Author Archives: Jim Ellis

One Week Out From Iowa,
It’s Looking Like a Four-Way Split

A four-way split? 2020 Democratic presidential candidates (from left) South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (PBS.org photo)

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2020 — Now, just about one week from the first votes of the 2020 presidential election campaign being cast in Iowa, the most current polling suggests that we could see a four-way split for delegate apportionment in the first two voting states. After Iowans meet in their precinct meetings next Monday, New Hampshire voters will visit their polling places in the nation’s first 2020 presidential primary eight days later on February 11th.

Two new surveys each come from the two states: YouGov/CBS News and Suffolk University/USA Today in Iowa, and the University of New Hampshire/CNN and Marist College/NBC News in the Granite State.

In Iowa, Suffolk University/USA Today (Jan. 23-26; 500 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the rest of the field, 25-19-18-13-8 percent. In third place is former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) follows, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) takes the drop into fifth place.

Based upon this poll, Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg would qualify for delegate apportionment, while the actual vote would likely push Sen. Warren over the minimum threshold, as well. Iowa has 41 first-ballot delegates.

Continue reading

Late Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2020 — Our final installment pertaining to the in-cycle Senate races covers the contests with primaries from mid-August through September:

AUGUST 6

Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring and the Tennessee open Senate seat has generated little in the way of political competition. Republican leaders, including President Trump, have joined together in support of former US Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, and he is a heavy favorite to win the party nomination and the general election. Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi is challenging Hagerty in the Republican primary, but him topping the former ambassador for the party nomination would be a major upset.
Dr. Sethi does have the wherewithal to compete, however. Through September, he loaned his campaign over $1.5 million in addition to raising almost $900,000. For the fourth quarter, Hagerty is going to report over $1.5 million raised with $3 million in the bank.
Democrats have virtually conceded the general election, largely as a response to then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) defeating the person they believed was their best possible Democratic candidate in the last election, the state’s former two-term governor, Phil Bredesen. Blackburn’s strong 55-44 percent victory margin against the best they have has clearly dissuaded potential Democratic candidates who may have considered entering this year’s open contest.
Of the three who look to file on April 2, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler, who exited the 2018 Senate race at the party leadership’s behest, is now their candidate of choice but he appears to be a sacrificial lamb at this point.

AUGUST 11

Minnesota: Then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was appointed to the Senate in 2018 when then-Sen. Al Franken (D) resigned in disgrace over a sexual harassment scandal. Smith won the subsequent special election, 53-42 percent, over state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s County). She now stands for a full term and will likely draw former one-term US representative and radio talk show host Jason Lewis (R).
The former congressman is capable of running a credible campaign, and should the presidential race again get close in Minnesota as it did in the last election with Hillary Clinton carrying the state by less than two percentage points, the Senate race could conceivably become close. In any event, Sen. Smith is certainly favored to win again, but the campaign bears watching in case developments begin to break the Republicans’ way.

Continue reading

Mid-Year Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2020 — The second in our three-part series about the in-cycle Senate races covers the 13 contests with June and early August primary dates:

JUNE 2

Iowa: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) stands for a second term and will likely face Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) in the general election. Greenfield, who aborted a congressional run in 2018 when her campaign effort didn’t collect the requisite number of legal petition signatures, enjoys at least unofficial backing from the Democratic establishment and party leadership. The leaders’ first choice to run, freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), decided to seek her first re-election instead of jumping into a statewide battle.
Sen. Ernst is favored for re-election but some of her approval ratings have been low. Much will depend upon the national political trend, particularly at the presidential level. Iowa is typically a swing state that has been moving right in most recent elections, though the Democrats did gain two congressional seats in the last election.

Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (R) stands for a second term, and with the Democrats unable to convince outgoing governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock to run for the Senate, most of the political attention has shifted to the open governor’s race and at-large US House contest. With Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) again running for governor, both the governor’s office and the state’s lone House seat are open for the coming election.
In fact, when looking at the entire statewide ticket, mostly due to term limits and statewide officials running for other offices, five of the seven statewide races are open contests in 2020. Therefore, the lack of attention and concentration on the Senate race certainly helps Sen. Daines. At this point, with the March 9 candidate filing deadline less than a month away, the type of candidate who could give the senator a serious run has not yet emerged.

New Jersey: Sen. Cory Booker (D) backed away from the presidential contest in order to concentrate on his re-election campaign. While state law was changed to allow candidates to run for offices simultaneously, Sen. Booker decided the time to exit the presidential race was upon him before embarrassing losses in Democratic primary states encouraged stronger primary competition for his re-election back home. Now concentrating on New Jersey full-time, Sen. Booker looks safe for re-election.

Continue reading

Early Senate Primaries – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2020 — A total of 35 US Senate races will adorn the various state ballots this year, and the nomination process will begin in five states on Super Tuesday. Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas will make Senate candidate choices on March 3 since their domains have linked the statewide primary concurrently with the presidential primaries. The remaining Super Tuesday statewide primary state, California, does not host a Senate race in this election cycle.

After Super Tuesday, Mississippi and Illinois will hold Senate primaries later in March. Then, a respite comes until May when six more states’ electorates will choose their candidate slates.

MARCH 3

Alabama: The premier March Senate primary comes in Alabama where former US Attorney General and ex-Senator Jeff Sessions attempts to re-claim the seat from which he resigned to accept his federal appointment. In the subsequent special election to replace Sessions, Democrat Doug Jones was able to win the seat and now stands for a full six-year term.
Sessions, however, faces credible Republican opposition and the top two primary finishers heading to an April 14 run-off election appears probable. Sessions looks to be leading the race and is likely either to face former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville or US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile).
Former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, who lost the special election to Sen. Jones, lags well behind most of the GOP field. Assuming Moore does not rebound to win the nomination, the eventual Republican nominee should become the favorite against Sen. Jones in a state where President Trump will record one of his strongest victory percentages.

Continue reading

Delegate Reallocation
Brings Increase to 4,750

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2020 — As we approach the first votes being cast for the Democratic presidential nomination next month, the Democratic National Committee has reallocated delegate slots among certain state contingents, thus increasing the size of the overall delegate universe to 4,750.

The changes are relatively substantial within the states when compared to the last national convention in 2016, while the recent Super Delegate total sees an increase of five new votes. The alterations within the state counts — an increase in every affected place but California — feature an additional 210 delegate votes when compared with the totals from four years ago.

Most of the boosts reflect a reward for increased Democratic votes in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The calculations include results in the recent races for president, US Senate, US House, governor, and for state legislature. States that hold their presidential nominating event after April 1 are also rewarded.

The largest increases are found in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where their respective delegations have grown by 50, 33, and 19 slots respectively, largely due to Democratic gains in the US House and state legislatures particularly from the 2018 elections. New Jersey, for example, converted a governor’s chair to the Democratic column in their 2019 election, after gaining five congressional seats in 2018 and ‘16, thus accounting for their delegation increase. And, all three states vote after April 1.

California’s regular delegate total has been reduced by one vote, possibly for moving their previous June primary to before April 1, on Super Tuesday, March 3. The state still has, by far, the largest contingent with 494 total delegates and 415 of those voting on the first ballot. The next largest delegation, after calculating their increase, is New York with 320 overall delegate slots, 274 of which are eligible to cast first-ballot votes.

Continue reading