Category Archives: Senate

Senate Sleepers in Minnesota
and South Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Are incumbents Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 8, 2020 — At the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, it appeared that Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were set for re-election. That no longer appears to be the case.

Polling is now consistently showing close races in the two states, and Sen. Smith’s recent comments about the police have seemingly moved her re-election campaign closer to the toss-up category according to a just-released Harper Polling survey.

Looking at the HP data (Aug. 30-Sept. 1; 50 likely Minnesota voters via live interview), Sen. Smith’s ballot test edge has dropped to just 43-41 percent over former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R).

In May, Harper found Sen. Smith posting a 46-35 percent advantage over Lewis. After this release, Public Policy Polling forecast a 48-39 percent split toward the end of July. Lastly, Emerson College published what appears to be precursor data to the latest Harper findings. The Boston-based university poll (Aug. 8-10; 73 likely Minnesota voters) found a three-point split between the two contenders, 48-45 percent, again in Sen. Smith’s favor.

To the southeast of liberal Minnesota, in conservative South Carolina, veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has also fallen into a competitive contest with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, who had raised an incredible $29 million for his smaller state race through the end of June.

The most recent poll we have seen from the Palmetto State was released at the beginning of August. Quinnipiac University (July 30-Aug. 3; 91 registered South Carolina voters) detected a 44-44 percent tie between Sen. Graham and Harrison. From mid-July through the beginning of August, six surveys were conducted, including the Quinnipiac study, and Sen. Graham’s average lead was only 2.8 percentage points.

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How Sen. Markey Won in the
Massachusetts Primary

(Ed Markey’s Desk ad, 2020; recreated from 1976 ad below)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 3, 2020 — Sen. Ed Markey’s win over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) is attracting a great deal of media attention in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 55-45 percent Democratic primary election, and it should. In many ways, this was an extraordinary campaign.

Sen. Markey should be credited with running an excellent political effort in that he maximized his advantages and minimized his weaknesses. It also featured bizarre happenings in that the 74-year-old candidate received 71 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote against his 39-year-old opponent, and he re-created, virtually word for word, an ad his campaign produced for his first congressional race back in 1976 highlighting an issue that defined his career in the state legislature.

Conversely, Kennedy ran a failing campaign that never got untracked and proved strategically wrong from the outset.

Let’s go back to where this race began in order to set the stage. Kennedy announced his candidacy in October. Polling had already begun in late August, and Change Research released the first public poll of a proposed Markey-Kennedy race (Aug. 23-25, 2019; 80 registered Massachusetts voters) and found Rep. Kennedy leading Sen. Markey, 42-25 percent.

The last poll, conducted exactly a year later from Boston-based Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters), found Sen. Markey ahead 56-44 percent. Thus, all of the campaign movement favored Markey, and Kennedy was unable to expand outward from his original support base.

What Markey Did Right

Compare Markey’s 2020 ad (top) recreated from his 1976 ad (below):

(Ed Markey’s Desk 1976)

Sen. Markey can count. Understanding that his home county of Middlesex is the largest in the state by far — some 1.58 million people — he returned to his boyhood home in Malden where he based his campaign. His re-created 1976 ad from the first congressional campaign about “Ed Markey’s Desk” was done to emphasize his home roots in the Malden-Melrose area and the surrounding Boston suburbs that comprise the heart of Middlesex County.

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Markey, Neal Win Big in Massachusetts

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Ed Markey recorded a strong double-digit victory over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) yesterday in Massachusetts.

Sept. 2, 2020 — The Massachusetts primary election was held yesterday, and Sen. Ed Markey recorded a strong double-digit victory over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) after a year-long campaign in the US Senate Democratic race, which, in the Bay State, is tantamount to winning the seat in November.

Sen. Markey’s victory spread landed at exactly 10 percentage points with an estimated 20 percent of the vote still outstanding, 55.5 – 45.5 percent, and the 131,651-vote margin left no doubt about the outcome. Turnout is just under 1.2 million Democratic voters and will go higher when late-arriving ballots are collected and counted. The total turnout could reach 1.5 million individuals, which would be higher than the March 3 Democratic presidential primary participation figure that fell just under 1.4 million.

The county largely responsible for the senator’s victory margin was his home county of Middlesex; with a total population figure of over 1.5 million people, it’s the state’s largest local entity. There, Sen. Markey recorded a 65-35 percent margin and an 88,858-vote spread, which accounts for two-thirds of his statewide vote difference. Sen. Markey scored majorities in 10 of the state’s 14 counties.

The only place Rep. Kennedy recorded a county victory outside of his 4th Congressional District was in western Massachusetts. He carried Hampden County, which houses the city of Springfield, and, rather surprisingly, Worcester County despite the flap that found the Kennedy campaign sending a mailer into the locality with the name spelled, “Worchester.”

Temporarily, at the very least, Rep. Kennedy’s defeat spells the end of the Kennedy family political dynasty in the state. In fact, according to the MSNBC network, this is the first loss for a family candidate in 27 Democratic primary campaigns dating back to when John F. Kennedy won the 1946 congressional primary in what was then the Boston area’s 11th CD.

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Massachusetts Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2020 — A major political dynasty will end this evening. Today is Primary Day in Massachusetts and the long-awaited Democratic intra-party battle between two icons of Bay State politics, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) will be decided.

Sen. Markey was first elected to the state legislature in 1972 and has served in elective office consecutively ever since. He spent four years in the state House of Representatives, 36 years in the US House, and was elected in a special US Senate contest in 2013 to replace then-Sen. John Kerry (D) who had resigned to become US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Markey was re-elected to a full term in 2014.

Rep. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, and thereby related to President John F. Kennedy, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He is the latest member of the famed Kennedy political dynasty. Joe Kennedy III was elected to the House in 2012, replacing retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton) in the district that contains the cities of Newton and Brookline before moving south to annex Taunton and Fall River. Should he lose tonight, he will be the first Kennedy not to win a Massachusetts campaign.

The race appeared close from the outset, but Sen. Markey appears to be pulling away in both campaign funds ($11.8 million raised through the pre-primary filing period on Aug. 12 to $8.8 million) and polling. Both see significant expenditure organizations conducting independent operations to support their Senate bids.

Since the end of July, Sen. Markey has pulled away. He has led in seven consecutive polls by an average of 8.7 percentage points after trailing in the early stages of the race. The latest poll, from Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) gives Sen. Markey a 56-44 percent lead when all respondents were prodded to make a choice. Interestingly, the last poll to find Rep. Kennedy leading also came from Emerson College during the early part of May. Those results show just how much the race has changed. Emerson previously projected Rep. Kennedy to a 58-42 percent advantage.

The Senate race is not the only major campaign on the Massachusetts ballot, however. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Springfield) is striving to avoid becoming the ninth US House incumbent to be denied re-nomination in 2020. He faces a spirited challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is hitting Rep. Neal from his left and criticizing him for being part of the “status quo.” Like the other Democratic upset winners this year, he Justice Democrats PAC has endorsed Morse, but their spending here appears less than the other campaigns in which they became involved.

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Where the Senate Stands

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 28, 2020 — A tough battle is underway for the US Senate majority, and both parties are fiercely attempting to assume control in the next Congress. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, but a win in Alabama would send them to 54-46, and that makes the Democrats’ road to the majority all the more difficult.

Democrats need a net conversion of three Republican seats if Joe Biden is elected president, and four if President Trump wins re-election.

Today, we take a snapshot look at polling figures in the key campaign states. How the states listed below eventually fall will determine which party runs the Senate for the 117th Congress.

Below, we provide you the two most extreme results of recent publicly released surveys from the competitive campaigns. The Ellis Insight ratings depict where the race is today, which is not solely based upon polling.


ALABAMA – Lean R (possible conversion)

Morning Consult (July 24-Aug. 2; 80 likely Alabama voters)
• Tommy Tuberville (R) – 52%
• Sen. Doug Jones (D) – 35%

Auburn University at Montgomery (July 2-9; 55 registered Alabama voters)
• Tommy Tuberville (R) – 44%
• Sen. Doug Jones (D) – 36%


ARIZONA – Lean D (possible conversion)

Redfield & Wilton Strategies (Aug. 16-18; 856 likely Arizona voters)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 53%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 34%

OnMessage (Aug. 2-4; 40 likely Arizona voters)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 48%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 48%


COLORADO – Lean D (possible conversion)

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-19; 731 Colorado voters)
• Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – 51%
• Sen. Cory Gardner (R) – 42%

Morning Consult (July 17-26; 61 likely Colorado voters)
• Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – 48%
• Sen. Cory Gardner (R) – 42%


GEORGIA–A – Lean R/Toss

Garin Hart Yang Research Group (Aug. 10-13; 60 likely Georgia voters)
• Jon Ossoff (D) – 48%
• Sen. David Perdue (R) – 46%

Survey USA (Aug. 6-8; 62 likely Georgia voters)
• Sen. David Perdue (R) – 44%
• Jon Ossoff (D) – 41%


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