Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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Rep. Bachmann to Retire

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6)

Former presidential candidate and four-term US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced via video that she will not seek re-election next year. Drawing a parallel between the eight-year term limit placed upon the office of president, Bachmann said that such amount of time was appropriate for a House member to serve as well.

Last week, a Public Policy Polling survey showed her trailing her 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves who has already announced his intent to run again, by a two-point 45-47 percent margin. Though saying said she is confident of her re-election next year, even though she scored only 50.5 percent against Graves in ’12 and has no concern over the FEC investigation of her presidential campaign accounts, the congresswoman believes the time is right for her to leave the House.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state (Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 56.5-41.5 percent), so the new GOP nominee will be considered the favorite to defeat Graves, particularly in a lower turnout mid-term election. Bachmann becomes the 14th House member to either announce their retirement or resign from the House since the last election.

NRCC Moving Targets

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.
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Terry McAuliffe’s Risky Strategy

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and current party nominee for Virginia governor, just launched his second general election television advertisement (see link above), but his media strategy should raise questions.

The ad explains and emphasizes that McAuliffe lobbied Democratic legislators on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) controversial transportation bill. The underlying message credits McAuliffe’s involvement as a key factor in passing the legislation. The objective is to show his ability to deliver within the legislative process, while simultaneously proving that he reaches beyond partisanship in order to achieve the common good.

The ad graphics include a singular still photo of McDonnell and newspaper headlines that allude to “GOP infighting”, while an announcer mentions that “Tea Party Republicans refuse to support the plan.” The scene then fades to a banner illustrating that McAuliffe and McDonnell “congratulate each other” over achieving legislative success.

In our opinion, the ad is evidence that the McAuliffe campaign may be making some key strategic errors. First, they target “Tea Party Republicans” at a time when certain members of the Obama Administration are coming under intense fire for targeting Tea  Continue reading >

Gary Miller’s Wild Ride

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31)

After the 2011 California congressional redistricting maps were unveiled, it appeared that Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) would not be a member of the 113th Congress. But, he defied the odds and, in a rather stunning turn of events, won “re-election” from a district containing none of his previous constituents. Now representing a San Bernardino County seat that is the most pro-Obama district (57.2 percent) to elect a Republican congressman, it looks like unfolding developments may again play to his good fortune.

On the surface, Rep. Miller was dealt a bad hand in redistricting because he was originally paired with Rep. Ed Royce (R) in the new 39th District. But, in the adjacent new 31st CD where then-representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) and Joe Baca (D-CA-43) were paired, things began transpiring that would later open the door for Miller.

First, Rep. Baca rather surprisingly announced he would run in new District 35, a seat where he represented about 61 percent of the constituency but a place containing none of his home base of Rialto, a city of just under 100,000 people who had elected him to the state Assembly, Senate, and, for 13 years, Congress. Baca went to the 35th even though he knew state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D) would oppose him. She is his bitter political rival, and someone who represented more of the new district than  Continue reading >