Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Re-setting the Republicans

Jan. 5, 2015 — We’re now within one month of the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential campaign, and though there is disagreement about just how important the “February Four” states will be in determining the ultimate Republican winner, the early entities, at a minimum, are of clear significance. Today, we cover the Republicans; tomorrow, we reset the Democrats.

The voting calendar begins with the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 1, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Eleven days later, South Carolina Republicans vote in their party run primary. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, both parties will conduct the Nevada Caucuses.

The four states, for the hotly contested Republicans, are assigned an aggregate of just 133 delegates. The February results will serve as a prelude to Super Tuesday voting, which will occur this year on March 1. Fourteen entities will host either primaries or caucuses on that day.

The latest 10 published polls from Iowa, taken from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, either find businessman Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) holding the lead. Five surveys, from Monmouth University, the Des Moines Register, Loras College, Fox News, and CBS/YouGov post Cruz to an advantage. Four give Trump a slight edge: Quinnipiac University (twice), CNN, and Public Policy Polling. One pollster, Gravis Marketing, has the two tied at 31 percent in the latest released poll (Dec. 18-21/15). Cruz’s average lead is 8.6 percent. Trump’s average advantage is a much smaller 4.7 percent.

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North Carolina Filing

Jan. 4, 2015 — Candidate filing closed in North Carolina before Christmas, and nine of the 14 federal incumbents standing for re-election will face 2016 primary opponents. Two of the challenges appear serious.

Sen. Richard Burr (R) draws a Tea Party challenge from physician Greg Brannon, who placed second (27.5 percent) against now-Sen. Thom Tillis in the 2014 Republican primary. He returns in a four-way contest against the two-term GOP incumbent. Former District Judge Paul Wright and retired advertising executive Larry Holmquist are the other GOP contenders.

North Carolina has 40 percent run-off law. If no candidate exceeds 40 percent, then a secondary election occurs. Sen. Burr is a cinch for the party nomination, and figures to have a strong general election performance against what will be a second-tier Democratic opponent. In 2010, Burr became the first incumbent since 1968 to be re-elected in this particular Senate seat. With Democratic recruitment failing, he is in very strong shape to win a third term.

Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2), Walter Jones (R-NC-3), Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5), Mark Walker (R-NC-6), David Rouzer (R-NC-7), Robert Pittenger (R-NC-9), Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10), and Alma Adams (D-NC-12) all drew primary challengers. Only the campaigns against Representatives Ellmers and Jones appear serious at the outset. The North Carolina primary will be held concurrently with the presidential nomination event, on March 15.

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A Surprise Virginia Retirement

All the best for the holidays. The Ellis Insight Political Updates will return in the New Year.
Enjoy the season!

Dec. 24, 2015 — Three-term Rep. Robert Hurt (R-Chatham/Charlottesville), just 46 years of age, announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. The Hurt retirement story broke from Virginia Republican sources late in the day Tuesday, and certainly qualifies as a major political surprise.

He was only elected in 2010, and leaving Congress so early and at a young age is highly unusual. Hurt explained the reason for his retirement in a statement:

“When I think back on my first run for public office, I never envisioned making this a career. I ran because I believed then as I do now that every citizen should contribute in his or her own way to ensure a vibrant representative democracy. But I also believed then as I do now that it is not our elected leaders who make our country great, but it is, rather, the private citizen and the private economy that make this country great.”

Prior to winning the central Virginia US House seat, Hurt served in the Virginia state Senate and House of Delegates. The congressman began his political career with a stint on the Chatham Town Council. He has served in elective office continually since the beginning of 2000 and appeared to be in no danger of losing re-election.

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A New Open Seat; Presidential
And House Dropouts

Dec. 23, 2015 — New York Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld/Utica/Binghamton) announced Monday that he will not seek a fourth term next year, thus creating the 32nd open seat of the 2016 election cycle.

Hanna was already fielding a primary challenge from conservative assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, the same opponent who held him to an uncomfortable 53.5-46.5 percent victory margin in 2014. Tenney was able to outpoll the congressman in three of the district’s eight counties (four whole; four partial).

In order to keep her state Assembly seat two years ago, Tenney did not advance to the general election on the Conservative Party ballot line, even though she became their nominee. Since Rep. Hanna was otherwise unopposed, many believed Tenney could have unseated him in a head-to-head contest, but her political risk proved too great.

Though Hanna generally votes the Republican Party line, he strays on some major social issues to the point that only 11 other Republicans vote opposite the party position more often than he. Thus, the incumbent was perceived as being vulnerable in the upcoming primary election.

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South Carolina Polling Flawed

Dec. 22, 2015 — South Carolina is an important early primary state and may have an even greater role than usual in setting the tone for the 2016 Republican race. Two December polls surveyed the Palmetto State Republican electorate, but the data snapshot does not provide us with a true indication of delegate apportionment and this latter point, from a nationwide perspective, is determinative regarding who wins the GOP presidential nomination.

With current polling suggesting that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may place first in the Iowa Caucus and Donald Trump well positioned to top the field in the New Hampshire primary, scoring a big delegate haul in South Carolina will give one of the candidates a clear momentum boost heading into the eleven-state Super Tuesday contests scheduled for March 1.

It’s the South Carolina delegate apportionment system that renders the latest state polls inconclusive. Under Republican Party rules, the state uses a Winner-Take-All by congressional district option, and then awards a large chunk of the at-large delegates to the statewide winner. The polling misses a key point because it does not segment the responses into the state’s seven congressional districts. This is largely because the individual district sample sizes would be too small to produce reliable results.

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