Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Senate Recap – Part II

By Jim Ellis

US Senate makeup

US Senate makeup

Sept. 24, 2018 — Today we continue our look at the most competitive 17 US Senate contests with our second and final installment. To take a look at our Part I recap, please see our writeup this past Friday at: Senate Recap – Part I.


NEVADA

Sen. Dean Heller (R) is embroiled in an intense re-election battle with freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) as the two compete for a toss-up Senate seat. Heller won here in 2012 by a single percentage point over then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas), but that was in the election when President Obama carried Nevada, 52-46 percent.

Polls go back and forth between the senator and congresswoman, but neither leads beyond the margin of polling error. Since the beginning of September three polls have been released, and the average spread between the contenders is just two points. This is a pure toss-up election and, as a Republican defense seat, one of the most important campaigns in the nation.


NEW JERSEY

The Garden State is often a teaser for Republicans, meaning polls routinely suggest their candidates will fare better than actual results portend. The Senate race between incumbent Bob Menendez (D) and pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin (R) is likely no exception. Though several polls have indicated the race is competitive, it is probable that Sen. Menendez will pull away and score a comfortable win.

Polling has been scarce. The most recent survey was released in mid-August from Quinnipiac University (Aug. 15-20; 908 registered New Jersey voters) and projects the senator to be leading Hugin, 43-37 percent. Obviously, Menendez corruption trial that ended in the case against him falling apart and being dropped has taken a toll on his favorability index, but it is doubtful that even a 29:47 percent positive to negative personal approval rating (aforementioned Q-Poll) would cost him the election.


NORTH DAKOTA

If polling were the only factor in determining race outlook, then North Dakota would be the Republicans’ best conversion opportunity. Though polls have been anything but plentiful, those that have been published find at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) leading incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).

The most recent study came in early September from Fox News (Sept. 8-11; 701 likely North Dakota voters) and finds Rep. Cramer holding a 48-44 percent advantage. This is the first survey release since the beginning of July.

The North Dakota race is a strong Republican conversion opportunity, but though Cramer appears to have a discernible edge right now, this contest is far from over.


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Primary Results:
Pawlenty Falls; Wisconsin Set

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2018 — Forty states have now chosen their nominees for the fall, as voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin made their choices known yesterday.


MINNESOTA

The big story was former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty failing in his bid to return to the Governor’s mansion. Pawlenty, who served from 2003-2011 and won two tough general elections, lost last night to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee and this election’s endorsed Republican Party candidate. Johnson recorded a 53-44 percent primary victory.

For the Democrats, US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who scored the barest of re-election victories in 2016, won a highly competitive party primary last night with a 42-32-24 percent win over state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), the party-endorsed candidate, and Attorney General Lori Swanson who was originally running for re-election but switched races when she failed to win the party endorsement at the state convention. Rep. Walz performed strongly in his southern Minnesota base, carrying every county from the Iowa border through the central part of the state while splitting the Twin Cities area. Though Rep. Murphy won a convincing victory at the party convention, she was never able to convert her momentum into a winning coalition among voters.

In the two Senate races, two-term Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar was easily re-nominated for the fall as was appointed Sen. Tina Smith. Sen. Klobuchar is a lock in the general election, while Sen. Smith will face a competitive challenge from state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Croix River Valley), who scored a clear Republican primary victory.

In the competitive House races, Republican Jim Hagedorn, who came within less than one percentage point of upsetting Rep. Walz in 2016, again won the party nomination, this time over state Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) who had support from some conservative organizations. Hagedorn will face the Democratic winner, former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, in what should be a hotly contested general election campaign.

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Four More Primaries Today

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 14, 2018 — Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin will choose their nominees today. Minnesota and Wisconsin, in particular, feature some key contests.


MINNESOTA

Most of today’s action will occur in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, as a major open race for governor will see party finalists determined in both political camps. Republicans feature former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner who is the officially endorsed party candidate.

Democrats have a three-way battle among state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), the official party endorsed candidate, Attorney General Lori Swanson, and US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato). Though Murphy is the sanctioned candidate, she appears to be trailing both Swanson and Walz. The winners will set up a highly competitive general election that will probably be considered a toss-up campaign all the way to Election Day.

Both US senators are on the ballot. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) is a lock for re-election, while appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) is finding a competitive battle coming from state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Croix River Valley), but these scenarios are dependent upon all of the aforementioned easily winning their respective nominations tonight.

The state could yield as many as four competitive campaigns from their eight congressional districts, but today the real nomination battles are in Districts 1, 5, and 8.

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Gauging the Enthusiasm Gap

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJuly 13, 2018 — Much has been written over the past few elections cycles about voting enthusiasm and whether it is a predictive political factor. It has been seemingly apparent that the party members most interested in participating in an election, most particularly for a midterm or special election vote, generally see its candidates enjoy the greater success.

Yesterday, we looked at the extensive just-released Survey Monkey-Axios Media data that covered 13 US Senate races. The combined number of states also hosts a minimum of 15 competitive US House races. To re-cap, while the Survey Monkey analysts posted results under various turnout models in each of the tested states, it generally became clear about which candidate has the current advantage from the Senate contests in question.

Democrats were performing well in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, where incumbents in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia all held substantial leads over their Republican opponents.

The GOP held the upper hand in Indiana and North Dakota challenge races. In the South, Republican Gov. Rick Scott looks to be topping Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has opened a substantial lead over Tennessee former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Turning to the West, Democrats are moving ahead in both Arizona and Nevada and securely lead in Montana.

The Missouri contest between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) stretches from a five-point Democratic lead all the way to a five-point Republican advantage depending upon the turnout model.

The Survey Monkey pollsters tested voter enthusiasm in all 13 states. They asked the following question:

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US Senate: 13 Telling Polls

By Jim Ellis

capitolJuly 12, 2018 — The Survey Monkey organization polling for the Axios Media news and information website went into the field during the June 11 – July 2 period to test US Senate campaigns in 13 different states. All of the most competitive races were studied, including the 10 Trump states where a Democratic senator is standing for re-election this year.

The cumulative result actually brings some good news to both parties, but Republicans fare better because the representative predictive models suggest the GOP is in position for a net gain of at least one seat even while falling behind in their two key defense states of Arizona and Nevada.

Though the survey sampling period is long, the three-week time frame is the period consumed to survey all 13 states. Survey Monkey begins with a regular sampling universe of 3,000,000 individuals who have agreed to participate in their polls. For this project, 12,677 registered voters participated from a high of 1,280 in Arizona to a low of 457 from North Dakota. The sample size in the largest state tested, Florida, was 1,080. All of the surveys were weighted to reflect the demographic and political trend history for each state. The polling error factor for each place ranged between 4.5 and 5.5 for all states but North Dakota. In the latter, the error factor was 7.5.

There are several bright spots for both parties. Democrats fare better on the question of voter enthusiasm, which is consistent with data results recorded in virtually every poll conducted over the past year. Regarding intent to vote across the board in these Survey Monkey polls, however, both parties record about equal numbers. Overall, President Trump’s job approval scores have greatly improved. Looking at the combined 13-state universe, the president scored a 50:49 percent job approval ratio, going from a high of 60:39 percent in Tennessee to a low of 44:55 percent in Pennsylvania. But, even his lowest rating is an improvement from where he stood earlier in the election cycle.

According to the SM numbers, Democrats are in position to convert both the Arizona and Nevada races. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) leads all three individuals competing in the Republican primary. Her strongest opponent, unsurprisingly, is US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson). In the various modeling scenarios, Sinema posts leads of between one and six percentage points over Rep. McSally and far greater margins over the other two GOP candidates.

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Wisconsin Gerrymandering Ruling;
Greitens Still Lingering

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

June 20, 2018 — The United States Supreme Court issued their long-awaited ruling on the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case on Monday, and it basically sends the parties back to the drawing board. At one time it was thought that Wisconsin was the vehicle for the high court to issue a definitive ruling regarding political gerrymandering, which continues to be the subject of many live redistricting lawsuits. Instead, on a rare 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the necessary standing to bring the action.

The plaintiffs came from four Wisconsin Assembly districts who claimed they were personally harmed by the state legislative boundaries the legislature and governor adopted back in 2011. The court ruled that such plaintiffs did not have adequate standing to bring a statewide lawsuit.

The court did issue some orders, however, that will make later political gerrymandering suits more difficult to bring because certain technical standards must now be met in future action. As part of the plaintiffs’ standing ruling, the justices vacated the lower court ruling that ordered the state assembly districts re-drawn. It is now likely that political boundaries around the country are finally set for the 2018 election.

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Ryan’s Departure: Ramifications

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.

In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.

Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.

Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.

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“R’s” Up in Dubious Senate Polls

By Jim Ellis

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgMarch 12, 2018 — One of the keys to deciding the 2018 Senate election cycle is seeing how the 10 Democrat senators forced to defend states that President Trump carried will fare. A series of new Axios/Survey Monkey polls in these aforementioned places produces good news for Republicans, but the data appears flawed.

According to the methodology, 17,289 registered voters participated in the surveys within the 10 states between Feb. 12 and March 5. Obviously, the sampling period is too long, unless the polls were conducted successively, but there is no indication of such. The voluntary online response system also brings the polling reliability factor into question.

That being said, even suspect studies are valuable to analyze because more opportunities are provided to detect flows and trends within the various sampling sectors.

The results of the 10 polls are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):
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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 18, 2018 — We continue with our two-part series reviewing the announced candidate status in each state. Yesterday, Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced that he would not enter the special election against appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D). Therefore, the second Minnesota seat will be re-stated:

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Karin Housley (R) – State Senator; Attorney
• Tom Emmer (R) – US Representative; 6th District; 2010 Governor nominee – possible candidate
• Michele Bachmann (R) – Former congresswoman; former presidential candidate – possible candidate

New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 2, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Bob Hugin (R) – Pharmaceutical company CEO – possible candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
2 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

New Mexico: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 6, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commissioner

New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Process Ends: April 19, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 9, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Tom Campbell (R) – State Senator; agri-business owner
• Rick Berg (R) – Former at-large US Representative
• Gary Emineth (R) – Former ND Republican Party chairman

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 7, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
Michael Gibbons (R) – Venture capitalist
• Jim Renacci (R) – US Representative; 16th District
• Jim Tressel (R) – Youngstown State U President; former football coach, Ohio State University – possible candidate
• J.D. Vance (R) – Venture capitalist; author – possible candidate

Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 6, 2018
State Primary: May 15, 2018
• Paul Addis (R) – Energy company executive
• Cynthia Ayers (R) – Former National Security Agency staff member
• Lou Barletta (R) – US Representative; 11th District
• Jim Christiana (R) – State Representative
3 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 27, 2018
State Primary: Sept. 12, 2018
• Bob Flanders (R) – Former state Supreme Court justice
• Bobby Nardolillo (R) – State representative
1 Independent candidate

Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 2, 2018
• Marsha Blackburn (R) – US Representative; 7th District
• Stephen Fincher (R) – Former US Representative; 8th District
• Phil Bredesen (D) – Former governor; former Nashville mayor
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Minor Democratic candidate

Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Completed December 11, 2018
State Primary: March 6, 2018
Run-off Election: May 22, 2018
• Beto O’Rourke (D) – US Representative; 16th District
• Bruce Jacobson (R) – Evangelical Cable TV executive
2 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Libertarian candidates

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 15, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
• Dan McCay (R) – State representative – possible candidate
• Evan McMullin (R) – Former Independent presidential candidate – possible candidate
• Mitt Romney (R) – Former GOP presidential nominee; ex-MA governor – possible candidate
• Chris Stewart (R) – US Representative; 2nd District – possible candidate
• Jenny Wilson (D) – Salt Lake County councilwoman
1 Minor Republican candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate

Virginia: Sen. Tim Kaine (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 29, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Nick Freitas (D) – State Delegate
• E.W. Jackson Sr. (R) – Minister; former lieutenant governor nominee
• Corey Stewart (R) – Pince William Co Bd Chairman; 2017 Governor candidate
• Jim Gilmore (R) – Former governor; ex-Senate & presidential candidate – possible candidate
1 Minor Republican candidate

Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 31, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
1 Minor Democratic Candidate
1 Independent Candidate

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 18, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 7, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidate
1 Libertarian candidate
3 Independent candidates

West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Jan. 27, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
• Don Blankenship (R) – Former coal company CEO; convicted felon
• Evan Jenkins (R) – US Representative; 3rd District
• Patrick Morrisey (R) – Attorney General
• Paula Jean Swearingen (D) – Environmental activist
6 Minor Republican candidates
2 Minor Democratic candidates

Wisconsin: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Kevin Nicholson (R) – Businessman
• Leah Vukmir (R) – State Senator
• Eric Hovde (R) – Venture capitalist; 2012 Senate candidate – possible candidate
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Constitution Party candidate
1 Veterans Party candidate
1 Independent candidate

Wyoming: Sen. John Barrasso (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 21, 2018
• Gary Trauner (D) – Former Teton County School Board Chair; ex-congressional nominee (2006; ’08)
• Foster Freiss (R) – Mutual Fund founder; GOP donor – possible candidate
• Erik Prince (R) – Security firm founder – possible candidate


Major Sources:
• Politics1.com political blog
• Ballotpedia.com website
• State Elections offices

Texas Redistricting Recap

texas-congressional-districts-27-35By Jim Ellis

Jan. 16, 2018 — Late last week, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the Texas Republicans’ appeal of a San Antonio three-judge panel’s ruling that declared two of the state’s districts: TX-27 (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) and TX-35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin) unconstitutional for racial gerrymandering reasons.

Though we have now entered the decade’s fourth election cycle, we see four separate gerrymandering cases from the 2011 redistricting cycle still before the nation’s high court. It’s possible the top judicial panel has agreed to hear these cases, two brought by Republicans and two by Democrats, in order to make clear redistricting statements before the 2020 census sends us into the next full national redistricting cycle, a 50-state procedure that will consume most of 2021.

The major lawsuit that the court has already heard but has not yet announced a ruling, is the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case. There, Democrats claimed majority Republicans discriminated against them when the lines were drawn for partisan political reasons. The Supreme Court has never before ruled that political gerrymandering is unconstitutional. It is unknown exactly when the court’s ruling will be announced, but it is a virtual certainty that the release date will come before the current term ends at the end of June.

For the second time in two consecutive election cycles, the North Carolina lines have been invalidated. The congressional boundaries were re-drawn before the 2016 election for racial gerrymandering reasons. Now, the Democrats are returning with their political gerrymandering case. In the last re-draw, the state’s 10R-3D congressional delegation partisan ratio remained in tact.

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Arizona Senate Activity;
North Carolina Map … Again

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2018 — Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a political move regarding the open Senate race on Tuesday, just as Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) was scheduling a series of statewide “events” for Friday.

The controversial ex-sheriff, who President Trump pardoned earlier in the year just before his sentencing for a contempt of court conviction, announced his candidacy for Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) open seat. Many, however, including Sen. Flake himself, do not believe that Arpaio will follow through with his candidacy. The former sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in 2016, has frequently said he was going to launch a statewide campaign but ultimately backed away from doing so. As an aside, should Arpaio be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman senator in American history.

Rep. McSally’s Friday appearances are reported to be a Senate announcement tour. Since Sen. Flake announced his retirement, it has been expected that McSally would become a Senate candidate.

Ironically, should Arpaio run, the big beneficiary might actually be McSally. With ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in position to attract the more conservative Arizona primary voter, Sheriff Arpaio’s presence, complete with his virtually universal name identification and well-known border protection positions, would clearly split the former legislator’s political base. In a state with no secondary run-off election system, this would likely allow McSally the opportunity of winning the nomination without having to secure a majority vote.

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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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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