Tag Archives: Sen. Ted Cruz

Election Day Is Here

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis,

Nov. 6, 2018 — At long last, the 2018 midterm Election Day has arrived. Democrats appear well positioned to capture the House of Representatives, but the question of how big a majority margin we will see remains. The large number of dead-even campaigns heading into today suggests that a small majority margin is the most likely outcome.

Republicans, largely because Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 Senate races, should hold control but, again, to what degree? Will their 51-49 margin increase? It appears they will successfully unseat North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), but will Arizona and Nevada both hold for them, allowing more substantial gains? Does Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-El Paso) new-found celebrity status and national fundraising prowess allow him to overcome Texas voting history to unseat first-term senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz? These and many other yet-to-be determined answers will be uncovered late tonight.

Several races may not finish tonight. Today is also the first time Louisiana voters will go to the polls during this cycle. Without a formal nomination process, the Bayou State consolidates its primary and general election into one vote. Therefore, if a candidate receives an absolute majority tonight, that individual is elected. If not, the top two finishers will advance to a Dec. 8 run-off. With no governor or Senate election on the ballot and little competition within the state’s six House districts, it appears likely that all congressional incumbents will win tonight. Next up, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), possibly facing US Sen. John Kennedy (R), will defend his position in the 2019 odd-numbered year election.

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The Final Outlook

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2018 — Election Day has arrived, but it is likely that a majority of those planning to vote have already done so. Early voting totals are way up in most of the 37 states that employ a pre-election ballot casting procedure in comparison to the 2014 midterm election.

According to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project, 25 of the 37 states report receiving more early votes than they did four years ago. None, however, is larger than Texas where early voting has already exceeded that grand total votes cast in 2014. The same also has occurred in Nevada, but it’s less surprising since the last midterm aggregate turnout there was unusually low.

In Texas, just under 4.9 million votes already have been received. In 2014, the aggregate early and Election Day vote was 4.72 million. In 2014, 44 percent of the total vote was cast early. If this same pattern occurs, the current election total turnout will exceed the 2016 presidential level participation figure of 8.96 million votes, however it is unlikely that will happen. How the increased turnout will affect the election outcome is undetermined at this point, but the high number of first-time voters suggest that Democrats could improve their typical standing.

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With Media Focused on O’Rourke, Cruz Maintains Consistent Edge

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) | Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) | Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)

Oct. 25, 2018 — The Texas Senate race has become the premier political contest of this midterm election. With Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) becoming a national celebrity due to constant media attention, and now with record fundraising, this election has stretched beyond Texas and evolved into a national campaign.

Though the media continually promotes O’Rourke, extensive polling has only put him ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) just once during the entire election cycle. Despite O’Rourke raising an eye-popping $38 million during the last quarter, an all-time record for any Senate race, Cruz’s margins are actually growing.

During this calendar year, 35 polls have been conducted of the Texas Senate race from 19 different polling firms. In only one, an online survey from Ipsos Reuters in early to mid-September (Sept. 6-14; 992 Texas respondents), did Rep. O’Rourke score an advantage over Sen. Cruz. In that poll, the El Paso congressman led 47-45 percent.

While Sen. Cruz held an advantage in the other 34 polls, his margin was typically small. His average support factor is 45.6 percent. He hits 50 percent or more in only 13 of the surveys. Rep. O’Rourke records an average of 41.1 percent and reaches 50 percent in one survey. While these numbers and margins clearly show weakness for an incumbent, as we pointed out when covering Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in similar columns earlier this week, Sen. Cruz is demonstrating growth as the early voting period begins and Election Day draws nearer in contrast to the others who appear to be losing momentum.

In the last 10 polls, covering the Oct. 1-21 period from 10 different pollsters, Sen. Cruz averages 50.2 percent preference and posts majority support in seven of the 10 studies. Rep. O’Rourke averages 45.2 percent, leads in none, and obviously never reaches 50 percent. While Cruz maintains a consistent edge, O’Rourke remains in position if not to score an upset, at least to record the best Democratic statewide percentage since 1990, which was the last time a Democratic candidate won a Texas statewide office.

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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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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Rebounds

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sept. 20, 2018 — A new Quinnipiac University poll (Sept. 11-17; 807 likely Texas voters) finds that Sen. Ted Cruz (R), after languishing in a rather prolonged syndrome where he was only posting small single-digit leads over US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), has opened a much larger advantage in his campaign for re-election.

The latest Q-Poll finds Sen. Cruz now topping Rep. O’Rourke, 54-45 percent, his strongest advantage since two polls (Gravis Marketing and YouGov) put him nine and 10 points ahead in early July.

It remains to be seen whether this Quinnipiac poll proves to be an outlier. Up until this release, seven Texas statewide polls had been conducted since early July, all with a mean average of 3.4 percentage points separating Cruz and O’Rourke, but always in the senator’s favor.

This poll suggests that Texas is one of the most polarized states in the country. Both parties produce almost unanimous support for their individual nominee. Sen. Cruz, by a whopping margin of 94-6 percent, commands Republican support. By the same token, Rep. O’Rourke sees virtually the same split forming behind him among Democrats, 94-4 percent. The Independents are leaning toward O’Rourke, 51-47 percent, but the larger number of Lone Star State Republican voters catapults Cruz into a comfortable lead.

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Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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The Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s first regular primary results are in the books, and the Texas electorate largely performed in its typical fashion last night.

Democrats were citing that their primary turnouts would be much higher this year in anticipation of a more competitive 2018 general election cycle; however, the party turnout was substantially better than in the 2014 midterm election (almost double the participation factor), it was still only two-thirds of their 2016 presidential total.

(To see full-size results graphic below, please click on image; partial results shown.)
325-2018-Texas-Primary-Results-graphicDespite the increase, just 6.8 percent of the state’s more than 15 million registered voters cast a ballot in this year’s Democrat primary. Adding the Republican vote, the primary registered only a 17 percent total turnout, again making the state one of the lowest in terms of party primary participation.

This year, 60 percent of those voting chose to cast a Republican ballot, down from the 71 percent in the last midterm and the 68 percent total from the 2016 presidential race. But, in the 17 Republican congressional districts where both sides fielded contested primaries, in only one CD, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District, did more Democrats vote than Republicans.

As expected, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) easily captured their party nominations for the US Senate campaign. Sen. Cruz recorded an 85.3 percent vote total among Republicans, while 61.8 percent of Democrats chose Rep. O’Rourke. Since both men exceeded the 50 percent plus one vote majority figure, each advances to the general election.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott racked up a 90.4 percent win in the GOP primary, while Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (42.9 percent) and businessman Andrew White (27.4 percent) must now duel in a May 22 run-off election to decide the Democrat nomination.

In the eight open congressional races, three featured outright winners. In retiring Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Plano) north Texas 3rd District, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), as expected, easily captured the Republican nomination (84.7 percent) and he will go onto win the general election. In Rep. O’Rourke’s El Paso-anchored 16th District, the El Paso County Judge (Executive), Veronica Escobar, recorded a 61.4 percent win over five opponents and will easily win the succeeding general election. In Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), also as expected, notched a 63.2 percent win against six Democratic opponents, and she will replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in the 29th CD.

Turning to Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Atascocita) open district, a surprise occurred in the GOP primary. Though she spent over $5 million of her own money, GOP activist Kathaleen Wall failed to qualify for the run-off by a slight 145-vote margin. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) placed first with 33 percent and will face retired Naval officer Dan Crenshaw (27.4 percent) in the May 22 Republican run-off. The winner will have the inside track toward replacing the retiring seven-term incumbent in the general election.

A run-off will occur in retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Dallas) 5th District. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) advances to the run-off against political fundraiser Bunni Pounds. Gooden’s advantage in the primary vote was 29-22 percent over Pounds. Former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional chief of staff Ron Wright came within five percentage points of clinching the Republican nomination in retiring Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis) north Texas’ 6th District. He becomes a heavy favorite to dispatch airline pilot and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Ellzey (21.7 percent) in the run-off election. Wright will likely succeed the retiring 17-term congressman.

In the 18-candidate 21st District Republican primary to succeed veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy placed first (27 percent), and will face frequent candidate Matt McCall (17 percent) in the run-off election. McCall, who has previously challenged Rep. Smith, may have benefited from name confusion since this seat is adjacent to Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Austin) 10th District. Roy now becomes the favorite to win the run-off and the general election to follow the retiring incumbent.

Turning to the Corpus Christi area, former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun (36.1 percent) placed a close first in the Republican primary over former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud (34.9 percent), and the two will battle again in late May. The likely Republican nominee will replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

Looking at the three races that are expected to be competitive in the general election, Rep. Hurd was easily re-nominated (80.3 percent), while the Democrats must go to a run-off. Former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones ran strongly in the Democratic primary (41.3 percent), but must face former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino (17.5 percent) on May 22. The Democrat establishment’s favored candidate, attorney Jay Huling’s (15 percent), failed to qualify. The succeeding general election here will be competitive in what is the state’s lone swing district.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was easily re-nominated with 76.1 percent while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (29.3 percent) and author Laura Moser (24.3 percent) advance to a run-off.

In Dallas, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) won a 79.3 percent re-nomination victory, while ex-NFL player Colin Allred (38.5 percent) and former US Agriculture Department official Lillian Salerno (18.3 percent) will battle in the May 22 Democrat run-off election.

None of the 28 House incumbents seeking re-election were forced into a run-off. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), running for what she says will be her last term, fared the worst but still scored a 63.6 percent re-nomination victory over two opponents.

Primary Season Begins Today

By Jim Ellis

texas-primary-election-2018March 6, 2018 — The 2018 primaries begin today, as Texans will complete their voting process for the first-in-the-nation midterm primary.

The Lone Star State political card features the US Senate race, a full compliment of statewide races, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R) beginning his campaign for re-election, along with voters choosing nominees in the 36 US House seats. The delegation’s eight open seats will attract the most attention. Should candidates not receive majority support, run-off elections between the top two finishers in each party will subsequently be held on May 22.

Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) are expected to easily win their respective nominations. This will officially begin the nation’s first US Senate general election cycle. Rep. O’Rourke will have the benefit of commanding strong financial resources — he had just under $5 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period — because so many national liberal donors are contributing against Sen. Cruz.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary features Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez opposing businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D). Neither have major resources, and the winner draws Gov. Abbott who could top $100 million in spending. The governor is viewed as a safe bet for re-election.

In the 36 House races, 28 incumbents are seeking re-election; 15 of them (a dozen Republicans and three Democrats) have primary opposition, but all are expected to easily win re-nomination.

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Setting the Stage: The Texas Primary

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 23, 2018 — We’re now inside two weeks before the first-in-the-nation regular midterm primary election, as the Texas early voting process is now well underway in preparation for the March 6 regular primary vote.

texas-primary-election-2018Seventy-six candidates are running for major statewide office — races for governor, US senator, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner, and one slot on the state railroad commission. A record total of 304 Democrats, Republicans, Independent and minor party candidates are vying for their respective party nominations in the state’s 36 US House districts.

Texas is a run-off state, meaning if no candidate in the various primaries receives majority support, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on May 22. Since a vast number of races have multiple candidates, including 28 individual candidates alone fighting to succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) in his open central Texas CD, the secondary election calendar promises to also have a large slate of late May voting contests.

Two Democrats off to late starts are vying to face Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and though nine candidates are on the Democratic gubernatorial ballot, there remains some possibility that either Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D), will emerge as the party’s nominee on March 6.

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New Year Senate Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2018 — Now that we are officially in election year 2018, it is a good time to set the stage for the coming campaign season. With Democrat Doug Jones converting the Alabama special election last month, and new Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) standing for a concurrent special election this November, a different picture exists for the coming Senate election campaigns.

THE REPUBLICANS

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Before Alabama, it was a virtual mathematical certainty that the Republicans would retain Senate control after the 2018 vote because the Democrats had too few viable conversion targets. The Jones’ special election victory to permanently replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate in order to accept his Trump Administration position, now gives the Democrats a path to attaining the majority but they still must overcome the GOP’s strong defensive wall.

Only forced to defend eight of the now 34 in-cycle seats, the Republicans are most at risk in Nevada and Arizona.

In the Silver State, first-term Sen. Dean Heller (R) currently defends his statewide position against two known opponents, only one of which is a Democrat.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who has lost campaigns for five different offices (state Senate, Secretary of State, US Senate, Congressional District 4, and Congressional District 3), is nevertheless 4-1 in Republican primaries. Therefore, Sen. Heller’s first task is to secure the GOP nomination in June. Already we have seen erratic polling, with the Tarkanian camp and some national pollsters posting him ahead of Heller, but the senator and other independent research firms countering with the opposite result.

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Rep. Lamar Smith to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio)

Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio)

Nov. 6, 2017 — Veteran Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) rather surprisingly announced late last week that he will not seek a 17th term in the House next year. Smith was first elected in 1986, and has averaged 81.5 percent of the vote during his 16 election campaigns. The lowest win percentage of his long career (57 percent) actually came last November.

Prior to his election to Congress, Smith served for a short time on the Bexar County Commission and in the Texas House of Representatives. In the US House, his current 31 years of service ranks him #14 in seniority. He is in his final term as chairman of the House Science Committee. Previously, he was chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and House Ethics Committee.

Rep. Smith is the second Texas Republican to announce his retirement this week and third overall. Earlier, Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, also a committee chairman (Financial Services), made public his intention to retire. They join Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Plano) who announced his own retirement months ago. On the Democratic side, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) is leaving his safe congressional seat to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

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The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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Could Bannon Cost the GOP?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13 2017 — Several articles have surfaced this week speculating that former presidential advisor Steve Bannon wanting to find and support challengers to Republican Senate incumbents could cost the GOP its majority. It appears individuals making such a claim have forgotten how to count.

Keeping in mind that the Democrats must protect 25 of 33 in-cycle Senate seats, there are simply not enough legitimate targets available for the minority to change their status within the chamber, even though they need a net gain of only three seats. Yes, the Dems are forcing Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) into toss-up situations, but the remaining six GOP incumbents are some of the safest in the Senate. So, even if Bannon or other conservative insurgents recruit opposition to incumbents, the chances of the eventual Republican nominee losing the general election in these particular states are extremely low.

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Bannon: How Much a Factor?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 5, 2017 — Several articles have appeared in the past few days contemplating former presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s perceived political strength, most specifically regarding his actions involving recruiting Republican primary challengers against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) loyalists.

While Bannon appears in good stead vis-à-vis financial backers — with the billionaire Mercer family serving as his monetary base — those running the McConnell-aligned outside political operation downplay just how strong the insurgents might be opposite 2018 Senate GOP incumbents standing for re-election.

Valid points resonate with both sides. Buoyed by Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in last week’s special Republican run-off election, the Bannon forces, who heaped attack ads on the interim incumbent, were naturally taking a great deal of credit for the victory. And, without doubt, anyone thinking of challenging a sitting senator is greatly encouraged after seeing the Alabama outcome.

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The Primary Fallout

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2017 — Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory in Tuesday’s special Senate run-off election has created a media narrative suggesting that statewide GOP primary challenges will soon be sweeping the political scene, but such simply won’t happen.

While Judge Moore’s win may give legs to one adjacent budding Senate primary challenge, the number isn’t going expand due to the 2018 electoral set-up. That is, few Republicans, eight to be exact, are in-cycle for the coming election and the two most vulnerable situations already feature incumbents engaged with primary opponents.

Additionally, the Moore-Sen. Luther Strange contest had unique characteristics that made a primary victory over this particular incumbent more likely, if not probable. Strange, then Alabama’s attorney general, receiving the vacancy appointment in “swamp-like” fashion from a governor trying to avoid impeachment, and using the Senate appointment process to game the system so that he could later choose the person who would continue the legal investigation of himself, cast Strange in a negative light from his very first day in Washington.

Furthermore, the new senator attracted only 32 percent in his first election, meaning that two-thirds of his own party’s Aug. 15 primary voters turned away from him at their first opportunity, was a clear signal that Strange’s appointment was met with widespread dissatisfaction and that the former AG wouldn’t last long in his new job.

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