Tag Archives: Sen. Joni Ernst

The Senate Firewall

By Jim Ellis

June 29, 2020 — As many pollsters have done, Siena College and their New York Times polling partner just released survey data for the Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina Senate races. This is largely because those three states have attracted much attention in the Democrats’ battle to topple the Republican majority.

But a group of four other states may be a better indicator of whether the Senate will flip in November, and all are competitive.

As Siena/NYT found, Democrats Mark Kelly and Sen. Gary Peters are maintaining an approximate 10-point lead in their respective contests in Arizona and Michigan. The North Carolina race, as it typically does, will generally sway between a one to four-point edge for either candidate depending upon the pollster and the time in which the specific survey was conducted. In the Siena/NYT poll, Democrat Cal Cunningham holds a tenuous three percentage point lead over Sen. Thom Tillis (R). During the same polling period as S/NYT (June 8-18), Gravis Marketing (June 17) found Sen. Tillis ahead by one point.

The GOP majority firewall, however, contains four other states. If the Republicans, likely now in the person of retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, converts the Alabama seat, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Steve Daines (R-MT) all win their respective campaigns, the Democrats’ road to majority control becomes rocky. Therefore, watching this quartet of states should provide us a better clue as to which party will control the Senate in the new Congress.

Since February, 14 polls have been released in Arizona and 12 in North Carolina according to the Real Clear Politics polling archives. The Michigan total is 13 and began in March.

In the four actual firewall states, however, little polling attention has been paid. Since February, the Alabama and Maine Senate races have seen just three public polls, apiece. Montana has been surveyed three times since March, and Iowa four from April to the present time.

Let’s now look at the path to the majority if the Republicans win and/or hold their four firewall states. In summary, Alabama must first be converted back to the Republican column. This brings the GOP majority to 54. Additionally, the 54 number must include incumbent victories for Sens. Collins, Ernst, and Daines.
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The Senate Barometer

Sen. Cory Gardner Senate campaign attack ads hitting former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hard (see COLORADO writeup below)


By Jim Ellis

June 18, 2020 — Next to discussion of the presidential race, the political contests attracting the most political attention and debate are the 2020 US Senate campaigns.

As we know, Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, meaning the Democrats will have to convert a net three GOP seats if Joe Biden wins the presidency, or four if President Trump is re-elected. Many believe that the winning presidential candidate will also sweep in a Senate majority for his party.

Below is an update of the key races:


• ALABAMA: In many ways, this could be the most important race on the board. Republicans must convert this seat back to their column in order to provide a greater cushion toward protecting their chamber majority. Sen. Doug Jones (D), who scored a fluke special election win in 2017, stands for a full six-year term in November.

Republicans are in a runoff election that will be decided on July 14, postponed from the original March 31 date. In the March 3 primary, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville placed first over former attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions within a field of seven total candidates, 33-32 percent.

Runoff polling, however, gives Tuberville a large lead as the contenders enter the last month of the secondary election campaign. The May 26-27 OnMessage survey gave Tuberville a 49-43 percent edge, down considerably, however, from the 55-32% margin the former coach posted in a Cygnal research group poll conducted over the May 7-10 period.

Tuberville, with President Trump’s endorsement and running an ad saying Sessions’ appointment as AG is the president’s top regret since taking office, clearly has the advantage. In the general election, this race is a must-win for the GOP. If converted, the Republican majority expands to 54, which will be critical for their chances to hold.


• ARIZONA: Things continue to break retired astronaut Mark Kelly’s (D) way in the early going opposite appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Being one of the top national fundraisers with $31 million raised and millions more coming into the state in the form in independent expenditures, Kelly is the favorite to convert the seat in November. He has led in the last 11 publicly released polls, the latest coming from the Civiqs organization, polling for the Daily Kos Elections website (June 13-15), which posts Kelly to a 51-42 percent advantage.


• COLORADO: Sen. Cory Gardner (R) seeks a second term, and with the state’s electorate moving decidedly to the left since the incumbent’s original election in 2014, the Colorado race sets up well for Democratic conversion.

There is some weakness developing, however, surrounding Sen. Gardner’s likely Democratic opponent, former governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper. Recently, the Colorado Ethics Commission ruled that Hickenlooper, while governor, twice violated the state’s gift ban, which has caused him negative statewide publicity.

Now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched an ad campaign underscoring the commission finding just as the former governor approaches his June 30 primary election against former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff. Sen. Gardner also is on the air in a new ad highlighting Hickenlooper’s statements during the presidential campaign when he was quoted extensively as saying he didn’t want to be a US senator. Taking this into consideration, more people are looking toward the Democratic primary, in which Romanoff is gaining some momentum. This general election is a must-win for the Democrats.
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Early Clues for Dems’ Early Targets

By Jim Ellis

April 1, 2020 — The Senate Majority PAC, one of the chief advocacy entities for Democratic candidates, has reserved media time totaling $69.2 million from August through the election, as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website. The expenditures provide us some clues into how the Democratic establishment and their progressive left allies view their strategic attack points in relation to the national political landscape.

The early media time reservations are invested in five states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. This is certainly not the limit of the SMP planned expenditures, nor is the organization likely committed to fulfilling the entirety of this time buy without having negotiated an escape clause. All depends upon their agreements with the individual television outlets and does not include any future expenditure the group may make for radio and digital advertising.

Setting the stage, the five states are all clearly top-tier Republican-held targets of which the Democrats would have to convert nearly all in order to wrest Senate control away from the current majority. That number grows if they fail to defend their own vulnerable seats in either Alabama or Michigan, or both.

The largest time reservation is in North Carolina, where Democrats hope newly nominated Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and 2010 US Senate candidate (lost Democratic nomination to then-secretary of state Elaine Marshall who would lose the general election to GOP Sen. Richard Burr), can unseat first-term incumbent Thom Tillis (R) in a state that has defeated more senators than any other in the modern political era. Of the $69.2 million in national reservations the group made, $25.6 million is dedicated to North Carolina media markets.

Arizona gets the second largest share with $15.7 million dedicated toward helping retired astronaut Mark Kelly, already the consensus Democratic candidate, challenge appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Iowa, where Democrats will nominate a candidate on June 2 to challenge first-term Sen. Joni Ernst (R), will see $13.1 million of the SMP media buy. Maine gets $9.6 million to oppose Sen. Susan Collins (R), and Colorado $5.2 million largely for negative ads against first-term Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

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Pompeo for Senate?

By Jim Ellis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Nov. 25, 2019 — Ever since Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced last January that he would retire at the end of the current Congress there has been consistent speculation that US Secretary of State and former Wichita area congressman, Mike Pompeo, would resign his national position and return to Kansas to run for the open seat. Despite repeated denials from Secretary Pompeo, the speculation would not die.

Now, it appears the rumors of him entering the race have greater foundation, as more concrete stories that he will soon resign and announce his candidacy are regularly surfacing. The Senate Republican leadership is clearly in favor of the Pompeo move, originally fearing that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could win a crowded August Republican primary with only a vote plurality and then perform as badly in the general election as he did when he lost the 2018 open governor’s race.

With Republicans holding 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats but having to defend 23 incumbents and open seats on the 2020 Senate election map versus only 12 for the Democrats, the GOP cannot afford an electoral debacle in what should be a safe seat. It was only two years ago that another flawed Republican Senate candidate bungled the Alabama special election, thus allowing Democrat Doug Jones to win the position that Sen. Jeff Sessions had resigned to become US Attorney General.

Currently, eight individuals have announced for the Republican nomination led by Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). Polling and local political intel suggests that Pompeo would have little trouble winning the nomination, and the seat, if he were to enter the race. If he does become a candidate, some of the others, and particularly Rep. Marshall, would have time to exit the race and pivot back toward seeking re-election to their current position.

Originally, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) had been in the Senate race – in fact, he was the first to enter the contest immediately after Sen. Roberts made public his intentions – but he has already exited and, at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), is now challenging freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) for re-nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

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Weekly Political Synopsis,
Period Ending May 17, 2019

By Jim Ellis

PRESIDENT
• Gov. Steve Bullock: As has been expected for some time, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) officially announced his presidential effort this week, becoming the 23rd Democratic candidate. Bullock made the argument that he will be an effective national candidate because he’s won two elections in a conservative state and has been able to earn legislative achievements, like Medicaid expansion, in negotiating with Republican leaders.

• Mayor Bill de Blasio: Following Gov. Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released an announcement video at the end of the week making him the 24th Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election cycle. His declaration centered around being the candidate for “working families,” and cited the $15 minimum wage, a free pre-K school program, a comprehensive healthcare program that especially covers mental health, and paid sick leave.

• Florida: Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to see strong polling numbers, with the latest data coming from Florida. The Tel Opinion Research organization is reporting its latest results (released May 8; 800 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) that show Biden pulling away from his Democratic opponents on an open-ended ballot test poll. An open-ended ballot test is one where the respondent is not given the candidates’ names. That approach tests for committed strength.
According to Tel Opinion, Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 39-16 percent, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each pulling only five percent support. South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows at three percent preference. All of the candidates scored well on the favorability index scale. Biden is viewed positively with an 81:13 percent ratio, where Sen. Sanders’ score is 68:23 percent.

SENATE
• Arizona: Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights released their latest data from their May 1-2 poll (600 likely Arizona voters) where they queried the respondent universe about the impending Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Though we are more than a year before Arizona’s 2020 late August primary, the chances are strong that the aforementioned will be their respective party standard bearers.
According to the OH poll results, the early race again earns toss-up status. The sample breaks 45-44 percent in Sen. McSally’s favor, which is virtually identical with the firm’s late February poll giving the incumbent a 46-44 percent edge.

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