Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Yes, No, Maybe So

Some of the 2014 US Senate races are already beginning to take shape, while others have yet to develop.

In just the past few days, political insiders in central Georgia are reporting that Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2) is telling supporters that he is seriously considering entering the open Senate race. In Iowa, others are saying that while Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) is moving toward running for his state’s open Senate seat, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) is more likely to seek re-election than run statewide.

Below is a quick snap-shot of the candidate situation in what are expected to be the more hotly contested Senate campaigns of the election cycle:

  • ALASKA: Sen. Mark Begich (D) – Seeking his second term
    • In: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R)
    • Possible: Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (R)
    • Unlikely: Gov. Sean Parnell (R)
    • Out: Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
  • ARKANSAS: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) – Seeking his third term
    • In: Lt. Gov. Mike Darr (R)
    • Possible: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4)
    • Out: Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2)
  • GEORGIA: Open Seat – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) – Retiring
    • In: Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10)
    • Likely: Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11)
    • Possible: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6), Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12), Sec of State Brian Kemp (R)
    • Unlikely: Former Sen. Max Cleland (D), former Sec of State Karen Handel (R), Mayor Kasim Reed (D)
    • Out: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3)

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Montana’s Baucus is Vulnerable

A new Public Policy Polling survey (Feb. 15-17; 1,011 registered Montana voters; 371 “usual” Democratic primary voters) shows clear vulnerability for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). The senator, first elected in 1978, is preparing a run for a seventh term next year. Prior to his service in the Senate, Baucus spent four years in the US House of Representatives.

While the senator’s numbers aren’t particularly strong, he fares much worse against individuals unlikely to challenge him. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who has repeatedly said he has no intention of running for the Senate, compares very well to Baucus if he were to oppose him in the Democratic primary. According to the survey results, the ex-two-term governor would bury the veteran federal incumbent 54-35 percent. Schweitzer’s personal favorability index registers a strong 56:37 percent positive to negative. In contrast, Sen. Baucus’ job approval ratio is an upside down 45:48 percent.

Three Republicans are highly competitive with the senator, but at least two of them won’t become candidates. Former Gov. Marc Racicot (R) leads Baucus 47-42 percent. Freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) enjoys a 49-44 percent margin over the incumbent. Newly elected Attorney General Tim Fox (R) trails Baucus only 43-46 percent.

When paired individually against the two Republicans who have announced a campaign for the Senate — ex-state Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton and state Rep. Champ Edmunds — Sen. Baucus re-establishes healthy leads. He tops Stapleton 45-38 percent, while posting a full 10-point advantage over Edmunds, 47-37 percent.
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First Georgia Senate Polls

Max Cleland

Max Cleland

Two different pollsters tested the Georgia electorate about their new open Senate race (Sen. Saxby Chambliss retiring) and came away finding that one party’s strongest candidate is someone who shows no interest in running.

Both Harper Polling (Feb. 11-12; 939 registered Georgia voters; 375 Republican primary voters; 338 Democratic primary voters) and Public Policy Polling (Feb. 15-18; 602 registered Georgia voters; 366 Republican primary voters) found that Democratic former Sen. Max Cleland, who served one term from 1997 to 2003 (he lost his 2002 re-election to Sen. Chambliss 46-53 percent), would defeat all potential Republican nominees if he were to run in 2014. The former senator, now 70 years old, has given no indication that he is contemplating a political comeback, however.

Tested against the four Republican US representatives who have either entered the race or are considering such, Harper projects that Cleland would place ahead of  Continue reading >

Nebraska Sen. Johanns to Retire

In a surprising announcement, first-term Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R), announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. Johanns, a former US Agriculture Secretary, two-term Nebraska governor, mayor, and county commissioner was elected to the Senate in 2008, defeating rancher Scott Kleeb 58-40 percent.

Sen. Johanns appeared to be a lock for a second term, but says he and his wife’s desire to return to “a quieter life” after what will be 32 years in public office at the end of this Congress is what drives his decision.

The seat should easily remain in Republican hands because the Democrats have a weak political bench in the Cornhusker State. With their best possible candidate, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, losing badly to freshman Sen. Deb Fischer (42-58 percent) last November in what was a clear Democratic year nationally, the party leaders and candidates will have a difficult time reaching the realm of competitiveness in 2014.

On the Republican side, the early speculation surrounds popular term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman. Clearly, he would be the party’s strongest candidate should he make the run.

If the governor takes a pass on the race, then look for one or more of the state’s three congressmen to take the leap. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-3) are more likely to run than 2nd District Rep. Lee Terry (R). Terry, just appointed chairman of the House Sub-Committee (of Energy & Commerce) on Commerce, Manufacturing, & Trade, may  Continue reading >

NPR Poll: Lynch Now Close in Mass.

Rep. Lynch | Rep. Markey

The MassINC Polling Group (Feb. 11-13; 498 registered Massachusetts voters) surveying for WBUR Public Radio in Boston, the New England region’s largest NPR affiliate, reveals a major tightening of the special US Senate Democratic primary contest between Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5).

Contrasting with a Public Policy Polling survey conducted Jan. 29-30 of 404 registered Massachusetts Democratic voters that showed Markey crushing Lynch 52-19 percent, the new MassINC study projects the Boston congressman pulling to within just seven points of the front-runner, trailing only 31-38 percent.

The MassINC poll has some structural flaws, i.e. the Democratic primary sampling universe’s size is not disclosed but must fall within a range of 270 to 304 respondents, most likely around the 284 figure. This is very low for a statewide primary survey, thus making their final conclusions less reliable.

Still, the MassINC findings do seem more plausible than the previous PPP study that staked Markey to a 33-point lead, a spread that seemed excessive so early in the process. Based upon the MassINC results it  Continue reading >