Category Archives: Election Analysis

Flake Opposition Mounting

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

By Jim Ellis

July 5, 2017 — With the Republican healthcare overhaul bill remaining in a controversial state, and Democrats already trying to use it as a rallying point for potential 2018 candidates, the Arizona Senate field is beginning to form. Currently, three potential challenger candidates continue to weigh their options on the political sidelines.

Because Democrats have so few targets in the present election cycle – Republicans must only protect eight of the 33 states holding Senate elections, and six of those are in arguably their strongest political domains: Mississippi (Wicker), Nebraska (Fischer), Tennessee (Corker), Texas (Cruz), Utah (Hatch), and Wyoming (Barrasso) – they have no choice but to go hard after the two GOP incumbents entwined in more marginal political situations: Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Though Arizona voters routinely elect many more Republicans than Democrats, despite many campaigns ending in relatively close fashion, the Dems are forced to make a major play against Sen. Flake because they simply have no other secondary place with as much 2018 competitive potential. On defense in 25 states, Senate Democrats will not win the majority because a net gain of two, including defeating Sen. Flake, would yield only a 50-50 tie. Such a division would allow Vice President Mike Pence to ensure that the GOP majority continues in his role as the body’s tiebreaker.

Last week, both Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the latter man coming to notoriety as the doctor who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-Tucson) life when an insane gunman tragically shot her, brought forth public attacks on the current healthcare legislation and began sounding like candidates.

Mayor Stanton and Dr. Friese confirm they are considering entering the Senate race, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or both men could announce their candidacy on the heels of the Senate healthcare vote, particularly if Sen. Flake supports the legislation. Both would be credible candidates and it is unclear at this writing if one would step aside in favor of the other.

Another individual hovering in the background of this Grand Canyon State political picture is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). She has been on a fundraising tear, and though already announcing her intention to seek a fourth term in the House, Sinema does admit to be considering a Senate bid if the circumstances are favorable. By that, she means Sen. Flake drawing a strong Republican primary challenger. It is also unclear if Rep. Sinema will risk her now safe Maricopa County House seat to join what could be a crowded Democratic primary against potentially top-tier candidates even if she perceives Flake to be politically weak.

As we will remember from the last campaign cycle, Sen. Flake became embroiled in a public feud with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and relations between the two men remain less than cordial. After the election, Flake’s internal Republican polling standing suffered greatly as a result, thus making him potentially vulnerable in next year’s Republican primary. Already, former state Sen. Kelli Ward is an announced GOP challenger, but she is not typically regarded as a heavyweight candidate even though she held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination percentage in the 2016 Republican primary.

At the end of last year, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R) was polling strongly against Flake, actually leading him in some internal polls, but has yet to come forward to announce a Senate challenge. He has said he will not seek re-election to his current position, however.

The Arizona race will clearly be an interesting one. Republicans still maintain a 1.259 million to 1.102 million voter registration edge over Democrats with 1.235 million categorized as Independents. Though the party registration figures are at virtual parity, the GOP electoral resume is strong.

The only Democrat to win a US Senate seat here since 1962 is Dennis DeConcini, who served three terms before retiring in the 1994 election cycle. The Dems have fared better in governors’ races during that same 55-year time span, electing six of the 13 state chief executives who have occupied the office. Currently, the US House delegation stands at 5R-4D, while the GOP controls both houses of the state legislature.

The Challenges Begin

By Jim Ellis

July 3, 2017 — Action late last week emanating from Massachusetts could be a harbinger of what we can expect in the coming months. The Boston Globe reported that Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen is not seeking re-election to instead launch a significant Democratic primary challenge to veteran 10-term congressman, Mike Capuano (D-Somerville).

Mazen has not yet announced his congressional candidacy, though he has previously made public his decision not to seek re-election to the Cambridge Council when he seat comes before the voters later this year. He did tell the Globe, however, that he is “beginning to focus on campaign plans for 2018” but wants to talk to community leaders, elected officials, and “potential allies” before making public statements about any future political plans.

Mazen, the first Muslim elected to office in Massachusetts, was originally elected to the council in 2009 and, at the time, pledged to only serve two four-year terms. He has worked to activate Muslims to join the political process and run for office. Professionally, Mazen founded a film company that produces animated content.

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Fake Analysis?

By Jim Ellis

June 30, 2017 — As we all know, one of President Trump’s favorite gambits is to call out reporters for what he terms their “fake news” stories, and we see an example this week of where he may be right. The New York Times is one of the president’s favorite whipping posts, and Nate Cohn’s analysis in the publication’s Political Calculus section about the Democrats’ chances in the 2018 election cycle is at least dangerously close to fitting into that category. While Cohn’s analysis may not be “fake”, he certainly omits a great many facts that don’t conveniently fit his premise.

Cohn is right in the early part of his article when he states that for Democrats to win the net 24 seats they need to capture at least a one-seat House majority they must expand the political playing field. He goes so far as to say they need to challenge perhaps as many as 70 Republican incumbents or nominees in open Republican seats in order to obtain that number, and his statement may well be correct.

But the “fake” part of the analysis again surrounds the special elections just completed. The author reiterates the common narrative that the Republicans under-performed in these seats, which, therefore, lays the foundation for a Democratic sweep in next year’s House races.

The premise of Republican under-performance in these campaigns simply isn’t accurate in three of the four GOP-held seats. While true President Trump recorded big percentages in the four districts, and House Republican incumbents previously racked up large victory margins against weak opponents, an “apples to apples” comparison puts the results into better perspective. In past open seat or challenger contests in these same seats, the Republican special election victors came within at least similar range with previous winning GOP candidates in like situations. The current analyses isolate the Trump numbers, which in many cases aren’t like other Republican totals, while adding landslide incumbent wins that skew the underlying vote history.

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Nevada Senate: The Race is On

By Jim Ellis

June 29, 2017
— Last week, freshman Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) informally declared her intention to run for the Senate – promising an actual announcement for sometime this week or next – and now we already see the first poll for the impending race.

First-term Sen. Dean Heller is clearly the Republicans most vulnerable incumbent in an election year where Democratic opportunities are few and far between. In this particular cycle, Democrats must defend 25 of the 33 Senate campaigns to come before their respective voters versus the Republicans’ mere eight; and, realistically, only two of the latter group are in the competitive realm.

Republican in-cycle Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), John Barrasso (WY), Deb Fischer (NE), Bob Corker (TN), Ted Cruz (TX), and Roger Wicker (MS) all come from secure Republican states, and none are in serious danger for re-election. Sen. Jeff Flake finds himself in an iffy Arizona situation, but he has time to right his political ship. Therefore, the Nevada seat becomes possibly the Democrats’ lone conversion focal point for the coming election.

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More on the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — Yesterday, we examined the House’s post-special election status and speculated upon the Democrats’ chances of wresting majority control away from Republicans during the coming regular campaigns. One of the obstacles that make the Democrats’ task difficult is that only 15 early seats are open, and Republicans risk just nine of the total sum.

What could bring Democrats greater opportunity is the number of potentially open seats — that is, where members are, reportedly, considering running for another office. In this category, 18 incumbents are said to be contemplating different political moves that, if executed, would send their current seats into the open category.

Of the 18, only two are Democrats. Should Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) draw a major Republican primary opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is likely to jump into the Arizona statewide race thinking her victory chances become more realistic if Flake is forced to battle through a difficult intra-party contest. In Maryland, Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is still reportedly considering entering the governor’s race to challenge incumbent Larry Hogan (R). The Democratic field is expanding, however, with former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker just recently announcing their candidacies, so Rep. Delaney’s decision is likely becoming more difficult.

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Looking at the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — For a brief instant, until Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) resigns later this week, the House has a full compliment of 435 members, which means now is a good time to survey 2018 election cycle prospects.

There has been a great deal of speculation, particularly before the GA-6 special election that Democrats had hoped to win, that Republicans are in danger of losing their majority in the coming regular election. But, what do the numbers actually say?

In looking at the overall picture much depends upon realistic chances that congressional district maps in Pennsylvania and Texas could be changed via redistricting court rulings before the next election. Should this happen in the two states, certain districts currently rated safe or likely to go to one party or the other could be significantly altered. Therefore, this pair of domains with large Republican majorities (Pennsylvania: 13R-5D; Texas: 25R-11D) could become 2018 electoral wild cards.

Since the post-reapportionment maps were finalized after the 2010 census, three states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, have been re-drawn. The three new maps combined resulted in Democrats gaining a net of two seats, an increase far below what was projected. Potential exists for further re-drawing in Wisconsin and again in North Carolina, but the US Supreme Court agreeing to hear the former state’s political gerrymandering lawsuit now makes the timing for any court-directed map changes in the two places more difficult to implement for the coming election.

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New Virginia Polling

By Jim Ellis

June 26, 2017 — Despite the vast majority of survey research firms again failing to predict the correct outcome for a recent political campaign — this time the GA-6 special election — we do have new data to analyze for the Virginia governor’s race.

While it is too early to tell whether the pollsters are correctly projecting the turnout model and whether they are using the proper formula to pull a representative sample, it is still worthwhile to look at all the published polls in order to establish a moving trend.

As was reported immediately after the Virginia primary concluded, Harper Polling went into the field the day after Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie won their respective party nominations for governor. According to their results (June 14-16; 500 registered Virginia voters), both Northam and Gillespie were tied at 46 percent. The conclusion was even a bit better for Gillespie because within the eight percent group who reported themselves as undecided, 19 percent indicated a preference for the Republican, while seven percent said they were leaning toward Northam, the new Democratic candidate.

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