Category Archives: Senate

Poll: Sununu Pulls Ahead of Hassan

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R)

March 1, 2021 — Republican leaders have been consistently promoting the idea that by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) challenging first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) it would give the GOP its strongest chance of converting the seat. A new poll supports their assertion.

The University of New Hampshire’s pollsters released the results of their regular Granite State Poll, and though this organization was previously one of the least reliable survey research entities, their record has improved in recent elections. Before, they conducted polls over excessively long sampling periods, which led to a large error factor and was a key reason they badly missed some previous polling.

Such methodological flaws have been corrected in the past few election cycles, thus making their data a better gauge of the New Hampshire electorate. Their latest survey conducted over the Feb. 18-22 period and involving 1,676 likely general election voters from their pool of 1,868 Granite State Poll panel members was conducted online. Its results were then weighted to make their sample better resemble the New Hampshire voting universe.

The previous explanation is not to exempt the Granite State pollsters from producing some eyebrow-raising numbers, however. While its tight ballot test numbers are believable for a state’s electorate whose voting patterns have seemingly swung wildly since the turn of the century, seeing an incumbent trailing badly among Independents so early in an election cycle appears questionable.

The ballot test pairing Sen. Hassan with Gov. Sununu finds the Republican state chief executive taking a two-point lead over the incumbent, 48-46 percent. This is a believable outcome when seeing Sununu carrying a 55:19 percent favorability ratio as compared to Sen. Hassan’s 42:38 percent.

What appears bizarre is finding Sen. Hassan trailing the governor 56-18 percent among Independents. That such a widespread gap actually exists within this group seems unlikely, and even the depiction of voters identifying with a party compared with their reported voter registration appears inconsistent. While only 17 percent of the study respondents ID themselves as Independents, 42 percent say they are undeclared voters with regard to party registration.

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Perdue Changes Course in Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R)

Feb. 25, 2021 — Just when former Sen. David Perdue (R) appeared prepared to challenge new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the 2022 general election, he abruptly reversed course and announced Tuesday that he will not run. Perdue had filed a 2022 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, but such action does not make one an official candidate.

Without Perdue in the 2022 race, the fight for the Republican nomination becomes a free-for-all. Earlier in the week former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), who lost her Jan. 5 Senate runoff election, as did Sen. Perdue, confirmed that she is considering running in 2022 in addition to forming a grassroots organization with the goal of increasing right-of-center voter registration in Georgia.

Former Rep. Doug Collins (R), who lost in the 2020 special Senate election, placing behind Sens. Warnock and Loeffler in the crowded jungle primary, also said that he is considering a new run for the Senate, or even a potential Republican nomination challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp.

Yesterday, Atlanta Journal Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein listed several more Republicans who apparently have not yet ruled out a Senate bid next year. They are: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Attorney General Chris Carr, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, and former US Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans.

In the Nov. 3 special jungle primary, Rev. Warnock captured the highest vote total, 1,617,035 of 4,914,361 ballots cast from within a field of 20 candidates. Sen. Loeffler placed second, 292,760 votes ahead of third place finisher Collins.

The fact that Loeffler finished substantially ahead of Collins will be one argument she will likely use to convince base voters that she is most able to defeat Sen. Warnock this time around. Collins, conversely, will contend that a Republican primary is very different than a special election in a regular voting schedule, thus suggesting that he is better positioned to win a primary nomination and develop a stronger base from which to oppose Sen. Warnock.

With Georgia changing politically, any Republican nominee is going to have a difficult time unseating Sen. Warnock but doing so is certainly within the realm of possibility. In the Jan. 5 runoff, while both Loeffler and Perdue were losing to their respective Democratic opponents, a third race was also on the ballot.

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Perdue Making Moves in Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R)

Feb. 19, 2021 — Defeated Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R) is taking the first steps toward making a quick political comeback. This week he filed a new 2022 US Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission to explore his prospects against new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who will be standing for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election. Perdue says he will make a final decision about launching his candidacy next month.

One of the former senator’s arguments to support a new campaign is that he “won” the November general election, which, he points out, drew a record high turnout.

Using the term “won” might be a stretch because we obviously know that Georgia has a runoff system even for the general, which must be satisfied to actually win, but he did finish 88,098 votes ahead of Jon Ossoff in the first election in which 4,952,175 people cast ballots. This total, however, was only enough for 49.73 percent of the vote, a scant 0.27 percent from clinching the seat.

The Jan. 5 runoff turned out differently, as these types of elections often do when an incumbent fails to achieve majority support in the first vote. That is, the second-place finisher frequently wins.

In January, now that the final votes are tabulated and certified, Ossoff produced a 54,944-vote edge from a participation factor of 4,484,902 voters, meaning 467,273 fewer individuals took part in the runoff election. This drop-off rate of only 9.4 percent, however, is the lowest ever for this type of a secondary electoral contest. The typical participation rate falls by at least one-third.

Therefore, Perdue’s argument that he “won” the record turnout election is less credible when understanding that the runoff had a small drop-off rate, and its turnout as part of the super-charged 2020 election cycle is well beyond a standard midterm participation factor.

Additionally, while a Perdue 2022 entry might dissuade other potential Republican nomination contenders such as former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who campaigned closely with Perdue as part of their Republican team effort, it apparently isn’t yet stopping at least one other potential rival.

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Ohio Senate: Mandel Declares

By Jim Ellis

Former Ohio State Treasurer and 2012 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel (R), now 2022 senate candidate.

Feb. 12, 2021 — Former Ohio state treasurer and 2012 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel (R), armed with over $4.3 million in his federal campaign account, announced Wednesday that he will run for the state’s open Senate seat next year. Last week, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/ Youngstown) stated that he will officially declare his own federal statewide candidacy in March.

It is clear that Mandel will not be the only major Republican to battle for the GOP nomination. It is likely, however, that he will begin the primary campaign with more money than any of his future competitors. The only other person holding as large a federal war chest who didn’t run for office in 2020 is former US Rep. Pat Tiberi (R), but he has already made public his intention not to enter next year’s open Senate race.

Several members of the Republican congressional delegation are reportedly assessing the Senate contest as is sitting Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Often mentioned as potential candidates are Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Dave Joyce (R-Russell Township), and Warren Davidson (R-Troy). Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) have publicly stated they will not run for the Senate.

Ex-congressman and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci (R) is another potential contender and confirms that he is considering the race. State Republican Party chair Jane Timken, who resigned her position at the end of last week, is also expected to become a candidate. State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), whose district forms a virtual horseshoe around the city of Cleveland, is also contemplating launching a Senate campaign. Sen. Dolan, the chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee, is a part owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball club.

Mandel was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2006 when he was 29 years old. He then won the treasurer’s post in 2010 and held it for eight years. He lost the 2012 Senate race to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) by a 51-45 percent count but raised more than $18 million for his campaign. Mandel was planning to run again in 2018, but his wife’s serious health situation caused him to exit the race after announcing. The couple has since divorced.

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Jockeying for Ohio’s Senate Seat

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.

Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.

For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.

Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.

It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.

Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.

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Ohio Sen. Portman to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced his retirement Monday.

Jan. 27, 2021 — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term next year, opening the third Senate seat for the 2022 election cycle.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Cincinnati yesterday, Sen. Portman said, “Our country’s polarized right now. It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.”

The two-term senator indicated that the “partisan gridlock” is one of the reasons for his retirement. He further said in explaining his retirement decision, “we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face.”

For the Republicans, they now have three big state open seats to defend as Sen. Portman joins Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr as incumbents who have already made their 2022 retirement plans public. Several others could be on the horizon.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 88 and 89 years of age, respectively, at the time of the next election, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) originally took a two-term pledge when he was first elected in 2010. None of these three lawmakers have made their future political plans public to date, however.

Ohio, once a bedrock Republican state, developed a swing image beginning in 1992 when the state deserted GOP President George H.W. Bush and backed Democrat Bill Clinton. They did so again in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Ohio returned to the Republican column awarding George W. Bush with its electoral votes. In 2008 and 2012, the Buckeye State ventured back to the Democratic side of the political ledger, supporting Barack Obama in both of his national elections.

Therefore, rather than being cast as a swing state during this 20 year period, Ohio may actually have been a microcosm of the national electorate since the state’s voters chose the winning candidate in each of the presidential elections during that time span, and had done likewise for the three previous decades.

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Early Senate 2022 Previews:
Florida & North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 14, 2021 — Regardless of how many in-cycle Senate seats – there are 34 in the 2022 election cycle – come into political play, we can count on seeing Florida and North Carolina once again hosting crucial battleground campaigns.

Florida is always consistent in their close vote totals, particularly when remembering the 2000 presidential campaign — and pollsters, while typically forecasting tight finishes, have often missed the outcomes. In fact, the cumulative polling community has predicted close Democratic victories in the last four key statewide elections: two presidential (2016 & 2020), one senatorial (2018), one gubernatorial (2018), and been wrong on each occasion.

Since 2016, inclusive, Florida has hosted eight statewide races with Republicans winning seven. Yet, their average cumulative vote percentage for these eight victorious campaigns was just 50.7 percent, with the high point being 52.0 percent (Sen. Marco Rubio-R, 2016). Democrats recorded the low winning total: 50.04 percent — 6,753 votes from 8,059,155 votes cast; agriculture commissioner, 2018; winner Nikki Fried (D) vs. Matt Caldwell (R). The aggregate average among the statewide contests in these three most recent election years is 50.7 – 47.9 percent in the GOP’s favor.

With this background, Sen. Rubio will presumably seek a third term next year against what will surely be a highly competitive Democratic opponent. At this point, most of the speculation surrounds two Democratic House members, neither of whom has closed the door on either running for the Senate or challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as he seeks a second term.

Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) and Val Demings (D-Orlando) are the two most prominently mentioned prospective contenders, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one run for Senate and the other for governor. It is less likely that we would see a primary developing between the pair in one of the races.

Other names being floated are Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), who is always mentioned as a potential statewide candidate because he previously served both as attorney general and governor and lost two other statewide campaigns. Other potential contenders are Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami). The state’s lone Democratic office holder, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, is more often associated with running for governor as opposed to the Senate contest.

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