Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Montana’s Sen. Baucus Retiring

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

As was widely reported yesterday, six-term Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) announced his decision not to seek re-election next year. The decision appears to be a significant change of course for the senator, who was showing every early sign of jump-starting his political machine.

Baucus was actively raising substantial campaign money and, even as late as last week, voted against his party leadership and President Obama on the gun control bill; before that, the Democratic budget. The intent of his gun vote was to correctly position himself before an electorate that is highly sensitive toward 2nd Amendment restrictions.

He also just recently described implementation of the Obamacare legislation, a bill he co-authored and took the lead in passing the bill through the Finance Committee that he chairs and the Senate itself, as a “train wreck.” This move looked to be an effort to distance himself from the new healthcare system that is highly unpopular in Montana.

The Baucus about-face brings the total number of senators either leaving the body since the 2012 election, or saying they will, to 11 (Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away; John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State; Jim DeMint resigned; Saxby Chambliss, Tom Harkin, Carl Levin, Mike Johanns, Frank Lautenberg, Tim Johnson, Jay Rockefeller, and now Max Baucus are all retiring at the end of the current term). This obviously is a  Continue reading >

The Return of Anthony Weiner?

Last week, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) who resigned from the House in disgrace in 2011, said publicly that he is at least contemplating a 2013 run for mayor of New York. This week, Quinnipiac University released their current poll of the race (April 15-18; 1,161 registered New York City voters; 740 Democrats) that shows Weiner in second position even though his popularity index is an upside down 33:41 percent favorable to unfavorable.

According to the data, Weiner scores support from 15 percent of the Democrats polled, compared to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s 28 percent. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former city comptroller William Thompson, and current City Comptroller John Liu follow with 11, 10, and 9 percent, respectively. Of the entire group, Thompson has, at 32:9 percent, the strongest favorability ratio but it is not as yet translating into stated support.

Days earlier, the Marist Poll (April 11-15; 873 Democratic New York city voters) showed almost identical results. According to this data, Quinn leads with 26 percent; Weiner was again second with an identical 15 percent, and Liu, de Blasio, and Thompson follow with 12 percent, 11 percent, and 11 percent, respectively.

Weiner still has some time to decide whether to run. Mandatory “designating petitions” can be circulated beginning June 4, with the requisite number being returned no later than July 11. The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 10. If no candidate receives 40 percent plus one vote, the top two will participate in a special run-off election scheduled for Sept. 24. The municipal general election is Nov. 5.

The leading Republican candidate is Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board chairman Joe Lhota. It is clear from the polling, however, that the Democratic primary and likely run-off will determine the identity of the next mayor. Lhota is substantially behind all of the Democratic candidates, even Wiener though the Republican does perform best against him. According to the Quinnipiac survey, Weiner is the choice of 51 percent of those tested  Continue reading >

Dingell — Debbie Dingell — Won’t Run

Debbie Dingell

Debbie Dingell (D)

Debbie Dingell, in a posting on her Facebook page over the weekend, said she will not seek retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) open seat next year. She had been actively testing the waters for such a race ever since Levin made known his 2014 political intentions. Dingell is the wife of venerable Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-12) who, first elected in a 1955 special election, is the dean of the House of Representatives.

In an email Mr. Dingell sent to supporters relaying his wife’s statement, Debbie Dingell said in part, ” … when Carl Levin announced he would not seek reelection, those plans (working for Sen. Levin’s re-election and other Democrats’ such as her husband) changed. Close friends, complete strangers, political allies and business colleagues encouraged me to take a long, hard look at running for the Senate myself — and that’s what I have done.”

She then goes onto say, ” … but I think it is critical that Democrats unite behind one candidate for what will be a difficult and expensive race, and it’s one of the reasons I have concluded that now is not the time for me to run for the United States Senate. We have good candidates like Gary Peters already running, and a primary would be divisive at a time that cries out for unity. As someone who has spent much of my career working to bring people together, it just  Continue reading >

Hickenlooper, Udall Cruising in Colorado

Public Policy Polling just completed a survey of the Colorado electorate (April 11-14; 500 registered Colorado voters) and found both Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall in strong position for re-election.

PPP surveys tend to produce more negative numbers of the various politicians tested than most polling firms. The Colorado results are no exception, as all eight tested Republicans registered upside down personal favorability ratings when the respondents were queried about whether they had favorable or unfavorable opinions about each individual. When testing Gov. Hickenlooper and Sen. Udall, the question only pertained to their job performance. On that scale, both men performed well: Hickenlooper scored 53:44 percent positive to negative (though his negative jumped up from 26% as recorded on PPP’s November ’12 Colorado poll); Udall 50:33 percent.

Despite all of the Republicans registering poor favorability ratings, their ballot test standing when paired with either Hickenlooper or Udall are better than one might expect after perusing the initial data.

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7), who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 after serving two terms in the House from a marginal suburban Denver district, comes within seven points of Hickenlooper, 43-50 percent, in a hypothetical general election. Attorney General John Suthers (R) scores 39-49 percent against the governor. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) tallies exactly the same result as Suthers. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) also registers in the same range, behind 40-50 percent. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) does a bit worse, trailing 41-52 percent.

If these same Republicans were to challenge Sen. Udall, the results prove similar. Despite Beauprez scoring a 15:34 percent personal favorability index and Udall registering a 50:33 percent job approval rating, the Republican trails the senator only 41-48 percent. Suthers is down to Udall 38-50 percent; Gardner 39-49 percent; Tipton 37-50 percent; and Tancredo 39-51 percent.  Continue reading >

Sanford Does it Again!

Mark Sanford (R)

Mark Sanford (R)

Mark Sanford is in trouble again. Allegedly violating his divorce agreement with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, the former South Carolina Republican governor now faces a trespassing hearing two days after the May 7 special election. In response to the latest controversy, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a statement saying they will not fund the special election. This all but assures Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch will now win what should be a safe Republican seat.

Though it appeared Republican voters were willing to give Sanford the second chance he requested, it is highly unlikely that they will award him a third such opportunity. Thus, the string of bad Republican luck and performances they have experienced in special elections during the past few years looks to be continuing.

If Busch Wins

Let’s turn the clock ahead to the regular election next year, when Republicans should be well positioned to reclaim the seat from a Congresswoman Busch. With many potential candidates such as former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, and businessman Teddy Turner, among others waiting in the wings, it appears the GOP will field a strong opponent to Busch in the regular election.
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Money Talks

The first quarter financial disclosure statements have been filed for House incumbents and challengers and, as always, the fundraising amounts tell many tales. Naturally, the most prolific fundraisers are elected partisan leaders or committee chairmen, but this report is more indicative about those in marginal districts or who are committed to, or considering, a bid for statewide office. The axiom of the most committed candidates being the best early fundraisers again rings true during the current period.

Looking at the rank-and-file House incumbents and candidates, particularly those newly-elected congressmen, it appears that $300,000 raised for the quarter beginning Jan. 1, 2013 is the benchmark. Grading on a curve, anyone attaining or exceeding this level has earned first tier political status.

Best Fundraisers

The top fundraising House district can be found in the Denver suburbs, where 6th District Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff (D), the former state House Speaker and defeated Senatorial candidate (2010; losing the Democratic nomination to then-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet), both exceeded $500,000 in recorded campaign receipts for the first quarter.

Coffman raised $510,000, just behind Romanoff’s $514,000. The challenger has about a $100,000 edge in cash-on-hand. The court-drawn redistricting map presented Coffman with a much more Democratic district than the one to which he was originally elected in 2008. He was victorious in 2012, obviously, but did not reach the 50 percent plateau, winning re-election with 48 percent of the vote. The mid-term turnout pattern should help Coffman, but Romanoff is likely a stronger opponent than former state Rep. Miklosi, the congressman’s opponent last November.

The runner-up district is New York’s 11th CD, where Rep. Michael Grimm (R)  Continue reading >

Pew Study Shows Federal Government at All-Time Low

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released the results of their new regular study (from surveys conducted on March 13-17, 1,501 adults; and March 28-31, 1,001 adults) that questioned respondents on their views and impressions about the federal, state, and local governments. The favorability response hit a new low for the federal government, but the sentiment did not carry over to state and local public sector bureaucracies.

According to the data, only 28 percent of the respondents now have a favorable opinion about the federal government. In contrast, 57 percent have a positive impression of state government and an even higher 63 percent maintain an affirmative opinion about local government.

State and Local Attitudes

There are partisan divisions within the data, but they are almost solely reserved for the federal government. For the first time since Barack Obama became president more Democrats view the national authority in negative terms: 41 percent positive compared to 51 percent negative. Republicans continue to be almost unanimous in their unfavorable opinion about the US public sector. Only 13 percent of GOP respondents, according to the current Pew data, view the federal government approvingly.

But, these partisan splits are not evident when examining attitudes toward the states or localities. In fact, Republicans have a slightly better view of state government than do Democrats (57 percent versus 56 percent). Independents hold the best opinion, recording a 59 percent positive rating. Regarding local government, the respondents’ sentiments are even more positive. Here, it is the Democrats who rate the locals the highest (67 percent), followed by Republicans (63 percent), and Independents (60 percent positive).
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