Tag Archives: Sen. Jon Tester

Senators’ Approvals vs. Votes

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 13, 2018 — Reviewing documentation from the 2018 US Senate races, it appears there is at least a tangential correlation between an incumbent senator’s pre-campaign approval rating and the vote percentage garnered on Election Day.

(Click on image to go to full story at Morning Consult.)

The Morning Consult public affairs firm routinely surveys senators and governors to produce approval indexes for every member. Their 3rd Quarter 2018 sampling was publicly released on Oct. 10, one month before the election and just at the beginning of prime time campaigning.

Looking at the 32 incumbent senators who were on the ballot in November, the mean average increase from the individual’s approval score to the final vote percentage is 9.6 points when using the Morning Consult favorability index as our constant and the median is nine points.

The senator dropping the furthest from approval to vote percentage, down five points, was Maine Sen. Angus King (I), but the number is a bit deceiving. King scored a 58 percent positive approval rating in mid-October, but only received 53 percent in the election. Because the senator is an Independent and the Democrats with whom he caucuses did file their own candidate, the next closest opponent scored 35 percent. Therefore, his political standing still proved strong.

On the other end of the spectrum, the senator who improved the most from an upside-down favorability index rating to the vote was New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D). While his October index was a poor 31:46 percent favorable to unfavorable, the worst by far among the 32 senators standing for re-election, he was successfully re-elected, 54-43 percent, over retired pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Hugin (R).

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The (Mostly) Final Election Results

By Jim Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Tester Draws Opponent

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2017 — Republicans have been working to recruit a top-tier challenger to two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D), and yesterday they identified such an individual. Montana Commissioner of Insurance and State Auditor Matt Rosendale announced that he will join the Republican primary, vying to become the party nominee and oppose Sen. Tester in the next election.

Rosendale was first elected to his statewide position just last November, so he is quickly making the move for federal office. Prior to running for auditor, he served a term in the state House of Representatives and a pair of consecutive two-year stints in the state Senate, representing the Glendive area in Montana’s far eastern sector. In the 2015-16 session, Rosendale was the Senate Majority Leader.

In 2016, he ran to succeed Democratic Auditor Monica Lindeen who was ineligible to seek a third term. Rosendale defeated former state Rep. Jesse Laslovich (D), 54-46 percent, from an electorate of more than 486,000 voters.

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Gianforte KO’s Quist in Montana

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2017 — Bozeman, Montana businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R) shrugged off a 24-hour media pounding last evening. The congressional candidate, besieged with attacks over his election eve physical altercation with a Guardian-US publication reporter, rebounded to defeat country folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44 percent, in the state’s at-large special congressional election.

The victory margin translates into a 24,027-vote edge, from a voting universe of just under 375,000 people with one county still to report, who either came to the polls or mailed a pre-election day absentee ballot. The turnout is a special election record, and actually exceeds the number who voted in the state’s most recent mid-term (2014). The numbers are unusually high because the Montana at-large seat is the largest congressional district in the country, housing over one million residents.

The special congressional vote was made necessary when former at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) was appointed US Interior Secretary. The major political parties nominated their candidates in convention, a process that produced Gianforte for the Republicans, which had been expected since he had run a close gubernatorial bid in November, and Quist for the Democrats.

In the end, the final result was not as close as several final pre-election media stories predicted. There were several pieces, even in conservative publications, that left the door wide open for a Quist upset finish, and the writers were already beginning to spin how this Montana election result would reflect poorly on President Trump.

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No Surprise in Montana;
New GA-6 Poll

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2017 — Montana Republicans convened Monday night in the capital city of Helena to choose their nominee for the special at-large congressional election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Unlike the Democratic meeting the day before, the GOP caucus went according to the predicted political script.

Before the state convention, 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte claimed to have enough pledged votes to win on the first ballot, even against five other candidates. With 203 voting members attending last night, Gianforte’s claim held true. He captured 123 first ballot votes, over 60 percent of those present and voting, and won the nomination after just one round of voting.

During the preliminary question and answer period where the six candidates fielded queries from the delegates, concern was raised about whether the special election winner would serve for more than a term. The last two Republican at-large House members, current US Sen. Steve Daines and Zinke, each departed after one term. Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 after first winning the House seat in 2012. Though Zinke successfully ran for a second term, he would only serve two months before being confirmed as President Trump’s Interior Secretary.

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The New Special

By Jim Ellis

March 3, 2017 — The Senate confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as President Trump’s Interior Secretary yesterday, and the Montana political apparatus wasted no time initiating the special election to replace him.

After confirmation, Zinke immediately resigned from the House, and released a statement thanking his constituents for allowing him to serve. “It has been an honor to serve you in Congress, and I appreciate the faith and trust you put in me to represent your values, interests and priorities,” the new secretary said in his departing remarks.

Upon receiving word of Zinke’s resignation, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled the replacement special election for May 25. Under Montana election law, the recognized political parties will meet in convention to choose their special election nominees, thus the electorate will vote only once.

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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.

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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.

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Another Special Looms

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2015 — Already, calling potentially five special elections may be necessary even before the new 115th Congress convenes. Now, a sixth is on the political horizon now that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary.

As we have detailed in previous Updates, Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Alabama seat could go to a special election after an interim appointment is made, and the North Dakota Senate seat will definitely go before the voters if president-elect Donald Trump chooses Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Agriculture Secretary.

In the House, three seats will be vacated either before or just after the new Congress begins. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) has already resigned his seat to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as attorney general, replacing Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D). The KS-4 and GA-6 districts will be opened when Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) and Tom Price (R-Roswell) are confirmed as CIA Director and Secretary of Health & Human Services, respectively.

So far, all of the seats, including the North Dakota Democratic Senate seat, should easily go Republican in special elections. The Montana at-large seat, however, may well become competitive.

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Capps Out in California;
The Cortez Masto Effect In Nevada

April 10, 2015 — Veteran California Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), aged 77, announced Wednesday that she will not seek re-election to an eleventh term in office next year for her CA-24 seat. The congresswoman entered the House via a special election victory in 1998 after her husband, Rep. Walter Capps (D-CA), passed away suddenly; he was first elected in 1996 but suffered a fatal heart attack at the Washington Dulles Airport less than a year after winning his seat. Lois Capps finished her husband’s term and has been re-elected ever since.

The 24th District contains Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, along with part of Ventura. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission made this district much more competitive as Capps’ 55 and 52 percent victory margins in the past two elections suggest. The 2001 congressional map created a coastal district for Capps (then numbered CA-23), slanting the seat to the ideological left in order to help the Democratic incumbent hold the seat. Thanks in large part to map construction, Capps had little in the way of challenges throughout the decade.

But it was becoming clearer that Republicans have a chance to convert the new 24th as a direct result of including all of the more conservative San Luis Obispo County in the district. Republican Chris Mitchum, son of deceased actor Robert Mitchum, pulled 48 percent against the congresswoman in the last election despite spending less than one-quarter the amount of money of his opponent. A stronger candidate could possibly have done better perhaps even scored an upset over Capps in what became a very favorable Republican year.
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Sink Raking in Donations in Fla.; Rehberg’s Return in Montana?

FL-13

With the Jan. 14 special primary election fast approaching in the race to succeed the late Rep. Bill Young (R), former Florida chief financial officer and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink reported crushing financial numbers on the pre-primary financial disclosure report as released by the Federal Election Commission.

According to the statement, Sink had raised $1.143 million for her special election campaign and has $1.054 million cash-on-hand. More than $823,000 of her current political income came from individual donors, versus $300,700 from political action committees. The candidate invested $7,700 of her own money and reports no debt.

On the Republican side, lobbyist David Jolly obtained $388,450 in contributions and has  Continue reading >

Rehberg’s Return? Two Say No

At the end of the 2012 election cycle, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) said his Montana political career was at an end. Losing to Sen. Jon Tester (D) by three points, 45-48 percent, even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was racking up a 55-42 percent Montana margin over President Obama, the six-term congressman and former lieutenant governor said he would not again seek political office.

Now, with Sen. Max Baucus (D) announcing that he will not run in 2014, Rehberg may be changing his tune. “As to what the future holds, ever since Max (Sen. Baucus) announced his retirement two days ago my phone has been ringing off the hook,” Rehberg said. “The encouragement I’ve been getting from Montanans to take a serious look at this race has been overwhelming. I owe it to them, and to all the folks who I’ve served over the years, to keep listening and see how things develop. I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

The top potential candidate is former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer. If he decides to run, with his high favorability ratings that have continued into his retirement, it will be very difficult for Republicans to beat him. Conversely, should Schweitzer not enter the race and Rehberg run for the Republicans, he would likely become the decided favorite and the GOP would be in strong conversion position.

The Baucus retirement has clearly changed the outlook for the Montana Senate race. Until the candidates identify themselves, however, this race will remain in a state of flux.

Schock, Pingree Say No

Two US House members who have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates in their respective states each publicly removed themselves from further talk about a 2014 statewide campaign. Republican Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Democrat Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) both confirmed that they will seek re-election to  Continue reading >