Author Archives: Jim Ellis

House 2020 Overview

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.

California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.

Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.

Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.

Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.

Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.

Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.

Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.

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An Impeachment Casualty in NJ?

By Jim Ellis

NJ-2 Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew

Dec. 2, 2019 — There are many moving parts to the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, and not all of the flying political shrapnel will hit the intended target. In some instances, the issue could backfire against a few Democratic members for various reasons.

An example of that involves one of the two Democrats to vote against the impeachment inquiry. Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis Township/Cape May) is a former state legislator, serving in Trenton for 16 years before winning the 2nd District congressional seat last November. He replaced retired congressman Frank LoBiondo (R), who owned NJ-2 for a dozen terms.

Van Drew’s victory was expected because the Republicans failed to field a strong candidate, yet his 53-45 percent margin was a bit underwhelming considering he was rated a general election prohibitive favorite. Furthermore, Democrats converted four Republican districts in this state alone last year, leaving the GOP with just one congressman from New Jersey’s 12 districts.

As a result of Congressman Van Drew not believing sufficient evidence existed against Trump to warrant an impeachment inquiry, local Democrats are now beginning to stir about a potential primary challenge. Such a move might gain legs if the various county Democratic Party chairmen, powerful officials in New Jersey politics, recommend the party endorsement for a candidate other than their incumbent.

The party-endorsed candidate is given preferential placement to the point where opponents are even listed on a different part of the ballot. Therefore, losing the party endorsement, if that were to occur, is particularly damaging to an incumbent.

The political situation here intensified just three weeks ago in the 2019 elections when Rep. Van Drew’s appointed state Senate successor stood before voters who would choose a more permanent replacement. Despite the Democratic candidates within the legislative district running as “Team Van Drew”, they all lost to Republican opponents. Naturally, this does not help the Congressman should he draw a significant Democratic challenge.

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NY-2: Trump for Congress?

NOTE: Happy Thanksgiving. Our Political Updates will return on Monday, Dec. 2.

By Jim Ellis

Lara Trump

Nov. 27, 2019 — Action about who the Republicans might nominate to succeed retiring New York Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is beginning to simmer, especially since the Club for Growth released a poll of the district’s GOP electorate late last week.

The Club contracted with WPA Intelligence to test Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump and daughter-in-law of President Trump. Rumors had been surfacing that she might be contemplating running in the 2nd District; hence, the interest in gauging what type of support she might have for such a race. WPAi paired Lara with former congressman, Rick Lazio, who is considering becoming a candidate, in a hypothetical Republican primary. According to their data (Nov. 17-18; 400 likely NY-2 Republican primary voters), Lara Trump would lead Lazio by a whopping 53-19 percent.

The result is not particularly surprising because Donald Trump has a solid Republican base in the district. The WPAi survey finds the president’s favorability ratio at 78:19 percent within this GOP primary voter sample.

In response to the poll, Lara told Breitbart News that she’s, “ … incredibly honored by this showing of support from my fellow New Yorkers. While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump.” Lara serves as an advisor to the president’s re-election campaign.

So far, Islip Town Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Suffolk County Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota are announced Republican candidates. State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa) has formed a congressional exploratory committee and is expected to join the race. Early last week, former Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, and County Legislature Minority Leader Tom Cilmi both said they would not run for the seat.

The Democrats appear to be coalescing around Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who is a retired Army officer. Gordon had announced a challenge campaign against Rep. King and raised just under $188,000 through the Sept. 30 deadline. The 2018 Democratic nominee, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who held the congressman to a surprisingly close 53-47 percent victory, has already announced that she will not enter the 2020 open seat campaign.

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Super Tuesday Senate Primaries

Super Tuesday 2020 States and Territories; *Important Senate primaries will also be occurring in four states — Texas, Arkansas, Alabama & North Carolina


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 26, 2019 — Super Tuesday is scheduled for March 3, and while the national focus will be on the 14 states and one territory whose electorates will vote in the Democratic presidential nomination contest, important Senate primaries will also be occurring in four states. Five places moved their regular-cycle primary to run concurrently with the early March presidential vote, and four from this group host 2020 Senate campaigns. The lone exception is California.

The Alabama Senate contest has drawn much attention lately since former US Attorney General and ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions has re-emerged as a candidate. His nomination is not a foregone conclusion, however. He faces a significant field of Republican opponents on March 3, all of whom became candidates before he decided to run again.

Along with Sessions, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, former state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 Senate special election nominee Roy Moore, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) comprise the credible candidate field.

Polling since Sessions returned to the race suggests that both the former senator and Coach Tuberville would advance to an April 14 run-off, but campaign prime time still remains, and much could change. Though Sessions has a residual base, he is unlikely to win the nomination outright against this field, none of whom have departed the race since his return. Therefore, the eventual nomination victor is still in doubt. The winner will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) stands for a second term and currently has no opponent. Democratic businessman and former congressional candidate Josh Mahony had been traveling the state to organize support from local party leaders and became the sole filer at the deadline against Sen. Cotton, but then ended his effort just two hours after submitting his candidate documentation citing family issues. Since the Democrats have no candidate, the party will convene to choose a replacement nominee. Regardless of whom they select, Sen. Cotton looks solid for re-election.

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Winning vs. Ideology

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 21, 2019 — As the 10 Democratic presidential candidates again took the debate stage last night, this time from Atlanta, they all needed recognize a few things: They needed to walk a fine line. The contenders needed to carefully navigate between appealing to their party’s ideological base, which is key to winning the nomination, and preparing for the general election where a more centrist approach appears to be the probable course toward achieving national victory.

The Gallup organization just completed a new national survey (Nov. 1-14; 1,015 US adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 437 self-identified Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic) that compared the importance between choosing an ideologically sound nominee with one who is best equipped to win the general election irrespective of where that individual stands on the party’s base issues.

Looking at the current results in the prism of Gallup asking the same questions of Republican respondents when President Obama was running for re-election in 2012, and a Democratic cell group when President George W. Bush was seeking a second term in 2004, this sample skews towards electability over ideology in the starkest proportion.

According to Gallup’s questions asked of Democrats and lean Democrats whether they believed it is more important to find a candidate who can unseat President Trump or one who agrees with the individual respondent on issues, by a margin of 60-36 percent the poll showed that the favored candidate would be the one having the best chance to win the November 2020 election.

In 2012, Republican responses to this choice involving replacing President Obama, surveyed in mid-September of 2011, leaned toward a candidate who could win over the ideologically pure contender in a 53-43 percent spread. Eight years earlier, when President Bush was seeking his second term, the ratio among Democrats at the end of 2003 was 50-44 percent in favor of ideology, but six weeks later, in early February 2004, the margin switched to 55-40 percent toward finding the candidate who was best equipped to unseat Bush.

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Unending North Carolina Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2019 — If it seems like the North Carolina redistricting process has dragged on for the entire decade, then your senses are correct, because it has. After seeing a mid-decade re-draw before the 2016 elections, another set of lines will be in place for 2020, and then another plan for the ensuing electoral decade beginning in 2022 will be enacted during the regular decennial process. North Carolina is a sure bet to gain a new congressional seat in 2020 reapportionment.

Last week, the Republican legislature produced a new map per court order that will concede two more seats to the Democrats. This plan is not final, however, as the new map still has must clear the legal process and certainly the Democrats will challenge in an attempt to get more. Republicans will counter and attempt to move the process away from the state three-judge panel which has been favorable to the Democratic arguments, and into federal court where they feel their own points may be given a more sympathetic hearing.

Racial gerrymandering was the subject of the original challenges, but when those arguments led to a new map without a net gain of Democratic seats, the plaintiffs filed political gerrymandering lawsuits. With the Supreme Court basically returning the political gerrymandering arguments back to the state courts, the Democrats, at least in North Carolina, are in much better position to get a map that better reflects their intended outcome.

With the current split being 10R-3D, which of the current members are in the deepest trouble under the new map? Though the map looks fundamentally similar to the current plan, there are sizable differences in district configuration from a political context.

The Daily Kos Elections site ran a voting analysis of the new seats, and it appears a new Tar Heel State delegation under this map would feature eight Republicans and five Democrats, or a net gain of two seats for the latter party.

The two current incumbents who would not likely return under the plan are Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro). Their districts go from being a plus-10 Trump district for Holding to a minus-14 CD, and for Walker an original plus-15 Trump to a minus-11.

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Buttigieg a Clear Factor in Iowa

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 19, 2019 — Selzer & Company, again polling for the Des Moines Register publication (Nov. 8-13; 2,012 active registered Iowa voters, 500 likely Democratic Caucus attenders), finds South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg pulling away from the rest of the field. YouGov, polling for CBS News (Nov. 6-13; 856 registered Democratic voters), projects a different perspective, however, in finding a virtual four-way tie.

Selzer sees Mayor Buttigieg leading the pack with 25 percent, nine points ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 10 points beyond both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

YouGov, however, finds Sanders and Biden tied at the top with 22 percent, while Buttigieg is only one point behind. The top pair leads Sen. Warren by four points. All are clearly within the polling margin of error.

The numbers again suggest that the Democratic caucus, now less than three months away on February 3rd, is a wide-open affair. All of the most recent polling also yields that Mayor Buttigieg has transformed the campaign, at least in Iowa, into a legitimate four-way race. There is also no recent poll suggesting that any one candidate is in position to secure a majority vote among the prospective Iowa Caucus attenders.

How the Iowa vote will affect the rest of the primaries is anybody’s guess at this point, but the state has proven to be a trend-setter in the past. Whether a strong showing for Mayor Buttigieg will keep him in the top tier as the process moves through New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina prior to Super Tuesday is difficult to currently assess.