By Jim Ellis
Aug. 11, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan recorded an 84-16 percent landslide victory against Republican primary opponent Paul Nehlen Tuesday night in southern Wisconsin. Nehlen was on his way to approaching the $1 million mark in campaign expenditures, but it did little to help expose any weakness in the Ryan political base.
Ryan followed the lead of his predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8), when faced with a similar primary circumstance in 2014. Boehner re-invented himself as the local congressman for that particular race, returning to his roots in western Ohio and never mentioning his GOP opponent in ads or speeches. In fact, never did Ryan even indicate that he was the House Speaker, instead confining his personal description to that of local congressman.
Nehlen attacked heavily on immigration and trade, but it was Ryan’s years of work in the district and never losing touch with his political base and core constituency that allowed him to record such a big primary victory. In fact, the current Speaker actually ran 13 points ahead of the former Speaker’s final primary performance against a more difficult political opponent.
July 29, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) faces a Wisconsin primary challenge that is beginning to show movement, and he’s responding. While there is little chance Ryan loses re-nomination on Aug. 9, his opponent, businessman Paul Nehlen (R), is scoring points.
The Speaker, conscious of avoiding the political campaign mistakes that cost former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) his seat in Congress, responded this week with a positive ad television buy (above).
Cantor’s mistake was attacking his Republican opponent, now Rep. David Brat (R-Glen Allen). The Majority Leader’s offensive provided Brat’s insurgent campaign enough credibility to attract meaningful attention, resulting in significant numbers listening to his message.
May 2, 2016 — Are the pundits who are already making Donald Trump the Republican nominee, and those House members rushing to endorse him, and the others like former House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2) calling out Sen. Ted Cruz acting too quickly?
It was only two weeks ago when Trump was reeling and people were speculating that he would lose a contested convention to Cruz as early as the second ballot because he had allowed the Texan to out-maneuver him in the delegate selection process. In Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Dakota, Colorado, and other places, pro-Cruz individuals were being elected as convention delegates. Though most would be legally bound to cast a first ballot for Trump, if a deadlocked convention went more than one ballot these delegates could break away and cause the New York real estate mogul to fall.
Then came New York and the eastern regional primary. Though Trump exceeded expectations and delegate quotas, was it really a surprise that he carried the states in his home region? The after-effect has reinvigorated the Trump campaign and helped send Cruz to the ropes.
The results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Trump was always projected to carry the eastern states, and certainly so when Cruz insulted the whole state of New York with his “New York values” comment in an early debate.
Feb. 15, 2016 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its early primary and secondary target lists for the 2016 campaign, which is a rather curious grouping. It is already clear that the House Democratic leadership sees no path to the majority in this election, at least during this campaign period.
With the Republican advantage at 247 (once former Speaker John Boehner’s western Ohio seat is filled in special election) to 188, the Democrats would need a net gain of 30 seats just to obtain a one-seat majority. The fact that their primary and secondary target list includes only 24 races suggests that they are nowhere close to putting enough seats in play to seriously challenge the Republican leadership structure.
On the primary list of 16 candidates, two seats are already under Democratic control, CA-24, the Santa Barbara seat of the retiring Rep. Lois Capps, and the FL-18 district of Rep. Patrick Murphy who is running for the Senate. Therefore, what they believe are prime opportunity races number just 14.
Dec. 14, 2015 — Time sometimes changes perspective in politics. Three-term North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) came to Congress with a 2010 victory margin of just under 1,500 votes against then-Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington/Durham) in what became one of that cycle’s biggest Tea Party upsets. Now running for a fourth term, some of the congresswoman’s past allies are backing one of her Republican primary opponents. Her performance in office has disappointed various conservative segments.
This week, the Club for Growth, one of the most prolific conservative outside support groups endorsed Rep. Ellmers’ top primary opponent, former Chatham County Republican chairman Jim Duncan. The Ellmers’ conservative detractors have a major problem, however, in that the anti-incumbent vote is split among three candidates. In addition to Duncan, local radio talk show host Frank Roche and public relations executive Kay Daly are both in the race.
With the Club helping Duncan, his resource base will expand exponentially. He becomes Ellmers’ key challenger and, if the other two could be talked out of running before the upcoming Dec. 21 candidate filing deadline (for the March 15 primary), would be in strong position to deny her re-nomination. But, considering that North Carolina employs a 40 percent run-off rule, defeating any incumbent in a crowded field is a difficult proposition. To avoid a secondary election, Ellmers would only have to reach the 40 percent plateau to clinch the nomination, which, in the 2nd District is the tantamount to winning in November.