Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Open Seats

Jan. 20, 2016 — Considering six new House retirements were announced just before Christmas and early into the New Year, it’s a good time to review exactly which states and districts are open for the 2016 election:

Senate – 6 Total (3R; 3D)
California: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) – retiring – Safe Democrat
Florida: Sen. Marco Rubio (R) – running for President – Toss-Up
Indiana: Sen. Dan Coats (R) – retiring – Likely Republican
Louisiana: Sen. David Vitter (R) – retiring – Likely Republican
Maryland: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) – retiring – Safe Democrat
Nevada: Sen. Harry Reid (D) – retiring – Toss-Up
• Likely R: (2)
• Safe D: (2)
• Toss-Up: (2)

House – 37 Total (22R; 15D)

AZ-1: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) – running for Senate – Toss-Up
CA-20: Rep. Sam Farr (D) – retiring – Safe D
CA-24: Rep. Lois Capps (D) – retiring – Lean D
CA-44: Rep. Janice Hahn (D) – running for local office – Safe D
CA-46: Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) – running for Senate – Safe D
DE-AL: Rep. John Carney (D) – running for Governor – Likely D
FL-6: Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) – running for Senate – Likely R
FL-9: Rep. Alan Grayson (D) – running for Senate – Likely D
FL-11: Rep. Rich Nugent (R) – retiring – Safe R
FL-13: Rep. David Jolly (R) – running for Senate – Lean D
FL-18: Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) – running for Senate – Toss-Up
GA-3: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) – retiring/Gov (’18) – Safe R
IL-8: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) – running for Senate – Safe D
IN-3: Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) – running for Senate – Safe R
IN-9: Rep. Todd Young (R) – running for Senate – Likely R
KY-1: Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) – retiring – Safe R
LA-3: Rep. Charles Boustany (R) – running for Senate – Safe R
LA-4: Rep. John Fleming (R) – running for Senate – Safe R
MD-4: Rep. Donna Edwards (D) – running for Senate – Safe D
MD-8: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) – running for Senate – Safe D
MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R) – retiring – Lean R
MI-10: Rep. Candice Miller (R) – retiring – Safe R
MN-2: Rep. John Kline (R) – retiring – Toss-Up
NV-3: Rep. Joe Heck (R) – running for Senate – Likely R
NY-3: Rep. Steve Israel (D) – retiring – Lean D
NY-13: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) – retiring – Safe D
NY-19: Rep. Chris Gibson (R) – retiring/Gov (’18) – Lean R
NY-22: Rep. Richard Hanna (R) – retiring – Lean R
OH-8: Rep. John Boehner (R) – resigned – Safe R –
           Special Election – March 15; June 7
PA-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) – retiring – Lean R
PA-16: Rep. Joe Pitts (R) – retiring – Likely R
TX-15: Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D) – retiring – Safe D
TX-19: Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R) – retiring – Safe R
VA-2: Rep. Scott Rigell (R) – retiring – Toss-Up
VA-5: Rep. Bob Hurt (R) – retiring – Likely R
WA-7: Rep. Jim McDermott (D) – retiring – Safe D
WY-AL: Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) – retiring – Safe R
• Safe R: (10); Likely R: (5); Lean R: (4); Total R: (19)
• Safe D: (9); Likely D: (2); Lean D: (3); Total D: (14)
• Toss-Up: (4)

A Curious New Retirement

Jan. 19, 2016 — Rep. Scott Rigell’s (R-VA-2) announced retirement last week is surprising not just because it was unexpected. Since the Virginia redistricting situation that directly affects the southeastern part of the state is not fully decided, the political timing of such a declaration is precarious.

Clearly, Rigell’s decision not to seek a fourth term is being done for personal reasons and not political ones. His official statements suggest he has a “sense of accomplishment” regarding his service in Congress, and that “it’s time to come home.” If politics were involved, he would postpone a retirement announcement until the district lines are finalized, particularly because his 2nd District fares quite differently under the two redistricting plans.

The new court-ordered Virginia map would make Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-VA-4) district virtually unwinnable for a Republican, but actually reinforces, from a GOP perspective, the Rigell seat and that of neighboring Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA-5). Interestingly, Hurt, also after three terms, announced his retirement just before Christmas.

But Virginia redistricting is far from settled despite the lower court’s action to institute their map. Republican appellants are asking the US Supreme Court to stay the lower court decision until the high court, itself, hears arguments on the new plan and renders its own decision.

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Both Parties Virtually Tied

Jan. 15, 2016 — A plethora of polling is underway in Iowa, now just 19 days away from voters casting the first ballots of the 2016 election cycle. The new surveys are consistently finding that both party contests have tightened substantially.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton had been breaking away from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) since mid-September, but the most recent polls, those conducted since the beginning of this month and year, are making the political atmospherics uncomfortable for the former Secretary of State and First Lady. Sen. Sanders has seen a resurgence of Iowa support forming behind his candidacy, and he has now pulled into a virtual tie with Clinton.

Since New Years Day, five pollsters surveyed the Hawkeye State Democratic electorate and found Clinton leading in only three of the five studies. According to NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, American Research Group, and Public Policy Polling, the spread between the two candidates now sits in a range of only three to six percentage points. Their sample sizes swing from 422 likely Democratic Caucus attenders to 600 from Jan. 2 through the 12th.

The fifth pollster, Gravis Marketing, reported their new findings yesterday. Surveying 461 likely Democratic Caucus attenders earlier this week (Jan 11-12), Gravis projects Clinton’s advantage again soaring to 57-36 percent, or back in the scope of what we were seeing in mid-September through the end of 2015. Since Gravis derives a much different conclusion than the other four pollsters surveying in the same time frame with similar methodologies, it is reasonable to consider that their latest poll could be an anomaly. We will find out for sure on Feb. 1.

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Florida Redistricting: The Latest

Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”

The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).

One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).

The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.

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Democratic Race Tightens

Jan. 13, 2016 — Several new polls are showing a tightening of the Democratic presidential campaign nationally, and for the upcoming Iowa Caucus (Feb. 1) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9). But, is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the party nomination threatened? We think, not.

The new Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll, which, the New York Times rated as the most accurate of the 23 pollsters they tested in the 2012 presidential campaign, posted their latest national results. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 967 “Americans”) finds Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) by her smallest margin in months, 43-39 percent. The last 10 national polls, not including this most recent IBD/TIPP data, finds the former First Lady’s advantage averaging approximately 55-33 percent.

The IBD/TIPP poll appears inherently flawed. First, surveying “Americans” tells us that not all of the respondents are registered voters. Second, the overall sample of 967 participants contains only 378 likely Democratic primary voters, which is the fundamental segment for determining the Clinton-Sanders ballot test. Keep in mind, however, this group of less than 400 people is supposed to represent the nation.

Such a sample may be adequate for a lone congressional district, but falls far short of the number necessary for forming accurate national conclusions. Therefore, standing alone this poll should be discarded, but it does serve as a potential base point from which to begin judging what may be a developing trend.

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