Tag Archives: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The Maine Event

By Jim Ellis

Maine Congressional Districts

May 20, 2020 — The small state of Maine, with its two congressional districts, is going to attract a great deal of political attention between now and the election. Not only is the Pine Tree State one of the firewalls for Republican Senate majority hopes, the domain, one of two places that splits its electoral votes, will likely play a major role in determining the presidential election outcome, as well.

Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes such that the winning statewide candidate earns two electoral votes, while the victor in each congressional district is awarded one EV for as many districts as they carry. Maine, as mentioned, has two districts, and Nebraska three.

These districts came into play both in 2008 and 2016, when Barack Obama carried the 2nd District of Nebraska against John McCain in the former year, and Donald Trump took the 2nd District of Maine opposite Hillary Clinton in 2016. While neither CD became a factor in determining each of those elections, these CDs breaking differently than their state in a tight national election could result in the Electoral College ending in a tie.

The 48 other states and the District of Columbia use the winner-take-all system. Any state could divide their electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska, but those are the only two who choose the split vote method.

In the current presidential election scenarios, whether or not President Trump again carries ME-2 could determine if he is re-elected. Under one scenario, former vice president Joe Biden could win the national race even if he failed to carry Wisconsin so long as he takes the 2nd District of Maine and 2nd District of Nebraska. Doing so, along with winning the other swing states that touch a Great Lake, meaning Michigan and Pennsylvania, he would secure exactly 270 electoral votes, the bare minimum to claim national victory.

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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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Candidate Filings: Eye on
Mississippi and Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Look for a rematch between Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), left, and former congressman, Mike Espy (D)

Jan. 17, 2020 — Two more states closed their candidate filing periods as primary slates in both Mississippi and Kentucky have now been determined.

Mississippi voters will cast ballots on March 10 with a run-off election on March 31 if no candidate receives 50 percent support in a partisan primary.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) stands for election to a full term this year after winning the 2018 special election. While it looked like the senator would receive a Republican primary challenge this year, the battle did not materialize, and she is unopposed as the GOP standard bearer. Josh Randle, the former president of the Miss America Organization, had filed an exploratory committee for a senatorial run, but apparently the research done as part of that process did not yield him a reasonable victory path. Therefore, Randle chose to take a pass on the challenge.

This means we will see a re-match between Sen. Hyde-Smith and former US Agriculture secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). The two battled in the special election, and Hyde-Smith scored a 54-46 percent victory in a race that appeared more competitive than the final result. Espy has two Democratic challengers, but it is doubtful that either can mount a serious offensive against the former federal official and Clinton Administration cabinet member.

All four Mississippi US House members are heavy favorites for re-election. Only Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Saltillo/Tupelo) is unopposed in his primary. Both Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton/Mississippi Delta) and freshman Michael Guest (R-Brandon/ Jackson) have weak primary opponents and each have a safe seat for the general election.

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Sessions Looms Over Alabama Race

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2019 — We’re getting close to the Nov. 8 candidate filing deadline in Alabama for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary, and more speculation is brewing that former senator and US attorney general, Jeff Sessions (R), will decide to enter the crowded GOP primary field in order to re-claim his former position.

Reporting has indicated that Sessions, who originally won the Senate seat in the 1996 election, saw his re-election percentage substantially grow in all of his subsequent campaigns from 58.6 percent in 2002 to 63.4 percent in 2008 to 97.3 percent in 2014 when he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent, is making calls to members of the Alabama House delegation and political leaders around the state to assess his chances. Sessions, of course, relinquished the Senate seat to accept President Trump’s appointment as US attorney general, and then his political trouble began.

To set the current stage, already in the race and running are US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), Secretary of State John Merrill, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore who blew the 2017 special election when it became public that he dated under-age girls while in his 30s. Judge Moore won the special election nomination when he defeated appointed incumbent Luther Strange in the GOP run-off, which led to Doug Jones becoming the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was re-elected to his third and final term in 1990.

The 2020 Yellowhammer State race, however, may well be the most important contest in the nation to decide the next Senate majority. If the Republicans regain what is normally a safe seat for them, their chamber total increases to 54, which means the Democrats would have to sweep the top vulnerable GOP incumbent defense races in Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally vs. Mark Kelly), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner vs. presumably former governor and ex-presidential candidate John Hickenlooper), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis, assuming he wins the GOP nomination, against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham), and win the presidency.

This scenario would bring the 2021 US Senate into a tie but give the Democrats the majority because the new vice president, who also becomes the Senate president, would be a Democrat with the power to break a tie vote.

Most believe the Republicans would be in the political driver’s seat to defeat Sen. Jones should anyone but Moore win the GOP nomination. Alabama will be one of President Trump’s strongest states (62.1 percent in 2016), and the GOP tide should be strong enough to carry the party’s Senate nominee to victory over a Democratic incumbent who has held the party line on most controversial issues and will more than likely support President Trump’s removal from office.

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Some Surprises Top the List
Of Third-Quarter Dollars Raised

Kentucky challenger Amy McGrath (D) is the surprise top Senate fundraiser for Q3.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 22, 2019 — The campaign financial disclosure reports are now published and, as usual, the Daily Kos Elections site has compiled a cumulative activity summary. The list of top fundraisers includes some familiar names, but also features a few newcomers.

The top Senate fundraiser is a surprise, as Kentucky challenger Amy McGrath (D) attracted more than $10.7 million in the quarter, over $7 million of which came in small-dollar unitemized contributions. She is opposing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), which explains why she has attracted such a large amount of national activist money.

As they have for the entire cycle, Arizona candidates Mark Kelly (D) and appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) again posted impressive combined quarter fundraising figures.

Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), raised over $5 million more for the quarter taking his election cycle total to almost $14 million. Sen. McSally is close behind. She pulled in just over $3 million for the quarter and has accumulated approximately $8.3 million since the campaign began. These numbers are more in line with a big state Senate race, making them extraordinary for an Arizona political contest, a state that has only nine congressional districts.

The Senate candidates breaking the $3 million barrier for the quarter are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC; $3.24 million in the 3rd Quarter, $12.9 million for the election cycle), Maine challenger Sara Gideon (D; $3.18 million; $4.2 million), John Cornyn (R-TX; $3.11 million, $13.5 million), and Michigan challenger John James (R; $3.1 million, $4.7 million).

Those banking over $2 million for the past 12 weeks are, Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI; $2.48 million for the 3rd Quarter, $9.2 million for the election cycle), Cory Gardner (R-CO; $2.42 million, $9.1 million), Mitch McConnell (R-KY; $2.24 million, $13.4 million), Jeanne Shaheen (R-NH; $2.23 million, $7.3 million), South Carolina challenger Jamie Harrison ($2.21 million, $4.0 million), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Colorado challenger John Hickenlooper (D) both with $2.12 million, and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D; $2.01 million, $5.7 million). Sen. Collins has raised $8.6 million for the election cycle and Hickenlooper, $2.1 million for a Senate campaign that began in September.

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