Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Senate – Early Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 19, 2019 — With candidate filing deadlines for the early primaries either passed or soon upcoming, it is a good time to review the Senate forecasts for the March through May state nomination campaigns.

MARCH

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

• Alabama: A hot Republican primary will occur on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, featuring former US Attorney General and ex-senator Jeff Sessions attempting to regain the position he resigned to accept his appointment from President Trump.

The most recent polling suggests the primary will go to an April 14 run-off election, possibly between Sessions and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 Senate nominee Roy Moore, along with state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) are also in the race and all but Mooney are still alive for the second run-off slot.

The eventual winner, assuming it is not Judge Moore who lost the special election after Sessions resigned, will be favored against Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election. Winning the Alabama race is critically important for Republicans to hold their majority.

• Arkansas: With the consensus Democratic candidate deciding to withdraw immediately after filing, the party is left without a challenger to first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R). Though the state leadership could have chosen a new nominee in convention, the Arkansas Democratic chairman announced they are unable to field a candidate. Therefore, Sen. Cotton is a cinch for re-election facing only minor party opposition.

• Illinois: Sen. Dick Durbin (D) seeks a fifth term next year facing no primary competition on March 17, and only minor opponents for the fall campaign. In a full turnout presidential election year in a strongly Democratic state, Sen. Durbin is a sure winner in 2020.

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What The Van Drew Switch Means

By Jim Ellis

NJ-2 Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew

Dec. 18, 2019 — We can expect an official announcement coming this week that freshman New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis Township) will become a Republican. Seeing most of his staff resign over this past weekend is the clearest indication that the speculation surrounding the congressman’s impending political move will in fact occur.

What does Van Drew’s switch mean for the House outlook in 2020? After the 2018 cycle House were finally tabulated, including the 2019 special elections to fill vacancies, the Republicans were tasked with converting a net 18 seats to obtain a bare one-vote majority.

Such a calculation has changed, however. The North Carolina court-mandated redistricting plan, the state’s third in this decade, will cost the Republicans at least two seats, meaning the GOP majority conversion number increases to 20. The Van Drew switch now reduces that number to 19, assuming each party holds their two vacant seats that will be decided in special elections prior to the regular 2020 general election.

Van Drew decided to switch parties due to his opposition to the Trump impeachment plans, but the underlying related reason points to some of his key county Democratic chairmen indicating they would support an intra-party challenge against him. New Jersey political parties are strong, and a Democratic chairman opposing one of his own incumbents would be taken seriously. The party endorsements in this state carry tangible benefits, including a particular advantageous ballot placement. An incumbent not receiving the party endorsement goes a long way to seeing such an office holder replaced.

The Republican move doesn’t solve all of Rep. Van Drew’s political problems, however. Upon hearing the party switching speculation, venture capitalist David Richter stated that not only is he remaining in the Republican primary to face Van Drew, but he is prepared to spend $1 million of his own money to win the nomination. On the Democratic side, college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison announced that she will run for the party nomination, and others are expected to soon follow her lead. It is clear that Rep. Van Drew will face both a competitive Republican primary and general election to secure a second term.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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