Category Archives: Election Analysis

A Highly Anticipated Challenge:
Texas Rep. Chip Roy vs. Wendy Davis

By Jim Ellis

July 24, 2019 — Late last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brain trust, members of the House Majority leadership including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and most of the Texas Democratic delegation, announced they are supporting an event to encourage former Lone Star State gubernatorial candidate and ex-state Sen. Wendy Davis to run for Congress.

Texas freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) and ex-state Sen. Wendy Davis (D)

Even before the event, held last night, got underway, Davis had confirmed that she would challenge freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) who won a close 50-48 percent open seat victory in 2018 from a district that stretches from San Antonio to Austin and through the Texas Hill Country.

Davis was the 2014 Texas Democratic nominee for governor but went down to a crushing 59-39 percent defeat at the hands of then-attorney general Greg Abbott (R). At the time, Davis was a Ft. Worth area state senator who had gained statewide publicity for attempting a 2013 solo filibuster to block a bill that would have outlawed abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, in addition to other restrictions.

The publicity jettisoned her into becoming a statewide candidate but ended in a 20-percentage point loss. Now the party leadership is hoping to make her a viable congressional candidate some 200 miles from her legislative district. Davis was elected twice to her Ft. Worth area Texas senate seat, defeating an incumbent Republican in her first election in 2008 and winning re-election in equally close proportion.

Interestingly, the vote totals for and against her hardly changed from 2008 to 2012. In her first election, Davis attracted 147,832 votes. In her successful re-election bid, she received 147,103. Though her Republican opponents were different individuals, including an incumbent in 2008, they too, received almost an identical number of votes: 140,737 (2008) and 140,656 (2012). Texas is one of two states, California being the other, where the state Senate seats are more populous than congressional districts. After losing the gubernatorial race, Sen. Davis chose not to seek re-election in 2016 and moved to the Austin area.

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Q2: The Money Count – House

By Jim Ellis

The top Democratic fundraiser in the House for Q2 was New York freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx), with $1.22 million raised from April 1 – June 30.

July 23, 2019 — Yesterday we covered the fundraising and cash-on-hand figures for the 2020 Senate campaigns; today we look at the House.

The Daily Kos Elections site surveyed the entire House universe and segmented the large group into a competitive race category. They find 158 House incumbents who will be in a competitive 2020 campaign or have the potential of being in one at this point in time.

Within this incumbent segment, the aggregate amount raised is over $61.4 million for the second quarter period ending June 30. As one would expect, the majority Democratic members had the larger haul, $39.4 million for the 94 Democrats surveyed as compared to $21.9 million for 64 Republicans. The average amount a Democratic member raised was just over $419,000 as compared to $342,000 for Republicans.

As was the case in 2018, when fundraising records were shattered for US House incumbents and candidates, this election cycle appears to be again featuring candidates who are prolific in this campaign element. For the campaign cycle-to-date aggregate figure, meaning the amount of money raised from Nov. 9, 2018, the day after the last general election, to June 30, 2019, these same incumbents have raised over $135 million, meaning an average of just under $855,000 per member.

For the 94 Democratic incumbents isolated for this report, just over $75 million was raised campaign-to-date, for an average of almost $798,000 per member. The 64 Republicans attracted an aggregate $41.4 million, with an average of $646,000 raised CTD.

In terms of current cash-on-hand, the average competitive, or potentially competitive, Democratic House incumbent posted almost $1 million CoH, or $987,000. Their Republican counterparts averaged $657,000. While Democrats have a clear money advantage, is it equally evident that the GOP candidates will also have more than enough to communicate their message. These figures obviously do not include the large amount of money that outside organizations will raise and spend independently to boost their favored candidates of both parties.

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Q2: The Money Count – Senate

By Jim Ellis

July 22, 2019 — The second quarter campaign financials are now public, and already candidates in both parties have raised millions of dollars in preparation for hard-hitting 2020 US Senate campaigns. And, the two most prolific fundraising candidates from April through June are actually running against each other.

Arizona Senate candidate and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) | Sen. Martha McSally (R)

Topping the campaign receipts category with $4.21 million raised for the quarter is retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is an Arizona Senate candidate. Close behind, with $3.34 million obtained during the same three-month period, is Kelly’s general election opponent, appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Obviously, with each candidate already holding between $4.3 million (McSally) and $5.9 million (Kelly) in their political committee accounts, this Arizona campaign will almost assuredly set a statewide campaign spending record in 2020.

Of the 30 Senate incumbents presumed to be actively seeking re-election next year, 21 raised over $1 million in the quarter, and four obtained more than $2 million. Two others topped $3 million in receipts. In addition to Sen. McSally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) raised just over the $3 million mark.

Another senator, Cory Booker (D-NJ), reports raising no money during the quarter for his Senate campaign because he is running for president.

Overall, the Republican candidates’ aggregate figure was higher than the Democrats in the second quarter ($33.3 to $29.8 million) and for the entire cycle through June 30 ($105.7 to $79.2 million). This is likely because the Republicans have more incumbents on the ballot in the current cycle, 19 to 11, in addition to defending three of the four open seats.

The cash-on-hand category is, of course, highly important. Here, three Republicans lead the category. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who faces the largest electorate in any 2020 Senate campaign, leads the cash category with just over $9 million in the bank. In no surprise, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has the second most, with $7.9 million. Third is South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham with $6.5 million.

The Democrat holding the highest number of dollars is again challenger Mark Kelly in Arizona. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who surprisingly had a close call in 2014, is the Democratic incumbent holding the most cash: $5.4 million.

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California Tightening

By Jim Ellis

July 19, 2019 — Two new surveys of the California Democratic electorate show the presidential race tightening in the state that possesses the largest delegation to the Democratic National Convention: 416 first-ballot delegates. To highlight the state’s size within the convention universe and its importance to the nomination process, the next largest state, Texas, has 228 first-ballot delegates.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll (July 10-15; 1,125 registered California voters, 519 likely Democratic primary voters) finds home-state Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) leading the pack of candidates with 23 percent of the vote. In second place is former Vice President Joe Biden who has 21 percent with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) posting 18 percent support. Following is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who recorded 16 percent. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg falls all the way to three percent just ahead of New York City businessman Andrew Yang who registered two percent preference.

The Capitol Weekly survey (July 1-15; 816 likely California Democratic primary voters), with a larger polling sample, arrives at similar results. According to the CW data, Sen. Warren has the lead with 25 percent, just ahead of Sen. Harris and Biden who both command 20 percent, while Sen. Sanders posts a close 16 percent. In this poll, Mayor Buttigieg does much better, eight percent, but is nowhere close to qualifying for delegates at the 15 percent minimum threshold.

While these polls are different in candidate order, they both suggest that the top four candidates are currently running close and each would qualify for a substantial share of the large first-ballot delegate contingent.

Available polling data can be used to provide a rough extrapolation model of the early delegate count, examining the latest surveys in the first five voting states to provide at least some measure about how close this race might become if the support patterns we see today continue into the early voting period.

The delegate apportionment process comes in two distinct categories: the at-large delegates who are tied to the statewide vote, and those coming from each congressional district, which range from four to seven delegate votes apiece in California, for example. The latter delegates are apportioned by the individual congressional district popular vote, with those candidates who receive at least 15 percent of the vote in the particular CD qualifying for the district delegate apportionment.

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Perusing Presidential Predictors

By Jim Ellis

July 18, 2019 — Most of the attention surrounding the upcoming presidential campaign has revolved around polling, but other factors may be better long-term predictors of what may happen in next year’s national election.

Economic indicators might be the most accurate predictor in presidential elections. | pandologic

The Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas firm, a bipartisan public affairs enterprise, has compiled some interesting historical trends that may provide major assistance in at least determining what to study in preparation for the next presidential campaign.

Two of the strongest factors relate to a candidate’s Washington experience and the state of the economy during a president’s two-year re-election cycle.

The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal prove to be an interesting historical divider. According to the Mehlman firm’s research, prior to Vietnam and Watergate, the candidate having the most Washington experience won nine of the 10 presidential elections from 1936 through 1972, inclusive. Yet, after Vietnam and Watergate, the candidate with the most Washington experience lost nine of the next 11 presidential contests from 1976 through 2016.

This series of statistics doesn’t play well for former Vice President Joe Biden. Of all presidential candidates in US history, Biden has the most Washington experience having served in elective office for 44 years when combining his time in the US Senate and two terms as vice president.

Should Biden not become the nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders would then have the most Washington experience, a total of 30 years at the campaign’s end when combining his service in the House and Senate. Sanders aside, the remaining candidates, including President Trump, all have relatively equivalent Washington experience meaning this topic would not be much of a factor unless the Democratic nominee were either of the aforementioned Biden or Sanders.

The economic indicator, however, might be the most accurate predictor. Charting the presidential elections for 100 years between 1912 and 2012, the Mehlman group found that in the 12 elections where the incumbent was running for a second term and there was no recession during the two-year election cycle, all 12 won the related campaign. In the six elections where an incumbent president was running when facing a recession during the concurrent campaign years, five were defeated. Only President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 was re-elected under such circumstances.

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The Budding Five-Way Race

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2019 — We’ve seen an interesting trio of polls released over the past week that tested the New Hampshire Democratic electorate all within the same relative time span. The cumulative result produced three different leaders and found the top five candidates all within striking range of the top position.

As we reported last week, Change Research simultaneously conducted polls in three of the first four voting states, including New Hampshire, which, as we know, hosts the first primary election on Feb. 11. Though the state is small and has only 24 first ballot delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the primary is an important contest because front runners failing to meet early expectations often find themselves initiating a downward spiral.

Change reported that their June 29-July 4 New Hampshire survey results (420 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters) projected Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to be ahead of the pack, but through a very slim margin. It’s not particularly surprising to see him leading here when we recall that he took 60 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The top candidates scored 26-24-14-13-13 percent in this first Change Research Granite State poll in the person of Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), respectively.

This week, Change is back with an updated New Hampshire survey, and this time uses a much larger polling sample (July 6-9; 1,084 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters). Now, the research organization projects Sen. Warren to be the leading candidate, with a commensurately small advantage, 22-20-19-15-13 percent over Sanders, Biden, Harris, and Buttigieg.

Since the margin between Sanders and Warren is equivalent when both are forecast as leaders, the order is largely irrelevant. Basically, the Change data is suggesting that the two are tied with the other three lurking closely behind.

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House Primary Challenges

By Jim Ellis

The Justice Democrats’ logo (click on image to go to their website)

July 16, 2019 — Controversy has been arising lately from the Congressional Black Caucus as the organization leaders are charging that the left faction Justice Democrats are isolating their members for primary challenges. But the number of Democratic incumbents having to defend themselves from potentially serious nomination opponents reaches well beyond the CBC.

In fact, currently 24 Democratic House members have what appear to be credible primary opponents and at least five more could soon be in a nomination race.

What makes these challenges potentially different and is clearly one reason more ideological candidates are coming forward in what used to be no-win campaigns, is the amount of money being raised online for such contenders.

For example, though his 2016 challenge of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) went down to a landslide 57-43 percent defeat, South Florida law professor Tim Canova raised just under $4 million for his campaign. Almost all of the fundraising came in online donations after presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed his candidacy. Therefore, it is possible that several of the challengers listed below could also begin to attract national electronic donations under the right circumstances.

The Justice Democrats scored heavily in 2018 when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset then-Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley did likewise to veteran Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). The credibility gained in those races make their support of 2020 Democratic challengers more noteworthy.

In addition to the incumbents listed below, other members, including Democratic Conference chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are also on the Justice target list. Democratic National Committee member and former congressional nominee Rob Zimmerman confirms he is considering launching a challenge against Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove/Huntington). Observers also report that 2018 candidate Adem Bunkeddeko, who held Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) to a 53-47 percent primary win, may make another run.

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