Tag Archives: Iowa

Turnout 2020: Up, then Down

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2020 — In most political campaigns, the final electoral result is determined not necessarily from transforming undecided individuals into positive votes, but rather ensuring that the candidate’s committed supporters actually cast their ballot. Therefore, accurately projecting and influencing voter turnout becomes critical for every campaign.

Before the COVID-19 virus struck, many analysts and political prognosticators were predicting a record turnout in the 2020 general election, thus exceeding 2016’s all-time high 136.8 million presidential election ballots. Many stated that breaking 150 million voters was possible, with some even believing that was likely. The post-COVID primary vote participation figures now suggest otherwise, however.

There is a big difference in voter turnout before and after the COVID-19 virus attack. Prior to the March 18 societal shutdown, 25 states had held presidential primary or major caucus elections, meaning up to and including the March 17 election date in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. North Dakota and Wyoming, because of the small attendance figures in their caucuses and reporting system, are not included in this matrix.

By mid-March, former vice president Joe Biden had broken away from the pack of Democratic candidates, and all of his major opponents had either dropped out of the race or were headed down that path. When voters cast their ballots on March 17, only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) were advancing to the April 7 primary in Wisconsin.

Through March 17, Democratic primary turnout was up substantially from 2016, and on projected pace to meet the high turnout general election predictions if such a trend continued throughout the remainder of the election year. Republican turnout was down substantially in comparison to 2016, but that is obviously because President Trump had no serious opposition for re-nomination. Therefore, only the Democratic turnout numbers are viable for making statistically relevant calculations and projections.

Through the 25 tested presidential primaries ending March 17, turnout was up 14.8 percent when compared to the open race four years ago in the 17 states that held primary or major caucus elections in both 2016 and 2020. Since the COVID shutdown, however, Democratic voter participation has fallen. In the 11 post-COVID states that held Democratic primary elections in both 2016 and 2020, turnout dropped 21.2 percent when comparing the participation figures from the aforementioned election years.

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Moving to the General

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2020 — The June 2nd primary featured 10 states, and now the candidates are set for November. Below is a recap of the races from Tuesday’s primary that project as competitive this fall, and an early prognosis for each.


IN-5:

• St. Sen Victoria Spartz (R) vs. Christina Hale (D)
Trump ’16: 53-41%    |   2018 Congressional: 57-43% R (Brooks)

Ukrainian born state Senator Victoria Spartz topped a field of 15 Republican candidates with 41% on Tuesday night, after a nasty primary that resulted in some of the other contenders running ads touting that they were born in America. Democrat Christina Hale, a former state Representative and 2016 Lt. Governor nominee, had an easier time in her primary, and won with 39% of the vote, which was slightly under pre-election estimates.

Ms. Spartz is the favorite to win in November in a traditionally Republican district, but one that is moving more toward the center. Democrats will see how this race begins to unfold, but this is a seat on their secondary target list. We can expect Spartz to be tested early, and if the numbers suggest an opening, the Democrats will go for an upset win.


IOWA-SENATE:

• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
Trump ’16: 51-42%    |    2016 US Senate: 60-36% R (Grassley)

Iowa is one of three Republican firewall states to keep the Senate majority, with Montana and Maine being the other two. Sen. Joni Ernst seeks her first re-election and is now paired with Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. The Democratic establishment backed Greenfield, but she came under attack in the primary and defeated two opponents with 47% of the vote, a bit under pre-election projection.

All races in Iowa are competitive, so we can expect intense political competition here from the presidential race all the way through each of the state’s four House districts. Polling will show the Senate race as close until Election Day, but what should be another Trump victory here will help set the table for the remainder of the races. Sen. Ernst is rated as a slight favorite as the general election now officially begins.


IA-1:

• Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) vs. St. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 50-45% D

Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) defends her seat for the first time and faces a top opponent in Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids), a former television news anchor. The 1st District looked to be the safest Democratic seat in the state after 2011 redistricting, but the electorate hasn’t voted that way. This will be a top tier Republican challenge race, and one to watch. Rep. Finkenauer certainly begins with the incumbent’s advantage, but the IA-1 campaign is a top national GOP target. If the Republicans are to have any chance of re-taking the House majority, Ms. Hinson will have to win.


IA-2:

• Rita Hart (D) vs. St. Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 54-42% D (Loebsack)

The 2nd District, located in Iowa’s southeastern sector, is the district that has played best for Democrats during the decade despite President Trump carrying it in 2016.

Democrats feature former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart who was even unopposed in an open seat primary. Republicans counter with first-term state Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), who begins her fourth race for the congressional seat. Ms. Hart is the clear favorite here, and Dr. Miller-Meeks will have to prove her credibility nationally after three losses. If she does not begin the general election in competitive fashion, this race will quickly turn Ms. Hart’s way.
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Rep. King (R) Falls in Iowa;
Mrvan, Fernandez Clinch Seats

By Jim Ellis

June 3, 2020 — Ten entities held primary elections yesterday, and among the voting results we saw a second US congressman being denied re-nomination, as well as two primary victors who have virtually secured their seats in the next Congress:


Former VP Joe Biden

• DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Former vice president Joe Biden easily won the DC primary last night in capturing 78 percent of the vote, which is a significant improvement over his last two performances in Oregon and Hawaii. Biden is now within shouting distance of officially clinching the Democratic nomination and will do so next week when six more states vote in their primary elections.


• IDAHO: 2018 gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan with her 86 percent Democratic primary win yesterday will challenge Sen. Jim Risch who seeks a third term. Sen. Risch is a clear favorite to win in November.

Both US Reps. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho Falls) were easy winners for re-nomination scoring 80 and 72 percent victories, respectively, and each has minimal opposition in the general election.


• INDIANA: Biden recorded a solid 76 percent in his Hoosier State Democratic primary. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) will square-off with Democratic former health commissioner Woody Myers in November as both men were unopposed in yesterday’s primary. Gov. Holcomb appears safe for re-election in the fall.

North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, with retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky’s (D-Merrillville/Gary) endorsement, defeated Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Lake County) in the open 1st Congressional District, and now becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed Visclosky in the next Congress.

In the Indianapolis area’s 5th CD, state Sen. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) scored an impressive victory over three Republican opponents to capture the party’s open seat congressional nomination. Spartz will now battle former state representative and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale (D) in the general election. Likewise, Hale defeated three Democratic opponents to win her nomination. The Ukrainian born Spartz is favored to succeed retiring Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) but the Democrats are expected to make a run at the seat.

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Ten Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2020 — Super June is here. During the month, almost half of the country (24 entities) will hold nomination elections, 10 of which have moved their voting days to June from earlier dates. Here’s today’s lineup.


• DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Washington, DC voters will vote in a Democratic presidential primary that still features three individuals who are no longer contenders. Former vice president Joe Biden will defeat Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), but the question to watch surrounds the strength of his vote percentage. It is arguable that his last two performances in Oregon and Hawaii fell below what a virtually unopposed presumptive nominee typically receives.

DC voters will also nominate candidates for Delegate to the US House of Representatives and for members of the DC City Council.


• IDAHO: The Idaho primary began with in-person voting on May 19, but Gov. Brad Little (R) extended the absentee ballot return deadline to today, June 2. Therefore, no votes will be counted until the mail votes are received today. The presidential primary was held earlier as a stand-alone vote, so this election in the state’s regular primary.

Sen. Jim Risch seeks a third term and is unopposed for re-nomination in the Republican primary. On the Democratic side, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan, a former state representative, is favored. Reps. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho Falls) face only minor opposition in their respective primaries. Sen. Risch and both congressmen are all prohibitive favorites in November.


• INDIANA: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) leads the state ticket this year and is unopposed in the primary, as is Democratic former health commissioner, Woody Myers. Gov. Holcomb appears safe for re-election in the Fall.

With no Senate race in the Hoosier State this year, the US House delegation features two open seats that will attract most of the attention on primary night.

Veteran Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Merrillville/Gary), first elected in 1984, is retiring after serving what will be 18 terms in the House. The Democrats will keep this seat (Clinton ‘16: 54-41 percent) so today’s election will almost assuredly choose the new representative. Of the 14 candidates, only two currently hold elective office, Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond and state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Lake County), and both figure to be major contenders.

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Poll: Feenstra Tops Rep. King in Iowa

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron) – in trouble in Iowa

May 22, 2020 — The June 2 primaries are fast approaching, and though very few House incumbents are in danger of joining Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) as a member who lost re-nomination in 2020, there is a serious intra-party challenge unfolding in northwest Iowa.

Hawkeye State veteran Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) has been in political trouble during this entire term after making racially charged statements that led to the Republican conference stripping him of his committee assignments. Just within the past 10 days, King was again rebuffed in his attempt to re-claim his former duties.

The controversy is largely responsible for King drawing a very serious challenge from state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull/Sioux County). Feenstra has served six two-year terms in the state Senate, and previously as the Sioux County treasurer and Hull City administrator.

Through the March 31 candidate filing period, Feenstra had raised over $844,000 for his primary campaign and still had more than half to spend. Rep. King, on the other hand, was virtually out of money. His cycle receipts were under $302,000 and he had less than $27,000 in the bank.

Several polls have been released since the race took shape early this year and, up until now, all were from the Feenstra campaign pollster, American Viewpoint. At the end of January, due to his strong name identification from representing the district since the beginning of 2003, Rep. King posted a 53-22 percent advantage.

Three months later, AV detected King’s lead over Feenstra had dissipated to 41-34 percent. During the first week of May, the race grew even tighter with the challenger pulling to within three points, 39-36 percent. Feenstra was also picking up key endorsements, such as those from the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC). He also earned support from the National Right to Life Committee and secured an “A” rating from the NRA on the conservative social issues front.

Clearly, Feenstra’s momentum train is building steam and Wednesday a Public Opinion Strategies poll for the America’s Future Fund organization (May 16-18; 400 likely IA-4 Republican primary voters) found the challenger actually moving past Rep. King, 41-39 percent. POS segmented their numbers and it becomes clear that this will be a turnout primary.

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House Opens – Toss-Up/Leans

By Jim Ellis

April 15, 2020 — The open-seat count has increased to 43, with 31 coming from the minority Republican column. The number of competitive opens, however, at this point in the cycle is likely just nine, as 34 of the incumbent-less seats fall into either the Safe/Likely Democratic (12) column or Safe/Likely Republican (22) category. Today, we look at the competitive open seats.

Toss-Up

• CA-25: The vacant Palmdale/Simi Valley seat heads to a special election on May 12 in north Los Angeles County. State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia (R) advanced from the special primary into the stand-alone mail-in special general. Regardless of the outcome on May 12, these two candidates will advance into the November general election to determine who will represent the politically marginal district in the next Congress.
   The special election has moved from “Lean Democratic” into the “Toss-up” category as a result of recent polling that projects Garcia owning a small lead and because of the partisan turnout numbers in the regular primary. The latter statistic actually found more Republicans voting than Democrats.

• GA-7: In 2018, this Atlanta suburban seat featured the closest raw vote margin in the nation, as incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) defeated state legislative staff member Carolyn Bourdeaux by just 419 votes. This year, with Rep. Woodall retiring, Bourdeaux returns but must top five other Democratic candidates including a state senator, state representative, and former Fulton County commission chairman. Therefore, the May 19 Democratic primary, now moved to June 9, will be competitive and the possibility of advancing to an Aug. 11 runoff election certainly exists.
   Republicans may be more likely to move into a runoff than the Democrats, however. Seven candidates are in the field, only one of who is an elected official. More on this race as it develops, but we will probably see tight elections in both primaries and almost assuredly in the general election.

Lean Democratic

• IA-2: In a 2020 open-seat election in this southeastern Iowa congressional district, the Republican challenge is at least as difficult as opposing seven-term incumbent David Loebsack (D-Iowa City), who is now retiring. Democrats have already coalesced around ex-state senator Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), a soybean farmer and former educator from Clinton County.
   In 2018, Hart was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor on the ticket that businessman Fred Hubbell lost in a close race to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). It is an unusual situation when an incumbent party must defend an open seat and winds up with an unopposed candidate in the primary, but that is what has occurred here.
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Early Clues for Dems’ Early Targets

By Jim Ellis

April 1, 2020 — The Senate Majority PAC, one of the chief advocacy entities for Democratic candidates, has reserved media time totaling $69.2 million from August through the election, as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website. The expenditures provide us some clues into how the Democratic establishment and their progressive left allies view their strategic attack points in relation to the national political landscape.

The early media time reservations are invested in five states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. This is certainly not the limit of the SMP planned expenditures, nor is the organization likely committed to fulfilling the entirety of this time buy without having negotiated an escape clause. All depends upon their agreements with the individual television outlets and does not include any future expenditure the group may make for radio and digital advertising.

Setting the stage, the five states are all clearly top-tier Republican-held targets of which the Democrats would have to convert nearly all in order to wrest Senate control away from the current majority. That number grows if they fail to defend their own vulnerable seats in either Alabama or Michigan, or both.

The largest time reservation is in North Carolina, where Democrats hope newly nominated Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and 2010 US Senate candidate (lost Democratic nomination to then-secretary of state Elaine Marshall who would lose the general election to GOP Sen. Richard Burr), can unseat first-term incumbent Thom Tillis (R) in a state that has defeated more senators than any other in the modern political era. Of the $69.2 million in national reservations the group made, $25.6 million is dedicated to North Carolina media markets.

Arizona gets the second largest share with $15.7 million dedicated toward helping retired astronaut Mark Kelly, already the consensus Democratic candidate, challenge appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Iowa, where Democrats will nominate a candidate on June 2 to challenge first-term Sen. Joni Ernst (R), will see $13.1 million of the SMP media buy. Maine gets $9.6 million to oppose Sen. Susan Collins (R), and Colorado $5.2 million largely for negative ads against first-term Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

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