Tag Archives: Sen. Joe Donnelly

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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Is Donnelly Faltering in Indiana?

By Jim Ellis

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)

Oct. 25, 2018 — With only four 2018 Indiana Senate polls conducted before September, this campaign was the least surveyed toss-up race in the country, but that is changing. We now see a plethora of polling being released in October. In what appeared to be a contest trending toward Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) the results now appear to be turning.

In mid to late September, Ipsos Reuters (Sept. 12-20; 1,181 Indiana voters; online) and Fox News (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 695 likely Indiana voters) found Sen. Donnelly leading former state representative and international businessman Mike Braun (R), 46-43 and 43-41 percent, respectively.

An early October survey from American Viewpoint (Oct. 7-10; 800 likely Indiana voters) reversed the trend, posting Braun to a 44-40 percent lead. After that, a series of three surveys from a trio of independent polling firms, all conducted between October 12-16, found Sen. Donnelly regaining the lead.

In consecutive order, Gravis Marketing (377 likely Indiana voters), Survey USA (816 likely Indiana voters), and Vox Populi (783 likely Indiana voters) posted Donnelly to leads of four (44-40 percent), one (41-40 percent), and eight (44-36 percent) percentage points, respectively.

The two latest surveys, again from American Viewpoint (Oct. 14-17; 800 likely Indiana voters) and a new one from Mason Strategies (Oct. 15-20; 600 likely Indiana voters), find Braun seesawing back into the lead. American Viewpoint yields the Republican a 44-40 percent advantage, while Mason Strategies sees Braun up 47-43 percent.

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Forecasting the Results – Part I

By Jim Ellis

2018-senate-breakdown-text-graphicOct. 5, 2018 — As we approach one month remaining in the 2018 election cycle, it is a good time to begin forecasting what may be the plausible outcome of this national midterm election campaign. Today, we look at the Senate; tomorrow, the House.

In the Senate races, 17 of the 35 feature serious competition. With a 51-49 Republican majority margin, Democrats need only two seats to gain control. Their problem is to defend 26 of the 35 in-cycle Senate states, and that ratio yields too few targets to make a realistic run for the majority.

The forecasts listed below are based upon a series of factors including current polling numbers, voter history, candidate personal and job approval favorability, fundraising, other races on the state ballot that could drive turnout, and outside issues such as the confirmation vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh that could change the turnout model, etc.

The competitive Senate campaigns are rated as to what we believe will happen on Nov. 6, and not about what might occur if the election were today. Certainly, time still remains for the outcome in many of these races to change, and currently unforeseen events in a dynamic election cycle could obviously alter the final results.

Democratic Seats Staying Democratic
• Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow
• Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown
• Pennsylvania – Sen. Bob Casey Jr.
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NY State Results; The Fox Polls

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 14, 2018 — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as predicted, easily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary last night with a 65-35 percent victory over actress Cynthia Nixon. Late polling projected the governor to be breaking the 60 percent threshold with Nixon lagging way behind. He will now have little trouble winning a third term in the general election against the new Republican nominee, Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

fox-news-polls-for-key-senate-racesUS Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-Cold Spring/West Point) quest to become the state’s attorney general ended last night. Despite a late poll suggesting he had forged into the lead, Maloney dropped to third position in the actual vote.

The Democratic primary winner was New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who said that she “ … can’t wait to wake up each and every day, go to the office, sue somebody and then go home,” in her victory speech and stated that she wants to target President Trump, the NRA, and state corruption, captured 38 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

In second, with 30 percent, was frequent Democratic candidate Zephyr Teachout who challenged Gov. Cuomo back in the 2014 party primary. Rep. Maloney drew only 24 percent. He will now return to the congressional campaign trail since he was re-nominated back in the June federal primary.


THE FOX POLLS

Fox News just released a series of five polls in key US Senate states where they find very close races. Fox conducts its surveys jointly through two research entities, a Democratic polling company, Anderson Robbins Research, and the Republican firm of Shaw & Company Research.

All five studies were conducted during the Sept. 8-11 period. The organizations used the live interview method to conduct their data gathering through a combination of landline and cell phone calls. The polling universes begin with a registered voter pool from which likely voter segments are derived. Results are reported for both the larger and more refined polling cells. In all cases, the candidates’ individual approval ratings differed very little between registered voters and likely voters.

Arizona (801 registered Arizona voters; 710 likely voters)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) has a 47-44 percent edge over Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) among likely voters and 46-42 percent within the broader registered voters universe.
• President Trump’s Arizona job approval rating is 49:49 percent positive to negative. This contrasts with Rep. Sinema’s 52:35 percent index and McSally’s 47:43 percent.

Obviously, the ballot test shows that either candidate can win the race. Rep. McSally has a lesser favorability rating than Rep. Sinema largely because she was attacked in a multi-candidate primary, whereas the latter woman was a consensus Democratic candidate who breezed through the primary without being forced to absorb negative hits.
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West Viginia Poll: The SCOTUS Effect

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2018 — The Trafalgar Group surveyed the West Virginia US Senate campaign (July 13-16; 1,158 likely West Virginia general election voters) and tested — for what may be the first time any pollster has done so since President Trump officially nominated Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — how the impending Supreme Court confirmation vote will affect a US Senate election.

Trafalgar’s initial ballot test response is consistent with other released polls regarding the race itself. That is, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) leads Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) 50-40 percent when the question is first posed. For the past month, all West Virginia surveys have delivered results in a similar range.

Polling chart courtesy Trafalgar Group

Polling chart courtesy Trafalgar Group. Click on the Trafalgar Group link or the graphic above to see more details.

However, the question also was asked of each individual respondent how he or she would would view the Senate race through the prism of whether or not Sen. Manchin would vote for or against confirming Judge Kavanaugh for the US Supreme Court. How much would the answer to that question sway a voter? The answer is: greatly.

At this point, the senator has not yet indicated how he will vote. Immediately after the nomination became public, Sen. Manchin stated that he wanted Judge Kavanaugh to complete the hearing process and publicly answer specific questions (Sen. Manchin is not a member of the Judiciary Committee).

According to Trafalgar, should he vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court, Sen. Manchin’s support within the electorate would substantially grow. However, if he opposes the judge, his campaign against Morrisey falls into the toss-up category.

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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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Two New Senate Polls
From Indiana and Rhode Island

By Jim Ellis

gravis-marketing-Anzalone-Liszt-Grove-ResearchMay 21, 2018 — Gravis Marketing went into the field two days after the Indiana primary ended to test the new general election pairing between Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) and former state representative and businessman Mike Braun (R). According to the poll (May 10-15; 400 likely Indiana voters), the race has already lapsed into a dead heat.

Forecast as a toss-up all the way to November, Gravis finds Braun, who scored a 41-30-29 percent Republican primary plurality victory over Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/ Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), respectively, edging Sen. Donnelly by a single point on the first ballot test, 45-44 percent.

When respondents leaning to both candidates are added, Gravis reports that Braun is up 47-46 percent. The pollsters pushed the undecideds to make a choice, but the secondary responses reportedly break 19-13 percent for Sen. Donnelly, while the remaining 69 percent maintain they are still undecided. Adding these totals into the decided ballot test appear to produce a 46-46 percent split, but the Gravis analysis gives Braun the one-point lead. Regardless of the mathematical fine-tuning, these results conclude that the Indiana Senate race is already in pure toss-up mode.

Sen. Donnelly posts a 41:40 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval score. This includes 11 percent who say they strongly approve and 18 percent who strongly disapprove. In comparison, President Trump posts a 47:47 percent score, with 24 percent strongly approving and 35 percent strongly disapproving. Indiana’s junior senator, Todd Young (R-IN), was also comparatively tested and recorded a 36:34 percent favorability index (ine percent strongly favorable; 15 percent strongly unfavorable). Hoosier State Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) fared best in the Gravis poll, however. His job approval index is 54:30 percent, with 16 percent and seven percent strongly approving and disapproving, respectively.

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The Turnout Report:
Signs of a “Blue Wave”?

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2018
— Looking at the voting patterns for Tuesday’s primaries in the four states holding elections, we see little evidence of the reported “blue wave” often discussed in media analyst reports — meaning a surge in Democratic Party voter turnout — but there is also sparse information to determine specific participation trends in many of the noted places.

state-of-ohio-mapOhio has the most complete data to compare totals for midterm elections dating back to 2006. On Tuesday, 1,506,777 people voted in the two major party primary elections, with just about 55 percent recorded in the Republican gubernatorial contest. The current grand total was the second largest participation figure in the four midterms since 2006, inclusive. The 1.506 million aggregate total was second only to the 2006 turnout that saw 1.626 million Ohioans voting. This year, both parties featured open gubernatorial primaries, each with a clear leader heading into Election Day.

In all four of the tested Ohio midterms, more people voted in the Republican primary. The 54.9 percent participation factor when measuring the two parties against each other on Tuesday night was the second highest of the sampled four. Only the Republicans’ 56.0 percent participation rate in 2014 was stronger. To put the current rate in perspective, the GOP low occurred in 2006 when 50.8 percent of primary voters cast a Republican ballot. In the succeeding general election, Democrat Ted Strickland would win the governor’s campaign, making the result consistent with the higher Democratic primary participation rate.

In the Buckeye State House races, eight of the 16 districts featured primary elections for both parties. In each of the districts holding primaries for both parties, the political entity controlling the seat before the election saw more people vote in that party’s primary. The most significant race was the special primary election in the 12th District, the seat former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) vacated to return to the private sector. There, 23,902 more people voted in the Republican primary, thus providing some tangible support for predicting the state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) is favored to win the seat in the Aug. 7 special general vote.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 9, 2018 — Voters in four states made their preliminary electoral statements known last night, choosing nominees in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia in the 2018 election cycle’s first multi-state primary event. The night included defeating the first incumbent of the electoral season, North Carolina three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), and nominating two Senate nominees in what could become first-tier Republican challenger campaigns.

Indiana

One of the more interesting contests heading into yesterday’s voting was the Indiana GOP Senate primary where three major contenders were vying for the right to advance into the general election and face first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). There, former state representative and national distribution company owner Mike Braun attempted to seamlessly drape both Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) in the algae of the Washington swamp, with the two House members retaliating that Braun is a former Democrat with a voting record that supported raising taxes 47 times.

Considering that Braun proved successful in winning the nomination last night, his strategy and clever advertising campaign worked but, in the aggregate, almost 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate still voted for one of the two congressman. In the end, Braun captured 41.2 percent of the vote, enough of a plurality to claim the nomination. Rep. Rokita was second with 30 percent, while Rep. Messer was a very close third, getting 28.8 percent of the GOP vote. Braun swept virtually all of the counties outside of Congressional Districts 4 and 6, which belong to Reps. Rokita and Messer, respectively.

A Donnelly-Braun general election will be highly competitive, as now the new Republican nominee will make the incumbent senator the focal point of his anti-Washington swamp, politics-as-usual campaign strategy. The Indiana race now becomes one of the premier GOP challenge targets in the country.

In the House races, while Braun ran strongly throughout most of the state, he failed to provide familial coattails. His brother, Steve Braun, fell to state Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) in a 36-29 percent spread from a 4th District GOP electorate that exceeded 80,000 votes. Baird will easily win the general election and come to Washington as Rep. Rokita’s replacement in the western state congressional district that touches the outer Indianapolis suburbs.

Turning to the eastern 6th District, in a highly expected result, Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg Pence, easily captured the Republican nomination for Rep. Messer’s open seat. His 65 percent victory over four opponents sends him into a general election campaign that he will surely win in November.

North Carolina

All local political observers were following the two Republican US House incumbents facing strong challengers. As mentioned in the introduction, Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) became the first House member in this fledgling election cycle to be denied re-nomination. Pittenger, who came within just 134 votes of losing the 2016 GOP primary, could not overcome former pastor Mark Harris this year. Harris, a 2014 US Senate candidate, ran two years later for the post court-mandated redistricting seat that changed 60 percent of the district just before the 2016 primary.

Though it looked like Rep. Pittenger would have an easier road to re-nomination this year, the opposite proved true. Harris won the party nomination, 48.5–46.2 percent, a margin of 814 votes of more than 35,000 primary votes cast. Harris will now face the new Democratic nominee, businessman Dan McCready who is already on record saying he won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker if he wins in November. The 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville, posted a 54-43 percent victory for President Trump. Rep. Pittenger won re-election in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. Though the numbers stack up well for Republicans in this district, with McCready already raising $1.9 million for the primary, it makes this contest competitive and may become a targeted Democratic challenge race.

Moving to the Outer Banks region, veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), also facing serious competition, scored a 43 percent victory to win what he says will be his last term. The fact that he had two opponents who pulled virtually equal support allowed Jones to win again with just a plurality. He faces no competition in the general election, which means last night’s victory assures him of re-election in the fall.

In the Greensboro area, as expected, University of North Carolina at Greensboro trustee Kathy Manning, another challenger who has raised well into seven figures, easily advanced into the general election last night with 70 percent of the vote. She will face freshman Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in another November race that appears more competitive than the regional voting history might suggest. Budd garnered 56 percent in his first general election. The congressman was unopposed last night in the Republican primary.

Ohio

The Ohioans voted as expected last night. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) scored a 47-32 percent win over investment banker Mike Gibbons to win the 2018 Republican Senate nomination. The congressman now advances against two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in November.

Originally a gubernatorial candidate, Renacci made the smart switch to the Senate race after attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted voluntarily formed a ticket to effectively clinch the nomination in the early part of the year. All of these strategic moves proved prescient, as DeWine easily won the gubernatorial election last night, 60-40 percent over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R); Rep. Renacci secured the Senate nomination.

In the 12th District special election, state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) out-paced Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan by a single percentage point (29-28 percent) and topped a field of seven other candidates to win the Republican nomination and advance to the Aug. 7 special election. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor easily won the Democratic nomination. The 12th is a reliably Republican seat, and with a 24,000-vote edge in total turnout last night, Sen. Balderson becomes the clear favorite to win the special general. Both men also were nominated for the full two-year term in November.

Looking at Rep. Renacci’s open Cleveland-Akron area 16th District, technology executive and former NFL football player Anthony Gonzalez defeated conservative state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township) 53-41 percent to win the Republican nomination. Gonzalez will now face healthcare company executive Susan Moran Palmer, who captured the Democratic nomination. The former Indianapolis Colts and Ohio State Buckeye wide receiver is the favorite to win the seat in November.

West Virginia

In the other premier Senate contest of the evening, media reports that disgraced former coal company CEO Don Blankenship was making a serious move on the Republican nomination proved erroneous as two-term Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the GOP primary with a 35-29 percent margin over US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington). Placing third with 20 percent of the Republican vote was Blankenship. AG Morrisey won the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election. The incumbent defeated a Democratic primary challenger from his left, environmentalist Paula Jean Swearingen, 70-30 percent.

Morrisey swept the northern and central portions of the state, with Rep. Jenkins dominating south West Virginia, the site of his congressional district. Blankenship won four small counties. The Manchin-Morrisey Senate election now becomes a top-tier Republican challenge race.

With Reps. David McKinley (R-Wheeling) and Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) running unopposed for re-nomination, the congressional action was in Rep. Jenkins’ open 3rd District where state House Majority Whip and farmer Carol Miller (R-Cabell County) topped a field of six other Republican candidates, including two sitting state delegates, one former delegate and congressional nominee, and an ex-West Virginia Republican Party chairman to win a close nomination campaign. She begins the general election in the favorite’s position against state senator and Iraq War veteran Richard Ojeda (D-Holden/Logan) who easily won the Democratic primary.

Indiana: Wild and Entertaining

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2018 — A new Gravis Marketing survey (April 6-11; 411 likely Indiana voters) produced a result in the Senate Republican primary ballot test that appears to have even surprised the pollsters.

The sample size of 411 likely voters includes all parties, so looking only at the GOP primary means the respondent cell size could number less than 200. This would make the results largely meaningless because the sampling universe would be too small to draw reasonably accurate conclusions. Gravis did not release the sampling numbers associated with the Republican primary questions, likely for obvious reasons.

But the results are interesting, nonetheless, and could give us a clue that former state Rep. Mike Braun, whose creative advertising has not only attracted attention but is strategically brilliant (see below), has a real chance to upset Republican congressmen Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/ Muncie). According to the Gravis results, Braun leads Reps. Rokita and Messer 26-16-13 percent in anticipation of the May 8 Indiana state primary.

The Senate GOP primary turned into a three-way race almost from day one. Braun, then a state representative who would resign his seat to concentrate on the Senate campaign, owns a successful manufacturing business and spent heavily early to become known statewide.

As the campaign began, the thinking was that Rokita and Messer would target one another, assuming that both would view the other as his chief competitor. For Braun, it was believed that he would adopt the approach of staying above the negative fray and giving Republican voters an alternative from two individuals who would engage in what would likely become a bitter campaign.

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Indiana in Full Throttle

By Jim Ellis

April 6, 2018 — Now just over a month before the May 8 Indiana Republican Senate primary, the three major candidates are simultaneously hitting the airwaves.

Not surprisingly in campaigning before the Hoosier State GOP electorate, each contender is trying to make the case that they are strongly conservative, pro-Trump, and anti-Washington. Though Vice President Mike Pence obviously hails from Indiana, surprisingly only one of the three new ads mentions him in the midst of each man doing his best to stake out the position furthest to the right.


Mike Braun’s ad


Though the campaign strategies of Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), and former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) appear similar, each has his own clear angle. With little polling available, and none from the immediate past, it appears the electorate is in store for a mad dash to the political finish line.

Braun’s ad (above) takes the most unique position. While the other two candidates began with greater name identification, support, and financial bases, the former state representative’s personal wealth has allowed him to advertise early in order to make this a legitimate three-way race. His strategy is to turn the multi-candidate contest into a one-on-one campaign by establishing himself as the individual opposing both congressmen, which, in his past ads, describes them as being so interchangeable that few can tell them apart.

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More Filings Close

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 14, 2018 — Two more states now have their official candidates for the 2018 election, bringing the national total to seven. Alabama and Indiana join the rank of early filing states that include Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.

2018-elections-open-seatsAlabama sees a race for governor that includes new incumbent Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the position when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign last year. Ivey was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. She will face a Republican primary on June 5 that includes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and state Sens. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) and Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham), the latter man being a surprise filing. Two other minor candidates will also be on the ballot. If no one secures a majority in the primary, a secondary run-off election will be held July 17. Gov. Ivey is favored to win the nomination outright. The Democrats include former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.

In the House races, Reps. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) drew competitive primary challengers. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has a minor Republican opponent. Just one House member, Democrat Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), will run unopposed in both the primary and general election.

The surprise filing is former US Rep. Bobby Bright, who represented the Montgomery-anchored 2nd District for one term as a Democrat before Roby unseated him in 2010, switching parties to run as a Republican. State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) announced his campaign long ago, but has been slow to start. The former campaign manager for the Roy Moore for Senate campaign, Rich Hobson, is also in this race along with Army Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason. Democrats Audri Scott Williams, a former Community College dean, and Tabitha Isner, a business analyst, will compete for their party’s nomination. The GOP primary should be an interesting one, but the seat is a strong bet to remain Republican in the general election. Roby’s rather weak 49-41 percent re-election victory in 2016 questions her political strength, however.

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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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Rokita In; Tsongas to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 11, 2017 — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is generally considered to be the first or second national Republican conversion target, and the GOP candidates are beginning to come forward.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) announced, as expected, his run for the Senate and immediately pressed the attack before his supporters to “Defeat the Elite,” a phrase that he defines as pertaining to “lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and the media.”

Rokita was first elected to the House in 2010 after serving two terms as Indiana’s secretary of state. He averaged 65.5 percent in his four congressional elections, and leaves his western 4th District as a safe Republican seat.

The announcement creates a major Republican primary with fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Messer tweeted about two weeks ago that he will soon become a Senate candidate with a formal announcement to follow.

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