Oct. 30, 2017 — Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) announcement Wednesday that he will not run for re-election has ignited a flurry of political activity in Arizona about who now might enter the newly open 2018 Senate race. Decisions are already being made, with many quickly saying they won’t run for the seat.
A great deal of attention surrounds 2nd District US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) for obvious reasons, because she is likely the best Republican candidate on paper, but the congresswoman has yet to make a public statement about running for the Senate. Published reports, however, quote sources close to her as saying she is being “inundated” with supporters urging that she run.
Winning her first congressional election in 2014, a 161-vote victory over then-Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson) that proved to be the closest congressional result in the country that year, and then racking up 57 percent support over former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D) last year even though Hillary Clinton was scoring a five-percentage point win in her southeastern Arizona congressional district makes Rep. McSally a proven political commodity. As a freshman House member, she raised an eye-popping $7.7 million for her first re-election effort. This year, ranking high on Democratic target lists and drawing eight announced opponents including former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) who moved to Tucson right after losing to Sen. John McCain (R) in the 2016 election, Rep. McSally already has accumulated over $1.45 million for her next campaign.
Oct. 27, 2017 — A pair of eyebrow-raising polls were released mid-week, one for the 2018 North Dakota Senate race and the other for the impending Virginia gubernatorial campaign.
North Dakota Senate
Poll results show Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) trailing for first time.
The 1892 polling firm, which has a record of surveying North Dakota statewide races, went into the field for Republican senatorial candidate Tom Campbell, a state senator and agri-businessman from Grafton, ND.
The survey (Oct. 11-12; 500 registered North Dakota voters; 400 additional Republican primary voters) finds Sen. Campbell leading in a hypothetical GOP primary, and in rather astonishing fashion for this early in the election cycle, actually trending ahead of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 44-41 percent.
Sen. Campbell has a healthy lead among Republicans, topping former US Rep. Rick Berg, 32-24 percent, among others. Ex-Rep. Berg admits to be considering the race, but has not given tangible indications that he is beginning to construct a campaign. The poll did not test current US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck), however, who says he will decide about running sometime next year.
Oct. 26, 2017 — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) surprised most in the political world during a speech a couple days ago from the Senate floor, and thereby to the nation, that he will not seek re-election for a second term.
Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward
With the text of his retirement address devoted mostly to his long-enduring battle with President Trump, Sen. Flake admits to having “regrets” about leaving elected politics and over the nation’s current state of affairs. But, the more salient reason hastening his departure is likely the polling data that shows his standing among Republicans is worse than the Arizona electorate as a whole, and that he would likely lose to both GOP challenger Kelli Ward, a former state senator who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent victory in the 2016 Republican primary, and US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election.
Contrary to media and Democratic Party analyses, the Republicans’ chances of holding this Senate seat actually improve with Sen. Flake’s departure. It was clear that his presidential sparring with Trump had left him worse for wear, and the GOP will likely be able to nominate a less encumbered, and thereby stronger, general election candidate.
Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.
Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).
Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.
The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.
Oct. 24, 2017 — The 3rd Quarter Federal Election Commission US House disclosure reports are available, and they provide valuable clues as to which campaigns could become first-tier efforts next year. The Daily Kos Elections Page once again completed their quarterly analysis, which became the major source for this column.
Thirty-five incumbents and two challengers have already raised more than $1 million for the current election cycle. Another seven (six incumbents; one challenger) have crossed the $900,000 mark in current cycle receipts.
Most of the million-dollar incumbents are in projected competitive primary or general election campaigns.
Arizona two-term incumbent Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) is again raising and spending huge amounts in the early going. She has gathered $2.8 million, a great deal of which comes through expensive direct mail, hence her cash-on-hand total is $1.453 million. Her potential leading Democratic opponent, former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) who has re-located to Tucson in order to challenge McSally, is showing only $269,000 on hand in comparison, but that is the largest amount among the five Democrats filing disclosure reports in this district.
Greg Pence, brother of VP Mike Pence, announces he is running for Indiana’s open 6th District.
By Jim Ellis
Oct. 23, 2017 — Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, is now a congressional candidate in Indiana. Greg Pence made public late last week his intention to run for the open 6th District, the seat his brother held for 12 years before being elected governor (see video above). He is attempting to replace Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), who is running for Senate. Before he entered the congressional race, Greg Pence was serving as Messer’s finance chairman for the Senate campaign.
The 6th District is safely Republican, voting 68-27 percent for the Trump-Pence ticket, after supporting Mitt Romney with a 60-37 percent split. Back in 2008 when then-Sen. Barack Obama (D) won Indiana in the year that he was first elected president, Sen. John McCain still carried the 6th with a substantial 55-44 percent spread.
Under this backdrop, the vice president’s brother begins his congressional quest in a campaign where he will very likely only need to win the Republican nomination to secure his seat in the US House. And, with the VP’s help, particularly with his national finance network, it will be very difficult for any Republican candidate to keep Greg Pence from winning the primary.
Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)
Oct. 20, 2017 — A new Fox Poll (Oct. 14-16; 801 registered Alabama voters) just released earlier this week finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D) tied at 42 percent in the special Alabama Senate race to be decided Dec. 12, but such a result begs further analysis.
Though the sample size appears sound from a numerical perspective, its composition causes one to doubt the final result. The actual segment cell sizes are not revealed in the analysis section, but it appears they are not wholly reflective of the Alabama electorate. Those with the greatest error factors: non-whites (+/-7 percent), liberals (+/-7 percent), moderates (+/-7 percent), and independents (+/-8.5 percent) all are strong cells for Jones. The error factors for other segments: whites (+/-4 percent), conservatives (+/-4.5 percent), and gun owners (+/-4.5 percent) are all much lower than the other tested subgroups and each of those favor Judge Moore.
While the overall error rating within the entire sample of registered voters is only listed at +/-3.5 percent, all 18 of the subgroups have corresponding rates that are much higher. This is not particularly unusual since the subgroups, by definition, are smaller than the overall sample, but the considerably larger error factor among Jones’ best groups provides us clues that the poll is skewed in the Democratic nominee’s favor.
Earlier, the Cygnal polling firm released its statewide poll (Oct. 2-5; 497 likely Alabama special election voters) finding Moore leading 49-41 percent, a survey we analyzed last week, and the ex-Judge does particularly well among those identified as most likely to vote. By contrast, the Fox sample is only of registered voters and did not screen for voting propensity. Not isolating voting likelihood is another polling factor that favors Jones’ standing.