Category Archives: Senate

Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Senate: Utah & Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2017 — Originally elected in 1976, no Republican senator has served longer than Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and he is the eighth longest-serving member in American history. At the end of last week, he informed the media that he’s “planning on” running for an eighth term in 2018.

In 2012, Sen. Hatch indicated that he would be serving his final term upon election that year, but now his intention has apparently changed. The press office statement proved less definitive than Sen. Hatch’s words, however, suggesting that there is still a possibility for retirement.

“Senator Hatch appreciates the encouragement he’s receiving to run for reelection. While he has not made a final decision about his plans for 2018, he has made plans thus far to ensure all options remain on the table,” came the official statement clarifying the Senator’s earlier comments.

Earlier in the year, former governor and US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman (R), indicated an interest in running for the Senate. He said at the time that he did not intend to challenge Sen. Hatch, should the latter decide to seek re-election. With Huntsman now appearing to be President Trump’s choice for Ambassador to Russia, it is unlikely that he will be in the Senate campaign picture irrespective of what Sen. Hatch decides.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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The Trump 10

By Jim Ellis

March 2, 2017 — There already has been a great deal of talk about the difficult campaign road ahead that Democrats face in 2018. With having to defend 25 of 34 states in next year’s election, the minority party finds itself being forced to play defense in what should be a very offensive election cycle for them.

Republicans, theoretically, have a chance to gain seats in the midterms because they have offensive opportunities, similar to what the Democrats enjoyed in 2016. In that cycle, Republicans were forced to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle states, but were able to sustain their majority status, nonetheless.

The Trump 10 refers to the number of in-cycle Senate states that President Trump carried, where Democrats must defend. The following is a list of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election who should be in politically precarious positions. The group is listed in order of vulnerability, based upon the Democratic performance in the presidential race, the strength of the incumbent, and presumed challenger capability.

1) Indiana – Sen. Joe Donnelly – President Trump and the Republicans, ostensibly led by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, racked up large percentages in the Hoosier State. The trend, and the quality of potential Republican challengers such as representatives Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), arguably makes Sen. Donnelly the most vulnerable of Democrats seeking re-election.

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New Wisconsin Senate Data

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 24, 2017 — The 2018 Senate Democrats have the same problem as last year’s Senate Republicans. That is, the Dems must protect too many seats in the coming election, which obviously diminishes opportunities for gains.

The Dems current situation is worse than the Republicans’ in the previous cycle. In 2018, the party candidates must win 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (now including the Alabama special election for purposes of completing the current term that Attorney General Jeff Sessions began) just to break even. The 2016 Republicans were forced to defend 24 states to the Democrats’ 10, and ended the campaign cycle dropping a net two seats.

Adding further vulnerability to the Democrats’ potential quagmire is seeing 10 of their 25 incumbents hailing from states that President Trump carried last November. In nine of those 10 – Michigan is the lone exception – the state’s other senator is a Republican.

One of the top Republican conversion targets is the Badger State of Wisconsin. Here, first-term Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) seeks re-election in what should be a highly competitive general election campaign.

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Duffy Won’t Go; SC-5 Special

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 21, 2017 — Timing is everything.

Wisconsin Senate

The man commonly viewed as the most likely opponent to first-term Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year won’t run. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) released a statement saying it is “not the right time” for him to undertake a statewide venture.

In a public statement covered by his hometown newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, Rep. Duffy said, “After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. … I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th District, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”

While the congressman did not formally announce for re-election, the gist of his statement suggests that he is not retiring from elective politics.

Several prominent Republicans are looking at the Senate race, and many will continue to engage in serious contemplation especially since Duffy will not be among the field of candidates.

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Flake Still Trailing
in Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2017 — Just after the Nov. 8 election, Remington Research conducted a Republican voters’ statewide Arizona survey (Nov. 15-16; 1,122 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), as we previously covered, and found Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to be in trouble … in his own primary. Now, a new poll seems to confirm Flake’s weakness.

The previous data showed the incumbent trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 42-33 percent, in a hypothetical Republican primary. The same sample found former state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward tied with Flake, 35-35 percent. Ward attracted 40 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican US Senate primary. In a three-way race, DeWit led Flake and Ward, 38-30-15 percent, respectively. Perhaps most disconcerting for the senator was his favorability index among the Republican sample group, 30:49 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Now comes a new Political Marketing International poll (Feb. 7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device) that again brings warning signs to Sen. Flake. According to this current data, Flake actually trails Ward, 23-30 percent. DeWit, who has not committed to run for Senate though he did announce that he’ll retire as state treasurer, was not tested in this particular poll.

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