Monthly Archives: December 2018

Senate 2020: The Second Tier – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2018 — Looking ahead to the 2020 US Senate cycle, eight states are clearly in the first tier, but there is budding action occurring in a secondary set of places, also. Today, we look at the first group of prospects.

With Republicans having to defend 22 of the 34 in-cycle seats, six are at the top of their protect list: (in alphabetical order) Arizona special, Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner), Georgia (Sen. David Purdue), Iowa (Sen. Joni Ernst), Maine (Sen. Susan Collins), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis).

Democrats look to be defending two top targets: Alabama (Sen. Doug Jones) and New Hampshire (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen).

But developments are occurring, or could occur, in a series of other states, some of which could become highly competitive under the right circumstances.

• KANSAS: Sen. Pat Roberts (R) faced strong competition six years ago, and whether or not he decides to seek a fifth term is unclear at this point. With Democrats just winning the governor’s campaign here, it is possible there could soon be renewed interest in challenging for what is traditionally a safe Republican seat.

• KENTUCKY: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is on the ballot again in 2020. He won his last two competitive campaigns with 56 and 53 percent of the vote in 2014 and 2008, respectively. Potential candidates likely won’t come forward until the 2019 statewide campaigns, including the governor’s race, are completed.

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Senators’ Approvals vs. Votes

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 13, 2018 — Reviewing documentation from the 2018 US Senate races, it appears there is at least a tangential correlation between an incumbent senator’s pre-campaign approval rating and the vote percentage garnered on Election Day.

(Click on image to go to full story at Morning Consult.)

The Morning Consult public affairs firm routinely surveys senators and governors to produce approval indexes for every member. Their 3rd Quarter 2018 sampling was publicly released on Oct. 10, one month before the election and just at the beginning of prime time campaigning.

Looking at the 32 incumbent senators who were on the ballot in November, the mean average increase from the individual’s approval score to the final vote percentage is 9.6 points when using the Morning Consult favorability index as our constant and the median is nine points.

The senator dropping the furthest from approval to vote percentage, down five points, was Maine Sen. Angus King (I), but the number is a bit deceiving. King scored a 58 percent positive approval rating in mid-October, but only received 53 percent in the election. Because the senator is an Independent and the Democrats with whom he caucuses did file their own candidate, the next closest opponent scored 35 percent. Therefore, his political standing still proved strong.

On the other end of the spectrum, the senator who improved the most from an upside-down favorability index rating to the vote was New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D). While his October index was a poor 31:46 percent favorable to unfavorable, the worst by far among the 32 senators standing for re-election, he was successfully re-elected, 54-43 percent, over retired pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Hugin (R).

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Potential Specials in North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 12, 2018 — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Asheville) being mentioned as a possible successor to outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly means that a special election would be called for western North Carolina if the congressman were to vacate his district. Should this come to pass, the state may be forced to host two congressional special elections but possibly under different rules.

North Carolina Congressional Districts

The 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville along the South Carolina border, is likely headed to a new vote since the state Board of Elections refuses to certify Republican Mark Harris’ 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready due to election irregularities in one county.

Though the two potential elections could reasonably be held under the same schedule, the process parameters surrounding each are likely to be different.

If Rep. Meadows’ district opens, the special election will be run under traditional rules, meaning open partisan primaries and a general election once nominees are chosen. But, not so in the 9th District.

Under North Carolina law, should the Board of Elections declare the original election null and void after their investigation into the alleged irregularities concludes, a new special election would be a rerun of the 2018 general election, meaning the candidates would be Harris, McCready, and Libertarian nominee Jeff Scott.

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The Senate (Presidential) Cash

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 11, 2018 — The Federal Election Commission just released the post-election campaign financial disclosure reports (through the period ending Nov. 26), and the information allows us to draw some interesting conclusions.

The most eye-opening dollar statistic comes from Florida, where Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is reporting more than $3 million remaining in his campaign account after losing the closest statewide race in the country, a 9,763-vote loss (from over 8.19 million ballots cast) for the state’s governor’s seat, won by Rick Scott (R).

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) has twice that amount ($6,781,146) in her campaign account, but it became evident weeks before the election that she was doomed to defeat. Therefore, and considering her state has the population for only one congressional district, it is not as surprising that she would have a major post-election cash balance.

Additionally, we also include the amount of campaign money held in the accounts of those senators who are looking to enter the presidential campaign, or at least publicly not ruling out consideration of such.

Immediately below are the financial statistics for the closest 2018 Senate campaigns. Remembering that the campaigns all have post-election expenses, it is prudent that some money be held back to pay bills that present themselves after the official election cycle ends. We will see that most of these campaigns have kept a reasonable amount of money, though several have kept more than an average amount.

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Presidential Delegate Outlook

By Jim Ellis

What kind of role will super delegates play?

Dec. 10, 2018 — With several Democrats taking definitive steps toward becoming presidential candidates during this week or at least dropping clear hints that they may well take such action, we can begin surveying not only the political playing field, but also what potentially lies ahead in relation to the delegate count situation.

Currently, it appears that 15 Democrats have either announced or made clear moves toward forming a campaign. They are (alphabetically):

  • Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY)
  • Sen. Cory Booker (NJ)
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH)
  • Ex-HUD Secretary Joaquin Castro (TX)
  • Rep. John Delaney (MD)**
  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (CA)
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (CA)
  • Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)
  • Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)
  • Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (VA)
  • St. Sen. Richard Ojeda (WV)**
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA)**
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA)
  • Andrew Yang (ED; Venture for America)**

** Officially announced

The following dozen individuals have not ruled out entering the presidential race:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet (CO)
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Gov. Steve Bullock (MT)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder (NY)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)
  • Gov-Elect Gavin Newsom (CA)
  • Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX)
  • Ex- Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
  • Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer

Adding at least several of those from the secondary list, and some others who could also eventually put their names into consideration, the final entry group could well exceed 20 candidates, and possibly even top 25.

We can already expect to see sustained movement in this new cycle because the nomination calendar is beginning to form, and several states with large delegate pools will be voting much earlier than in the past. This adds a different caveat to the coming presidential election when compared with ones run in the most recent past.

The tentative date for the Iowa Caucus is Feb. 3, 2020, with the New Hampshire primary coming on Feb. 11, followed by the Nevada Caucus on Feb. 22, and the South Carolina primary wrapping up the first group of state events on Feb. 29. Those dates are consistent with past campaign cycles for the “first four.”

But, it’s the next group that is intriguing and could either provide a candidate some unstoppable momentum or send the nomination contest into a deadlock until the convention. Because of Democratic Party rule changes adopted in August and prior years, and overlaying what appears to be the likely voting schedule, the latter scenario becomes quite realistic.

The points in question are the elimination of the Super Delegate votes on the first convention roll call in addition to the party no longer having winner-take-all primaries or caucuses. Therefore, all 57 states, territories, and categories that provide delegate votes to candidates are divided proportionally. With so many candidates, no Super Delegates, and no winner-take-all prizes, it appears a difficult task for any one candidate to secure majority support on the first ballot.

Additionally, with 52 percent of the delegates being apportioned prior to the end of March 2020, jumping out to an early lead becomes a virtual requirement to capturing the nomination. The voting schedule is largely responsible for this factor, too, in part because several of the early states house “favorite son” candidates. And, before the field firmly develops, the favorite son, or daughter, contenders will stand a better chance of capturing a significant number of delegates from their home states.

Tentatively scheduled for a March 3 primary or caucus are Alabama, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

Using the 2016 delegate allocation table, while acknowledging that the 2020 official apportionment has not yet been decided, the aggregate regular delegate total from these states, and not including the Super Delegates who won’t be present on the first ballot, would be 1,021, the largest of which are California (422) and Texas (193). From those nine states, as many as seven candidates derive their political base.

On March 10, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio are potentially scheduled, yielding an aggregate regular delegate total of 330, again based upon the 2016 apportionment. One potential candidate comes from this group of states.

The final early states will vote on March 17. This group contains Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, for a grand total of 388 delegates with no potential candidates, at least at this point in time, hailing from any of these places.

Therefore, a grand total of 1,874 regular delegates according to the 2016 totals, after adding Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to the March states in order to complete the early state grouping, comprises more than half of the 3,560 regular delegate universe.

While the stage could be set for an early culmination to the Democratic nomination process, it is more likely that the process will go into convention without a presumptive nominee clinching majority support on the first ballot. Adding Super Delegate votes on subsequent ballots would then drastically change the entire nomination picture. Therefore, it is already evident that the 2020 Democratic nomination process will feature many different dynamic parts, which we can already see yields a high unpredictability factor.