Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Biden Making Moves

Aug. 27, 2015 — Major speculation continues to swirl around Vice President Joe Biden. Meetings of key potential supporters now occur with great frequency, and talk of a ticket involving Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was jump-started when the two held a private meeting just last week. Therefore, it appears only a matter of time before a Biden for President campaign formally launches.

Hillary Clinton continues to stumble along the campaign trail, which is making Democratic leaders nervous, and willing to consider alternatives. But could a late-forming Biden campaign actually be successful? The answer is: possibly. It is conceivable that VP Biden could end up being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time … at least as far as the Democratic nomination is concerned.

The Democrats choose their convention delegates very differently than Republicans. Their process features greater party leadership control, so Clinton is in more trouble in the Democratic process than she might be running on the Republican side. While the GOP, featuring 17 candidates with a current front-runner who can’t reach 50 percent, could well be headed to a brokered convention, it is unlikely that Democrats will find themselves embroiled in such a predicament even though they will have three major candidates fighting through a grueling primary and caucus schedule.

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North Dakota Dominos

Aug. 26, 2015 — Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s (R) semi-surprising announcement Monday that he is not going to seek a second full term is launching North Dakota politicos into motion. The biggest question surrounds US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), and whether she will enter what is now an open race for governor.

Though North Dakota has become a solidly Republican state, Heitkamp successfully won her Senate seat in 2012 nipping then-at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), 50-49 percent. But, the governor’s office is what drives her political desire. From her post as the state’s two-term attorney general, Heitkamp ran for ND’s top office in 2000, but a diagnosis of breast cancer slowed her ability to compete. She fell to current Republican Sen. John Hoeven (55-45 percent) for what would be his first of three terms as the state’s chief executive.

Earlier in the year, speculation began growing that Sen. Heitkamp was considering challenging Gov. Dalrymple. Even though she would have been a distinct underdog, her proven ability to win difficult races in a conservative state is established. At the very least, she would have been a formidable candidate and not have had to risk her Senate seat.

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Florida Chaos; Kentucky Caucus

Aug. 25, 2015 — Like what happened last week in Virginia when the Republican legislature fumbled the redistricting special session and adjourned before drawing a map, the Florida GOP legislative leadership quickly followed suit. On Friday, the special redistricting legislative session adjourned without producing a new congressional plan. The irregular assembly was court ordered to correct legal deficiencies in eight federal districts.

To summarize, the Florida Supreme Court struck down parts of the congressional map on July 9 remanding it back to the state legislature because the eight seats, four from each party, did not comply with partisan and communication restrictions that pertain to an enacted 2010 redistricting voter initiative.

Why did the meltdown occur, and what happens now? In short, politics is the basic reason, thereby yielding a situation where both Republicans and Democrats will be making subsequent moves.

The session deteriorated for several reasons other than failing to agree upon new congressional district boundaries. At the top of the list looms a redistricting session expected to begin in October to reconfigure the state Senate.

Though the high court did not invalidate the Senate map, it was obvious such would soon be the case. Therefore, the legislative leaders went ahead and voluntarily scheduled a re-draw. Understanding this caveat, it is not surprising that internal state Senate political considerations would trump the legislature complying with their requirement to change the affected congressional districts. When personal career choices conflict with congressional politics in the halls of a legislature, the former will take precedence every time.

Secondly, the Hillsborough County legislators strenuously objected to their domain being segmented into four different sections under the proposed plan. The large Tampa Bay area delegation proved to have enough strength to help force the stalemate.

Additionally, court politics proved a significant factor in failing to reach an accord. While Republicans are in solid control of the state legislature (Senate: 26R-14D; House: 81R-39D), the Democrats have the majority on the seven-member state Supreme Court.

In Florida, judges have service limits and, before his second term ends, Gov. Rick Scott (R) will be able to change the court’s complexion. Obviously, the Democrats want to maintain their advantage. They also want to make substantial gains during the state Senate redistricting session, optimizing their check in that the state Supreme Court will approve all boundary changes. Therefore, prospective court appointments became political footballs during the special session.

Two options are now on the table to complete the congressional re-drawing process. First, Gov. Scott could call the legislature back into session in order to avoid ceding the redistricting pen wholly to the state Supreme Court. If so, the process begins again. Not doing so means the map would simply revert to the state high court, thus empowering the Justices themselves to draw the new plan.

Considering the partisan composition of the court, Republicans will want to avoid the court option. Yet, if the handling of this original special session is any indication of what may happen in the future, failing again to complete the task is certainly possible should the legislature return. Legislative bodies relinquishing power to the courts over tough political decisions is something that happens all too often, so the Florida Supreme Court eventually determining the fate of the Sunshine State congressmen may well be an eventuality.

The Kentucky Caucus

The Republican Party of Kentucky, at its state convention over the weekend, voted to change their 2016 presidential primary system to a caucus. This will allow favorite son Sen. Rand Paul to compete in the presidential event while continuing to appear on the ballot for his re-election. Over 75% of the voting members supported the caucus motion.

Sen. Paul had asked for the change and agreed to guarantee the $500,000 necessary to finance the caucus procedure. The state party must receive $250,000 by Sept. 18 in order to move forward with the caucus logistics. Each participating candidate will be charged $15,000. If the funds are secured, the caucus will be held March 5. If not, the procedure reverts to a May primary.

Q-Poll: Rubio Best Against Democrats

Aug. 24, 2015 — Quinnipiac University simultaneously polled the swing states of Florida (1,093 registered voters), Ohio (1,096 registered voters), and Pennsylvania (1,085 registered voters) during the Aug. 7-18 period and found that neither Donald Trump nor Jeb Bush is the strongest Republican against a trio of potential Democratic nominees. Rather, it is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who scores the highest in ballot test pairings opposite his Democratic counterparts.

The young senator, however, isn’t quite as strong on the Republican primary ballot test, placing third in all three states including his own. The Q-Poll’s three state combination does show that Rubio would be the Democrats’ most formidable opponent, therefore suggesting he has the potential of likewise creating a surge among Republicans.

The pollsters paired three Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Vice President Joe Biden, with three Republicans: Trump, Bush, and the Florida senator. The data finds that Rubio is the only one of the trio who leads Clinton in each of the three places. In fact, he tops all three Democrats everywhere in the tested region with the exception of trailing VP Biden in Ohio, but by just one percentage point, 42-41 percent.

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Edwards Up in Maryland;
More National Data

Aug. 21, 2015 — Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) released the results of her internal Global Strategies Group poll (Aug. 3-9; 600 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters) and, despite her severe disadvantage in fundraising, the data finds her leading fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) in their quest for the open Maryland Senate seat. Edwards maintains a five-point margin, 42-37 percent.

The released data included the Edwards-Van Hollen ballot test, plus favorability ratings for the two announced contenders and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), who remains a potential Senate candidate.

Interestingly, the index scores for Edwards and Van Hollen are almost identical. The polling respondents rate Edwards at 45:9 percent favorable to unfavorable. Van Hollen registers 45:11 percent. But, Rep. Cummings does even better. He posts a whopping 65:9 percent positive ratio.

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