Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Relevancy of RFK Jr.

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, April 4, 2024

Presidency

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (I) Photo by Gage Skidmore

Stories are popping up in the political media about President Joe Biden seeing a resurgence of strength in recent national polls, but a bigger story is evolving.

The precursor to the election’s final outcome may prove to be Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the minor party candidates garnering enough votes to the point where their support tips the electorate towards one candidate or the other.

Additionally, while President Biden and former President Donald Trump consistently find their approval ratings upside down in double-digit point margins that are routinely closer to 20 rather than 10, Kennedy is always viewed as the more popular figure. Though his favorability index is only in slightly positive territory for the most part, generally from three to five percentage points, his standing is far superior to that of the two presidents.

Even when his unfavorable perception slightly exceeds those who view him favorably, Kennedy never drops below the three to five-point negative range. The FiveThirtyEight data organization charts most polling firms daily and finds Kennedy’s average favorability index in positive territory consecutively from May 18, 2023, all the way to today.

As we all know, the national ballot test is irrelevant in forecasting the presidential outcome because it’s the electoral votes calculated in the states that determine the eventual winner. National polling, however, generally provides a good indicator of candidate strength.

Several polls have recently been released and the four most contemporary all find Kennedy now consistently in double-digit support territory. In two polls, HarrisX for Forbes Magazine, and Quinnipiac University, the addition of Kennedy and the minor candidates to the polling questionnaire changes the outcome after the respondents are presented the initial query of a choice between Biden and Trump.

HarrisX (March 26; 1,010 registered US voters; online) returns a 50-50 percent tie between Biden and Trump when the undecided respondents are pushed to make a choice. Yet, when Kennedy and the minor party candidates are added, the lead swings to Trump by a small two percentage-point margin.

Quinnipiac University (March 21-25; 1,407 registered US voters; live interview) sees Biden topping Trump 48-45 percent, but when Kennedy and the minor party candidates are added, Trump secures a one-point edge.

The most recent YouGov/Economist poll (March 24-26; 1,415 registered US voters; online) sees Trump also holding a one-point lead with Kennedy only in low single digits. The Trafalgar Group (March 29-31; 1,029 likely US general election voters; multiple sampling techniques) also finds a consistent result with the previous pollsters: Trump 43, Biden 40, Kennedy 11, Others three percent.

Therefore, we have several conclusions that appear to be correct. First, President Biden is improving his position against the field. Second, Trump appears in a long-term stagnant position, and third, Kennedy is gaining enough support to be a factor in tipping the race from one candidate to the other.

At this particular point in time, the data responses suggest that the Kennedy presence damages President Biden to a slightly greater degree than former President Trump. But, as the campaign progresses, this factor could certainly change.

We can expect to see national and swing-state polling varying from now until the election in a seesaw fashion between President Biden and former President Trump. The unanswered question revolves around Kennedy and just how well he will perform when actual votes are cast, and just who in the end will benefit more from his presence on the key swing state ballots.

Last Night’s Primary Results

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Primaries

We saw four more states vote yesterday and even though the presidential nominations are clinched in both parties, valuable information can still be extracted from last night’s reported results.

So far, presidential voting has occurred in 36 states, and 32 where both parties have comparable systems. In four states, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, and Mississippi, no votes were recorded in one of the party primaries because a major candidate ran without opposition.

Last night, voters in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin had the opportunity of casting their presidential nomination ballots. To no one’s surprise, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump easily swept their respective elections and added to their delegate totals. Each man recorded enough bound delegate votes on March 12 to become the respective Democratic and Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominees so the later primaries are simply providing “icing on the cake.”

The bigger story throughout the 32 comparable states may be the turnout pattern and what that might mean for the general election. If the turnout trends we have seen in the states where ballots have been cast are a precursor to what happens in November, then Trump is well positioned to unseat President Biden.

Though the Democrats had a good night yesterday as more of their party members voted in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island, overall, the Republican turnout has been far superior, and in some very surprising states.

At this point, counting the unofficial numbers from last night, we have seen just over 30 million people vote in the 32 comparable states. Of those, 57.1 percent have voted in Republican primaries. One may argue that the more competitive race was on the Republican side, and that could account for the imbalance between the two parties. While there is validity to this line of reasoning, Democratic turnout is running below the party’s historical participation average even in some of their strongest states, thus highlighting the unusual trend.

Out of these 32 states, more Republicans have voted than Democrats in 24 of the domains while the opposite trend occurred in only eight. Of the Democrats’ eight majority turnout states, only one, Utah, is a surprise. The Democratic primary preference share of only 53 percent in both Massachusetts and Washington, however, does raise eyebrows. The same for Republicans recording that same percentage split in Louisiana.

Republicans posted unexpected turnout advantages in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia. While none of these states are likely to be in serious play for Trump during the general election the turnout trends here are noteworthy, nonetheless.

What may be more troubling for the Biden campaign team is how the swing states performed in the primary participation race.

Here, again, Trump outperformed the president’s Democratic Party in Arizona (58.9 percent of the total turnout chose to vote in the Republican primary), Georgia (67.0 percent), Michigan (59.2 percent), Nevada (55.9 percent), North Carolina (60.7 percent), Ohio (68.2 percent), and last night in Wisconsin (51.7 percent). The substantial margins of individuals choosing to vote in the Republican primary is a clue that former President Trump has a chance to build a new coalition of voters in these most critical of states.

The Nevada Republican total is at least slightly skewed. The combined numbers from the non-binding primary and their delegate apportioning caucuses are tainted because voters could participate in both the primary and a respective caucus, which were held on different days. There is no available data suggesting what percentage of voters participated in both, but it appears from the totals associated with each event that a substantial number cast their vote in each election.

Party Division Changes in US House; Credible Challenger in FL-6; Challenger to Rep. Mace Drops Out; Legal Wranglings in New Jersey

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, April 2, 2024

House

House: Party Division Changes — There is a great deal of confusion as to where the House party division currently stands with the large number of resignations and related special elections soon to occur. Because of this unusual situation the numbers are going to change frequently as we head through the June primaries.

Right now, the House stands at 218R — 213D. There are four vacancies, three Republican seats — ex-Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20), Ken Buck (R-CO-4), and Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) and one Democratic (Brian Higgins (D-NY-26). Rep. Gallagher will resign on April 19. Because Gallagher is staying past April 9, the replacement special election will be concurrent with the general election. The count will then recede to 217R — 213D.

  • The first special election is April 30: Higgins, NY-26. The Democrats are a virtual lock to win. Doing so will make the division count 217R — 214D.
  • The next special is May 21: McCarthy, CA-20. Republicans will win. The division count will then move to 218R — 214D.
  • The Ohio special election is June 11: Johnson, OH-6. Republicans will win in the person of state Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem). The division count goes to 219R — 214D.
  • The Colorado special is June 25: Buck, CO-4. The Republicans will win with a caretaker candidate named Greg Lopez, the former mayor of the city of Parker. The division count will then move to 220R — 214D.

FL-6: Prominent NAACP Leader to Challenge Rep. Waltz — Three-term Florida US Rep. Michael Waltz (R-St. Augustine Beach) has drawn a credible challenger for the first time since his original election in 2018. Marion County NAACP president and pastor James Stockton (D) announced his candidacy yesterday as the Florida candidate filing deadline fast approaches on April 26 in conjunction with the state’s Aug. 20 primary election.

Marion County is the second largest population entity in Florida’s 6th District. Though Stockton may be the most credible of Rep. Waltz’s challengers, his chances of upsetting the incumbent are slim to say the least. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates FL-6 as R+28. Former President Donald Trump recorded a 61-38 percent victory percentage here in 2020, the third strongest of Florida’s 20 Republican congressional districts.

SC-1: Ex-Chief of Staff Drops Bid Against Rep. Mace — Earlier this winter, news was made when Dan Hanlon, the former chief of staff to South Carolina US Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Charleston) resigned his position and announced he would oppose his former boss in the coming Republican primary. Just before candidate filing expired yesterday, Hanlon closed the committee he filed with the Federal Election Commission and chose not to enter the race.

Perhaps the main reason for his action is the presence of a serious opponent, former South Carolina cabinet secretary Catherine Templeton who clearly is capable to offering a credible Republican alternative to Rep. Mace. Templeton also announced that she has topped the $500,000 mark in fundraising after just eight weeks on the campaign trail.

A third contender, non-profit executive Bill Young, while not a threat to outpace either Mace or Templeton, could attract enough votes to force the leader below the 50 percent mark. Should that happen, the top two finishers would then advance to a June 25 runoff election to determine the nominee. This will be a primary race to watch on June 11.

States

New Jersey: Caveat to Court Ruling — Last week, we reported on a New Jersey court ruling that agreed with Rep. Andy Kim’s (D-Moorestown) lawsuit over the local political parties having the power to award favorable ballot positions at the expense of their primary opponents. The judge agreed and issued an injunction that will stop the practice at least for this election.

Yesterday, however, the judge clarified his ruling in saying that the injunction applies only to the Democratic primary to which the plaintiff, Kim, who is now the prohibitive favorite to win the Senate Democratic primary regardless of where is appears on the ballot, limited his complaint.

Trump Stirs Controversy in Florida; Fong Saga Continues in California; Republicans Choose CO-4 Candidate; New Jersey Primary Challenge

By Jim Ellis — Monday, April 1, 2024

House

Florida Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Tampa)

FL-15: Rep. Lee’s New Opponent — Former President Trump may have ignited a hornets’ nest when he called for a MAGA candidate to come forward to oppose GOP freshman Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Tampa). While that has yet to happen, the controversy within the Republican base may have encouraged a new Democrat to come forward in what is a competitive district. Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp (D) announced on Friday that he will enter the Democratic primary and immediately becomes the favorite for the party nomination.

Trump targeted Rep. Lee because she was the only member of the Florida Republican delegation to endorse Gov. Ron DeSantis against the former president in this year’s national campaign. Florida’s 15th District carries an R+7 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data organization. However, Trump won the district by only a 51-48 percent margin in the 2020 presidential election.

CA-20: Appellate Court to Hear Fong Ballot Status — The Vince Fong ballot saga is not yet over. You may remember because former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R) resigned from the House at the California candidate filing deadline, the Secretary of State disqualified Fong from running for Congress because he was already certified as a candidate for state Assembly to remain in his seat there. California election law prohibits candidates from running for more than one office simultaneously and the withdrawal deadline had already expired.

Fong sued over the decision and the court awarded him the congressional ballot line. Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) appealed the ruling, however, and arguments will be heard this week. Therefore, though Assemblyman Fong has qualified for both the special and regular general elections for the congressional seat, an adverse appellate court ruling could send this succession election into political chaos.

CO-4: Republicans Choose Caretaker Candidate — Late last week, the local Republican committee formed to choose a special election nominee for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District special election to replace resigned Rep. Ken Buck (R) chose a candidate who agreed not to run for the regular term. The move is a break for US Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt), switching over from District 3, and the 10 other candidates in the regular Republican primary.

The committee chose former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez as their special election candidate. He will be favored to win the upcoming special election which is held concurrently with the regular primary on June 25.

Lopez, a former state director for the Small Business Administration, will be favored against the Democratic nominee who will be chosen later today. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates CO-4 as R+26. Former President Donald Trump won the seat 58-39 percent in the 2020 presidential election.

States

New Jersey: Court Rejects Party County Line Balloting — New Jersey is one of the few remaining states where the county political parties have substantial power. What makes them strong is endorsing candidates in the primary and providing them extremely favorable ballot placements to the point where opponents are listed on separate ballot pages.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), running for the Senate, filed suit against the practice and the federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to halt the practice. While Kim is now becoming the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic Senate nomination since First Lady Tammy Murphy exited the race and Sen. Bob Menendez announced that he is not seeking the party nomination, his legal move will likely create a more even playing field for down-ballot races. This will probably become a major factor in changing how New Jersey primaries are run.

Christie Says No to No Labels; Florida, South Carolina Redistricting; Quick Candidate Filing in New Hampshire

By Jim Ellis — Friday, March 29, 2024

President

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) says no to No Labels. / Photo by Gage Skidmore

No Labels: Christie Says No — The No Labels Party is seemingly having a difficult time either choosing a presidential nominee or having someone accept their offer to run on their ballot line. A story emerged that former New Jersey governor and ex-presidential candidate Chris Christie (R), after being in negotiations with No Labels, has decided not to pursue entering the 2024 presidential general election as this party’s standard bearer.

Christie, in announcing his decision, said “I also believe that if there is not a pathway to win and if my candidacy in any way, shape or form would help Donald Trump become president again, then it is not the way forward.”

The No Labels membership has voted to field a presidential ticket, but so far, the leadership has not brought forth a national candidate pairing.

House

Florida Redistricting: Federal Judicial Panel Rejects Plaintiffs’ Arguments — A three-judge federal panel has rejected a lawsuit claiming that the Sunshine State congressional map violates the 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution. The ruling’s result means that the current plan will remain in place.

The Florida map, from which the district electorates chose 20 Republicans and eight Democrats, is the Republicans’ strongest, nationally. Therefore, not changing this plan boosts GOP chances of maintaining their small majority.

SC-1: District Looks to Stand — With the South Carolina candidate filing deadline upon us on April 1 and the US Supreme Court so far not ruling on the redistricting case before them, the original three-judge panel has taken action. The federal jurists who initially declared the Palmetto State’s 1st District (Rep. Nancy Mace-R) a racial gerrymander ruled yesterday that the current configuration can stand for the 2024 election. The panel acted because SCOTUS has failed to issue their decision after hearing oral arguments and considering that the filing deadline is Monday.

The fact that the high court has not yet ruled suggests that the district will stand. Though the lawsuit was targeted to the racial complexion of the 1st District, changing this seat will invariably alter at least one other. South Carolina has seven districts that are split in in a 6R:1D ratio.

NH-2: First Candidate Announcement — A day after six-term New Hampshire US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) announced that she will not seek re-election, a former gubernatorial nominee came forward to declare for the seat. Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D), who held now-Gov. Chris Sununu (R) to an initial 49-47 percent victory in 2016, officially threw his hat into the congressional political ring.

New Hampshire’s 2nd is a politically marginal district that leans Democratic. Republicans will certainly contest the seat, but the quick Van Ostern move suggests he will become the early favorite not only for the Democratic nomination, but to hold the seat in November.

The New Hampshire filing deadline is not until June 14, so potential candidates have considerable time to make their decisions. Crowded fields are expected in both parties, but possibly less so for the Democrats now that Van Ostern has declared his intentions so quickly.

Figures Records Major Lead in Alabama Runoff; New Challenger in AZ-2; Rep. Kuster to Retire; Clear Leader Emerges in North Dakota

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, March 28, 2024

House

Former Obama Justice Department official Shomari Figures.

AL-2: Figures Records Major Lead in New Runoff Poll — Impact Research conducted a research study for the upcoming April 2 Democratic runoff election in Alabama’s new 2nd Congressional District anchored in the Montgomery and Mobile areas. The survey (March 14-18; 500 likely AL-2 Democratic runoff voters; interactive voice response system and text) sees former Obama Justice Department official Shomari Figures, who finished first in the March 5 primary with 43.5 percent of the vote, leading state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Montgomery) by a whopping 59-24 percent margin.

The eventual Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite in the general election. President Joe Biden carried this newly configured district with a 56-43 percent vote spread in 2020. The state’s congressional map was redrawn to comply with the US Supreme Court ruling in the Alabama racial gerrymandering case.

AZ-2: McCarthy Opponent Draws Primary Challenge — Freshman Arizona Rep. Eli Crane (R-Oro Valley), who is one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has drawn a primary opponent. Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith (R) announced yesterday that he would follow through with a challenge to Crane after he filed a campaign committee weeks ago with the Federal Election Commission.

The 2nd Congressional District of Arizona covers the state’s northeastern sector and then stretches into Maricopa County, in and around the Phoenix metro area. The seat is safely Republican, so the true battle will be in the GOP primary scheduled for July 30.

NH-2: Rep. Kuster to Retire — Six-term New Hampshire US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) announced yesterday that she will not seek re-election next year. Her departure paves the way for a competitive primary and general election season. Kuster averaged 53.3 percent of the vote in her six victorious elections, dropping below 50 percent in 2016 (49.8 percent) while scoring her strongest vote of 55.8 percent in 2022. She was first elected in 2012, defeating then-Rep. Charlie Bass (R) in that year’s general election.

NH-2 becomes the 49th open seat heading into the next election. Kuster becomes the 25th House Democrat not to seek another term. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the western New Hampshire seat as D+2, and the Daily Kos Elections site ranks NH-2 as the 21st-most vulnerable district in the Democratic Conference. President Biden, however, recorded a 54-45 percent victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, thus exceeding the typical Democratic performance in this swing seat.

ND-AL: Clear Leader Emerges — As candidate filing in North Dakota closed, the race for the open at-large congressional district is becoming clearer. Former state Sen. Tom Campbell (R), viewed as a strong contender, decided not to file for the seat just after outgoing Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced his Republican primary endorsement of state Public Utilities Commissioner Julie Fedorchak.

It appears that Fedorchak is becoming the favorite for the nomination. With the FiveThirtyEight data organization rating North Dakota as R+37 and former President Trump carrying the seat with a 65-32 percent margin, winning the Republican primary is typically tantamount to claiming the seat in the November election.

Three-term Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-Bismarck) is running for governor. In addition to Fedorchak, former state Rep. Rick Becker and farmer and retired Air Force veteran Alex Balazs comprise the open-seat GOP primary field. For the Democrats, educator and 2022 Public Utilities Commission nominee Trygve Hammer is unopposed for the party nomination.