Author Archives: Jim Ellis

With Ryan, the Battle Lines are Drawn

Rep. Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney’s selection of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) as his vice-presidential nominee has drawn clear battle lines for the remainder of the presidential election campaign. With Ryan being best known for the “Ryan Budget” that passed the House last year and his attempts to restructure the federal budget platform, including entitlement programs, both sides will now focus on the country’s long-term economic direction and try to accuse the other of “destroying Medicare.” President Obama and the Democrats will continue their claim that the Ryan Budget ends Medicare “as we know it.” Republicans will counter that Obama and his congressional allies, by introducing and passing the Affordable Healthcare Act, voted to cut over $500 billion in the Medicare program. One thing is now certain: the voters will have a clear ideological choice to make in November.

Questions have arisen as to what now happens to Ryan’s congressional seat, since he is on the ballot today for renomination. Since Wisconsin law is silent on the subject of running nationally and simultaneously for Congress, and because there is no mechanism for removing a person from the Badger State ballot once they are nominated, Ryan’s name will appear for both the vice presidency and the 1st Congressional District. Should he win both elections, then the 1st CD would go to special election in early 2013 upon the congressman’s official resignation from the House.

Four More States Vote Tomorrow

Voters head to the polls on Tuesday in four states with each featuring some close primary elections.

Connecticut voters will determine nominees for their open Senate seat (Sen. Joe Lieberman retiring). On the Republican side, 2010 Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon looks to top her opponent, former representative Chris Shays (R-CT-4). The Democrats feature Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) who is favored over his intra-party opponent, former secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz. The Democrat nominee becomes the decided general election favorite on Wednesday morning.

In the Connecticut congressional races, Murphy’s open 5th District features a tough battle among Democrats as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan has been bloodied by all sides in this campaign but is still rated as the favorite. He battles PR executive Dan Roberti and former state representative Elizabeth Esty. For Republicans, 2010 lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and moderate state Sen. Andrew Roraback appear to be the top contenders. The Democratic nominee will have the inside track in November.

• Turning to the Sunshine State of Florida, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is the prohibitive favorite to secure the GOP Senatorial nomination and oppose two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the fall.

Redistricting has changed the shape of many races across the state, and several competitive races will be decided tomorrow. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) is trying to repel a challenge for the new 3rd District, of which he currently represents only 66 percent of the new territory. Opponents include state Sen. Steve Oelrich, veterinarian Ted Yoho, and Clay County Clerk of Court James Jett. Because of his overwhelming financial advantage, Stearns is favored. The new FL-6, which contains 72 percent of Rep. John Mica’s (R-FL-7) current constituency, is currently open and features a competitive Republican primary. The stronger candidates include state Rep. Fred Costello, attorney Ron DeSantis, chain restaurant former CEO Craig Miller, and Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark.

In the Orlando area’s 7th District, another incumbent pairing is occurring, this time between Mica and freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL-24). Though Adams represents a bit more of the new district (51 percent of the constituency to 42 percent for Mica), the veteran congressman and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman is likely to prevail. In the new 9th District, Republicans are fielding four candidates but most of the hype centers around Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones, who is expected to give former representative Alan Grayson (D-FL-8) a strong challenge in November despite this being a Democratic district.

Another open and safely Republican Ft. Myers area seat yields a formidable list of Republican candidates, including state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, Chauncey Goss, son of ex-representative and CIA Director Porter Goss, state Rep. Paige Kreegal, and conservative radio talk show host Trey Radel. Tomorrow’s winner will become the new 19th District congressman. Finally, in District 26, the “lean Republican” seat of freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-FL-25), several Democrats are competing for what could become a valuable nomination. The two strongest candidates are businesswoman Gloria Romero Roses and former two-time congressional nominee Joe Garcia.

• The most interesting Minnesota race comes in freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack’s (R) 8th District. The strongly Democratic nature of the seat makes this a highly competitive race in the fall, and is currently considered as a “toss-up.” Cravaack is challenged to his left by three viable candidates, including former 6th District nominee Tarryl Clark, former US representative Rick Nolan, and Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson. Clark is the best funded candidate but lacks any local Iron Range ties as her previous congressional attempt was against Rep. Michele Bachmann in a Twin Cities suburban district. Nolan, who left Congress in 1980, enjoys local Democratic establishment support but hasn’t run for public office in 34 years.

Wisconsin is a state that has gotten plenty of attention during the past few days because of Rep. Paul Ryan’s, (R-WI-1) selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee. The Badger State features a highly competitive Republican Senate primary to be decided tomorrow in plurality fashion, featuring former four-term governor Tommy Thompson. A “toss-up” general election will begin for the winner on Wednesday morning against Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), the consensus Democratic candidate.

Top Wisconsin congressional races occur in the 2nd District and the northern 7th and 8th CDs. Rep. Baldwin vacating her seat leaves the Democratic primary to decide her successor. The battle is between two state representatives, Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys. Freshmen Rep. Sean Duffy (R), defending his marginal WI-7 seat, will be challenged by former state senator Pat Kreitlow (D). The contest favors the Republican by only a slim margin. Freshman Rep. Reid Ribble defends his WI-8 seat against business consultant Jamie Wall. Voting history makes the new incumbent a decided favorite. Keep an eye on these two races as the general election draws closer.

Hawaii Primary Results

Mazie Hirono

Hawaii voters went to the polls on Saturday and selected federal nominees. Throughout the entire election cycle, polling had been erratic, to say the least. Each candidate would release polls favoring them, even up until the eve of the primary election. It appears the pollsters for Senatorial candidate and US Representative Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) and Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard, in the open 2nd District, possessed the better polling data.

Hirono won a 58-41 percent landslide victory over former representative Ed Case (D-HI-2) and wins the right to face former Republican governor Linda Lingle in the general election. The two battled each other in the 2002 governor’s race, a contest Lingle won. President Obama’s presence on the Democratic ticket, in the sense that he will likely poll in the 70 percentile here as he did last election, will be a boon to Hirono.

In the seat Hirono is vacating to run statewide, Gabbard defeated former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (D), in what turned into a nasty campaign and could signify a changing of the guard in Hawaii politics. The old-school Hannemann was originally viewed to be the favorite but lost big to Gabbard, 55-34 percent. Gabbard will easily win the general election.

The 1st District will feature a re-match between Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) and former representative Charles Djou (R). Hanabusa is likely to win re-election.

Can a Weak McCaskill Hold Onto Missouri?

The Missouri Senate race is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in the country. With the Senate majority hanging in the balance, all of the closest election competitors in the 14 states where campaign action is most furious can legitimately lay claim to the argument that their own campaign can determine which party controls the body in the next Congress. The Show Me State of Missouri is certainly in this category, as first-term incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, who may be the weakest of all Democrat candidates standing for re-election, fights for her political life.

Earlier this week, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) surprised many political pundits by defeating wealthy businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman 36-30-29 percent, to capture the Republican Senatorial nomination. Akin rode a strong wave at the end of the campaign, peaking at exactly the right time. After trailing for most of the race, he finished a step ahead of both Brunner and Steelman as the trio almost simultaneously crossed the political finish line.

Interestingly, Akin had help from an unlikely source. McCaskill and her Democratic allies pejoratively repeated their belief that Akin is the most conservative candidate in the Republican field, ironically a message that the congressman himself was also trying to sell to the GOP electorate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) actually advertised in the Republican primary to that effect, saying Akin is too conservative for the state. It is clear the Democratic leadership and activist organizations, along with McCaskill herself, believe Akin to be the weakest candidate in the Republican field and desire him as their general election opponent. It remains to be seen if their analysis proves correct.

For several decades, Missouri was known as a political bellwether. Now, however, the state seems to be trending more Republican. After 14 statewide races between 2000 and 2008 that were decided by less than two percentage points, with each party winning seven times, John McCain’s razor-thin 2008 victory here and then-Rep. Roy Blunt’s big win in the 2010 Senate contest could be a Missouri realignment harbinger. In fact, in voting for McCain, the state failed to support the winning presidential candidate for only the second time since 1900.

With this backdrop, we enter the 2012 general election campaign. Since Team Obama does not have Missouri high on its target list, there may be less of a presidential presence here than in previous years. The state is a must-win for Republican Mitt Romney, so expect him to be more active here than President Obama. Outside groups are expected to play a major role, as a highly competitive Senate race in what is perceived to be a toss-up campaign will precipitate a great deal of action from many issue perspectives.

But it may be Akin who becomes the beneficiary of the greater outside group spending. McCaskill, who wrapped herself around candidate Barack Obama in 2008 appears to be running away from him in 2012, going so far as to say she won’t even attend the Democratic National Convention. While voting for all of the early Obama initiatives and now trying to create distance between herself and the party’s liberal wing, leftward activist groups may find other places to expend advocacy dollars.

Small business groups, church organizations steamed at the Obama Administration for the health care law that forces them into expenditures that conflict with many of their religious tenets, and the coal industry could become major players in this race, all on Akin’s behalf.

For example, the National Mining Association, through its Count on Coal program, is expected to be highly active in Missouri educating the constituency on the mineral’s importance to daily life. The state ranks sixth nationally in coal usage, as 81 percent of its electrical power is generated from the substance. Count on Coal is taking it to the Obama Administration for what the NMA believes are its destructive energy policies. Regardless of whether they actively enter the Senate race, McCaskill is likely to be put on the defensive and absorb political damage from the coal program’s aggressive contrast effort toward the Obama Administration.

Sen. McCaskill has been polling poorly against all general election configurations. Now that she has Rep. Akin as her November opponent, expect a hard-hitting campaign from both sides. The race is a toss-up, and has to be considered a must-win for the Republicans. It is clearly one of the most important Senate races of the year.

Colorado Crazy


A trio of national pollsters just descended upon the swing state of Colorado and produced wildly divergent presidential campaign results. During the period of July 31 – Aug. 6, three national survey research firms each conducted a separate study of likely Colorado general election voters.

Quinnipiac University (July 31 – Aug. 6) surveyed a sample cell of 1,463 likely voters and actually found Republican Mitt Romney to be leading President Obama 50-45 percent. Public Policy Polling (Aug. 2-5; 779 likely Colorado voters), also in the field during the same period, found the exact opposite result: Obama ahead 49-43 percent. Finally, on Aug. 6, Rasmussen Reports conducted a one-day survey of 500 likely Colorado voters and projected the two candidates to be tied at 47 percent apiece.

The differing results tell us several things. First, the fact that we see the President leading by six in one poll, trailing by five in another, and tied in a third likely tells us that the Colorado electorate is split very finely between the two men. Second, all three polls reveal a very high degree of commitment. Those not expressing a defined choice were only in single-digit percentiles for all three polls. Third, the data also suggests that this state, which typically splits its votes rather evenly between candidates of the two parties, is clearly in play for both presidential contenders. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama carried Colorado over his colleague John McCain by a 54-45 percent margin but, today, it appears the 2012 result will be much closer.