Category Archives: Election Analysis

Sessions Jumps Into Alabama Senate Race; Indiana Rep. Visclosky Is Out

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2019News Items: 1) Former senator and ex-US attorney general, Jeff Sessions (R), yesterday announced his candidacy to re-claim the US Senate seat he left in 2017.
2) On the 35th anniversary of his being elected to Congress, 18-term US Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Merrillville/Gary) announced via Twitter that he will be retiring from the House at the end of his current term.

Alabama

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

Rumors had abounded for weeks that Sessions was considering a return to elective politics, and he ran out of time to make a decision. The Alabama candidate filing deadline is today for the statewide primary scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 3. If no candidate receives majority support in the semi-closed primary election where only Republicans and non-affiliated voters can participate, the top two finishers advance to a secondary run-off vote that will occur on April 14.

The eventual Republican nominee will oppose first-term Sen. Doug Jones (D), who won the special election to replace Sessions when he resigned to assume his duties as attorney general. This seat may be the most important in the 2020 cycle as a determining factor for the next majority.

If the Republicans could convert Alabama, a state that will be one of President Trump’s strongest in next year’s election, the GOP conference will expand to 54 members. Considering the configuration of other competitive seats during the Senate election cycle, winning this race might be enough for the Republicans to hold at least a smaller majority.

It’s unclear at the outset exactly how Sessions’ entry will affect the GOP primary. Already in the race are Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and former Alabama state Supreme Chief Judge Roy Moore, the man who bungled the 2017 special election campaign that resulted in Sen. Jones’ victory.

Several surveys have been conducted of the GOP field, but none of the pollsters included Sessions in their ballot test. Therefore, we have little information as to the degree of residual strength he currently possesses as the campaign begins for real.

It is probable, however, that the emerging Sessions campaign effort polled the state before moving forward, and the fact that the former senator is announcing his candidacy suggests that the data reveals a path to victory.

Because of his public feud with President Trump, however, his standing with the Alabama Republican electorate is undoubtedly weaker than it was when he last ran for the Senate, an unopposed campaign in 2014, but it appears this 2020 Alabama GOP primary has become much more interesting and less predictable within the last 24 hours.

We will see new polls rapidly going into the field so we can expect to see new data very soon about how Sessions might fare as he returns to the political fray.

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Tuesday’s Election Reflection

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2019 — Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Bevin looses, Republican Reeves wins in Mississippi and state legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are looking decidedly blue …

Kentucky

Gov. Matt Bevin (R), always lagging near the bottom of the 50-state gubernatorial approval polls throughout his term, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The vote totals fell within three-tenths of one percent, or an unofficial raw vote margin of 5,150 votes of 1.41 million votes cast. The Beshear victory spread translates into just 1.4 votes per precinct, statewide. Additionally, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Kyle Hugenberg, attracted over 46,000 votes, nine times greater than the spread between the two major party candidates.

The defeat appears to belong solely to Gov. Bevin, and not the Republican Party in general. The down-ballot Republicans scored a clean sweep, converting the attorney general’s office that Beshear held with 58 percent of the vote, and the secretary of state’s position (52 percent). GOP incumbents also were re-elected as state treasurer (61 percent), agriculture commissioner (58 percent), and auditor general (56 percent). With these hefty Republican percentages recorded for the other offices, it is clear that Gov. Bevin severely under-performed.

Political trouble for the governor became apparent when he won re-nomination last May with just 52 percent of the vote against little-known state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two others. Bevin under-performed in the “coal country” area of the state, an area from which Goforth hails, and again fell below typical Republican vote patterns here in the general election, which evidently cost him the race. Mining healthcare issues became a problem for Bevin, and his position with regard to miner health benefits went a long way toward unseating him election night.

Andy Beshear was elected attorney general in 2015. His father, Steve Beshear (D), served the maximum two terms as governor prior to Bevin winning four years ago. Therefore, the Beshear name is extremely well known throughout Kentucky.

Voter turnout was up a whopping 45 percent above the 2015 odd-year election, though still significantly under presidential levels. In 2016, more than 1.9 million voters cast ballots in the presidential election.

Mississippi

The Mississippi voter patterns in the election were similar to Kentucky’s, except for the final result in the governor’s race.

In this contest, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D), 52-46 percent, thus likely nullifying a federal court challenge to the state’s system of requiring that gubernatorial candidates carry a majority of state House of Representatives’ districts in addition to winning the popular statewide vote. Since Reeves recorded a clear majority in the popular vote, there will be no grounds for legal action.

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Yesterday’s Odd-Year Election Day

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (L) and Attorney General Andy Beshear

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2019 — The odd-year Election Day hit yesterday, with voters going to the polls in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. Governors’ chairs were at stake in Kentucky and Mississippi, while state legislators were on the ballot in all of the aforementioned with the exception of Kentucky.

Bluegrass State Gov. Matt Bevin (R) ran for a second term after a tenure that has seen him dwell at the bottom of the 50-state approval polls for almost his entire time in office. Bevin was a surprise winner in 2015, defeating then-Attorney General Jack Conway (D) who was viewed as the favorite for the entire campaign. Similarly, Gov. Bevin again faced a Democratic Attorney General in this election, Andy Beshear, the son of the man who he replaced in Frankfort, former Gov. Steve Beshear (D).

Polling suggested a close race. Polling was right. As of publish time, the election still was too close to call despite Beshear claiming victory. Bevin would not concede. Fewer than 5,000 votes separate the two candidates, the advantage going to Beshear at the moment.

Bevin lagged behind early in the general election cycle, but returned to parity. The polling pattern was similar in Bevin’s last contest, so he is obviously hoping for a repeat performance. In 2015, Bevin defeated AG Conway by a surprisingly large 52-44 percent spread, a margin that surprised pollsters.

Mississippi featured an interesting gubernatorial campaign between GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who attempted to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant (R), and state Attorney General Jim Hood (D), serving his fourth consecutive term. This race, as in Kentucky, has been close in the polls with Reeves maintaining a small lead. And Reeves is ahead with 53 percent of the vote.

The Mississippi race included a budding controversy that could take shape after the election. Under state law, a gubernatorial candidate must not only win a popular vote majority at the statewide level, he or she must also carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. A federal judge appears ready to strike down the result if the state legislature is forced to decide because no candidate wins both a majority in the statewide vote and in the state House districts.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate was on the ballot, and Democrats were confident that they would assume the majority in both houses. Before yesterday, Republicans held a 20-19 edge in the state Senate with one vacancy, and a three-seat margin in the House with one vacancy. The latter majority was literally decided by pulling lots from a hat when the final 2015 Delegate race ended in a tie. The Democrats took back both the House and Senate; it looks like the Democrats will win 21 seats in the state Senate, with the Republicans holding on to 19. In the House, the Democrats are ahead with 53 seats to the Republicans 43 seats with a few races still outstanding.

It was estimated that the redistricting decision since the last election, which mandated the re-drawing of several Delegate districts, would likely give the Democrats an extra boost.

New Jersey voters selected state Assembly members, however the state Senate won’t come before the electorate until 2021. Democrats maintain a huge 54-25 majority with one vacancy, and that could increase. Republican chances of winning a majority in the state Assembly were nil.

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With Beto Out … Will the Rest
of the Dominoes Start to Fall?

Beto O’Rourke | Facebook Photo

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 5, 2019 — Former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) ended his presidential campaign Friday, joining Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, US Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) as 2020 national contenders who are no longer in the race.

O’Rourke’s concession statement made reference to departing because he no longer possesses adequate resources with which to compete. Beginning as a top tier candidate with a strong financial base, his effort rapidly crumbled largely due to ill-advised comments, poor debate performance, and calling for assault weapon confiscation, which did not reinvigorate his campaign as he expected. O’Rourke had hoped to use the latter issue to begin cracking into the party’s far-left faction that Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemingly have cornered.

Democratic leaders had from the outset attempted to persuade O’Rourke to challenge Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) instead of running for president, but they were ignored. In his statement announcing the end of his national campaign, the former congressman addressed the speculation that he might return to Texas to challenge Cornyn, but again ruled out running for that office or any other in 2020.

How does the Democratic race change now that O’Rourke has departed? Largely, his move could be a precursor of many more exits to come. At this point, it is clear three candidates occupy the top tier and separation exists between them and the rest of the pack. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Warren and Sanders maintain the top three positions in virtually every poll, and it is reasonable to expect that one of them will eventually become the Democratic nominee.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has recently made a resurgence after lagging in single digits since the second nationally televised debate in July. Concentrating on fundraising and organization, Buttigieg’s efforts have proven worthwhile. Raising $19.1 million just in the third quarter, placing him behind only Sanders ($25.3 million raised in Quarter 3) and Warren ($24.6 million) during that period, the mid-size city mayor has brought in over $51.5 million since the onset of his presidential campaign.

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Sessions Looms Over Alabama Race

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2019 — We’re getting close to the Nov. 8 candidate filing deadline in Alabama for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary, and more speculation is brewing that former senator and US attorney general, Jeff Sessions (R), will decide to enter the crowded GOP primary field in order to re-claim his former position.

Reporting has indicated that Sessions, who originally won the Senate seat in the 1996 election, saw his re-election percentage substantially grow in all of his subsequent campaigns from 58.6 percent in 2002 to 63.4 percent in 2008 to 97.3 percent in 2014 when he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent, is making calls to members of the Alabama House delegation and political leaders around the state to assess his chances. Sessions, of course, relinquished the Senate seat to accept President Trump’s appointment as US attorney general, and then his political trouble began.

To set the current stage, already in the race and running are US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), Secretary of State John Merrill, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore who blew the 2017 special election when it became public that he dated under-age girls while in his 30s. Judge Moore won the special election nomination when he defeated appointed incumbent Luther Strange in the GOP run-off, which led to Doug Jones becoming the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was re-elected to his third and final term in 1990.

The 2020 Yellowhammer State race, however, may well be the most important contest in the nation to decide the next Senate majority. If the Republicans regain what is normally a safe seat for them, their chamber total increases to 54, which means the Democrats would have to sweep the top vulnerable GOP incumbent defense races in Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally vs. Mark Kelly), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner vs. presumably former governor and ex-presidential candidate John Hickenlooper), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis, assuming he wins the GOP nomination, against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham), and win the presidency.

This scenario would bring the 2021 US Senate into a tie but give the Democrats the majority because the new vice president, who also becomes the Senate president, would be a Democrat with the power to break a tie vote.

Most believe the Republicans would be in the political driver’s seat to defeat Sen. Jones should anyone but Moore win the GOP nomination. Alabama will be one of President Trump’s strongest states (62.1 percent in 2016), and the GOP tide should be strong enough to carry the party’s Senate nominee to victory over a Democratic incumbent who has held the party line on most controversial issues and will more than likely support President Trump’s removal from office.

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