Election Insights

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
By:

President

Despite organized protests and an opposition move by several electors naming themselves after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Essay #68, Donald Trump received 99.3% of the electoral votes he won in the states.  The Electoral College met in the various state capitols earlier this week, and the announced vote totals awarded Mr. Trump the Presidency.  Only two Republican electors refused to vote for him, both from Texas.  Ironically, Hillary Clinton lost more votes, four, all from the state of Washington.

In the end, the final Electoral Vote count was 304-228 in favor of Mr. Trump.  Retired General Colin Powell received three votes, while Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), ex-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and environmental activist Faith Spotted Eagle all recorded one vote apiece.  

The electoral votes, cast by secret ballot, were transported to the National Archivist in Washington where they will be kept until being presented to Congress on January 6th.  The votes will then be officially tabulated and the totals read to the members, thus finally ending the 2016 presidential election.  

Protests from the members of Congress, however, can still be lodged.  An official protest to individual or delegation electoral votes can be made on January 6th.  To officially challenge a vote, at least one member from the House and Senate must jointly come forward to issue the challenge.  The full congressional bodies would then return to their separate chambers for consideration of a period lasting no more than two hours, and vote to either sustain or reject the challenge.  No electoral vote challenge has ever been sustained.  

Considering the tenor of this election, a challenge is not beyond the realm of possibility, especially over the Russian hacking issue.  But, the Republican majorities in both houses would certainly dispense with any such action.  The state officials announced their individual electoral vote totals quoted above after tabulating the secret ballots before transporting to the Archivist.

Senate

With only one major cabinet position still remaining, that of Agriculture Secretary, speculation has cooled around Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) being appointed.  Though reports suggest that President-Elect Trump still wants to select her, strong pressure from her Democratic colleagues may have dissuaded her from accepting the appointment.  Heitkamp leaving the Senate would almost assuredly result in her seat going Republican in a special election, meaning that the Republicans would gain a 53rd Senator.  

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), also under consideration for a Trump cabinet position, announced before the selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) as Energy Secretary that he would best serve his Mountain State constituents by remaining in the Senate.

House

Another Trump appointment coming from the House of Representatives means yet another congressional special election will be added to what is becoming a second campaign season.  So far, President-Elect Trump has chosen four House members for Administration positions, while California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) tabbed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) as his pick to succeed Senator-Elect Kamala Harris (D) as the state's Attorney General.

The latest Trump selection, that of South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as Director of Office of Management and Budget, means that the Palmetto State's 5th District will join KS-4 (Rep. Mike Pompeo; CIA Director-Designate), GA-6 (Rep. Tom Price; Health & Human Services Secretary-Designate), MT-AL (Rep. Ryan Zinke; Interior Secretary-Designate), and CA-34 (Rep. Becerra) as seats that will host special elections upon the current incumbents resigning after being confirmed to their new posts.  

Rep. Becerra has already resigned from the House, meaning that Gov. Brown will soon schedule the replacement election for that particular seat.

Governor

Rhode Island attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell (D), grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D) who served in Washington for 36 years, says he is not ruling out a 2018 Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Gina Raimondo (D).  Mr. Pell ran in the 2014 open seat contest, receiving 27% of the Democratic vote compared to Ms. Raimondo, then the state's Treasurer, garnering 42%.  Then-Providence Mayor Angel Taveras finished second in that race with 29%. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
By:

President

The re-counts have ended with Trump actually gaining net votes in Wisconsin, being halted in Michigan, and never gaining serious traction in Pennsylvania.  All states have reported their certified election numbers to the Electoral College, meeting the imposed December 13th federal deadline.

Now attention turns to the December 19th meeting of the national electors for purposes of casting official votes.  Reports of Russia so-called "hacking" the electoral system is gaining media attention, but the focus hasn't brought anything more than the Wikileaks release of Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton Campaign emails to the surface.  No evidence has been uncovered or released that suggests any state's voting system was interfered with or altered in any way.

The group calling themselves the "Hamilton Electors" continues to make noise but are making little in the way of progress.  The unofficial organization's goal is to convince other electors not to vote for Mr. Trump, thus forcing the election into the House of Representatives.  Though Trump would win there, too, the effort is launched to attempt to de-legitimize the President-Elect's political victory.

The Hamilton electors are from states, Colorado and Washington specifically, where the majority of voters supported Hillary Clinton.  Therefore, mainly convincing electors not to vote for Clinton and instead supporting an alternative Republican is going to inflict little damage upon Trump.

So far, according to the Republican National Committee elector tracking operation, and accompanying media stories, it appears that only one Republican elector so far, a man from Texas, is saying he will become a faithless Trump elector and vote for someone else.  Most states require the electors to vote as their electorates did.  Keep in mind that the parties or winning campaigns in the particular state choose the national electors; therefore, seeing en masse defections is highly unlikely.  The Electoral College vote will make official the presidential election winner.

Senate

The 2016 election cycle officially ended last Saturday with the Louisiana run-offs. Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy easily defeated Democrat Foster Campbell by a 61-39% result in a low turnout of just over 884,000, a little over half of what other LA run-off elections have produced.  Since the campaign was not hotly contested, the contest's foregone conclusion aspect came to fruition with the Kennedy victory.

The nation's final Senate election means the party division beginning the 115th Congress will be 52R-46D-2I, with the latter pair caucusing with the Democrats.

Now, the new election cycle begins and already we are looking at potentially two upcoming Senate elections.  In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has the option of scheduling the vote to replace Attorney General-Designate Jeff Sessions (R), the state's junior Senator, with an early special election or making it concurrent with the regular 2018 election cycle.  The Governor will decide after Mr. Sessions is confirmed and officially resigns his current position.  

Should President-Elect Trump choose North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Agriculture Secretary, as appears to be the latest direction, an immediate special election will be called in that state.  There, incoming Gov. Doug Burgum (R) will have no appointment authority.  If the special election occurs, at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) will be the early favorite to win the special.

House

The two Louisiana House run-offs were also decided last Saturday.  In the Shreveport seat (LA-4), state Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) defeated attorney J. Marshall Jones (D), 65-35%.  The seat is heavily Republican, and 69.8% of the people voting in the jungle primary chose a GOP candidate, so the Johnson victory in the run-off was an early foregone conclusion.

In the neighboring 3rd District, retired Lafayette police captain Clay Higgins (R) racked up a 56-44% run-off victory over fellow Republican Scott Angelle, a state Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate.

The final two House elections means the party division is a 241R-194D split for the coming Congress.  The Democrats gained only six seats from the presidential election, far below the 12-20 seats that most analysts predicted.

Because of the incoming Trump Administration cabinet choices, special US House elections will occur in Kansas (Rep. Mike Pompeo; 4th District; CIA Director), Georgia (Rep. Tom Price; 6th District; Secretary of Health & Human Services), and now Montana (Rep. Ryan Zinke; at-large; Secretary of Interior).

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) nomination of Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to be the state's Attorney General leads to another special election in that state.  Now that Mr. Becerra has officially resigned from the House, Gov. Brown will officially schedule the replacement election.

Governor

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has conceded defeat in the re-count of his re-election effort.  Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) has won the race by just about 10,000 votes statewide.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D), who had been flirting with a run for Governor next year, announced that he will not become a candidate.  Mr. Udall next faces his state's voters in 2020, so he would not have had to risk his Senate seat to enter the Governor's race.  Incumbent Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

With the advent of a GOP-led 115th Congress and Presidency beginning in January, a clarion call should be sounded across America's business community on the urgent need for employers to ratchet up education of their employees on the top economic policy issues affecting American jobs and, with that education, urge them to become employee-advocates for those policies in the halls of Congress.

Months, and even days, before the Nov. 8th election, few experts were predicting both a Trump victory and retention of GOP majorities in both the US House and Senate. Trump remained behind in most polls and numerous Senate seats held by incumbent Republicans were on the verge of defeat. As such, most predicted a Clinton White House and Democratic Senate facing off against a House Republican majority in the next Congress where, at best, the business community would find itself playing a combination of both offense and defense on various legislative proposals. Congressional Republicans traditionally, although not exclusively, tend to be aligned with the business community on many pro-jobs issues. As such, the community could have had to play offense in working with House Republicans to initially move much-needed tax reform, health care reform, domestic energy development, and regulatory reform measures. However, those measures would have faced severe opposition in the Democrat-led Senate and Clinton White House and, in a reverse legislative push, the community would have to muster significant strength to defend against Democrat legislation to increase taxes, expand Obamacare, and further curtail traditional energy development. Additionally, a Clinton Administration could be expected to continue to expand climate change and other regulatory policies that would place additional costs and burdens on US job creators.

However, with Donald Trump's stunning victory and retention of GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, the community is now in a position to play all offense on the critical pro-jobs issues that the next Congress can tackle. From public infrastructure to immigration to health care and taxes, the American business community can play a huge part in the formation of these legislative proposals and their progress through the enactment process. But that doesn't mean cheerleading from the sidelines. It means getting actively engaged in the process at all levels.

The last time pro-jobs elected officials had such legislative strength was 10 years ago during the 109th Congress ending on Jan. 3, 2007. During that 2-year session (2006-07), President Bush and the GOP-led Congress enacted such pro-jobs measures as the Class Action Fairness Act, the Energy Policy Act, Transportation Equity Act, and the Tax Relief and Health Act that extended the research and development tax credit, New Market tax credit, expensing for brownfields remediation, and 15-year depreciation for leaseholds and restaurant properties. Today's domestic economic growth again highlights the need for sound, pro-growth policies from Washington and the hugely important role that America's employees can play in influencing positive, pro-growth outcomes.

BIPAC's 2016 national post-election survey of employees once again underscores the incredible impact employer to employee (E2E) communications has on employee-voters and employee-advocates. As with prior surveys, employers were again found to be their employees' most credible source of issue and election information- more than political parties, TV or the internet. Further, 63% of employees used the information communicated to learn more about those issues, and 86% used the information in deciding HOW to vote. What a terrific impact and resounding evidence on why employers should not hesitate to undertake an objective and unbiased E2E communications program.

Moreover, while the results of the recent BIPAC survey attest to the importance of a strong E2E communications program at every company and association, recent Congressional Management Foundation data also highlights the tremendous impact employee-constituents have on influencing legislative policy. When Congressional staff were surveyed by the CMF in 2014 about the impact of constituents on decisions by Members of Congress, it was found that an in-person visit from a [employee] constituent is almost 6 times more likely to have "a lot of positive influence" than an in-person visit by a lobbyist. While lobbyists certainly do a great job in communicating policy information to legislators, constituents who live, work and vote in a legislator's district/state have a much greater impact. Legislators care about what the folks who live in their districts or states think about issues affecting them every day. So a top-notch E2E program not only seeks to educate and inform employees about issues and elections in a non-partisan fashion, it also seeks to encourage its employees to take action as citizen-advocates to help influence legislative decisions key to a growing economy.

The upcoming 115th Congress holds much promise for legislative policies that will again unleash America's job creators. But to see those polices enacted within the next 2 years, all hands must be on deck. Not only do corporate and association management need to reconnect and vigorously re-engage in the legislative process, but America's employees do as well. For there is where the real power to advocate for legislative change lies, those men and women working hard every day in the communities the legislator represents. If they are knowledgeable and actively engage with their legislators, the legislators will listen to their every word and vote accordingly. So now it's up to the employers to understand that simple citizen-legislator dynamic and move forward energetically with a strong E2E communications and engagement program.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
By:

President

Most of the week's presidential electoral news was devoted to Green Party nominee Jill Stein's re-count request action in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. None of the states are close enough for an automatic re-count, and the action is merely designed to fire one last possible political shot at President-Elect Donald Trump. Re-counts can change hundreds of votes in a statewide election, but certainly not thousands or tens of thousands as is the case in each of the three states.

Under federal law, the states must certify their vote counts by December 13th, necessary to having the Electoral College meet on December 19th to cast their official presidential votes. At that time, Donald Trump's election will become final.

Michigan, now being called for Trump, gives him 306 electoral votes as compared to Hillary Clinton's 232. For the re-count effort to succeed, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan would all have to be invalidated.

Ms. Clinton does have a popular vote lead over the President-Elect. Nationally, her advantage is currently 2,109,796 votes. Her margin largely comes from California, where she leads by more than 4 million votes with still almost 800,000 ballots to count under the state's marathon processing procedure. In the 19 states where both candidates actively campaigned, Trump carried the battleground entities by more than 3 million votes.

Once California is fully counted, and all the late votes are tabulated, the national presidential turnout could reach 135 million, which is an all-time record. The previous high was set in 2008 (Barack Obama vs. John McCain), when 131,426,292 people voted.

Senate

With the Louisiana Senate election approaching on December 10th, a Trafalgar Group survey (11/14-17; 2,200 LA likely run-off voters) that we reported upon last week is the only data released into the public domain to date. The fact that slight attention is being paid to this race and little in the way of outside spending coming from the national party committees and independent organizations favors Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy. The fact that the Democratic committees are not making a major effort for their candidate, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, likely confirms the Trafalgar data that posted Kennedy to a 58-35% advantage.

Two Democratic Senators have already announced that they will seek re-election in 2018. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), commonly viewed as one of the most vulnerable 2018 in-cycle members, announced that she will run for a third term. Likewise, for Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), who confirms that he, too, will ask the voters of his state to return him for a third six-year stint.

Conversely, New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D), who has openly been considering a run for Governor, says he will announce a decision about running by the end of this year. Sen. Udall is not in-cycle in 2018. Therefore, he can seek the state's open Governor's office and not risk his Senate seat. Should he enter the race and win, Mr. Udall would be able to appoint his own successor.

House

The final House race prior to the two Louisiana districts being decided on December 10th has been decided. In southern California, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has won re-election. The Congressman has just over a 2,300 vote lead with only a few more ballots to count. Therefore, his 50.4 percentage will hold to give him a close re-election victory. Mr. Issa was originally elected to this San Diego/Orange County congressional district in 2000. Immediately after the election being called, Democratic nominee Doug Applegate, a retired Marine Colonel, announced that he will run again in 2018.

President-Elect Trump nominating Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4) and Tom Price (R-GA-6) for CIA Director and Secretary of Health of Human Services, respectively, mean that special congressional elections will be called in Wichita and the northern Atlanta suburban area. The Governors of the two states will schedule the elections after the seats officially become vacant in accordance with Kansas or Georgia election law.

The Price selection means there will be a battle to replace him as chairman of the House Budget Committee. The three contenders, in a Republican Steering Committee decision that will be made at the end of this week, are Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4), Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), and Diane Black (R-TN-6).

The important Energy & Commerce Committee chairmanship will also be decided this week. Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-15) and Greg Walden (R-OR-2) are the principal contenders.

Governor

President-Elect Trump's choice of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) as US Ambassador to the United Nations will mean the state will have a new chief executive. Upon confirmation, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will ascend to the Governor's office and serve the final two years of the current term. He would be eligible to run for a full term in his own right in 2018, and will obviously be the front runner in the Republican primary, which is generally tantamount to winning the position in the general election.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
By:

President

It appears President-Elect Donald Trump is on his way to securing 306 electoral votes, as the states launch their official vote canvass procedures this week.  The process verifies and makes official the individual state vote counts.  Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia are called for one candidate or the other, leaving Mr. Trump with 290 EVs and Hillary Clinton with 232.  This clinches the Trump victory, but the state of Michigan remains outstanding.

Under Wolverine State election law, the vote will not be projected or finalized until the re-count request period elapses. Trump has a lead of just under 12,000 votes with all ballots received and counted, meaning the contest broke 47.6% for Republican nominee while Clinton secured 47.3%.  Since the final result is within a percentage point, the re-count request period begins.  Once this post-canvassing re-count request deadline passes, the Michigan vote will be finalized.

Though Trump's margin is small in the context of a statewide vote that saw more than 7.7 million individuals casting their ballot, almost 12,000 votes is still a spread that will likely prevail.  The canvass merely confirms the reported count in the 83 counties, and does not include challenging any votes, so it is unlikely that mistakes or mathematical errors would change the outcome to such a degree that Clinton would win the state.

Senate

Now a week past the election, all of the Senate races with the exception of the Louisiana run-off that will be held December 10th have concluded.  There are no re-counts underway in any Senate race.  The country's closest Senate contest, the New Hampshire race that was decided by 743 votes of more than 707,000 cast ballots, is not being challenged.  Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) conceded defeat to Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), meaning the close margin will be finalized.

Louisiana employs a much different electoral system than any other state.  November 8th featured their primary, obviously the last state in the nation to hold their nominating event.  In the 1977 election, Louisiana changed their electoral system to one commonly referred to as a "jungle primary".  Some call it the "blanket" primary.  Simply put, all candidates are placed on one ballot, and if an absolute majority votes for one individual, that person is elected outright.  If no one secures 50% of the vote, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to a run-off election.  California and Washington also use this part of the Louisiana system.

Originally, the Louisiana primary was held in September, like many other states, but the Justice Department ruled that all states must have a general election on national voting day.  Since Louisiana decision makers like the idea of having just one election to potentially elect their office holders, they simply moved the primary to run concurrently with the general election.  California and Washington hold their primaries in their regular voting slots (CA: June; WA: August), and those two states send the top two to the general election regardless of primary vote percentage obtained.

Thus, we now see a Louisiana Senate run-off, and one for two open House districts, CDs 3 (Lafayette) and 4 (Shreveport), scheduled for December 10th.  The Senate participants are Republican John Kennedy, the four-term state Treasurer and former Democrat, and Foster Campbell, the Democratic Public Service Commissioner who has run several times statewide and for the House of Representatives.  As of yesterday, neither political party nor outside organization reserved any media time, meaning that this contest may largely be a quiet affair.  Considering Louisiana's strong Republican voting trends - Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton here, 58-34%, for example - Mr. Kennedy looks to be in the driver's seat.

If the Louisiana Republican prevails, the final Senate party division will feature 52 Republicans and 46 Democrats with two Independents (Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME)) who both caucus with the latter party.

House

In addition to the two Louisiana run-off elections still to come, a pair of California House races remains uncalled.  Because California allows voters to postmark their mail ballots on Election Day, and this year accepted those ballots through November 14th, an estimated four million Golden State votes remain to be counted.  This means that the two contested House races, District 7 in Sacramento (Rep. Ami Bera (D) vs. Scott Jones (R)) and District 49 in San Diego County (Rep. Darrell Issa (R) vs. Doug Applegate (D)), remain undecided.  Both incumbents lead, but by one percentage point or less.  It is estimated that as many as 80-90,000 votes in each race could still be added to the count.

Since two Republicans - Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and retired police captain Clay Higgins - are vying for Louisiana District 3, it is guaranteed that the GOP will secure this district.  This would bring their House conference count to a minimum of 239, even if the party loses the other three uncalled races.  It is more likely, however, that Republicans win LA-4 and CA-49, meaning the final count will probably be 241R-194D.  Such a division would mean the Republicans lost only a net of six seats.

Governor/Legislature

We now see that a record 33 Republicans have been elected Governor in the current term (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 elections) even if the uncalled North Carolina contest elects Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) over Gov. Pat McCrory (R).  The former leads the latter by just under 5,000 votes statewide, and it is likely the official canvass period, already underway, will finalize the Cooper victory later this week.  If their nominee holds, the Democrats will fall to only 16 US Governorships.  There is one Independent, Alaska's Bill Walker, who is a former Republican.

The Republicans also set a record in the state legislatures.  Even with the New York Senate remaining uncalled, the GOP will hold a minimum of 66 legislative chambers from the country's 99 state bodies.

Nebraska is the only state in the Union that features just one legislative house, and those members are elected on a non-partisan basis.  It is clear, however, that the GOP would control the 49-member body if they were elected as Republicans and Democrats, however.  This would mean, in actuality, that 67 state legislative chambers are under GOP control.  If the final NY Senate seat goes their way, that number could climb to 68.

If the Republicans hold such a margin through the 2018 and 2020 elections, they will be in firm control of the next redistricting process, and that theoretically could lead to sustained Republican control of the US House all the way through 2032.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016
By:

2016 POST-ELECTION REPORT

Overview

Last night's national election produced one of the biggest upsets in presidential history as Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton with what appears to be at least 290 electoral votes.  The win was stunning in that if defied a virtually unified polling conclusion that projected Ms. Clinton to have the closing momentum heading into the election.

The last dozen national polls all with ending periods of November 6th or later were a virtual consensus that Clinton had a popular vote lead.  Her average lead was approximately 3.6 percentage points, with a range of Clinton +6 (NBC News/Survey Monkey) to Trump +2 (Investor's Business Daily/TIPP).  The latter poll has consistently projected Trump to the leading position, as has the LA Times/University of Southern California panel-back tracking poll.  The LA Times poll was not included in the national averages because their methodology and survey basis was different than the others.  It is safe to say that both the IBD/TIPP and the LA Times/USC polls will gain a great more respect in the coming weeks and years.

Rasmussen Reports is another pollster that found different numbers than most, and normally posted Trump to small leads.  But, even their last poll arrived at the conclusion that Ms. Clinton held a two-point lead.  The major media outlets of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC News all missed the final result by a significant margin, and none found Trump leading.

President

Donald Trump scored a major come-from-behind victory in the presidential race, and those who suggested that a latent Trump vote was hiding in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio were proven correct.  In a national popular vote contest that appears as close as the Bush-Gore race of 2000 (Gore winning the popular vote by about 500,000 ballots, though losing the Electoral College), Mr. Trump is running slightly ahead of Clinton on the national vote count, but it is possible that we could again see a President elected who does not secure a plurality on the popular vote when all final votes are recorded.

Mr. Trump carried 29 states and the 2nd District of Maine translating into 290electoral votes, as compared to Clinton's 228.  Two states, Michigan and New Hampshire still remain too close to call.  This count differs slightly from most of the media's projection because they still have yet to award Arizona and Minnesota, even though both states appear to have a very clear path to conclusion.  In Arizona, Trump continues to lead by almost 80,000 votes with 98% of the precincts reporting.  It is unlikely that enough absentee ballots remain that could flip this state away from him.

The same is true for Minnesota, except in the opposite direction.  Clinton leads here by 43,000 votes with a reported 100% of the precincts being tabulated.  Therefore, placing Arizona in the Trump column and Minnesota with Clinton give us the 290-228 electoral vote split.  Should both Michigan and New Hampshire finally going to Trump, and he leads in both places, the total electoral vote split could be as high as 310-228.

Trump virtually flipped the country in comparison to the last two Republican nominees, John McCain or Mitt Romney.   In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain, 365-173.  Four years later, President Obama sacked Romney, 332-206.  In comparison to last night's results, Mr. Obama scored popular vote margins of 53-46% and 51-47% in his two successful runs for the nation's top office.

Exit polling, often unreliable, portends that Mr. Trump carried 53% of the male vote and Ms. Clinton 54% of the female vote.  Clinton carried all age groups under 40, and Trump took the category segments over 40 years of age.  The race categories look similar to 2012, but the turnout among whites was clearly stronger than those from minority communities.  Trump to 58% of the white vote, and was particularly strong with while males (63%), while Clinton garnered 88% from the African Americans, and 65% apiece from the Hispanic and Asian communities.

Once the final numbers become known and are recorded, and in-depth post-election studies are completed, these figures could change significantly.

Much will come from the 2016 presidential election, and the analysis will continue for weeks.  More data will soon be available about the seniors, white males, females, and the various minority constituencies, along with the trends and patterns that led to them to make their eventual presidential choices.

US Senate

The Senate races have been hanging by a thread for better than a month.  Last night, they culminated in a surprising Republican victory.  Up 54-46 in the current Senate, the Republicans overcame having to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle seats and rode a Donald Trump turnout model to national victory and an outright Senate majority.  The new party division, with the Louisiana race still to be decided in a December 10th run-off election and New Hampshire too close to call at this writing, is 51R-47D.

The majority of the most well-known toss-up contests were in five states: Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, before Indiana and Wisconsin joined the group in the waning days of the campaign.  In the end, all but Nevada and possibly New Hampshire broke in the Republicans' favor.  Most of these races were tight, as expected.

The biggest margin surprise was Republican Todd Young scoring a ten-point victory in Indiana over former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), who originally led by 21 points.  North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) scored a six-point win, but all of the other toss-ups were in the two to three point realm.  The biggest surprise of the night was Sen. Ron Johnson (R) holding his Wisconsin seat despite only two polls during the entire last year ever showing him to be ahead.  Though the race closed in the end, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) continued to hold a consistent advantage.

Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) held the Democrats' open Nevada seat, and becomes the first female candidate of Latin descent to enter the US Senate.  Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R), on the ropes during the last few weeks of the campaign, managed to secure a three-point victory.  In another surprise, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) again defied the odds and held his marginal seat, also in the face of bad polling, to secure another six-year term.

The one state that did flip from R to D was Illinois, where Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates) successfully unseated first-term Sen. Mark Kirk (R), as expected.

The new Senate leadership slate will likely be:

Majority Leader:  Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Majority Whip:     Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

Minority Leader:  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Minority Whip:     Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senate Results

Republicans held their Senate majority and could go as high as 53 seats, which would mean losing only one, if they win the Louisiana run-off on December 10th (they will be favored to do so), and should Sen. Ayotte hang on to her small lead in New Hampshire.

Illinois
Senator Mark Kirk (R) fell to Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates), 40-54%.

New Hampshire
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) leads Governor Maggie Hassan (D) by 1,922 votes with counting stopped at 94% of the precincts counted.  We will have further information later today.

Republicans held the following competitive incumbent races:

Missouri
Sen. Roy Blunt (R) defeated Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), 49.4 - 46.2%

North Carolina
Sen. Richard Burr (R) proved the strongest Republican on Election Day, beating back a strong challenge from former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D), 51.1 - 45.3%.

Pennsylvania
Sen. Pat Toomey (R) defeated former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D) 48.9 to 47.2%

Wisconsin
Sen. Ron Johnson (R) scored an amazing comeback victory, topping former Senator Russ Feingold (D) 50.2 - 46.8%

Democrats held three open seats previously held by a Democrat:

California
Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) easily defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana), 63-37%.

Maryland
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) defeated State House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R), 60-36%.

Nevada
Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) defeated Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), 47.1 - 44.7%

Democrats held seats in these races with their party's incumbent:

  • Colorado: Sen. Michael Bennet  (49.2 - 45.7% surprisingly close)
  • Connecticut: Sen. Richard Blumenthal
  • Hawaii: Sen. Brian Schatz
  • New York:  Sen. Chuck Schumer
  • Oregon: Sen. Ron Wyden
  • Vermont: Sen. Patrick Leahy
  • Washington: Sen. Patty Murray

Republicans won these open seats previously held by a Democrat:

None

Republicans won these open seats previously held by a Republican:

Indiana
Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) defeated former Senator and Governor Evan Bayh (D), 52.2 - 42.4%, thus reatining the seat of retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R)

This Republican seat will advance to a December 10th run-off election:

Louisiana: John Kennedy (R) vs. Foster Campbell (D)

Republican held seats in these races with their party's incumbent:

  • Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby
  • Alaska: Sen. Lisa Murkowski
  • Arizona: Sen. John McCain
  • Arkansas: Sen. John Boozman
  • Florida:  Sen. Marco Rubio
  • Georgia: Sen. Johnny Isakson
  • Idaho: Sen. Mike Crapo
  • Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley
  • Kansas: Sen. Jerry Moran
  • Kentucky: Sen. Rand Paul
  • Missouri: Sen. Roy Blunt
  • North Carolina: Sen. Richard Burr
  • North Dakota: Sen. John Hoeven
  • Ohio: Sen. Rob Portman
  • Oklahoma: Sen. James Lankford
  • South Carolina: Sen. Tim Scott
  • South Dakota: Sen. John Thune
  • Utah: Sen. Mike Lee

US House

Republicans held their House majority, only losing six to nine seats, depending upon the calling of final races that are still outstanding.  This brings the new majority to the 239-236R range with Democrats falling between 196 and 199.

Republicans held the House largely because of favorable redistricting maps, and a poor Democratic candidate recruiting season minimized the latter party's number of competitive challengers, plus a moderately favorable turnout model at the top of the ticket.

Republicans maintained 90% of their open seats, which includes likely December 10th run-off contests in Louisiana's Districts 3and 4.

Though Democrats ran with a strategy of attempting to tie all Republican candidates to who they believed was a flawed presidential nominee in Donald Trump, the approach failed.  Republicans were able to re-elect all but six of their incumbents, thus underscoring that the Trump/GOP House member connection produced relatively few Democratic victories.  Of the incumbent and open seat GOP losses, four were directly due to mid-decade redistricting plans that were enacted before the 2016 election.

Several Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) and Rod Blum (R-IA-1) again survived in difficult districts for any Republican.

Key Republican Wins

Republicans may have converted three Democratic seats:

  • FL-2: Neil Dunn (R) replaces Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee)
  • FL-18: Brian Mast (R) replaces Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter)
  • NE-2: Don Bacon (R) remains on a path to unseat Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), though the race has not been officially called

Republicans held 27 of 30 open GOP seats, with two (LA-3 and LA-4) to be decided in a December 10th run-off election.  The LA-3 run-off is a double R campaign.

Key Democratic Wins

Democrats defeated six Republican incumbents:

  • FL-7:   Stephanie Murphy (D) defeats Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park)
  • FL-13: Charlie Crist (D) unseats Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County)
  • IL-10:  Ex-Rep. Brad Schneider (D) again unseats Rep. Bob Dold (R-Kenilworth)
  • NV-4:  Ruben Kihuen (D) defeats Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite)
  • NH-1:  Carol Shea-Porter (D) defeats Rep. Frank Guinta (R-Manchester)
  • NJ-5:  Josh Gottheimer (D) defeats Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage)

California races in Districts 7 (Rep. Ami Bera (D) vs. Scott Jones (R), 10 (Rep. Jeff Denham (R) vs. Michael Eggman (D), 24 (open seat: Salud Carbajal (D) vs. Justin Fareed (R)), 25 (Rep. Steve Knight (R) vs. Bryan Caforio (D)), and 49 (Rep. Darrell Issa (R) vs. Doug Applegate (D)) will take many days if not weeks to become final because of California's slow and laborious ballot counting system.

Democrats held 17 of 19 their own open seats

Democrats win three Republican open seats:

  • FL-10: Val Demings (D) replaces Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando)
  • NV-3:  Jacky Rosen (D) defeats Danny Tarkanian (R)
  • VA-4:  St. Sen. Donald McEachin (D) takes the re-drawn 4th District, defeating Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade (R)

Governors

Twelve gubernatorial races were on the ballot, yielding party changes that favored Republicans.  Democrats may have converted one Republican state house, that in North Carolina as Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) leads incumbent Pat McCrory (R) by just 5,000.  It is unclear if any absentee or provisional ballots remain to be counted. Republicans took Democratic posts in Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Open seats in Delaware and West Virginia remained in Democratic hands, while Republicans held their two open seats in Indiana and North Dakota.

Democratic incumbents were re-elected in Montana (Gov. Steve Bullock) in a close election, Oregon (Gov. Kate Brown), and Washington (Gov. Jay Inslee), while Republicans held Utah (Gov. Gary Herbert).

Overall, the gubernatorial count advances to 33R-16D-1I, with Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) being a former Republican.

Voter Turnout

The voter participation rate appears to be coming in well under the 129,172,069 people who officially cast ballots in 2012.  At the end of initial counting, approximately 122 million individuals are recorded as voting.  It is estimated that possibly more than 50% of voters took advantage of the early voting procedures that are available in 43 states and the District of Columbia.  A total of 37 states and DC allow "no-excuse" early voting, meaning anyone can vote by mail or in-person as a matter of choice.  In six states (KY, MS, MO, NY, SC, and VA) one still must have a valid excuse to vote early or absentee, meaning the individual must indicate that they are unable to be present at their usual polling place on Election Day.

We won't know the final turnout numbers for at least two weeks, as states will conduct their official canvasses after all votes have been received.  Large blocks of votes - meaning millions - will be reported in California during the next several days, and even weeks, as their large number of mail votes results in a laborious counting system that begins only when all votes are received.  Washington, one of three states that employs a total vote-by-mail procedure, accepts ballots post-marked on Election Day meaning the count will stretch for maybe as long as the next ten days.  The other two, Oregon and Colorado, require ballots to be received on Election Day.

In the last 30 years, turnout has increased from 81.5 million voters in 1976 to a high of 131.4 million in 2008.  The fall-off between 2008 and 2012 was -1.7%.  During this 30-year span, presidential turnout has increased in every election with the exception of 1988, '96, and 2012.

The largest drop-off from one successive presidential campaign to another (7.8%) occurred in 1996, when President Bill Clinton defeated Republican Bob Dole.  The biggest increase in successive elections came in 2004 (President George W. Bush defeating Democrat John Kerry), when a modern day record occurred.  An increase of 16.1% in voter participation arose in 2004, when compared to vote levels from the 2000 election.  Until then, the highest increase was found in 1992, when 14.0% more voters cast their ballots than did in the 1988 election.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
By:

President

The new Hillary Clinton email revelation has ushered in a sense of doubt surrounding the final week of this unique presidential campaign.  In fact, the latest four polls taken between the October 26-31 period find the race reverting back to within the polling margin of error.

The ABC News/Washington Post rolling tracking survey (10/27-30; 1,167 US likely voters) reports Clinton's lead dropping to only one percentage point, 46-45%.  The Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll (10/26-31; 1,018 US likely voters) also sees a one-point separation between the two candidates.  Rasmussen Reports (10/27-31; 1,500 US likely voters) projects a flat tie, 44-44%.  Finally, the Lucid/New Orleans Times Picayune (10/29-31; 866 US likely voters) forecasts a two-point spread, 42-40%.  This portends quite a different scene from just one week ago.

Trends seem to be favoring Trump now in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa.  He's getting back into range in North Carolina and Nevada.  The 2nd District of Maine, from one of two states that splits its electoral votes, becomes another possibility for the Republican to add one additional tally.  But, Trump must take all of these entities and find one other if he is to forge a winning Electoral College majority.

Three states, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, appear as his only final state possibilities, but he leads in none of them right now.

Six polls have been fielded in PA since October 23rd, and all show a Clinton advantage, anywhere from two to eleven points.  The latest University of New Hampshire/WBUR-TV survey (10/26-30; 641 NH likely voters) gave Clinton a 46-39-6-1% advantage over Mr. Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and the Green Party's Jill Stein in the Granite State.  Finally, in Colorado, Republican polling firm, Remington Research (10/30; 1,176 CO likely voters) sees only a one point difference between the two candidates, at 45-44%, which is the Republicans' best Centennial State showing to date.

Though these polls all suggest that each particular state is within Trump's grasp, at least one of the latter three must fall his way in order to declare final victory next week, assuming the previously mentioned states all break his way and he retains the 23 normally Republican entities.  While closer to achieving all of this, the national map still favors Ms. Clinton.

Senate

Entering the final week of campaigning, we still do not have a sense as to which party will control the Senate majority next year.  Right now, it appears that Democrats look secure in 48 seats, counting holdovers, and Republicans’ 47.  Five contests remain as toss-ups.  The Democratic number includes converting Republican seats in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

If Democrats hold the Nevada Senate race (Democratic former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson)), it means they would only have to win one of the remaining four seats to re-gain the majority assuming Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are successfully elected President and Vice President.  Right now, this race continues to seesaw between the two Senate candidates.  The latest survey, from the Emerson College Polling Society (10/26-27; 550 NV likely voters), gives Republican Heck a 48-44% advantage.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) continues to hold a small edge over Democratic challenger Deborah Ross.  The latest released survey, from local Elon University (10/23-27; 710 NC likely voters), gives the Senator a three-point advantage, 45-42%.

Monmouth University (10/28-31; 405 MO likely voters) finds Sen. Roy Blunt (R) clinging only to a 47-46% edge over Secretary of State Jason Kander (D).  While this poll is consistent with several others, the same respondent sample gives Donald Trump a whopping 52-38% lead over Hillary Clinton.  If true, then Sen. Blunt should be ahead by a much greater margin.

Democrats appear to be forging ahead in New Hampshire (Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) vs. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D)), and Pennsylvania (Sen. Pat Toomey (R) opposing Katie McGinty (D)), but these races have been volatile for months and could easily snap back to produce a Republican victory next Tuesday.

House

The latest Clinton email development and the tightening of the presidential contest will likely help down ballot Republicans, as mentioned above.  This is so because Republican turnout will likely be better than feared when it appeared Ms. Clinton had virtually clinched the national campaign.

Democrats still appear poised to make some gains but should the 18 toss-up seats split 50/50, then overall GOP losses will likely fall in the dozen-seat range.  This type of result would give the Republicans a majority around the 235 mark, which is exactly in their typical range since they began winning House control back in 1994.  In the last eleven congressional terms, Republicans have controlled the House for all but four years.

With a combination of a better Republican voter turnout model and congressional district maps that favor them, the GOP will retain House control for another term.  If Ms. Clinton does become President and Democrats re-gain a small Senate majority, then divided government will continue into the next congressional session.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By:

President

Hillary Clinton is locking in her national popular vote lead, as six new national surveys find her advantage stretching from one to twelve points.  As has been the case for the last two weeks, both the Rasmussen Reports (latest: 10/20-24; 1,500 US likely voters) and the Investors Business Daily/TIPP surveys (latest: 10/19-24; 873 US likely voters) poll best for Donald Trump.  Here the two give the former Secretary of State only a one-point margin.

On the other side of the spectrum, ABC News (10/20-23; 1,155 US likely voters) and the new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey for the Democracy Corps liberal advocacy organization (10/21-24; 900 US likely voters) see identical twelve point, 50-38%, Clinton margins.

Five new polls see the all-important Florida race tightening, however, as one projects Donald Trump taking a two point lead (Bloomberg Politics; 10/21-24; 953 FL likely voters), at 45-43%, with Libertarian Gary Johnson notching 4% and the Green Party's Jill Stein taking just 2 percent.  Remington Research (10/20-22; 1,646 FL likely voters via automated response telephoning) forecasts a 46-46% tie.  Three others, conducted during the same 10/20-24 time period (Survey USA, CBS News/YouGov, and Opinion Savvy) find Ms. Clinton maintaining an edge of either three or four percentage points.

In Ohio, however, the trends favor Trump.  Remington Research, Quinnipiac University, and CNN/ORC all see the Republican nominee leading between one and three points during the October 10-22 period.  Suffolk University (10/17-19; 500 OH likely voters) finds the two candidates tied at 45% apiece.

The two latest Pennsylvania studies, Remington Research (10/20-22; 1,997 PA likely voters via automated response telephoning) and the Emerson College Polling Society (10/17-19; 800 PA likely voters) post smaller Clinton leads of three and four points.

The Minnesota electorate, which hasn't voted Republican in a presidential race since 1972, was for a time teetering in this race.  But, a new Minneapolis Star Tribune survey (10/20-22; 625 MN likely voters) puts the race back in what should be its normal perspective suggesting that Ms. Clinton is topping Donald Trump and the minor party candidates, 47-39-6-1%.

Senate

We seem to be seeing movement in the New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Nevada Senate races.  UMass/YouGov (10/17-21; 772 NH likely voters) gives Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) a 48-44% advantage when all committed and leaning voters are added to the respondent tally.  She and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) had previously been locked in a tie.

While Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has been consistently polling ahead by small margins in eight of the last nine statewide polls (the ninth showed a tie between the two candidates), the latest New York Times/Siena College survey (10/20-23; 792 NC likely voters) gives challenger Deborah Ross a slight 47-46% edge.  But, simultaneously, Monmouth University (10/20-23; 402 NC likely voters) sees a six-point, 49-43%, Burr advantage.  The Monmouth polling sample, however, is just over half as large as the NYT/Siena College respondent universe.

The Nevada Senate race continues to bounce back and forth between the two candidates, but four of the latest six polls give Democratic former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto an edge over Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson).  Both Rasmussen Reports and the Las Vegas Review Journal in surveys fielded between October 20 and 23, find Ms. Masto clinging to two and one point leads, respectively.

In the aggregate, the Senate race picture continues to hover around the 50-50 mark, though the latest trends suggest that Democrats will obtain the Senate majority either in a tie vote, or by breaking through to 51 or even 52 seats.

House

Our own compilation of all 435 House races suggests that the Republicans will maintain control of the chamber in the next Congress, but with a smaller margin.

It appears that Republicans are safe in 197 seats as compared to 177 for Democrats.  An additional 21 seats are rated as "Republican favored", where ten more lean to the GOP candidate.  In addition to the 177 safe Ds, another nine can be categorized as "Democrat favored", with three more leaning their way.

Thus, the grand total of safe, favored, and lean Republican seats is 228, while the Democratic total looks to be 189.  This leaves 18 toss-up districts, fifteen in Republican districts and only three in those currently held by a Democrat.  Extrapolating the toss-up category with the latest trends and voter history, suggests that the Republican majority will hover around the low to mid-230s, exactly where most of their margins have resided after first assuming the House majority in the 1994 election.  Currently, the House party division is 247R-188D.

Governor

Trends are developing in some of the key Governor's races.  The latest polling and past election history suggests a Democratic conversion in North Carolina where Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) maintains a small lead over Gov. Pat McCrory (R).  The same may occur in Indiana, where Democratic nominee John Gregg maintains a small margin over Republican Eric Holcomb in the seat left open when Gov. Mike Pence (R) accepted the GOP Vice Presidential nomination.

Democrats are poised to hold the open Delaware, Missouri, and West Virginia governorships, while Republicans could score conversion victories in New Hampshire and, most surprisingly, Vermont.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
By:

President

Polling for the week finds nine national polls being released.  All see the former Secretary of State forging a lead, but the spread is wide.  Rasmussen Reports (10/13-17; 1,500 US likely voters), which has been the most consistently favorable Trump pollster, sees a Clinton lead of only 42-41%.  On the other end of the spectrum, Monmouth University (10/14-16; 726 US likely voters) finds a twelve point Clinton lead, 50-38%.

The other polls range from Clinton +11 (NBC News/Wall Street Journal; 10/10-13; 905 US likely voters) and +9 (CBS News; 10/12-16; 1,189 US likely voters) all the way down to Clinton +4 (ABC News/Washington Post; 10/10-13; 740 US likely voters).

With less than three full weeks to reach Election Day, Ms. Clinton has a clear national popular vote lead.  The state surveys suggest that Mr. Trump could still close the gap in the key states of Florida and Nevada.  He is in a virtual tie in North Carolina (CNN/ORC; 48-47-4%; 10/10-15; 788 NC likely voters), and has pulled back into the lead in Ohio (CNN/ORC; 48-44-4-2%; 10/10-15; 744 OH likely voters).

Assuming he does rebound to the point of winning all of the aforementioned swing regions, he still needs one more state, and no further entity even appears within range of flipping to him.

Senate

The Senate picture continues to hover around the 50-50 mark.  Polling and race trends suggest that Democrats will gain at least three of the four seats they need to reach majority status.  Democratic challengers and/or open seat candidates in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana appear headed toward victory, though the latter two are more competitive than in past days.

According to one source, polling in another seat is tipping toward the Democrats after the Republican candidate held leads for most of the year.  In Nevada, the CNN/ORC poll (10/10-15; 698 NV likely voters) finds former Attorney General Christine Cortez Masto (D) pulling ahead of Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), 52-45%, the largest lead either candidate has recorded in months.  On the other hand, CBS News/YouGov (10/12-14; 996 NV likely voters), using a tighter and larger polling sample, projects the two candidates tied at 39%.  Monmouth University (10/14-17; 413 NV likely voters), even when finding Clinton surging to a seven-point lead over Trump, simultaneously projects Republican Heck to a three point, 45-42% edge.

The Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire races remain the key toss-ups, and their outcome will likely determine the party that controls the majority in the next Congress.  The Missouri (Sen. Roy Blunt (R) vs. Jason Kander (D)) and North Carolina (Sen. Richard Burr vs. Deborah Ross (D)) races continue to languish between slightly favoring the Republican incumbent and falling into the toss-up category.  A notable swing toward one party or the other in the voter turnout model will likely determine the final outcome of each statewide campaign.

House

Democrats continue to make the case that they have a chance to overcome the Republicans' 59-seat House majority.  Their reasoning is that a sizable lead for Hillary Clinton will affect the turnout model, potentially demoralizing and suppressing the Republican vote.  While the strategy among Republicans will attempt to persuade tepid Clinton voters to balance their ballots for the House and Senate, Democrats are attacking with ads that criticize the Republican congressional nominee for not deserting and disavowing Trump.

The specific anti-Trump Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ads are surfacing in at least two toss-up campaigns, TX-23 (Rep. Will Hurd (R) vs. former Rep. Pete Gallego (D)) and NV-4 (Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) vs. state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D)).  The themed attack is also appearing in a metropolitan lean Republican seat, that of Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen who is fending off a challenge from state Sen. Terri Bonoff (D).  The latter race did release recent polling data from Survey USA (10/10-13; 579 MN-3 likely voters).  The results find Rep. Paulsen maintaining a strong 49-38% advantage despite Hillary Clinton leading in the 3rd District, 48-35%.  The polling sample is titled slightly Republican.

The DCCC also released one of their in-house polls, which tends to slant the survey samples toward their candidates.  The interactive voice response system (10/3; 535 MI-8 likely voters) shows central Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester/Lansing) leading challenger Suzanne Shkreli, 47-41%.  Republicans have released later polls posting Bishop to larger leads.

Another district Democrats may convert is Minnesota's open 2nd District, where seven-term incumbent John Kline (R) is retiring.  Here, the Survey USA data (10/10-13; 600 MN-2 likely voters) finds healthcare executive Angie Craig (D) forging a 46-41% advantage over conservative former radio talk show host Jason Lewis (R).  Democrats have been hitting Lewis hard over controversial comments he's made during his radio career and Republicans have not spent as much here as they might have, fearing that Lewis is too conservative for the district.

In a normally safe Republican Pennsylvania seat, GBA Strategies (10/15-17; 400 PA-16 likely voters; conducted for the DCCC) finds challenger Christina Hartman (D) trailing state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R) by only a 42-45% margin in the Lancaster area's 16th District.  Though this district came within one point of supporting President Obama in 2012, it has been a reliably Republican seat since the end of World War II.  Retiring Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Kennett Square) has held the seat for 20 years.  His immediate predecessor, former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Lancaster) also represented the district for 20 consecutive years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
By:

President

The fallout from Donald Trump’s leaked videotape from eleven years ago continues.  This latest Trump flap may be the final straw in the minds of many voters and likely puts him too far behind with too little campaign time remaining.

There were two polls where the sampling period came fully after the Trump videotape revelation.  The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey (10/8-10; 806 US likely voters) sees Hillary Clinton leading Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, 46-37-8-2%.  The Politico/Morning Consult survey (10/10; 1,757 US likely voters) detects a five-point Clinton margin, 42-37-10-3%.

Ironically, the poll that gives Clinton her biggest lead, eleven points, came before the videotape was released.  The Atlantic Magazine/Public Religion Research Institute survey (10/5-9; 886 US likely voters) projects a 49-38% margin with 2% volunteering that they would support Gary Johnson.  Neither Johnson, nor Stein’s name was included in the Atlantic/Public Religion poll.

Though Trump may have rebounded slightly from a strong debate performance, Clinton appears on track to secure a commanding lead both in the national popular vote and in the states.  Remembering that Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina are the most important swing states on the Trump map – he can’t win without carrying all three of these domains, but she needs none of them – today it appears that Clinton is establishing discernible leads in all three places.  

Senate

The week’s happenings also brought Senate control into the forefront.  Democrats are now better positioned than ever to re-capture the majority they lost in 2014, but pre and post-videotape polling in the key Senate states are all returning some surprising results.

Despite Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) not leading in a major published poll since October 2nd, local PA Susquehanna Polling & Research (10/4-9; 764 PA likely voters) finds the Republican gaining a 42-38% advantage over Democratic nominee Katie McGinty.  A similar happening is being detected in North Carolina (High Point Research; 10/1-6; 479 NC likely voters) where Sen. Richard Burr (R) records a 47-42% edge over former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D), in a race that continues to seesaw.

But, the biggest shock poll comes from Wisconsin where Loras College (10/4-5; 500 WI likely voters) gives Sen. Ron Johnson (R) his first lead of the campaign, 45-40% over former Sen. Russ Feingold (D).  CBS News/YouGov, however, (10/5-7; 993 WI likely voters) responded with their data that restores Feingold to the lead, but this time revealing only a three-point margin over the incumbent Senator.   Without the Loras poll, the CBS/YouGov poll would actually represent Johnson’s best showing to date, so the Senator is finally showing upward mobility signs.

In other Republican races that were at least for a time appearing competitive, the Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company survey (10/3-6; 800 IA adults) finds veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) now taking a commanding 53-36% lead over former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D).  In Florida, three different independent polls, all taken between the October 2-5 period, project Sen. Marco Rubio (R) to positive margins between two and eight points in his battle with Palm Beach area Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter).   

House

Action is occurring in several California races that suggest incumbents in trouble.  In Sacramento, County Sheriff Scott Jones (R) released an internal Public Opinion Strategies survey (10/1-3; 400 CA-7 likely voters) that posts him to a 47-42% lead over two-term Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove).  The incumbent is dealing with fallout from his father being convicted of campaign finance violations for funneling illegal money into the last two congressional campaigns.  The elder Bera was just sentenced to federal prison.

In San Jose, the double-Democratic re-match between Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) and former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna (D) continues to run close.  Survey USA (10/4-7; 550 CA-17 likely voters) gives the challenger a slight 38-37% lead as the two candidates turn for the home stretch.  In 2014, Rep. Honda defeated Khanna, 52-48%.

Turning to San Diego, after seeing two polls pushing challenger Doug Applegate (D) ahead of eight-term Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), the incumbent’s campaign released their own Public Opinion Strategies poll (10/4-6; 400 CA-49 likely voters).  These findings post Rep. Issa to a 48-39% lead over retired Marine Corps Colonel Applegate.

In the closely watched Tampa Bay area race between Florida Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), a new St. Pete Polls survey (10/10; 1,280 FL-13 likely voters via automated voice response system) finds the latter climbing back into a 48-43% lead.  The court-ordered redistricting plan changed the 13th into a Democratic seat by adding the city of St. Petersburg.

Across the country on Long Island, New York, two Siena College polls give both parties good news.  In the 1st District, that encompasses all of eastern Long Island through the Hamptons, freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has a healthy lead over local town supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D).  According to Siena (9/28-10/4; 661 NY-1 likely voters), Rep. Zeldin holds a strong 53-38% advantage.

In the open 3rd District, moving closer to Queens and Brooklyn, Siena (9/28-10/5; 613 NY-3 likely voters) posts former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) to a similarly large 50-34% margin over former state Sen. Jack Martins (R).

Governor

In key gubernatorial races, the latest trends are pointing to an upset in North Carolina.  While the new High Point University survey (10/1-6; 479 NC likely voters) provides good news for GOP Sen. Richard Burr (leading 45-40%), the data portends poorly for Gov. Pat McCrory (R).  In the latter race, Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) posts a 48-41% advantage.  The last five polls, all conducted in October, each project Cooper with a lead.

A new Strategies 360 survey for KOMO television (9/29-10/3; 500 WA likely voters) in Seattle finds Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) holding a 50-40% lead over Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (R).

In New Hampshire, the tight open contest between Executive Councilors Colin Van Ostern (D) and Chris Sununu (R) continues to run neck-and-neck.  The latest Boston Globe/Suffolk University study (10/3-5; 500 NH likely voters) sees Sununu with a 40-36% advantage.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
By:

President

The Vice Presidential debate captured a large share of the week's media attention, and Republican Mike Pence appears to have scored a virtual unanimous victory over Democrat Tim Kaine.  Whether or not this will affect the presidential numbers remains to be seen.

Eight spot surveys were conducted during the period ending October 2-4, and Hillary Clinton's aggregate national popular vote polling lead averaged 5.4 percentage points with a range of Clinton +9 (Fairleigh Dickinson University; 9/28-10/2; 385 likely voters) in a small-sample poll, to Trump +1 (Rasmussen Reports; 10/2-4; 1500 likely voters).  The two continuous tracking polls, LA Times/ University of Southern California, and UPI/C-Voter, actually find Trump running ahead.  LA Times/USC posts him to a 3.6% lead, while UPI projects a 2.5% Trump advantage.

Though more of the information suggests Trump continues to lag behind Clinton, the later polls show him again ticking up.  Events and the last two debates could become defining as we enter the final 30 days.

Senate

The major Senate news comes not so much in terms of new polling data, but is rather about spending.  Media buys are being cancelled and re-positioned, which tells us where the party strategists believe the races are headed.

In a surprising move, both the Republicans and Democrats cancelled their media buys for the Wisconsin Senate race.  Democrats did so because they feel former Sen. Russ Feingold is secure enough in his battle against Sen. Ron Johnson (R) that they can better use the money elsewhere.  On the heels of the Democratic move, Republicans cancelled their entire media buy for the state, saying they will continue only with their coordinated campaign expenditures.  The move signifies that they, too, believe the race is decided and that Sen. Johnson will be defeated.

Democrats are also moving significant money out of Florida, thus verifying polling data that indicates Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is pulling away from Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), and may be uncatchable.  The same pattern is occurring in Arizona, where it appears that Sen. John McCain (R) is sufficiently pulling away from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff).  A couple of weeks ago, Democrats also pulled out of Ohio, where Sen. Rob Portman (R) appears to be cementing his re-election, thus saving millions for other races.

The states receiving the re-directed money appear to be North Carolina and Missouri.  The Tar Heel State is always close, and Sen. Richard Burr (R) is in a tough battle with former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D).  In the Show Me State, the man who appears to be the Democratic leaderships' favorite candidate, Secretary of State Jason Kander, continues to run close with Sen. Roy Blunt (R), but the incumbent continues to hold a consistent single-digit lead.

Both parties are pouring money into the three hottest races, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, and strategies appear unchanged.  It is possible that the party winning two of these three states could well become the majority in the next Congress.

House

New polling is suggesting that ticket splitting may become more prevalent in 2016 than in previous 21st Century elections.  In New York's 24th District, Syracuse freshman Rep. John Katko (R) has opened up a 19 point lead over former congressional aide Colleen Deacon (D), according to a new Time Warner Cable/Siena College Polling Institute survey (9/22-24; 655 NY-24 likely voters). Rep. Katko holds a 53-34% advantage despite Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a dozen points and Sen. Chuck Schumer holding a huge 62-29% district margin in his re-election effort.

A series of polls find Iowa Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) leading his opponent, Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon (D), by substantial margins.  This, despite him representing the most Democratic of his state's four congressional districts.  Rep. Blum has consistently been considered one of the most endangered Republican incumbents, but the pre-election data consistently shows him winning re-election.

As the presidential race crystallizes in many places, expect congressional candidates in both parties to begin making the argument that people should not want to give Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump "all the power".  The argument that splitting power between the White House and Congress would be best for the country in that it will give an unpopular President - and, both would go into office with the highest negative ratings of any winner, ever - a check and balance over what will be controversial policy initiatives will be tested, and could gain legs.

Governor

Trends are looking favorable for Democrats in the Missouri and North Carolina Governor's races.  Even a new Republican Remington Research poll (9/26-27; 1,279 MO likely voters) finds Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster (D) pulling substantially ahead over former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens (R).  Their latest result gives Koster a strong 51-35% advantage and puts him in position to clinch the race.

In the Tar Heel State, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) continues to have trouble.  The last five consecutive polls, stretching from mid-September to now early October, all give Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) a varying lead.  The split runs from a range of Cooper +2 (the latest poll, from Quinnipiac University; 9/27-10/2; 507 NC likely voters) all the way to Cooper +9 (High Point University; 9/17-22; 404 NC likely voters).  Gov. McCrory will quickly have to reverse this trend if he is to win a second term.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
By:

President

Now in presidential debate season, the undetermined factors that will eventually control the outcome are starting to unfold.  Donald Trump did not fare well in the first debate overall, particularly in the second half after arguably turning in a strong early debate performance.  Still, he didn’t make any crushing mistake. Continuing to gain on Hillary Clinton in polling, the race is apparently headed to a political photo finish in November.

The current Electoral College map suggests that Trump has a path to 266 electoral votes, meaning he’s alive to win in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District (Maine is one of two states – Nebraska is the other – that can split its electoral votes).  This configuration, however, leaves him one state short.  Expect major battles in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and now Colorado.  Any one of these states going to Trump would elect him if the aforementioned state forecast proves correct.

Still, the overall map favors a Clinton win because she maintains a small, but consistent national lead both in the popular vote and Electoral College, meaning that less has to go right for her to win the national election.  For Trump, the entire aforementioned scenario would have to break his way for victory to occur.

The big polling news of the week came from the states, as surveys are now suggesting that Colorado is very much in play for Trump.  Six polls have been conducted there in September, and all show the Centennial State contest within the margin of error.  Trump actually leads in three of the six studies.

Senate

We’re seeing movement in one Senate race and conflict in a pair of others.  In Louisiana, two new polls find state Treasurer John Kennedy’s (R) jungle primary lead evaporating as he is not yet countering his opponents’ extensive campaign ads.

A new JMC Analytics poll that earlier gave Kennedy a major lead, has now entirely dissipated.  The new survey (9/22-25; 905 LA registered voters) found several candidates usurping Kennedy.  The closely bunched field means any two of the top five candidates are in position to advance to the December 10th run-off.  Louisiana holds its qualifying election concurrently with the general election.

According to JMC, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell lead the field, but with only 15% support apiece.  Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden/Shreveport), who has been spending heavily on television ads lately, has catapulted from the second tier into third place with 14%, just one point from the top, followed closely by former Lt. Governor candidate Caroline Fayard’s (D) 12%.  Kennedy, in this poll, drops all the way to 11 percent.

The SMOR Louisiana poll (9/15-17; 500 LA likely voters) finds a similar configuration.  They still see Kennedy leading with 15%, though tied with Boustany, Fayard at 11%, Campbell 9%, and Fleming 8%.  This contest is now officially a free-for-all to the November 8th election.

The latest data is also producing conflicting leaders in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.  In the PA race, five individual pollsters during the September 12-25 period all forecast Sen. Pat Toomey (R) and Democrat Katie McGinty within a margin of no more than four points.  Two polls apiece show McGinty and Toomey both leading slightly, while a fifth poll forecasts a tie.

In the Tar Heel State, six polls conducted during the September 12-23 period also see different leaders.  In three, challenger Deborah Ross (D) scores an advantage, while two still show Sen. Richard Burr (R) with the edge.  One of the polls forecasts a tie.

Louisiana, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, along with New Hampshire and Nevada, feature dead heat races.  Combined, these campaigns will determine which party controls the Senate in the next Congress.

House

House polls are usually few and far between, but two released during the past week give us a glimpse into a pair of important campaigns.

Because Maine splits its electoral votes, Donald Trump continues to be in position to take at least one vote from the Pine Tree State.  According to the Normington Petts research firm polling for the Emily Cain (D) congressional campaign (9/21-22; 400 ME-2 likely voters), Trump maintains a 44-40% lead over Hillary Clinton in the largely rural 2nd District.  Even with this boost, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) can manage only a 45-45% tie with former state Senator Cain.  Poliquin defeated her 45-40% in 2014.

In Iowa, freshman Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter/Des Moines), a top Democratic target, is leading comfortably according to a new Tarrance Group survey (9/20-22; 400 IA-3 voters; conducted for the Young campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee).  According to this poll, Young maintains a commanding 52-37% advantage over Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer (D), who was the Democratic nominee in the adjacent district two years ago.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
By:

President

The candidates are in final debate preparation mode, as the long-awaited 2016 general election issue exchange forums begin on Monday, September 26th.  Ratings estimates project more than 100 million viewers, numbers only reached by various Super Bowl games, will tune into the first session hosted by NBC News' Lester Holt.

The week's national polling featured seven polls, including daily trackers Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California, Morning Consult, and Rasmussen Reports.  Also included in the latest time group are spot pollsters Fox News, NBC/Survey Monkey, St. Leo University (FL), Ipsos/Reuters, and YouGov/The Economist.

As a way to gauge the polling, Hillary Clinton averages a one-point lead from the eight surveys.  Though it is methodologically incorrect to average disparate polls, particularly groups that include daily trackers with spot surveyors, the process does allow us to draw the reasonable conclusion that the national popular vote count is in toss-up range.

The eight-poll spread, all conducted from September 10-19, range from a high respondent sample of 13,230 (NBC/Survey Monkey; Clinton +5) to a low of 867 (Fox News; Clinton +1) likely voters.  The ballot test range stretches ten points from Clinton +6 (St. Leo University) to Trump +4 (LA Times/USC).  Again, Trump generally performs better with the daily trackers (LA Times: +4; Rasmussen Reports: +2; Morning Consult: -2) than he does among traditional spot pollsters: Fox: Clinton +1, St. Leo University: Clinton +6, NBC/Survey Monkey: Clinton +5, YouGov/The Economist: Clinton +2.  The lone spot surveyor to find Trump leading is Ipsos/Reuters, at +2.

Senate

As the election draws closer, more and more Senate surveys are being released to help us handicap the individual races and how, together, they will allow one party to become the majority.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) has re-assumed the lead over Gov. Maggie Hassan, 47-45% according to new data from New Jersey's Monmouth University (9/17-20; 400 NH likely voters).  This favorable Republican result contrasts with the presidential question, which was much more positive for Hillary Clinton.  In the national race, Monmouth finds the former Secretary of State leading beyond the margin of polling error, 47-38-10-3%, with the latter numbers breaking for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

St. Leo University again surveyed their home state of Florida, one of the most critically important political states in the country.  Like in New Hampshire, this Florida poll (9/10-16; 1,103 FL adults; 1,005 FL likely voters) finds a Republican incumbent, Sen. Marco Rubio topping his Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), by a substantial 44-35% spread in this case, while the same polling sample yields a Hillary Clinton advantage of 49-44-6% over Trump and Libertarian Johnson.

Two surveys came forth from Senate states that have not attracted a great deal of attention throughout the year.  The Louisiana Senate race, whose jungle primary runs concurrently with the general election, features a major tightening according to a new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll (9/15-17; 500 LA likely voters).

Originally, state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) enjoyed a lock on first position.  Under the Louisiana system, the top two primary finishers will advance to a run-off on December 10th, assuming no one receives a majority vote.  This new survey still finds Mr. Kennedy tracking in the first run-off slot, but with only 17% of the sample preference, almost 20 points down from his original standing.  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) is second with 15%, followed by Caroline Fayard (11%), the former Democratic Lt. Governor candidate, and Public Service Commissioner and ex-Democratic statewide candidate Foster Campbell (9%).  Former Air Force officer and US Senate candidate Rob Maness (R) and ex-state Rep. and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (R) each share 3% support.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R) continues to trail his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Northern Chicago Suburbs) in another race where polls are few and far between.  According to the new Loras University data (9/13-16; 600 IL likely voters), Ms. Duckworth continues to register an average five-point lead, this time 41-36%.

House

The major House news concerns finalizing a nominee in the open Arizona 5th District.  After the official canvass and re-count concluded early in the week, state Senate President Andy Biggs won the Republican primary with just a 27-vote margin from more than 85,000 cast ballots.  Former Go.Daddy.com executive Christine Jones, who led on Election Night by 576 votes before absentee and provisional ballots were counted, conceded after the re-count process pushed Biggs' small margin from nine to 27 votes.  She chose not to further challenge the results, and ended the campaign.  Sen. Biggs now becomes the prohibitive favorite to capture the safe Republican seat in November.

A new Dan Jones & Associates Utah poll is brining good news for freshman Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs).  After defeating attorney Doug Owens (D) 51-45% in 2014, Love is now polling in much stronger position.  According to the Jones' poll (9/12-19; 409 UT-4 likely voters), Rep. Love enjoys a major 53-35% advantage over Mr. Owens.

Governor

One Governor's note to share: the New Hampshire Governor's race between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu, and fellow Executive Council member Colin Van Ostern (D) was also included in the aforementioned Monmouth University poll.  The early general election numbers for this race break 49-43% in Mr. Sununu's favor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
By:

President

Hillary Clinton's health situation dominated the latest presidential campaign coverage, but polling taken before her weekend problems became public still shows a tightening of the national campaign.

Eight polls were conducted from the September 1-11 period, and while six surveys still find Ms. Clinton leading, her margins continue to hover only in the 1.5% range with a spread of Clinton +5 (ABC News/Washington Post) to Trump +3 (Los Angeles Times/USC).  Clinton's high watermark in any poll touched 45% (ABC News/Washington Post) and her low was 40% (Ipsos/Reuters; YouGov/The Economist).  Trump also reached 45% (CNN), while his low was 38% (Ipsos/Reuters; YouGov/The Economist).  

Senate

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) was re-nominated with 79% of the vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary this week.  She defeated a former state Representative and three also-ran GOP candidates.  Gov. Maggie Hassan was unopposed on the Democratic side.  The New Hampshire campaign is a toss-up, and likely one of three Senate races - Pennsylvania and Nevada are the other two - that will decide which party controls the majority in the next Congress.

Republicans received good news from a series of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College polls.  Often seen as a poll that skews Democratic, the latest series points to better-than-expected Republican totals in four states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

According to the media/college entity, Sen. John McCain (R) has opened up a 57-38% lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff).  This is a surprising number in light of McCain only obtaining 52% of the Republican primary vote on August 30th.  The Kirkpatrick media blitz, attempting to tie him to Donald Trump, apparently hasn't struck a chord with the Arizona electorate.

In Georgia, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) comes roaring back after a relatively close poll surfaced last month.  Isakson leads the current NBC/WSJ/Marist survey, 53-38%.

Turning to Nevada, the NBC/WSJ/Marist data finds Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) leading former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 47-45%, which is consistent with many other polls of this contest.  Public Policy Polling, however, releasing their survey results at the same time, projects Masto holding a one-point 42-41% edge.

The group's most surprising poll is in New Hampshire.  After trailing in polls through much of August, Sen. Ayotte has now ballooned to an eight-point advantage, 52-44%, according to this most recent research study.  Since this poll is inconsistent with a plethora of other surveys released in July, August, and early September, it is possible that this particular survey may be an outlier.

House

The last major primary date occurred during the week, and one incumbent almost paid the ultimate political price.  Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1; Manchester/Sea Coast) appears to have barely won re-nomination over businessman Rich Ashooh, edging him by 661 votes with four precincts still outstanding.

He now faces former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) for the fourth time in six years.  Ms. Shea-Porter lost her re-election effort twice in four attempts.  She was originally elected in 2006, defeated in 2010 (by Guinta), re-captured the seat in 2012 (beating Guinta), lost again in 2014 (again to Guinta), and now returns for what will likely be another close election.

Delaware Rep. John Carney (D-Wilmington) running for Governor leaves the state's lone congressional seat open.  Former state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester easily topped a state Senator and an ex-gubernatorial aide to capture the Democratic nomination, which is likely her ticket to Washington in November.  Delaware has become a reliably Democratic state.  

Governor

The New Hampshire congressional race was not the only close primary contest.  The Republicans' open gubernatorial primary proved equally as tight.  Here, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu, leads self-funding state Rep. Frank Edelblut by only 1,000+ votes with 20 precincts still unaccounted.  The eventual winner, probably Mr. Sununu, will face fellow Executive Council member Colin Van Ostern who easily won his Democratic primary.  A tight general election is expected.  Incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan (D) is running for Senate.

In Delaware, the stage is set for Rep. John Carney (D) to succeed term-limited state chief executive Jack Markell (D).  Mr. Carney was unopposed in the Democratic primary.  Republican state Senator Colin Bonini easily won his party's nomination, but Rep. Carney is now a heavy favorite to become Governor in the general election.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
By:

President

There appears to be a decided shift toward Donald Trump in the polls conducted during the period beginning August 30th.  Ten polls, from ten different pollsters, were conducted and the split between the two major party candidates averages only 1.2%.  The range stretches from Hillary Clinton +4 to Donald Trump +2.

Of the ten, six find Clinton leading (Fox News, George Washington University/ Battleground, Morning Consult, NBC/Survey Monkey, Franklin Pierce University/ Boston Herald, and The Economist/YouGov), two show Trump up (Rasmussen Reports, CNN/ORC), and a pair projects the two falling into a flat tie (Investors Business Daily/TIPP, and Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California).

The Washington Post joined with the Survey Monkey organization to produce our first full 50-state poll.  While looking at the four-candidate splits - those including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein - most of the individual state findings are consistent with other published polls and vote history, but several are not.

Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin appear to have produced results that should be considered anomalies.

Colorado showing a 37-37% tie between Clinton and Trump deviates from all other data that project the former Secretary of State to be clearly ahead.  Wisconsin being considered a toss-up also flies in the face of all other surveys that consistently have produced Clinton leads.

Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas are southern states where Republicans typically perform better than they poll.  It is likely that the same pattern will hold true this year and Trump will win comfortable victories in each place.

Nevada has been routinely polling either as a toss-up or leaning toward Trump.  The Washington Post/Survey Monkey data, however, forecasts it as leaning toward Ms. Clinton.

Overall, these state-by-state results could reasonably give Clinton as many as 261 votes as compared to Trump's 186, with the remaining ten states being considered toss-ups.  Therefore, the best reasonable Trump finish still looks to break 273-265 in Clinton's favor.

Senate

Several new polls are out, which portray a national Senate picture that continues toward absolute parity between the parties.  It appears that three Republican states are likely to switch allegiance: Illinois (Sen. Mark Kirk), Indiana (Open - Sen. Dan Coats), and Wisconsin (Sen. Ron Johnson).

This means the pure toss-up states of New Hampshire (Sen. Kelly Ayotte-R vs. Gov. Maggie Hassan-D), Pennsylvania (Sen. Pat Toomey-R vs. Katie McGinty-D), and the open Nevada seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Rep. Joe Heck-R vs. former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto-D) will probably determine majority status.  The party winning two of these three contests will likely hold nominal control.  It now appears the Senate will split either 51-49 or 50-50, with each party having a chance to reach the 51 number.

Several polls each see the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania races falling within the margin of error and leads being exchanged.  More North Carolina results again find two-term Sen. Richard Burr (R) and former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) landing in the toss-up category.  Other multiple polls within the individual state post Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) to leads beyond the polling margin of error.

House

Major House news occurred as absentee and provisional vote counting concluded in Arizona.  Surprisingly, the final counting in the open 5th District potentially produced a different winner than we saw on election night.

On August 30th, former GoDaddy.com executive Christine Jones appeared to have won the Republican primary.  She led state Senate President Andy Biggs by 876 votes with all Election Day and early votes counted.  The revised final count found her lead dropping to 578, which still looked like enough to sustain the nomination victory when considering the number of outstanding ballots that remained.

As the Labor Day holiday weekend concluded, however, Biggs actually surpassed Jones by the slimmest of margins: just nine votes.  The unofficial final tally shows both candidates garnering 29% of the vote, or a raw total of 25,228 to 25,219.  Candidates Don Shapely, a former Maricopa County Supervisor, and state Representative Justin Olson took 21 and 20%, respectively.

The official precinct canvass is now underway, which could again change this outcome since the two are separated by such a thin margin.  Arizona election law requires the post-election canvass to be completed no later than September 12th.  Once the official vote totals are tabulated, a re-count will begin.  It is safe to say that resolving this virtually tied contest will likely take several weeks before re-counting and legal challenges culminate in a final decision.  The eventual Republican primary winner will claim the seat in November, since this district is safe for the GOP.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
By:

President

The presidential polling is delivering more of the same.  Nine national polls were released since August 23rd, and Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in eight of them.  Her average margin continues to tighten, and now is under four points, at 3.7 if each poll is rated equally, with a swing of Clinton +7 all the way to Trump +3.

The one poll consistently finding Trump ahead comes from the LA Times/ University of Southern California.  As previously mentioned this survey is different in that it continually polls, asking 400 different people questions from a sampling pool of the same 3,000 registered voters.  Therefore, the entire respondent universe will participate in the tracking poll approximately once per week and allows the pollsters to track the ebbs and flows of the same group over a long period of time.

Senate

The late summer's most significant primary occurred this week, with major results coming from Arizona and Florida.

Sen. John McCain (R), seeking a sixth term, was re-nominated but scored only 52% among his own Republican Party voters.  Though he put 13 points between him and his top challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, a full 48% of voting Republicans chose another candidate.  Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) was unopposed on the Democratic side.  McCain landing only in the low 50s for this primary suggests that the general election could become highly competitive.

Turning to Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R), coming back to the Senate race from his failed presidential run, recorded 72% in winning re-nomination.  Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) claimed his party's nomination with 59% against fellow Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-Orlando) 19%.  Though Rep. Murphy will be a strong opponent to Sen. Rubio, the incumbent appears to be gaining steady momentum and has to be considered the favorite as the general election begins.

House

The big primary news this week is twelve-term Rep. Corrine Brown's (D-Jacksonville) defeat in the new 5th District that now stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.  Previously, the district moved south from Jacksonville through Gainesville, Sanford, and Orlando.  Former state legislator and two-time congressional candidate Al Lawson scored a 48-39% victory over Brown, badly beating her in the new portion of the district, including Tallahassee.  Rep. Brown easily topped the vote in Jacksonville and her previous territory.

Mr. Lawson will now move to the general election where he will win a landslide November victory in the safely Democratic district.  Ms. Brown becomes the fifth House incumbent to lose re-nomination, the third due to mid-decade redistricting.  

In South Florida, the primary attracting the most national political attention featured Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) and law professor Tim Canova.  Both spent over $3 million on the race that also involved a public division between the party's two presidential candidates.  Ms. Wasserman Schultz, who unceremoniously lost her position as Democratic National Committee chair largely over accusations of bias toward Hillary Clinton, scored a 57-43% victory over Canova who Bernie Sanders actively supported.  The Congresswoman is now safe for the general election.  Despite the media attention, Democratic primary turnout was low with just over 50,000 people participating.

Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando), who found himself a major victim of the mid-decade redistricting plan as his Republican-leaning 10th District was turned safely Democratic, found a new home in the adjacent open 11th District.  Rep. Webster recorded 60% of the primary vote and is now heavily favored in the general election.  Former Orlando Police chief Val Demings won the Democratic primary in the new 10th CD, and will come to Washington with an expected easy general election victory.

In Rep. Murphy's vacated 18th District, disabled Afghan War veteran Brian Mast won a crowded Republican primary and will now face businessman Randy Perkins (D) in the competitive general election.  Despite Mr. Murphy twice winning the district, the seat tilts Republican.  Mr. Mast's compelling story could provide the boost the Republicans need to put this seat back into their column.

Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Miami) scored a close 51-49% Democratic primary victory over party establishment favorite Annette Taddeo.  He will now face freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) in a re-match of the 2014 race that saw Garcia unseated.  Redistricting made this seat more Democratic, so the general election promises to be hard fought with a tight conclusion.

Other Florida open seat primary winners who are heavy general election favorites are state Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1; replacing retiring Rep. Jeff Miller-R), Dr. Neal Dunn (R-FL-2; replacing retiring Rep. Gwen Graham-D), former Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford (R-FL-4; succeeding retiring Rep. Ander Crenshaw-R), state Sen. Darren Soto (D-FL-9; replacing Rep. Alan Grayson-D who unsuccessfully ran for Senate), and former US Ambassador Francis Rooney (R-FL-19; who will replace retiring Rep. Curt Clawson-R).

Florida incumbents winning re-nomination against primary opponents were: Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona), John Mica (R-Winter Park), David Jolly (R-Pinellas County), Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami).

The two open Arizona seats appear to have produced general election nominees.  In Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's expansive 1st District, controversial Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu won the Republican primary with 32% of the vote.  He will face former state Senator Tom O'Halleran, an ex-Republican, in what is one of the few truly political marginal districts remaining in the country.  The general election will be rated as a toss-up.  Ms. Kirkpatrick advances to the statewide Senate general election against John McCain.

Retiring Rep. Matt Salmon's (R-Mesa) 5th District appears headed to former GoDaddy.com executive Christine Jones, as she leads the Republican primary with an 876-vote spread.  Her margin should be enough to withstand any uncounted absentee or provisional votes that may remain.  Ms. Jones likely defeated state Senate President Andy Biggs, former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, and state Rep. Justin Olsen in a race that divided 30-29-22-20% among the four contenders.  The 5th is safely Republican, and Ms. Jones is likely the region's new Congresswoman.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
By:

President

The presidential polling seems to be normalizing.  Donald Trump is now getting back into a closer range with Hillary Clinton.  Though she still leads in almost every poll, the margin is closer to an average of about four percentage points.  At the depths of Trump's post-convention period, Clinton's lead was closer to nine points.

The one poll finding Trump ahead comes from the LA Times/University of Southern California.  Their latest track shows the Republican nominee building a national lead of 45-43%.  The LA Times/USC poll is different in that it continually polls, asking 400 different people questions from a sampling pool of 3,000 registered voters.  Therefore, the entire respondent universe will participate in the tracking poll approximately once per week.  This type of polling is referred to as a "panel-back" survey because the pollster tracks the same individuals throughout the electoral process, finding how a consistent group responds to the twists and turns of the political campaign.

A major conflict is coming from all-important Florida.  Arguably the presidential campaign's most important swing state - the Republicans, for example, simply can't win the national election without carrying Florida - diverse polling data is being currently reported.

St. Leo University, a 16,000+ student Catholic education institution located 35 miles northeast of Tampa, created their own Polling Institute in 2013.  This week, they released a Florida electorate poll (8/14-18; 1,500 FL adults; 1,380 FL likely voters) that finds Hillary Clinton expanding her support to a 52% of the respondent sample as compared to only 38% for Trump.  Since the same polling sample gives Sen. Marco Rubio (R) his largest general election lead (46-38%) of any recorded survey, this poll should be taken seriously.

On the heels of the St. Leo poll, another Sunshine State educational entity, Florida Atlantic University, released their data just a day later.  This survey (8/19-22; 1,200 FL likely voters) finds a diametrically opposite conclusion, yet the two are methodologically similar, though St. Leo relies totally upon online responses.

According to Florida Atlantic, Trump actually rebounds in the state to the point of outpacing Ms. Clinton, 43-41%.  Rather stunningly, FAU does find a similar result as St. Leo in the Senate race.  While the latter posted Sen. Rubio to a 46-38% advantage, Florida Atlantic arrived at a similar 44-39% split in the Republican incumbent's favor.

Much more research will have to be conducted in this critical state, considering the current results are so far flung.  Comparatively, these two polls give us the least consistent data of any research in the country.

Senate

In addition to the St. Leo and Florida Atlantic data reported above about the Rubio-Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) presumed Florida Senate race, Monmouth University released two Senate polls of their own.  The Democratic primary contest between Mr. Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) will be decided next week, on August 30th.

In Missouri, the University's survey (8/19-22; 401 MO likely voters) finds Sen. Roy Blunt (R) leading Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), 48-43%, a five-point spread.  The result falls exactly in the middle of the Blunt advantage range.  Four polls from a quartet of different research firms have conducted Missouri polls since July 10th, and the Senator leads in all from between three and seven points.

Monmouth also tested the Ohio electorate and their data confirms what we have been seeing developing in this Senate race for the past couple of weeks.  That is, Sen. Rob Portman (R) pulling away from his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Ted Strickland.  Here, Monmouth went into the field during the 8/18-21 period, and surveyed 402 likely Ohio voters.  They find the Senator's advantage over Strickland to be 48-40%.

These results are in line with the other Ohio August public polls.  Four have been released since the beginning of the month and Portman now enjoys leads of five, nine, seven, and eight percentage points according to NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, CBS News/YouGov, and Monmouth, respectively.

Previously, the Ohio Senate race was polling as dead even for months.

House

No primaries occurred this week, but the late summer's major nomination date of August 30th is fast approaching.  The day features the Florida primary, which will determine nominees in seven open seats from the state's 27 congressional districts.

The two incumbents facing major challenges are Democrat Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville), who has a severely re-drawn congressional seat that now expands to Tallahassee from Jacksonville instead of Orlando along with facing a federal indictment, and Republican Dan Webster (R-Orlando) who is running from an adjacent district to the one he previously represented.  The court-ordered redistricting radically changed Webster's 10th District, but he took advantage of an open 11th CD of which he currently represents 20% of the population.

Democrats will choose a nominee in South Florida for what will be a hotly contested race against freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami).  Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D), who Curbelo unseated in 2014, and businesswoman Annette Taddeo, who enjoys strong Washington establishment support, are vying for the nomination.

Arizonans also vote on 8/30.  Two key open districts will choose nominees: the sprawling 1st District, where Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) is leaving the House to challenge Sen. John McCain (R), and Maricopa County's 5th District where Rep. Matt Salmon (R) is retiring.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
By:

President

Donald Trump, after engineering another campaign shake-up and demoting campaign manager Paul Manafort, is turning to give policy speeches.  He addressed audiences in Miami, Florida; Youngstown, Ohio; and West Bend, Wisconsin this week, giving nationally covered economic, social, and foreign policy addresses.  Obviously, the locations are all in top priority swing states.

Three pollsters released head-to-head ballot test surveys in the early week.  UPI/C-Voter, NBC/Survey Monkey, and Morning Consult all reported data.  Each shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump, by an average of 7.3 percentage points.  But, when looking at the polls that add minor party candidates Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, and Jill Stein (Green Party), or "others" to their respondent questionnaire, the margin between the two major party candidates tightens.    

NBC/Survey Monkey and Morning Consult did ask a second question that included Johnson and an "other" response.  Rasmussen Reports was also active in this week's time frame, and exclusively posed the multi-candidate question.

Combined, the three pollsters yield an average 5.0% spread between the major party candidates when the minor contenders are identified to the respondents.  The pattern of Trump pulling somewhat closer to Clinton when the Johnson and/or Stein are included has been recurring for several weeks.

The more relevant polls are those that include the Libertarian and Green Party nominees because they will have a strong presence on ballots throughout the country.  Mr. Johnson is on all 50 state ballots plus the District of Columbia.  Dr. Stein has qualified in 27 states and has the chance to win placement in 16 others.  Since the overwhelming majority of voters will have the opportunity to vote for Johnson and Stein, it is legitimate to put more emphasis on the polls that contain both of their names.

Senate

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was easily re-nominated for a third full term earlier in the week.  She defeated three minor Republican opponents with 72% of the vote.  Facing Democrat Ray Metcalfe, a former state legislator, she will find little trouble securing another victory in the general election.

This race is quite different than her last re-election bid.  Then, she was upset in the Republican primary by a Tea Party activist but returned in the general election as a write-in Independent.  Considering the difficult logistics to win any write-in campaign, but particularly one as spread out and in such difficult terrain as Alaska, her 2010 victory was one of the most impressive of the past decade.  Sen. Murkowski's 2016 re-election bid will be considerably easier and certainly less dramatic than what she experienced six years ago.

A new Data Orbital survey (8/6-8; 500 AZ Republican likely primary voters) finds Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) pulling away from challenger Kelli Ward, a former GOP state Senator.  The Data Orbital ballot test gives the veteran Senator a 50-29% advantage heading into the August 30th primary.  Assuming he wins re-nomination, which appears highly likely, Sen. McCain will face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in what promises to become a competitive general election.

House

The at-large Wyoming primary was held early this week and Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President, US Defense Secretary, and five-term Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (R), won the Republican congressional primary.  She took 40% of the vote compared to her next closest competitor, state Sen. Leland Christensen's 22% in the nine-candidate pool.

Ms. Cheney advances to the general election where she will face the new Democratic nominee, energy contractor Ryan Greene.  Last night's victory was tantamount to winning the open seat in the fall, however.  Ms. Cheney will replace retiring four-term Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne), who chose not to seek re-election.

The Alaska primary was also held, and Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon) topped 71% of the vote on his way to winning re-nomination for a 24th term.  He will face competition in the general election in the person of former Alaska Public Media CEO Steve Lindbeck (D), who has so far raised over $500,000 for the campaign.  Rep. Young remains a solid favorite for re-election, however, projected to finish in the high 50s percentage range.

As expected, both Indiana Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN-4) and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) were reinstated as the Republican nominees in their respective congressional districts.  Both withdrew from their federal campaigns in order to seek the open Governorship, once incumbent Mike Pence (R) accepted Donald Trump's offer to join the national ticket as his Vice Presidential nominee.  When the Republican State Committee chose Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb to succeed Pence as the statewide party nominee, it became clear that Rokita and Brooks would return to their congressional campaigns.  The local congressional Republican committees officially took such action this week.  Both are rated as prohibitive favorites for re-election.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
By:

President

The latest two national polls give Hillary Clinton varying leads over Donald Trump.  NBC News/Survey Monkey (8/1-7; 11,480 US registered voters) finds the former Secretary of State and First Lady's margin to be ten points, while the UPI/C-Voter (8/1-7; 960 US likely voters) survey sees a smaller five point spread.

Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and ex-chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, announced that he will attempt to qualify for the presidential ballot as an Independent.  Since the ballot access deadline has already passed in more than half the states, McMullin's name placement challenge is formidable.  It is unlikely that Mr. McMullin will greatly impact the national campaign.

Numbers being released in key battleground states find Clinton opening up a significant lead in Pennsylvania, while the two are virtually tied in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, according to Susquehanna Polling & Research (PA), Quinnipiac University (FL, OH), and Public Policy Polling (NC).

The Clinton campaign is sending signals that it plans to compete in Georgia and Arizona due to current favorable polling data.  The states have been consistently strong for the GOP nominees in the 21st Century, and will likely be there for Trump in November.  Clinton need not expand the political map to win.  All she needs for victory is to carry 80% of the states that President Obama won twice.

Senate

Some of the poor Trump polling numbers are impacting certain Republican Senatorial candidates, but not uniformly so.

Several new polls find Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) either leading or trailing by one or two points.  Thus, he and challenger Katie McGinty (D) are virtually tied.

A new Remington Research poll for the Missouri Scout political blog found Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) topping Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) by a 47-40% clip.

The news wasn't so good for first-term Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R).  His opponent, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), is brandishing an early August survey that posts her to 44-37% advantage.

In Georgia, where last week brought Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) a poll that projected him as being vulnerable to Democrat Jim Barksdale, the incumbent political ship now appears righted.  JMC Analytics finds the Senator holding a 39-30% lead, but with many voters remaining undecided.

Finally, yet another Nevada poll finds the two open seat Senate candidates again in close proximity.  As has been the case for months, Republican Congressman Joe Heck (R-Henderson) maintains a small edge over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D).  In the latest CBS News/YouGov survey (8/2-5; 993 NV likely general election voters), Heck clings to a 38-35% advantage.

House

Speaker Paul Ryan scored a landslide 84-16% Republican primary win over Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen, despite the latter spending almost $1 million on his campaign.  Nehlen appeared to be scoring some political points against the new House Speaker and nine-term congressional incumbent, but fell way short of even denting Mr. Ryan's strong Republican political base.

Elsewhere in the Badger State, foreign policy analyst and former congressional aide Mike Gallagher easily secured the Republican nomination in the open Green Bay/Appleton district.  Mr. Gallagher will now face Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson in what could become a competitive general election campaign.

Republican voters in Minnesota's 2nd District affirmed the results of the state party convention by nominating radio talk show host Jason Lewis to succeed retiring Rep. John Kline (R-Burnsville).  Mr. Lewis now faces a formidable political foe in the person of healthcare executive Angie Craig.  Though a first-time candidate, Ms. Craig has already amassed $2.5 million for her effort, almost $1 million of which is self-contributed.

The long post-election mail ballot counting period has finally concluded in the state of Washington, and state Rep. Barry Walkinshaw (D) has successfully clinched the second general election ballot position for the open 7th District race.  Under Washington election law, all candidates are on the same primary ballot and the top two advance to the general election irrespective of political party preference.  Mr. Walkinshaw edged King County Councilman Joe McDermott (D) who had been leading him from the August 2nd vote until the final days of mail-ballot counting changed the final outcome.  The first place finisher, by a 20-point margin, is state Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D).  Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle) is retiring after serving 14 terms in the House.

Governor

The open Vermont Governor's race is attracting attention.  This week, Democrats nominated former state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter to challenge Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R).  Though Vermont is heavily Democratic, most political observers believe this contest will yield a relatively tight election result.

The aforementioned Remington Research poll finds a virtual dead heat developing between newly nominated Chris Koster (D) and Eric Greitens (R).  The data finds Koster, the state's Attorney General, with a scant two-point lead over retired Navy SEAL Greitens, 45-43%.

In West Virginia, Democratic nominee Jim Justice, a billionaire billed as the state's richest man, enjoys a 47-37% margin over state Senate President Bill Cole (R) according to a new statewide poll.  The Global Strategy Group (8/1-3; 419 WV likely voters) conducted the survey for the Justice campaign.

Both Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and West Virginia's Earl Ray Tomblin (D) are ineligible to seek third terms in their respective states.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
By:

President

The post-Democratic convention survey research is now in the public domain, and Hillary Clinton has re-assumed the presidential polling lead, as expected.  Her convention bounce projects to an average six percentage point lead over Donald Trump.  Six polls comprise the data from which the percentage was derived: Ipsos Reuters (7/25-29; 1,050 likely voters), Public Policy Polling (7/29-30; 1,276 likely voters), Morning Consult (7/29-30; 1,931 registered voters), NBC/Survey Monkey (7/25-31; 12,742 registered voters), CBS News (7/29-31; 1,131 registered voters), and CNN (7/29-31; 894 registered voters).

The fact that Ms. Clinton's numbers are growing the further away from the convention we move is a good sign for her campaign.  For example, the poll that provides the former Secretary of State with her largest lead, CNN (52-43%, or nine percentage points), is the latest poll taken.

Mr. Trump's wild statements at rallies and via Twitter, particularly relating to his verbal altercation series with Democratic Convention speaker Khizr Khan is helping to sustain Clinton's lead past the immediate post-convention period.  Numerous Republican office holders going public to condemn Trump's comments is having an effect upon the new Republican nominee's polling standing, helping drive his downturn, and Clinton is poised to take full advantage.

Senate

Senate primaries were held in Kansas, Missouri and Washington.  As expected, Sunflower State Sen. Jerry Moran posted a 77% victory in his Republican primary.  Incumbent Roy Blunt (R) and Secretary of State Jason Kander easily advanced to the general election from the Missouri primaries, each posting over 70% support.

In Washington, the jungle primary format led to Sen. Patty Murray (D) and former Washington Republican Party chairman and ex-King County Councilman Chris Vance (R) moving to the general election.  Sen. Murray is a prohibitive favorite to win a fifth term in November.

House

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler/West Kansas), who had been at the center of controversy since coming to Congress in 2010 and being at odds with his own party leadership virtually since his first day in office, went down to a crushing Republican primary defeat this week at the hands of Dr. Roger Marshall (R), a Great Bend, KS obstetrician.  The final margin was 56-44%.

The campaign centered around Huelskamp being removed from the Agriculture Committee during his first term.  From an agriculture dominated district that contains the sprawling territory covering more than half of the state's land area, being stripped of his voice on the committee of most importance to his constituency led to the Congressman's downfall.  The fact that Dr. Marshall was his lone opponent also played poorly for Rep. Huelskamp, since the entire anti-incumbent vote had only one avenue to voice their opposition.

Rep. Huelskamp becomes the third incumbent to lose re-nomination.  Earlier, Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake) lost his re-nomination campaign after a mid-decade redistricting court order forced him to choose to run in a completely new district.  Philadelphia Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), facing multiple federal corruption charges, also fell in his bid to be nominated for another term.

In the two open Michigan districts, the Upper Peninsula's 1st District featured a tough three-way Republican primary where retired Marine Corps General Jack Bergman upset state Sen. Tom Casperson and former state Sen. Jason Allen by a five point margin.  Gen. Bergman will now face Michigan Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson who easily defeated 2014 congressional nominee Jerry Cannon.  This will be a highly competitive general election.

Turning to the Macomb County district, businessman Paul Mitchell (R) taking advantage of his multi-million dollar spending spree won a close contest over state Sen. Phil Pavlov (R).  In 2014, Mitchell also expended copious amounts of his own money only to lose in the open 4th District.  Now moving across the state for this open race, he appears to have met with success two years later.  Mr. Mitchell now becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace Rep. Candice Miller (R), who is now running for local office.

In Detroit, the Dean of the House, Rep. John Conyers (D), won re-nomination for a 27th term in office.  He was originally elected in 1964.  This week, he defeated Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey (D) 60-40%, to win yet again.  The 13th District is one of the safest Democratic seats in the country, so Mr. Conyers is assured of clinching another election in November.

All Washington House incumbents advanced with first place jungle primary finishes.  In the open 7th District, two Democrats, although it is still not clear who will finally finish in the second qualifying position, will meet in the general election to determine who replaces retiring Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle).  Freshman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R) will apparently again face former NFL football player and conservative activist Clint Didier (R) in a double-Republican general election.  The 2014 contest ended in a 51-49% Newhouse victory.

Incumbents of both parties other than Huelskamp, in Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Kansas were all either re-nominated in their respective primaries or advanced to the general election in jungle primary format.

Governor

The hotly contested open four-way Missouri Republican primary ended with Afghan/ Iraq War veteran Eric Greitens winning the gubernatorial nomination over businessman John Brunner, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and former US Attorney and state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.  Mr. Greitens will now face Attorney General Chris Koster (D) who easily won the Democratic primary.  The Republican race was expected to be closer.  Greitens held a ten point margin over his next closest competitor.  Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

In Washington, as expected, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (R) advanced to the general election.  Because of the state's mail-only voting system, the final percentage results won't be known for several days.  Despite Washington's staunchly Democratic voting history, this gubernatorial race could become seriously competitive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
By:

President

The Democratic National Convention officially nominated Hillary Clinton as its presidential candidate, the first woman to win a major party nomination in American history.

The week began with Donald Trump getting a clear bounce from his Republican convention last week. Trump took the lead in four national polls, and the culmination of eight surveys from eight pollsters (YouGov/Economist, CBS News, CNN, Morning Consult, University of Delaware, NBC/Survey Monkey, Raba Research, and Gravis Marketing) conducted between July 18-24 finds the two candidates in a virtual dead heat. The contenders' average advantage, with each individual leading in four studies, gives Ms. Clinton a cumulative margin of well under one percentage point.

Looking at the five polls that used more than 1,000 respondents, Trump would lead by an average of slightly under one point.

Senate

Two new surveys were just released in the critical Senate states of New Hampshire and Nevada.

The Inside Source firm, in conjunction with the New Hampshire Journal, finds Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), after trailing in polls released last week, jumping back to what might be her largest lead of the cycle: 49-41% over Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

In Nevada, Rasmussen Reports finds Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) topping former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 46-37%. Rep. Heck has held a consistent polling lead for the bulk of the open seat campaign. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) is retiring. The Republicans' converting this state is a major part of their national strategy to retain the majority.

Several Senate primaries will be held in August. Voters in Missouri, Washington, Connecticut, Kansas, Wisconsin, Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, and Florida are on the coming schedule.

House

The Georgia run-off election was held this week, and West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, a local dentist, won the Republican secondary election and becomes the prohibitive favorite to take the open seat in November.

Ferguson defeated state Sen. Mike Crane (R), 54-46%.The two were separated by only 93 votes in the May 24th primary, with Crane leading. Six-term Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Grantville) is retiring.

As a result of the Indiana gubernatorial vacancy created with Gov. Mike Pence (R) being selected as Donald Trump's running mate, Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) and Todd Rokita (R-Clermont) withdrew from their congressional races in order to be considered as a successor to Gov. Mike Pence at the gubernatorial level.

Neither House member was successful, so the respective congressional district committees could, and are expected to, reinstate them both as US House nominees. Both Reps. Brooks and Rokita immediately declared for the House once they failed in the Governor's race.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) took to the airwaves to begin advertising in his August 9th primary campaign. Businessman Paul Nehlen (R) is scoring major points against Ryan in his primary challenge, hitting him hard on immigration, trade and jobs. The fact that Speaker Ryan is responding and spending money in what should be an easy nomination contest suggests this will be a closer race than originally expected. Mr. Ryan is still a heavy favorite to win, but it's far less likely that he will rack up a big percentage.

Governor

The 22 members of the Indiana Republican Party's State Committee met earlier in the week and voted to replace Gov. Mike Pence on the November ballot. Under Indiana election law, a person may not enter more than one race, so Pence's presence as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate prohibits him from simultaneously seeking re-election as Governor.

The State Committee, comprised of the state Republican Party officers and the chair and vice chair of all nine congressional district committees selected appointed Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb as their gubernatorial nominee. Holcomb, a former staff aide to Sen. Dan Coats (R), entered the open Senate race in 2015 but fared poorly. When Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann (R) resigned to accept another position, Holcomb asked for consideration as Lt. Governor, and won Gov. Pence's appointment. It is from this base that he will now challenge former state House Speaker John Gregg (D) in the 2016 Governor's race.

A Republican Tarrance poll found Gregg leading Holcomb 42-34% at the beginning of this new race, giving the Democrats a much stronger chance of converting this contest for their party.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
By:

President

The Republican National Convention is dominating the national political news, and Donald Trump successfully overcame his last obstacle on the way to winning the GOP nomination.  The Republican "Never Trump" forces, as promised, attempted to remove the bound-vote requirement for delegates in all states.  By previous Republican National Convention rule, all but seven delegations require their members to vote in proportion to the state Republican vote on the first ballot.  Some states require compliance on the second and third ballots, as well.

The Convention Rules Committee dispensed with the motion on a series of votes, and the Never Trump forces reached just 20% support only one time.  After their defeat before the rules panel, the insurgent delegates attempted to change the rule on the floor of the convention, but were roundly defeated on a voice vote.  This cleared the way for Mr. Trump's formal nomination on Tuesday night.

Hillary Clinton has already launched a major television ad wave, zeroing in on her opponent, Mr. Trump. She has also scheduled her Vice Presidential announcement for Friday.

Senate

The first new Indiana Senate race poll finds former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) jumping out to a big lead over Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington).  Young was a virtual lock to win the seat until former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) withdrew from the statewide contest and yielded to Mr. Bayh under a deal the state Democratic Party leadership cemented.  The new Garin Hart Yang Research poll, a Democratic firm polling on behalf of the party and the fledgling Bayh campaign, finds their man leading Rep. Young by a substantial 54-33% split.  The Democrats taking this seat from the Republican column could well lead to them re-taking the Senate majority.

New polls were released as part of the CBS/YouGov battleground panel back polling.  A panel back survey is one where previous respondents are re-interviewed at a later point in time after answering earlier surveys.  According to the Senate ballot tests in Iowa and Ohio, the results are consistent with other recent polls of these contests.

The Iowa result finds Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) topping former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D), 45-37%.  In Ohio, a small margin comes between Sen. Rob Portman (R) and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D).  Such has been the case for months. The CBS/YouGov results find Portman holding a slight 41-40% edge.

House

The week's major House news is a by-product from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence being selected as Donald Trump's Vice Presidential running mate.  With Pence having to withdraw from the Governor's race on the final day before the ballot became locked under state election law, the Indiana Republican Party's State Committee, a 22-member body with representatives from each congressional district, will choose the new nominee.

Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Clermont; 4th District) and Susan Brooks (R-Carmel; 5th District) withdrew from their respective congressional races to ask the State Committee for consideration as Governor Pence's replacement for the party nomination.  If neither Rokita nor Brooks are chosen, it is likely their respective Republican congressional district committees will reinstate them as the party nominee for the office each currently holds.

Governor

Also filing for the open Indiana gubernatorial nomination is Lt. Governor and former Indiana Republican Party chairman Eric Holcomb, in addition to the aforementioned Reps. Rokita and Brooks.  Though the committee may take as long as 30 days to hold a replacement vote, the state party leadership has already announced that July 26th will be the official day they vote for Governor.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
By:

President

Some of the new post-FBI decision polling is making its way into the public domain, and the data yields predictable results.

Gone are the Hillary Clinton leads of last week that suggested the former Secretary of State was moving into low double-digit leads over Donald Trump.

This week, two national pollsters: Morning Consult, which continually polls the presidential race in a tracking format, and NBC/Survey Monkey that does likewise, released their presidential conclusions.

The Morning Consult data, determined over the July 8-10 period, finds Ms. Clinton's national lead dropping to a single point, 42-41%.  NBC/Survey Monkey, which began the sampling period on July 4th (also ending 7/10), projects the presumptive Democratic candidate's advantage dropping to 47-44%.  Morning Consult interviewed 2,001 people via Internet, while Survey Monkey's online poll tabulated responses from just under 8,000 individuals.

Had Libertarian Gary Johnson been included, the results would likely have been a virtual tie, or shown Mr. Trump forging into a slight lead.  The race tightens in Trump's favor every time Johnson is included.

Two states reported new data.  Harper Polling finds Ms. Clinton up 45-38% in important Colorado, with 14% going to "other" candidates.  New Monmouth University research finds Donald Trump taking the lead in swing Iowa, with a 44-42% margin over Ms. Clinton with Mr. Johnson polling 6%, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein attracting only 1 percent.

Senate

The week's surprise finds former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) returning to the political arena.  Announcing just days before the state's July 15th ballot finalization deadline and 24 hours after former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) withdrew from the statewide contest clearly indicates an orchestrated Democratic Party agreement.  Mr. Hill had won the Democratic primary on May 3rd but was performing poorly on the fundraising and campaign circuits against Republican Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington).

Mr. Bayh possessed over $9 million in his campaign account when he left office in 2010, which can be used in this current race.  The largess will give the former Senator and Governor a financial edge, but he hasn't been on the ballot since 2004 and not participated in a competitive campaign in almost 30 years.  Mr. Bayh was elected Governor in 1988, and re-elected in 1992.  Despite the Indiana Senate seat being open in 1998, Bayh won with little opposition then and was easily re-elected six years later.  He retired in 2010.

The move puts Indiana into a competitive category, instead of being a sure Republican hold.  Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring, thus leaving the seat open.

Two key Senate polls were released early in the week.  JMC Analytics released a survey of Florida voters, and though skewed several points in the Republicans' favor it reports good news for Sen. Marco Rubio (R).  The ballot test finds him leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), 40-33%.  He maintains a similar 41-33% margin if Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) were to become his Democratic challenger.  The Florida primary is August 30th.

In Nevada, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) continues to maintain a small lead over Democratic former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in the battle to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D).  The Monmouth University poll finds Heck leading Masto 42-40%, even when the same data portends a 45-41% Hillary Clinton edge in the presidential contest.

House

Polls were released in two districts where Republican incumbents are highly vulnerable.  Harper Polling finds Nevada freshman Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-NV-4) holding a bare 38-36% edge over state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D).  The 4th District is heavily Democratic and Hardy was an upset winner in 2014.

In the Texas swing district that stretches all the way from San Antonio to El Paso, freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX-23) finds himself trailing former Rep. Pete Gallego (D), according to a new Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll for the latter's campaign.  The internal data gives Gallego a 45-38% advantage.

The New York congressional race that produced a 29-vote spread on Election Night is now officially declared.  Local town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D) actually increased her lead once absentee ballots were recorded, and won a 273-vote victory over businessman Dave Calone.  The new nominee wins the right to challenge freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley/Smithtown) in Long Island's easternmost district.

Governor

A new Oregon iCitizen poll finds interim Gov. Kate Brown (D) holding a smaller-than-expected lead over former Oregon Medical Association president Bud Pierce (R).  The data finds Ms. Brown up 42-35%, suggesting a potentially competitive race.  Ms. Brown, who ascended to the Governorship from the Secretary of State position when incumbent John Kitzhaber (D) resigned under pressure, must run in a special election to serve the balance of the current term.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016
By:

President

In the ten latest national polls conducted from June 21-29, Hillary Clinton posts an average 5.7 point lead over Donald Trump.  Two of the most recent surveys, however, tell wildly different stories.  The new Ipsos/Reuters data gives Clinton a much larger 42-32% lead with 14% in the "neither/other" category.  Conversely, Rasmussen Reports finds Trump forging into a national lead, 43-39% with 12% designated as "other".  At this point in the election cycle the Democratic candidate is invariably ahead, so it is no surprise that Ms. Clinton enjoys a national advantage.  As the campaign matures, the Republican generally closes.

State polling is also being conducted.  Both Public Policy Polling and Evolving Strategies (for the Ballotpedia website) surveyed the key states.  PPP found closer numbers across the board than did ES.  The former finds Trump climbing to within four points of Clinton in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Hampshire; two points in Iowa; and leading by four in Arizona.  The latter gives Clinton substantial margins in the places where both polled, including a whopping 14 point spread in Pennsylvania.  

Polls conducted in the coming days may show movement for Trump in reaction to the FBI recommendation about the Hillary Clinton investigation and the reaction surrounding that decision.

In summary, to reiterate what each candidate must do to win, Clinton needs to only carry 80% of the states President Obama won twice.  She could give up Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and either Iowa or Nevada and still win the national election.  On the other hand, Trump could win with just a three-state switch from the 2012 Obama map: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  

Senate

The Democracy Corps, in conjunction with the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund, contracted Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for a major presidential survey that also touched seven key Senate campaign states.  Stan Greenberg, one of the GQR principals, is also a Democracy Corps founder.  

Using an unusual sampling technique, 2,100 likely general election voters were queried in the seven states with Senate races, divided equally into 300-person segments.  The states are: Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  The equal divisions, therefore, place New Hampshire, a state with just over one million people on an equivalent footing, for example, with Pennsylvania, which has slightly less than 13 million inhabitants.  Therefore, the error factor in the bigger states will be exponentially higher than in those with small populations.

That being said, the GQR data produced some surprising numbers for both parties.  Concerning the tested Senate campaigns, the data seemed consistent with other previous and recent polling in:

Arizona:                 Sen. John McCain (R)               44%

                              Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D)           42%

Nevada:                  Rep. Joe Heck (R)                     46%

                               Catherine Cortez Masto (D)    41%

New Hampshire:     Gov. Maggie Hassan (D)         47%

                               Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R)                 46%

In the remaining four states, GQR appears out of step with their fellow pollsters.  In each case, the produced data finds the ballot test inconsistent with conclusions from other survey research firms that have routinely surveyed these states.  Interestingly, the changing results, or potential skew factors, do not favor one particular political party over the other.     

North Carolina:      Deborah Ross (D)                  38%

                              Sen. Richard Burr (R)             36%

Ohio:                     Ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (D)     43%

                              Sen. Rob Portman (R)            40%

Pennsylvania:        Sen. Pat Toomey (R)              46%

                              Katie McGinty (D)                     38%

Wisconsin:             Ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D)    46%

                              Sen. Ron Johnson (R)            45%

In North Carolina, no other pollster has found former state Rep. Ross holding any sized lead over Sen. Burr.  In comparison, a new Civitas Institute survey (6/23-25; 600 NC registered voters) sees the race heading in a complete opposite direction.  Civitas has Sen. Burr ahead 44-34%.

While former Gov. Strickland has so far performed well against Ohio's Sen. Portman, in the most recent surveys other than this latest GQR entry, Portman has either tied Strickland or forged slightly ahead.

Most polls also find the Pennsylvania Senate race to be very tight.  But, GQR, along with one other poll (Quinnipiac University's June Q-Poll), surprisingly projects Sen. Toomey with a substantial lead.

Finally, in Wisconsin, while virtually all recent polls suggest that ex-Sen. Feingold is beginning to put distance between himself and incumbent Johnson, in some cases even to margins in the double-digit range, the GQR data very surprisingly concludes that this is a one-point race.    

Governor

The aforementioned Civitas Institute data also tested the North Carolina gubernatorial campaign.  Their results suggest that Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has completely rebounded from the Charlotte trans-gender bathroom issue.  The prevailing margin has returned to the spread before the controversy broke, with the late data now finding McCrory back out in front, 43-38% over four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper (D).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016
By:

President

The victory for Brexit forces in the United Kingdom is a boost to Donald Trump's campaign, at least according to the GOP's presumptive nominee.  Mr. Trump's response statement proclaimed that, in November, the American people, too, will have "the chance to re-declare their independence."

Though the media portrays the Trump presidential effort as reeling, the polling numbers aren't detecting the desperate tones emanating from those stories or the trepidations of so many Republican Party leaders.  Despite firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, which may be more related to Trump's poor financial standing (less than $1.3 million on hand) and less to his national position, Donald Trump is still going toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton.  An average of the last ten national polls suggests a Clinton lead of only 6.5 points, historically standard for a Democrat-Republican presidential contest at this point in the election cycle.

Quinnipiac University released their regular Q-Polls in three critical swing states this week.  While Ms. Clinton now claims a 42-36-7% lead over Trump and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, respectively, in all-important Florida, the Republican pulls to within two points in Ohio, and three in Pennsylvania.  Both NBC (with the Wall Street Journal) and CBS released polls showing Ms. Clinton holding only a one-point lead over Trump when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is included.  The Johnson-Weld Libertarian ticket is expected to gain 50-state ballot placement.

A last-ditch move among delegates in an effort to deny Trump the nomination is reportedly gaining steam.  But, such an insurrection would have to convince the convention Rules Committee members to virtually trash the Republican primary voters' choice, along with state laws and planks that bind delegate voting.  If the Rules Committee somehow adopted such a change, then the entire convention would have to approve the radical juxtaposition.  These are two major hills to climb, and the chances of the Never Trump movement actually succeeding are minimal.

In the meantime, Sen. Bernie Sanders is finally signaling concession to Hillary Clinton.  While he may use the national convention to secure issue concessions, he will not be any further impediment to her being officially nominated.

Senate

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he will reverse course and seek re-election.  New polling gives Rubio a strong look in the Republican primary, particularly with the principle contenders dropping out to make way for him, but the general election promises to be a hard fought.  The new Quinnipiac data, however, posts him to his strongest lead, 47-40%, over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter).

New polling, also from Quinnipiac University, gives Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) a 49-40% advantage over Democrat Katie McGinty.  They see Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) tied at 42%, while Public Policy Polling finds Tar Heel State Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) still clinging to a small three-point edge (40-37%) over former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D).

House

Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah chose congressional nominees on Tuesday, and all incumbents facing challenges successfully won re-nomination.  

Some of the more interesting general election pairings will feature Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) defending his lean Democratic district against state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll (D), and the New York open 3rd District now between state Sen. Jack Martins (R) and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D), along with Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R) opposing Broome County legislator Kim Myers (D) in the central part of the state.  In Utah, a competitive re-match campaign is now officially underway between freshman Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) and attorney Doug Owens (D), son of the late former US Rep. Wayne Owens (D-Salt Lake City).  The 2014 campaign ended in a 51-46% Love win.

Back in New York, three-time congressional candidate Adriano Espaillat, a NY state Senator, will now succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem).  Espaillat won a crowded Democratic primary and now will become the first non-African American to hold this district since the end of World War II.  The Bronx-anchored 13th District is one of the safest Democratic seats in the nation.

Two moderately competitive Oklahoma Republican primary challenges unsurprisingly went the incumbents' way.  Despite spending more than $700,000 on his campaign to upset Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa), oil executive Tom Atkinson (R) only secured 16% of the vote.  In a tighter race, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/ Muskogee) claimed a 63-37% victory over former Army Ranger Jarrin Jackson (R).  All five Oklahoma congressional incumbents will easily claim another term in November.

Governor

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert won an easy 72-28% Republican primary victory over Overstock, Inc. CEO Jonathan Johnson.  The Governor is now a sure bet to win a second full term in November.  

Though four states held primaries early this week, only Utah had a Governor's race on the ballot.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
By:

President

The media portrays the Donald Trump presidential campaign as reeling, but the polling numbers aren't detecting the desperate tones emanating from those stories or the trepidations of so many Republican Party leaders.  Despite firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, which may be more related to Trump's poor financial standing (less than $1.3 million on hand) and less to his national position, Donald Trump is still going toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton.

Quinnipiac University released their regular Q-Polls in three critical swing states this week.  While Ms. Clinton now claims a 42-36-7% lead over Trump and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, respectively, in all-important Florida, the Republican pulls to within two points in Ohio, and three in Pennsylvania.  Earlier in June, Public Policy Polling, in a poll that skews four points Democratic, actually found Trump leading in the Sunshine State by a slight 42-41% margin.  Therefore, the Republican's ability to soon return to even footing in Florida appears good.

A move among delegates to attempt a last ditch effort to deny Trump the nomination is reportedly gaining steam.  But, such an insurrection would have to convince the convention rules committee members to open the convention, and thus virtually trash the Republican primary voters' support expressions, and state laws and planks that bind delegate voting.  If the Rules Committee somehow adopted such a change, then the entire convention would have to vote to approve.  These are two very high hills to climb, and the chances of this actually occurring are very minimal.

Senate

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) continues to send signals that he is reversing his decision not to seek re-election.  He will have to decide for sure by the end of this week because Florida candidate filing closes Friday afternoon, June 24th.  Rubio's polling looks strong in the Republican primary, particularly with the principle contenders dropping out to make way for him, but the general election promises to be a hard fought, toss-up campaign most likely against Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter).

A new Louisiana Senate poll was released this week, conducted for Democratic candidate Caroline Fayard, a former White House aide.  The data (GBA Strategies; released 6/15; 500 LA registered voters), like all previous polls have found, see state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) leading the pack with 30% of the vote for the jungle primary that will be conducted concurrently with the November general election.  If no one receives an absolute majority, then a December run-off between the top two finishers will occur on the 10th of that month.  For an open statewide race that has so far drawn 14 candidates, a post-election run-off appears inevitable.  

In second place was Democratic Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell (D) with 15%, followed closely by Fayard's 14 percent.  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) attracts 11% while fellow GOP Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden/Shreveport) commands 9 percent.  The surprising support number is Fayard's, the poll sponsor.  No other survey has projected her in that strong of a position.

House

In an unsurprising court verdict, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia) was convicted on all 29 federal corruption charges on Tuesday, meaning he will soon depart Congress.  Fattah will be sentenced at another time in the future, but irrespective of when he decides, or is forced, to resign he will be unable to vote.  House rules prohibit members convicted of crimes to vote on legislation should they remain in office.

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) defeated Fattah in the April Democratic primary, so the Congressman's 22-year federal political career will end at the beginning of next year no matter what is decided for the remainder of 2016.  

The Rubio reversal will affect at least two House seats.  Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County), in anticipation of the Senator seeking re-election, has already dropped his own Senatorial bid and will file for re-election to his re-drawn House seat.  There, he will face party switching former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in the general election.  Early polling suggests a toss-up campaign even though the new 13th has been drawn to elect a Democrat.

On the northern Atlantic coast of Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona) will have to quickly decide whether or not to continue his Senate campaign, attempt to go back to the House, or do nothing in 2016.  With six Republicans already running for the open 6th District seat, it may be difficult for DeSantis to return right as filing closes.  Rumors suggest he may sit out this election and then declare for what will be an open Florida Attorney General's contest in 2018.

The 9th District recount in the close contest between North Carolina Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) and pastor Mark Harris has ended.  Pittenger went into the run-off with a 135 vote lead.  Harris was only able to make up two votes, hence he ended the process and Mr. Pittenger finally becomes the official nominee.  He now faces businessman Christian Cano (D), but even in a politically weakened state Pittenger will easily have the wherewithal to defeat Cano.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
By:

President

The presidential political primary season ended with the District of Columbia Democratic primary where presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton captured 79% of the vote and has, for all intents and purposes, finally ended Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) campaign hopes.  She now has enough in the way of pledged votes and Super Delegates to unquestionably exceed the 2,383 votes necessary to win the presidential nomination.

Three new general election polls were just released from Morning Consult, NBC/Survey Monkey, and Bloomberg Politics.  All show Ms. Clinton building a substantial lead, mostly detecting fallout over Donald Trump's disparaging comments about the judge hearing his Trump University lawsuit.  The three polls project Clinton to national leads of five, seven, and twelve points, respectively.  The final poll in the series, from Bloomberg, may be an anomaly because no other publicly released data find such a large spread between the two candidates.

Now both candidates prepare for their respective political conventions and becoming the official party nominee.  Republicans begin the convention process in Cleveland over the July 18-21 period with Democrats following from Philadelphia in the succeeding week.

Senate

The Nevada primary produced two official US Senate nominees, and the result is no surprise.  Democrats nominated former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto who captured 81% against four minor Democratic candidates.  Republican Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) easily captured his party's nomination with 65% against former Senate nominee Sharron Angle and eight more GOP candidates.  We can expect a hard fought general election campaign to emerge here, in a state that may well determine which party will control the Senate in the next Congress.  Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is retiring.

A new early June Public Policy Polling survey finds Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) holding a small 41-38% lead over Democratic nominee Katie McGinty.  This race expects to be close all the way to Election Day and will become one of the focal points of both the Democrats and Republicans driving for capture the Senate majority.  The same poll also finds Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump virtually tied at 44%, giving further credence to the closeness of the Senate race.

House

A major upset occurred in the Virginia House primaries.  Eight-term Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake) lost his bid for re-nomination in the 2nd District after the mid-decade court-ordered redistricting procedure turned his 4th District into a decidedly Democratic district.  Trying to extend his congressional career, Forbes hopped into the adjacent open Virginia Beach anchored 2nd District but could not overcome local Delegate Scott Taylor (R) who posted a 53-41% victory in a domain where the veteran Congressman had not previously represented anyone.  

Mr. Forbes becomes the second incumbent to lose in the special redistricting states, after courts demanded new congressional boundaries be constructed in parts of Virginia and North Carolina.  Last week, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) lost her primary battle to fellow Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) in the latter state.

In Nevada, open 3rd District voters gave former congressional and statewide nominee Danny Tarkanian an eight point win over party establishment favorite Michael Roberson, the state Senate Majority Leader.  Democrats turned to their recruited candidate, software developer Jacky Rosen who recorded a landslide 61% victory over five Democratic candidates.  The field included attorney Jesse Sbaih, who doubled Rosen's campaign expenditures.  The 3rd District is the marginal seat Rep. Joe Heck is vacating to run statewide.  The general election will be rated as a toss-up, though Tarkanian's poor past general election performances may give Rosen and the Democrats the inside track to victory.

In the 4th District, establishment-backed state Senator Ruben Kihuen won the Democratic nomination over seven other candidates, one of which, former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, he trailed substantially in polling.  Kihuen will now face freshman Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) in a district that will be prone to vote Democratic in a presidential election year.  This is a strong Democratic conversion opportunity.

In South Carolina, Representative and former Governor Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) won his re-nomination race but scored only a 56-44% victory over state Rep. Jenny Horne.  The Congressman will have little trouble winning another term in the safe Republican House seat, however.   

Governor

The second major June 14th primary upset came in the North Dakota Governor's race.  There, businessman Doug Burgum easily overcame the official Republican-endorsed candidate, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.  Normally, North Dakota candidates do not force a primary after losing the state convention, but Burgum pursued a statewide vote and reaped the benefits.  Mr. Burgum now becomes a heavy general election favorite against state Rep. Marvin Nelson (D).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016
By:

President

Now that the primary process is complete, we can officially declare Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the respective Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

The battle wrapped up in six states, with Trump scoring an average of 74% of the vote in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.  Ms. Clinton lost the North Dakota Caucus to Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with the state of Montana.  Despite big wins in New Jersey, and an unexpected one in California, Ms. Clinton only averaged 55% of the vote, almost 20 points worse than Trump simultaneously scored among Republicans.

We now begin the pre-convention period, and it is here where we could possibly see further action from Sen. Sanders.  It is likely now, however, that he will end the campaign and come together with Ms. Clinton.  Her strong California performance shattered what one of his key arguments would have been for continuing: that she couldn't even win decisively in the bedrock Democratic states.

Senate

A surprise candidate entered the Alaska Republican primary.  Former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan will now challenge Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the August 16th Republican primary.  Six years ago, Murkowski was denied re-nomination and forced to win re-election as a write-in Independent candidate.  The ex-Mayor is a more substantial opponent than local judge Joe Miller (R), who defeated her in 2010, so this could become a real race.  A wild card factor presents itself because Mr. Sullivan has the same name as the state's freshman US Senator...Dan Sullivan (R), which will create obvious voter confusion.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) will advance to the general election on June 7th, thus shutting out Republicans from further competition.  Ms. Harris' 40% projected finish was better than expected.  Rep. Sanchez placed second from the field of 34 candidates, but with only 16% of the vote.

Another round of polling indicates the North Carolina race is again going to be close in November.  Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling surveys their home state every month and now finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) again holding a tepid 39-36% edge over former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D).  Democrats were originally not happy with their candidate recruitment performance here, but Ms. Ross appears to be a formidable contender.  The Libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh, receives eight percent in the latest PPP study.

House

Congressional primary elections were held in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Dakota.  The most interesting race proved to be the Republican incumbent pairing between North Carolina Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) and George Holding (R-Raleigh).  Both were cast into the same district as a by-product of the court-ordered redistricting procedure.

The result proved a landslide for Rep. Holding, as he captured 53% of the vote as compared to Rep. Ellmers' 24%.  In fact, Ellmers barely edged Tea Party activist and former US Senate candidate Greg Brannon who registered 23% support.  Rep. Holding now becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who had a close call in the 2014 Republican primary, crushed his two opponents on June 7th, including George W. Bush Administration official Taylor Griffin who returned for a re-match.  Mr. Jones registered 65% of the vote this week.  Griffin actually finished in third place.  Rep. Jones should be unimpeded in November for a twelfth term in office.

Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), who had her Greensboro political base removed from the district in the court-ordered re-draw, still won a big victory in the new Charlotte-based district.  She scored 42% of the vote against a former state Senator, two sitting state Representatives, and three others.  The Congresswoman will head to an easy November victory.

In North Carolina's new open 13th District, agriculture businessman and gun range owner Ted Budd won the Republican nomination against 16 opponents.  He will face former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis (D) in the general election.  The seat trends Republican.

All of the California incumbents seeking re-election advanced to the general election.  Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) will again face fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama Administration official, in the general election.  The two fought to a 52-48% Honda victory in 2014, in what proved to be a highly expensive race.

Jimmy Panetta (D-Monterey), son of former US Defense Secretary, CIA Director, and local Congressman Leon Panetta (D), easily placed first in the primary qualifying election.  He will claim the open coastal district in November.

Turning to Iowa, Rep. Steve King (R) easily defeated state Senate Assistant Majority Leader Rick Bertrand (65-35%).  King's former opponent, Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer (D), has switched venues and won the 3rd District nomination.  He will now face freshman Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter/Des Moines) in the general election.

The OH-8 special election, to fill the nation's lone open congressional district, was also filled Tuesday.  Businessman Warren Davidson (R) captured 77% of the vote and will immediately replace resigned House Speaker John Boehner (R).  Davidson will serve the balance of the current term and has already won the regular election nomination.  The House now returns to the 247R-188D partisan division that began the 114th Congress.

Governor

In the only gubernatorial action from the June 7th primary, Republican businessman Greg Gianforte, as expected, easily won the Montana GOP primary with 76% of the vote.  He will now face Gov. Steve Bullock (D), as the latter campaigns for a second term.  The Governor begins the general election cycle as a decided favorite.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
By:

President

The Libertarian Party held its nominating convention over the Memorial Day weekend and, for the second time, chose former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as their presidential nominee.  Mr. Johnson pulled 1% of the national vote in 2012.  He won the nomination on the second ballot, after failing to garner an absolute majority by just five delegate votes.  

Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, Mr. Johnson's choice for his running mate, was nominated as the Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate but with only 50.3% on the second ballot.  Having two former Governors lead the Libertarians gives the party its most accomplished ticket.  The organization has nominated a presidential candidate in every election since 1972, inclusive.  

New presidential polls were released during the week.  Only two were national in scope: NBC/Survey Monkey (5/23-29; 12,969 national respondents) finds Hillary Clinton holding a scant 47-45% lead over Donald Trump.  Rasmussen Reports (5/23-24; 1,000 national registered voters) projects an even closer race, 40-39%, in favor of the former Secretary of State and First Lady.

The individual state polling is more interesting.  In critical New Hampshire, the Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University survey finds the two candidates tied at 44% apiece.  

Two surprising polls, from Monmouth University (NJ) and Clout Research (OR), find Donald Trump doing much better than an average Republican candidate.  In New Jersey, Monmouth finds Ms. Clinton's lead to only be 38-34%.  Clout sees Trump actually leading in Oregon, 44-42%.  On the other hand, Public Opinion Strategies finds Ms. Clinton performing better than expected in Wisconsin.  She leads Mr. Trump 43-31% in their latest poll released May 27th.

Senate

Speculation is rising that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will reverse course and declare for re-election.  For his part, the Senator still says such a move would be "unlikely".  He is receiving intense pressure to run from the party leadership inside the Senate, specifically Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX).  The two, and many other national and state Republican Party leaders, are concerned with the FL GOP candidate development and fear a general election loss to Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter).  The Florida candidate filing deadline is June 24th.

Two new California Senate polls were released.  Survey USA, polling for KABC-TV in Los Angeles, and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) confirmed what all previous polls project: that Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) will advance to the general election on June 7th, thus shutting out Republicans from further competition.  

No GOP candidate breaks double-digits in either poll.  Ms. Harris appears set to clinch the first general election position with 31% according to S-USA and 27% from PPIC, while Rep. Sanchez scores 22% and 19% preference, respectively.

Another round of polling indicates the North Carolina race is again going to be close in November.  Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling surveys their home state every month and now finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) again holding a tepid 39-36% edge over former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D).  Democrats were originally not happy with their candidate recruitment performance here, but Ms. Ross appears to be a formidable contender.  The Libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh, receives eight percent in the latest PPP study.

House

In Hawaii, former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is sending signals that she is interested in seeking her old job.  Ms. Hanabusa left the House after two terms to unsuccessfully run for Senate.  Freshman Rep. Mark Takai's (D-Aiea) announcement last week that he can no longer seek re-election because his pancreatic cancer disease is spreading led to speculation that a long list of Democrats would compete for the seat.  Should Ms. Hanabusa enter, most, if not all of the others, say they will back away.  Republican former Rep. Charles Djou has not ruled out a fourth run for the seat.

Elsewhere, former Florida congressional candidate and current Sanibel Island City Councilman Chauncey Goss previously announced that he will run for the newly open Ft. Myers/Cape Coral seat.  Mr. Goss is the son of former US Representative and CIA Director J. Porter Goss (R).  During the past week, former Vatican City Ambassador Patrick Rooney (R) also said he will enter the race.  Ex-state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who was a candidate in the 2014 special congressional election that elected Clawson, said he will "probably run" now that the seat has again come open.

Governor

The Civitas Institute released a new poll on the North Carolina Governor's race and finds a rebound from incumbent Pat McCrory (R).  The latest figures give McCrory a 48-41% lead, a considerable improvement from a set of previous polls that recently found Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) earning a low single-digit edge.

Though this will be a 2018 campaign, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R), who served two terms as a US Senator before being defeated in 2006, says he will be a candidate in the state's next gubernatorial election.  Incumbent John Kasich (R) will be ineligible to seek a third term.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
By:

President

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won their respective Washington State primaries, though the Democratic contest did not determine delegate apportionment.

Trump carried the Washington primary with 76% of the vote, and captured 38 of the state's 44 delegates according to the apportionment formula.  The result means he will officially clinch the nomination once the first of the June 7 state electorates, New Jersey with its 51 winner-take-all delegates, casts their ballots.

Ms. Clinton recorded a 54% victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), but the Evergreen State delegates were previously apportioned based upon the March 26th caucus vote.  Ms. Clinton will also clinch her nomination on June 7th, when five states, including California, vote.

Four new national polls from ABC/Washington Post, NBC/Survey Monkey, American Research Group, and Morning Consult reveal that Trump has already overcome Clinton's previous national lead.  The four polls range from Clinton now leading by four and three points, to a tie, to a two-point Trump advantage.

Senate

In Georgia, Sen. Johnny Isakson won a 77% Republican primary victory.  He will now face investment counselor Jim Barksdale (D) in what should be an easy general election contest for the two-term Senator and former House member.

New data was released in three states during the past week.  In Arizona, another survey, this one from Public Policy Polling, finds further weakness in Sen. John McCain's (R) re-election bid.  The ballot test projects him to only a 42-36% lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff).  The results also reveal Republican primary problems, as the Senator leads former state Sen. Kelli Ward, 39-26%, with two others accounting for the remaining preference vote.  If McCain and Ward were isolated, both score 41% support.  This race will likely become a top tier challenge campaign.

Indiana Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) maintains a 36-22% advantage over former Rep. Baron Hill (D) in local Bellwether Research's first general election poll since the early May Hoosier State primary.

Boston's WBUR public radio personnel conducted a New Hampshire Senate poll and, for the first time in months, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan tops Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).  According to the MassInc data, Hassan maintains only a 46-45% margin.  This confirms all other data that projects a toss-up race.

House

Incumbents scorched the Georgia primary.  The votes yielded several members already winning re-election since they have no further political opposition.  Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah), Jody Hice (R-Monroe), and David Scott (D-Atlanta) are unopposed or face no major party opponent in November and are effectively re-elected.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) defeated former Congressman Paul Broun (R) and three others, capturing 61% of the vote to claim the GOP nomination outright.  He has no November opponent, and has, therefore, been re-elected to a third term.

Similarly, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville/Marietta) also outdistanced four Republican opponents and garnered 60% of the vote.  The Congressman has only a minor Democratic challenger to overcome in his bid for a second term.

Reps. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) and Rick Allen (R-Augusta) easily won their primaries, both capturing close to 80% of the vote.  They have only minor Democratic opponents for the fall.

A run-off will occur in Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's (R-Grantville) open 3rd District.  State Sen. Mike Crane and West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson will meet in a July 26th run-off to determine who succeeds the retiring Congressman.

In Texas, two candidates won run-off elections that assure them a seat in the new Congress.  Former Texas Tech Chancellor Jodey Arrington overcame Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson to win the Republican run-off.  Since Democrats did not file a candidate, Mr. Arrington will replace retiring Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) next year.  

Moving to the Texas-Mexico border, attorney Vincente Gonzalez easily claimed the Democratic run-off and will come to Washington next year succeeding retiring ten-term Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D-McAllen), who is retiring.  

Additionally, two new retirements were announced during the week, both for unfortunate health reasons.

Hawaii freshman Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea/Honolulu) informed the public that his pancreatic cancer has spread and he no longer can seek re-election.  The disease was diagnosed last year, and he had surgery in November.  Doctors cleared the Congressman fit to run again, but now his health has deteriorated to the point that he can no longer continue.  Democrats will likely retain the open seat, particularly with a presidential election year turnout model, but the district can be competitive.

In southwest Florida, two-term Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Bonita Springs/Ft. Myers) is also stepping down from his safe Republican seat in order to care for his ailing father.  This will ignite a crowded Republican August 30th primary.  

Former congressional candidate and current Sanibel Island City Councilman Chauncey Goss already announced that he will run for the seat.  Mr. Goss is the son of former U.S. Representative and CIA Director J. Porter Goss (R).  Former Vatican City Ambassador Patrick Rooney (R) also entered this race.  Ex-state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who was a candidate in the 2014 special election that elected Clawson, said he will "probably run" now that the seat has again come open.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
By:

President

Oregon and Kentucky held their party primaries and once again we see a familiar pattern occurring.  Just when Hillary Clinton should be cementing her position as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, remembering she needs to commit only 15.3% of the outstanding delegates to reach the required number of 2,383 convention votes, she again falls to Sen. Bernie Sanders in an election.

In Oregon, Sanders scored a projected 54-46% outright victory (though in the state's all-mail voting system over a quarter of the votes still remain to be counted).  The only late pre-election Oregon poll, from Fox News, forecasted a 15-point Clinton victory.

The former Secretary of State barely placed first in the Blue Grass State, ahead just 1,923 votes of almost 455,000 cast.  With 95% of the precinct reporting, Sen. Sanders pulled into the lead but with four outstanding precincts and other absentee votes still remaining to be counted, Ms. Clinton holds only her tepid lead.  The fact that no winner projection is issued tells us that there are enough outstanding votes, and in places where it is conceivable the outcome could turn, to believe that the final result remains inconclusive.

Contrast this performance with that of Donald Trump on the Republican side.  The two are in similar positions within their presidential nomination structure.  Both are presumptive nominees, but neither has officially clinched the requisite number of delegate votes for a first ballot victory.  Since Republicans did not vote for President in Kentucky - they apportioned delegates in a March 5th caucus - Trump racked up a 67% win in Oregon against his moribund political opponents.  These are the type of numbers Ms. Clinton should be posting, too.

Senate

Quinnipiac University fielded simultaneous polls in the most critical swing states.  Their Florida results yielded single-digit margins in every combination they surveyed for the many Sunshine State Senate candidates.  The most indicative result found Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) ahead of Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona) by just 36-35%.  These two appear to be the strongest candidates for both parties, but neither is close to securing their respective nominations.  The Florida primary is not until August 30th.

Their Pennsylvania poll also found a one-point, 45-44% spread between Sen. Pat Toomey (R) and new Democratic nominee Katie McGinty.  The presidential campaign will play a significant role in determining the final outcome of this tough campaign.

A similar result was found in the Ohio Q-Poll.  There, former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) held a 43-42% edge over Sen. Rob Portman (R).  The latter is taking no chances with his campaign.  He's already booked an unprecedented $14 million ad buy for the closing week of the campaign.  The Senator enjoys a 4:1 advantage in campaign cash-on-hand, and that pattern will likely continue.  Sen. Portman is one of the most prolific fundraisers in national politics, and Strickland has so far under-performed in this part of the campaign.

House

In the Omaha district congressional primary, freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D) now has an official general election opponent.  Apparently, however, it is not the one he wanted.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran $400,000 worth of media ads, in virtually unprecedented fashion, trying to prop up former state Senator and ex-Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell.  According to the DCCC ads, Maxwell was more conservative than retired Air Force General Don Bacon, thinking that line would appeal to the base Nebraska GOP voter.  The ploy didn't work.  Gen. Bacon was an easy 66-34% victor.

In Kentucky, former state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (R), who experienced a gut-wrenching loss in the 2015 gubernatorial Republican primary - losing by just 83 votes statewide - rebounded to capture the 1st Congressional District nomination with a landslide victory.  Since the western Kentucky seat is safely Republican, his primary victory virtually assures that he will replace retiring 11-term Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Hopkinsville) this November.

Governor

Jim Justice (D), West Virginia's billionaire businessman who says he's proficient at three things: shooting a shotgun, making deals, and coaching basketball, won the open Democratic gubernatorial primary over former US Attorney Booth Goodwin, and state Senate Minority Leader and ex-gubernatorial candidate Jeff Kessler.  Mr. Justice's margin was a substantial 50-26-24%.  

He now faces current state Senate President Bill Cole (R) in what should be a close and colorful November race.  West Virginia's current Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin (D), is ineligible to run for a third term.

In Oregon, interim Gov. Kate Brown (D) easily won her special election primary.  She will now face the former president of the Oregon Medical Association, Dr. Bud Pierce, in the general election.  Because Ms. Brown ascended to the Governor's position when incumbent John Kitzhaber (D) resigned in order to avoid publicizing a scandal, Ms. Brown, then Secretary of State, became Governor.  The state has no office of Lt. Governor.  She now must run to serve the final two years of the current term, and then would be eligible to run for a full four-year term in 2018.  She is a heavy favorite to win this year's special general election.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
By:

President

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump cemented his new status with big primary wins in West Virginia and Nebraska on Tuesday night.  These victories proved important in helping to determine whether highly publicized anti-Trump moves from several establishment Republican figures were having any effect.  The answer is apparently not, as the unofficial GOP nominee recorded 70 and 60% voter preference levels in West Virginia and Nebraska, respectively.

For the Democrats, though former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to chip away at the number of committed delegates she needs to clinch the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) defeated her yet again in another electoral event.  His 51-36% triumph in West Virginia was expected, however, considering Clinton's previous negative comments about the coal industry, a sentiment not welcome in the heart of devastated coal country.

Ms. Clinton did rebound with a victory in the Nebraska Democratic beauty contest, but the delegates there were apportioned to the candidates according to a separate pro-Sanders caucus event weeks ago.

New presidential polling was released in the early part of the week.  The first study came from the Miami Herald newspaper and claimed that Ms. Clinton was leading Mr. Trump 52-25% in the Sunshine State.  It later came out that the survey was only of Miami area voters, and not the entire state.

Quinnipiac University then released three polls of crucial swing states.  According to their data, the impending race between the two unofficial nominees is a dead heat in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  Ms. Clinton has one point leads in Florida and Pennsylvania, while Mr. Trump is up four percentage points in Ohio.  Obviously, these results point to toss-up races in these three potentially determinative states.

Senate

A new California Survey USA poll again suggests that two Democrats could advance to the general election from the June 7th jungle primary.  According to S-USA, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) scores 28% preference followed by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) at 18%.  The closest Republican is former state Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro, but he has only 10%.

The new Public Policy Polling survey from the period of April 27-28th again shows a tight Ohio contest between incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D).  This time the two tie at 38%.

Despite the Secretary of State disqualifying several Republican contenders for US Senate, a state judge reinstated two of them.  Former state Rep. Jon Keyser and businessman Robert Blaha will appear on the June 28th Republican primary ballot.  They join El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Commissioner Darryl Glenn, the only person to receive the official Republican state convention endorsement, and former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham.  The eventual Republican nominee will then begin an uphill battle against two-term Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

House

In the Omaha district congressional primary, freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D) now has an official general election opponent.  Apparently, however, it is not the one he wanted.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran $400,000 worth of media ads, in virtually unprecedented fashion, trying to prop up former state Senator and ex-Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell.  According to the DCCC ads, Maxwell was more conservative than retired Air Force General Don Bacon, thinking that line would appeal to the base Nebraska GOP voter.  The ploy didn't work.  Gen. Bacon was an easy 67-33% victor.

Nebraska's 2nd District was one of only two in the country during 2014 to see an incumbent Republican lose his seat.  Now, last election's winner, Mr. Ashford, must defend his normally Republican-leaning seat against someone he and his party leadership view as the tougher opponent.  The primary result here places this eastern Nebraska district at the top of the Republican challenger list.

Governor

Jim Justice (D), West Virginia's billionaire businessman who says he's proficient at three things: shooting a shotgun, making deals, and coaching basketball, won the open Democratic gubernatorial primary over former US Attorney Booth Goodwin, and state Senate Minority Leader and ex-gubernatorial candidate Jeff Kessler.  Mr. Justice's margin was a substantial 50-26-24%.

He now faces current state Senate President Bill Cole (R) in what should be a close and colorful November race.  West Virginia's current Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin (D), is ineligible to run for a third term.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
By:

President

The Republican presidential nomination race is now over as Donald Trump overwhelmed his opponents in Indiana to claim what appears to be a backdoor winner-take-all bonanza of delegates.  The prodigious result forced Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to the political sidelines, meaning Mr. Trump will now become the nominee with a first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention in July.

More will become clear as we move forward in the coming days, but Trump has an immediate opportunity window to score points against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Losing the Indiana primary to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), Ms. Clinton continues to be bogged down in the Democratic nomination fight.  Mr. Trump has a key period of a month or so to capture the center by exerting pressure from the political right as Sanders is tugging her left.  How he uses this advantage may determine the final outcome.

Senate

Indiana Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) easily won the open Hoosier State Senate primary with a 67-33% trouncing of fellow Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Howe/Ft. Wayne).  Mr. Young now faces former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) in a race that strongly favors the new Republican nominee.

House

Indiana produced new open seat contenders in the two districts where incumbents ran for the Senate.  State Sen. Jim Banks won a close victory to secure the GOP nod in the Republican Ft. Wayne anchored district, and he becomes the prohibitive general election favorite.

In the state's southeast sector, businessman Trey Hollingsworth (R), who recently moved to the region from Tennessee, spent well over $1 million of his own money to win the GOP nomination against a local state Senator and the Indiana Attorney General.  Though the seat is reliably Republican, expect Democrats to target this district.  Their candidate, Monroe County Commissioner Shelli Yoder, has strong local credentials.  Considering Hollingsworth received only 1/3 of the GOP vote, and earns the "carpetbagger" label, the 9th District contest could become a Democratic sleeper race.

In Pennsylvania, we saw the first incumbent US House member of the 2016 election cycle suffer a re-nomination defeat.  Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia), facing a multi-charge federal indictment, fell to state Representative Dwight Evans (D), a former gubernatorial and Philadelphia Mayor candidate.  Mr. Evans will be easily elected in the general election and will keep the 2nd District seat in the Democratic column.

Moving to Bucks County, the brother of retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R), former FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick, easily won the Republican nomination to replace his brother.  He will face state Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D) in what will likely be a competitive November campaign.

House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Bill Shuster (R) won a tight 51-49% re-nomination battle despite outspending his opponent, retired Coast Guard officer Art Halvorson (R), by a 10:1 margin.  Shuster will coast in the general election, however.  He has no further opponent.

In the open Lancaster seat, retiring ten-term Rep. Joe Pitts (R) will yield to state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R), as expected, though businessman Chet Beiler (R) outspent him in the primary election campaign.  Mr. Smucker is the odds-on favorite for victory in November.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
By:

President

The east again came through for Donald Trump as the real estate mogul won all five states in the April 26th primary, and looks to have gained 110 of the available 118 available delegates.  He needed to commit at least 103 delegates to remain on course for a first ballot victory, something that now looks to be within his grasp.

Clearly, the eastern regional primary was Trump’s best overall performance to date.  He won all five states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, scoring a majority vote in each place.  He converted Connecticut and Maryland into backdoor winner-take-all states by winning each of their congressional districts.  Mr. Trump won every county in the pair of states and Delaware.  

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had another poor night on the east coast, placing third in most of the states.  The pressure reverts to him as the candidates proceed to Indiana on May 3rd, another winner-take-all by congressional district state.  The Hoosier State is becoming a must win for the Texas Senator.  The latest three polls all suggest that Mr. Trump is leading in Indiana, but Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) agreeing to allow Cruz to have a free shot at Trump in the Hoosier State may be enough to put the Texan over the top.

For the Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further cemented her lock on the party nomination by adding approximately 250 delegates to her national total by winning four of the five eastern regional primary states.  She now is less than 250 delegates away from clinching the nomination, and will become the official nominee early on June 7th.

Senate

Late Democratic primary polling correctly forecasted a Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) victory in the Maryland Democratic Senate nomination battle.  He defeated Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County), 53-39%.  Mr. Van Hollen will succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) with what should be an easy general election victory over state House Minority Leader Kathy Szeliga (R).

In Pennsylvania, the one Harper Polling survey that predicted former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty pulling away from former Representative and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Sestak (D-Delaware County) proved correct.  All other closing surveys were still projecting Sestak with a small lead or the two tied.  The Democratic establishment, including no less than President Obama and Vice President Biden, lined up solidly behind McGinty, which accounts for her late momentum.  She will now face first-term Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in November in what will likely be a close race.

House

The Maryland primary also produced two new eventual Congressmen.  In the open 4th District, former Lt. Governor and defeated gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown (D) scored a 42-34-19% win over ex-Prince Georges States Attorney Glenn Ivey and state Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk.  Mr. Brown will go on to win an easy general election victory.  He will return to public office after his disastrous gubernatorial run that led to Republican Larry Hogan easily winning the Governor’s race in one of the strongest Democratic states.

The 8th District Democratic primary will likely prove to be the most costly nomination contest in the country.  The top three candidates combined to spend more than $15 million on the primary, with state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) scoring a 34-27-24% victory over Total Wine chain store owner David Trone, and former news anchor and national hotel executive Kathleen Matthews.  Raskin will claim the seat in the fall.  Mr. Trone, who had not previously run for political office, was the spending driver, dropping more than $10 million on the race, the vast majority from his own personal wealth.  

Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) finally announced her 2016 political plans, and her declaration came as no surprise.  With the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting casting her into a solidly Republican new 2nd District so that a majority minority seat could be created solely in northern Florida, it became evident that the freshman Representative who was one of just two Democrats nationwide to unseat a Republican incumbent in 2014 would not return to the House.  

Late this week, Ms. Graham announced that she will not seek re-election, but hinted broadly about a run for the state’s open gubernatorial seat in 2018.  Ms. Graham retiring means that 45 House seats will be open in the 2016 election cycle, eight alone in Florida.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
By:

President

Donald Trump did what was necessary on April 19th in New York, rebounding strongly from the doldrums of his past couple of weeks.  Looking to secure 80 of the Empire State's 95 total delegates, projections suggest that Mr. Trump might obtain as high as 87 bound delegates, which would put him back on a potential path to claim a first ballot victory.  He will also likely get the three unbound Republican National Committee delegates bringing his total to 90.
 
Adding 90 to his pledged delegate total, the Republican front-runner reached an unofficial 847 of the 1,237 delegates required for a first ballot victory.  

The numbers are still difficult for Trump, however.  Even counting his strong home state performance, the real estate mogul will require 57.5% of the available delegates to reach the majority mark to claim the nomination.  Going into New York he needed more than 62% of the outstanding votes.

Trump scored 60.5% of the New York statewide vote, allowing him to capture the eleven at-large delegates awarded to a candidate attracting majority support.  Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who had a presence in New York, added five delegates to his nationwide total and registered 25% of the popular vote.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who insulted the state's electorate in early debates by linking Trump to "New York values", which he meant in a pejorative way, helped result in the Texas Senator scoring only 14.5% and gaining no delegates.

As expected, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary, easily defeating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) in the state she once represented in the Senate.  Ms. Clinton garnered 58% of the vote and slightly exceeded her projected goal of 170 delegates.  This means she will only need 28% of remaining delegates to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

Next Tuesday, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island voters will go to the polls in another critical primary day as the campaign winds down.

Senate

Another new poll finds the North Carolina outlook getting tighter.  Elon University released their April survey finding that Sen. Richard Burr's (R) advantage over former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) dwindled to just four points, 37-33%, with a very large undecided factor.  Though Democrats originally viewed Ms. Ross as a second tier candidate, her challenge effort is beginning to formulate.  Though Sen. Burr must be rated as the favorite to win in November, this contest has development potential.

House

The week's major House news yielded Florida Rep. Ander Crenshaw's (R-Jacksonville) retirement announcement.  Mr. Crenshaw publicly declared that he will not seek a ninth term in office.

The 4th District, now encompassing the majority of Duval County, Nassau County, and the heart of St. Johns County including the city of St. Augustine, is the second safest Republican seat in Florida.  The big question is not whether the Republicans will hold, but rather with whom.  Rumors abound that local Republicans are attempting to recruit former Heisman Trophy winner and regional football hero Tim Tebow as a candidate.  

Rep. Crenshaw becomes the 44th US House member to voluntarily decide to leave Congress at the end of this year.  Though there appear to be only three tossup races from the now 44 open districts, a great deal of change will still occur.  Seeing 63 open seats in 2012 and another 48 in 2014 means at least 165 districts will have been opened during the three-cycle period, well beyond what should be a historical average of about 100.

Governor

Several new polls were released in key 2016 gubernatorial races this past week. Dan Jones & Associates a Salt Lake City public opinion and research firm, which often surveys the Utah electorate, tested Gov. Gary Herbert's (R) primary against Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson.  The 58-20% spread suggests Herbert remains strong for re-nomination and in the subsequent general election.  North Carolina is embroiled in a high-profile controversy over the Charlotte transgender ordinance that the Legislature and Governor were able to neutralize. As a result, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) now finds himself trailing Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) in the two most recent statewide polls.  The new Survey USA research study of 701 North Carolina likely voters finds Cooper, who has won four consecutive statewide elections, topping Gov. McCrory, 47-43 percent. The Elon University survey yields a similar 48-42% Cooper spread.
 
Considering the negative publicity and fall-out the state and national media has engendered over the issue, the fact that McCrory remains within or just beyond the margin of error is actually a good sign for him.  This race will be close with the final outcome very much in doubt.

The new Elway Poll, which routinely surveys politics in the northwest, released their new Washington gubernatorial numbers.  With both candidates gaining strength since their January poll was released, the April data finds Gov. Jay Inslee (D) slightly expanding his lead to 48-36%.  Though Inslee has jumped out to a twelve-point lead, this campaign could easily fall into a highly competitive mode.  The Republican nominee will be Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
By:

President

Should Donald Trump fail to rebound strongly in New York's April 19th primary from his loss in Wisconsin, and again in the five-state eastern regional vote scheduled a week later, his chances of obtaining the 1,237 delegates needed to win virtually dissipate.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) then conceivably gains the upper hand because his campaign has done the necessary groundwork in many states, like Colorado and North Dakota - two of the four states and three territories that are not binding their delegations - to heavily influence the delegate selection process.

Trump, on the other hand, has been a day late and a dollar short in understanding and utilizing the delegate procedures.  Therefore, when the bound delegates are released, which in most states is after the first ballot, we will almost assuredly see a lessening of Trump support in favor of Cruz.  This could result in a multi-ballot roll call convention for the first time since the 1940s.

Looking at what are likely to be the convention rules, it appears very difficult for any outside candidate to emerge despite many media reports to the contrary.  Therefore, it is most likely that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will become the Republican nominee.  Gov. John Kasich, still in the race but doing poorly in primaries and caucuses, remains in decent position for a contested convention because his delegate base, particularly the 66 Ohio members by virtue of his Winner-Take-All victory in his home state, remains strong.  Could he parlay his delegate support into the Vice Presidential slot on the Republican ticket?  Very possibly.

Senate

Despite the Democratic Party leadership putting maximum effort into electing their chosen Pennsylvania Senate candidate, former state environmental department head and gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty, the polls suggest a different-evolving race.  The national party support includes a reported $1 million media buy on her behalf, which has already begun.  On the other hand, a new Harbor Polling survey for the April 26th primary continues to show former Congressman and 2010 US Senate nominee Joe Sestak leading the race. The Sestak spread is 41-31-9% over McGinty and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.

Even the general election ballot test results do not support the Democratic leadership's argument as to why she should be the candidate.  They often say that McGinty will run stronger against Republican Senator Pat Toomey.  But, the data doesn't support this argument.  The Harper Polling general election sample finds Sestak actually performing one point better against Toomey.  In any event, the Pennsylvania race will be hard fought in the general election and is one of the states that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate in the next Congress.

Also on April 26th, the Maryland Democratic Senate primary will be decided.  This race is very close between two Maryland US Representatives: Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen.  The new Washington Post/University of Maryland data posts Edwards to a 44-40% lead over Van Hollen, contradicting the poll he released earlier in the month that found him holding a 45-40% advantage. This campaign will go down to the wire with the April winner succeeding retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

Yet another new Wisconsin Senate poll, this one from the Emerson College Polling Society, again finds Sen. Ron Johnson (R) closing against former Sen. Russ Feingold (D).  This new data yields a 48-44% spread, and is the fourth consecutive poll to show the race in single digits.  Before, Feingold consistently posted large double-digit leads over Johnson.  Like Pennsylvania, the Wisconsin race will go a long way toward determining the next Senate majority.

House

New Jersey and Virginia candidate filing periods have now closed.  The Garden State sports one highly competitive campaign, as Rep. Scott Garrett (R) defends his northern 5th District against former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer (D).  The campaign will be very expensive before a politically marginal electorate.  It looked like one primary race was developing in the state, but former Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones (D) now says he won't challenge veteran Rep. Bill Pascrell (D), himself a former Paterson chief executive.

In Virginia, the court-mandated redistricting plan changed the 4th CD from a Republican seat to a Democratic one.  The person poised to win the newly configured district is the lone Democrat to enter the campaign, state Sen. Donald McEachin.  Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake), who can no longer win the Democratic 4th District, has moved into the open Virginia Beach 2nd District.  This, with encouragement from retiring Rep. Scott Rigell (R).  Forbes must face state Delegate Scott Taylor in the Republican primary.  Democrats fielded only a minor candidate for the general election, so if Forbes can successfully complete the move and win the party nomination on June 14th, the seat will be his.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
By:

Current delegate count:

Democrats: 2383 needed for nomination (2322 remain to be allocated)

Clinton: 1599       Sanders: 844

Republicans: 1237 needed for nomination (1079 remain to be allocated)

Trump: 661   Cruz: 406   Rubio: 169   Kasich: 142

Hillary Clinton's sweep of the March 15th Democratic primary states - Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina - essentially seals her nomination.  Trump would have done the same thing on the Republican side with a sweep of those five states, but Ohio Governor John Kasich held off Trump in his home state, one of the first to award delegates in a "winner take all" fashion.   So Trump's near sweep of the March 15th states mean that he nearly seals the GOP nomination but, some Republicans are huddling today to determine their chances of denying Trump the nomination.  Their chances of doing so are not very high.  But, let's take a look at what would need to happen for Trump NOT to be the nominee.

To date, Trump has won 47% of all delegates awarded: 661 of 1399 awarded so far.  Staying at the same pace for the remaining 20 states to vote would leave Trump less than 100 delegates short of the necessary 1237 going into the convention.  With Marco Rubio suspending his campaign, leaving Republicans with a field of three, as well as a number of winner-take-all states coming up over the next few months, the chance that Trump would end up with the exact same percentage going forward is small.  However, it points to just how close he will be to clinching the nomination prior to the convention.

If Trump wins the full 1237 delegates, he will be nominated in an orderly fashion and voters will make decisions about how to proceed.  If, however, he doesn't win 1237 outright, there are a handful of things that would need to transpire to nominate someone else.

First, the Rules Committee of the RNC met in 2012 and put in place "Rule 40" which states that to even be considered as a candidate at a contested convention, a person must have won the majority of delegates from eight or more states.  Trump is the only one to have done that so far.  Cruz has won a majority in five states.  The old rule had been that a candidate needed only a plurality of delegates from five states (again, only something achieved to date by Trump and Cruz).  The Rules Committee will meet again just before the convention to determine the threshold that must be met to be considered by the delegates in a contested convention for THIS year.  If they change the rule to allow more candidates to be considered at a contested convention, Trump and his supporters will go berserk.   It is likely Trump will enter the convention with the most delegates, even if he is short of the necessary 1237.  Under current rules, he would still be the only possible nominee because he is the only one with a majority in eight or more states (unless Cruz hits that threshold in the coming months, which is a toss-up).

If the Rules Committee does change the criteria for consideration of a candidate by the Convention, candidates and their supporters would begin the process of trading support until one candidate ended up with the majority of delegates.  It's helpful to think of the convention like a store with an item "for sale" for 1237 delegates.  If a candidates comes in with 1000 delegates, they still don't have enough to "purchase" the nomination and must pool their money/delegates with other candidates to have enough money/delegates to buy/win the nomination at the listed price.  If Trump has the most delegates and is able to rely on his much-touted negotiation skills, he is still the most likely to win the nomination even at a contested convention.

Remember, however, that delegates are not necessarily loyal to the person they are pledged to.  Many long time party activists register to be delegates and then have to spend their own money to attend the convention, often at a cost of several thousand dollars.  They MAY support the candidate that won their state, or at least their vote as a delegate on the first ballot, but beyond that, there isn't necessarily loyalty to the candidate.  For example, if you were a Jeb Bush supporter in Florida and registered to be a delegate, you are now pledged to Trump.  You are bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot but not beyond that and you may not want to beyond that.  Likewise, a Trump supporter may have registered as a delegate in Ohio and is now pledged to Kasich, but may not stay loyal after the first ballot.  Occasionally, candidates have "slates" of delegates in a particular state who they know are in fact loyal to them, but that certainly isn't true everywhere or of all delegates selected from a state.

The whole process of delegates trading allegiance becomes very messy, and in the age of Twitter and 24-hour news, you can imagine the pressure, rumors, and conspiracy theories that can quickly develop in that sort of environment when delegates sincerely believe the future of their party and the country is at stake.

So, for Trump not to be the nominee, he will have to win fewer delegates than he has won to date, difficult to prevent with the number of winner take all states upcoming.  The Rules Committee of the RNC would have to change the threshold at which a candidate can be considered for nomination in a contested convention.  Then, many of his own delegates would have to abandon him after the first ballot to allow another candidate an opportunity to win them over.  All this would have to happen while delegates know that Trump has almost single handedly increased turnout in Republican primaries well beyond record levels in many states, transformed the political landscape, and has openly threatened to run as an Independent if he isn't the GOP nominee.  It's possible for Trump not to be the GOP nominee, but it doesn’t seem to be the likely scenario.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
By:

On Super Tuesday, less than a week away, 11 states will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses and 14 will for Republicans.  So far, three states have voted on the Democratic side and four on the GOP side, but even that small sample has given the Presidential primaries a trajectory that is most likely to be reinforced, not altered, next Tuesday.

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton seems to be on track to win the Democratic nomination.  She has won Iowa and Nevada and is expected to win easily in South Carolina on Saturday.  She won 72% of black voters in Nevada and in upcoming South Carolina Saturday, and Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia and other states with sizable African-American populations voting next Tuesday, Clinton can expect to continue her winning streak.

Sanders' victory in New Hampshire and close finish in Iowa and Nevada mean that he can't be counted out entirely and many concerns about Clinton's on-going investigations by the Justice Department leave the race with some uncertainty.  However, with Clinton winning three of the first four states and rolling into Super Tuesday with so many states with large African-American populations, she is certainly in the driver's seat in the Democratic primary race.

The Republican race is similarly taking recognizable form now that the field of candidates has dropped from 17 to five.  Like Clinton, Donald Trump will roll into Super Tuesday with dominant wins in three of the first four states to vote.  He shows commanding leads in polls in most of the 14 states voting next Tuesday and has helped generate record turnout in each of the first four contests.

Trump's dominance over the GOP field continues to confuse many pundits because he is such an unorthodox candidate and yet is winning so comfortably across almost every single demographic group.  Young and old voters, men and women, rural and urban voters, very conservative to moderate voters, he wins them all.  He wins across income, religious, and education groups.  While GOP primary voters are largely white, in Nevada, he even won easily among Hispanic voters, surprising, because many felt that he has been disparaging to Hispanics during his campaign.

It isn't just the universal nature of Trump's wins that is surprising.  He has done it without offering many policy proposals and when he has, they often don't match what traditional Republican primary voters say they support.  He has done it without big TV ad buys and budgets.  Trump has done something else completely unprecedented in politics.  When he entered the race in early summer, he had universal name recognition and the vast majority (about 2-1) disliked him.  There have been plenty of candidates who were widely known and became disliked over the course of a campaign.  There have been plenty of candidates who weren't well known and as people learned more about them, came to like them.  Once a candidate is universally recognized and disliked however, it is VERY difficult to shake those impressions.  A candidate MAY be able to battle to even and they can still win if people dislike their opponent even more than themselves, but never has a candidate done what Trump has done - gone from being universally known and disliked to being the most popular Republican in the primary by far.

Trump polls between 30-40% in almost every state coming up on Super Tuesday.  Some argue that if the other candidates dropped out and only one was battling Trump that the sole challenger would win.  That may or may not be true, but it is really a moot point because none of the other candidates have an incentive to drop out of the race.  Ben Carson believes the Ted Cruz campaign deliberately misled voters in Iowa about the future of his campaign and it cost him votes, and since most of his supporters, almost universally evangelical, would likely support Cruz if Carson left the race, he may want to exact revenge for Iowa by continuing to drain voters from Cruz.  John Kasich on the other hand is drawing largely moderate voters who would likely otherwise vote for Marco Rubio.  Ohio, where the Governor remains very popular, is a "winner take all" state that votes two weeks after Super Tuesday.  If there is a contested convention, Kasich wants the leverage that would accrue if he has all the delegates from Ohio plus the smattering he wins in other states along the way.  Rubio and Cruz have finished neck and neck, separated by less than four points in every contest to date.  With the aggressive attacks between the two, there is little chance one would suddenly say, "you know what, YOU take it from here, I'll step aside."  With Trump winning so broadly, in states as diverse as New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and that no attack or thought-to-be misstep hurting his support, it is difficult to see what would change the course of the race headed into Super Tuesday.

While there is plenty of campaign left, and crazy things can happen, with Super Tuesday less than a week away (and the huge delegate totals it represents), the dynamics of the race so far point clearly to a Clinton-Trump general election.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
By:

Like the Electoral College, most people have a general sense that there is a group of "delegates" for each party who actually determine each party's nominee for President at their national conventions. Like the Electoral College, most people assume that delegate allocation generally follows the popular vote and in most cases, that is exactly what happens. But sometimes it doesn't. In 2000, George Bush won the Electoral College and the Presidency but lost the popular vote and with each party facing very competitive nomination processes, it is worth being familiar with how the delegate allocation process works, just in case it becomes relevant.

Many people are surprised that there are very few rules or laws at the federal level about how each party determines its nominee for President. There are laws about the general election of course, but federal law leaves the process of determining each nominee largely to the parties. The parties in turn give great deference to each state, within some broad parameters. For example, each state determines whether they will hold a caucus or primary or some other nomination process (a party convention for example). They also decide when those contests will take place and who is eligible to participate. Each party has come up with a system of awarding delegates to candidates based on their performance in each state, but beyond that, the parties take different courses.

The Democratic delegate allocation system is the more straightforward of the two. Each state is given a certain number of "pledged delegates" based on population and past support for the party. There are 4,763 total Democratic delegates and a candidate must win at least half of them to earn the nomination. Of those, 85% are "pledged" delegates that candidates "win" based on their performance in caucuses and primaries. 15%, or 712, of those delegates are "superdelegates" who can support whatever candidate they choose. They are senior elected officials and party leaders who are given delegate status based on their elected or appointed position.  

All Democratic primaries award "pledged delegates" on a proportional basis for any candidate winning a minimum threshold of 15% of the vote to earn any delegates at all. With only two candidates in the race, this allocation becomes pretty straightforward and the 15% threshold will be met by each candidate in almost every state. If Sanders wins 60% of the vote in a given state, he will earn 60% of the pledged delegates for that state. Sometimes the allocation is based on Congressional districts (the delegates grouped by Congressional district, so winning six Congressional districts out of ten awards 60% of the delegates for that state even if the vote total statewide was 51-49). Superdelegates are free to support whichever candidate they choose. In this regard, Clinton has a substantial lead of 362-8 amongst superdelegates who have indicated their preference. So, of the pledged delegates, Sanders must win 54% to reach a majority based on Clinton's head start with superdelegates. But with only two candidates, one or the other will end up with a majority, but if it is close going into the convention and 15% of the delegates can switch their support at will, and the rest are divided based on vote share, either statewide or by Congressional district, even the Democratic nomination could come down to the wire.

The Republicans don't have superdelegates, but pledged delegates are awarded in much more of a Frankenstein system. Like the Democrats, to win the nomination, a candidate must end up with at least half of all delegates to the convention. For the GOP, there are 2472 total delegates and a candidate must capture at least 1237. Some states award delegates on a proportional basis (and even those have a wide variety of minimum thresholds to qualify for ANY delegates) while others are winner take all and  some are a hybrid (it is proportional unless a candidate wins X%, in which case they win all delegates; or they may be winner-take-all by Congressional district). The RNC sets broad ground rules and then each state party determines how it wants to award delegates under the broad ground rules. This year, the ground rules included that no state could award delegates on a "winner-take-all" basis until March 15 or later (except South Carolina, which is winner take all by Congressional district). With seven remaining candidates in the race, you can imagine that the process of how delegates are allocated quickly becomes important to a winning strategy.

On the Republican side, all but nine states allocate delegates using some sort of proportional distribution. There are various thresholds to achieve ANY delegates, and some are allocated statewide and others by Congressional district (or, in Texas' case, by state senate district). Only nine states are truly "winner take all" and each of those hold elections on March 15 or later. The first big states in that category are Ohio and Florida. Thus, Ohio Governor John Kasich believes he is in a good position to win all of Ohio's delegates and put him in a strong position even if he has lagged in other states. The same is true for Floridians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush regarding that state's delegates.

As long as the Republican field contains so many candidates and each continues to win SOME delegates in each contest, the more difficult it becomes for any candidate to consolidate a true majority. If no candidate has a majority at the Convention, there is a "brokered" or "contested" Convention and delegates are "released" to support the candidate of their choice as the candidate to whom they were pledged coming in drops out of the running. Frequently those delegates will move to a new candidate en masse to increase their impact and you can imagine the negotiations for which candidates will give up delegates and at what price becomes very intense.  

While a brokered convention is certainly possible, the more likely scenario is that one candidate will end up with a majority of delegates as the field narrows and the "winner take all" or at least "winner take most" states come onto the calendar. If no candidate has a majority, one is likely to be very close and will win the nomination without too much struggle as consensus builds around them. But, it is possible, just possible, that the delegate allocation is so jumbled amongst so many candidates that the nominee is decided by old fashioned horse-trading and negotiation. When THAT happens, almost anything is possible.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
By:

Overall:

1.  There is much deeper and significant unrest among voters than had previously been clear.  Almost 50% of the voters in the New Hampshire Primary voted for Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, each of whom, in their own way, promises revolutionary, wholesale change in America. No more "Blue Ribbon Commissions" to issue recommendations, no more twelve point plans, but rip it out by its root, throw it away and start over sort of change. "We will bomb...ISIS" beat "we will form a global partnership and issue tough sanctions through the United Nations."  And "I want to bring down Wall Street" beat "We need protections for consumers to be strengthened and regulatory efforts improved to prevent abuses." 88% of Republican primary voters are "angry" or "dissatisfied" with government (61% of Democratic primary voters felt that way) and fully 93% of GOP primary voters are worried about the direction of the economy over the next few years (79% of Democratic primary voters are).  That is a lot of angst and frustration and it showed loud and clear.

2.  New Hampshire and Iowa are very different demographically than the states that are upcoming in the primary calendar. In New Hampshire, 96% of the GOP primary voters and 93% of the Democratic primary voters were white. For the Democratic primary in South Carolina, only about half will be. Many of the Super Tuesday primaries are "closed" meaning that only Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary and vice versa for Republicans. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, participation isn't limited to party registrants.

Republican Primary:

3.  Donald Trump's victory was overwhelming across geographic, age and ideological lines.  Trump easily beat all comers among voters who identified as "Very conservative" "somewhat conservative" and "moderate." By contrast, Cruz won 23% among "very conservative" voters but only 4% for those identifying as "moderate." Kasich was the mirror image, winning 28% of moderates but only 7% of very conservative voters. Trump's vote share from Republicans and Independents who voted in the GOP primary was the same indicating his appeal isn't driven by partisanship or ideology.

4.  Trump's chances to win the nomination were boosted tremendously by Kasich, Rubio and Bush all being relatively close to one another, providing incentive for them to all continue their campaigns, thus continuing to fracture any "anti-Trump" voter sentiment for the foreseeable future.

5.  Cruz is well positioned moving into South Carolina and Super Tuesday based on his appeal to evangelical voters and those identifying as very conservative. While Trump still won both groups - voters who identify as evangelical and those who don't - Cruz won 23% of those who identify as evangelical but only 8% who do not. The percentage of voters who identify as evangelical or "very conservative" is dramatically larger in the southern states that comprise many of the Super Tuesday states.

6.  Voters aren't driven by policy.  Trump's signature issue has been immigration, promising to build a wall on the southern border and deport the 12 million people living in America illegally. While Trump predictably won 50% of the voters who agree with him that all illegals should be deported, he tied with Kasich, at 23%, among voters who think illegals should be offered a path to citizenship. Additionally, 4% of Trump's voters indicated they "would be upset if Trump won the nomination" indicating that they didn't understand the question correctly or voted for him in hopes of disrupting the GOP nomination.

7.  There was very little difference between the way Republicans and Independents voted in the GOP primary. No candidate received more than a 5% point difference in the percentage of votes they got from Republicans vs. Independents. This is very different than the way it turned out in the Democratic primary. If it were a closed primary with only GOP voters, the results would have been Trump 35, Kasich 14, Rubio 13, Cruz 13, and Bush 10.

Democratic Primary:

8.  Sanders' victory over Clinton, like Trump's, was overwhelming and dominant across age, geography and ideology. He beat Clinton among women Democratic primary voters by 11 points. Among men, the gap was 25. The only age group Clinton won was "over 65" while Sanders dominated all other age groups, even with an 83-16 margin among voters under 30. He won by 14 or more points among voters identifying as "very liberal", "somewhat liberal" and "moderate."

9.  The primary exposes some of Clinton's biggest potential general election challenges. Among the 34% of voters who said being "honest and trustworthy" was most important to their vote, Sanders won an amazing 92%. Among the 27% who said "cares about people like me" he won 82%. Clinton did well with voters who valued "having the right experience" and "can win in November." But over 60% of Democratic primary voters said "cares about people like me" or "is honest and trustworthy" were the most important quality in a candidate and Hillary was clobbered there. 50% of voters said "only Sanders" when asked which candidate was honest and trustworthy and given each candidate, "both of them" or "neither of them" as options.

10.  Sanders dominated with Independents. Unlike the Republican primary, where Independents and Republicans voted very similarly, in the Democratic primary, Sanders won Democrats 52-48 but won Independents 73-25, driving his overall margin of victory.

Bonus Note:If you thought "independent" was roughly interchangeable with "moderate," think again. The Independent vote broke out like this: 33% Sanders, 19% Trump, 12% Clinton and 10% Kasich.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
By:

On Monday morning before the first votes were cast in Iowa, Donald Trump held a 20 point lead in New Hampshire and a 15 point lead in South Carolina. If he had won Iowa, there was broad expectation that he would cruise on through New Hampshire and South Carolina on his way to wrapping up the GOP nomination. Now, there are dozens of scenarios of how the race could turn out, but Trump running the table is no longer one of them.

For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders has held a comfortable lead in New Hampshire for months and the expectations were that Hillary would win Iowa, lose New Hampshire and then blow on through, sweeping the other states, starting with South Carolina, where polls show her with a lead of over 25 points. It was neat and tidy. Now it isn't. Even though Hillary received a few more votes than Sanders, she had led by double digits for months there and a near-tie scrambles her plans.

And then there's the polling on which so much of the analysis and conventional wisdom had been based in the first place. Polling told us Trump and Clinton were narrowly but definitely in the lead in Iowa. It told us that a big turnout of new caucus goers favored Trump and Sanders because much of their appeal was with voters who had not been very politically active in the past. Turnout wasn't just big, it was, in Trump-speak, HUGE.  Over 180,000 Republicans attended the Caucus, 50% more than the previous record of 121,000 in 2012. Democrats had over 170,000, not as high as 2008 when 240,000 participated, but significantly higher than 2004 when only 125,000 turned out.  

So, we are faced with a muddled path to the nomination for each party and another blow to the validity of polling projections, making the future even murkier.

What we DO know is:

  • Cruz's grassroots efforts were as good as advertised. He knew exactly who his supporters were and made sure they made it to the Caucus.
  • Rubio helped himself tremendously by running a close third, just one point behind Trump. He essentially made himself the "establishment" alternative to Trump and Cruz before Bush, Christie, Kasich and others even got to New Hampshire where they have invested the most time and resources. This wouldn't be the case if he had finished third with 12% of the vote. Even if the other "establishment" candidates stay in the race, the voters will narrow it to a group of three in their minds.
  • Trump has lost the air of inevitability and his opponents smell blood in the water.
  • Clinton has a clearer path to the nomination than anyone on the Republican side, but not as direct as it seemed Monday morning.
  • Our compass (polling) is supposed to help us see where things are going but isn't always pointing in the right direction.

What are the keys to look for in New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday?

  • Will Rubio's momentum solidify his role as the "establishment" candidate, dropping Christie, Bush, Kasich and others even further in the pack or will one of them challenge him for that designation?
  • Will Trump's lead shrink in New Hampshire and South Carolina now that he isn't "inevitable" and for a candidate whose candidacy is largely built on "being a winner," when he didn't win his first contest?
  • Will Hillary be able to blunt Sanders' expected victory in New Hampshire or does it lend him further momentum going into less friendly states in the coming weeks?
  • Is polling a caucus just that difficult because of the wide variables in turnout and when we are looking at more traditional primaries we will have a clearer picture from polls of what is happening, or has the industry been locked into a model that just doesn't reflect modern political inputs? If polling leading into New Hampshire is pretty accurate, look for Iowa to be seen as an aberration. If it is off as much as it was in Iowa, look for people to search out new methods to read the tea leaves in these early nominating states.

It was an eventful night with a lot of passion on all sides and the results could have led to a very straightforward nomination process on each side, but they didn't.  It made things as messy as ever and, possibly, without the future benefit of even being able to rely on polling to give a peek into what is happening on the ground.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
By:

While Republicans hold their largest majority in the House since the 1920s, there are a handful of seats that Republicans are bullish they can still pick up in 2016.  Much of their effort will be on defending incumbents in tough districts carried by President Obama, but they will continue to play offense in a handful, especially open seats held by retiring Democratic members and in California where the top two primary system presents opportunities.

FL-2 Gwen Graham - PVI unavailable

While several of the seats held by Republicans in Florida were made more heavily Democratic in the recent court-ordered redistricting, Graham's seat, which already was an R+6 seat, was made much more heavily Republican.  Physician Neal Dunn and Attorney Mary Thomas will battle it out in the GOP primary and both are considered solid candidates at this point.  Graham has hinted at retirement or running for another office and no other Democrats have indicated an interest in running.  Even with Graham's talent as a candidate, the district is now so heavily Republican, it is the top takeover target for the GOP in 2016.

FL-18 Open: Patrick Murphy - R+3

This Republican leaning open seat has a huge field of candidates from both parties and while it leans Republican, Murphy won in 2014, a solidly Republican year, with 60% of the vote, so it is still very much a swing district.  Republican Carl Domino who was defeated so badly in 2014 is running again and can self-fund, but has a crowded primary of quality candidates as well.  Democrats have four solid candidates in their primary, so while we wait to see how the primaries here shake out, it remains at the top of the GOP target list for now.

AZ-1 Open: Ann Kirkpatrick - R+4

With Kirkpatrick's decision to run for Senate against John McCain, this Republican leaning district is a top pick up opportunity for Republicans.  Democrats have cleared the primary for former State Senator Tom O'Halleran while Republicans face a primary of high profile names including former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and 2014 candidate rancher Gary Kiehne as well as State House Speaker David Gowan and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

NY-3 Open: Steve Israel - Even

Democratic leadership veteran Steve Israel made this a safe seat for Democrats but with his surprise retirement, it jumps to the top of the list of GOP pick up opportunities.  A swing district that Obama carried with less than 51% in 2012, candidates are still deciding, including North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth who may clear the field on the Democratic side if she can be convinced to run, which is uncertain.  Republicans are still working through a long list of potential candidates but none have formally declared yet.

MN-8 Rick Nolan - D+1

Nolan held this seat with less than 50% of the vote in 2014 and Republican self-funder Stewart Mills is expected to give the race another shot.  The district has drifted more Republican over the last few years and Mills is an attractive candidate but was painted as an out of touch rich kid in 2014 and will need to overcome that in addition to a stronger expected Democratic turnout in a Presidential year, but this seat remains at the top of GOP target lists.

CA-16 Jim Costa - D+7

After a very close call (1,334 votes) in 2014, Costa should be ready for anything in 2016. This D+7 district is also majority Latino at 58%. Costa has had close calls in 2010 and 2014 when Latino (who tend to vote Democrat) turnout tends to be weaker than Presidential election years. This may signify a lack of political instincts, making the same mistake twice, but for 2016 Costa should be relatively safe. Rancher Johnny Tacherra (R), who nearly pulled off the upset in 2014, is running again. Additionally, Costa, a Blue Dog, needs to be aware of his left flank as a more progressive candidate could emerge.    

CA-24 Open: Lois Capps - D+4

With the retirement of Congresswoman Lois Capps (D), this D+4 central coast district will be targeted by Republicans, but will likely stay in Democratic control. The two leading Republicans in the race, Justin Fareed and Katcho Achadjian, are both in the NRCC Young Guns program, meaning they have support from the national party. The top Democrats in the race are Salud Carbajal and Helene Schneider. Carbajal has been endorsed by Capps and Nancy Pelosi. He has built better relationships over the years with key groups (such as unions) than Schneider, which explains why Pelosi and Capps endorsed Carbajal rather than a fellow woman like Schneider.  

CA-31 Pete Aguilar - D+5

After winning this open seat in 2014, Congressman Aguilar may have a rematch with his last opponent, Paul Chabot (R). This D+5 district is nearly 50% Hispanic and in a Presidential election year will be difficult for Republicans to unseat Aguilar. Another potential Republican opponent is former Democratic Congressman Joe Baca, who has switched parties since leaving Congress. Aguilar ended 2015 with nearly $1,000,000 cash on hand, making him the clear favorite. There may be too many factors working against Republicans for them to have a chance here in 2016.

CA-52 Scott Peters - D+2

After a tumultuous reelection bid in 2014 against Carl DeMaio (R), Rep. Scott Peters (D) should have an easier reelection bid in 2016. This San Diego area seat is rated D+2 but given its substantial military presence and veteran population, Republicans always feel they have a chance here. Peters is a moderate Democrat who will raise plenty of money this cycle. The two Republicans who have emerged are openly gay Iraq veteran Jacquie Atkinson and political consultant Denise Gitsham. Gitsham is in the NRCC young guns program and raised a quarter million dollars in the last quarter. Peters still has the advantage, but Gitsham could make this a very competitive contest. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
By:

With Republicans holding their largest majority since the 1920s and holding 25 seats that were carried by Obama (versus only five held by Democrats that were carried by Romney), Democrats are very much on offense in the House in 2016. They have been helped further by redistricting in FL and VA that made a handful of Republican held seats more Democratic leaning and by the retirements of a few Republicans holding swing districts. While several races are still waiting for all candidates to declare for the primary, here are ten seats that will be at the top of the Democrats' list as they look to cut into the GOP majority.

NV-4 Cresent Hardy (D+4)

This seat was carried by President Obama twice by more than 10 points and multiple Democrats have lined up to challenge Hardy in a district that has about 50% minority population. Four credible Democrats are battling it out in a primary but there are efforts underway to have one of the top candidates move to run in the open NV-3 (Joe Heck's open seat) next door where they have not had a top tier candidate emerge. Whatever happens, this is one of the Democrats' strongest pick-up opportunities.

IL-10 Bob Dold (D+8)

This seat was also carried twice by the President, this one by more than 15 points and is a testament to Dold's talent as a candidate that Republicans have been able to trade the seat back and forth with Democrats over the past three election cycles. Brad Schneider (D), who beat Dold for the seat in 2012 and lost it to him again in 2014, is running but faces a tough primary which he will have to survive before taking on Dold for the fourth time.

NH-1 Frank Guinta (R+1)

Another seat that has switched back and forth between the parties for each of the past four election cycles, it is now held by Frank Guinta who won it from Carol Shea Porter in 2014, who won it from Guinta in 2012 who won it from Shea Porter in 2010. This time Guinta is facing the fallout of a fundraising scandal in which even the Republican-oriented Manchester Union Leader has said is grounds for Guinta to retire. He also faces a primary against Dan Innis who challenged him unsuccessfully in 2014.

VA-2 Open (R+2)

The surprise retirement of Congressman Scott Rigell instantly made this seat one that Democrats will target heavily, given its R+2 make-up. President Obama won this seat in 2008 and 2012 by less than 2 points each time. Democrats may be less bullish on their chances if VA-4 Rep. Randy Forbes jumps from his current seat and runs here, a distinct possibility that Forbes is currently considering. This has been brought on by the new district lines that make VA-4 far less tenable to Republicans.  

VA-4 Randy Forbes (PVI pending)

Rep. Randy Forbes will have to make a decision about his political future in the next few weeks as he waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a lawsuit that would prevent proposed changes to his district from going into effect. If the Court rules against Forbes (or takes no action before the June primary), his district will become significantly more Democratic, going from a 49% Obama district to a 60% Obama district. The new district would likely favor an African American from Richmond, such as state Sen. Donald McEachin (D) or state Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D).

FL -10 Daniel Webster (PVI pending)

Similar to Forbes in VA, Florida's 10th district Rep. Daniel Webster (R) is faced with long odds in a newly drawn district that appears unwinnable for Republicans. The new district includes far more Orlando precincts and less outer suburbs, explaining how it moves from being a 45% Obama district to a 60% Obama district. Webster may choose instead to run for the open 11th district seat, one far safer for Republicans. The leading Democrat to fill the 10th seat is former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demings.  

IA-1 Rod Blum (D+5)

Businessman Rod Blum was the surprise winner of Iowa's most heavily Democratic seat in the 2014 GOP wave but has aligned himself with the very conservative Freedom Caucus, unusual for a member from a crossover district. Labor-aligned former State House Speaker Tom Murphy is running for a rematch but will face a tough primary from businesswoman Monica Vernon who has attracted support of a number of women's organizations. In a Presidential year, this is a top opportunity for Democrats.

FL-13 Open (PVI pending)

With Rep. David Jolly (R) running for Senate, and this district's new lines making it a 55% Obama district, Democrats have perhaps their greatest pick up opportunity in the country. Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist is running as a Democrat in this St. Petersburg and Pinellas County seat, and he faces former White House staffer Eric Lynn in the primary. It's likely that the winner of the Democratic primary will be the next Representative. The biggest obstacle Crist faces is voter fatigue, as he has lost his last two state-wide races.

FL-26 Carlos Curbelo (PVI pending)

In yet another seat that has flipped back and forth between the parties the last several years, the seat now held by Curbelo but carried twice by President Obama was made even more Democratic in the recent court-ordered redistricting. While not shifting as much as some districts, in such an evenly split district, even a shift of a few percentage points can make the seat difficult to hold.  Democrats are rallying behind Annette Taddeo, a businesswoman with the ability to self-fund the campaign. The top of the ticket will make a big difference in this almost 70% Hispanic district. Hometown hero Marco Rubio will make life much easier for Curbelo than someone like Donald Trump would.

MN-2 Open (R+2)

A quintessential Swing district, it trends slightly Republican but was carried twice by Obama, each time by less than 3 points. When Kline announced his retirement, several first choice GOP candidates passed on the race, leaving talk radio host "Mr. Right" Jason Lewis and tea-party oriented state Rep. Pam Myhra along with self-funding John Howe. Democrats are choosing between young businesswoman Angela Craig who has posted impressive fundraising totals and local ophthalmologist Mary Lawrence who kicked off her campaign with a million dollar loan. Minnesota has non-binding conventions where each party "endorses" a candidate but all can still run in the primary even without the party convention endorsement. It will be some time before we have settled nominees, but this swing district is a prime opportunity for Democrats to pick up a seat long held by a moderate Republican.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
By:

Democrats see 2016 as a year of opportunity in the Senate. Several Republicans who won blue or purple states in the GOP wave of 2010 have to run again in a Presidential year, which tends to increase Democratic turnout by 2-5 points over non-Presidential elections. The Democrats have made the most of their opportunities, landing their first choice of candidates in Illinois, New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, Indiana, California and Wisconsin, and having solid candidates in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In almost every case, they were also successful in clearing the primary for their chosen candidates so they can spend their entire budget and focus on the general election. North Carolina is the only state that Democrats did not land their top choice candidate but, beyond former Senator Kay Hagan, their bench in that state is very thin.

Republicans have a much smaller playing field, only needing to find challengers in the open seat races in Florida and Nevada, which they did successfully. They have solid choices in the Indiana open seat as well, though a primary battle will be needed to determine the nominee there. No top tier candidates have yet emerged for Republicans in Colorado, and California was always going to be an uphill and expensive fight, so national Republicans were satisfied to let that state play itself out on its own.

Now, many people believe that convincing a politician to run for office is as hard as convincing a dog to eat a bone but, the fact is that finding true top tier candidates who are able to raise the money necessary for a competitive race, can generate support among a majority of the voters, is disciplined enough to avoid severe mistakes and to stay on message is difficult. Yes, there are always people who want to be in the U.S. Senate, but finding ones who can be successful statewide candidates against an entrenched incumbent in a swing state isn't always easy.  And then keeping all of those other candidates who want to be in the Senate but won't make as strong a candidate out of the race is often even more difficult.

The Democrats have done a fantastic job of both this cycle.

In the Republican-held open seat in Florida, Democrats convinced Rep. Patrick Murphy, a rising star in the party, to give up a comfortable seat in Congress and to take a chance on a promotion to the Senate. He is facing a primary challenge from bombastic Congressman Alan Grayson who has the ability to self-fund a campaign. If Murphy wins the primary, the centrist, charismatic, young Congressman will make a very strong candidate in one of the most purple states in the country. Republicans did well here as well with two current Congressmen and the Lt. Governor all in the primary, any one of whom will be a solid nominee to hold the open seat for Republicans. In Illinois, Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, the popular Iraq war veteran and amputee will challenge Senator Mark Kirk in what may be the Democrats best pick-up opportunity. In Wisconsin, former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold will try for a rematch against Republican Senator Ron Johnson. With a command of policy, a broad fundraising network and name ID as well as a keen understanding of the rigors of the campaign trail, Feingold is certainly a solid choice to run in that Democratic-leaning state. Indiana Democrats have settled on former blue-dog Democrat Congressman Baron Hill as their top choice for the Republican held open seat. Indiana is a longer shot for Democrats but the state voted for Obama in 2008 and elected a Democrat to the Senate in 2012, so a centrist like Hill is a solid option if Republicans emerge from their crowded primary without a unified front.

In Ohio, Democrats pulled former Governor Ted Strickland out of retirement to run for Senate. Like Feingold in Wisconsin, Strickland has solid name ID and a fundraising operation in the state, a concrete understanding of government and policy and a track record of winning statewide. He will present a real challenge to Republican Rob Portman. Next door in the Keystone State, a democratic primary is underway between 2010 nominee Joe Sestak, establishment-favored Kate McGinty, and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman for the right to compete for Pennsylvania's Senate seat. Incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) beat Sestak by 2 points in 2010, making Democrats bullish on their chances for victory in a presidential year. In New Hampshire, Democrats are also going with a Governor, Maggie Hassan, a well-respected centrist with all of the already mentioned advantages. It was uncertain if Hassan would leave the Governorship to try to unseat Republican Kelly Ayotte, but Democrats were able to entice her to make the run. Harry Reid hand-picked Catherine Cortez Masto (D) to run for his open seat in Nevada and cleared the primary for the former state Attorney General. Republicans also landed their top choice in this race with popular Congressman Joe Heck. This race will be one of the toughest in the country.

Like Indiana, Arizona is a bit of a long-shot for Democrats challenging Republican John McCain but they will be giving it their best shot with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick has won close election after close election in a Republican-leaning district, even in good years for the GOP like 2014. If anyone can give McCain a tough race, Kirkpatrick will be the one to do it.

Democrats may end up with both of the general election nominees in California where all candidates run on the same primary ballot and the top two vote getters regardless of party move to the general election runoff. Popular Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is the odds-on favorite, but faces hard working Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D) and a couple of lesser known Republicans.

After a tough 2014 campaign in which many Democratic Senators lost seats, they are hoping to retake the Senate in 2016. They have given themselves the best opportunity possible with a stellar candidate recruiting effort that not only takes on Republicans in Democratic-leaning states like Illinois and Wisconsin but stretches the playing field to make Republicans work hard in would-be safe seats like Indiana and Arizona. Of course, Republicans wouldn't have won those seats in the first place if they didn't have stellar candidates the first time around, who now have six years Senate experience and the power of incumbency to help. It's going to be an exciting year for those who like competitive Senate races.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
By:

While some are still making final decisions on whether to run for Congress, most candidates already have their campaigns fully under way. Both parties face candidate recruiting difficulties with the bitter partisan nature of Washington for the last several years and increasingly personal nature of campaign attacks. With Republicans holding their largest majority in over 50 years, they are primarily playing defense this cycle with a focus on protecting incumbents.

In general, Republicans had significantly fewer targets, so the number of high quality recruits necessary to have quality candidates in most competitive races is a lower hurdle than that faced by the Democrats. Democrats face the additional recruiting difficulty of being expected to remain in the minority for the foreseeable future, an uninviting prospect for potential Congressmen. Republicans can offer majority status, but with the gridlock faced by a Democratic White House and the bitter intra-party fights of the last few years, even Republicans have some difficulty finding quality candidates willing to run in tough districts. That said, impressive people from each side of the aisle still feel a calling for public service and throw their hat in the ring.

Let's take a look at each party's top candidate recruitment successes for 2016.

Top Democratic Candidate Recruits

FL-13 - Open Seat: Charlie Crist (D)

The seat being vacated by Rep. David Jolly to run for US Senate is perhaps the most likely Democratic pick up opportunity in the country. Recent court-ordered redistricting took the seat from true toss up status to solidly Democratic. Democrats found an eager candidate in former Governor (and former Republican) Charlie Crist. Crist's name ID, fundraising network from his Gubernatorial and US Senate bids as well as comfort on the campaign trail make him a formidable presence in a Democratic primary that also includes Obama Administration official Eric Lynn who could give Crist a tough run. No significant Republicans have announced for the seat, and with the district's new Democratic slant the primary is likely to provide the next Congressman from this district.

NV-4 - Cresent Hardy (R): Reuben Kihuen (D), Susie Lee (D)

Republican Cresent Hardy won this generally reliable Democratic district in 2014 and enters 2016 as one of the most endangered Republican incumbents. Four prominent Democrats have entered the race with State Senator Reuben Kihuen and education reformer Susie Lee as the two leading contenders, either of whom would be favored against Hardy in the general election. Harry Reid has supported Kihuen in the past and may endorse in the primary though many local Democrats are lining up behind Lee. Former State Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores are also in the race but many observers believe they would be weaker general election candidates than Kihuen or Lee. Meanwhile, many Democrats wish either Lee or Kihuen would switch to run in the toss-up open seat in the neighboring 3rd district where Democrats have had a hard time finding a top tier candidate.

CO-6 - Mike Coffman (R): Morgan Carroll (D)

In what has become an on-going target for each party, Colorado's 6th district is held by Mike Coffman who has held off top tier challengers each of the past two cycles.  Democrats are hoping a Presidential electorate and State Senator Morgan Carroll can topple him this year.  The young Emily's List backed candidate likely has a clear primary field and can immediately begin working to tie Coffman to the more radical portions of the GOP in this Denver suburban district.

IA-1 - Rod Blum (R): Monica Vernon (D), Pat Murphy (D)

Blum was a surprise winner of the most heavily Democratic district in the state in 2014 and Democrats have a rematch of their 2014 primary brewing between Labor backed former State House Speaker Pat Murphy and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman and businesswoman Monica Vernon. Murphy won the nomination in 2014 with 37% against three female primary candidates. In a head-to-head matchup, many Iowans think Vernon stands a better chance in the primary and now has Emily's List support as well. Her less polarizing role as a businesswoman and city councilor could make her a stronger general election candidate as well. Both are solid fundraisers and adept on the campaign trail and either could present problems for Blum in November.

Top Republican Recruits

CA-52 - Scott Peters (D): Denise Gitsham (R)

Republicans hoped 2014 was the year to take out pragmatic Democrat Scott Peters in this San Diego based swing district, but highly touted Carl DeMaio faced a last minute sexual harassment charge that hurt his campaign (the charge was later found to be fabricated by a disgruntled former staffer).  This cycle, Republicans are touting Denise Gitsham, a young Chinese-American entrepreneur who started her career in the Bush White House as one of their top recruits to take on a Democrat in a seat they have targeted each of the last several cycles.

NV-3 - Open Seat: Michael Roberson (R)

With Incumbent Joe Heck (R) running for the open US Senate seat, this Las Vegas suburban seat would be an open-seat toss up if the Democrats were able to attract a strong candidate (or entice one of the front runners in the neighboring 4th District to switch and run here). As it is, Republicans are likely to hold the seat if State House Speaker Michael Roberson wins the GOP nomination. A strong fundraiser and successful legislator, Roberson faces a tough primary from a couple of tea-party oriented candidates. If he is able to survive a primary, he should hold the swing seat for Republicans. That is not a given however with Roberson's recent push for Governor Sandoval's tax increases which the business community saw as necessary but was unpopular with party faithful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
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As we wind down 2015 and move fully into Presidential primary season, we look back at the 10 things that had the biggest impact on the world of politics this year. These are not listed in any particular order because the lasting impact of any of these items isn't yet known. Each however, are important developments in the world of politics that will shape the outcome of the 2016 elections in ways big or small.

10: ISIS Attacks in Paris - The November 13th coordinated bombings in Paris that killed 130 people and left hundreds more injured immediately shifted the political conversation here in America to national security and the fight against ISIS. The attacks revealed weaknesses in current intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts and drove the conversation about a number of other issues impacting America from immigration and the Syrian refugee debate to the size, strength and role of the military to the very essence of a freedom vs. security dynamic.

9: Black Lives Matter Movement - The movement was born of anger from the shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, MO that led to days of rioting there followed by rioting in Baltimore months later after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The movement galvanized the African American community in a way that nothing else has done in years. Dozens of lower profile incidents around the country kept the movement growing through the summer and fall. With America's first black President in his last year in office, the movement has the potential to organize millions of African American voters and could have a decisive impact on the 2016 elections to choose Obama's successor. The effort will inform America's conversation on race and law enforcement for years to come.

8: John Boehner Resigning Speakership - The most high profile victim in the battle between "Establishment" Republicans and "Tea Party" Republicans, Boehner unexpectedly announced his resignation of the Speakership and retirement from Congress altogether on September 25. While the battle between the factions had existed for years, Boehner's resignation marked the moment when the "Establishment" lost its most high profile representative and the Republican Party moved towards greater accommodation of Tea Party forces in day-to-day operations.

7: David Vitter Loses LA Governorship - A 12 year old prostitution scandal and disillusionment with Washington led to one of the biggest political upsets of the decade when Republican US Senator David Vitter lost his campaign for Governor of one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. Vitter had universal name ID, raised millions more than his opponents and had a political network of allies built up during almost 20 years in government and it was all for naught. Vitter limped out of a bruising primary, his Republican rivals refused to support him afterwards, and he eventually lost to little known Democrat John Bel Edwards. Vitter proved that candidates and campaigns matter even in the most partisan environments.

6:  Hillary Clinton's FBI Email Server Investigation - The drip, drip, drip of information about the special arrangement Clinton set up as Secretary of State to have her email delivered through a server at her home rather than through the government led to questions about national security, ethical and political judgement, and gave fuel to the renegade campaign of Bernie Sanders, who even months later still holds the polling lead in New Hampshire. Vice President Biden was pressured to run to "save" the party when it appeared the scandal could endanger the Clinton campaign. He decided against running, Sanders has since dropped back in the polls but the scandal gave an important look at how Clinton handles crisis.

5: Syrian Refugee Crisis - The mass migration of millions of Syrians fleeing the terror of ISIS in their country has had its biggest impact in Europe but just as America was beginning to open its borders to refugees, the terror attacks in Paris caused Governors around the country to request a moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees founded on concerns that terrorist organizations could infiltrate the ranks of the refugees. Donald Trump even went so far as to propose a moratorium on any Muslim visitors to the U.S., drawing a line in the sand that impacts national security, race, religious tolerance and other subjects.

4: Mass Shootings in America - Mass shootings in America took the headlines several times this year. Nine dead in a racially inspired shooting in Charleston. Nine dead at a community college in Oregon. Three more in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood clinic after a live television standoff with police lasting five hours. 14 more dead in San Bernardino in a shooting that appears to have been inspired by terrorism. Each time with predictable response from gun-control/gun-rights advocates. Each had very different circumstances and motivations and reveal the deep divide in America over gun rights. One of the most culturally divisive topics in 2015, this will certainly be an important part of the 2016 elections and how our country responds to gun crimes in the future.

3: Supreme Court on Marriage - The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that the right to marriage, regardless of the gender of the parties involved, was a constitutionally protected right. The decision marked a 15 year shift of national attitudes on the issue towards greater acceptance of gay couples culturally and legally. While many politicians on both sides of the aisle now consider the issue settled in the eyes of the law, it was a politically ground breaking decision that will serve as a major cultural milestone for years to come.

2: Supreme Court on ObamaCare - President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment has been anathema to Republicans since it passed in 2009 with only Democratic votes in the House and Senate. More than any other issue, it has been the symbol of big-government over-reach to Republicans and they have voted literally dozens of times to repeal or defund the program to no avail. Two 5-4 Supreme Court decisions upheld the law's constitutionality and then the legality of the primary tenet of the law, allowing tax subsidies for low income citizens purchasing insurance on the federal exchange. The controversial law will no doubt be a litmus test for many voters in the 2016 elections, even seven years after it became law.

1: Trump - How to start? Donald Trump upended the political world in 2015. The "rules" about what constituted a well-run campaign were thrown out the window. The media became obsessed, covering every word, every insult, every move as "breaking news," crowding out coverage of almost all other candidates except for what they were doing in relation to Trump. He reversed being almost universally disliked in the spring to dominating leads in GOP primary polls through the summer and fall and shows no signs of slowing down a month before the first votes are cast. Trump has not just led but dominated one of the deepest and most talented fields of Republican candidates in a generation. He has flummoxed "establishment" Republicans and inspired disdain amongst Democrats in a way few, if any, politicians have. Without question, he has "Trumped" any other political development of 2015.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
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2008 was the last open seat Presidential election, with multiple candidates running for each party, and one in which polling was conducted similarly to today.  An interesting picture emerges when we compare polls at the same point in the two election cycles.

2008 vs. 2016: Democrats

  • Two months prior to the Iowa Caucus, Hillary Clinton led national polls 42-23 in the Democratic primary. Now, two months prior to the Iowa Caucuses, Clinton leads national polls 56-30, a similar margin to eight years ago.
  • One month prior to the Caucuses in 2007, Clinton surrendered her lead in Iowa for the first time in any poll. This cycle, Clinton lost her lead four and a half months out (but has since regained it).
  • On Caucus night, Clinton lost by eight points, in third place behind BOTH President Obama and John Edwards.
  • A week later, in New Hampshire, the day of the primaries, Obama led polling in the state by eight points. Hillary won by 3.
  • Obama didn't lead in a single national poll until a month after his Iowa victory, days before Super Tuesday.

2008 vs. 2016: Republicans

  • Two months prior to the Iowa Caucus, Rudy Giuliani led national polls with 29%, followed by Fred Thompson at 17, John McCain at 15, and Mitt Romney with 9.
  • Two months prior to the Iowa Caucus in 2016,  Donald Trump leads national polls with 28%, followed by Ben Carson at 19, Marco Rubio at 13 and Ted Cruz at 12. Eerily similar.
  • In Iowa, Romney, not Giuliani, had been the long-time leader but one month prior to the Caucuses, Romney surrendered his longtime lead in Iowa to Mike Huckabee. This would equate to January 2 this cycle.
  • Caucus night, Huckabee beats Romney in Iowa 34-25 with McCain and Thompson at 13 each and Giuliani at 3.
  • In the New Hampshire primaries, one month before the vote, Romney led Giuliani 33-19, with McCain at 16 and Huckabee at 9. McCain won a month later with 37%, followed by Romney at 32, Huckabee at 11 and Giuliani at 9.

If we are expecting national polls two months prior to the first votes to tell us who will be the nominee for each party, we are looking through a very broken lens. Hillary was at almost the same point in the polls in 2007 as she is now and lost. At similar points in the election cycle, Rudy Giuliani occupied a similar position in national polls that Donald Trump enjoys today and was one of the first candidates to leave the race once votes were cast.

What accounts for this wild variation? First of all, the majority of voters make up their minds in the final week before voting. Pollsters need something to report and "60% undecided" isn't very interesting news, so they ask, "If the election were held today, who would you vote for?" That's fair for giving a snapshot of where voters are today but clearly not very predictive of where things will be when votes are cast.

The second cause for the variation is that polls just aren't always accurate, even in diagnosing where the race stands at the moment. Multiple polls released on the same day can have fairly different results. Between lower participation rates in polls, fewer voters being accessible by phone in any case, and difficulty in predicting exactly who will turn out on election day, polls are always just a general guideline for where things stand at the moment. They also don't always capture momentum of a surging or sinking candidate accurately. On the final day before the New Hampshire Primary in 2008, McCain polled at 32% in the RealPolitics average.  He got five points better on election night.

The other major thing to consider when looking at polls this far out is the difference between national polls and individual state polls. In national polling in 2007, Obama didn't overtake Hillary in the overall average until AFTER Super Tuesday when 36 states had already voted. On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani led national polls until the day of the New Hampshire Primary, when he lost it not to John McCain but to Mike Huckabee. At that point, Giuliani's campaign was already discussing leaving the race. At this point in the race in Iowa, Romney had maintained a comfortable lead for months and his 28% support in the state doubled any other candidate with Huckabee, Giuliani and Thompson all bunched around 14%. So, you get a sense of how volatile the electorate and polling can be when so many voters have yet to firmly make up their minds.

In 2016, voting is more spread out than in 2008, with Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina voting in February rather than January. We still have a lot of campaign to go. So, take a deep breath, enjoy the holidays and know that polling at this point was telling us that Clinton and Giuliani (or POSSIBLY Fred Thompson) would be the nominees in 2008 just as strongly as it is saying that Clinton and Trump (or POSSIBLY Carson) will be the nominees in 2016. Welcome to the circus of Presidential primary polling.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
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Overview:

  • Due to lower voter turnout, primary votes have a greater impact than general election votes
  • Primaries across the country often determine the future members of Congress

Open seats are always among the most important to pay attention to because we are guaranteed a new member of Congress. In some cases, these seats are competitive between the parties, but often they are in safely Republican or Democratic districts, so the action is almost entirely in the primary. These represent some of the best opportunities to shape the tenor of Congress because primary turnout is always significantly lower than in general elections, so your single vote is much more powerful. Today we examine three safe Republican open seats and three safe Democratic open seats that should be at the top of the list for to watch in the primary season.

Safe Republican Open Seats to Watch

FL-6 (R+9; Ron DeSantis is running for U.S. Senate)

This northeast Florida district, which includes Daytona Beach and St. Augustine, has been represented by Congressman Ron DeSantis since 2012, winning 62.6 percent of the vote in 2014. Vying to replace DeSantis in Congress are former Rep. Sandy Adams, New Smyrna Beach mayor Adam Barringer, and businessman G.G. Galloway. Many see Adams as the favorite as she used to represent part of the district in Congress, before her district was merged with Rep. John Mica's district and she lost by 20 points in the primary. About half of the voting population resides in Volusia County, which is where she'll be focusing her efforts. Sharing this part of the district is Barringer, who also had the most cash on hand of any candidate after the last FEC filing deadline. Galloway has already been endorsed by the National Association of Realtors and is personally wealthy, which could impact the landscape of the race. The biggest factors at play now seem to be the extent to which the old vs. new mentality comes into play, which would be bad for Adams, and which candidate can work their geographical base most effectively.

IN-9 (R+9; Todd Young running for Senate)

This slice of south central Indiana runs vertically from outside Indianapolis in the north to the Louisville suburbs in the south. Young was first elected in 2010 when the district was not as conservative, which explains his relatively establishment orientation. The early strong horse is Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who benefits from statewide name identification. He also has strong ties to the Indiana agriculture community and while the Indiana Farm Bureau has not endorsed him, many prominent agriculture executives are supporting him. Also in the race are state Sen. Erin Houchin and state Sen. Brent Waltz. Houchin represents a portion of the southwestern part of the district in the Senate while Waltz represents a much smaller slice of the district. Zoeller may be vulnerable from the right and it is possible Houchin or Waltz could exploit this in the primary.

KY-1 (R+18; Ed Whitfield is retiring)

With longtime Rep. Ed Whitfield on his way out (first elected in 1994) the race to replace him will involve one of the more competitive primaries of the cycle. State Ag Commissioner and 2015 Republican primary for Governor runner up James Comer has already declared his candidacy and starts off with a slight edge. Having won the district with 55 percent in his last primary, supporters are confident that will translate to success in his next one. A scandal involving abusing a former girlfriend, which Comer vigorously denied, is likely what caused him to lose the gubernatorial primary by 83 votes and could be re-litigated in a major way once again. Current opponents include congressional staffer Michael Pape, Hickman County prosecutor Jason Batts, and potentially former Hopkins County prosecutor Todd P'Pool. Of these, P'Pool would be the most troubling for Comer to compete with, due to his conservative following and tenacious attitude. Batts would be a strong challenger if he had a larger base (the county he prosecutes is home to 5,000 people) and Pape's career on the Congressional payroll probably does not suit the primary electorate. If P'Pool does get in, this will likely be a two man race.

Safe Democratic Open Seats to Watch

CA-46 (D+9; Loretta Sanchez is running for US Senate)

This Los Angeles area district has become increasingly Latino and Democratic over the last several election cycles, with Sanchez increasing her margin of victory from a low of 53% in the GOP wave of 2010 to 60% in 2014. Several Latino Democrats are vying for the seat, led by Lou Correa, a longtime legislator who has represented almost all of the district during his time in the state legislature. Correa developed a healthy relationship with California job creators and was a key figure in crafting compromise legislation in the mold of other California legislators turned Congressmen Ted Lieu and Eric Swalwell. Joe Dunn, another former state Senator, Jordan Brandman, an Anaheim City Council member and Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen will try to run to the left of Correa. To date, Correa continues to lead in fundraising and endorsements, including that of Linda Sanchez, the Congresswoman from the 37th District and sister of the retiring Loretta.

MD-8 (D+11 Chris Van Hollen is running for US Senate)

This district covers the wealthy, liberal, northwest DC suburbs of Montgomery and surrounding Counties. Some heavy hitters of Maryland Democratic politics have entered the race including progressive crusader state Senator Jamie Raskin, long time state legislator Kumar Barve and Marriott executive and former newscaster Kathleen Matthews, wife of MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Barve and Raskin are both well known in the district and Matthews will have the easiest access to fundraising that will be needed to run ads in the expensive DC media market. Matthews has raised over $1 million to date with Raskin just behind her with over $900,000 and Barve a little over $400,000. Expect an ideological differentiation between the progressive Raskin and the more establishment oriented Matthews.

NY-13 (D+42; Charlie Rangel is retiring)

An institution in Congress with over 46 years of service, Charlie Rangel is retiring, leaving this Harlem area seat open for the first time in decades. The district has grown much more Hispanic over the years and now has over 55% Latino voters making state Senator Adriano Espaillat the most likely successor at this point. Espaillat ran against Rangel in the primary in 2012 and 2014, coming close to unseating the long time Congressman. Adam Clayton Powell IV, former state Assemblyman and son of civil rights leader and former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. has entered the race and will be a well-known challenger. Two legislators, Keith Wright and Bill Perkins are in the race as well and Wright has taken an early fundraising lead with almost $250,000 raised but Espaillat has not yet posted fundraising totals.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
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Overview

  • Republicans held off Democrats in Virginia's Senate races and pulled off an upset win in Kentucky's gubernatorial election
  • Democrats quietly took control of Pennsylvania's Supreme Court and expanded their control in New Jersey
  • Republicans now have a super majority in the Mississippi House and won a proxy war over ballot initiative 42

While most eyes are on the 2016 elections which are now less than a year away, several states elected new leaders in 2015. Headlines last week focused on the Republican victories in the Kentucky Governor's race, the holding of the Virginia State Senate, and in a couple of ballot initiatives, but there were several places where Democrats had good nights as well.

Virginia

The headlines here focused on Republicans holding the State Senate which was an impressive feat considering Democrats needed only one victory to take control. Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe raised and spent tens of millions of dollars to support the effort and Democrats had five or six seats where they felt like they had a real opportunity to win. But on election night, Republicans won every single seat. While this leaves the State Senate in GOP hands, it really doesn't change the dynamic of power in Richmond. Republicans already held commanding control of the State House and the Senate has been so evenly divided that most things that passed needed some bipartisan support anyway. So while McAuliffe would have liked to win a seat and take control of the Senate, it still would have been very evenly divided and he still would need to work with the heavily Republican House. A big victory for Republicans, but not any change in how the state capitol will operate in the final two years of McAuliffe's administration.

Kentucky

Republican businessman Matt Bevin upset Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in the Gubernatorial race and will become only the second Republican Governor in the last fifty years. While Kentucky has been reliably Republican at the federal level for years, it has consistently elected Democrats to statewide offices.  Less discussed is how the GOP furthered its diversity efforts by electing the state's first African American woman as Lt. Governor. True to form though, Democrats held the other two top statewide posts, electing Andy Beshear as Attorney General and reelecting Alison Lundergan Grimes as Secretary of State. It is clear the Bluegrass State is transitioning to Republican control at the state level as well. While Democrats won the AG and SOS races, they did so with only 51% and 50% of the vote respectively while losing the Auditor, Agricultural Commissioner and Treasurer races in addition to the Governorship.

New Jersey

One of the bright spots for Democrats, they added four seats to their already substantial majority in the State Legislature, giving Gov. Chris Christie (R) an even steeper climb to get things accomplished during the final two years of his term. In a concerning sign of voter participation, registered voter turnout dropped to less than 21%, the lowest level ever recorded in the state, even lower than the 24% Special Election turnout that elected U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the previous lowest turnout, and down from 27% that turned out in 2011 for comparable legislative elections.

Pennsylvania

While there were no legislative or executive elections in Pennsylvania, Democrats are very excited about picking up control of the State Supreme Court. The court had been narrowly held by Republicans with two vacancies and after the vote last week, the Court is now 5-2 Democratic (Pennsylvania is one of the few states where judges are elected under a partisan banner). A handful of County Courts also switched control between the parties with the Republicans picking up four that had been in Democratic control and Democrats winning four others that had been held by Republicans. With frequent stalemates between the GOP legislature and the Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, the courts will frequently be called on to resolve questions when such impasses arise.

Mississippi

The Magnolia State reaffirmed its reputation as one of the most reliably Republican in the country giving landslide victories to Governor Phil Bryant (R) and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves (R). Democrats did narrowly hold their single statewide office with the reelection of Jim Hood as Attorney General. Partisan forces also ended up playing a major role in Initiative 42, a ballot initiative that would have changed the mechanism for public school funding in the state. With Democrats generally favoring the initiative and Republicans generally opposed, the initiative failed 54-46. Additionally, Republicans added to their already substantial majorities in the state legislature, picking up six seats including knocking off the Democratic House Minority Leader. An additional party switcher two days later provided Republicans a super majority in the legislature for the first time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015
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Overview:

  • Gubernatorial Races in 2016: DE, IN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, OR, UT, VT, WA, WV
  • Incumbents seeking reelection: IN, MT, NC, OR, UT, WA
  • Open seats: DE, MO, ND, NH, VT, WV
  • Republican held: IN, NC, ND, UT
  • Democrat held:DE, MO, MT, NH, OR, VT, WA, WV
  • Competitive Seats:MO, MT, NC, NH, WV

Last year's elections boosted the number of Republican Governors to 31, the highest number of states managed by Republicans since before the Great Depression. Mississippi reelected Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on November 3 and Kentucky's open seat will be filled by Republican Matt Bevin, who defeated Democrat Jack Conway the same day. Louisiana will choose between Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards on November 21. While the majority of Governor races are held during non-Presidential years, 12 states will vote for their Chief Executive in 2016: DE, IN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, OR, UT, VT, WA, and WV.

Six of those states have incumbents running for reelection (IN, MT, NC, OR, UT, WA) while six will be open seats due to term limits, retirement or running for other offices (DE, MO, ND, NH, VT, and WV).

Four of the Governorships up in 2016 are held by Republicans (IN, NC, ND, UT) while eight are held by Democrats. Governorships are much more likely to run counter to partisan trends than federal elections. We see this on both sides of the aisle; Democrats hold Governorships in states that are reliably Republican at the federal level including Kentucky, West Virginia, Montana and Missouri and, last year, Republicans won Governorships in the Democratic strongholds of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.

Several of these races are expected to be highly competitive.  Missouri, New Hampshire and West Virginia are three seats being vacated by Democrats that should see very competitive campaigns between the parties. In Missouri, Democrats have cleared the field for Attorney General Chris Koster, while Republicans appear headed to a deep, expensive primary. Some candidates on the Republican side include retired Navy Seal and author Eric Greitens, former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and state Sen. Bob Dixon. New Hampshire is still slow to develop, with the seat only becoming open recently. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) has said he will not run for Governor in 2016, surprising many. That leaves Democrats to choose between billionaire Jim Justice and State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, while Republican state Senate President Bill Cole has a clear path to the nomination for now.

One incumbent from each party also faces tough reelection fights.  Republican incumbent Pat McCrory faces a tough challenge from Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper in North Carolina, a Presidential toss-up state, while Democrat Steve Bullock could see a tough reelection in heavily Republican Montana in a Presidential year.

Based on numbers alone, Republicans should expand the number of Governorships they hold as they are on offense in four of the five most competitive races. Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Delaware are all expected to remain in Democratic hands while Republicans will anticipate another four years in Indiana, North Dakota and Utah.

While there aren't as many Gubernatorial races in 2016 as in non-Presidential years, with five that are hotly contested, keep an eye on what happens in each of these states because we end up with many more partisan surprises than at the federal level.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
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SNAPSHOT:

  • NJ- Legislative elections - little change expected
  • VA- Legislative elections - State Senate up for grabs.
  • MS- Statewide and Legislative Elections - little change expected, keep an eye on ballot Initiative 42.
  • KY- Statewide elections - Can Democrats keep the Governorship in a red state?
  • LA- Statewide elections - Is Vitter too wounded from the primary to beat a conservative Democrat?

This past weekend, Louisiana voted for Republican Sen. David Vittter and Democratic State House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards to advance to a runoff for Governor on Nov. 21. Several other states have Gubernatorial and Legislative elections on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Here is your scorecard for the final push in these off-year elections.

New Jersey- Not much to see here. The state will hold elections for State House and State Senate on Tuesday. New Jersey is one of a handful of states where two house districts are contained in each senate district and the three candidates typically run as a ticket. It is possible for a candidate of one party to win one seat and not the others, but it is rare. With only a handful of such opportunities on the table, look for the New Jersey legislature to remain pretty much as it is with Democrats controlling both chambers, 24-16 in the Senate and 47-21 in the House.

Virginia- Like New Jersey, Virginia is holding only Legislative elections this cycle, but here there is some uncertainty about outcome. The State House of Delegates is expected to remain comfortably in Republican control (it is currently 67-33). The State Senate, however, is a jump ball.  Republicans hold a one seat majority, 21-19 and are defending 6 competitive seats that could go either way. The Democrats have recruited strong candidates in each district, and Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe has made fundraising for these seats a top political priority since he was elected. As a long time national political player, McAuliffe is an excellent fundraiser and each of these races has been very well funded. Democrats are defending two competitive seats, so it is possible (though not likely) that Republicans could expand their majority but that would require running the table. The more likely scenario is that Democrats hold their current numbers or take control. 

Mississippi- Mississippi holds both Legislative and statewide elections on the 3rd. Republican Governor Phil Bryant is coasting to an easy reelection as are most other statewide officials. The exception to this is the Attorney General's office, the only statewide office held by a Democrat. Polling has been sparse, but with Mississippi one of the most heavily Republican states in the country, such races are always close. In the Legislature, we don't expect much change in the Republicans 32-20 Senate majority and 67-54 House majority. While there are several competitive races in each chamber, the number held by Republicans and Democrats will likely end up about where they are now, even if they are represented by some new faces. A relatively quiet but important ballot initiative, Initiative 42, would dramatically alter the state's education funding scheme. The initiative's innocuous wording obscures very substantial changes to the state's largest budget item, giving supporters hope it can pass even in a heavily Republican state. 

Kentucky- The Bluegrass State holds elections for statewide officials next week and most attention has centered on the Governor's race where Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway is facing Republican Matt Bevin. Bevin challenged Senator Mitch McConnell from the right in a primary in 2016 and had a very contentious primary battle that he won by less than 100 votes. Conway is presenting himself as a conservative Democrat in the tradition of popular outgoing Democratic Governor Steve Beshear. While Kentucky is reliably Republican at the federal level, at the state level, it has continued to elect predominately Democrats who hold the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State offices. Conway leads narrowly in recent polls but Bevin has received a generous TV ad buy from the Republican 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
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Debate analysis is rather like weather forecasting. Both are practiced by people who have studied and have experience with these things, both have specific metrics they are looking for and then both proceed to be generally wrong. Immediate analysis of who will get a polling bump or be hurt by a debate performance often bears little resemblance to the way the race proceeds for the next four to eight weeks. This year's debates have attracted more viewers than in any previous primary election cycle. The first Republican debate attracted 24 million and the second drew in 23.1 million viewers, by far the most of any Presidential Primary debate to date. The Democrats had an audience of 15 million, about the same as in years past. 

Take a look at some of the reaction from professional pundits following the first Republican debate:

"GOP Insiders: Trump was the Biggest Loser"

"With the exception of Donald Trump, most showed themselves to be serious contenders and well rehearsed"

"Ben Carson seemed tentative and out of his depth"

Trump's polling numbers increased from 24% to over 30% between the first and second debate five weeks later. Most analysts felt Carson got lost in the mix, was too quiet and did little to help himself. However, the first debate was the launchpad for Carson's rapid rise to the top of the GOP polling race, going from less than 6% before the first debate to over 30% by the time of the second. Carson turned out to be the runaway winner of the first debate in terms of growth in the polls with Trump next. The exact opposite of the armchair quarterbacking calls from DC commentators. 

So, what SHOULD we look for if we want to watch the debates like a pro?

The first thing to remember is that a debate reveals strategy as much as eloquence. An enormously important question in watching a debate like a pro is to ask, "did the candidate effectively articulate the objective or message that they needed to?" It's certainly helpful if a candidate can deliver their message with eloquence, but not as critical as whether the campaign correctly identified what they needed to accomplish and whether they delivered the lines necessary to achieve that objective. 

In the first Republican debate, Carson knew Trump's outsider appeal was driving his success. He also knew that Trump's bombastic style and personality kept some voters away. Carson needed to thread the needle of demonstrating outsider, "common-sense" ideas but in a softer, quieter style than Trump. So, his answer to any particular question was less important than reminding voters that he is a non-traditional politician AND present that perspective without the brash "Trump" style. He did it perfectly and rose almost 24 points in the polls in a month. Ted Cruz sought to solidify his position as the "Tea Party candidate" in a crowded field and used buzz words like "liberty", "patriots" "constitutional faithfulness" and "crony capitalism" that resonate strongly with those voters. Other candidates had different objectives.

In the Democratic debate, Sanders and Clinton had very different objectives - and both accomplished what they needed to. Sanders needed to show a broader audience the passion about income inequality and other progressive hot-button issues that had drawn big crowds around the country. He did that over and over. Clinton had a more difficult strategy. She needed to demonstrate that she shared the objectives that drove the Sanders message but would be more likely to actually deliver on it. She also needed to keep Joe Biden out of the race. If you think Clinton's famous line, "I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done" happened by accident, you still aren't watching debates like a pro. She also regularly voiced support for the Obama administration which would be the primary reason for a Biden candidacy - a continuation of the current administration's policies and approach, which has kept Biden boxed out - so far. She accomplished each objective very well while also demonstrating a broad command of policy and international situations learned from decades in the national political arena. While polling is limited in the short time since the Democratic debate, Joe Biden is still out of the race and Hillary's position has solidified in the surveys that have been released.

Another thing to watch for in debates is the extent to which candidates have an opportunity to "humanize" themselves. Voters are increasingly looking to candidates who demonstrate life experiences that drive their decision-making. Marco Rubio's stories about the life of his immigrant parents and Carly Fiorina's story about her daughter's drug overdose help demonstrate that they understand and relate to the real world struggles of everyday voters and they "get it" when it comes to how government policies impact average citizens. Other candidates have chosen obscure or unbelievable ways to try this with little success.  Done well, voters respond very positively to this.

In the upcoming debates, each candidate will have strategies they want to implement during the debate. Does Cruz attempt to expand his support beyond the Tea Party base or does he reinforce those appeals? Does Sanders attempt to show that he too can "get things done" and not only represent the anger of the progressive base but make policy changes in a divided Washington that can satisfy that anger? Does Jeb Bush have an opportunity to demonstrate how he is substantively different than his father and brother and would be a different kind of President than they were? Or conversely, does he believe voters want the steady experience the Bushes provided prior to the Obama Administration and work to show that he would offer very much the same type of Presidency? Can Clinton find ways of showing that she relates to the struggles of average voters, especially young and minority voters who are important constituencies in a Democratic primary?

Each campaign will come in with strategic objectives they want to accomplish.  Evaluating what those things are, and how well the candidates accomplished those objectives is how to watch a debate like a pro.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Incumbency has its perks. For five lawmakers who at this time in 2014 were in the heat of a very competitive toss up election, the biggest perk of all is that this year they are not. Specifically, the advantages enjoyed by incumbents include increased name ID, fundraising windfalls and a certain legitimacy that can only be earned by holding the office. While things can change very quickly and there are certainly no guarantees for anyone, these five races are good examples of what can happen when incumbents have a chance to spread their roots.

California 36 - Raul Ruiz (D)

Congressman Raul Ruiz represents a swath of the southern California desert that runs east to west from the Arizona border to Riverside County and includes Palm Springs and Indio. First elected in 2012, Ruiz defeated former GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack with 52% of the vote despite the district's R+1 lean. Ruiz took advantage of the districts increasingly Hispanic demographics and stuck to his narrative as an outsider and emergency room physician. In his reelection effort in 2014, Republicans did not fully coalesce around his opponent Assemblyman Brian Nestande as well as they needed to and as a result Ruiz won reelection with 54%, two more points than 2012 in a terrible year for Democrats. Republicans feel good about one particular candidate for 2016, Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson but Ruiz may be exceedingly difficult to unseat in a presidential year when Democratic turnout will be higher.

California 7 - Ami Bera (D)

California's 7th District is located in the north central part of the state, encompassing the Sacramento suburbs and has an even split of registered Democrats and Republicans. Congressman Ami Bera is now two for three in runs for this seat (winning by 1,455 votes last year) and all signs point toward an easier reelection than he's had in years past. 2014 Republican nominee Doug Ose has not closed the door on running again, which would be his third time. Most party members are eagerly waiting for a new challenger to emerge, though it is unclear who that may be. Bera successfully activates his Indian-American base, who have outsized political influence because they are so active and that is not going to change.

Illinois 13 - Rodney Davis (R)

After winning a very close race in 2012, Congressman Rodney Davis has been able to breathe easier after a 17 point victory in 2014. At this time in 2013, Davis was seen as one of the most vulnerable members of the House and Democrats were hyping up their nominee, Madison County Judge Ann Callis. This south central district includes Champaign and Decatur, as well as parts of Springfield and is divided equally among registered Democrats and Republicans. It is possible that Davis's last two election results have been driven by the names at the top of the ticket more so than other incumbents, with Illinois native son Barack Obama headlining 2012 and unpopular former Gov. Pat Quinn headlining 2014, but either way his standing has only improved since he's been in office.

New York 21 - Elise Stefanik (R)

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Elise Stefanik represents the vast North Country district including Plattsburgh and Saratoga Springs. This is another district that is split evenly between registered Republicans and Democrats, which was not apparent in Stefanik's 55% of the vote garnering win. While New York had very low turnout in 2014, her ability to win and hold moderates was and is vital for her future electoral success. Her profile makes her a fundraising powerhouse and she is further aided by the continual presence of Green Party candidate Matt Funicello, who will steal liberal votes from any Democratic nominee as long as he's on the ballot.

Virginia 10 - Barbara Comstock (R)

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock represents some of DC's further flung suburbs, including Manassas and Winchester in a district that runs along the state's northern border with Maryland and West Virginia. This race has been slow to develop, partially because of Comstock's strong 16 point victory in 2014 and partially because of Virginia Legislative elections in 2015 moving back the time frame for state representatives. Comstock has also proven to be a fundraising machine, with over $876K cash on hand. The only significant Democrat generating buzz to run against Comstock is LuAnn Bennett, businesswoman and ex-wife of former Rep. Jim Moran.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

With the 2016 General Election 13 months away, some campaigns, like the GOP Presidential Primary, seem to have been going on a long time, while others haven't even started.  Why is that?  When exactly do campaigns for the Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives need to begin in order to become viable? Timing is one of the most important aspects of achieving political success.  Campaigning too early or too late can be a factor in determining victory or defeat.

First Things First

The two factors that most drive a candidate's timing are ballot access and money. Ballot access, the process whereby candidates, ballot initiatives and political parties qualify to appear on voters ballots, is a key variable that must be addressed by candidates before any campaigning can begin. Every state is different when it comes to the laws that regulate ballot access, with some states making it easier than others to gain access. Usually, there is a threshold of signatures from citizens of the state, sometimes from different areas of the state, which must be met to qualify. This isn't usually an issue for Congressional candidates, or even Senate candidates, because even in states requiring a high number of signatures, the candidates are based there and only have to contend with their own state. It is a BIG hurdle for Presidential candidates who must gain ballot access in 50 separate states, with 50 sets of rules, and must find supporters in each state to gather those signatures, which is not typically the "fun" part of a campaign. The other major issue is money. Even with SuperPACs, the campaign itself must have a certain threshold of money raised to be competitive. With FEC contribution limits of $2600, and many campaigns costing million or tens of millions of dollars, it takes time to raise that much money and candidates need to start as soon as possible.

Presidential Candidates

Those seeking the highest office in the land had better start their candidacy by mid-Fall the year before at the very latest. The higher a potential candidate's profile and resources, the longer they can usually wait. This is currently playing out with Vice President Joe Biden (D) who is publicly weighing his decision to seek the Democratic nomination. With his high name ID, access to donors and campaign infrastructure, and grace period following the tragic loss of his son, Biden can afford to wait in a way no other potential candidate can or could have. The reason candidates usually need to declare sooner rather than later is that they need to raise lots of money to run their campaign and the longer they have to do that, the better off they will be. If Biden enters the race this late, he may be uniquely able to put together the staff and money to be competitive, but few, if any other candidates would be in that position. He would still have ballot access issues, but with enough resources from the Obama-Biden campaigns of 2008 and 2012, he should have the network to make that happen. Obviously, all other candidates started that process months ago.

Senate Candidates

Candidates seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate have a slightly different time frame than those seeking the Presidency, although Fall of the year before is usually the time to jump in. For 2016, Republicans and Democrats have already locked up their preferred candidates in most of their target races and it's no coincidence that happened before the end of the year. In a Presidential election year when voters are saturated with coverage of the Presidential candidates and air time is more expensive, it's important that Senate candidates take the necessary steps early on to guarantee their campaigns reach voters. Obviously, depending on the size of the state, campaigns vary in cost. The bigger the state, the more expensive the campaign will be. The more expensive the campaign, the earlier candidates tend to declare in order to raise the sufficient funds to run.

On Monday morning, Democrats landed their top recruit in New Hampshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan, not a moment too soon. She will likely be the last major candidate to enter a competitive Senate race this year. The exception to the early declaration rule would be the Colorado Senate race in 2014, when Cory Gardner (R) entered the race in early Spring of that year and ran a shortened campaign on his way to victory in November. The tactic of declaring late in the cycle paid off in this case, but it is the exception that proves the rule.

House Candidates

Prospective Congressmen and women have the most time to decide whether or not they want to seek a seat in the House of Representatives. Ballot access is relatively easy for Congressional candidates and the amount of money needed is less than a statewide race.  Most of the time, these candidates can wait until as long as a few months before their primary before jumping in, although depending on the dynamics of the race it can be beneficial to get in earlier. Again, the longer a candidate has to raise money, the more opportunities they have to reach their fundraising goals. There is always the possibility that voters will sour on a candidate the longer they are exposed to him/her but that is largely dependent on who the candidate is. For House races, it's usually true that the later the primary is, the longer it takes for the race to develop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Question and Answer with BIPAC CEO and former Congressman Jim Gerlach

Q: What impact does Boehner's retirement have on the 2016 elections, especially House candidates?

Gerlach: His retirement isn't going to make an appreciable impact on House races for next year. There will still be some running for Congress next year against the Establishment, so whoever becomes Speaker, and now it looks like Kevin McCarthy, and there may be some other leadership changes, but that won't change the dynamic of some who will run "against the Establishment," particularly in Republican primaries. If there is significant legislative action in the House between now and primary season next year that may take some of the fire from those anti-establishment candidates. From the Presidential election that is occurring now and all the things that will happen between now and then, world events or things President Obama pushes, I think all of that will collectively overshadow Speaker Boehner's retirement in terms of impacting election outcomes.

Q: What does his retirement say to you about the dynamics of the balance of power between establishment and tea party factions in the House?

Gerlach: Well, it is very clear that the fracture between those factions is still there and it may or may not be healed with the election of a new slate of House officers. Kevin McCarthy is the odds on favorite to be the next Speaker, so this will really test his leadership abilities to demonstrate to those 30-40 members of the House Freedom Caucus that he will put legislation on the floor that they will support, but it's a big conference - 247 members - and a lot of members of that conference want to move issues that may not quite match up with what those Freedom Caucus members want, so we will see if they will fall in line now or continue to be disruptive and cause the next slate of leaders the same problems they caused Speaker Boehner. To the extent that so many of the Freedom Caucus are driven, in my mind, not by policy but by politics, we may not see that fracture healed much in the coming months and a lot of that will depend on McCarthy and the new leadership team's ability to bring people together and I hope they will be successful.

Q: Boehner has said he would like to "clean the barn" and push through some things that have stalled in the House. What issues do you see as most likely to get through before he leaves?

Gerlach: Well he clearly wants to do anything and everything possible to make sure the government doesn't shut down, so he's going to do everything he can to pass the Senate Bill, which is pretty much a "clean" Continuing Resolution to continue to fund the government into December. That will be his first priority. Then he will probably see if there are opportunities to pass another Highway Bill and pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling so, again, there's not a problem with the Federal Government moving forward with its operations. Those will probably be the key ones, and how far he gets will partly depend on that House Freedom Caucus group. I think his main goal is not to have the government shut down and leave office at the end of October with a functioning government and other efforts in the works like the debt ceiling and the Highway Trust Fund.

Q: As another member who chose their own departure date, what can you tell Boehner that he has to look forward to when he adds "former" to his Member of Congress title?

Gerlach: Ha!  Well, he will be able to have many more weekends at home with his wife Debbie, kids and now new grandchild to enjoy time with them. And I know he loves golf, so he will be able to play more golf and just enjoy life a little bit. I think he'll enjoy the additional time he will have for those things rather than running around the country every weekend trying to raise money for other members. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
By:

As Congress reconvenes and considers whether or not to keep the government open, it is a good time to take a look at the members who will have the toughest races this time next year.  We have seen that the Presidential race has shifted dramatically over the summer while the Senate landscape is largely unchanged over the past three months.  House races tend to be competitive or not based on the partisan composition of the district, much like Senate races, and thus change less frequently in terms of competitiveness. Redistricting in Florida leaves several of those seats in limbo until a court decides new district lines.  Virginia is in the same situation, so we will set those states aside until we have clarity on what the districts look like.

Overall, Republicans are somewhat over-performing in their representation in Congress.  There are 25 Republicans representing districts that voted for Obama but only five Democrats representing districts that voted for Romney.  Amongst races that are rated as "Toss-Up" by Charlie Cook, 11 are held by Republicans, only three by Democrats.  Amongst the wider pool of districts rated as "Leaning Republican" or "Leaning Democratic" there are 15 Republicans and only four Democrats.  So Democrats will generally be on offense in 2016 and Republicans will be working primarily on holding as many of these competitive seats that they can.  Among the most interesting:

Republican Held Seats to Watch:

IA-1 Rod Blum (R):  Freshman Congressman Rod Blum is in one of the most heavily Democratic districts represented by a Republican and the most heavily Democratic district in Iowa, going for Obama by over 13 percentage points.  Blum's first vote in Congress was to vote against John Boehner as Speaker, immediately putting him in an adversarial position within the party.  His opponent from 2014, former state House Speaker Tom Murphy is running again as well as Monica Vernon, a businesswoman and Republican turned Democratic City Councilwoman from Cedar Rapids who is supported by Emily's List and many in national Democratic leadership roles.

TX-23 Will Hurd (R):  The huge district spanning 800 miles of Texas' border with Mexico from San Antonio to El Paso is a Latino-majority district represented by Freshman Will Hurd.  Hurd is one of the most interesting members of the Republican Caucus. A 38 year old African American who served as an undercover CIA agent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he beat Democrat Pete Gallego in the 2014 Republican wave by 2500 votes.  Gallego is seeking a rematch in 2016.

NY-19 Open (Gibson - R):  After winning reelection by nearly 30 points in 2014, moderate Republican Congressman Chris Gibson surprised many by retiring from his northern Hudson Valley-Catskills district in January 2015. This has caused Empire State republicans to pin their future hopes at statewide victory to his good name but for now House Republicans are left with a tough seat to defend, one that President Obama won by seven points in 2012. So far, former GOP Assembly Minority Leader John Faso has filed to run, with Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Assemblymen Pete Lopez and Steve McLaughlin mulling bids. Democrats are waiting on Ulster County Executive Mike Hein to decide whether to run, a decision that will not come until after this fall. McLaughlin is considered the most conservative of the Republican bunch, something that may not help in a district with more Democratic voters than Republicans.

NH-1 Frank Guinta (R):  This perennial swing district has changed hands between Guinta and former Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D) for the past three cycles, and Porter has filed to run again. Congressman Guinta was embroiled in a scandal earlier this year that may still take some time to fully play out. Forced to pay a $15,000 fine to the FEC for campaign finance irregularities related to his 2014 run, things were grim enough for New Hampshire GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte to call on him to resign. The dustup hasn't taken him down yet but it has certainly made him more vulnerable. Depending on how things play out, Guinta may draw multiple primary challengers. The direction of this race is likely to mirror the direction of the scandal, giving democrats a slight edge in a general election against Guinta.

Democratic Held Seats to Watch:

AZ-1 Open (Kirkpatrick - D):  With Ann Kirkpatrick (D) running for Senate, Republicans have one of their few pick up opportunities in this large district, which encompasses Flagstaff and Navajo Nation. Democrats feel good about their nominee, former state Sen. Tom O'Halleran, who has a relatively nonpartisan reputation and will not invite the kind of attacks that a more liberal candidate might in a district that has more Republicans than Democrats. 2014 nominee former AZ House Speaker Andy Tobin is skipping the race. Another 2014 candidate, rancher Gary Kiehne has filed to run, as has former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Kiehne worries some establishment Republicans fear he is too conservative and his inability to win his party's nomination last cycle gives the slight edge to Bennett.

NE-2 Brad Ashford (D):  After defeating Lee “foot in mouth” Terry (R) in 2014 to become the first Democrat to represent Nebraska in the House in 20 years, Ashford now may be the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat in the country. Even though he is averse to fundraising, Congressman Ashford will need all the help he can get if he wishes to continue to represent this Omaha based seat, won by Romney in 2012 by 7 points. Most Republicans feel good about retired Air Force Brigadier General Don "Bits" Bacon but social conservative former state Sen. Chip Maxwell could also get involved and stir the pot. Some believe a more conservative candidate like Maxwell may be Ashford's best bet at winning reelection.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
By:

While the summer has seen tumultuous changes in the Presidential primary field, the battle for control of the Senate looks remarkably like it did at the beginning of the season. Democrats are on offense in many more places than in 2014 and have an outside chance of winning Senate control after the 2016 election.  

Republicans currently hold a 54-46 seat majority, meaning that the Democrats would have to win four seats to gain control of the Senate if they hold the Presidency (the VP serves as a tie-breaking vote if the chamber were divided 50-50). If Republicans win the White House, Democrats would need a clear majority of 51 seats, meaning they must win five.

Here's a look at some of the races that will most impact which party controls the Senate.

Illinois: Perhaps the most endangered incumbent is Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois.  Kirk squeaked out a 48-46.5 win in the 2010 Republican wave in one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country. Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran and amputee is the most likely opponent and has the support of most national Democratic organizations, but she must fend off Andrea Zopp, former head of the Chicago Urban League in a primary first. Kirk is a skilled politician and the sort of moderate that Illinois has supported before but in Illinois in a Presidential year, he has a hard race ahead of him.

POLLS: 

  • Duckworth 42 - Kirk 36 (PPP 7/22/15)

MONEY: 

  • Tammy Duckworth (D) $2,646,232 raised/$2,229,783 CoH
  • Mark Kirk (R) $2,399,205 raised/$3,262,590 CoH

Wisconsin: Illinois' northern neighbor, Wisconsin, hosts another of the most competitive races of the cycle where incumbent Republican Ron Johnson faces a rematch with the incumbent he beat six years ago, Russ Feingold. Feingold is an experienced fundraiser and legislator and has the unified support of national Democrats for his rematch.

POLLS: 

  • Feingold 48.5 - Johnson 41 (Marquette 8/16/15)

MONEY: 

  • Feingold (D) $2,341,968 raised/$2,036,995 CoH
  • Ron Johnson (R) $3,309,868 raised/$2,776,182 CoH

Ohio: The famous Presidential battleground state also hosts one of this cycle's top Senate races, where Republican incumbent Rob Portman will try to hold back former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Portman is an adept fundraiser and a smart solutions-oriented official but Strickland's name ID and fundraising networks are also strong. Strickland's centrist image has drifted left since leaving office after the 2010 elections but he is counting on what he may lose in the middle he can make up for by turning out more progressives in a Presidential year.

POLLS:

  • Strickland 42.5 - Portman 42 (Quinnipiac 8/18/15)

MONEY:

  • Ted Strickland (D) $1,708,075 raised/$1,214,754 CoH
  • Rob Portman (R) $5,715,598 raised/$10,011,821 CoH

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State leans blue and is represented by Republican Pat Toomey who has done a good job of consolidating support across the Republican spectrum from his days as head of Club for Growth, generally seen as a Tea-Party oriented group. Democrats have a competitive primary between former Congressman Joe Sestak who lost to Toomey in 2010 and Gubernatorial Chief of Staff and former Gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty. Sestak has frustrated many in the Party and McGinty is well connected to the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, so a tough primary is expected. Toomey is a disciplined candidate and has consolidated support on the center-right but it remains to be seen if that is enough to hold the seat in a Presidential election year.

POLLS: 

  • Toomey 41 - Sestak 29, Toomey 35 - McGinty 28 (Franklin and Marshall 8/24/15)

MONEY: 

  • Joseph Sestak (D) $1,040,107 raised/$2,165,861 CoH
  • Kathleen McGinty (D) (not yet reported)
  • Patrick Toomey (R) $4,308,362 raised/$8,316,377 CoH

Florida: The other famous Presidential battleground is likely to be one of the busiest political states of the cycle with redistricting forcing many Congressional members to run in new districts as well as a highly competitive open Senate race. Both sides have crowded primaries pitting candidates against each other based on ideology as well as geography. The Democrats have centrist south Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy facing the bombastic self-funder former Congressman Alan Grayson. The Republicans see central Florida Congressman David Jolly, northern Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami and self-funding businessman Todd Wilcox. It will be a long, tough primary on both sides and certainly a toss-up in determining control of the Senate.

POLLS:

  • Murphy 40 - Lopez-Cantera 28 
  • Murphy 39 - DeSantis 31
  • Grayson 37 - Lopez-Cantera 31 
  • Grayson 38 - DeSantis 32 (Quinnipiac 8/16/15)

MONEY:

  • Patrick Murphy (D) $2,700,992 raised/$2,491,344 CoH
  • Ronald DeSantis (R) $1,431,424 raised/$2,017,354 CoH
  • Alan Grayson (D) $453,918 raised/$71,056 CoH
  • Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) not yet reported
  • David Jolly (R) $500,000 raised/$455,349 CoH

Nevada: Like Florida, Nevada is competitive at the Presidential, Senate and Congressional levels this year. To replace retiring Senator Harry Reid, Republicans have solidified behind Congressman Joe Heck and Democrats quickly rallied to former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. Both are well regarded politicians who have done a nice job consolidating party factions for themselves without much trouble. TV stations in Las Vegas are already seeing revenue from big spending groups trying to impact this toss up race.

POLLS: 

  • Masto  42 - Heck 41 (PPP 7/15) 

MONEY:

  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D) $1,100,096 raised/$955,826 CoH
  • Joe Heck (R) $902,727 raised/$1,404,897 CoH

Other Races To Keep An Eye On:

While the above six races are the most competitive of the cycle, four other states have races that COULD quickly become competitive depending on which candidates decide to run. 

New Hampshire: Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte is a well-regarded centrist who would likely cruise to an easy re-election, unless... well- regarded centrist Governor Maggie Hassan enters the race. Most New Hampshire observers expect that she will leave the Governorship for a shot at the Senate and if she does, this seat would immediately join the above six in the highly competitive category.

Colorado: Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet won a very close race (48%-46.5%) in 2010 in a state that has been a toss-up between the parties for years. No first tier Republican candidates have stepped forward to challenge him yet, so one of the potentially most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate could dodge a bullet and have an easy reelection.

North Carolina: Republican Richard Burr faces the mirror-image issue as Bennet in a purple state. Potentially one of the Democrats best opportunities, the thin Democratic bench in the state has kept them from fielding a competitive challenger to Burr who may, like Bennet, get a pass and a relatively easy reelection.

Arizona: While Arizona has been Republican at the statewide level for several years, the margins are getting smaller and smaller. Incumbent Republican John McCain is running for reelection against Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick is a centrist who has held off strong Republican challengers in her swing district. The exception being 2010 when she was defeated only to regain the seat in 2012 and hold it in the GOP wave of 2014. McCain is a favorite target of tea party groups and he hasn't consolidated their support back home. For now the Senator has the upper hand but if he loses many more base voters, a centrist like Kirkpatrick could put up a real fight.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015
By:

Labor Day weekend marks the kickoff of college football season (the pros follow a week later) and it also historically marks the beginning of the Presidential election season. The two follow some very similar patterns.  Lots of preparation, team and organization building has already taken place whether you are a Presidential campaign or the Ohio State Buckeyes. As the season wears on, unexpected teams prove their strength and others expected to do well fall behind. The strongest make it to the playoffs (early primary states) and advance on their way to the Super Bowl of the general election next year. Let's take a look at the Presidential playing field as the season kicks off.

On the Republican side, the undisputed champion of the pre-season has been Donald Trump, followed closely by Ben Carson.  On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has maintained her frontrunner status despite huge strides by Bernie Sanders among the Progressive wing of the party. Growing concern from the more establishment factions hamper her as well as the fact that the FBI has taken over the investigations of her private email server and what may or may not have been on it.

Starting with Republicans, Trump is perhaps the most remarkable and unique political phenomena in a generation. With almost 100% name ID when he began and a majority of Republican primary voters viewing him negatively, he has improved his standing in the polls from less than 5% on June 1 to over 26% now. More impressively, he has completely flipped his favorable/unfavorable ratings in that time now viewed more favorably than any other candidate in the field. There is no other known case when a candidate so widely known has reversed their favorability so dramatically so quickly.

The other leader in the GOP field is another first time candidate, surgeon Ben Carson. On May 1, Carson was also polling under 5% but with very little name ID among GOP Primary voters. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie all polled well ahead of Carson and enjoyed established fundraising and voter bases and better name ID. He has surpassed all of them to be favored by 12% of respondents currently, trailing only Trump. A well-received debate performance and a tide of GOP voters looking for an "outsider" candidate has provided the spark to put Carson at the top of the race while others have fallen behind their standings at the beginning of the summer.

Now that the "real" campaign season is kicking off, those millions in TV ads and mailers will begin and candidates will rely less on media coverage. More and more debates will be taking place (the first on September 16) with one per month through the fall and winter, and numerous other candidate forums across the country. Key factors to watch: Will the desire for an outsider candidate like Trump or Carson continue to define the race or will the big advertising budgets of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and others shake it up? Will the organizational efforts of a Scott Walker in Iowa or John Kasich in New Hampshire pay dividends in turning out voters and create surprising results?

The Democratic field has remained more steady and though rumors continue to circulate about Vice President Biden entering the race, the longer he waits, the less likely it becomes (and more difficult for him to be successful). Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who self identifies as a European Socialist ideologically has firmly established himself as the leading alternative to Clinton as other contenders such as Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb have remained stuck at the bottom of the polls.

On June 1, Clinton held a 63-9 lead over Sanders. That has closed to 49-25 today with Biden taking an additional 14% as only a potential candidate. A 14 point drop for Clinton and a 16 point increase for Sanders in only three months is a reflection of the same desire for an "outsider" candidate that is driving the Republican primary now as well as concerns about the investigations into Clinton's email practices while Secretary of State. Clinton has also had a harder time connecting with voters on a personal level than anticipated.

The key questions to keep an eye on in the Democratic primary as the campaign season begins are: how damaging will the email scandal be to Clinton? Will Biden enter the race or not? In such a tumultuous political environment, can O'Malley or Webb make a surprise resurgence? How will the debates impact the race (Democratic primary debates begin mid-October and, like the GOP debates, continue approximately once per month through the elections).

Just as there are sure to be dramatic upsets and come-from-behind wins on the football field this year, the political playing field is sure to offer the same. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When August began, we expected to have new Congressional district lines in both Florida and Virginia. As the month closes, we have neither and await the courts to take the next step. Democrats have welcomed the court rulings that have compelled the legislatures in Virginia and Florida to redraw some of the Congressional District lines. Racial and partisan considerations were the main motivator in each court's decision, which came about after Republicans in both legislatures drew favorable maps for their party following the 2010 Census. Here's where things stand in each state as the summer ends and frantic fall begins:

Florida

A special legislative session which convened August 10-21 was unable to come to a consensus about which Congressional map to send back to the Leon County Court for approval. There is currently a House version and a Senate version, and the House Speaker has instructed the court to consider each of those and potentially third party versions. The legislature did however reserve the right to amend the district lines as they see fit, so it's not as though the court is going to scramble the map with impunity. A hearing by the judge in the case on Tuesday, Aug. 25 could offer more guidance on anticipated outcomes.

We discussed in a previous article the potential shake ups that could occur to the different districts. As of now, it still looks as though most of those predictions will hold true and Democrats will see a net gain of at least one seat but possibly a second. Florida's 13th Congressional District (CD) looks destined to flip from Republican to Democratic control, highlighted by Rep. David Jolly's (R) entrance into the open Senate race. Another Republican Congressman who may be in trouble is Daniel Webster of Central Florida's 10th CD. With a large number of African American and other minority voters being drawn out of the soon to be defunct 5th CD, they will need someplace to go and Webster's neighboring district is an easy target. There is still much to unfold here, but for the time being, it is in the hands of the Leon County Court.

Virginia

Similarly, a special session that was meant to redraw some of Virginia's congressional districts ended last week when the Senate adjourned unexpectedly without coming to a resolution. It is widely believed that the Senate, House and Governor would have had a difficult time coming to agreement anyway, with Senate Democrats and Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) taking a hard stance against simple tweaks to the map, advocating instead for a wholesale redraw. Now that the decision is in the hands of the Court, a wholesale redraw may be even less likely. The reason for this is that Courts tend to not enjoy making substantial changes to Congressional maps, as there are often no legal answers about where to place different communities. The Court will bring in redistricting experts to make changes to the map, who almost always make as little change as possible while still being complaint with the court.

There are a few changes to the Virginia map that could come from this redraw. At issue is the concentration of black voters in Rep. Bobby Scott's (D) 3rd CD. VA-3 runs from Richmond southeast towards Norfolk and Hampton Roads. His district is nearly 58% African American. The Court would like to move some of those African American voters to neighboring districts, making Rep. Randy Forbes' (R) 4th CD a likely target. Also at risk may be 2nd CD Rep. Scott Rigell (R). Republican leadership would like to see some of those African American voters unpacked from VA-3 and placed into VA-7, currently held by Rep. Dave Brat (R), who is no friend of Boehner's after defeating former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary for that seat. This may not happen just because the fit is not as natural as placing those voters in the other southeastern Virginia districts. There is no indication of where these voters will end up, so we are forced to hold our breath. The one thing that seems certain is that Democrats are poised to benefit in the form of one or two pick up opportunities in 2016.

In both of these cases, Republican legislatures are being forced to deal with a problem they created by drawing highly partisan districts in the first place.  In both cases, they were unable to reach a solution and instead defaulted to judicial resolution, which they will surely complain about once the courts pass on their verdicts.  In both cases, Democrats stand to pick up a seat or two but neither is expected at this point to dramatically alter the electoral landscape nationally.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

On Thursday, August 6, in what was the most viewed and most anticipated primary debate since 2008, the candidates, moderators and broadcasters did not disappoint. The first debate took place among the bottom seven candidates in polling. The second debate included the top ten Republicans in the national average of polls, among them Donald Trump, Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich. It was difficult and frankly nearly impossible to look at the debate and say conclusively "Candidate X" won, as everyone had their preconceived notions before the event began, and confirmation bias is perhaps the most common disease in Washington. Generally speaking, the candidates all performed as one might have expected they would and most of them did no harm to their campaigns.

Playing to Their Strengths

Donald Trump was bombastic. Jeb Bush was sober minded and calm. Scott Walker coolly emphasized his record and made no enemies. Marco Rubio offered his vision for the future. Rand Paul and Chris Christie were combative, not just with each other. Huckabee was folksy. Cruz tried to stake out the conservative ground. Kasich worked the hometown crowd. Carson made sure we knew he wasn't a politician. All of these things could have been predicted before the debate and most people were unsurprised by the way each candidate presented themselves. That said, the events unfolded in a way that was neither drab nor boring. While there were only a few memorable moments of truly substantive policy discussion, (Rubio and Bush on immigration and education, Christie and Huckabee on entitlements, Kasich on gay marriage etc.) this was to be expected at a first debate where the candidates have limited time to speak and are primarily attempting to introduce themselves to voters. Regardless, there was some good back and forth between the candidates despite the fact that the event felt at times more like ten simultaneous press conferences than a debate.

"Results"

Depending on which paper you picked up the morning after the debate, you would get very different impressions about who won and who lost. According to Politico, Bush and Rubio "won" while Trump and Paul "lost." According to the Washington Post, Kasich, Rubio, Trump and Carson were the winners while Paul and Walker were the losers. In the eyes of the New York Times, Walker, Rubio and Kasich did well while Trump and Bush faltered. This judgment is entirely subjective and it is important to keep in mind that entering the debate, different candidates have different goals. Kasich's goal was to present himself as the establishment alternative to Jeb, which he was largely successful at doing. Cruz's goal was to bide his time, say conservative things, and sit on his money waiting for Trump voters to become Cruz voters. Jeb did not need to shine (although that certainly would have helped), he just needed to not mess up, a modest yet reasonable goal for someone with $100 million but who hasn't run for office since 2002. Paul needed to get in a scrap and appeal to his libertarian minded constituents, which he did to some extent. In due time, the polls, fundraising reports, earned media and grassroots buzz will bear out the real results of the debate but it does not seem as though any of the ten preformed poorly enough to ruin their entire candidacy quite yet.

Critics found fault in the format of the debate, with some saying the opening question unfairly targeted Trump, that most of the questions painted conservatives in a bad light, that there was too much reality TV and not enough substance and that some questions had too much of a "gotcha" feel. Overall, it seemed the moderators and Fox News as a network did as a good a job as they could have given the circumstances. Credit is due to the moderators for generally controlling the ten candidates and the ten egos on stage. Trump and Megyn Kelly got into a tiff at the beginning of the debate which Trump has yet to back down from. Besides that, the moderators and candidates interacted civilly.

Even though she didn't appear on the main-stage, the one candidate who gained momentum from the debate was Carly Fiorina. Her supporters have long spoken about her unique ability to prod, needle and hammer her political opponents (mostly Hillary Clinton) but for most people it was their first time seeing the former HP CEO in action. Her challenge has been and continues to be turning "Carly fans" into "Carly voters".

What's Next

Candidates will spend the next month splicing up videos from the debate as fundraising fodder, studying up on policy positions and consolidating and expanding their natural bases of support, all leading up to the September 16 debate on CNN. The September debate, which will be held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, will be moderated by Jake Tapper and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. As of now, the format will be similar to the last debate, with one segment of the top ten candidates in national polls and the other segment with all other candidates who register one percent of support in national polls. Although the next debate is a little more than a month away, that may as well be a decade in the campaign life cycle. In this contest, change is the only constant.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
By:

August is the month that Washington, DC closes for business.  The Congress is adjourned the entire month, schools start back across the country, end of the summer vacations take place and politicians ready themselves for a final legislative push before the end of the year.

Here is a preview of what to expect over the next 30 days on the election front.

US House:

  • We will have all new Congressional districts in Florida.  The Florida legislature returns for a special session in August that focuses exclusively on redrawing district lines of 8 Congressional seats that were determined to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered after the 2010 redistricting.  Redrawing those 8 will end up impacting almost every district in the state.  This has already led to Rep. David Jolly abandoning what is expected to be an unwinnable seat and running for US Senate.  Gwen Graham's seat may end up the same way.  This is enormous political upheaval for one of the largest swing states in the country heading into a Presidential year.
  • Legislative lobbying is moved out of the hallways of Congress and into townhall meetings, district tours and open office hours back in each member's district.  But make no mistake, it is no less intense.  Between a Highway Funding Bill, Ex-Im Bank reauthorization and major energy bills in each Chamber, there are major priorities for the private sector to weigh in on during the recess.

US Senate:

  • It is expected that more top Senate races will have their candidate fields clarified during the break.  All eyes are on New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan who is expected to announce whether or not she will challenge Senator Kelly Ayotte.  Pennsylvania is also expected to get a competitive Democratic primary with the anticipated entrance of former Gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty into the Senate race, challenging Joe Sestak for the Democratic nomination to run against Senator Pat Toomey next year.

President:

  • The first Presidential debate is scheduled for August 6 and will host only the ten candidates with the highest national polling numbers.  The remaining candidates are participating in a forum together several hours before the debate.  In such a crowded field, and with a stage that will include Donald Trump, anticipate fireworks as candidates jockey for attention from the cameras and voters in the first opportunity for all the candidates to share a stage.
  • The uncertainty isn't limited to the Republican primary however.  After months of increasing speculation and continually falling poll numbers for Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden will likely announce whether or not he will run for President during the next month.  If he gets in, it will rock the Democratic field.  His close association to President Obama (and his voter and money network) as well as eight years in the White House, give him immediate credibility and standing in a field that has pretty much been cleared for Clinton so far.

August Surprise:

  • Almost every August holds an "August Surprise."  Whether it is an unexpected retirement announcement, a new scandal erupting around a Senator or Presidential candidate, an international issue that shakes the political world, there is bound to be SOMETHING that happens while DC is closed for the month that changes the political landscape significantly when it reopens in September.  Unpredictable by definition, keep an eye open between beach reads for the one big thing that the Capitol will be talking about when Congress reconvenes in September.

Typically considered a slow and sleepy month in the political world, this August will bring some very interesting political developments to the electoral world and there will be a much different picture of what House, Senate and even the Presidential race looks like when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.  Enjoy the end of Summer and get out to a town hall meeting!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

-John F. Kennedy

A recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court on the state's Congressional map will have ripple effects at every level of government. The Court ruled that the map violates the Florida Constitution on a vote of 5-2. While taking full stock of the present situation, and with an eye on the future, many politicians know the ruling will force them to either sink or swim. With a Leon County Judge ordering a new map be drawn and defended in court by September 25th, change will surely be coming fast.

The Timeline

Following the ruling, the Florida House and Senate leaders called a special legislative session for August 10-21. Prior to this special session, the House Select Committee on Redistricting and the Senate Committee on Reapportionment will draw a base map without input from elected officials, Congressional staffers, party personnel or political consultants. The staff has been advised "to avoid any assessment of the political implications of any map either before or during the Special Session, except where consideration of political data is legally required to assess compliance with state and federal minority voting-rights provisions." During the session, expect debates in both Chambers, amendments and small revisions on the base map. The map must then be voted on, passed by both houses, and defended in court by September 25th.

Districts Set to Change

The Court ruled that eight of Florida's 27 Congressional Districts need to be redrawn, which in the process will force the districts neighboring those eight to change some as well. Congressional Districts (CD) 3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 will need to be altered to varying degrees. Because of these changes, Districts 2, 9, 7 and 10 will also potentially require some significant modification.

District 5, currently held by Democrat Corrine Brown and one of the state's plurality African American districts, will undergo significant changes. District 5 must contain a plurality of African American voters or else risk running afoul of the Voting Rights Act. The district as currently drawn is one of the most gerrymandered in the country, snaking from Orlando, jutting west to get parts of Gainesville, and finishing in heavily African American north Jacksonville. The projected redrawing will turn CD 5 from a north-south district to an east-west district, running from north Jacksonville along the Georgia line to Tallahassee. If this is how the district gets redrawn, it will remain plurality African American, at about 45%.

Moving Tallahassee from CD 2 to CD 5 will make CD 2, a swing district currently held by Blue Dog Democrat Gwen Graham, significantly more Republican and unwinnable for Graham. That would leave Graham with a few options; run for reelection as a sacrificial lamb in a race she'd almost definitely lose; challenge African American Rep. Corinne Brown in the CD 5 primary where voters are much more liberal than her old district; run for the open Senate seat vacated by Marco Rubio's run for President (the rationale for which would be hard to communicate given the presence in the race of fellow Blue Dog Patrick Murphy); or choose not to seek reelection and make a run for Governor in 2018.

Another major effect of the CD 5 redraw will be the large number of African Americans (about 200,000) in Orlando and Gainesville who will need new Representatives. These voters can either be packed into the already safe Democratic Orlando based 9th district, currently open due to Alan Grayson's Senate run, or dispersed to the neighboring 7th and 10th CDs. The court could potentially decide that packing these voters into CD 9 would be illegal, which may motivate the legislature to avoid doing that. CD 7, held by John Mica (R), and CD 10, held by Daniel Webster (R), would subsequently become more Democratic, but it remains to be seen to what degree that will be.

One thing that seems obvious is that the 13th district, another swing district currently held by Rep. David Jolly (R), will become significantly more Democratic as it is likely to pull in more minority voters from south St. Petersburg currently in the Tampa Bay based 14th district. The 14th district will remain safe for Democrats. Seeing the writing on the wall, Jolly declared his bid for the open U.S. Senate seat, becoming the second House Republican to do so, but potentially not the last as Rep. Jeff Miller eyes a bid. Jolly's decision to get into the Senate race makes sense for him, as he comes from the state's biggest media market and has higher name identification than any other candidate at this point. His victory in a swing district and more moderate reputation gives him a distinct position to run from compared to the other candidates. Smelling an opportunity to hold public office once again, former Republican Governor and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist has said that if and when his home of St. Petersburg gets placed in the 13th district he will run.

The last area affected is south Florida. Districts 21 and 22, represented by Democrats Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, were ordered to be redrawn because of their superfluously jagged border. Both these districts will likely remain safe for the incumbents and the impact of redrawing these will be minimal. CD 25 will inherit the small but Democratic leaning Hendry County, although the amount of voters coming into incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart's (R) district will not be significant enough to change the partisan makeup. The bigger concern is in CD 26, where incumbent Carlos Curbelo (R) is already in the midst of a tough reelection campaign in this swing district. The issue is that the court said the city of Holmstead, which leans Democratic, cannot be split between the 26th and 27th districts. If the legislature pleases, they may be able to simply put Holmstead in Elena Ros-Lehtinen's (R) safer 27th district. It isn't likely the map changes in south Florida will result in the type of turnover and turmoil expected in the rest of the state.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The race to control the United States Senate is already well underway, and no state will be more pivotal than Illinois. The current makeup of the Senate is 54-46 in favor of Republicans, meaning Democrats need to flip five seats without losing any of their own, or four seats if they retain the White House. 2016 will feature races in seven seats currently held by Republicans that President Obama won in 2012. Incumbent Illinois Senator Mark Kirk (R) is perhaps the most endangered Senator seeking reelection next year.

After winning by 1.6 points in the Republican wave year of 2010, Kirk will have his hands full as he faces a more Democratic presidential year electorate next fall. In recent statewide elections, the land of Lincoln went Democratic in the presidential race of 2012 and Republican in the gubernatorial race of 2014. Governor Bruce Rauner (R) and Kirk are the last two Republicans to win statewide, albeit in midterm years when the GOP has a turnout advantage. Turnout numbers from 2012 versus 2014 show that 2016's turnout will likely be much higher than Kirk is used to and that he will need to ride the shirttails of a strong GOP Presidential nominee. Illinois is a reliably blue state in Presidential elections and Democrats outnumber Republicans almost two to one the State Legislature. These are all hurdles for Kirk, but don't count him out quite yet.

In 2010, Kirk won all but three counties largely by running up the score in central Illinois, downstate, and the northern Chicago suburbs (which encompassed his former Congressional District). After his stroke in 2012, there was speculation as to whether or not Kirk would be able to run for reelection-he was only able to return to his Congressional duties in January 2013. A Navy veteran, he describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate known to buck party ideology in certain cases; for example, in his support for same sex marriage.

His likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), has also overcome physical challenges. An Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in a crash, Duckworth was the first disabled woman ever elected to Congress. She has represented Illinois' eighth Congressional district since 2012, when she defeated Republican incumbent Joe Walsh with 55% of the vote, and won reelection in 2014 with 56%. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsed Duckworth last week, putting the full faith and backing of the Democratic establishment behind her. Democrats believe the fact that Duckworth is also a veteran will blunt one of the biggest advantages Kirk had in 2010, which was his military experience.

Duckworth will not be unchallenged in the Democratic primary. Former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp reported raising $665K since May, a surprisingly large amount for a candidate national Democrats barely know. Expect Zopp to continue to court the African American vote and work to gain support from her home base of Chicago. Although Duckworth's district is in Chicago's western suburbs, the backing of the DSCC and the democratic establishment should give her the edge in the city.

The two democrats have yet to start trading barbs, and it is likely Duckworth will go as long as possible without acknowledging Zopp, who still has to prove her campaign is truly credible. If she continues to fundraise at this clip, Zopp may be unavoidable as she fights for every vote in Chicago. The Democratic Party of Illinois is a notoriously powerful machine, but if Zopp keeps it as local as possible and secures endorsements from as many Chicago aldermen as she can, she may be able to give Duckworth a run for her money. At the very least, a formidable primary will weaken Duckworth before November 2016. That, coupled with a whistleblower lawsuit from Duckworth's time at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs may be the extra boost Kirk needs to win reelection.

With the election still 15 months away, there are too many unknown variables to mark this race for one party over the other. National Democrats think they can close the race by Labor Day 2016 while Republicans think Kirk has the ability to win crossover appeal. With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, the only thing we know is that both parties are going to come out swinging.

Edited by Mary Beth Hart

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
By:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know." - Donald Rumsfield

Several potentially competitive House races are still taking shape, candidates deciding whether or not to run even though the district is highly competitive. Those are known unknowns. There are some that will become competitive that are not expected to be at this point, those are unknown unknowns. Then there are races in competitive districts with close past election results with solid candidates on both sides. Those almost certainly will be competitive. Those are the known knowns. Those are the races we are looking at today.

FL-18 Open - Expect this seat, vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) who is running for Senate, to be extremely competitive. It is a district that leans Republican, and Murphy's ability to win it twice is a testament to his fundraising prowess and crossover appeal. Both sides are expected to have competitive primaries. On the Democratic side, a pair of Palm Beach Commissioners, Melissa McKinlay and Priscilla Taylor, will go up against each other. Much of the establishment party support is behind McKinlay. On the Republican side, 2014 nominee Carl Domino is running again, along with Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron, St. Lucie Commissioner Tod Mowery and Brian Mast, a disabled Afghan War veteran who garnered some very positive buzz when he declared.

FL-26 Carlos Curbelo (R) - Freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo won in 2014 with 51.5% of the vote in one of the closest races in the country. It looks as though he'll have his hands full again in 2016, as businesswoman Annette Taddeo (D) has consolidated support among Democrats and has backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and EMILY's List. The race is currently a tossup but Curbelo would benefit greatly if his friend and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio is the Republican Presidential Nominee.

CO-6 Mike Coffman (R) - Rep. Mike Coffman, first elected in 2008, had been a prospect to make a run for the Senate in 2016, but recently announced he would seek reelection in the Aurora based 6th district instead. The district used to be more conservative, but in 2012 Douglas County, which leans GOP, was moved out and the more liberal Aurora and Denver suburbs were moved in. The district is 20 percent Hispanic, and Coffman's political survival tends to depend on outreach to this key community. State Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll announced her candidacy this week and is expected to present a well-funded campaign. Centennial Councilwoman Rebecca McClellan, and ex-state Rep. Ed Casso are also considering the race. Carroll is the Democratic establishment's first choice and she has already been identified by EMILY's List as a rising star.

IL-10 Bob Dold (R) - Rep. Bob Dold (R) is currently serving in his second nonconsecutive term and is used to close contests as his Chicago north suburbs district leans more Democratic than any other seat occupied by a House Republican. Dold is a moderate in a district that is more than 37 percent minority population, making it one of the more diverse districts represented by a Republican. His 2014 opponent and former Rep. Brad Schneider (D) has declared his candidacy but is not the only Democrat to do so. Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rodkin Rotering is also running, which may play to Dold's advantage as he will have ample time to focus on the general election while they battle in the primary.

IA-1 Rod Blum (R) - Freshman Rep. Rod Blum won the seat held by Democratic Iowa 2014 Senate nominee Bruce Braley, the most Democratic district in Iowa. His victory was one of the biggest surprises last cycle, but he cannot count on help from his own party in his reelection bid. Blum, who identifies with the libertarian element of the party, voted against Speaker John Boehner as his first vote in Congress, and as a result the National Republican Campaign Committee has cut off support. Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, who lost the general election to Blum in 2014 is running again as is another 2014 candidate Cedar Rapids Councilwoman and EMILY's List endorsed Monica Vernon, businessman Ravi Patel and former Saturday Night Live cast member Gary Kroeger. This will be the most competitive non-Presidential race in Iowa in 2016 and Blum has his work cut out for him.

ME-2 Bruce Poliquin (R) - Hoping for a second shot at unseating freshman Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R), Democrats are rallying behind 2014 nominee Emily Cain, who lost 47 percent to 42 percent last year. Poliquin's victory is even more impressive in this Democratic leaning district considering the presence of a right-leaning Independent on the ballot last year who won 11 percent. Cain has already been endorsed by EMILY's List and is a proven fundraiser. This may be critical in deterring other Democrats from running, as Poliquin posted an eye-popping $700,000 haul in his first quarter. Poliquin aligns himself as close as he can with Republican Senator Susan Collins, a smart move considering her popularity. Her presence on the ballot in 2014 may have given Poliquin a bump, and her absence this year is a hurdle he'll have to overcome.

NV-4 Crescent Hardy (R) - It could be argued that low turnout in 2014 is the main reason why freshman Rep. Crescent Hardy finds himself in Congress. In this minority-majority district, Hardy is extremely vulnerable in 2016. The sixth district includes parts of north Las Vegas and a vast rural swath of central Nevada. The Democratic primary already includes two strong candidates. Former Assemblywoman and 2014 Lieutenant Governor nominee Lucy Flores has garnered much attention and is well known after already running statewide once. Ruben Kihuen is another well regarded young Latino Democrat, and each could cause problems for Hardy in 2016. Hardy has made his path more difficult with controversial comments about disabled children and tax questions about his business. Nevada will see plenty of turnout efforts between being a competitive state at the Presidential level, a competitive open Senate seat, this and Rep Joe Heck's open Congressional seats.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
By:

With new candidates announcing to run for President each week, the current field of candidates is already one of the largest in history.

The Democratic side is easy. No substantive candidates have emerged to challenge Hillary Clinton, and unless one does soon or a scandal emerges of the magnitude that she could face imprisonment, she will be the Democratic nominee. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is perhaps the most credible of the group but that is like being named "the tallest munchkin." The Governor has a long list of scandals from his time in Maryland and doesn't have a natural constituency very different than Clinton's. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will draw some protest votes from the far left but isn't a significant threat to Clinton in terms of grassroots organization, money or rhetorical appeal. Republican turned Democrat former Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, has also announced his candidacy on the platform of switching America to the metric system and out of frustration that Clinton voted for the Iraq War a dozen years ago. However, it is not expected that metric system advocates are a large enough voting block to secure the Democratic nomination.

The Republican field, however, is the Wild West and no candidate currently holds more than 15% support in polling. In a field that crowded (and growing) who is up and who is down shifts almost daily, so as of this very second, here is where the race stands.

Top Tier

Jeb Bush- Bush will be a leading candidate in the polls for much of the primary based on his name ID and fundraising strengths. He is expected to have two to three times as much money as the next closest challenger when fundraising reports are available in a few weeks, so he can be in the fight in multiple states simultaneously while most other candidates put their resources into only one or two states. Bush is clearly positioned as "the establishment candidate" and will be the one most other candidates point their guns towards. Other "establishment" candidates will want to take that title from him and tea-party oriented candidates want to position as the "conservative alternative."

Marco Rubio- Rubio, once the darling of the tea-party has become more admired by the establishment of the party during his time in the Senate. His youthful, optimistic, forward looking approach and easy way of relating to voters have him at the top of many polls. His Cuban heritage is also important when Republicans are needing to expand their appeal to Hispanic voters. Rubio has shown an impressive ability to bring together business and tea-party factions of the party.

Scott Walker- After a burst on the scene at the beginning of the year, Walker has been quiet the last few months raising money and tending to state business back in Wisconsin. The Governor who has won three statewide elections in a row in a Democratic leaning state has made a reputation as a union buster which offers broad appeal to both tea-party and establishment GOP primary voters.

Tier Two

Rand Paul- Paul is working to build on the base of Libertarian voters his father cultivated during his two runs for the Presidency. The Kentucky Senator doesn't have a natural home in either the "establishment" or "tea-party" wings of the party and hopes to be able to draw enough support from each, as well as engaging young and minority voters in large enough numbers to thread the needle and win the nomination.

Ted Cruz- The tea party's tea party candidate. Cruz is whip smart and takes no prisoners. He openly disdains Republicans as much as Democrats and has secured the support of a handful of wealthy supporters who are reported to have funded a Super PAC with enough money to keep Cruz in the race for a while. He doesn't register high in most polls but as the biggest bomb thrower in Washington at a time when many GOP primary voters are in the "take no prisoners, no compromise" mind set and the money to keep him competitive, Cruz is likely to be a force in the primaries.

Donald Trump- Openly mocked by political insiders as a PT Barnum candidate more interested in self-promotion than service to country, Trump is the lightbulb for the moths of political reporting. And even if his self-reported wealth is exaggerated, he has more than enough money to stay in the race as long as he likes. As one of the only non-elected officials in the race and not just a willingness to say anything to get attention, but a compulsion, and the money to buy the microphone for as long as he wants it, Trump is going to be a factor whether political insiders like it or not. There are too many voters who say they will never support Trump under any circumstances for him to be the Republican nominee, but he will be an important factor in a crowded field.

John Kasich- The popular Governor of Ohio is running on a rather unconventional message: non-ideological competency. He touts his time as Budget Chairman in Congress ("The last time America had a balanced budget") and as a turn-around artist for the economy in Ohio, where they went from deficits to surpluses, added jobs and reduced taxes. Kasich enjoys an approval rating well over 60% in one of the most evenly divided states politically. Openly calling for bi-partisanship and compromise in a Republican primary is the polar opposite approach of most candidates, but positions Kasich as the most likely to pick up supporters from Bush if/when they fall away.

Others

As mentioned, the dynamics of a race with this many candidates from such an array of backgrounds and ideologies is wholly unpredictable. One or more of the following candidates will likely emerge as a serious competitor for the nomination at some point in the race. But AS OF THIS SECOND, most are putting all of their efforts into a single state and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

Rick Perry- After his disastrous 2012 campaign, many continue to discount the Governor of Texas but he amassed a strong record as the 16 year Governor of one of America's largest and most diverse states.

Lindsey Graham- The wise-cracking Senator from South Carolina is the only candidate making the fight against terrorism a centerpiece of their campaign. If another international incident attracts big attention, it could be the spark Graham needs to become a force in the race.

Rick Santorum- The former Senator from Pennsylvania is running all out on old-school family values and hoping that his message catches on in Iowa as it did in 2012 to allow him to go further than the first Caucus. With so many other candidates sharing the same issue set though, it will be harder for Santorum the second time around.

Ben Carson- The neurosurgeon who has never run for office is basing his candidacy on strong appeals to tea party and family values conservatives. As the only African American in the race, he adds diversity to the field and an outsider's perspective that many welcome.

Carly Fiorina- The former CEO of Hewlett Packard is the only woman in the field of candidates and argues she is best suited to compete with Hillary Clinton.

Mike Huckabee- Huckabee's recent book, "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy" is shorthand for the issues he is championing and the constituents he hopes to appeal to. He shares those issues with many more candidates this time and like Santorum is hoping Iowa can propel him to the rest of the race.

Chris Christie- The Governor who was twice elected by huge margins in an overwhelmingly Democratic state and was once thought to be a front runner in the race is now staking his candidacy on New Hampshire where he hopes his straight-talk brash approach that worked in New Jersey will give him a ticket to other primary states.

Bobby Jindal- The young Indian-American Governor of Louisiana who was a Rhodes scholar and seen as a health care and education guru in his twenties is hoping innovative ideas from a non-traditional Republican source will be enough to make him a contender for the nomination.

George Pataki-The former Governor of New York had some time on his hands and nothing better to do, so why not?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

With Sen. Marco Rubio's declaration seeking the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, Florida's Senate seat is now open and the Sunshine State will return to the center of the political universe once again. This will be a crucial race in determining which party will control the U.S. Senate at the start of the next Congress. The current makeup of the Upper Chamber is 54-46 in favor of Republicans, meaning Democrats need a net gain of four seats if they win the Presidency and five seats if they do not (the Vice-President serves as the tie breaking vote in a split Senate). Florida is also expected to play its traditional large swing state role in the Presidential campaign, with both sides pumping in money to persuade and turn out voters. With stakes this high, it's safe to say that this race will be one of the closest in the country.

So far, the major candidates who have declared for the race are Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-18) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-6). Two more candidates are expected to enter the race in due time, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-9) and Lieutenant Governor Carlos, Lopez-Cantera (R). Murphy has already been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the party establishment has made it clear that he is their preferred candidate. Grayson, who is the more progressive and bombastic of the two, felt snubbed by the party to the point where he may declare his bid out of spite. On the Republican side, DeSantis has typically been classified as a tea party conservative. Lopez-Cantera has yet to declare, opting instead to raise money for an affiliated Super PAC before formally entering the race. As a Cuban-American from Miami, he most closely matches Marco Rubio, who currently holds the seat. Both are young Miami area Cuban-Americans who cut their teeth in the State Legislature and are ideologically similar. Of the four, none have very strong name recognition among Florida voters and therefore have the opportunity to freshly mold their own image, with the possible exception of Grayson.

As with any political campaign, geography will play a huge role in Florida in 2016. Murphy and DeSantis are both Congressmen from outside the major media markets. Murphy's Atlantic coast district is about 2 hours north of Miami and encompasses Port St. Lucie. DeSantis' district runs along the northern Atlantic coast between Jacksonville and Orlando and is home to Daytona Beach. Murphy has the benefit of having run and won twice in a very competitive district, where DeSantis has never faced strong opposition in his safe Republican district. Lopez-Cantera has won statewide before, and Grayson is well known in Orlando, one of the most important markets in the state. Central Florida will be the main battleground, with Republicans having the slight edge in northern Florida and Democrats the advantage in southern Florida. In the 2004 Presidential election, Bush won Duval County, home to Jacksonville, by 61,000 votes en route to a Florida win. In 2008, Obama closed that gap by 53,000 votes by turning out the African American vote in Jacksonville and ended up winning Florida by 236,148 votes. That move to increase African American turnout accounted for almost one quarter of his margin of victory, and would be absolutely essential for any statewide candidate to replicate in 2016. Charlie Crist could not in 2014, and he lost by 64,000 votes. Whether or not the Democratic Senate nominee can motivate African American voters not only in Jacksonville but across the state may determine who wins the contest.

Until Monday, polls in this race have been scarce. Quinnipiac University published a poll on June 22nd that tested the candidates in a variety of head to head match ups, the results are below:

Candidate

Percent of vote

Murphy (D)

40

Lopez-Cantera (R)

28

Don't Know

27

 

Candidate

Percent of vote

Murphy (D)

39

DeSantis (R)

31

Don't Know

26

 

Candidate

Percent of vote

Grayson (D)

37

Lopez-Cantera (R)

31

Don't Know

26

 

Candidate

Percent of vote

Grayson (D)

38

DeSantis (R)

32

Don't Know

25

 

Clearly, Democrats fare well in this early showing, with both Murphy and Grayson besting both Republicans in each matchup. The most staggering number here is the percent of the electorate who don't know who they would be support, with 25% being the lowest percent of those polled who did not know who they would support. In addition to head to head match ups, Quinnipiac polled candidate favorability:

Candidate

Favorable

Unfavorable

Haven't heard enough

Murphy (D)

22

6

71

Grayson (D)

21

16

62

Lopez-Cantera (R)

12

10

77

DeSantis (R)

11

7

81

 

Once again, the favorable to unfavorable rating is meaningless compared to the number of voters who haven't heard enough. This should come as no surprise 16 months before an election. In addition to these numbers, other useful tidbits from the poll showed Governor Rick Scott's (R) approval rating at 39%, compared to 49% who disapproved. President Obama (D) is also underwater, at 43% approve, 51% disapprove. The Governor's unpopularity may be what is driving the polls in the head to head matchup, but it's still too early to surmise much from these numbers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The 2016 Wisconsin Senate race will likely be a blast from the past as incumbent Senator Ron Johnson (R) takes on the candidate he beat in 2010, former Senator Russ Feingold (D). As of publishing, no other candidates have declared and it's unlikely that Johnson or Feingold will face challengers in the Wisconsin Primary Election scheduled for August 9, 2016. Much like 2010, the upcoming Senate race is expected to be competitive and attract national attention. Five years ago, Wisconsinites elected Johnson by a 5 point margin and Feingold's eye has been on a rematch ever since. The margin and Johnson's win can be linked to a Republican wave in 2010, the rise of the Tea Party (which Johnson courts), and some would argue Feingold's votes on the stimulus and healthcare.

The new 2016 election environment promises to make this race one to watch. For one thing, Johnson's staunch conservatism may harm him as WI's presidential year electorate has historically favored the Democratic Party. No Republican has won a Senate seat in Wisconsin during a presidential year since 1980. Johnson's 2010 victory came during a midterm election inundated with pro-Republican sentiment. Couple this with the target the Democratic Party has placed on Johnson's back, add the perception that he is a vulnerable Republican, and Johnson will have to campaign hard to overcome the state's historical tendencies and Feingold-loyal voters. One thing that could help Johnson is Feingold's lack of recent campaign experience; with the addition of SuperPACs and advanced social media technologies, a lot has happened in the campaign world since 2010. Feingold will also have to address the notion that he is out of touch with Wisconsin voters. Since losing the 2010 election, the former senator has been traveling the globe as Obama's US Special Envoy for a region of Africa and teaching courses at universities around the United States. In addition, there is a perception that Feingold presents an air of entitlement for the position, a concept that Johnson is promoting early with Wisconsinites.

Furthermore, no losing Senate candidate has come back to win a rematch since the 1930s, a clear advantage to Johnson as his scorecard includes a 2010 victory, not a loss. Expect Johnson to continue to frame himself as the job creator and Feingold as an out of touch Washingtonian. The uphill battle that both candidates face will come into focus as the August 2016 primary approaches. Although it's too early to tell, a recent poll out of the Marquette University Law School shows Feingold leading Johnson 54-38 percent amongst registered voters while 9 percent show no preference. Voters can expect the back-and-forth bantering to escalate into a long and muddy campaign. Predictions allude to massive spending for the race, especially in the Green Bay market from Fox River north towards the Wisconsin boarder of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. If Johnson is able to hold his own in Milwaukee County and the rest of the state, he could win. If Feingold brings in a big margin in Dane County and Milwaukee County, it could be a good election night for him. Mark the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race as a race to watch and don't count on history always repeating itself.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In the age of Washington gridlock, now more than ever State legislatures across the country are vitally important. With that in mind, here is the lay of the land in one of the few states that has legislative elections in 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia. Primaries occur on June 9.         

The stage will soon be set for what is sure to be an exciting campaign season. The lower chamber of the General Assembly, the House of Delegates, is almost certain to remain in Republican control, as they currently control 67 seats, to the Democrats 32, with one Independent. Barring some ground shattering scandal involving Virginia Republicans, these numbers will more or less stay the same. Control of the State Senate, which is currently 21 Republicans to 19 Democrats, is where the real fight will occur. Democrats only need a net gain of one seat, which would make the Senate 20-20 and allow Democratic Lt. Governor Ralph Northam to cast the deciding vote. Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) views taking the Senate as an essential step in implementing his agenda.          

There are currently about a half dozen seats considered by observers to be the most important in determining which party will control the Senate. Two to three of these involve vulnerable Republican incumbents, two to three involve vulnerable Democrat incumbents and two are open seats. Of these competitive districts, three of them have important primaries on June 9.

One open seat is the Powhatan area 10th district being vacated by Senator John Watkins (R) and the other is the Prince William area 29th district vacated by Senator Charles Colgan (D). Between these two men is half century of public service, and both have a reputation for centrist deal making. The off-year Republican advantage may be nullified by the demographic advantage Democrats have in the 10th district race, but the GOP believes their presumptive nominee, Richmond School Board member Glen Sturtevant, is the right fit. Democrats in that race have a three way primary to deal with before they will know who their candidate will be. The 29th district will pit Republican Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish II against whichever Democrat emerges from the crowded primary.

Among the vulnerable Republican incumbents are Virginia Beach area Sen. Frank Wagner of VA - 7, Fredericksburg area Sen. Bryce Reeves of VA - 17 and Loudoun area Sen. Richard Black of VA - 13. Wagner will face a strong opponent in Cox Communications executive and former Army Ranger Gary McCollum (D), who raised an eye-popping $250,000 in the first quarter. Despite this, Wagner is in a strong position as a Senate power broker who recently secured the endorsement of Democratic Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. The Democrat's presumptive nominee in the VA - 17 race recently fell through, making Reeves' path to reelection much easier. Black, who is best known as a staunch social conservative, will face pediatrician Jill McCabe (D). Loudoun is typically a bellwether county and whichever party wins here is likely to do well across the rest of the state.

Democrats will be on defense in several races as well. On the Eastern Shore, Lynwood Lewis (D) of VA - 6 is in a toss-up race against business attorney Richard Ottinger (R). After winning a special election by just nine votes last year, Republicans are targeting Lewis as a prime pick up target. Sen. John Miller of VA - 1 in the Williamsburg area awaits a Republican challenger, but the area is known as swing territory. In VA - 2, Sen. John Edwards (D - Roanoke) will have to fight a two-front war against Republican Nancy Dye and former Democrat turned Independent Donald Caldwell. If Edwards and Caldwell split the Democratic vote, Dye should have an easy path to unseating Edwards.

Thus far, Senate Republicans hold a slight fundraising advantage, something that is subject to change once Gov. McAuliffe puts his vast financial network to use. Virginia Democrats claim they have spent more of their resources on building out their data driven voter outreach infrastructure and hiring staff. One of the most trusted individuals in the Clinton world, McAuliffe may also be able to bring Hillary in to the state to gin up support in the off-year election, during which Democrats typically underperform. There's a mutual benefit there, as Clinton would get extra time to lay the ground work across the state, which is a crucial swing state in the Electoral College, while providing a level of excitement for Senate elections that might have otherwise lacked it.   


Mississippi Special Election Results: In the special election in Mississippi's First District to replace the deceased Alan Nunnelee, Republican District Attorney Trent Kelly and Democrat Walter Zinn will advance to a runoff to be held on June 2, 2015.  The 13 candidate field operated as a "jungle primary" with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advancing to the "runoff" which serves as the special general election.   

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

After a banner year for Republicans in 2014, they find themselves defending their gains in 2016. Of the 34 seats up for grabs, 24 are occupied by Republicans compared to just 10 for Democrats. Seven Republican seats are up in states won by President Obama in 2012, which puts them on the defensive across the country. It's worth noting that 2016 for Republicans is not as daunting as 2014 was for Democrats, as seen in the following chart:

2014 Democrat Seats

Romney Victory

2016 GOP Seats

Obama Victory

West Virginia (open)

27 pts

Kirk (IL)

17 pts

Pryor (AR)

24 pts

Johnson (WI)

7 pts

South Dakota (open)

18 pts

Ayotte (NH)

6 pts

Landrieu (LA)

17 pts

Grassley (IA)

6 pts

Begich (AK)

14 pts

Toomey (PA)

5 pts

Montana (open)

14 pts

Portman (OH)

3 pts

Hagan (NC)

2 pts

Rubio (FL)

1 pt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate control currently sits at 54 R - 46 D.  With the Vice President serving as a tie-breaker, Democrats need four seats to be in control if there is a Democratic President and five if Republicans win the White House.  The following is a brief rundown of the seats expected to determine control.

Definitely Competitive

Florida: This seat became open after Sen. Marco Rubio (R) declared his run for the presidency, immediately making it a toss-up. The Democratic establishment quickly rallied behind Congressman Patrick Murphy, as they believe his moderate bona fides give them the best chance to win. He may have a primary challenge in Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Orlando, far more liberal than Murphy and poised to cause a stir among Florida Democrats. After several notable Republicans passed on the race, conservative Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) declared his candidacy last week and is expected to face a primary from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Illinois: Sen. Mark Kirk (R) will face a strong challenge in President Obama's home state in 2016, regardless of who the democratic nominee is. Kirk, positioned as a moderate, is a Navy veteran who suffered a stroke in 2012, which limited his mobility but provides an emotional tie to voters.  While others consider the race, the only Democrat definitely running is Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, a veteran whose legs were amputated after a helicopter crash in Iraq.

Ohio: One of the most prolific fundraisers in the Senate, Sen. Rob Portman (R) flexed his muscles in the first quarter of 2015 and rose close to $3 million in campaign funds. This prowess alone will not be enough to propel him to reelection however, as the formidable former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) looks to take Portman down. Strickland will need to navigate a primary challenge first, but he is expected to be the Democratic nominee. This race will draw national resources, as Ohio and Florida are the two largest swing states in the country at the Presidential level. 

Potentially Competitive

Wisconsin: Sen. Ron Johnson (R) may be the most vulnerable incumbent of this cycle. After defeating former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) by five points in 2010, polls show Johnson would start nine points behind his one-time rival if Feingold attempted a rematch, a very possible scenario. If Feingold does not run, the Democratic field becomes wide open and Johnson's path to reelection becomes slightly less treacherous.  

Nevada: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) announced his retirement earlier this year, opening this seat for the first time in nearly 30 years. It is not clear which party will benefit from this given the fact that although Reid is not overwhelmingly popular in his state, he is the godfather of a formidable political machine. His chosen replacement is former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D). The Republican field has yet to crystallize, as potential candidates seem to be deferring to Rep. Joe Heck (R) who has begun positioning himself to run, but has yet to formally announce.

Pennsylvania: As the former president of the conservative group Club for Growth, Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is one of the most fiscally conservative members of the Senate. The Keystone state hasn't voted for a Republican for President since 1988, which should make it easier for the Democratic nominee in 2016. The only issue is that the party is divided on top nominee Joe Sestak (D), who lost to Toomey by two points in 2010 and has a history of frustrating the Party. Toomey made some effort to move to the middle in his first term, co-sponsoring gun control legislation in 2012, and if Democrats do not unify behind one nominee, his odds of getting reelected grow even stronger.

New Hampshire: Few politicians in New Hampshire are more popular than Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). Unfortunately for her, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is one of those politicians (according to certain polls). Hassan has yet to declare her intentions, and it remains unclear whether she will run for reelection as Governor in 2016 or challenge Ayotte. If she chooses to run for Governor again, Ayotte will have a clear path to reelection.

North Carolina: Sen. Richard Burr (R) does not have great poll numbers, nor has he raised an eye popping amount of money. Yet he remains the odds on favorite for reelection in 2016 in a state President Obama won in 2008. The Democratic bench is thin, and some of their potentially strong recruits have already passed on the race.  North Carolina Democrats are itching for Kay Hagan to get in the race, two years after the former senator lost reelection by two points. If she passes, Democrats will likely be forced to nominate someone with little name recognition, making Burr's life much easier.

Other Notable Races

The above are the most competitive Senate races of 2016 right now, but that is subject to change. Other notable races include the Democratic primary in Maryland and jungle primary in California, both open seats. Indiana is also an open seat vacated by a Republican, but is not expected to be very competitive unless a formidable Democrat steps forward which has not happened yet. Republicans are also bullish on their chances in Colorado, but Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has a centrist reputation in a centrist state and is a strong campaigner.


SPECIAL ELECTION RESULTS: In the NY-11 Special Election to replace Rep. Michael Grimm (R), Republican Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan has defeated Democrat New York Councilman Vincent Gentile and Independent James Lane.  Donovan received 59% of the vote to Gentile's 40% and Lane's 1%.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
By:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) recently updated its "Patriot Program" list; the list of incumbent Republicans receiving extra fundraising and organizational support to avoid a competitive race next year.  These additions put the program at 20 members who the NRCC view as potentially vulnerable because they are in districts with large numbers of Democratic voters or because they faced a particularly close race in 2014, a banner year for Republicans.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has a similar program to protect potentially vulnerable incumbents called the "Frontline Program" and in February added 14 members to the list and has not announced additions to the list since.

The fact that Republicans have more potentially vulnerable members makes sense because Presidential years tend to produce more Democratic voters.  The success Republicans had in 2014 leaves several Republicans representing districts that were carried by President Obama while few Democrats remain representing districts carried by Mitt Romney.  In fact, going into 2014, there were nine Democrats holding seats carried by Romney.  Now there are only five.  Conversely, going into 2014, there were 17 Republicans holding seats carried by Obama.  Now there are 25.  With Democratic turnout typically higher during Presidential election years, Republicans have won almost as many seats as possible for them to win, and conventional wisdom would hold they are likely to lose some of those in a year with better Democratic turnout.

There have been only a few retirements announced to date and more will come which always changes the political landscape.  So far, only three Republicans and three Democrats have announced their retirements with all three Democrats being in safe Democratic districts and only one of the Republican held districts in an area that could switch parties.  As Congressmen such as Joe Heck in Nevada and Patrick Murphy in Florida make a final decision on Senate races in their states, additional competitive seats could open up.

The 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats identified for the Patriot and Frontline programs indicate those seats that each party feel COULD be vulnerable in the next election and they are taking steps now to ensure that those candidates are safe.  It also gives an indication of how narrow the competitive race playing field has become.  There are just not many competitive House seats this election.  If Republicans lost every single one of the seats they have listed in the Patriot program, they would still hold a solid majority in the House.

Many of these races are still taking shape.  Many of the candidates listed in both the Frontline and Patriot programs do not even have announced challengers and, as mentioned, additional announcements of retirements or running for another office will shift the landscape further.  Many of the incumbents listed will not face a competitive race (the real point of the Frontline and Patriot programs) and some that are not currently considered competitive will become so, but at this point, it is safe to assume Republicans will maintain a majority, though it will likely be a slightly smaller majority than they currently enjoy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
By:

Millennial voters aged 18-34 are a famously important part of the "Obama Coalition" that led to his election in 2008 and 2012.  In 2008, 66% of such voters supported Obama.  That dropped to 60% in 2012, but still a big margin.  What will Democrats need to do to keep this voting group on their side in 2016 and how can Republicans shrink or reverse the gap? Will Marco Rubio and Rand Paul make millennial appeal a central part of their electoral strategy?

The nonpartisan Millennial Action Project notes that political appeal to millennial voters has a stylistic component and a substantive component.  Substantively, candidates must share common issue foundations with millennial voters to be considered.  Stylistically, millennial voters tend to be attracted to a less partisan, collaborative approach and authenticity.

Millennials have risen from 17 to 19 percent of the electorate in the last two Presidential elections and from 12 to 13 percent in the last two off-year elections.  There have also been wide swings in which party these voters supported, ranging from a high of 66% support level for Democrats in 2008, dropping 12 points to a low of only 54% support in 2014.   This isn't surprising considering that 50% of millennial voters consider themselves political independents, at least 12 points higher than any other age group, according to Pew. Can Republicans make further gains with this growing and highly independent constituency?  Can Democrats, specifically Hillary Clinton, hold these voters for Democrats?

Substantively, Republicans face their biggest challenge with these voters on social issues.   It doesn't matter how young, hip and social-media friendly a candidate is if they fundamentally see the world in a different way than millennials.  Issues such as environmental protection, marriage equality and marijuana legalization are "gateway tests" for many millennial voters.  If a candidate doesn't see those issues the same way, they are "disqualified" in the eyes of many millennials, regardless of their economic policies.  Gay marriage may prove to be the biggest hurdle for Republican candidates because as uniformly as millennial voters favor it, older conservative voters oppose it and they are a MUCH bigger part of the Republican primary universe which will determine the GOP nominee.  Other issues such as criminal justice reform and a more restrained foreign policy also enjoy broad support amongst millennial voters.  Rand Paul has made a priority of courting millennials via policy with his vocal support for medical marijuana and a more limited foreign policy.

Once a candidate reaches threshold credibility by having "acceptable" positions on some of those fundamental issues, stylistic distinctions become important.  Millennial voters value bipartisan collaboration and authenticity in a candidate.  This is where candidates like Rubio and Paul have the best chance of drawing millennial support.  Both show where they have broken with their party on important issues, both demonstrate an authentic approach on the campaign trail and both are younger themselves and actively engaged on social media.  It is also where Hillary Clinton faces her biggest challenge with these voters.  She is perhaps the most scripted, cautious candidate in a generation and at 67 years old, is firmly placed psychologically in the "older" generation.  Her aggressive foreign policy approach and tepid embrace of marriage equality don't align her ideologically with these voters either.

President Obama was both substantively and stylistically an almost perfect fit for millennial voters and Hillary Clinton clearly is not, so she will face challenges replicating his success with these voters regardless of her opponent.  Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, particularly among announced Republican candidates, face the greatest opportunity of bringing a higher percentage of these voters to the Republican column than ever before.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2014 was not a good year for Senate Democrats. The map was not in their favor, and they were forced to throw the kitchen sink at Republicans in red states while playing constant defense in purple states. The result was a loss of their majority in the Upper Chamber, a significant roadblock to advancing President Obama's agenda. Despite this, Democrats across the country have not been discouraged, which can be seen through their recruitment of candidates for the Senate.

Perhaps the best indicator of Democratic confidence is Rep. Patrick Murphy giving up his House seat to run for the open Senate seat in Florida. Murphy's current district voted for Romney in 2012 by four points, but favored Murphy in 2014 by 19.6 points. Murphy is a moderate democrat who emphasizes bipartisanship, a persona that Democrats think will translate very well in this swing state in 2016. Murphy chose to leave his comfortable House seat to pursue the toss up Senate seat, proving that he believes he can win.

In Ohio, the Democratic bench for statewide candidates is not particularly deep, but they did get their best recruit to commit to a run in former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland lost reelection for Governor in 2010 to John Kasich, a year that was awful for Democrats everywhere. He has a deep network and is very close with the Clintons. He's going to need all the resources he can get to defeat Republican Senator Rob Portman, one of the best fundraisers in the country. The 2008 recession, which occurred during his governorship, hit Ohio harder than most other states and unemployment rates soared during his last two years in office. Strickland's biggest challenge will be overcoming this and striking the right tone that can win independents while still motivating progressives. Portman is one of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, so both candidates will likely make a play for the middle.

California is the biggest and one of the most diverse states in the country, which one would think would allow for several candidates from diverse backgrounds to vie for the Senate seat left open by Barbara Boxer. However, Attorney General Kamala Harris has consolidated establishment support around her candidacy and has sufficient support from grassroots activists. Others, particularly Hispanic politicians, are considering launching bids, but Harris has made that an increasingly difficult prospect. Barring a shocking upset, she appears poised to become the next Senator from the Golden State.

In Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's retirement created an open seat in this swing state. It did not take long for him to name his desired replacement, former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, and as a result she has received early support from donors and activists. Some others are still considering bids, like Rep. Dina Titus, but Democrats appear resolved to avoid a bloody primary in Nevada.

Democrats feel good about their first declared candidate in Illinois as well, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. A veteran who lost both her legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq, Duckworth has a very unique story to tell. Attorney General Lisa Madigan is still considering a bid, and national Democrats would be pleased with whichever candidate came through the primary. Republican Senator Mark Kirk is also a veteran and is one of the most centrist Senators in the Chamber, but 2016 will be a tough year for him to win statewide in Illinois.

Democrats are working hard to recruit well known candidates who have previously held statewide office in Wisconsin and New Hampshire, with their courtship of former Senator Russ Feingold and Governor Maggie Hassan. Feingold lost to Republican Senator Ron Johnson in 2010 by five points, but Democrats believe he would be aided in a presidential year in a state that hasn't voted for a Republican for President since 1988. Feingold recently resigned his post at the State Department, fueling speculation about the possibility of his candidacy. Governor Hassan of New Hampshire would present quite the challenge for Senator Kelly Ayotte (R). Governors have to run every two years in New Hampshire anyway, so it's possible Hassan will accept the challenge, seeing little downside.   

Not every state has been easy in terms of recruitment for Democrats. In Pennsylvania, former Congressman and retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak is running, but many in the Democratic establishment are hoping he faces a primary challenge. Sestak has a history of scoffing at party leaders, rejecting President Obama's plea not to run for the nomination for the same seat in 2010, eventually winning the Democratic primary over party switching Senator Arlen Specter before losing in November. Like many other states, the 2010 and 2014 elections were a huge setback for Democrats in Pennsylvania, and as a result interest among the party is sparse. Despite this, many are holding out hope that someone else will emerge and win the nomination to challenge Republican Senator Pat Toomey. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On May 19th, voters in Kentucky will participate in the state's primary and select their party's candidates for all statewide constitutional offices.  Of particular interest is the race for Kentucky governor-a vacancy created by the pending departure of incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) who is term limited.  

The political environment has been highly competitive in Kentucky in recent years.  Congressional and state legislative races have trended Republican over the last decade.  Republicans now control the state Senate by a comfortable margin and have substantially narrowed the once insurmountable Democratic majority in the state House.  The Republicans hold both US Senate seats and five of the six U.S. House seats.  However, the Democratic Party remains viable and able to mount strong campaigns for the state's highest executive office and other statewide elective offices.  At the statewide office level, Democrats have occupied the governor's mansion for all except two terms since the 1960s and now hold all but one statewide elective office.

The 2015 gubernatorial race features a competitive GOP ballot and a less competitive Democratic field.  The GOP ballot includes Hal Heiner, James Comer, Matt Bevin, and Will Scott; polling in that order according to the March 3-8 Bluegrass Poll. On the Democratic side, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has a substantial lead against a relatively unknown Geoff Young.ii  With 25 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats still undecided, expect campaigning to ramp-up in the next few weeks.

Republican Gubernatorial Ballot
Heiner's current lead is attributed to his significant TV presence since late 2014 and name recognition in native Louisville, Kentucky's largest city.  He was the first to declare his candidacy back in March 2014.  Heiner is an engineer and has worked for a civil engineering firm.iii  Elected to Louisville's Metro Council in 2002, he also owns a commercial realty company in Louisville and is a self-funded multimillionaire.iv  His victory will depend on his ability to connect with rural Kentucky voters.  Heiner's running mate is KC Crosbie, a former Lexington councilwoman and former Republican National Committeewoman.  She has a statewide race in her background, having lost a general election race for State Treasurer by less than 18,000 votes out of 800,000 votes cast.  The Heiner/Crosbie margins in the March Bluegrass Poll make them the candidates to beat on the Republican primary ticket.      

The only Republican candidate to hold a statewide office, James Comer, was perceived early on to be the favorite due to his regional appeal, but has been overshadowed by Heiner.  Comer has a long history in the state's government including his current post at State Commissioner of Agriculture and his previous service in the Kentucky state House.v  He is well known around the state and has a strong connection to rural Kentuckians.  He has also received the backing of a super PAC preparing to buy up TV time to promote Comer and increase his visibility in urban communities.  Comer named state Senator Christian McDaniel of Kenton County in northern Kentucky as his running mate.  McDaniel, a businessman with solid conservative credentials, can be expected to help Comer in solidly Republican northern Kentucky.  The Comer/McDaniel ticket polls best in western Kentucky and has shown impressive fund-raising abilities. He would seem to be solid among traditional Republicans and has built ties to the tea party wing with the selection of his running mate from the tea party stronghold in northern Kentucky and the endorsement of that area's Congressman, Thomas Massie.

Although there are four candidates on the GOP gubernatorial ballot, only Matt Bevin is likely to give the top two candidates a run for their money.  His Tea Party connections and personal funding make him a candidate to watch.  A military veteran, Bevin's recent political aspirations include a Republican primary run for the Kentucky US Senate seat in May 2014 when he lost to Mitch McConnell by more than 20 percent.  Bevin announced his candidacy on the final day to file for the nomination.  He has named Jenean Hampton as his running mate.  Hampton is a tea-party activist from Bowling Green who lost a November 2014 race for a state House seat.  Leading up to Election Day, expect the Bevins/Hampton ticket to play somewhat of a spoiler's role as Bevins is likely to take away Jefferson County votes from Heiner and tea party votes from Comer.
 
The fourth candidate, Will T. Scott, was a member of the Kentucky Supreme Court from 2004 until his resignation in December of 2014 when he declared his candidacy for governor.  Former Menifee County Sheriff Rodney Coffey, also from rural eastern Kentucky, is Scott's running mate.  With little name recognition outside of eastern Kentucky, the Scott/Coffey ticket is polling at the bottom of the list.vi

The Republican primary is far from over and is likely to tighten up moving into the Derby season.

Democratic Gubernatorial Ballot
Unlike the Republican ticket, the Democrats have one dominant candidate for Kentucky governor: Jack Conway.  With a wide margin over Geoff Young, the Conway candidacy is on track to gain the Democratic nomination for this November's statewide general election.  Conway, a Louisville native, is finishing his second term as Attorney General and will be term barred in that office.  Conway has three statewide races in his background: two successful for AG and a losing 2010 race to Rand Paul for US Senate.  He also had an unsuccessful race in 2002 for the 3rd District U.S. House seat.  Conway's running mate, state Representative Sannie Overly, an attorney and a three-term legislator from Paris, Kentucky became the first woman to hold a House leadership position when she was elected Majority Caucus Chair in 2013.

Geoff Young, Conway's sole challenger, has little political experience that includes an unsuccessful 2014 primary race for the Democratic nomination for the 6th District U.S. Congressional seat that he lost by more than 20% and a 2012 race for a state House seat as a Green Party candidate. Young may end up being out shined by his troubled running mate, Jonathan Masters, who is plagued with legal trouble.vii    

Looking Ahead
It is predicted that Conway will easily take the Democratic nomination and either Heiner or Comer will secure the Republican nod.  Conway is currently polling over all four Republican candidates in Louisville and north-central Kentucky.viii  

Jack Conway's challenge this November will be to overcome the dissatisfaction voters currently have with the Democratic Party and President Obama.  Last November, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, faced similarly strong polling coming out of the primary but was unable to swing independent and undecided voters in the general election.ix  Conway will be painted as a liberal and partial to Louisville and the other metro areas.

Whoever wins the Republican primary will initially have their hands full making peace with the other candidates.  If elected, Comer would need the Louisville contacts and votes that Heiner and Bevins will generate.  Heiner would need the rural contacts and votes that Comer brings.  Both Heiner and Comer would need Bevins' tea party contacts.  Look for McConnell to play a key role to putting the pieces back together.

One thing to note concerning the race for Kentucky governor, is that the state has never elected a native of Louisville, the state's largest metro area to the post-a home city to all three top candidates, Comer (R), Conway (D) and Heiner (R).

____________________________

i.    Bluegrass Poll. (2015, March 1). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/pollresults_day1.pdf
ii.   Ibid
iii.  Heiner, Hal. (n.d.). In Ballotpedia.com. Ballotpedia.com.
iv.   Meet Hal Heiner. (2015, January 1). Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://halheiner.com/our-campaign/
v.    Comer, James. (n.d.). In Ballotpedia.com. Ballotpedia.com.
vi.   Bluegrass Poll. (2015, March 1). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/pollresults_day1.pdf
vii.  Gerth, J. (2015, February 15). Democrat Johnathan Masters faces charges. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/kentucky/2015/02/13/democrat-johnathan-masters-faces-charges/23354647/
viii. Bluegrass Poll. (2015, March 1). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/pollresults_day1.pdf
ix.   Youngman, S. (2015, March 10). Lexington, KY local and state news by the Lexington Herald-Leader | Kentucky.com. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/10/3738389/bluegrass-poll-jack-conway-holds.html

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Washington tends to focus on the 2016 Presidential and Senate races but the city should remember that many important races are up in 2015. Today, we take a look at Mississippi, where all statewide offices and both chambers of the legislature are up for election.

When thinking about 2015 Mississippi elections, the first race that tends to come to mind is Mississippi's 1st Congressional District. The seat opened up after the unfortunate passing of Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) and currently has 13 people filed to run. The filing deadline is Friday, March 27th so the field will be set by then, but there are already multiple candidates with a legitimate shot at victory. The special election is on May 12 and the all but guaranteed runoff will take place on June 2. The rules for the special election involve a "jungle" system where the top two vote getters move on to the runoff, regardless of party identification. More will be known of the candidates in the weeks ahead, but for now it's just too early to speculate knowledgeably.

As for the statewide offices, there are some intriguing match-ups, but the two at the top of the ballot are not among them. Governor Phil Bryant (R) and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) are not expected to have difficult reelections. The same cannot be said for Attorney General Jim Hood (D), the only Democrat holding statewide office. Hood will face attorney Mike Hurst (R) in what is sure to be an extremely contentious race. Hurst has already made a name for himself by fighting public corruption, but since Hood is the only Democrat in statewide office, he'll have all of the party's resources. State Auditor Stacey Pickering (R) and State Treasurer Lynn Fitch (R) have already picked up tea party challengers that may or may not end up being serious. The main focus will certainly be on the Attorney General's race.

In the State Legislature, 2015 will be the first election under the new House and Senate districts as drawn by the GOP controlled legislature and approved by the Department of Justice. In the 52 seat state Senate, Republicans currently hold a 31-20 advantage, with one Independent who caucuses with Democrats. The dynamics of the state Senate are compelling, as conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel leads a coalition of between nine and 11 Senators who often seek to buck party leadership. This sets up confrontation with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who is also President of the Senate. Despite that dysfunction, Republicans are expected to retain control of the Senate, which has as many as 13 competitive seats. Somewhere between seven to ten Republicans and two to three Democrats will have challengers that require their attention, although not all of those races are expected to be close.

Republicans took control of the Mississippi House in 2011 for the first time since Reconstruction. That means 2015 is the first election with the new map and Republicans hope to expand their 66-56 majority. The new map created five new open seats in conservative areas and there are two additional Republican retirements creating open seats. Five Democratic incumbents will face difficult reelection as well as a handful of Republicans. Overall, Republicans hope to add three to ten seats to their majority. The days of a strong Democratic House going head-to-head with Republican Governors like Haley Barbour appear to be over for now, as Republicans are poised to control the legislative and executive branches for some time. Indeed, the more compelling matchups in Mississippi in the years to come are likely to be primary fights mirroring the Chris McDaniel challenge to Thad Cochran last year. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
By:

Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski announced she would retire at the end of this term as the longest serving woman legislator in the history of Congress.  With the seat open for the first time in a generation, a number of candidates are expected to vie for the position.  Two Democratic house members, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Donna Edwards have already announced their candidacies.  However, it would be surprising if the field doesn't grow substantially over the coming weeks.

Maryland is one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country.  It went for Obama 62-36 in 2012. While Maryland elected a Republican governor in 2014, it was due to a unique set of circumstances unlikely to be repeated in a Senate race in a Presidential year with larger Democratic turnout. With that in mind, the next Senator is likely to be chosen in the Democratic Primary.  Democratic votes in Maryland come predominately from three distinct areas: Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore.  

Montgomery County, in the Washington suburbs, is one of America's wealthiest counties and while it is increasingly racially diverse, the county historically is known as a bastion of white, affluent, college educated liberals.  Montgomery County contributed 400,000 votes in 2012, the largest single jurisdiction in Maryland and went 71% for Obama.  Chris Van Hollen has represented the county in the House for thirteen years, is a power broker in House Democratic leadership and served as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2008 and 2010 cycles.  He is an aggressive fundraiser with a national fundraising base through his party leadership posts and is a highly skilled politician.  A big bank account will be needed because Washington DC's media market, which covers approximately 1/3 of the state, is one of the most expensive in the country.  Baltimore is less expensive than DC, but still a top 50 market.

Donna Edwards represents much of Prince George's County, adjacent to Montgomery County in the Washington suburbs. Prince George's County is the wealthiest African American majority county in America.   The county is 65% African American and had 350,000 votes in 2012, 90% of which went to Obama.  Edwards was elected in 2008 and is the only woman in the race to succeed the longest serving woman in Congress.  She is also seen as the most "progressive" candidate, so the Elizabeth Warren faction of the party is pushing her candidacy.

The biggest overall vote comes from the combination of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  Between the two, over 580,000 votes were cast in 2012, with 87% of Baltimore City and 57% of Baltimore County going to Obama.  Currently no candidates from Baltimore have declared, but both Congressmen from the area, Elijah Cummings from the city and Dutch Ruppersberger from the county, are said to be actively considering bids.  Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is seen as unlikely to run, potentially leaving Edwards as the only woman in the race.

Ruppersberger or Cummings could shake up the race in several ways.  First, they would have a natural political base in Baltimore which neither Van Hollen nor Edwards could match.  Edwards and Cummings are both African American and with big African American majorities in both Baltimore City and Prince George's, if both are in the race, the minority vote could split between the two.  Van Hollen and Ruppersberger are both white and represent majority white counties.  Both are also seen as more "establishment" than Edwards and, to an extent, Cummings.  There are many who would like to see Maryland elect its first African American member of the US Senate and many who would like to see a woman continue to represent the seat that has been held by Mikulski for so long.

Van Hollen is likely to have the biggest financial war chest and strong political instincts as well as the support of Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid. Edwards has appeal to the "progressive" wing of the party as well as female and African American voters.  Neither have a foothold in Baltimore City or County, home to more voters than either Prince George's or Montgomery County.  With race, ideology, gender and regional differences, candidates still making a decision on the race (which could dramatically shift the political calculus), all for a Senate seat that hasn't been open in a generation, the Democratic primary in Maryland is going to be a fascinating one to watch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
By:

If you look through U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's vote record, you will find that he very rarely votes on bills unless it is a very close vote where his could be decisive or it is a highly symbolic vote.  Even GOP hot-button issues such as ObamaCare repeal, Keystone pipeline authorization and taxpayer funding of abortion, Boehner has refrained from engaging directly with his vote on the floor. 

That is why Boehner's vote for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding, without associated provisions repealing President Obama's executive orders on immigration and deportation policy, is so remarkable.  In one of the few cases where Boehner DID weigh in, it was on a bill that would have easily passed without his vote (it passed 257-167) and more significantly, he broke away from his own party in the House who voted AGAINST the funding bill by a 75-167 margin.  

Boehner and House Republicans had previously passed a measure that would fund DHS but did include provisions repealing President Obama's executive actions on immigration.  It became clear that such a bill could not even reach the floor for a vote in the Senate where Democrats hold the ability to filibuster anything that would get less than 60 vote support (Republicans hold 54 seats).  So, the Senate passed a "clean" DHS funding bill that did not include the immigration provisions. Conservative activists pushed Boehner to keep the provisions and force a partial shutdown of DHS until the White House and Democrats gave in to the demands to repeal the immigration provisions.

Boehner's political calculus likely included the following:

  • Politically, Obama is helped, not hurt by fighting for the immigration provisions to remain, so he has little incentive to change course. 
  • Republicans hold both houses of Congress, and both have to pass a common bill to avoid a shutdown, so if only one type of bill can pass, Republicans would be held responsible for not passing it.  
  • At a time when we are seeing new atrocities from ISIS and others on a regular basis and being warned of international threats by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to Congress at the request of Republicans, allowing DHS to shudder is a dangerous proposition, from both a national security and political perspective.

That Speaker Boehner chose to cast a very rare vote in this instance is more significant than it appears at first blush.  It demonstrates that Boehner is willing to break from conservative hardliners in his own party.  It represents a possible shift in course to fighting one battle at a time rather than wrapping multiple issues into a funding or other "must pass" bill.  It represents a commitment to a functional legislative process when that process is being managed by one party.  Significantly, it also signals a departure from the "Hastert Rule" which held that a bill must have majority support WITHIN the majority party to receive consideration.  These are all significant shifts from previous years when the House and Senate were controlled by different parties and both sides viewed political brinkmanship as standard operating procedure.

The commitment to a functional process and return to recognizing politics as "the art of the possible" is welcome news for many who have craved greater predictability and return to "regular order."  Boehner is likely to face blowback from some fellow Republicans, but his vote could signal a decisive step towards a focus on policy over politicking and its importance should not be overlooked.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
By:

The 2016 elections will play host to a bevy of exciting races that will determine which party controls the White House and the Senate. One entity that will likely be unphased by the elections is the House of Representatives. Simply put, the Republican majority is too large for Democrats to overcome in one election cycle.  The numbers are just not in their favor.

The current breakdown in the House of Representatives is 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats, with one seat vacant. This 58 seat advantage (possibly a 59 seat advantage after the special election to fill the vacancy in NY-11) means Democrats would need to win 30 races, or 60 seats, in order to take back majority control of the House (if Democrats defeat 30 Republican incumbents that would result in a 60 seat swing, giving Democrats the majority).There are currently 25 Republicans who sit in seats President Obama won in 2012, compared to five Democrats in seats Mitt Romney won. These are among the most competitive seats in the country and the Democrats would need to win all of them, without losing a single other seat, to attain their goal.

Prior to the 2014 elections, there were 38 House races rated by Larry Sabato as "Toss Ups" or "Lean" towards one party or the other. Of those 38, Republicans won 22 and Democrats won 16. On Election Day, there ended up being only 26 races decided by six percentage points or less. Republicans won 11 of those 26, but again, even if Democrats swept them ALL, they would be short of a majority. That does not include the handful of races predicted to be close but ended up being easy wins for Republicans. Rather, of those 26, most were unexpectedly difficult fights for Democrats as Republicans were able to expand the map deep into Democratic territory. Obviously some races predicted to be safe ended up being competitive and vice versa, but the fact is that due to redistricting in 2012, there are too few competitive seats for Democrats to have a realistic shot at winning a majority in the House in 2016.

Some Democrats are hoping a Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign will propel their candidates to victory across the country. If history is any indicator, this is wishful thinking. Only once in the last 100 years has a party continued control of the White House after a two term presidency (When George HW Bush succeeded Reagan in 1988).  Otherwise stated, the Democrats are betting on a historic election just to maintain control of the White House and would need that coupled with unprecedented gains to win a majority in the House.  It is very possible that Democrats will not be in striking distance of the majority until after the next census in 2020, when districts will be redrawn to fit the population.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015
By:

In 2013, the Baltimore Ravens were Super Bowl Champions and the most dominant team in football.  The very next season, they went 8-8 and didn't even get a wild card spot in the playoffs.  We may well see the same phenomena in U.S. Senate elections this cycle.  2014 saw historic gains for Republicans up and down the ballot.  In the Senate, they picked up nine seats formerly held by Democrats to take a 54-46 majority.  But they are already on defense for 2016.  While policy and candidate differences always play an important role in elections, they are magnified in smaller, more local elections while demographic and historic partisan vote patterns play a larger role in statewide and national elections.  

In Presidential elections, more Democratic leaning minorities and young voters participate, giving Democrats an edge.  In midterm elections, fewer minorities and young voters participate, giving Republicans better odds.  Typically, the electorate is 2-3% more Republican during midterm elections compared to Presidential elections.  

In 2014, Democrats had 21 seats to defend, seven of which were in states carried by Mitt Romney just two years before.  Republicans had 15 seats up, but only one in a state carried by Obama.  Democrats lost all of the seats in Romney carried states and two others in Obama states.  Republicans held all GOP seats that were up.  So, yes, it was a good year for Republicans up and down the ballot, but in the Senate at least, they were fighting on very friendly territory with a midterm electorate that leans more Republican.

The 2016 elections are the mirror image.  The electorate in Presidential years is 2-3% more Democratic than in midterm elections.  Republicans have 24 seats up, with seven in states carried by Obama in 2012.  Democrats have only ten seats up and none in states carried by Romney.  The exact same advantages that Republicans held in 2014 - a more friendly electorate and a number of seats in states carried by their party - the Democrats will hold in 2016.  

Candidates and policy differences always matter.  You can't beat somebody with nobody and in several potentially vulnerable Republican seats, Democrats have yet to land top tier challengers, but the playing field and demographics is certainly to their advantage.  Will Republicans in the Senate look more like the Seattle Seahawks who went to back to back Super Bowls or more like the Baltimore Ravens, winning the big one only to fall hard the very next season?  It's too early to tell, but the demographics and vote patterns are certainly not in the Senate GOP's favor.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Everyone has heard the saying, "if you don't vote, you can't complain."  If this was true, after the 2014 midterms, only 36% of the voting eligible population would be allowed to complain about government, which no one can argue is a good thing (except maybe Congress). There are several reasons people do not vote: time constraints, lack of interest, voting obstacles, and most commonly, people do not believe their vote counts.  In a time when voter participation is significantly low, and primaries (where participation is even lower) are becoming increasingly important, races are being decided by smaller margins and it is harder to argue that your vote does not matter.

As stated above, in 2014 only 36% of the voting eligible population voted.1  The last time turnout was this low during a midterm election was 1942.  Presidential election years have higher participation rates, though they still hover around only 60%.  In 2012, voter turnout declined 4% from 2008.2   When you look at primary elections, the numbers get even more dismal.  As of July 2014, in the 25 states that had held primaries, voter turnout was down 18% from 2010. In some states such as Iowa, voter turnout was as low as 9.7%.3  When states have runoff primaries, the numbers are even more dismal, between 1994 and 2014, average voter turnout decline between primaries and runoffs was 35%.4  As Congress has become more polarized and inefficient, primaries have become more of a focus, especially in 2014 and going forward.  More and more seats are in safe Republican or Democratic districts and the primaries are the time the next Congressman or Senator is truly selected.  If anyone wants to maximize the power of their vote, vote in the primary elections. 

In 2014, there were several close races where the winner was decided by a hair, in the primary and/or general elections.  In Mississippi, incumbent Senator Thad Cochran lost the primary by 2,000 votes, before pulling off a 6,500 vote victory in the primary runoff.  Sen. Schatz in Hawaii won the Democratic primary with less than 2,000 votes.  In Alaska, incumbent Senator Mark Begich was defeated in the general election by about 8,000 votes.  Alaska's governor was defeated by even less, about 4,000 votes.  In Vermont, Gov. Shumlin won the popular vote by only 2,000 votes and since he did not win 50%, had to wait until January to be voted in by the state legislature.  In the House, many races were even closer.  Arizona's 2nd district was decided by less than 200 votes.  In California 7, Congressman Bera won by about 500 votes. In Tennessee 4, scandal plagued Rep. Scott DesJarlais still won reelection, by just 36 votes!

As we head into 2016, it is important to remember the power of the vote. Voting in primaries and general elections are key to getting your voice heard.

1.     http://www.electproject.org/2014g
2.     http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/voter-turnout/
3.     http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/07/23/voter-turnout-in-primary-elections-this-year-has-been-abysmal/
4.     http://www.fairvote.org/assets/Primaries/Federal-Primary-Election-Runoff-Turnout-2014-updated-11.17.14.pdf