Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Volatility – Again

Over the past four election cycles, no state has generated more political ups and downs than the Granite State of New Hampshire.

During that time more US House incumbents have been defeated than re-elected, an extraordinary statistic for any state. (In the stretch from 2006 through 2012 in the state, five House incumbents have lost their seats and only two have been re-elected consecutively. Two incumbents have both lost and won during this span of elections.) New Hampshire voters have also defeated a US Senator and a House incumbent attempting to win the statewide office. They have also changed majorities in the state legislative chambers virtually at will.

Now the University of New Hampshire just released a poll (July 18-29; 516 New Hampshire adults) testing their federal incumbents’ job approval scores and again found signs that the electorate may already be getting restless.

It is wise to approach the UNH polls with caution, however. First, the University’s polling institute hasn’t been among the most accurate of pollsters during that past few years. It is fair to consider their numbers with skepticism. Second, as is typical for their polls, the sampling period of 12 days is much too long, especially for a sample size of just 516 respondents. Finally, this particular poll only tested “adults” and not registered voters.

That being said, the data does give us some insight as to how the four all-female federal office holders are faring.

The Senators

The strongest is Sen. Jeanne Shaheen who stands for her first re-election next year. In 2006, after serving from 1997-2003 as the state’s governor, Shaheen defeated then-Sen. John E. Sununu (R), 52-45 percent after losing to him 47-51 percent in 2002. According to the poll results, Sen. Shaheen scores a strong 53:23 percent positive to negative on the personal favorability scale. Fifty percent of the sample believes she deserves to be re-elected in 2014, while 34 percent say they would prefer a generic “someone else.” Her re-elect score among Democrats is 78 percent. Among the self-identified Republicans, 27 percent favor her re-election.

Though first-term Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) is not on the ballot again until 2016, she was also tested. Her favorability score is a less impressive 41:32 percent, down from 50:25 percent from the last UNH poll conducted in April.
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Three States, Three Potentially Challenging Races for Incumbents

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham

South Carolina

The long-expected Republican primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham is now coming to fruition. A candidate emerged yesterday who has an interesting background. It remains to be seen if she has the political wherewithal to compete with the veteran senator, however.

Nancy Mace is the first female graduate of The Citadel. Born into a military family, her father is a retired Army general. She announced her challenge to the senator late this week, joining Greenville area businessman and former 3rd District congressional candidate Richard Cash in the nomination race. State Sen. Lee Bright, coming from the Ron and Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party, says he will soon follow suit.

Can any of the three beat Lindsey Graham? While it’s clearly a long shot, the senator does have some obvious vulnerabilities. First and foremost, as any casual political observer understands, Graham is to the left of the South Carolina Republican electorate and has taken some unpopular stands in the state, such as his leadership efforts in the area of immigration reform.

Secondly, though a crowded field usually helps an embattled incumbent, South Carolina does have a run-off law, meaning it could become harder to capture a majority in a split vote primary situation. If someone is strong enough to deny the senator an outright primary victory, the scenario would then be drawn to upset him in the secondary election.

Third, while none of his opponents has significant name ID, they are all substantial individuals, and if one or more can prove they possess fundraising ability, outside conservative groups are ready to come to their aid if Graham begins to falter.
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A Trio of Political Icons Pass

It’s said that famous people die in threes, and that certainly happened again this week in the world of politics. Rather extraordinarily, the youngest of the trio was 96 years of age.

Former Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I), who served from 1965 to 1983) passed away on Tuesday at the age of 98.

Ex-Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-LA-2), who succeeded her late husband in Congress back in 1973 and served nine terms, passed away from natural causes at the beginning of the week. She was 97.

And William Scranton, the former Pennsylvania Republican governor and congressman who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, also died this week in California at the age of 96.

Sen. Byrd was appointed to his seat, succeeding his father, who was forced to resign in 1965 due to health issues. He then died in 1966 of brain cancer. The younger Sen. Byrd went into the Senate as a Democrat, but his conservative philosophy on fiscal issues led him to leave the party in 1970 to become an Independent. Until his death this week, Byrd was the oldest living former senator.

Boggs succeeded her husband, Hale Boggs, who was the House Majority Leader. He died in a plane crash over a remote area of Alaska, flying with his Democratic colleague Rep. Nick Begich. The late Begich was the father of current US Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). After retiring from the House, President Clinton appointed the former congresswoman as the US Ambassador to the Holy See, a position she would hold from 1997-2001.

Like the other two luminaries who passed, Scranton was from a political family. His grandfather, Joe Scranton, served five non-consecutive terms in Congress. Scranton’s son, William W. Scranton III, later became Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor.

Camp Considers Michigan Senate Race

Rep. Dave Camp

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-4)

House Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) confirms that he has made an about-face and is seriously considering running for Michigan’s open US Senate seat. Back in March when Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014, Rep. Camp immediately declined to run statewide, preferring to concentrate on his duties in the House and driving tax reform proposals.

Now, the 11-term representative himself, as well as several people close to him, acknowledge that there is a distinct possibility he may oppose consensus 2014 Democratic candidate Gary Peters, a fellow Michigan congressman, for Levin’s seat.

Currently, former two-term Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is the only announced significant Republican candidate. Her response to the pending Camp candidacy was a bit unusual and spread speculation that she might withdraw in favor of the north-central state congressman. Land stated, in non-committal fashion, that she will “wait to see what happens” when asked if she would oppose Camp in a Republican senatorial primary.

So far, most political observers view Land as a weak candidate despite her winning two previous statewide campaigns. She has made no significant strides on the fundraising circuit. On the other hand, Camp, with over $3 million in his political account, has a perch to raise whatever he needs to run a competitive Wolverine State campaign. The race instantly becomes more interesting and aggressively fought if he were to become a candidate.

For his part, Rep. Peters (D-MI-14) has raised $1.42 million for the year, and reports just under $1.8 million cash-on-hand. Michigan normally trends Democratic, so Peters is thought to have the advantage in a normal election year, but we have to turn the clock back only three years to see a major Republican landslide sweep, so a GOP Senate victory certainly must be considered a viable possibility.

In order to compete for the majority, the Republicans must put more seats in play, and enticing a strong candidate such as Rep. Camp into the race would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. It remains to be seen just how serious his considerations are, but if he were to run the open Michigan Senate race would become a top tier campaign.

Candidate Developments

Alabama

With resigning Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) leaving office this Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced the schedule for the upcoming replacement special election. With 11 candidates already running, eight of whom are Republicans, the governor has designated Monday, Aug. 5 as the candidate filing deadline. The party primaries will occur on Sept. 24, with run-offs, if necessary, to be held Nov. 5. The special general will then be Dec. 17.

In the unlikely occurrence of candidates from both parties securing a majority of the vote on Sept. 24, and thus clinching their respective nominations, the general election will then move to the Nov. 5 date. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored.

Arkansas

Key political insiders believe that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) will announce a challenge to Sen. Mark Pryor (D) later this week. Cotton, a freshman, has been considered a potential Pryor opponent almost the day after he was elected to the House, and now his move looks to become official.

The Arkansas Senate seat will likely fall into the highly competitive category, and this should be one of the most important statewide campaigns during the entire election cycle. It is clearly one of the seats that will determine the Senate majority for the next Congress.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who forced then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a divisive Democratic primary that added to her political woes in 2010, thus leading to her eventual 57-36 percent defeat at the hands of then-Rep. John Boozman (R), has decided not to pursue another statewide Democratic primary battle. Originally announced as a 2014 open seat gubernatorial candidate, Halter announced this week that he is withdrawing from the contest. The action gives former Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) a clear shot for the Democratic nomination that means a virtual sure general election contest with former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3). Early polling had given Ross a large lead over Halter, which clearly played into the ex-lieutentant governor’s withdrawal decision.

Illinois

Beginning with the end of World War II until January of this very year, the southwestern Illinois seat anchored in East St. Louis had been represented by only two men: representatives Mel Price (D; 1945-1988) and Jerry Costello (D; 1988-2013). Now, freshman Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL-12), who won a 52-43 percent victory over former lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer (R), has already drawn a significant challenger for his first re-election.
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