Author Archives: Jim Ellis

LaHood Wins; GOP Coalition Building

Sept. 14, 2015 — The last US House vacancy was officially filled last night when Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood (R) easily won the special election in the Peoria-anchored district left vacant when then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) resigned over improper expenses.

LaHood, the son of former representative and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, had an easy run from the beginning of the special election cycle. With no strong opponents filing in either the Republican primary or for the general election, the Peoria state senator’s pre-candidate filing operation positioned him as a consensus candidate virtually from the beginning.

LaHood garnered 69 percent of the vote against educator Rob Mellon (D), sweeping an 18th District that travels around and among the cities of Peoria, Springfield, and Normal before encompassing the rural region to the Missouri border.

The final turnout of 50,747 voters is a little more than half the average total of what we generally see for a special congressional election. The fact that this low-key campaign produced virtually no competition left no doubt about the final conclusion, hence the low voter participation rate.

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Breaking Senate Action

Sept. 11, 2015 The post Labor Day period is already bringing clarity to various Senate races, including several within the last day or two.

North Dakota

Speculation surrounding Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) jumping into the open North Dakota governor’s race was put to bed earlier this week. Sen. Heitkamp announced that she will not enter the state campaign and instead will complete her first senate term. Heitkamp was elected in 2012 and comes in-cycle three years from now.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership was concerned that Heitkamp would run for governor. Though she would not have risked her Senate seat to run, had she been victorious, a new succession law the legislature and Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) adopted this term takes the appointment power away from the governor pertaining to Senate vacancies. Instead, their action now requires calling an immediate special election. The chances of Republicans being able to convert an open North Dakota seat in a special 2017 vote would be very high, hence the importance of the national party leaders prevailing upon Sen. Heitkamp to forego a gubernatorial bid.

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Hillary Falling Not Only in Iowa and New Hampshire, But Across U.S.

Sept. 10, 2015 — A pair of newly released surveys is now providing what may be a true depiction of the current Democratic presidential field.

Though there has been a great deal of discussion and speculation about whether Vice President Joe Biden will join the presidential contest, most national studies were not including him on their national ballot test questions. The state polls that did feature him, along with Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), did not discover much in the way of Biden support, however. Yesterday, Monmouth University released a new poll that provides plausible answers as to where the VP stands in relation to Clinton and Sanders.

Though Clinton has been under the gun for weeks about her private email server and what has become her lagging campaign, the slippage in her standing when compared to the other candidates wasn’t particularly evident in national surveys, or those covering the early voting states’ electorates. Two NBC/Marist College surveys just reported their Iowa and New Hampshire findings, and they foresee a front-running candidate who is beginning to hemorrhage politically.

The Monmouth poll (Aug. 31 – Sept. 2; 1,099 US adults; 339 likely Democratic primary voters) finds Clinton now dropping below a majority within the Democratic cell sample, a first for a national poll in this election cycle. Monmouth projects Clinton having 42 percent support, followed by Biden with 22 percent, and Sen. Sanders close behind scoring 20 percent.

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Trump Creating an Open Convention?

Sept. 9, 2015 — Now that Donald Trump has pledged to remain in the Republican nomination process and not enter the general election as an Independent, can the current front runner win a majority of pledged delegates? Can he do so outside of a brokered convention?

In actuality, Trump’s current situation makes going to an open convention even more likely than originally believed.

To review what we have previously stated several times during the year, holding a brokered Republican convention for the first time in what will be 96 years could happen if several elements fell into place.

First, a field featuring a large number of candidates is required. No question the 17 contenders who comprise the Republican candidate universe certainly qualify as being “large”.

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Trump’s Pledge; Kline to Retire

Sept. 8, 2015 — A quiet political week ended with national Republican Party officials breathing a huge sigh of relief. Last week, Donald Trump agreed to sign the Republican National Committee pledge, committing candidates to eschew an independent candidacy if failing to win the party nomination. The language includes a statement of support for whoever becomes the GOP standard bearer. Obtaining Trump’s agreement was critical because his widely publicized contemplation about running in the general election was sure to doom the Republican nominee if he sought the presidency as an Independent.

But, it likely wasn’t the RNC chairman and leadership who carried the greatest influence with Trump. Rather, key GOP state chairmen who were beginning to draft legally binding pledges were the ones who made the difference.

The RNC pledge is not an authoritative document, and there isn’t much national party leaders can do if Trump decides to change his mind and reverse course later in the process. Ballot access, after all, is controlled by each individual state. But, state-based ballot qualifying measures and pledges do matter, and can be determinant about whether a candidate appears on a specific ballot.

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Nervous Numbers for Vitter and Trump

Sept. 4, 2015 — It’s basically been a foregone conclusion that Sen. David Vitter (R) would win Louisiana’s open governor’s race later this year, but a new poll gives reason to pause.

Pollster Verne Kennedy’s Market Research Insight just surveyed the Bayou State electorate (Aug. 26; 600 registered Louisiana voters) and finds, as virtually every other pollster has so far discovered, that Sen. Vitter’s numbers are low. Though he leads every poll, including this one, his support figures are not where one would expect for a multi-term incumbent senator engaged in an open statewide campaign.

According to the MRI data, Vitter has a 24-21-21-13 percent edge over state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D), Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), respectively, in the jungle primary election scheduled for Oct. 24, later this year. Should no one reach the majority plateau, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, would advance to a Nov. 21 run-off contest.

First, some polling analysis: the numbers are low across the board, which may be a result of survey methodology rather than voters not having a better sense of the gubernatorial contenders.

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Trump’s Impending Obstacles

Sept. 3, 2015 — Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has so far exceeded all expectations, but the rubber will soon meet the road for the wealthy upstart candidate. Continuing to publicly entertain the possibility of entering the general election as an Independent candidate if “the Republicans aren’t nice to me”, the decision whether to do so will likely come sooner rather than later.

The South Carolina primary is one of the most important. It is third on the nomination schedule and will likely hold its vote on Saturday, Feb. 20 of next year. The Palmetto State, like many others in the South and other places, has what is commonly referred to as a “sore loser law”. This means any person entering a partisan primary is ineligible to run as an Independent candidate in the related general election.

Most of these laws do not pertain to the presidential contest, but the South Carolina law does. Therefore, if Trump participates in the state’s primary – and he is leading there according to the latest polling – he would not be allowed access to the SC general election ballot if he fails to become the Republican nominee.

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