shows
Electorate Optimism

FEB. 11, 2015 — Quinnipiac University released the results of a three-state poll, covering the critically important presidential domains of Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.

The most interesting finding is how optimistic the people comprising the sampling cells are, particularly in Florida and Ohio. Such a tone is much different from what has been the norm for the past nine years.

All three polls were conducted during the Jan. 22 – Feb. 1 time period.

Pennsylvania

The Q-Poll surveyed 881 Pennsylvania registered voters, and tested Sen. Pat Toomey (R) as he begins his quest for a second term. At this point former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who lost to Toomey 49-51 percent in the 2010 Senate race, is the only announced major Democratic contender.

The results show Toomey residing in better re-election position than depicted in other early surveys. According to Quinnipiac, the senator has a job approval index of 43:25 percent positive to negative. Fellow Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) registered a similar 40:24 percent favorability ratio. On the ballot test, Toomey scores a healthy 45-35 percent advantage over Sestak.
Continue reading >

Analyzing Florida Developments

Freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL-19) announced at a news conference, after pleading guilty to cocaine possession, that he is taking an unspecified leave of absence from the House. He made it clear that he is not resigning, but questions are already being raised about potential primary challenges.

Radel was elected from a field of six Republicans, all who were vying to replace  Continue reading >

Nelson Testing the Gubernatorial Waters?

Earlier this year a spate of political rumors abounded that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D), fresh from his 2012 re-election to a third term, was looking at a 2014 gubernatorial run. Repeatedly denied by Nelson spokespeople at the time but never completely ruled out, more such stories are again surfacing. Now it appears that the senator’s political staffers are calling state Democratic political leaders to seek advice about their boss running for governor.

The Florida gubernatorial race should be one of the most competitive in the country. Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) continues to poll badly with job approval ratings in upside down territory. As we all know, Florida performs as the nation’s quintessential swing entity, so all statewide contests have the potential of becoming very close.

Two weeks ago, former Gov. Charlie Crist declared his candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Crist was elected state chief executive in 2006 as a Republican. He then filed as a candidate for the 2010 GOP senatorial nomination, but when it became apparent that he would lose the primary to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, he left the party and ran as an  Continue reading >