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Election Insights
Election Insights is a political analysis publication of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC). BIPAC is an independent, bipartisan organization, that is supported by several hundred of the nation’s leading businesses and trade associations.  The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of our organization.


July 20, 2016
Never Trump Fails and Hoosier Musical Chairs
by Jim Ellis 

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.


July 13, 2016
Clinton Numbers post-FBI Decision, Evan Bayh's Indiana Return, and Poll Data on FL, NV, NY, OR, & TX Races
by Jim Ellis 

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. 


July 6, 2016
A Look at the Presidential, Key U.S. Senate, and the NC Governor Races
by Jim Ellis 

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).


June 29, 2016
Brexit, Signs of a Sanders Concession, Rubio Announced, Congressional Nominees, Utah Governor, and more
by Jim Ellis

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.


June 22, 2016
BIPAC Election Insights - Trump's Numbers, Rubio Re-election, Rep. Chaka Fattah Convicted, and more
by Jim Ellis 

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.


June 15, 2016
Clinton Wins DC Dem Primary, Upsets in Virginia and North Dakota, and More Election Analysis
by Jim Ellis

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).


June 8, 2016

Tuesday's Primary Results Review and Forecast
by Jim Ellis 

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.


June 1, 2016
The Libertarian Ticket Decided; CA, FL, & NC Senate Updates; and House/Governor Race News
by Jim Ellis 

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.


May 25, 2016
Washington State Results, Isakson Primary Victory, and other Senate/House News
by Jim Ellis 
 
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.


May 18, 2016
Kentucky/Oregon Results and U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and Governor Race Updates
by Jim Ellis 

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.


May 11, 2016
Forecast & Review of WV, NE Primaries
by Jim Ellis 

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.


May 4, 2016
Donald Trump's Hoosier Victory and Other IN Results
by Jim Ellis 

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.


April 27, 2016
Looking Beyond the Headlines from Yesterday's Primary Elections
by Jim Ellis 

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.


April 20, 2016
NY Presidential Primaries, NC Senate Poll, 44th House Member to Retire, and Gubernatorial Race Updates
by Jim Ellis 

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.


April 13, 2016
The Delegate Selection Process, MD/PA/WI Senate Polls, and NJ/VA House Race Updates
by Jim Ellis 

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.


April 6, 2016
Wisconsin Presidential Primaries and More...
by Jim Ellis 

President

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) easily won their respective Wisconsin presidential primaries last night.  

Because the Sanders victory was bigger than expected, the Vermont Senator will likely claim about 60% of the Wisconsin delegate contingent.  Even though former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton experienced what has to be termed a stinging defeat, and her sixth consecutive state loss to Sanders, she obtained her delegate quota.  Thus, a Clinton nomination still looks secure.  

The polling understated the breadth of Sen. Cruz's victory margin, as he easily overcame Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) on the Republican side.  He captured a whopping 36 of the state's 42 Republican National Convention delegates.

In a state that was projected to go Trump early in the campaign, Cruz scoring this many Wisconsin Republican delegates could prove a major happening. The Senator's strong victory last night enhances the chances of Republicans being forced into a contested convention, which is virtually the only chance that either Cruz or Kasich have of winning the nomination.

Senate

Both the Marquette Law School and Public Policy Polling Wisconsin surveys asked a question about the impending crucial Wisconsin Senate race between first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D).  The latter had opened up large leads in early polling, but the latest two studies suggest a tightening of the race.

The Marquette data finds Feingold now ahead 47-42%, a significant improvement for Johnson considering the organization's two previous surveys found the Democrat up double-digits.  Public Policy Polling records a similar 46-39% margin in Feingold's favor.

Two polls also surfaced in Missouri, which Democrats believe is their national sleeper race.  The party leaders are excited about their candidate, Secretary of State Jason Kander (D).  

DFM Research, polling in mid-late March and releasing the data now, finds Sen. Roy Blunt (R) holding a 49-35% advantage.  But Remington Research, polling for the Missouri Scout political blog, yields a closer result: Blunt leading 44-37%.  The Show Me State swing to the Republicans in recent presidential elections suggests that Blunt will get an added turnout boost in November.

The Democratic leadership is pulling out all the stops to help their chosen Pennsylvania Senatorial candidate, Katie McGinty.  The party brass is locked in a feud with 2010 Senatorial nominee Joe Sestak, and both sides acknowledge the bad relationship.  Apparently, the leaders are willing to dismiss the fact that Sestak received 49% of the vote against Sen. Pat Toomey in what proved to be a Republican landslide year.  In the past week, the state and national party principals convinced President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Pennsylvania Senior Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) to publicly endorse McGinty, the former gubernatorial chief of staff and state Environmental Protection Agency head, in the Democratic primary to be decided April 26th.  

So far, Sestak has led every poll and McGinty's only run for statewide office resulted in her placing fourth of four candidates in the 2014 Governor's primary, capturing only 8% of the party vote.  Therefore, this race should end in an interesting manner.

In the tight Maryland Senate race, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) released his own data to counter some other public polls that find Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) leading the statewide Democratic primary.  Van Hollen's internal poll, from Garin Hart Yang Research (3/28-30; 604 MD likely Democratic primary voters) forecasts him with a 45-40% edge over his congressional colleague.  Previously, the Baltimore Sun poll found Edwards up 34-28%.  The candidates are vying to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) and this campaign will go down to the wire.

Governor

This past weekend, North Dakota Republicans met at their state convention.  In addition to selecting a delegation of 28 unbound delegates to the Republican National Convention, the party officers and activists endorsed a candidate to succeed retiring Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R).  Normally, this ends the nomination process, but businessman Doug Burgum announced that he will force a Republican primary after the convention endorsed Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on the second ballot.

Two more significant candidates joined the New Hampshire Governor's race.  Democratic former Mayor Steve Marchand (Portsmouth) will oppose Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and former state agency head Michael Connolly.  For the Republicans, state Senate Finance Committee chair Jeanie Forrester also entered the contest and will battle Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, and wealthy businessman and state Rep. Frank Edelblut for the GOP nomination.  This race won't be decided until September 13th, so there is time for more candidates to enter.  Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is running for Senate.


March 16, 2016
Presidential Primary Update
by Bo Harmon

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.


February 24, 2016

Looking to Super Tuesday
By Bo Harmon
 
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.


February 17, 2016
How the Delegate Process Works
By Bo Harmon

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 4763 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.


February 10, 2016
Top 10 Relevant Results of the New Hampshire Primary
by Bo Harmon
 
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 tremendouslyby 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 Tuesdaybased 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 votedin 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 overwhelmingand 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.


February 3, 2016
How Iowa Impacts the Presidential Race
By Bo Harmon

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.


 

Countdown to Election Day
 
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