Tag Archives: Wisconsin

WI-Senate: Lt. Gov. Announces

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

July 22, 2021 — As expected, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) declared his candidacy Tuesday for a Wisconsin Senate seat. Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has yet to say if he will seek a third term (when he first ran in 2010, he committed to serving only two terms) but there is no question whatever the senator decides that the Wisconsin race will be highly competitive and become a national campaign.

Before the eventual Democratic nominee even gets the opportunity to face Sen. Johnson, he or she must traverse a difficult primary battle that won’t conclude until August of next year. Already vying for the party nomination in addition now to Lt. Gov. Barnes are state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, and Milwaukee Bucks basketball club senior executive and former Obama White House aide Alex Lasry. Still others may enter.

Wisconsin has been the site of very close election in the latter part of the decade. Two presidential campaigns and a gubernatorial race fell within one percentage point (2016 Presidential: Trump: 47.2 – 46.5 percent; 2020 Presidential: Biden 49.4 – 48.8 percent; 2018 Governor: Tony Evers-D: 49.5 – 48.4 percent; 2016 US Senate: Johnson: 50-47 percent), and another photo finish is expected for 2022.

Polling will again be another question mark since the survey research community’s joint record in Wisconsin has been poor since 2016.

In the Trump-Clinton race, pollsters ran 32 polls and Donald Trump led in none, yet he won the state. In the 2016 Senate race, Sen. Johnson was ahead only once in 29 public polls, yet claimed a three-point re-election victory when the actual votes were tabulated. Again, in the 2020 presidential race, while correctly predicting that Biden would carry Wisconsin, their average margin was way off the mark, finding the Democrat leading by a mean average of 6.7 percentage points in eight polls conducted after Oct. 20. The actual Biden victory margin was just beyond 22,000 votes.

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2022: The Unannounced

By Jim Ellis

July 19, 2021 — The Fox News website ran a story late last week saying that there remain five in-cycle US senators who have not yet revealed their political plans for 2022. Below is a review of those senators’ political situations and clues that could provide a glimpse whether they are headed toward re-election or retirement.

The best hints will be forthcoming in a matter of days as the second quarter campaign financial disclosure reports will be released shortly on the Federal Election Commission website. Last Thursday was the deadline for filing the reports for the period covering April 1 through June 30.

The five senators, listed alphabetically by state are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).


Sen. Murkowski:

State: Alaska
Appointed: 2002
Re-elected: 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 65
Victory Margin 2016: 44.4 – 29.2%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Karl Speights (R) – Retired Air Force officer
• Kelly Tshibaka (R) – Former AK Administration Commissioner

It is assumed that Sen. Murkowski will run for re-election, though her return path to Washington may be a difficult one to traverse. Last night, her campaign spokesperson stated that the Senator’s second quarter disclosure report would show $1.15 million raised for the quarter with $2.3 million cash-on-hand. These are financial numbers that suggest she will seek re-election.

Alaska has changed its nominating system and will be the first state to adopt a “top four” primary procedure. Similar to California, Louisiana, and Washington that use the jungle primary format to send the top two candidates to the general election, Alaska will instead advance the top four from the slate primary. The change virtually ensures that Sen. Murkowski will not again lose the Republican primary as she did in the 2010 election. In that year, she was forced to run a highly efficient general election write-in operation to win her second full term.

Early polling numbers find Sen. Murkowski with very poor favorability numbers among Republicans and running a distant third behind Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is already the state Republican Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Dr. Al Gross (D), the 2020 Senate nominee, has not yet committed to running again, but he, too, runs ahead of the Senator in the previously released surveys.

While the top four system guarantees Sen. Murkowski will secure a ballot position for the general election, winning her re-election is in doubt.


Sen. Grassley:

State: Iowa
First Elected: 1980
Re-elected: 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 89
Victory Margin 2016: 60.1 – 35.7%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Jim Carlin (R) – State Senator; former State Representative
• Glenn Hurst (D) – Minden City Councilman; Physician
• Dave Muhlbauer (D) – Ex-Crawford County Commissioner; Farmer

Last week Sen. Grassley stated that he would make his political plan public before Nov. 1. Despite his advanced age, it is presumed in all sectors now that Sen. Grassley will seek re-election. He has filed a 2022 campaign committee with the FEC, has a semi-updated website, and it will be interesting to see how active his fundraising became in the second quarter. His March 31 report revealed a cash-on-hand figure of $2.04 million to begin the re-election cycle.

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Latest Senate News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

May 28, 2021 — Today, we complete our two-part series pertaining to the latest Senate happenings, covering the latter half of the alphabet from New Hampshire through Wisconsin.

• New Hampshire: If Gov. Chris Sununu (R) decides to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), then the Granite State will likely become the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity. In the only two publicly released polls this year testing such a pairing, Gov. Sununu leads in both.

Though New Hampshire has trended more Democratic at the top of the ticket in the past few elections and President Biden scored a better than expected 53-45 percent win here in November, Gov. Sununu has claimed three consecutive elections, including a 65 percent victory last year. The governor indicated he will make a decision about a Senate challenge during the summer. Should Sununu not make the race, Sen. Hassan becomes a clear favorite to win a second term.

• North Carolina: In another key Republican open seat, the North Carolina race appears to feature tough primaries in both parties. For the Republicans, whose eventual nominee will attempt to hold retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and ex-Rep. Mark Walker reside in the top tier, with the former state chief executive enjoying big leads in early polling.

For the Democrats, the primary appears to be winnowing down to a contest between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who lost her seat in November by just 401 votes statewide, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte).

This will be another toss-up, top-tier Senate race regardless of who emerges from each of the competitive nomination contests.

• Ohio: The Buckeye State’s open US Senate race is beginning to crystallize. The Democratic side is headed for consensus around US Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/ Youngstown) candidacy.

The Republicans look to have at least four strong candidates, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, ex-state Treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and possibly state senator and Cleveland Indians baseball club co-owner Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).

Businessmen Michael Gibbons and Bernie Moreno are also announced candidates, but they appear as second-tier contenders at this time. US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) remains a potential candidate. It appears that former US representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci is moving toward a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in lieu of again running for the Senate.

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Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

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A Wisconsin Senate Struggle:
Sen. Ron Johnson Trailing … Again

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R)

April 5, 2021 — Another tough statewide campaign appears to be brewing in the Badger State.
Thomas Nelson is the Outagamie County, Wisconsin, executive (Appleton area) and a former Wisconsin state assembly majority leader who is assessing his chances of challenging Sen. Ron Johnson (R) next year. For his part, Sen. Johnson has not indicated whether he will seek a third term. He has hinted both toward running again and keeping the pledge he made during his first campaign in 2010 to serve only two terms.

Nelson just released the results of an internal Change Research poll that posts him to a four-point 48-44 percent lead over Sen. Johnson. Looking back to the senator’s last election campaign (2016), trailing in a survey is nothing new. It was the repetitive data continually pegging him as trailing that led to the National Republican Senatorial Committee abandoning him as a lost cause until the late polls showed him rebounding with at least a chance to win.

In the end, Johnson defeated former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), 50-47 percent, in one of the most surprising results of campaign year 2016.

Wisconsin is likely the least accurately polled state during the past few elections. In the aforementioned Johnson-Feingold race, a total of 74 surveys were publicly released, and 70 of them showed Sen. Johnson trailing. In the same election year, 33 research studies were placed in the public domain for the presidential race and only the Trafalgar Group, just as the campaign was closing, correctly projected Donald Trump with an edge.

In 2020, a total of 70 presidential polls were released and 66 gave Joe Biden the lead. He did carry the state, but only by 20,682 votes translating into a 0.7 percent margin. The final 20 polls, all conducted after Oct. 1, found President Biden carrying a 7.0 percent average advantage, well beyond the polling margin of error in relation to the final result.

Therefore, with a consistent pattern of underestimating Republican strength, seeing Sen. Johnson trailing by only four points in the early stages of the 2022 campaign suggests his actual standing is likely much better.

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