Monthly Archives: August 2020

Is Minnesota In Play?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2020 — The state of Minnesota has been the most loyal of Democratic states in the presidential election since 1972, but the latest survey research data suggests that the northern domain is returning to the competitive realm this year.

Four years ago, President Trump fell just 1.5 percent short of winning Minnesota, thus providing a sign that the electorate was beginning a possible transformation. That was partially underscored in 2018 even when the party lost two suburban Minneapolis districts but gained two back in the rural north and south. The latter two congressional seats were the only ones Republicans converted from Democrats in the whole nation, except for a Pennsylvania seat that flipped to the GOP because of a court-imposed redistricting map that substantially changed the boundaries.

The 2020 Minnesota polls have seesawed. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research was the first to release a statewide poll this year and did so just before the George Floyd killing occurred in Minneapolis. The M-D survey was conducted over the May 18-20 period and yielded former vice president Joe Biden a five-point lead, 49-44 percent. The Morning Consult organization was also in the field during that same relative period, May 17-26, and found a similar spread between Biden and President Trump, with the former posting a seven-point edge.

Within this same period, the Floyd controversy began on May 25. During the next two months, a pair of Minnesota polls were conducted, and Biden’s lead soared into double digits. Gravis Marketing executed a single-day poll on June 19 and found Biden’s lead had grown to 16 percentage points. Fox News followed with their survey a month later, July 19-20, and found a similar 13-point Biden advantage.

The situation began to change when Morning Consult again tested the Minnesota electorate over the July 17-26 period and saw the race closing back into the three-point range. This survey was confirmed with the Trafalgar Group’s numbers derived from their July 23-25 poll that found a similar five-point margin developing between the two candidates.

The next two, however, from Public Policy Polling and David Binder Research, both conducted during the July 22-31 time frame, produced 10 and 18 point spreads in Biden’s favor. The Binder poll, however, utilized a sample size of only 200 respondents, far below what would be typically required for a reliable statewide poll for a domain housing eight congressional districts.

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Eight Men Out

By Jim Ellis

Poster for the movie, “Eight Men Out”

Aug. 20, 2020 — The 1988 movie “Eight Men Out” about the 1919 baseball World Series carries a title that also aptly describes the 2020 congressional primary season. At this early point in the voting cycle, already eight US House members have been denied re-nomination, which will oust them from office — a large number when comparing to typical campaign years.

It’s worth noting these results because the incumbent defeats are geographically widespread and not confined to one party. Of the eight, five are Republicans, three are Democrats, and each come from different states.

Looking at the eight campaigns, however, only two reasons largely explain the incumbent losses within the respective intra-party elections: ideology and ethics.

Florida Freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) from his Lakeland-anchored district this past Tuesday is the latest to lose. The others are, chronologically from the beginning: Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Steve King (R-IA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Steve Watkins (R-KS), Lacy Clay (D-MO), and Spano.

In each case, the Democratic losses are ideologically driven. In Illinois, New York, and Missouri, veteran Democrats lost their seats to challengers from the far left, all backed by the Justice Democrats PAC that is loosely associated with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The insurgent campaign strategy in each case was to cast the incumbent as not being sufficiently progressive in addition to more specific attacks.

In Illinois back in March, media consultant Marie Newman returned to again challenge Rep. Lipinski after losing to him 51-49 percent in the 2018 Democratic primary. Rep. Lipinski, an eight-term Chicago suburban congressional veteran whose father held the seat for 22 years before him, had established a moderate record — yet even moving left for the current term couldn’t stop the coming trend. Turnout increased 16 percent when compared to the 2018 primary, and Newman flipped a 49-51 percent loss into a 47-45 percent victory.

Eliot Engel represented the Bronx in Congress for what will be 32 years after serving for 12 years in the New York State Assembly. Aided by Engel campaign mistakes, middle school principal Jamaal Bowman swept to victory with strong assistance from the Justice Democrats. The key themes here were Engel losing touch with his constituents and being out of step with today’s Democratic Party.

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Rep. Spano Loses; Lummis to Return

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 19, 2020 — In the wake of yesterday’s primaries, here’s a quick look and analysis of the three states where voters cast their ballots — Florida, Wyoming and Alaska:


FLORIDA

Freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover), who had been under fire and investigation for accepting improper loans to his 2018 campaign, lost his re-nomination campaign last night to Lakeland City Commissioner, local business owner, and retired Navy pilot Scott Franklin in a 51-49 percent count with over 60,000 votes tabulated.

Spano becomes the eighth House incumbent and fifth Republican to lose re-nomination this year, the highest number we’ve seen during recent times in a non-redistricting election. With Franklin now as the new GOP nominee, it is reasonable to believe that the GOP is actually in stronger position to hold the seat because Franklin won’t have the political baggage that Rep. Spano carried.

For the Democrats, former TV News anchorman Alan Cohn defeated state Rep. Adam Hattersley (D-Riverview), 41-33 percent, to advance into the general election. Franklin becomes the clear favorite in this 53-43 percent Trump district that a congressional Democrat has never won since the Lakeland-anchored seat was first created in a similar configuration for the 1992 election.

Both primary winners here were outspent. Rep. Spano raised $1.06 million as compared to Franklin’s $587,000 according to the latest available campaign finance disclosure reports (through the July 29 pre-primary reporting period). Similarly, Rep. Hattersley out-raised Cohn, $642,000 to $589,000.

Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, the two open seats look to have GOP primary winners, both of whom are now prohibitive favorites to win the general election. In retiring Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Gainesville) 3rd District, his former staff member and ex-campaign manager Kat Cammack scored an upset win with just over 25 percent of the vote in a field of nine other candidates. She defeated former congressional aide and businessman Judson Sapp, and physician James St. George, both of whom substantially outspent Cammack. She now faces apparent Democratic primary winner Adam Christensen.

In the open 19th District, anchored in the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area, two-term Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples/Ft. Myers) is retiring. In what turned into a very close finish, and one that is likely to venture into political overtime as more votes continue to be counted, state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) clings to a small 774-vote lead over state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral).

Closely behind Eagle are Casey Askar, who has invested over $3 million into his campaign, and local physician William Figlesthaler who supplemented his effort with over $2 million from his personal funds. Both outspent Donalds by a better than 2:1 ratio. Once this race is officially determined, the new GOP nominee will be a lock in the November election. College professor Cindy Banyai was an easy winner on the Democratic side, but she is a severe underdog in the general election.

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Florida Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2020 — The largest of the states hosting a primary today, Florida joins Alaska and Wyoming in holding their nominating elections. With no Senate or governor campaign on the Florida ballot this year, we look to the 27 US House districts. Of those, we see action in eight CDs today, with two of them almost assuredly choosing congressional successors in two open Republican districts.


FL-3

In the northern Florida 3rd District, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) is serving his fourth and final term in the House. Back in 2012, he pledged to serve no more than four terms to coincide with the state’s “Eight is Enough” (meaning years in office) term limit law for state legislative candidates.

This race could be a free-for-all finish tonight among the 10 Republican candidates in this 56-40 percent Trump ’16 district, as raised money is relatively evenly distributed among the top four candidates. Dr. James St. George, however, has added $600,000 of his own funds to the race.

The other top candidates appear to be businessman and former congressional staffer Judson Sapp, who has many endorsements from the Florida delegation, former Gainesville City commissioner Todd Chase, and an ex-Yoho House staff member, Kat Cammack. Tonight’s winner virtually punches his or her ticket to the succeeding Congress in January.


FL-19

The other open seat comes in southwest Florida, where two-term Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples/Ft. Myers) is retiring. This is another multi-candidate Republican primary for a seat that is even safer than the aforementioned Yoho district (Trump ’16: 60-37 percent).

This contest has a combination of wealthy self-funders, Marine Corps veteran and businessman Casey Askar who has invested over $3 million into his campaign, and local physician William Figlesthaler who has added $2 million of his own funds. Following are two local officeholders, state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral), and state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples). These four appear to be the top candidates, one of whom will prevail tonight and head to Washington as a member of the new House of Representatives.


FL-15

The other major attraction tonight is in the state’s 15th District, anchored in the city of Lakeland. Here, freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) has been under investigation for accepting improper loans to his 2018 campaign. The controversy was one major reason that Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin (R) joined the race.

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Three States Vote Tomorrow

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2020 — August primary season continues tomorrow with nomination elections occurring in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming. Today, we cover Alaska and Wyoming. Tomorrow, we look at all the races in Florida.


ALASKA

The Alaska primary is not a major event because the general elections are basically set. Here, Independent candidates have the option of coalescing with a major party, which has a major effect upon the state’s politics. This Independent/Democrat situation is likely to occur in the Senate race, as favored candidate Al Gross, an Anchorage surgeon, will run as an Independent but coalesce with the Democrats. Therefore, regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s primary, Dr. Gross is likely to have ballot position in the general election.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) is seeking a second term. Several early polls found a tight race, but the latest survey, from the Alaska Survey Research firm (June 23-July 7; 66 likely Alaska voters), found the senator running ahead of Dr. Gross by 13 percentage points, 53-40 percent. At a commensurate time, Public Policy Polling (July 7-8; 1,081 Alaska voters via automated response device) found a five-point spread, with Sen. Sullivan holding only a 39-34 percent edge.

The latter PPP poll is suspect because Sen. Sullivan, as an incumbent, has an abnormally low ballot test standing, especially when comparing it to the Alaska Survey Research data. Additionally, when asked about President Trump’s job approval, the nation’s chief executive scored a 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Also asked of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), her ratio was a surprisingly poor 29:55 percent. Yet, when asked whether the respondents have a higher opinion of President Trump or Sen. Murkowski, by an inconsistent 48-45 percent, the sampling universe answered Sen. Murkowski.

Sen. Sullivan remains a favorite for re-election, but this race could develop and become of some interest. It is a sleeper race for the Democrats that could come home if a political tsunami forms.

At-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House who was originally elected in a 1973 special election, seeks a 25th term and can expect another competitive race. Should Rep. Young be re-elected he will have served a total of 50 years in the House upon completing the succeeding term. That would still place him almost a decade behind the all-time seniority leader, the late Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who served 59 years.

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