Tag Archives: Sen. John McCain

Arizona Senate: Filing Closes,
New Poll Shows Surprise

Arizona-mapBy Jim Ellis

June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.

Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.

While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.

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A False Alarm in Virginia

By Jim Ellis

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

May 29, 2018 — The news media was filled with stories last week that freshman Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) was about to announce his retirement. And Late last week, Rep. Garrett fueled such talk in telling the media that he would hold a news conference to address his status. But the speculation proved overblown when Garrett clarified, in what was described as a long and rambling news availability, that he will seek a second term in the fall.

Rep. Garrett, who parted ways with his chief of staff last week and who is not known for being an aggressive fundraiser, partially fed into the idea that he would not seek re-election. Through April 8, Garrett had only $133,275 in his campaign account. Observers invariably drew a comparison with his Democratic opponent, journalist Leslie Cockburn. She has raised more than $715,000 but only has $271,113 remaining. Cockburn does have the wherewithal to self-fund her campaign to a significant degree, however.

Before the Garrett retirement flap, Democrats were looking at this race as a second-tier potential target. Garrett won the 2016 election with 58 percent of the vote against Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar, another Democratic candidate who was originally believed to be competitive and did, in fact, spend over $1.3 million on her campaign.

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New Arizona Senate Data

By Jim Ellis

Sen. John McCain (R) -- Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

Sen. John McCain (R) — Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

April 19, 2018 — Magellan Strategies independently surveyed the Arizona Republican electorate (April 11-12 and 15; 755 likely Arizona Republican primary voters) to test the state’s upcoming Senate race, along with Sen. John McCain’s (R) status and that of other key elected GOP leaders.

According to Magellan’s results, US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) outpaces former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ex-state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward, 36-26-25 percent, an improvement for the congresswoman when compared to previously published polls.

In January, Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights released their poll that found McSally leading 31-22-19 percent over Arpaio and Ward, while another Arizona-based survey research firm, Data Orbital, found a much tighter three-way split, 31-29-25, again with McSally topping Arpaio and Ward, consecutively.

Much speculation still surrounds Arpaio’s candidacy. Some believe that he will drop his Senate campaign prior to the state’s May 30 candidate filing deadline, instead using the race as basically a vehicle to raise money to cover legal fees from battling charges filed against him during the past two years. President Trump pardoned Arpaio after he was found guilty of criminal contempt in relation to refusing to follow a judge’s immigration order while in his position as sheriff.

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The Daily Retirement Briefing

California Rep. Darrell Issa

California Rep. Darrell Issa

By Jim Ellis

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

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

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

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

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The Next Special: Nominees Set

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Nov. 21, 2017 — After the raucous Alabama special Senate election concludes on Dec. 12, voters in western Pennsylvania will go to the polls next March 13 to fill a US House vacancy. We will remember that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned under pressure in October after a series of extra-marital affairs came into public view, with allegations that he urged a mistress to have an abortion at the very time he was co-sponsoring pro-life legislation.

Murphy had represented his southwestern Keystone State district since originally winning election in 2002, in a seat the preceding redistricting plan created as open. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Murphy was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Upon the congressman’s resignation, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement general election for March 13. Under Pennsylvania statute, there is no primary to choose partisan nominees. Rather, the various political party members meet in a special district convention to choose among individual candidates.

A week ago Saturday, Republicans chose state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/ Jefferson Hills) who had previously dropped his US Senate campaign to take his chances in the open House seat. Prior to winning his position in the state legislature in 2010, Saccone had served as an Air Force officer, a civilian employee of the Army in Iraq after retiring from active duty, and a television anchorman for a South Korean English-language news station. He also was assigned to North Korea for the purpose of assisting with a proposed agreement to prevent further nuclear weapons development. Saccone won the GOP nomination on the second ballot, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).

Democrats met in their 18th District special convention Sunday and chose as their standard bearer. Lamb, like his future Republican opponent Rep. Saccone, also won nomination on the second ballot by defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Obama Veterans Administration official Pam Iovino, Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, psychologist Rueben Brock, writer Keith Seewald, and emergency physician Bob Solomon.

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Hensarling Retirement:
Open Seat Effect

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (TX-5)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (TX-5)

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

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

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

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

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Two Polls; One Interesting, One Bad

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 1, 2017
— Two political polls were released into the public domain yesterday. The first survey is of interest because it already examines a budding open seat Arizona Senate Republican primary, and becomes the first gauge of how former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who had been challenging Sen. Jeff Flake (R), performs in a new situation.

Another in a series of Virginia gubernatorial polls was also published Monday as we begin the last week of the election contest. Here, we question the results’ accuracy.

Arizona Senate

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Speculation has been hot and heavy during the past few days, the first time interval since Sen. Flake announced he would not seek a second term largely because of dismal re-election prospects. Culminating the early conjecture are Phoenix-based Data Orbital’s (DO) new conclusions (Oct. 26-28; 500 likely Arizona GOP primary voters) finding former state Sen. Ward leading a pack of potential Senate candidates, but with a margin that suggests the impending Republican primary is anybody’s game.

Looking at the DO results, Ward places first with 26 percent, followed by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) at 19 percent, and former Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) coming next at 10 percent, while ex-Rep. John Shadegg (R-Scottsdale), Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale), and Arizona University Regent Jay Heiler score 6, 5, and 1 percent, respectively.

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Fast Action in Arizona

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Oct. 30, 2017 — Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) announcement Wednesday that he will not run for re-election has ignited a flurry of political activity in Arizona about who now might enter the newly open 2018 Senate race. Decisions are already being made, with many quickly saying they won’t run for the seat.

A great deal of attention surrounds 2nd District US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) for obvious reasons, because she is likely the best Republican candidate on paper, but the congresswoman has yet to make a public statement about running for the Senate. Published reports, however, quote sources close to her as saying she is being “inundated” with supporters urging that she run.

Winning her first congressional election in 2014, a 161-vote victory over then-Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson) that proved to be the closest congressional result in the country that year, and then racking up 57 percent support over former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D) last year even though Hillary Clinton was scoring a five-percentage point win in her southeastern Arizona congressional district makes Rep. McSally a proven political commodity. As a freshman House member, she raised an eye-popping $7.7 million for her first re-election effort. This year, ranking high on Democratic target lists and drawing eight announced opponents including former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) who moved to Tucson right after losing to Sen. John McCain (R) in the 2016 election, Rep. McSally already has accumulated over $1.45 million for her next campaign.

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The New Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 26, 2017 — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) surprised most in the political world during a speech a couple days ago from the Senate floor, and thereby to the nation, that he will not seek re-election for a second term.

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

With the text of his retirement address devoted mostly to his long-enduring battle with President Trump, Sen. Flake admits to having “regrets” about leaving elected politics and over the nation’s current state of affairs. But, the more salient reason hastening his departure is likely the polling data that shows his standing among Republicans is worse than the Arizona electorate as a whole, and that he would likely lose to both GOP challenger Kelli Ward, a former state senator who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent victory in the 2016 Republican primary, and US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election.

Contrary to media and Democratic Party analyses, the Republicans’ chances of holding this Senate seat actually improve with Sen. Flake’s departure. It was clear that his presidential sparring with Trump had left him worse for wear, and the GOP will likely be able to nominate a less encumbered, and thereby stronger, general election candidate.

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Pence In, Tiberi Out


Greg Pence, brother of VP Mike Pence, announces he is running for Indiana’s open 6th District.


By Jim Ellis

Oct. 23, 2017 — Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, is now a congressional candidate in Indiana. Greg Pence made public late last week his intention to run for the open 6th District, the seat his brother held for 12 years before being elected governor (see video above). He is attempting to replace Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), who is running for Senate. Before he entered the congressional race, Greg Pence was serving as Messer’s finance chairman for the Senate campaign.

The 6th District is safely Republican, voting 68-27 percent for the Trump-Pence ticket, after supporting Mitt Romney with a 60-37 percent split. Back in 2008 when then-Sen. Barack Obama (D) won Indiana in the year that he was first elected president, Sen. John McCain still carried the 6th with a substantial 55-44 percent spread.

Under this backdrop, the vice president’s brother begins his congressional quest in a campaign where he will very likely only need to win the Republican nomination to secure his seat in the US House. And, with the VP’s help, particularly with his national finance network, it will be very difficult for any Republican candidate to keep Greg Pence from winning the primary.

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The Missouri Move


By Jim Ellis

Oct. 12, 2017 — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) officially announced his long-awaited challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) on Tuesday this week. The move had been expected since even before he formed a senatorial exploratory committee at the beginning of August. Hawley then found himself encouraged to run for the Senate literally from the first few days after his election as the state’s AG in November.

Saying Sen. McCaskill has turned her back on many key Show Me State constituencies and industries, that she has been in Washington “forever”, and simply “doesn’t represent Missouri” anymore, Hawley declared his new US Senate candidacy via campaign video featuring he, his wife, and two young sons (above).

Already, a McCaskill-Hawley general election race is being viewed as the Republicans’ top conversion opportunity. Though Hawley must get past several lesser GOP primary candidates, including state Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific/Franklin County), he is the prohibitive favorite to become the party nominee next August.

The McCaskill Campaign and the national Democratic political apparatus has been readying a defense plan against a Hawley offensive for several months. In his campaign for attorney general, Hawley used ladders as props in his ads to symbolize politicians who win one office and then immediately turnaround and jump to another. Now, doing exactly what he campaigned against, we can expect a steady barrage of attacks over what McCaskill and the Democrats will claim is Hawley’s “hypocrisy.”

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Arizona Shock Poll: Down 27

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2017 — GBA Strategies, polling for the Democratic leadership’s Senate Majority PAC (Aug. 30-Sept. 7; 600 likely Arizona general election voters and 500 Arizona Republican primary voters), just produced stunningly poor numbers for first-term Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) from their new Grand Canyon State survey.

What makes matters even worse for the senator is that the 27-point deficit referenced in the title is from the Republican primary voter sample segment. The GBA ballot test finds former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination victory in 2016, leading Flake by an incredible 58-31 percent margin. While other polls have found Flake in difficult political shape within his own Republican Party base, almost exclusively attributable to his national public feud with President Trump, none have detected anything close to this spread.

On the other hand, GBA is a Democratic pollster and not known for testing a Republican primary sample. Therefore, doubt exists regarding this survey’s reliability because the pollsters may not have the necessary experience to understand the nuances within this particular voter segment. But, the margin is so large that few if any findings exist to conclude anything other than Flake is today likely trailing badly in the fledgling Republican primary contest.

The other results don’t give the Flake team much reason for optimism, either. Among Republicans, his personal favorability is a poor 25:56 percent while his job approval ratio is a slightly better, but still an abysmal 34:58 percent positive to negative. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in even worse shape within the party base. Only 17 percent rate Sen. McConnell in a favorable light, with 42 percent of Republicans expressing disapproval of the national party leader. But, that is of little solace to Sen. Flake since McConnell doesn’t face the Arizona electorate.

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Another Republican Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2017 — For the third time in a week, a Republican House member announced that he will not seek re-election next year. This time, it’s a junior member who is retiring. Second-term Michigan Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham/Livonia) announced that he will return to the private sector after the current Congress ends in early 2019. The congressman had built a highly successful real estate and foreclosure legal practice before coming to the House in 2015.

The move is certainly a surprise, and leaves another marginal Republican district up for grabs. Though races can get close here, the GOP congressional nominee has won in every election since the 11th District was originally created.

The seat was drawn in its near present form during the 2001 redistricting process as a result of then-Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) being paired in the former 15th District. This, after national reapportionment reduced the Michigan delegation by one seat.

In 2002, then-state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) won the new 11th District after having a hand in drawing the congressional map as a member of the Senate redistricting committee. McCotter would serve five terms, leaving because of ballot qualification problems in 2012.

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Retirement Brings a Toss-Up

By Jim Ellis

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

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

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

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Flake Way Down; Data Questionable

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Aug. 28, 2017 — A new poll was released late last week showing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in very poor re-election position, but the polling methodology yields serious flaws. An earlier poll with greater reliability also shows him trending badly, but brandishing upside-down favorability indexes for political subjects is a seemingly routine occurrence for the second pollster.

The Highground Public Affairs consulting firm surveyed the Arizona electorate (Aug. 18-19; 400 registered Arizona voters; 273 self-identified Republicans) and found Sen. Flake to be trailing in both the primary and general elections. Against former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent Republican primary win in 2016, Sen. Flake is down by a wide margin, 42-28 percent.

‘Is Flake trailing by a large double-digit margin? It’s hard to argue such solely based upon this poll. Is it reasonable to believe that the senator is behind, however? That answer is yes.’

It is here, however, where the Highground data reveals serious problems. With a statewide sample of only 273 respondents, it is statistically too small to draw any sound reliable conclusions. And, projecting an incumbent Senator with only 28 percent support among poll responders from his own party certainly brings the result into question.

While Flake has also fared poorly in other earlier primary polls, this is the first one where he trails Ward by a significant margin. Because the sample size is a major cause for concern, the larger 14-point support gap between Ward and Flake should be questioned but still must be viewed as at least somewhat relevant. Is Flake trailing by a large double-digit margin? It’s hard to argue such solely based upon this poll. Is it reasonable to believe that the senator is behind, however? That answer is yes.

For the general election, Highground pairs Sen. Flake only with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). After originally saying she would seek re-election to the House, the congresswoman is now admitting that she is seriously considering running for Senate and several Democratic sources believe she is close to announcing her statewide run. According to the Highground poll, Sinema would lead Sen. Flake in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, 40-32 percent. But, an incumbent in any poll barely breaking 30 percent when the statewide polling sample is the size one usually sees for a lone congressional district has to be viewed with a wary eye.

Public Policy Polling completed their Arizona survey in early August (July 31-Aug. 1; 704 registered Arizona voters) and also found Sen. Flake lagging. Though they asked no head-to-head ballot test questions, Flake scored extremely low in his approval rating index. An elected official of either party tallying an upside down favorability rating in a PPP poll is nothing unusual, however. In fact, almost everyone scores in such a manner.

The Flake numbers, however, exceed even some of the more unpopular previously tested elected officials. According to this PPP survey, his approval index is 18:63 percent positive to negative. His problem is exacerbated in that the polling segmentation crosstabs vary little.

Perhaps the senator’s biggest problem is his standing within his own Republican Party. Here, his index is just 22:57 percent, which is of course a horrific intra-party total for an incumbent. Among Independents and Democrats, the numbers are even worse: 17:65 percent, and 15:67 percent, respectively.

There is little difference in how women and men view Sen. Flake. Among women, his favorability is 18:60 percent; men: 18:65 percent. In segmenting by race, the pollsters divided the respondent universe into just three categories: Hispanics (15:49 percent), whites (19:65 percent), and others (21:71 percent).

Though the PPP polls typically skew negative on the approval rating questions, the Flake numbers signal trouble well beyond any likely methodology flaw. Coupled with what can be reasonably drawn from the Highground survey, the clear conclusion is that Sen. Flake has major political problems and is even in danger of losing his re-nomination battle.

This race will continue to attract attention, but it is clear that we are likely headed for both a highly competitive primary and general election campaign in the desert all through next year.