Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The September Debate:
Who’s In and Who’s Out

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2019 — It appears the Democratic National Committee’s move to increase the presidential debate qualifications in order to decrease the number of participants is working.

With the first two debates featuring 20 candidates over a two-night process, party leaders obviously wanted to cull the field in order to attract a large viewership and host a more serious single forum. Thus, the debate qualifications were doubled in order to ensure that only the most competitive candidates would be included in the succeeding candidate events.

Originally, in order to earn a debate podium, the contenders had to recruit 65,000 donors or score at least one percent support within a series of designated polls. For the third debate scheduled over two days — Sept. 12-13 from Houston — the minimum qualification standards were doubled. Now, the candidates must prove they have at least 130,000 donors, 400 of whom come from at least 20 states, and receive two percent support on four of eight designated polls during the period of June 28 and Aug. 28.

At this point, nine candidates have already officially qualified for the September forum and three more have clinched one of the two platforms. Most of the nine were expected to earn their debate positions, but there is at least one major surprise, and some believe two minor ones.

The next debate will feature no fewer than the
following candidates (alphabetically listed):
• Former Vice President Joe Biden
• Sen. Cory Booker (NJ)
• Mayor Pete Buttigieg
• Sen. Kamala Harris (CA)
• Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)
• Ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX)
• Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT)
• Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA)
• Businessman Andrew Yang

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2020 Senate Races: The Latest

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2019 — New developments are occurring in 2020 Senate races across the country and several are apparently unofficially set for the general election. Below is a recap:

ALABAMA: Two polls have been conducted since both former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and retired Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville joined the Republican race. Each survey showed Tuberville with the lead. The most recent, from the Cygnal research firm (June 22-23), finds Tuberville leading Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), 29-21 percent. Judge Moore, the 2017 special election GOP nominee, recorded only 18 percent support among the likely GOP voters. An April 14 Republican run-off is likely after the March 3 primary. The eventual party nominee faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

ARIZONA: While the general election already appears set between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), the special election schedule is not as clear cut. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a lawsuit that challenges the length of McSally’s current appointment. The ultimate ruling could mean an earlier special election. Currently, the special cycle is to run concurrently with the regular 2020 election calendar.

COLORADO: Signs continue pointing to former Gov. John Hickenlooper leaving the Democratic presidential campaign and entering the Colorado Senate race. He looks strong in a Democratic primary – a recent Garin Hart Yang Research poll posts him to a 61-10 percent lead — but he will face a tough general election against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

IDAHO: Sen. Jim Risch (R) has announced his re-election campaign for a third term and looks to be a lock for another win.

ILLINOIS: Minority Whip Dick Durbin now has no Democratic primary opposition as state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) announced several weeks ago that she was ending her Senate campaign. Sen. Durbin is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.

IOWA: The Democratic establishment is coalescing around Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. At this point, the general election pairing looks to feature Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Greenfield.

KANSAS: There is less conjecture that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) will return to Kansas and run for the open Senate seat and more thought that western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) will become a candidate. Mr. Marshall already has $1.4 million in his federal campaign account for the 2020 election cycle. He will face a crowded Republican primary but should be favored. Democrats feature a primary between former US Attorney Barry Grissom and ex-one-term Rep. Nancy Boyda.

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Polling Series: New Pattern Emerges

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 14, 2019 — The HarrisX polling firm just completed conducting three rolling national Democratic presidential primary polls, and while they confirm other data finding former Vice President Joe Biden leading the race, he does so only in the low 30s. This is a number range far below what he needs to win a first-ballot nomination. The data does, however, reveal a new contender consistently placing second.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

HarrisX conducted the survey trio from Aug. 7-12 that covered the periods of Aug. 7-10, 8-11, and 9-12. The sample sizes were substantial and almost identical in size, ranging from 1,346-1,350.

The HarrisX findings when compared with other recent polling yield a first-place finish for Biden. The three studies post him to a pair of 30 percent finishes and one 31 percent showing.

But, perhaps the more interesting placement comes in examining who finished second. In contrast with the conclusions of other national polls that show Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) placing definitively in second place, the HarrisX series finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) returning to that position.

The three polls project a consistent Biden-Sanders-Warren finish, with the leader scoring close to a 2:1 margin over his closest rival.

The research trifecta produced the following results:

Aug. 9-12; 1,346 registered or self-identified US Democratic voters
Biden 30%
Sanders 16%
Warren 10%
Harris 6%
Buttigieg 5%
O’Rourke 4%

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9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Could Force Arizona’s Hand

By Jim Ellis

Appointed Arizona Sen. (and former representative) Martha McSally (R)

Aug. 13, 2019 — Soon after Republican Congress-woman Martha McSally was appointed to the Senate, a group of Arizona voters — two Democrats, a Repub-lican, a Libertarian, and an Independent — challenged the length of time that she could serve without going to election. Now the case awaits a ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that could force the state to hold an early special election.

Sen. John McCain (R), who was re-elected in 2018, passed away in late August almost a year ago, on the 25th. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) then appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to serve until the 2020 election, but Kyl only pledged to stay through 2018. He then resigned before the new Congress took office at the beginning of this year. Gov. Ducey responded by appointing then-Rep. McSally (R-Tucson), who had just lost the 2018 open seat US Senate election to then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix).

Because Sen. McCain died so early into his term, there would be an appointment followed by a special election. The appointment would extend to the next general election in 2020, with the winner serving the balance of the term. Therefore, whoever wins next November’s special election wouldn’t be eligible to run for a full six-year term until 2024.

Under Arizona law, which is similar to succession laws in 35 other states, the governor appoints an interim senator who serves until the next regular election. In 14 states, which have systems similar to what the plaintiffs are demanding, a special election is scheduled at the earliest possible date according to the individual state law.

In Sen. McSally’s case her interim term would stretch to 27 months, which the group of plaintiffs argues is too long a time to not give the voters a say. The federal district court judge rejected the argument, but the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit. Late last week, the appellate court agreed to hear the case, and will do so in an expedited manner.

The 2020 Arizona special election promises to be one of the most hard-fought campaigns during the cycle. Even at this early date it is already clear that the two major party nominees will be Sen. McSally and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is the husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson).

The contest is already almost at fever pitch. In fact, Kelly raised more money in the 2nd Quarter than any other US Senate candidate, $4.24 million, but he was closely followed by Sen. McSally who raised the second-most of any federal candidate in the country, $3.4 million. Kelly had $5.9 million cash-on-hand at the end of June while Sen. McSally had $4.4 million.

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Projected Democrat Delegate Count

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 12, 2019 — Several polls in key states have been released in early August, so it is a good time to again review the Democratic presidential delegate count estimate based upon the available data.

Projected delegate counts based on polling in nine key states of Democratic candidates jockeying for their party’s nomination for president in 2020.

We see new polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, California, Texas, North Carolina, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Adding the numbers from Nevada and South Carolina — important because this pair is part of the momentum setting First Four — we can gain a decent, though not wholly accurate, picture of where the race would stand if delegate apportionment were based upon these polling totals.

The most current surveys come from North Carolina, Iowa, and Pennsylvania all conducted between July 29 and Aug. 5.

In chronological order, based upon the latest studies, we begin with the Tar Heel State. Survey USA polled the North Carolina Democratic electorate (Aug. 1-5; 534 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) and find former Vice President Joe Biden leading his opponents by 21 points. He would post 36 percent as compared to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) scoring 15 and 13 percent, respectively. All others fall to single digits.

Accounting for some of the lower-tier candidates eventually dropping out before voting begins, it is likely that the three listed above would exceed the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates. If so, Biden would capture approximately 62 delegates, Sen. Sanders would earn 26, and Sen. Warren, 22.

Monmouth University conducted a new Iowa poll (Aug. 1-4; 401 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants) and found much different results than when we last visited this electorate through the Change Research data in July. Those results projected the top five candidates qualifying for delegate apportionment, but Monmouth sees things quite differently.

According to their latest numbers, it is only Biden and Sen. Warren who would exceed the 15 percent threshold and qualify for delegates, polling at 28 and 19 percent respectively. Therefore, Iowa’s 41 first ballot delegates would split 24 for Biden and 17 for Warren.

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The Open Seat Review

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2019 — With so many seats coming open during the past 10 days, it’s time to review exactly which districts will be incumbent-less for the coming election and how many are truly competitive.

With Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) withdrawing from his nomination as Director of National Intelligence, it returned Texas’ 4th District to the incumbents’ list, but that move was quickly negated when fellow Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW Area) announced his retirement.

Taking those moves into consideration and including the two North Carolina special congressional elections that will be filled on Sept. 10, a total of 16 seats are open headed into the next election. Of the 16, Republicans hold, or last held in the case of the disputed NC-9 result from 2018, all but three of the open seats. Looking at the coming 16 campaigns, all can expect contested primaries in at least one party and seven look to be highly competitive during the general election.

Though the retirement action has been swift of late, the aggregate number of coming vacancies is still very low, especially when remembering that the number of cycle open seats throughout this decade has fallen between 47 and 64, inclusive.

The list below depicts the open House districts and their current status:


AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile)
• Trump ’16: 63-34 | • Romney ’12: 62-37

This southern Alabama seat will be settled in the GOP nomination contest. A run-off after the March 3 primary is likely and will likely feature a two-person combination from the group comprised of former state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, and businessman Wes Lambert. The eventual GOP nominee wins the seat in the November 2020 election.
Safe Republican


AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery)
• Trump ’16: 65-33 | • Romney ’12: 63-36

Rep. Roby was one of the surprise retirement announcements, but her leaving the seat open for the next election doesn’t cause the Republicans any harm. Expect a crowded Republican primary and a two-person run-off to ensue. The eventual Republican nominee wins the seat. So far, state Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) and former state Rep. Barry Moore are the most prominent candidates.
Safe Republican


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Mississippi Governor Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state flag

Aug. 8, 2019 — Voters in the Magnolia State of Mississippi went to the polls to choose open race nominees for the first time in eight years on Tuesday. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited and ineligible to seek re-election in 2019.

As expected, Attorney General Jim Hood easily dispatched seven Democratic opponents and captured the party nomination outright with a 69 percent statewide win. Hood, often called “the most successful Democratic politician in the South” because of winning four consecutive statewide elections as Mississippi’s AG, scored majority support in all but six of the 80 reporting counties. At this writing, two counties still had not released their vote counts.

The Republican side is headed for an Aug. 27 run-off, as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who earned Gov. Bryant’s backing for this election campaign, looks to be falling just a point short of securing the nomination. Of the estimated outstanding votes, Reeves would have to garner about 81 percent in order to win outright. Since his strongest county, tiny Coahoma, gave him 67.5 percent of the vote but from a total universe of only 120 voters, it indicates that attracting 81 percent of the outstanding ballots is not mathematically feasible.

Therefore, Reeves advances into the secondary election against former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., who placed second with 33 percent of the vote compared to Reeves’ 49 percent. The third candidate in the race, state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando), captured 18 percent and won two counties. Judge Waller finished first in seven counties.

Obviously, Reeves’ dominant showing in carrying 71 counties, which was almost enough for him to claim the nomination, now makes him a heavy favorite for the run-off. It will be interesting to see if Judge Waller comes under pressure not to force the secondary vote and an award the nomination to Reeves in order to unify the party and better prepare for the campaign to oppose Hood.

Turnout proved high in comparison with other races of note, at least for Republicans. The still growing turnout figure of 366,477 Republican voters tops the last open gubernatorial race back in 2011 when just under 290,000 individuals voted in that particular Republican primary. The Democrats’ 276,664 voter turnout figure increases the total participation figure in yesterday’s vote to 643,141 individuals with the two counties still outstanding.

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