Category Archives: Election Analysis

Mid-Year Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2020 — The second in our three-part series about the in-cycle Senate races covers the 13 contests with June and early August primary dates:

JUNE 2

Iowa: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) stands for a second term and will likely face Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) in the general election. Greenfield, who aborted a congressional run in 2018 when her campaign effort didn’t collect the requisite number of legal petition signatures, enjoys at least unofficial backing from the Democratic establishment and party leadership. The leaders’ first choice to run, freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), decided to seek her first re-election instead of jumping into a statewide battle.
Sen. Ernst is favored for re-election but some of her approval ratings have been low. Much will depend upon the national political trend, particularly at the presidential level. Iowa is typically a swing state that has been moving right in most recent elections, though the Democrats did gain two congressional seats in the last election.

Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (R) stands for a second term, and with the Democrats unable to convince outgoing governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock to run for the Senate, most of the political attention has shifted to the open governor’s race and at-large US House contest. With Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) again running for governor, both the governor’s office and the state’s lone House seat are open for the coming election.
In fact, when looking at the entire statewide ticket, mostly due to term limits and statewide officials running for other offices, five of the seven statewide races are open contests in 2020. Therefore, the lack of attention and concentration on the Senate race certainly helps Sen. Daines. At this point, with the March 9 candidate filing deadline less than a month away, the type of candidate who could give the senator a serious run has not yet emerged.

New Jersey: Sen. Cory Booker (D) backed away from the presidential contest in order to concentrate on his re-election campaign. While state law was changed to allow candidates to run for offices simultaneously, Sen. Booker decided the time to exit the presidential race was upon him before embarrassing losses in Democratic primary states encouraged stronger primary competition for his re-election back home. Now concentrating on New Jersey full-time, Sen. Booker looks safe for re-election.

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Delegate Reallocation
Brings Increase to 4,750

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2020 — As we approach the first votes being cast for the Democratic presidential nomination next month, the Democratic National Committee has reallocated delegate slots among certain state contingents, thus increasing the size of the overall delegate universe to 4,750.

The changes are relatively substantial within the states when compared to the last national convention in 2016, while the recent Super Delegate total sees an increase of five new votes. The alterations within the state counts — an increase in every affected place but California — feature an additional 210 delegate votes when compared with the totals from four years ago.

Most of the boosts reflect a reward for increased Democratic votes in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The calculations include results in the recent races for president, US Senate, US House, governor, and for state legislature. States that hold their presidential nominating event after April 1 are also rewarded.

The largest increases are found in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where their respective delegations have grown by 50, 33, and 19 slots respectively, largely due to Democratic gains in the US House and state legislatures particularly from the 2018 elections. New Jersey, for example, converted a governor’s chair to the Democratic column in their 2019 election, after gaining five congressional seats in 2018 and ‘16, thus accounting for their delegation increase. And, all three states vote after April 1.

California’s regular delegate total has been reduced by one vote, possibly for moving their previous June primary to before April 1, on Super Tuesday, March 3. The state still has, by far, the largest contingent with 494 total delegates and 415 of those voting on the first ballot. The next largest delegation, after calculating their increase, is New York with 320 overall delegate slots, 274 of which are eligible to cast first-ballot votes.

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Candidate Filings: Eye on
Mississippi and Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Look for a rematch between Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), left, and former congressman, Mike Espy (D)

Jan. 17, 2020 — Two more states closed their candidate filing periods as primary slates in both Mississippi and Kentucky have now been determined.

Mississippi voters will cast ballots on March 10 with a run-off election on March 31 if no candidate receives 50 percent support in a partisan primary.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) stands for election to a full term this year after winning the 2018 special election. While it looked like the senator would receive a Republican primary challenge this year, the battle did not materialize, and she is unopposed as the GOP standard bearer. Josh Randle, the former president of the Miss America Organization, had filed an exploratory committee for a senatorial run, but apparently the research done as part of that process did not yield him a reasonable victory path. Therefore, Randle chose to take a pass on the challenge.

This means we will see a re-match between Sen. Hyde-Smith and former US Agriculture secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). The two battled in the special election, and Hyde-Smith scored a 54-46 percent victory in a race that appeared more competitive than the final result. Espy has two Democratic challengers, but it is doubtful that either can mount a serious offensive against the former federal official and Clinton Administration cabinet member.

All four Mississippi US House members are heavy favorites for re-election. Only Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Saltillo/Tupelo) is unopposed in his primary. Both Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton/Mississippi Delta) and freshman Michael Guest (R-Brandon/ Jackson) have weak primary opponents and each have a safe seat for the general election.

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Latest Early-State Polling

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 16, 2020 — The most recent early-state polling again underscores the distinct possibility that we will not see a clear Democratic presidential leader emerge before Super Tuesday.

We are now inside three weeks before the Iowa Caucuses and the survey data and candidate messaging strategies are beginning to take firm hold. Polling is close among the top four candidates, though they appear to be in a proverbial pinball machine as the four bounce from top to bottom at least in the Hawkeye State.

It is likely that either former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg places first. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is likely to finish midway within the four leaders, seeing her support drop as we get closer to actual voting.

The Caucus rules could change some precinct outcomes. It is probable that the party will adopt a rule, as they have in the past, that allows a voter to change his or her vote if their candidate finishes last in a precinct Caucus tally. In any event, projections suggest that the top four will each exceed 15 percent of the at-large vote to qualify for delegates, and potentially achieve such a preference number in each of the four congressional districts.

This means we could well see a splitting of the 41 first-ballot delegates among the four candidates with the first-place finisher getting approximately just 12 delegates and the fourth-place qualifier earning as many as eight.

The news improves for Biden in New Hampshire, but the just released Patinkin Research Strategies study (Jan. 5-7; 600 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters) also shows at least three candidates qualifying for delegate apportionment. Here, Sen. Warren again appears to be falling off the pace.

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Sen. Cory Booker Ends Run for 2020

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Cory Booker (D)

Jan. 15, 2020 — With less than three weeks from the first votes being cast in the Democratic presidential nomination process, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced via Twitter that he is ending his national effort.

The move is not surprising, as Sen. Booker rarely reached or surpassed three percent support in any presidential primary poll. Like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who left the race just before the California candidate filing deadline in early December, visions of Senate re-election may have at least in part driven the timing of Booker’s move. While Sen. Harris doesn’t face voters in a strong Democratic state until 2022, Sen. Booker is on the New Jersey ballot this year.

Before the presidential race began, New Jersey legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) changed the state election law to allow candidates to run simultaneously for more than one office. The move was obviously made to assist Sen. Booker’s presidential efforts. Now, however, the simultaneous filing option becomes moot.

Leaving the race now provides him an excuse for finishing poorly in the first four voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, though he filed for each primary and caucus vote and will still be on the ballot in at least New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Though Sen. Booker appears safe for re-election, the New Jersey filing deadline isn’t until March 30. Poor finishes in all primary and caucus states could have left him in a vulnerable state, and while the Garden State is highly unlikely to elect a Republican to the Senate, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a strong Democrat could have begun to mount a primary challenge. Now we can expect Sen. Booker to invest all of his political capital into cementing his re-election for a second full six-year term.

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