Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Crystal Ball Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Professor Larry Sabato, University of Virginia

Professor Larry Sabato, University
of Virginia

July 31, 2018 — Last week, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato released his latest “Crystal Ball” ratings of the current US House races and declared that the Democrats are a “soft favorite” to assume the majority in the coming November elections. There’s more to the story, however.

Dr. Sabato supports his claim for several basic reasons. First, he sites the historic trends that a new president’s party loses seats in the first midterm election, and traces this electoral pattern all the way back to the Civil War era. Second, he turns to the typical polling regularly released that places President Trump’s approval ratings in what he terms “the low 40s”, and includes the generic House ratings, along with the “enthusiasm” analysis. Third, is the Democrats’ record in the current cycle’s federal and state special elections, and fourth is their second quarter fundraising “advantage.”

There are counter arguments that need mentioning for each of these points.

It is questionable to compare electoral trends developed during the 1800s to the elections of today because the world has changed so much. Bringing the analysis to at least the 20th Century and looking just at the post-World War II patterns (from President Harry Truman, inclusive, to today), we find that the average seat loss in the House during a new president’s first midterm is 26 seats. But, this average combines the six Democratic presidents losing 32 seats, and the five Republicans’ dropping 15 districts. Just three elections, 1966 (Johnson; -47 seats), 1994 (Clinton; -54), and 2010 (Obama; -63) have substantially upped the overall average.

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Feinstein: More Warning Signals

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 30, 2018 — The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a new survey of the Golden State electorate, and the pollsters uncovered some new information about the double-Democrat US Senate race that voters will decide in November.

According to the PPIC data (July 8-17; 1,711 adult California residents, 1,420 registered California voters, 1,020 likely California voters — questionnaire provided in English and Spanish), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) would lead state senator and former Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), 46-24 percent, a margin that again shows incumbent weakness. In no poll has Feinstein ever reached the majority support plateau of 50 percent or more. Additionally, in the June 5 jungle primary, she received just 44 percent of the vote, but that compares to Mr. de Leon’s 12 percent, and he finished second. In all, 32 candidates were on the Senate jungle primary ballot.

But this PPIC poll found new key information, which provides even worse news for Sen. Feinstein. Though she still must be rated as the favorite, it is becoming clearer that de Leon is developing at least a narrow victory path. A desertion among Republicans could be problematic for Feinstein, and that appears to be happening.

In a two-person race, the PPIC poll finds just 70 percent making a candidate choice. But that does not mean the remainder is fully undecided. Actually, 20 percent are saying they will deliberately skip this race, almost all of which align themselves with the Republicans or are not affiliated with a major party.

The same phenomenon happened in the 2016 general election US Senate race when then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) defeated US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Some theorized that Rep. Sanchez could be a strong candidate because she was more likely to attract Republican votes than the much more liberal Harris. Sanchez is a female Hispanic from southern California and had a textbook profile to, at least on paper, win a statewide race there. But, such didn’t prove true because so many Republicans simply skipped the Senate race even though they were in the polling booth or cast a mail ballot.

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The Remaining Primaries in 2018

the-primariesPrimaries are going to take place on at least a weekly basis beginning in early August with Tennessee’s Aug. 2 Thursday primary, continuing into mid-September.
Here’s a look ahead at the remaining scheduled primary dates finishing out this midterm election runup:


2018 STATE PRIMARY ELECTION DATES

STATE PRIMARY | RUNOFF DATE
Tennessee Aug. 2 (Thursday)
Kansas Aug. 7 (Tuesday)
Michigan Aug. 7
Missouri Aug. 7
Washington Aug. 7
Hawaii Aug. 11 (Saturday)
Connecticut Aug. 14 (Tuesday)
Minnesota Aug. 14
Vermont Aug. 14
Wisconsin Aug. 14
Alaska Aug. 21 (Tuesday)
Wyoming Aug. 21
Arizona Aug. 28 (Tuesday)
Florida Aug. 28
Massachusetts Sept. 4 (Tuesday)
Delaware Sept. 6 (Thursday)
New Hampshire Sept. 11 (Tuesday)
Rhode Island Sept. 12 (Wednesday)
New York Sept. 13 (Thursday)*
Louisiana Nov. 6 (Tuesday) | Dec. 8** (Saturday)

* New York held its primary for federal offices on June 26; its primary for state and local elections is Sept. 13.

** Louisiana holds its primary for all parties on the same day the rest of the country holds the general election. If needed, a runoff is held in December.

Previewing Tennessee Thursday

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

July 26, 2018 — Next Thursday, Volunteer State voters head to the polls in the only place that holds its statewide primary on a day other than a Tuesday or Saturday. The Aug. 2 Tennessee political card features some intense races, including an open US Senate and governor’s race, along with three open-seat House races in addition to one significant incumbent challenge.

Though the Senate race is open and will be hard fought through November, the primary is set for both parties so we won’t see the usual uptick in activity here next week. Former two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen has the Democratic nomination sewn up, as does US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) on the Republican side.

In the open governor’s race, US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) and businessman Randy Boyd appear to be the two front-runners, and the two are zeroing in on each other. Boyd, and fellow candidate Bill Lee, are both being hit over making past contributions to Democratic candidates. Rep. Black, running as the most conservative candidate, is taking flack for her role in an unpopular Congress. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Deen and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), emphasizing his “Tennessee Always” slogan, are the top Democratic candidates. But, the real battle to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R) lies in Thursday’s Republican primary.

Though many names will appear on the ballot in Tennessee’s nine congressional races, only a few candidates are legitimately competitive.

Reps. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg), and Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) all have primary opponents, but none appear particularly strong. In the case of Reps. Fleischmann and DesJarlais, both face an easy primary run for the first time in their congressional careers.

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The Georgia Run-off

By Jim Ellis

Georgia-mapJuly 25, 2018 — Peach State voters went to the polls yesterday, in a place where Republicans will choose a gubernatorial nominee while Democrats pick congressional candidates in Atlanta suburban districts 6 and 7.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp defeated Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination. His landslide victory produced a more dramatic point spread than even the most optimistic poll for Kemp had predicted. In the May 22 Republican statewide primary, Lt. Gov. Cagle placed first in a field of six candidates with 39 percent of the vote. Placing second in the gubernatorial primary was Secretary of State Kemp with 26 percent of the vote. Under Georgia election law, to win a party nomination, a candidate must receive majority support. Because no one in the Republican primary topped 50 percent, the top two finishers advanced to yesterday’s run-off.

Kemp scored a crushing 69.4 – 30.6 percent win over Cagle, even though the latter began the race as the favorite for the nomination and placed first in the primary election. In that electoral contest, Cagle carried 123 of the state’s 159 counties. To best illustrate how far he dropped during the two-month run-off period, Cagle managed to win only two counties last night, Monroe, just north of Macon, and small Stephens County, a northeast Georgia political entity that hugs the South Carolina border.

Pre-election polls suggested that Kemp would win the run-off last night, as the latest publicly released survey research studies found him leading the lieutenant governor in a range between three and 18 points. The latest poll came Monday from the Trafalgar Group (July 21-22; 1,177 likely Georgia Republican run-off voters) and found Kemp topping Cagle 59-41 percent when leaners were included.
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