Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Deadlines Ahead in Ohio,
North Carolina 2020 Campaigns

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 17, 2019 — Interesting decisions await as candidate filing deadlines are approaching this week in Ohio (Dec. 18) and North Carolina (Dec. 20) for their respective March 17 and March 3 primaries.

The Ohio political situation, originally thought to be relatively mundane without a Senate campaign and little competition within the congressional delegation, may be changing.

In the 1st District, veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), who lost this district in 2008 after first going to Congress in 1995 and then re-claiming the seat in 2010, again faces what will likely be a competitive re-election battle. In 2018, Chabot defeated Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval by a 51-47 percent count, despite the Democratic nominee spending over $4 million for his campaign. Expected to file for the Democrats this year are healthcare executive Kate Schroder and US Air Force Reserve officer Nikki Foster.

The new potential contest coming onto the political scene emanates from the Youngstown area as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren), who was an early presidential candidate but failed to generate any major attention, appears to be attracting strong opposition for the first time since he won his original congressional election in 2002.

Now reportedly moving toward challenging Rep. Ryan are former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who fared poorly in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, and ex-state Rep. Christina Hagan who scored over 40 percent of the vote against freshman Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River/Medina) in the last nomination campaign from the neighboring 16th District.

Though both women have the ability to attract people and resources to their political efforts, the 13th CD is reliably Democratic and Congressman Ryan would be tough to dislodge. President Trump fared better than most Republicans here in 2016, but still lost 44-51 percent. President Obama, in both 2008 and 2012, topped 62 percent and Rep. Ryan has averaged 67.8 percent of the vote over his nine-term congressional career.

Still, House members who run for president often have a difficult time in their next re-election effort, so it remains to be seen if a credible challenge against the veteran congressman could develop legs.

Continue reading

Impeachment: First Political Clues

By Jim Ellis

President Donald Trump | whitehouse.gov

Dec. 16, 2019 — As we move toward the impeachment vote in the full House and the impending Senate trial to determine whether President Trump should be removed from office, a great deal of speculation exists about how voters will respond to this situation. A series of early December polls from the most critical swing states gives us a clue.

Firehouse Strategies/Optimus commissioned simultaneous polls within the Dec. 3-5 period in the top swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As we remember, all of these places gave Trump a small victory margin in 2016. Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights conducted a poll of the Arizona electorate during the same period. Firehouse found sampling groups numbering between 551 and 610 respondents in the three states. OH used a slightly larger 628 person sample cell in the Grand Canyon State.

Both pollsters tested President Trump in each targeted state against former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and ex-New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

In all instances President Trump led his prospective opponent when individually paired. Since he had been trailing in similar ballot test responses from several previous polls in the Great Lakes States and was about even in Arizona, the change at the height of the impeachment proceedings suggests that he is seeing a net positive early return from the legal attack.

Of course, much could change before the process concludes, but this first data does provide us an interesting political snapshot as it relates to impeachment perceptions. As a rule, general election polling before the parties nominate their presidential candidates is usually irrelevant but, considering the present impeachment overlay, these numbers appear to be significant and particularly so because they are originating from critically important states.

For President Trump to win re-election, he must carry all five of the states in his 2016 coalition that typically vote Republican but have been trending closer to the Democrats since the last presidential election. Those are: Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Florida and North Carolina are always swing states in virtually every election and will be again in 2020. To win, the president must first carry all of these aforementioned states. If so, he then would need to win just one of the Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin trio in order to yield a bare Electoral College majority.

Continue reading

Buttigieg Tops New Hampshire Field

By Jim Ellis

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Dec. 13, 2019 — It has been clear for some time that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is making a strong move in Iowa, perfectly understandable for a candidate hailing from the Midwest; but could an Iowa-New Hampshire sweep be in the forecast for the upstart national contender?

A new MassInc poll for WBUR radio, the public news station in Boston, finds Mayor Buttigieg, for the first time, posting a small lead in the Granite State. The survey (Dec. 3-8; 442 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters) gives Buttigieg a slight 18-17-15-12 percent edge over former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), respectively, as a clear four-way race is beginning to crystallize for the first-in-the-nation primary.

The latest Iowa Caucus public polling, from Nov. 8 – Dec. 10 through four different survey research firms (Selzer & Company, YouGov, Civiqs, and Emerson College), finds Mayor Buttigieg either leading or tied in three of the studies.

Should such a trend come to fruition in February, we would see the underpinnings of not only Buttigieg becoming a legitimate contender, but a serious national four-way contest taking shape.

The New Hampshire poll is significant not only because it reveals a state base for Buttigieg but also finds that neither New England stalwart politicians Sanders nor Warren have clinched the state, as one might surmise. It was only four years ago when Sen. Sanders posted a 60 percent victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic New Hampshire presidential primary. At this point, now exactly two months from the Granite State primary vote, it would be reasonable to believe that both would be doing better than the MassInc survey and other recent polls suggest.

The MassInc/WBUR poll also provides another key data point. Despite former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s major media spending, apparently on a national basis, his favorability ratings among Democrats continue to languish. His personal index will have to substantially improve if he is to make a push to develop a five-way nomination campaign.

Yesterday, we covered a Monmouth University national poll that found Bloomberg being regarded as the most unpopular of the well-known Democratic candidates, and this MassInc/WBUR New Hampshire survey returns similar results.

Continue reading

Rep. Yoho to Retire; Texas Filings

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 12, 2019 — Keeping his pledge to serve only four terms in the House, Florida Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) announced in a local radio interview earlier this week that he will not seek re-election next year. Also, the 2020 Texas candidate filing deadline came on Monday, and lists of the qualifying candidates are now becoming public.

REP. YOHO, FL-3

Florida Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville)

There had been some speculation brewing as to Yoho’s plans for 2020 with some suggesting he might eschew his original pledge. Making this now the 37th open House seat and second in Florida, potential candidates will have until May 1 to file for the Aug. 25 primary.

The eventual Republican nominee will clearly have the inside track to hold this seat for the GOP. Florida’s 3rd District is strongly, and consistently, Republican. President Trump scored 56.2 percent of the vote in 2016. This number is almost identical to the 56.6 percent that Mitt Romney posted against President Obama in 2012, and John McCain’s 54.6 percent that he garnered in the 2008 presidential election.

Rep. Yoho has averaged 61.0 percent of the vote here over four elections, but the district was significantly changed in the 2015 mid-decade court-ordered redistricting plan. In the current configuration, Yoho averaged almost exactly what the Republican presidential candidates scored: 57.2 percent in his two elections since the boundary alteration.

The 3rd District occupies five whole counties and parts of a sixth. The major population center is the city of Gainesville in Alachua County. The remaining portion of the CD is nestled squarely in the north/central section of the Florida peninsula.

Three Republicans had already announced their candidacies, but none seems particularly viable. The contender raising the most money through the Sept. 30 financial disclosure period is businesswoman Amy Pope Wells, but her receipts showed just under $40,000 raised for the campaign with a cash-on-hand figure of just under $8,500.

Continue reading

Shock Poll – Hillary Leading

By Jim Ellis

Hillary Clinton

Dec. 11, 2019 — The Harris polling organization in conjunction with Harvard University has just released what appears to be the first national poll to include former secretary of state and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and it finds her pulling into a small lead when tested against the rest of the Democratic field.

Looking at the large sample survey (Nov. 27-29; 1,859 registered voters — 756 Democratic registered voters, online), Hillary would take a 21-20-12-9-5 percent lead over former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Without Hillary included, the field breaks 29-16-13-8-7 percent in favor of Biden, Sens. Sanders and Warren, Mayor Buttigieg, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, respectively.

There are negatives associated with the methodology, however. First, an online poll is less reliable than a live-interview survey, and generally even less so than an automated response device study.

Additionally, the Harris/Harvard poll was taken during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which again potentially skews the sample because so many people would not be included in the sampling universe because of deviations from their normal routines.

Third, the survey included former secretary of state and ex-US senator John Kerry within the field of candidates, and he received five percent support. That, too, could certainly skew the overall results to a degree because he is not running in the 2020 campaign.

Negatives notwithstanding, the fact that Clinton would already land among the leaders in the first of what will likely be several credible national surveys is significant. If anything, this data will lend more fuel to the fire that the former presidential nominee, secretary of state, US senator, and First Lady is seriously considering becoming a national candidate in 2020.

The Harris/Harvard poll again reiterates the most recent polling trend that, without Hillary being tested, Biden is establishing a clear lead but is nowhere close to the necessary 50 percent mark in order to secure nomination. The latest data also confirms that Sen. Warren dropped back into the pack after moving into a virtual tie with Biden six to 10 weeks ago. Sen. Sanders maintains his consistent supporters and is clearly going to be a top-tier factor as the race moves forward.

The candidates appearing to suffer the most from a Clinton re-emergence are Sen. Warren and Mayor Buttigieg. They both drop back significantly with her in the race, each falling into single digits. Biden and Sanders appear to hold most of their strength even with her in the field, which tells us that Warren and Buttigieg’s joint prospects will suffer if she were to return to active candidate status.

Continue reading

House Retirement No. 36

Four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 10, 2019 — The 36th US House seat to come open lies in Raleigh, North Carolina, as four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced late Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. He is in the rare situation of being forced from his position because of an unfavorable redistricting draw during the fifth election of the political decade.

We can expect to see a number of such redistricting-related instances occur throughout the country in the next election cycle, but to be still fighting redistricting legal battles, as they are in North Carolina, with a new census and apportionment directly upon us is unprecedented.

Rep. Holding says he is now not seeking re-election because of what he describes as the “terrible” manner in which the boundaries of his 2nd District have been reconstructed. The 2nd moves from a 53-44 percent Trump district to one that voted 60-36 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Though the Republican legislators reconfigured the map, the partisan division will increase the Democratic number by at least two seats, which directly affects the Raleigh and Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. The court directive forced a criterion change upon the legislature, which responded with the new map.

The post-2020 election delegation will likely feature an 8R-5D split, and Democrats sued arguing they should have more in a state whose electorate typically splits close to 50/50. The three-judge panel that originally struck down the previous GOP map unanimously approved this latest mapping effort, so the new plan will stand for the 2020 elections.

This new congressional map significantly changes the North Carolina political picture. The Holding seat is now a Democratic primary fight, and the early leader is former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who challenged Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016 and held him to a hard fought 51-45 percent victory.

The other Republican incumbent left without a political home is three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), and it is clear he will not seek re-election in the new 6th District. He is reportedly weighing his options for other political opportunities. Rep. Walker averaged 58.1 percent of the vote in his three congressional victories while the newly constructed NC-6 constituency supported Hillary in a 59-38 percent result.

Continue reading

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) to retire

Dec. 9, 2019 — It appears we have again entered into a potentially sustained period of multiple retirement announcements, which is not particularly surprising, since members are beginning to face candidate filing deadlines in their individual states.

This week has been active. After Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pled in federal court to a campaign finance violation and will soon resign, and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) announced Wednesday that he won’ seek another term, six-term Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) followed suit in releasing his social media message late last week declaring that the current term will be his last.

Though still young, Graves indicated to his local media that the reason for his retirement is to explore new avenues with his family now that his offspring have reached adulthood. He was in no political danger, having won his last election with 76 percent of the vote in a district that went 75-22 percent for President Trump in 2016.

The Graves decision moves the open-seat count to 35, with 24 coming from the Republican side of the aisle versus only 11 from the majority Democrats.

Georgia’s 14th District sits in the far northwest corner of the state, encompassing the relatively narrow area that borders both Tennessee and Alabama. The seat contains 11 counties and part of another, with the population relatively evenly spread throughout small towns and rural areas. The city of Rome, with a population of just over 36,000 people, is the district’s largest municipality, though Paulding County with just under 160,000 residents spread through small towns west of Marietta is the district’s most sizable population entity.

Since GA-14 has such a strong Republican voting history, the battle to replace Rep. Graves will occur in the GOP primary. We can expect a crowded field to soon form. The primary will assuredly yield the top two finishers advancing to a run-off, because it is a virtual certainty that no one will reach majority support in the first vote.

The state legislative district overlay suggests that the state Senate may produce the most viable contenders. The congressional district occupies five state Senate seats, all Republican, and parts of 15 state House districts, just one of which a Democrat represents. In the latter districts, no state House seat exceeds even 10 percent of the congressional district constituency.

Continue reading