Monthly Archives: January 2023

McCarthy’s Win Even Closer

By Jim Ellis — Jan. 9, 2023

House

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt)

Speaker: A Dive Into the Numbers — The internal US House voting process that elected California’s Kevin McCarthy as Speaker Friday night on the 15th roll call was arguably even closer than the final 216-212-6 tally suggested. 

The two closest congressional elections, those of Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and John Duarte (R-CA), both would have affected the Speaker race outcome had the pair not won their tight November electoral contests. 

Though Boebert supported other members on the first 13 roll calls, her “present” vote on the last two helped make the difference in McCarthy’s marathon campaign for the Speakership. Rep. Boebert won her western Colorado re-election campaign with only a 546-vote margin. Duarte was victorious with a similar 564 vote spread in central California. Combined, the aggregate 1,110 vote victories ultimately provided what McCarthy needed to finally reach majority support.

In all, 25 November US House races were decided by less than 10,000 votes apiece. Of those, Republicans won 15 and Democrats 10. In 15 of these 25 elections, we saw the winning candidate flip the district from the previous party’s representation to his or her own. 

It is likely that most, if not all, of these 25 closest 2022 contests will become targeted races in the 2024 election cycle. Throughout the long election cycle, we will be paying particular attention to the 10 districts where the electorate voted opposite of the prognosticators’ pre-election calculation.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization, for example, rated all 435 House districts using past election trends, voter registration, and other statistics to formulate a point spread favoring a nominee of one party or the other.

The following 10 members over-performed their party’s projection and won a close contest in a seat that was expected to favor the opposite party’s nominee:

  • Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3; R+11)
  • Rep. David Valadao (R-CA; D+10)
  • Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY; D+10)
  • Rep. John Duarte (R-CA-13; D+7)
  • Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY-17; D+7)
  • Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA; R+4)
  • Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-CO-8; R+3)
  • Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC; R+3)
  • Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR; D+3)
  • Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY; D+2)

Redistricting may very well be back on the table for the 2024 congressional cycle, however. Irrespective of the US Supreme Court deciding the Alabama racial gerrymandering and the North Carolina partisan gerrymandering and legal jurisdiction cases before the end of June, we can expect redraws occurring in certain states.

The legislatures will likely redraw interim court-mandated maps in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio. Based upon a recent federal three-judge court ruling, South Carolina has been ordered to produce a new congressional map by March 31. The impending SCOTUS rulings could force Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, and North Carolina (if not already done so by the time the high court rules) to change their maps.

The redraws would potentially help Republicans in Illinois and North Carolina, and Democrats in Alabama, Louisiana, New York, and South Carolina. The Ohio situation is unclear, at least for now.

With impending map changes coming in the aforementioned states, and possibly several more depending upon just how far-reaching the future SCOTUS decisions prove, we could again see a large number of seats falling into the competitive realm. This, in addition to the aforementioned 25 close likely targets from the previous election cycle. 

Those members are listed in their entirety below:

Nebraska Appointment Coming Soon; A Look at Indiana Campaign Chests; Kennedy Declines to Run;
Chicago Mayoral Race Heats Up

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Jan. 6, 2023

Senate

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse (R)

Nebraska: Appointment Coming Soon — Sen. Ben Sasse (R) has already delivered his farewell speech to the Senate, and scheduled Sunday, Jan. 8 as his official resignation day. He is leaving the Senate to become president of the University of Florida. With Gov. Jim Pillen (R) being sworn into office yesterday, he will soon announce his appointed choice to replace Sen. Sasse.

The odds clearly favor outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) as Pillen’s selection, but such a move is reportedly not being completely well received within Nebraska GOP circles. Charges of an inside deal surround the potential pick since Gov. Ricketts was instrumental in helping Pillen win a crowded Republican primary back in May. Whoever is chosen must stand for election in 2024 to fill the remaining two years of the present term. The seat is next in-cycle in 2026.

Governor

Indiana: Equivalent Resources — 2024 Indiana gubernatorial candidates are already releasing their financial figures in anticipation of the state’s impending disclosure deadline. At this point, the three announced Republican candidates, US. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, and businessman Eric Doden are all indicating they have in the neighborhood of $3 million in their individual campaign accounts. The combined funds comes from contributions, transfers from previous campaign committees, and self-funding loans or donations. Sen. Braun is the clear favorite to win both the Republican primary and general election, but it is also clear that he will have competitive party nomination opponents.

Louisiana: Without Kennedy, Tight Gov Campaign — Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) announced yesterday that he will not enter the 2023 Louisiana governor’s race, thereby creating a wide-open race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) said he will run if Sen. Kennedy does not, and his now released internal poll from last month testing his standing against potential opponents has great relevancy.

The BDPC local Louisiana consulting firm poll conducted in mid-December (Dec. 7-13; 603 likely Louisiana jungle primary voters; live interview) sees Lt. Gov. Nungesser and Democratic Department of Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson tied at 23 percent apiece. Closely following is Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) with 22 percent, which means a virtual three-way tie.

The Louisiana jungle primary is scheduled for later this year, on Oct. 14. If no one receives majority support, which is likely, the top two finishers will advance to a Nov. 18 runoff election.

Cities

Chicago: Mayor Lightfoot Unloads on Rep. Garcia — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), in a fight for her political life as the nine candidates move toward the Feb. 28 Windy City municipal election, has released a major negative attack against who polling shows to be her chief opponent, US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago).

Her new media ad attacks Rep. Garcia as being corrupt for his association with, and receiving financial favors from, indicted crypto currency fund owner Sam Bankman-Fried, along with his relationship with indicted former Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D), and for what she claims is his delivering the deciding vote for a red light camera company contract just hours after receiving a contribution from the manufacturing company. The gloves have already come off in this major mayoral battle, and it is certainly a campaign to watch.

Arizona’s Ducey Not Considering Running; Ex-Gov Daniels Tops GOP Field; Former Incumbent, Challenger to Return to House Races

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023

Senate

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R)

Arizona: Ex-Gov Out; Gubernatorial Candidate Considering — Upon exiting office at the end of his two full terms, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) name continues to be mentioned prominently as a potential US Senate candidate. The now-former governor again confirmed, however, that he is not even considering running for the federal post in 2024. Another potential Senate candidate who is considering making a run is 2022 gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson (R), who lost to former news anchorwoman Kari Lake, 48-43 percent, in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) has not yet announced her re-election intentions but appears to be preparing her Independent run in a three-way race. Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) and Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix) are actively assessing their individual chances in what could become a seriously contested Democratic primary. Again, the Arizona Senate race will be one of the focal points of the 2024 election cycle, but this time will feature a unique procedural contest.

Indiana: Ex-Gov Daniels Tops GOP Field — A Bellwether Research survey (Dec. 11-17; 1,000 registered Indiana Republican voters; 457 likely Republican primary voters; online & text) was fielded just before Christmas and found former governor, and most recently Purdue University President Mitch Daniels leading a prospective open Indiana Republican US Senate primary. If he were to run, Daniels would top Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) 32-10 percent with former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, current US Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), and attorney general and former Congressman Todd Rokita trailing with 9-7-7 percent support levels, respectively.

Sen. Mike Braun (R) is running for governor. None of the aforementioned has officially declared their intention to run for the Senate, but all admit to at least be considering the possibility of launching a campaign.

House

NY-17: Former Incumbent May Return — Democrat Mondaire Jones, who won the 17th Congressional District in 2020 only to depart for a post-redistricting New York City seat in 2022, says he is considering returning to Westchester County to challenge Rep-Elect Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River) in 2024. Jones did not want to oppose then-Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the Democratic primary after the latter man declared his candidacy, so he instead moved to a new Manhattan-Brooklyn 10th District that Rep-Elect Dan Goldman (D-New York City), an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, eventually won.

In the 17th, Lawler, then a state assemblyman, unseated Rep. Maloney with a 51-49 percent general election victory margin. This, in a new district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as D+7. There is no question that NY-17 will be a top target in 2024.

WA-3: Defeated Favorite to Return — Joe Kent, the Republican who denied then-Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler advancement into the general election but then lost in November to Rep-Elect Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Skamania County) in one of the nation’s biggest 2022 upsets, says he will return for a 2024 re-match. Because Kent was widely favored to win the seat but failed to convert, we can expect intense competition in what will be an August Washington jungle primary. FiveThirtyEight rates WA-3 as R+11.

Governor

Indiana: Braun Tops Field — The aforementioned Bellwether Research poll (see Indiana Senate above) projects Sen. Mike Braun to a large lead in the impending open 2024 GOP gubernatorial contest.

Braun holds a 25-9-7-6-3 percent Republican primary advantage over Attorney General Todd Rokita, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, ex-Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, and businessman Eric Doden, respectively. At this point, Crouch and Doden have announced their candidacies, as has Sen. Braun. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

The Logjam

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023

House

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) — potential House Speaker option?

Speaker: Multiple Ballots — For the first time since 1923, the US House of Representatives conducted multiple ballots to elect a new Speaker and have yet to overcome the impasse; this, after three complete 434-member alphabetical roll call votes produced only one representative who changed his vote.

With 20 Republicans voting against the conference nominee, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), and 19 of those over three separate votes, the logjam can only be broken in his favor if 15 of these members change their position and agree to support him later today. 

Since McCarthy’s ability to somehow finding a magic bullet to save his quest for the Speakership seems rather unlikely at this point, speculation is rampant about what may happen. Many believe that incoming Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) may be able to construct a coalition large enough to reach the 218-majority figure. Others feel that he is viewed as too close to McCarthy – being, in effect, a “McCarthy Light” – which might be enough to disqualify him.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) has floated the idea of attempting to build a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to vote for a more centrist Republican. This strategy has worked in some state legislatures, Alaska and Texas being the most prominent, as well as in the New York state Senate for a time. Yesterday, the moderate Ohio House Republicans and Democrats forged a successful coalition to claim the Speakership in that body.

Because personal relationships are stronger in smaller state legislatures and generally more bipartisan, coalition strategies in these bodies have a much better chance of success than they do in Congress. In the current US House situation, with all 212 Democrats holding tight for conference nominee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), peeling off even one such member to join a bipartisan coalition is likely out of reach. 

Jeffries and the Democrats’ best chance is that the McCarthy team attempts an end run around the rules by having some of their votes not be present or by voting “present” in an attempt to lower the number of votes McCarthy would need to secure majority support. 

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House Speaker Vote Today;
Biden’s Approval Rating & A Beginning of the Election Cycle

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023

House

House Republican Speaker nominee Kevin McCarthy (R)

Speaker Vote Today: Likely to Require More than One Ballot — For the first time in a century, it appears the Speaker’s election that will convene the 118th Congress, will require more than one roll call. With Republicans holding only a 222-212 majority with one Democratic seat vacant due to the death of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Republican Speaker nominee Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) does not appear to have the 218 votes that he needs to claim the gavel for the ensuing session.

Five Republican members have publicly said they will vote against McCarthy, and one of them, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) is an announced candidate for the position as he was in the Republican conference vote. The other four are Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bob Good (R-VA), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT).

Another group of nine members signed a public letter questioning McCarthy’s ability to be a successful Speaker while stopping short of saying the signees will vote against him. They are Reps and Reps-Elect Dan Bishop (R-NC), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Eli Crane (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Harris (R-MD), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Andy Ogles (R-TN), Scott Perry (R-PA), and Chip Roy (R-TX). It is these 14 members who will be key on the first roll call. Not voting for McCarthy within this group will certainly send the voting to a second ballot.

The other group to watch, possibly led by Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha), are moderate Republicans who would coalesce with moderate Democrats to attempt to elect a compromise candidate. If the ballot drags on for more than two roll calls, it will be interesting to see which group begins to develop cracks. The membership will vote until one individual reaches the 218-vote threshold and thereby claims the Speakership.

President

Biden Approval: A Benchmark to Begin the Election Cycle — With the new Congress being sworn into office today, we begin the 2024 election cycle. Such being the case, let’s take a look at where President Biden’s job approval rating stands as he likely begins to prepare for a re-election run.

The two most recent survey reports during this holiday period came from Rasmussen Reports and the Morning Consult firm. Both organizations continually track presidential job approval on a daily basis. Rasmussen (sampling conducted through Pulse Opinion Research; Dec. 27-29; 1,500 US registered voters) projects the President to have a 47:51 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Morning Consult, which has been closer to a more consensus ratio among the plethora of typical job approval polling (Dec. 21-27; 45,000 US adults; online) finds Biden’s favorability index at worsened 42:51 percent favorable to unfavorable clip.

Comparing these two polls produces typical results since President Biden has always fared better with registered voter samples than among a respondent pool of adults. Still, it is clear that the president will begin the road to re-election with more people disapproving of his performance in office than those who approve.

Congress Convenes Tomorrow with 93 New Members; Early Reapportionment Projections

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Jan. 2, 2023

Congress

Montana’s Ryan Zinke (R-Whitehall) returns to the House.

New Members: Congress Convenes Tomorrow with 93 New Members — The 118th Congress is sworn into office tomorrow and like all others, this new assemblage is a unique group.

In the House, we see 85 freshmen members coming to Washington, including the dozen who won special elections during the session just ended. Additionally, one former member, Montana’s Ryan Zinke (R-Whitehall) who also served in the Trump Administration as Interior Secretary, returns to the House.

The Senate, exclusively due to retirements along with one appointed member, California Sen. Alex Padilla (D) seeking a full term, will only welcome eight new freshmen since all incumbents seeking re-election were victorious.

Of the 85 new House members, 46 are Republicans while 39 are members of the Democratic Party. Just over one-third of the incoming group will be serving in their first elected position, a total of 31. Conversely, 37 of the House freshmen have previously been elected to their respective state legislatures. The remaining 17 held other elected positions, typically at the local level as county or city officials.

In the Senate, only two of the eight incoming members have never before served in an elective office: Alabama’s Katie Britt (R) and J.D. Vance (R) of Ohio.

States

Reapportionment: Early Projections — Apparently, it is not too early to begin discussing which states may gain and lose representation in the 2030 census. The first concrete projections have been publicized based upon the country’s current growth trends since the 2020 census was completed.

No real surprises were among the first cut, as eight seats are projected to change states. In the 2020 census, only seven seats changed states. The early estimates suggest that Texas will again be the big gainer, with an additional three seats. This would increase the nation’s second largest population state to 41 seats, if the early guesstimates prove accurate. Florida could gain two seats, with Idaho, Utah, and Washington each gaining one seat.

The losing states would again be familiar, as Illinois and New York could be on a path to lose two seats apiece. Pennsylvania would again be slated to lose one. The new losing states would be Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, all possibly losing one of their current districts. None of these projections are firm, and much will happen to change the national and regional growth rates in the coming eight years.