Tag Archives: Sen. John McCain

Arizona Politics in Flux

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2017 — The Grand Canyon State is looking to be a focal point for the 2018 election cycle. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for re-election amid poor approval numbers within his own Republican Party vote base, while an interesting movement is occurring in what promises to be a competitive re-election effort for 2nd District sophomore Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Tucson).

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

The Democrats have a fundamental non-correctable problem facing them in the 2018 US Senate cycle. That is, they must defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats with arguably only two conversion targets. In Nevada, which should be their top opportunity, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has yet to even draw a serious opponent, though it is still early. Therefore, the impending Arizona contest, highlighted by the public feud between Sen. Flake and then-candidate Donald Trump, becomes a more viable Democratic target than one would normally surmise based solely upon Arizona voting history.

The Senate race has already drawn early cycle attention, generally involving potential statewide candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the 9th District congresswoman. Seeing her raise almost $700,000 in the first quarter and holding $2.8 million in her campaign account was commonly interpreted as amassing funds for a statewide campaign.

Within the past 10 days, while being interviewed on a Phoenix radio show, Rep. Sinema indicated that she is running for re-election, seemingly removing herself from a Senate race. A day later her spokesperson claimed that nothing had changed and Sinema could well run statewide.

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Flake Dodges Political Bullet

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2017 — Arizona US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced at the end of last week in a Phoenix radio interview her intention to seek re-election next year, meaning she will not become a US Senate candidate.

Most observers believed she would be the strongest Democrat to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and her robust first-quarter fundraising activity seemed to suggest she had something in mind beyond simply securing what was once a politically marginal district.

In the quarter, Rep. Sinema raised just short of $678,000, and holds a whopping $2.8 million cash-on-hand. This latter number is one million dollars more than even Sen. Flake’s reported total. The senator was more aggressive in the first quarter, however, raising $1.3 million in 2017’s opening months, but began with less in his campaign account.

Sinema backing away from a Senate challenge doesn’t mean Sen. Flake is home free, however. His intra-party battle scars from a national feud with then-candidate and later Republican nominee Donald Trump have not fully healed, so the senator harbors some GOP primary vulnerability at the very least. And, a wounded incumbent moving into the general election from a state with the capability of electing someone from the other party is not a scenario the national Republican Party leadership wants to see.

Currently, the senator’s announced primary opposition — former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held veteran Sen. John McCain to a 51.2 – 39.9 percent Republican primary win in 2016 — has little in the way of assets with which to oppose Flake. According to her 1st quarter financial disclosure report, Ward raised $168,369 and has just under $104,000 in her campaign account.

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against  first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Ward is not Sen. Flake’s chief potential Republican threat, however. Waiting in the wings is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who has not yet entered the Senate race, but already has announced that he will not seek re-election to his current position. DeWit was President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, which could make this race all the more interesting if he were to become a Senate candidate.

Still, Sen. Flake’s electoral obstacles would not be in his rear-view mirror even if he only faces Ward in the primary and easily defeats her. With Rep. Sinema now out of the Senate race, a name moving up the Democratic potential candidate chart is state representative and doctor Randall Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and saved her life from what easily could have been a mortal gunshot wound.

Several years after the Giffords surgery, Dr. Friese (left) decided to enter politics and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, and then re-elected last November. He is now the body’s assistant minority leader. In addition to being an active trauma surgeon, the doctor is a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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Chaffetz to Retire; Cruz Down

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”

Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.

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Flake Still Trailing
in Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2017 — Just after the Nov. 8 election, Remington Research conducted a Republican voters’ statewide Arizona survey (Nov. 15-16; 1,122 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), as we previously covered, and found Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to be in trouble … in his own primary. Now, a new poll seems to confirm Flake’s weakness.

The previous data showed the incumbent trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 42-33 percent, in a hypothetical Republican primary. The same sample found former state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward tied with Flake, 35-35 percent. Ward attracted 40 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican US Senate primary. In a three-way race, DeWit led Flake and Ward, 38-30-15 percent, respectively. Perhaps most disconcerting for the senator was his favorability index among the Republican sample group, 30:49 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Now comes a new Political Marketing International poll (Feb. 7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device) that again brings warning signs to Sen. Flake. According to this current data, Flake actually trails Ward, 23-30 percent. DeWit, who has not committed to run for Senate though he did announce that he’ll retire as state treasurer, was not tested in this particular poll.

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Senate Still in Limbo

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 3, 2016 — Entering the last week of campaigning, the Democrats are on the cusp of re-claiming the Senate majority they lost in 2014, but virtually no competitive outcome is yet secure.

The latest Hillary Clinton email revelations may cause irregular Republican turnout to increase, which should help the GOP Senate candidates. A demoralized Republican voter base, thinking that Donald Trump would have no chance to prevail against Clinton, is about the only way Democrats could have gained a wave effect, but that is no longer expected.

It appears that nine of 10 Democratic in-cycle states will remain in party control. Only Nevada is competitive on their side of the ledger. Republicans look to have 15 safe seats of their own, with another five: Arizona (Sen. John McCain), Iowa (Sen. Chuck Grassley), Georgia (Sen. Johnny Isakson), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio) and Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman) all trending either strongly or nominally their way.

Democrats are in favorable position to convert incumbent Republican states in Illinois (Rep. Tammy Duckworth-D, unseating Sen. Mark Kirk-R) and Wisconsin (former Sen. Russ Feingold-D, re-claiming the seat he lost to Sen. Ron Johnson-R in 2010), in addition to being favored in the open Indiana seat (former Sen. Evan Bayh-D ahead of Rep. Todd Young-R).

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The Latest Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 24, 2016 — With the presidential race appearing just about wrapped up, the Senate races are taking the center stage for competitiveness. Some of the races are changing.

The first section identifies competitive races that now appear set:

Arizona – Sen. John McCain (R) now looks to be a strong bet for re-election, as he leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in all polling. Additionally, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has pulled its media money, sending it to other states.

Illinois – Sen. Mark Kirk (R) appears in no position to overcome the strong Democratic trends that he faces. Therefore, Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Hoffman Estates) advantage should hold through Election Day, and she will become the new senator when the Congress convenes in January.

Iowa – Veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) continues to cement his lead over Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). Neither party is emphasizing the race and the only October poll recorded (Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company; Oct. 3-6; 642 likely Iowa voters) again projects Sen. Grassley’s lead as approaching 20 points (53-36 percent).

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The Senate Reset

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2016 — It’s now inside of three weeks before the election, and hearing leaders of both parties claim they could control the Senate in the next Congress, it’s time to take a step back and see where the candidates actually stand.

To re-cap, Republicans are risking 24 seats as compared to the Democrats’ 10. In order to re-capture the majority they lost in 2014, the Dems must retain all 10 of their defensive seats, and then convert at least four Republican states if Hillary Clinton is elected president and five if she is not.

The Democrats appear safe in nine of their 10 seats: California (open-Barbara Boxer), Colorado (Michael Bennet), Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal), Hawaii (Brian Schatz), Maryland (open-Barbara Mikulski), New York (Chuck Schumer), Oregon (Ron Wyden), Vermont (Patrick Leahy), and Washington (Patty Murray).

The Republicans appear headed for victory in 14 of their defensive states: Alabama (Richard Shelby), Alaska (Lisa Murkowski), Arkansas (John Boozman), Georgia (Johnny Isakson), Idaho (Mike Crapo), Iowa (Chuck Grassley), Kansas (Jerry Moran), Kentucky (Rand Paul), North Dakota (John Hoeven), Ohio (Rob Portman), Oklahoma (James Lankford), South Carolina (Tim Scott), South Dakota (John Thune), and Utah (Mike Lee).

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Predicting a Wave

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2016 — Democrats are attempting to get atop of what they perceive as a growing wave in response to Donald Trump’s potential collapse, but they are missing several components necessary to creating such an outcome.

During the past two days Democratic leaders and strategists have begun to predict a landslide Hillary Clinton win, a majority in the US Senate, and now an impending wave large enough to carry their House candidates to success.

In the Senate, as we know, Democrats need to hold all 10 of their in-cycle seats, and then convert at least four Republican states to re-capture the majority. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana all look like impending Democratic victories. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), in the one state Democrats are risking, continues to hold a small lead but his advantage over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is tenuous.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) are both highly vulnerable and could easily lose, as could North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R). Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) sees better trends developing in his state at the presidential level, but Democrats are using a strong performance in the open governor’s race as a potential springboard to unseating the one-term senator and former US House Majority Whip. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) look to be stemming the adverse tide. But, all of the aforementioned races could easily change one way or the other in the final four weeks.

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Follow the Money

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2016 — The Wesleyan Media Project released their campaign advertising study for the 2016 election cycle and, focusing on their Senate data that Kantar Media/CMAG compiled, the information gives us strong clues as to which races are the most important to each party. The report also provides clues as to which media campaigns and strategies are working and those that are lacking.

The study tracked ads run in 20 states featuring Senate general election campaigns, from a high of 18,265 ads aired (Pennsylvania) to a low of 18 (Kansas). The tested period spanned from Aug. 19 to Sept. 15. In the 20 states, an aggregate of 104,522 ads aired in the various markets. Those backing Republican candidates or opposing Democratic contenders accounted for approximately 53 percent of the total study period buy.

Though Pennsylvanians have seen the greatest number of Senate ads, the most money spent during the period was in New Hampshire ($16.9 million). This is because the overwhelming number of ads purchased was in the expensive Boston media market.

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McCain: A Bigger Target

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 2, 2016 — It is clear that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in a more precarious political position the day after his primary than the day before. On Tuesday, the veteran Arizona senator recorded only a 52-39 percent victory over his top challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward. Two other Republican candidates, Alex Meluskey and Clair Van Steenwyk, received a combined 9.1 percent of the GOP primary vote: 5.5 percent for Meluskey and the remainder for Van Steenwyk.

But Tuesday’s underlying numbers illuminate what is likely a greater McCain vulnerability for the fall campaign against 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff): a weak Republican base.

Looking at the state’s 15 counties, Ward actually defeated McCain in three of them, Cochise, Navajo, and Mohave. Additionally, the senator only carried Apache County by 75 votes. Together, this suggests McCain is doing poorly on the Indian reservations, which is not unusual since the region is a Democratic stronghold, but these votes came from within his own party.

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Rep. Brown Loses; McCain, Rubio Win; All Others

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2016 — A look at overnight primary results:

Senate

Veteran Sen. John McCain (R) won his re-nomination campaign last night in Arizona, but with a lesser majority than expected. McCain topped former state Sen. Kelli Ward, 52-39 percent, which proved worse than his GOP primary margin six years ago (56 percent). Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) was unopposed on the Democratic side. The rather tepid McCain victory last night increases her chances in the general election.

Sen. Marco Rubio rebounded strongly from his failed presidential campaign with a 72 percent victory in his statewide Republican primary yesterday. More than 1.4 million Republican voters cast ballots in Florida’s nomination contest. Businessman Carlos Beruff, who spent more than $8 million of his own money on his campaign, finished a distant second with only 19 percent support.

Sen. Rubio now advances to the general election to face, as expected, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) who won his Democratic primary with 59 percent of the vote. Controversial Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), who was close early in the campaign, fell to only 18 percent, just ahead of also-ran candidate Pam Keith, an attorney and Navy veteran (15 percent). About 300,000 fewer Democrats than Republicans participated in the primary election. Sen. Rubio has been consistently gaining momentum, so he begins the general election as the slight favorite.

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Primary Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 30, 2016
— Today, we cover the second half of the competitive Florida campaigns, with just a word about Arizona. The Washington Post ran an article yesterday chronicling Sen. John McCain as being “in the fight of his life.” It does not appear that McCain is in any danger of losing the primary today, and his general election polling puts him in his strongest position of this election cycle. Therefore, the Post story seems ill timed.

Also in Arizona, and not covered yesterday, despite a moderate independent expenditure leveled against Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott), the congressman is also expected to easily survive his primary challenge. Gosar’s opponent, former local official Ray Strauss (R), has attracted just over $100,000 in support of his own campaign, far less than the independent expenditure. The general election will not be competitive.

Florida

• FL-9: The new 9th District, which stretches from east Orlando south through Kissimmee, west to Winter Park and then east to the Yeehaw Junction, is a few points less Democratic than the seat Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) currently represents. His departure to the Senate race makes this one of seven open Florida congressional districts. While Alan Grayson will not represent this district in the next Congress, another Grayson may. A poll released last week found the congressman’s new wife, physician Dena Grayson, leads the Democratic primary field, thus making her at least a slight favorite. Former congressional aide Susannah Randolph and state Sen. Darren Soto are the other viable candidates in the Democratic field. Today’s Dem primary victor will win the seat in November. Safe Democratic

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Primary Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 29, 2016 — Arizona and Florida voters go to the polls tomorrow in what has become the most important of the late summer primaries.

Today, we cover Arizona and half of the competitive Florida campaigns. Tomorrow, the remaining Sunshine State races will be updated. Resulting from the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting changes and an unusually large number of open seats, competition is developing in no less than 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Both states also host critical Senate contests.

Arizona

• Senate: Sen. John McCain (R) is seeking a sixth term after originally winning in 1986, four years after his initial election to the House. What was thought to be a potentially competitive Republican primary at the outset seemingly fizzled when McCain drew a lesser primary opponent. For a time, it appeared that either Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) or Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) might enter the statewide contest, but neither chose to do so. In fact, Rep. Salmon would later decide to retire altogether.

Former state Senator Kelli Ward, who resigned her position in order to spend her full energies in challenging McCain, has raised about $1.5 million, but it would likely require more in the way of resources and outside support to deny the veteran incumbent and former Republican presidential nominee a re-nomination victory. Expect Sen. McCain to do better than his 56 percent Republican primary performance in 2010.

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McCain Teetering

By Jim Ellis

May 20, 2016 — A new Public Policy Polling survey (May 13-15; 896 registered Arizona voters, 443 likely Republican primary voters) provides further evidence that the Arizona Senate race will attract a great deal of attention in the fall campaign. If this data is accurate, then the Aug. 30 Republican primary will be noteworthy, too.

According to the results, five-term Sen. John McCain (R) holds only a 42-36 percent lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in the general election pairing. Though the ballot test presents an ominous sign for McCain, this data is actually better for him than an April Behavior Research Center study. That poll found he and Rep. Kirkpatrick tied at 42 percent.

But this PPP survey, for the first time, shows McCain becoming potentially vulnerable in the Republican primary. The senator has four Republican primary challengers, including former state Sen. Kelli Ward.

According to the primary ballot test question, McCain would only lead the GOP field with 39 percent, followed by Ward who registers 26 percent support. Adding all of the minor candidates together totals an additional nine percentage points, with 27 percent undecided. If McCain and Ward are isolated in a one-on-one contest, the two are actually tied with 41 percent apiece.

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McCain Complains

By Jim Ellis

May 9, 2016 — Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) said late last week that he is “worried that [Donald] Trump as the GOP nominee puts his own seat in play”. Later in the day McCain partially walked back his comments by saying he would vote for Trump.

McCain’s observation about his own re-election status is both right and wrong. He’s correct in detecting that his seat is competitive this year, and a sleeper race for the Democrats, but erroneous in attributing the reason to Donald Trump’s impending national presidential candidacy as the Republican nominee.

The Arizona Senate race may well be in play, but it has been trending that way for some time and before Trump became a serious fixture in the presidential campaign. In surveys dating back to mid-January, McCain was seen as dropping into a virtual tie with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), his presumptive general election opponent.

The Behavioral Research Center tested the Grand Canyon State electorate in January and again in April. In between, Arizona-based Merrill Polling also fielded a survey (March 7-11). Two of the three polls found McCain leading Kirkpatrick by just one point. The other found the pair tied.

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