Tag Archives: Tennessee

The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part III (Of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-3-of-3

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 27, 2017 — Wrapping up our holiday recap of the 2018 Senate races — we finish our coverage with Ohio through Wyoming.

• Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 51-45 percent win in 2012 during the same election when President Obama led the ticket in Ohio, returns for a re-match next year. Mandel must first get past wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons in the Republican primary, but appears well positioned to do so. A Brown-Mandel race could again develop into a major campaign, as the Republican’s ability to run a strong statewide race has improved during the last six years. In 2014, Mandel was re-elected state Treasurer with 59 percent of the vote.
Rating: Lean D

• Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a third term after seeing President Trump and fellow Sen. Pat Toomey (R) win close Keystone State contests last year. It is conceivable that Sen. Casey will be in a tighter re-election campaign cycle than five years ago when he scored a 54-45 percent victory. Since Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) entered the race, the GOP Senate candidate field has decreased with two contenders, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) and businessman Jeff Bartos, departing to run for other offices. The general election could be competitive, but Rep. Barletta may have a difficult time re-constructing President Trump’s winning coalition. The congressman may find a very rough going in the Philadelphia suburbs as did President Trump, which means developing a winning statewide base becomes highly challenging. Like the president posted, Rep. Barletta will need a record rural turnout in order to win.
Rating: Likely/Lean D

• Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) appears poised for an easy re-election run next year, particularly with Republican attention focused upon a much more competitive governor’s race.
Rating: Safe D

• Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) is retiring after two terms, but Republicans are still in strong position to hold the seat. Democrats are attempting to recruit former Gov. Phil Bredesen, but he is not likely to become a candidate even though saying a decision about running will be made shortly. Republicans will likely feature a GOP primary between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former two-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) that will be very competitive in early August, but sure to produce a strong general election contender.
Rating: Likely R, and Safe R if Bredesen does not run.

• Texas: Though eventual Democratic nominee Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will be able to raise a large amount of national money, he will be no match for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who is seeking his second term. O’Rourke is a capable candidate who can wage a respectable campaign, but Texas voting history and Cruz’s strength within the Republican base will still yield him a victory at least in high single-digits.
Rating: Likely R

• Utah: Two major questions dominate this campaign: will Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) seek an eighth term, and if not, does former presidential nominee Mitt Romney come forward to replace him. Sen. Hatch continues to say he plans on running, but always leaves the retirement door open particularly if Romney says he will run. Either way, the seat remains in the Republican column, as Utah Democrats are too weak to field a strong statewide candidate. It is probable that the GOP dynamic will not crystallize until well after the first of next year.
Rating: Safe R

• Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders will again appear on the Vermont ballot as an Independent even though he was a major contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Regardless of his party designation, he is safe for re-election in his small state, which likely features the most liberal constituency in the country.
Rating: Safe I

• Virginia: Particularly after the Democrats’ strong showing in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is a heavy favorite for re-election as he seeks a second term on the heels of losing as the Democrats’ Vice Presidential nominee. At this point, controversial Republican Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Board chairman who ran strongly in the GOP gubernatorial primary, is Sen. Kaine’s leading opponent but Republicans desire a more viable candidate. Speculation is increasing that Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) might run especially with the Democrats turning in such a strong performance in her Northern Virginia district earlier this month. So far, there is no indication that Rep. Comstock will reverse course to enter the statewide contest, however.
Rating: Likely/Safe D

• Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) has yet to even draw an opponent as she prepares a run for a fourth term.
Rating: Safe D

• West Virginia: A major Republican primary is brewing between Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), with the winner facing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next fall. Though West Virginia has moved decidedly to the right since the turn of the century and President Trump posted 69 percent here last November, Sen. Manchin remains at least a slight favorite for re-election. A minor Democratic primary challenge from the left should help the senator continue better craft his centrist image.
Rating: Lean D

• Wisconsin: Though Republicans have seen their fortunes greatly increase here during the past seven years, the field challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) has been slow to develop. Businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) is active and receiving heavy support from outside financial sources, but the Republican conservative base is looking elsewhere. State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) is in the race and figures to be a significant candidate. With the Wisconsin primary not occurring until August, Sen. Baldwin has the luxury of having a long time to prepare for what should be an active general election campaign cycle.
Rating: Lean D

• Wyoming: The big question surrounds whether Sen. John Barrasso draws a GOP primary challenge from Blackwater Security firm founder and international businessman Erik Prince, brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or mega-conservative donor Foster Friess. Chances are neither will run, meaning Sen. Barrasso has little trouble in securing a second full term.
Rating: Safe R

Turbulent Senate Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.

While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.

But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.

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The Alabama Debacle

By Jim Ellis

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Nov. 14, 2017 — Senate Republicans have a major advantage in the current election cycle, but may be on the precipice of giving it away.

Looking at the 2018 Senate map, Republicans have only to defend eight of the 33 in-cycle seats. Considering that six of the eight are the safe Republican states of Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and the Democrats need a net gain of three conversion seats to claim the majority, it appears unattainable even if the latter party converts legitimate targets in politically marginal Nevada and now open Arizona.

But the mathematics change if Democrats score an unlikely upset in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12, and the latest unfolding events there suggest that such an outcome is far more likely to happen.

As we know, Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the twice removed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been accused of sexual impropriety with at least one teenage girl when he was 32 years old in 1979. Washington, DC Republicans, who appear to be taking the Washington Post story and the woman’s allegations at face value, are urging Moore to remove himself from the race. Alabama Republicans are still standing firm for Moore, refusing to accept the story without proof. For his part, Judge Moore denies the incident happened.

Three polls have already surfaced telling us that Moore has suffered a major hit. Earlier surveys found him leading in low double-digits, but Opinion Savvy, Gravis Marketing, and JMC Analytics & Polling immediately went into the field to test the Alabama electorate’s reaction.

Opinion Savvy (Nov. 10; 515 likely Alabama special election voters) conducted their survey just hours after the Moore story broke. Their results find that Moore’s lead has evaporated into a 46-46 percent tie with Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US Attorney.

Gravis Marketing launched their poll just as quickly (Nov. 10; 478 likely Alabama voters) and finds a similar ballot test tally: 48-46 percent in Moore’s favor.

JMC Analytics (Nov. 9-11; 575 registered Alabama voters) sees Jones pulling into a 46-42 percent lead (48-44 percent when leaners to both candidates are added), but an over-sampling of female voters could account for the Democratic advantage. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were female and they break for Jones, 46-40 percent. Men favor the Democrat 46-45 percent.

Considering these polls were taken immediately as the story was breaking and the questionnaires included an explanation of what was being said about him, the results for Moore are not devastating. For the most part, Republican voters are taking Moore’s side while Democrats believe the accuser. The fact that the division is roughly even suggests that Moore has a chance to rebound if he can effectively tell his story.

While Republican leaders may be calling upon Judge Moore to remove himself from the ticket, realistically and legally, he cannot. Under Alabama election law, the ballot cannot be changed within 76 days of the election. That period began Sept. 28. Now comes talk that Gov. Kay Ivey (R) could be approached to postpone the election, or call a special session of the legislature to pass a new emergency election statute. The governor says she is not inclined to even think about such an option.

Additionally, some absentee packets containing Moore’s name have already mailed, thus making it logistically difficult, if not illegal, to inject a new ballot into the campaign. Therefore, the outlook is virtually certain that the election will proceed as scheduled on Dec. 12.

Another idea suggests that the Senate refuse to seat Moore if he wins the election. Should all Democrats vote against Moore, only three Republicans would need to break ranks to keep the seat in abeyance. Presumably, the state could then call a new election, but there would be nothing preventing Moore from running again. Should that be the case, Gov. Ivey then could appoint another interim senator or even keep Sen. Luther Strange (R) in the position. Also, a new election would allow him to run again, too.

For their part, Democrats are remaining publicly quiet. They are likely doing so for two reasons. First, they are adopting the old axiom, “if one’s political opponents are in process of destroying themselves don’t stop them.” Second, they may soon be faced with another vote to eject a senator. Should New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez be found guilty in his corruption trial, there will likely be a move to expel him. Democrats would find themselves in a bind if they make a public spectacle of denying entry to Moore, and then quickly pivot to do the opposite in order to save Menendez.

The Roy Moore saga is far from over but at the outset, the situation appears perilous for Republicans. Since losing this seat would endanger their majority standing in 2018, the stakes for how the majority leadership chooses to handle the Alabama situation becomes even more challenging.

The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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