July 12, 2016 — The US Senate campaigns have attracted a great deal of attention in this election cycle, and they are likely to gain even more as the election cycle progresses. Along with the presidency, control of the legislative chamber is at stake and either party can claim a national victory.
At this point, 11 races are in the Toss-up, Lean Republican, or Lean Democratic categories. Interestingly, except for the New Hampshire campaign, the races appear to fall into five neat pairs. Therefore, the following couplings help us view the national Senate picture:
• Illinois and Wisconsin: Incumbent Republicans Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) are clearly in the most vulnerable of political positions. Both senators trail their Democratic opponents, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), respectively, in all polls. The Illinois voting patterns are decidedly Democratic, and particularly so in presidential years, and Kirk is behind by mid-single digits in every public poll. It is possible his margin worsens.
The Wisconsin numbers are more erratic, with Sen. Johnson recently trailing from between one to 11 points. It is clear that these two states are the top Democratic conversion opportunities, and both must be won if the party is to re-take the majority they lost in the 2014 election.
By Jim Ellis
June 24, 2016 — As expected, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) officially reversed course and announced that he will file for re-election. His action put in motion other political moves.
As promised, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) announced that he is ending his Senate campaign, deferring to his long-time friend. Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) exited the Senate race late last week in anticipation of Rubio returning and simultaneously declared that he would attempt to seek re-election to the House.
In north-central Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), another Senate candidate, also stated that he, too, would leave the Senate race and now likewise retreats to seek re-election to his US House seat. Unlike Rep. Jolly, who had been laying the groundwork for a House return for a couple of weeks, Rep. DeSantis had kept his plans to himself. This led to speculation that he might not re-enter the congressional race, since six Republicans were already running, and instead sit out the 2016 election and file for the open attorney general’s position in 2018.
June 23, 2016 — It is clear that most Republican insiders, and many elected delegates preparing for the national convention in Cleveland, appear terror stricken over the Trump campaign’s current status. Now, a long-shot move is underway to attempt to change the GOP convention rules so all delegates would be free to vote as they choose, thus dissing state laws and binding planks in a last-ditch attempt to deny Donald Trump the nomination.
Trump, himself, is being portrayed as showing signs of panic with his abrupt firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, but this act is likely a response to the poor fundraising operation that came directly under the departed top staff man’s purview. The Trump campaign reports an embarrassingly low $1,289,507 million cash on hand.
But is there reason for such panic? As often seems the case, the people directly involved in the political process appear to pay more attention to media stories than to numbers and maps because the empirical data is telling quite a different story.
Quinnipiac University just released polls in three key states, all taken between June 8-19. Their new Florida poll (975 registered Florida voters) finds Hillary Clinton leading Trump 47-39 percent, a significant gain in this most important of swing states, but the relatively modest eight point spread is her best showing, by far.
June 22, 2016 — It appears that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will change course and run for re-election after repeatedly saying he would not. GOP leaders, fearing they would lose the seat without him, have apparently prevailed upon him to seek re-election after exerting intense pressure. We will know for sure very shortly, because the state’s candidate filing deadline closes Friday afternoon.
But, Rubio’s decision will not only affect the Senate race. Two House district campaigns could also drastically change if he launches a new campaign.
Already, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) has left the Senate race and returns to his Pinellas County congressional district to fight an uphill battle for re-election in an unfavorable post-redistricting seat. The state Supreme Court drew a new 13th CD that greatly favors the Democrats, and party switching former Gov. Charlie Crist will be Jolly’s general election opponent.
June 21, 2016 — Florida Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) announced Friday that he would officially end his US Senate bid and return to protect his seat in the House of Representatives. The move had been predicted for the past week.
With the state Supreme Court re-drawing his 13th CD to the Democrats’ liking, Rep. Jolly’s re-election prospects appeared dim so the Senate race looked to be a viable possibility. When the congressman announced, however, that he would no longer personally raise funds for his statewide effort, leaving that task to “staff and Super PACs”, it became clear that his Senate campaign would go nowhere.
When the city of St. Petersburg was added to District 13 in the mid-decade redistricting plan, party switching former Gov. Charlie Crist decided to enter the open congressional race as a Democrat. In the new configuration, President Obama averaged 55 percent of the vote in his two elections, up from breaking even here when the previous 13th was a statewide vote microcosm.