Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Ever-Widening and Tightening Pack of GOP Presidential Candidates

June 4, 2015 — Two national presidential polls were released this week and we continue to see survey results yielding a pack of Republican candidates either tied for, or in close proximity of, the lead. Each hovers around 10-15 percent with no clear path to a majority.

Both the new Washington Post/ABC News (May 28-31; 1,001 adults; 376 registered Democrats; 362 registered Republicans) and CNN/ORC (May 29-31; 1,025 adults) polls tested the national candidates, and though neither survey is particularly sound from a methodological nor practical political perspective, their results are consistent with most other available research.

A national poll of the presidential primaries is not a particularly useful tool because votes are cast on an individual state, and not a national basis. Secondly, the registered voters segmentation for each survey is very small. The Post poll, where only 376 Democrats and 362 Republicans are sampled for their views and attitudes about primary candidates and ballot tests, possesses a high unreliability factor. The CNN survey tests 483 Republicans and 433 Democrats. This is a better sample draw, but not substantially. Third, and again particularly pronounced in the Post poll, the sample skews highly negative. In fact, all tested candidates have unfavorable personal ratings, which is not consistent with other known data.
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Colorado Senate Candidate Field Narrows Significantly By One

June 4, 2015 — Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has cleared his first major re-election obstacle. Sitting in realistically what could be one of two offensive Republican targets – the Nevada open seat being the other – Bennet will not have to face the man largely viewed as his most difficult potential opponent.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was heavily recruiting four-term Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6). He rose to the top of their prospective candidate list after winning two costly and difficult re-election campaigns in a Denver suburban court-drawn district basically designed to elect a Democrat. On Tuesday, Coffman confirmed that he will not challenge Sen. Bennet next year, choosing to seek re-election.

In a way, the Coffman decision is somewhat curious because it is arguable that his re-election campaign under a presidential turnout model could be just as difficult as running statewide. In his last two campaigns, Coffman spent a combined $8.5 million to win 48 and 52 percent victories.
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Successor Elected to MS-1

June 3, 2015 — Alcorn County Prosecuting Attorney and Iraq War veteran Trent Kelly (R), as expected, easily won the northern Mississippi special MS-1 congressional election last night to succeed the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R). The three-term congressman passed away in early February.

Kelly racked up approximately 70 percent of the vote against former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn, Jr, (D). He won the endorsement of Rep. Nunnelee’s widow in the May 12 jungle primary helping him qualify for yesterday’s run-off election, and claimed 20 of the district’s 22 counties last night. He will immediately be sworn in, and serve the remainder of the current term. Rep-Elect Kelly will assuredly seek a full two-year term in the regular 2016 cycle.

The 1st District occupies Mississippi’s northern quadrant and houses the south Memphis (TN) suburbs, and the Tupelo and Columbus areas. Special election turnout unofficially tallied 98,254 voters, but the final canvass could produce totals closer to 100,000.

Zinn had little chance. With virtually no money, in a next to hopeless political minority, and spending his career in politics well away from the 1st District in the state’s capital city of Jackson, it was a foregone conclusion that Kelly would be victorious when he topped a field of 11 other Republican candidates in the May vote.

Only one House vacancy remains, that in IL-18, the seat then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R) resigned in March. A replacement will be chosen in September. The House now stands at 246 Republicans, 188 Democrats, with the one vacancy.

The Lindsey Graham Factor

June 3, 2015 — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) officially entered the presidential contest Monday, with many questioning why he is running. Barely registering in any poll outside of his native South Carolina, the new Graham campaign must be rated as a long shot at best. But, looking at the possibility of a brokered convention changes the dynamics for he and other second tier candidates.

As the Republican field continues to expand – Graham’s candidacy now means nine individuals are official GOP candidates – the aggregate campaign direction becomes less predictable. In addition to the nine contenders, six more potential candidates including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are poised to soon make formal declarations. Two of them, ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Donald Trump, have scheduled June 4 and 16 announcement dates, respectively.

The larger the campaign field with no sustained front runner means the odds of anyone failing to secure support from a majority of the 2,470 Republican delegates (1,236 delegate votes are required for nomination) are much greater. Thus, a candidate such as Graham, who is not viewed as a serious contender for the nomination but has potential to win some delegates, can become an important factor in deciding exactly who will be the nominee.
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MS-1 Underway Today

June 2, 2015 — The vacant northern Mississippi congressional district (Tupelo, Columbus, Memphis suburbs) will be filled today, as special run-off participants Trent Kelly (R) and Walter Zinn, Jr. (D) do battle in the secondary election.

The race shouldn’t be much of a contest. The 1st CD is heavily Republican and campaign resources greatly favor Kelly, the Alcorn County Prosecuting Attorney and Iraq War veteran who outpaced 11 other Republicans in the May 12 jungle primary. Zinn is the lone Democrat who filed, hence he was able to place first in the badly fractured field despite spending only $9,000 on his primary campaign effort.

Harper Polling released a survey of the race (May 28; 509 likely MS-1 voters), finding Republican Kelly with a big lead, as predicted. According to HP, the local Republican prosecutor would top the former Jackson Democratic mayoral aide 54-37 percent. This should translate into a victory margin approaching, if not breaking, the 60 percent threshold.

The district was left vacant in early February when three-term Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) passed away. Filling this district tonight will mean only one vacancy remains, that being the IL-18 seat of resigned-Rep. Aaron Schock (R) who won’t be replaced until September.

Tonight’s winner fills the remainder of the current term and is eligible to seek re-election in the 2016 regular cycle.