By Jim Ellis
Dec. 21, 2019 — Winding down 2018 allows us an opportunity to complete the coming Senate political picture.
As previously covered, the states comprising the early top tier competitive campaigns already include Alabama (Sen. Doug Jones), Arizona special (Senator-Designate Martha McSally), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner), Georgia (Sen. David Perdue), Iowa (Sen. Joni Ernst), Maine (Sen. Susan Collins), Mississippi (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis).
Races that could develop or where the incumbent at least has a potential opponent being mentioned are: Kansas (Sen. Pat Roberts), Kentucky (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), Minnesota (Sen. Tina Smith), New Hampshire (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen), Tennessee (Open: Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring), and Texas (Sen. John Cornyn).
Primary challenges are being speculated upon in Massachusetts (Sen. Ed Markey) and South Carolina (Sen. Lindsey Graham).
Minor candidates are surfacing in Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton), Nebraska (Sen. Ben Sasse), and New Jersey (Sen. Cory Booker), but none are expected to develop into major challenges.
So far, the incumbents from the remaining states do not even have potential opponents being cited at this early point in time:
L-R — Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson)
Dec. 20, 2018 — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) defeated Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) for the open Arizona seat by 55,900 votes in November, but ironically now both are headed to Washington as new members of the US Senate.
Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced that he is appointing Rep. McSally to fill the Senate vacancy after interim Sen. Jon Kyl (R) resigns on Dec. 31. McSally will then serve the next two years of the current term and looks to stand for a special election that will run concurrently with the regular 2020 election cycle. Whoever wins that election will then have the opportunity of running for a full six-year term in 2022 as the elected incumbent.
The late Sen. John McCain (R) won for the sixth time in 2016, meaning four full years remain before this seat next comes in-cycle.
The reaction to McSally’s appointment was predictably partisan. Republicans were generating positive comments mostly about her strong record of military service while Democrats responded that Arizona voters already rejected the Tucson House member, and saying they will beat her again in 2020.
While true that senator-elect Sinema did win the election just past, the battle was hard fought, and the victory spread ended close, 50-48 percent. McSally led through most of the counting and the final result was determined days after the last vote was cast. Therefore, suggesting that the state’s voters overwhelmingly rejected McSally is quite a stretch.
Dec. 19, 2018 — Last week, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) campaign released an internal survey that tested the three-term incumbent’s favorability ratings, which showed excellent results. Accompanying the release was the senator’s promise to announce his 2020 re-election decision before the end of the year.
He kept the announcement promise, but his decision, which he announced Monday, proved surprising. Spending the money to conduct a poll and releasing the strong results is usually a prelude to announcing for re-election, but not in this case; Sen. Alexander made public his decision to retire in 2020.
Tennessee voters will now elect another new senator for the second time in a two-year cycle. Sen. Bob Corker’s (R) retirement this year opened the door for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) to win the open 2018 campaign, but now potential Senate candidates will immediately get another chance.
Tennessee’s vote history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will begin the 2020 general election cycle in the favorite’s position. This year, Democrats fielded arguably their best possible candidate, former two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen, who left office with very favorable ratings and a strong record. But, even after matching Blackburn in spending, the former governor fell 55-44 percent in the general election. The result will likely dampen Democratic prospects for 2020.
Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden
Dec. 18, 2018 — A pair of Democratic presidential primary polls were just released — one with a national respondent universe, and the other for the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus. In both, former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden is staked to a lead. The most disappointing performer appears to be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who settles into middle-of-the-pack status in both surveys.
CNN conducted the national poll (conducted by the SSRS firm; Dec. 6-9; 463 Democrats and independent-leaning Democrats). For two reasons, this survey is of little statistical relevance. First, the national sample of only 463 individuals is very low, thus leading to a huge error factor. Second, as we know, the presidential nomination process is decided by winning delegate support in every state and territory, thus monitoring a candidate’s national standing, while being of media interest, actually provides little in the way of tangible political value.
The Des Moines Register/CNN Mediacom Iowa poll (conducted by Selzer & Company; Dec. 10-13; 455 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) is the more relevant of the two studies since it previews the Iowa Caucus, which is responsible for apportioning the state’s nominating delegates and tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020.
In the national poll, Biden places first with 30 percent preference followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) who posts 14 percent. These are the only two potential candidates in double figures.
The eight top-tier competitive states of Alabama (Sen. Doug Jones), Arizona (special election), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner), Georgia (Sen. David Purdue), Iowa (Sen. Joni Ernst), Maine (Sen. Susan Collins), New Hampshire (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis) will be discussed repeatedly throughout the coming election cycle.
Yesterday’s column, however, looked at Kansas (Sen. Pat Roberts), Kentucky (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), Minnesota (Sen. Tina Smith), Mississippi (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith), and Montana (Sen. Steve Daines). Today, we cover the latest news in Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
• OREGON: Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D) seat comes before the voters in 2020, but the two-term incumbent may have other plans. Sen. Merkley confirms that he is considering entering the presidential campaign and is in the process of attempting to convince legislators to change state law to allow him to simultaneously run for president and the US Senate. Continue reading →