Tag Archives: Sen. Tina Smith

Supreme Politics

By Jim Ellis

July 11, 2018 — President Donald Trump’s choice of US Circuit Judge of the DC Court of Appeals Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely fundamentally change the 2018 Senate election cycle.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the White House, where President Trump nominated him to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks at the White House, where President Trump announced Monday that Kavanaugh would be his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) already publicly indicating that he is planning to keep the Senate working through August, the Supreme Court confirmation process now guarantees such will happen. With majority Republicans having leverage over the confirmation hearings and vote schedule, we can expect a great deal of politics will be accompanying the legal rhetoric that awaits us during the remaining summer months.

The Senate political map helps Judge Kavanaugh in his confirmation battle. Both sides will mount crushing pressure on those members perceived as swing votes, and the eventual targets will be backed into such a position where it will be impossible to avoid political damage once their eventual vote is cast. The three Democrats who supported Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch when he was confirmed on April 7, 2017 are:

  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The three will naturally be the top targets for this confirmation battle, and there is a strong chance that each will also vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Already trapped in tough re-election battles, these senators will be hard-pressed by both sides pushing them to vote for or against Kavanaugh; but considering their respective states voted for President Trump in margins of 19 (IN), 36 (ND), and 43 (WV) percentage points suggests the density of pressure to support the nominee will overwhelm the opposition.

After last night’s announcement, Sen. Manchin issued a statement saying he is particularly interested about Judge Kavanaugh’s position on healthcare issues, especially those affecting people with pre-existing conditions as they relate to healthcare insurance coverage. Sen. Manchin says over 800,000 people in his state of West Virginia fall into this category.

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Pawlenty Returns as Minnesota
Gubernatorial Candidate

By Jim Ellis

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

April 9, 2018 — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who briefly became a presidential candidate in 2012, ventured back into the active campaign world late last week. Though routinely indicating that he had “retired” from elective politics after serving eight years as the state’s governor and then dipping his toe into the presidential campaign waters, Pawlenty is now again an active political candidate.

The Minnesota gubernatorial race is an open contest. Though the state does not impose term limits on its governor, Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton has chosen to retire after eight years in office. Prior to winning the governor’s office, Dayton served one term in the United States Senate.

But Pawlenty’s run will not be an easy one. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R), who held Gov. Dayton to a 50-45 percent re-election victory in 2014, pledged to continue his own campaign saying that, “Pawlenty has never gotten over 46 percent of the vote in a statewide election, even after four years of being governor, and that was before a controversial second term, before he made $10 million as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, and he publicly trashed Donald Trump a month before Election Day.”

Minnesota politics features a major state endorsing convention in June before the August primary. Most of the time, candidates who do not receive enough delegate support to win an official state party endorsement usually end their campaigns and support the one who did secure the backing. Such unity may not appear in this Republican battle, however. It is unclear if Pawlenty will even enter the convention because precinct caucuses to choose state delegates have been underway since February and Johnson has fared well in early straw polls. Should Pawlenty force a primary, which appears to be his ultimate choice, it is clear that there will be an ensuing battle between he and Commissioner Johnson for the nomination.

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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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Minnesota Becoming a Battleground

minnesota-congressional-districtsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2018 — A new political poll is providing more evidence that Minnesota is very much in play for the coming election. Analysts were surprised in 2016 when President Trump came within one percentage point of topping Hillary Clinton in the state, but that pattern seems to be holding, at least according to this latest data.

The last time Minnesota voted Republican in a presidential race was to re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972, thus making this state the most consistently Democratic domain in terms of presidential election victories. Since the days when Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy represented Minnesota in the Senate, Republicans have only elected four senators during that stretch of 70 years. Their record of electing governors is a bit better, with seven individuals becoming the state chief executive during the same seven-decade time span.

Building upon President Trump’s strong showing and two Democratic House members, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), winning re-election with 50.3 and 50.2 percent, respectively, the new Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll (released Jan. 17; 800 registered Minnesota voters) suggests that we could again see similarly close results later this year.

While five different pollsters have released national generic vote congressional data since the first of the year giving Democrats an advantage from five to 17 points, the Star Tribune is producing much different numbers for the Minnesota electorate. (Quinnipiac University appears to be the outlier here with polls showing Dem advantages of 11 and 17 points, the only pollster to see a double-digit margin; they were thought to be the outlier in the Virginia governor’s race, too, but ended up being closest to the final result.)

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New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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