The Florida Seesaw Race

florida-governor-candidates-2018By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2018 — There has been no race in this current election cycle that has featured more swings among the candidates than the open Florida governor’s campaign. What makes it even more interesting is that the wide swings are happening virtually simultaneously in both parties.

Yesterday, several polls were released showing more change in both nomination contests as the Aug. 28 primary date draws nearer. On the Republican side, the new Survey USA poll (Aug. 10-13; 558 likely Florida Republican primary voters) finds the contest again reverting into the toss-up realm after Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) had opened a discernible advantage over agriculture commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam. According to this latest S-USA result, the DeSantis lead is now only 40-38 percent.

A pair of polls was also released on the Democratic side and, as for their Republican counterparts, the nomination race is again getting close. After leading for most of the early campaign, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine fell behind former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), but studies from Survey USA (Aug. 10-13; 631 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) and Schroth, Eldon & Associates (Aug. 11-14; 600 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) see a re-tightening of this contest, too.

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Primary Results:
Pawlenty Falls; Wisconsin Set

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2018 — Forty states have now chosen their nominees for the fall, as voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin made their choices known yesterday.


MINNESOTA

The big story was former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty failing in his bid to return to the Governor’s mansion. Pawlenty, who served from 2003-2011 and won two tough general elections, lost last night to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee and this election’s endorsed Republican Party candidate. Johnson recorded a 53-44 percent primary victory.

For the Democrats, US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who scored the barest of re-election victories in 2016, won a highly competitive party primary last night with a 42-32-24 percent win over state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), the party-endorsed candidate, and Attorney General Lori Swanson who was originally running for re-election but switched races when she failed to win the party endorsement at the state convention. Rep. Walz performed strongly in his southern Minnesota base, carrying every county from the Iowa border through the central part of the state while splitting the Twin Cities area. Though Rep. Murphy won a convincing victory at the party convention, she was never able to convert her momentum into a winning coalition among voters.

In the two Senate races, two-term Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar was easily re-nominated for the fall as was appointed Sen. Tina Smith. Sen. Klobuchar is a lock in the general election, while Sen. Smith will face a competitive challenge from state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Croix River Valley), who scored a clear Republican primary victory.

In the competitive House races, Republican Jim Hagedorn, who came within less than one percentage point of upsetting Rep. Walz in 2016, again won the party nomination, this time over state Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) who had support from some conservative organizations. Hagedorn will face the Democratic winner, former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, in what should be a hotly contested general election campaign.

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Four More Primaries Today

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 14, 2018 — Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin will choose their nominees today. Minnesota and Wisconsin, in particular, feature some key contests.


MINNESOTA

Most of today’s action will occur in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, as a major open race for governor will see party finalists determined in both political camps. Republicans feature former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner who is the officially endorsed party candidate.

Democrats have a three-way battle among state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), the official party endorsed candidate, Attorney General Lori Swanson, and US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato). Though Murphy is the sanctioned candidate, she appears to be trailing both Swanson and Walz. The winners will set up a highly competitive general election that will probably be considered a toss-up campaign all the way to Election Day.

Both US senators are on the ballot. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) is a lock for re-election, while appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) is finding a competitive battle coming from state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Croix River Valley), but these scenarios are dependent upon all of the aforementioned easily winning their respective nominations tonight.

The state could yield as many as four competitive campaigns from their eight congressional districts, but today the real nomination battles are in Districts 1, 5, and 8.

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Hanabusa Defeated in Hawaii;
Case Nominated in Dem Contest

Gov. David Ige (D-HI)

Gov. David Ige (D-HI)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 13, 2018 — The Hawaii primary was held on Saturday, and while Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) began her Democratic primary challenge as a virtual favorite to deny Gov. David Ige re-nomination — at one time she led by more than 20 points according to several polls — the incumbent rebounded to score a 51-44 percent victory. Winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to claiming the general election, meaning the November contest between Gov. Ige and state House Minority Leader Andrea Tupola (R-Kapolei), the new Republican nominee, is likely to be a mere formality.

Rep. Hanabusa was originally elected to the House in 2010, defeating then-Rep. Charles Djou (R-Honolulu) in that year’s general election. In 2014, she challenged appointed Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary after the passing of veteran Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who served in Congress from the day when Hawaii became a state.

Hanabusa returned to the House in 2016 when her successor, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea), passed away from pancreatic cancer. Quickly after making her way back to Washington, however, the congresswoman decided to launch the intra-party challenge to Gov. Ige who himself had unseated a Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the 2014 primary campaign.

Ige hit rock bottom in this contest when a false alarm catastrophic missile attack warning was unleashed, sending panic throughout the islands, and his poll numbers unsurprisingly dropped precipitously in the aftermath. But he rebounded to re-generate support from his Democratic base, improve his job approval ratio, and substantially increase his lagging fundraising operation. Polling had detected the momentum change within the last two weeks of the primary cycle, and an Ige lead was being widely reported as the two candidates headed into the election’s final days.

The Democratic turnout was 242,413 voters, most of whom voted early, which is about 5,000 more than voted in the last midterm when Ige defeat then-Gov. Abercrombie in a 66-31 percent landslide margin. By contrast, Saturday’s GOP turnout was only 31,134 individuals.

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Hyde-Smith Up in Mississippi

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 13, 2018 — A new Triumph Campaigns survey for the Y’all Politics blog (July 30-31; 2,100 likely Mississippi registered voters, 25 from each of the state’s four congressional districts) tested the two Mississippi US Senate campaigns. The results reveal interesting data for appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), who has been on the job since her April 9 induction ceremony after being appointed to succeed veteran Sen. Thad Cochran (R). The state’s senior senator, who amassed 40 years of service in the Senate, stepped down for health reasons.

According to the Triumph results, Sen. Hyde-Smith would lead former US Agriculture secretary and congressman Mike Espy (D), state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), and Independent Tobey Bartee, 41-27-15-1 percent in the statewide ballot test.

The new senator fares best in south and east congressional districts, numbers 3 and 4. The two Republicans do particularly well in the Biloxi-Gulfport anchored 4th District where the senator records 42 percent support and McDaniel has 24 percent, while Espy drops to 17 percent. Statewide, the preliminary data suggests that Hyde-Smith and Espy would move into a secondary run-off election.

In this special election, where the winner will fill the balance of the current term, all candidates will appear on the concurrent general election ballot. If no candidate receives majority support, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election a few days after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 27.

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Hawaii Primary Tomorrow

hawaiian-islands

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 10, 2018 — Hawaii voters go to the polls tomorrow for a rare Saturday primary in what will likely be an election to choose a governor. The Democratic primary winner is a lock to carry the general election, and Gov. David Ige and US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) have been in a tough intra-party battle for months.

Ironically, Gov. Ige came to office in much the same way that Rep. Hanabusa hopes to succeed. That is, defeating a sitting Democratic governor in the primary. Four years ago, Ige, then a state senator, challenged and easily defeated incumbent Neil Abercrombie in a 66-31 percent Democratic primary thrashing.

For a time, it looked like history might repeat itself. Early in the race, and not long after the false missile attack alarm that became a national news story, Rep. Hanabusa was staked to large polling leads. In a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies mid-March survey, she led the governor, 47-27 percent. In late June, Q-Mark Research, polling for the Hanabusa Campaign, projected their candidate to a whopping 57-31 percent advantage.

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Recapping the OH-12 Results

Troy Balderson (R)

Troy Balderson (R)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2018
— The OH-12 special congressional election drew major attention Tuesday evening as state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) battled well into the night before it became clear that the GOP had again escaped with a close victory. Despite the loss, Democrats began looking toward November as they made the point that their candidate exceeded typical voting patterns in what should be a Republican district.

Though approximately 3,300 provisional ballots remain uncounted, it is likely too small a number to eradicate a 1,754-vote margin. But, approximately 5,000 absentee ballots that were requested and mailed to the voter have yet to be returned. It is unclear just how many from this group are on the way to the appropriate elections officer. But, the outstanding votes didn’t prevent the GOP leadership from introducing Balderson as the new “congressman-elect.”

Prior to the election, the Daily Kos Elections Page featured a set of predictions from David Jarman, one of the site’s principals, who developed a model posting Democratic benchmarks for every county throughout the district. The numbers represented the percentage that O’Connor would need to obtain in order to score a bare 48-47 percent win over Sen. Balderson.

The prediction chart proved almost precisely accurate. Over-estimating the percentages that Green Party nominee Joe Manchik received was the only flawed calculation. The Jarman prediction suggested that Manchik would garner in the neighborhood of five percent, but the actual figure was only 0.6 percent.

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Balderson Wins in OH-12;
Close Primaries Abound

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 8, 2018 — The multiple pollsters who predicted a very tight OH-12 special election finish last night proved correct, as Ohio Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) defeated Franklin county Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) by a scant 50.2 – 49.3 percent margin, or an unofficial spread of 1,754 votes from a turnout universe of 202,521 people.

The turnout was just eight percent less than the number present in the 2014 midterm election, and ranks fourth highest among the 10 special US House elections conducted after the 2016 general election. In four of these contests: AZ-8 (Rep. Debbie Lesko), GA-6 (Rep. Karen Handel), MT-AL (Rep. Greg Gianforte), and PA-18 (Rep. Conor Lamb), special election voter participation actually exceeded the number of people voting in the last midterm.

The 12th District vote again revealed a stark difference in the timing of how the preponderance of Democrats and Republicans cast their ballots. Democrats dominated the early voting, sending O’Conner to an early 8,000-vote lead, but that advantage dissipated when the people who actually visited a polling booth recorded their votes, allowing Sen. Balderson to take the lead and win the campaign.

Balderson carried six of the district’s seven counties, but lost the anchor county, Franklin, by a large 65-35 percent margin. In four of the local entities, the Republican topped 60 percent of the vote.

Other close elections registered across the country:


KANSAS

The Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary is yet to be decided. With 185 precincts in Johnson County still outstanding — the rest of the state is complete — Secretary of State Kris Kobach holds a 40.7 – 40.5 percent lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer, a difference of just 541 votes, statewide. But Colyer’s margin in the Johnson County vote already recorded (43.6 – 36.6 percent) gives the governor a 4,011-vote edge.

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The Aug 7 Primaries – Part II

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2018 — We finish our look at today’s primary elections, covering Michigan and Washington, and the OH-12 special congressional election contest.


MICHIGAN

The US Senate and open governor campaigns lead the Michigan ticket today. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) will learn whether she faces venture capitalist Sandy Pensler or retired Army Ranger and manufacturing company owner John James, the latter a President Trump-endorsed candidate, in the fall campaign. The senator begins the general election in the clear favorite’s position.

With Gov. Rick Snyder (R) ineligible to seek a third term, competitive Republican and Democratic primaries will be both settled tonight. For the GOP, Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill Schuette has enjoyed double-digit leads in all polling for several months over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. On the Democratic side, former state House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer has been the clear leader almost since the campaign began, and she is expected to defeat former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed and businessman Shri Thanedar. The general election promises to be highly competitive in this pivotal redistricting state.

Three open seats are the top attractions in the congressional contests.

In veteran Rep. Sander Levin’s (D-Royal Oak) open seat, it appears the retiring congressman’s son, energy consultant Andy Levin, is the clear favorite in the Democratic primary. The 9th is a decidedly Democratic district meaning Levin’s chances of succeeding his father in the general election are strong.

Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham) is retiring from Congress after two terms and leaves a toss-up political contest in his wake. Crowded primaries are present for both parties, including a Republican race featuring five candidates, while the Democrats have an additional five people running. Trump state co-chair Lena Epstein has developed a late lead in two Republican primary polls, while former Treasury Department official Haley Stevens and state Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Troy) appear atop of the Democratic contest.

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The Aug. 7 Primaries – Part I

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesAug. 6, 2018 — The Aug. 7 primaries that arrive tomorrow decide important nomination campaigns in Kansas, Michigan, and Washington; the Missouri political card is already virtually set. Today, we look at Kansas and Missouri, followed tomorrow by Michigan and Washington.


KANSAS

The Sunflower State governor’s race is the key feature in the Republican primary, as Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) appears to be struggling to cobble together a victory coalition in tomorrow’s primary election. Colyer ascended to the governorship when incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) accepted a position in the Trump Administration. Colyer is attempting to repel a strong challenge coming from activist conservative Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is leading in the latest polling.

According to the Trafalgar Group (July 30-Aug. 2; 1,546 likely Kansas Republican primary voters), Gov. Colyer trails Secretary Kobach, 43-36 percent. But the Remington Research Group, polling in the same period (Aug. 2; 859 likely Kansas Republican primary voters), sees a tie between the two men with both attracting 32 percent support. Former state Sen. Jim Barnett and State Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer are at or below 13 percent preference in both polls.

Democrats also see a multi-candidate campaign, and it appears that state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka), the party activists’ favorite, is positioned to win the nominating election. She faces former Agriculture Commissioner Josh Svaty, and retired Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, but Sen. Kelly appears to have constructed the appropriate coalition to achieve victory tomorrow night.

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Tennessee Primary Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2018 — Often in politics when two candidates begin to square off against each other in a multi-candidate field, that pair loses and an opponent coming from the outside walks away with the prize. That model again happened last night in the Tennessee Republican primary.

TENNESSEE-CONGRESSIONAL-DISTRICTS-with-citiesBusinessman Bill Lee, the only candidate with no governmental experience, took advantage of his late polling surge and captured the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Thursday’s Volunteer State primary election. Lee’s victory was substantial, winning a 37-24-23-15 percent over businessman and former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and state House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). Lee will now oppose former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who easily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary with 75 percent of the vote.

The open governor’s primary had been hotly contested. Rep. Black and Boyd had been leading in most polls, but Lee had made a major final push and became a late factor in the race. Most surveys had Rep. Black holding a slight advantage, but the polls had been hovering within the polling margin of error for several weeks. We saw that play out last night.

Voter turnout heavily favored the Republicans to the point of more than doubling the Democratic participation rate. In the governor’s race, 785,969 Republicans voted as compared to 369,775 Democrats. Lee now becomes the heavy favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R) in the fall general election.

There was no suspense in the open US Senate race because Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) easily won their respective party nominations against only minor opposition, thus officially beginning a general election campaign that has already been proceeding for many weeks.

In the House races, incumbents Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg), and Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) all were easily re-nominated in percentages ranging from 70 (DesJarlais) to 91 (Cohen). Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) was the only incumbent House member in either party unopposed for re-nomination.

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Dead Heats in New Nevada Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

Nevada Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Nevada Senate candidates: Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Aug. 2, 2018 — A new Suffolk University survey (July 24-29; 500 likely Nevada voters) returns numbers that again show Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) falling within the margin of polling error with neither candidate attracting majority support.

According to Suffolk, Sen. Heller leads Rep. Rosen by a bare 41-40 percent margin, meaning the two are virtually tied. This is the first poll since mid-April that projects the senator to any kind of an advantage, but even the four surveys in between, all of which favored Rep. Rosen, showed margin spreads in the realm of two to six points. Of the eight polls publicized for this race during the entire election cycle, in only one, the April Survey Monkey study, did either candidate ever reach the 50 percent mark (Rosen, 50-44 percent; Survey Monkey; April 2-23; 1,332 Nevada registered voters in the Survey Monkey pool).

Suffolk also tested the state’s open governor’s race, and found an equally tight contest. Here, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 42-41 percent tally over Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. In the one previously released post-primary general election poll, from Gravis Marketing (June 23-26; 630 likely Nevada general election voters), an almost identical result was projected: Laxalt leading 43-41 percent.

The Nevada Senate race is one of the most important in the nation this year, and one of two main Democratic conversion targets (the open race in Arizona is the other). Winning this race is the only gateway to the Democrats potentially gaining the Senate majority, thus we can expect to see major political action in this state for the remaining prime campaign months.

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Playing the Percentages —
Scott Up in Detailed Poll

By Jim Ellis

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Aug. 1, 2018 — Another new poll was released yesterday on the Florida Senate race, and the data provides us an in-depth look at where each candidate is strong.

For more than a year, three-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and two-term Gov. Rick Scott (R) have traded the polling lead — from the time it became evident that the latter man, ineligible to seek re-election to his own statewide office, would initiate a challenge for the federal position.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy pre-released their new Senate survey results (July 24-25; 625 likely Florida voters) after publicizing their gubernatorial primary data last week. According to their conclusions, Gov. Scott has a 47-44 percent lead over Sen. Nelson. While the two candidates have repeatedly superseded each other in various public surveys, the two have almost always been separated within the polling margin of error.

This is the fourth time since February of 2017 that Mason-Dixon has conducted a Florida Senate poll. But, this is the first where Gov. Scott has led. In their other surveys (Feb 2017, October 2017, February 2018, and the current July 2018), Sen. Nelson held an edge of five points (46-41 percent; Feb 2017) and a margin of one (45-44 percent; February 2018), or the two were tied (44-44 percent; October 2017). As you can see, in all four polls the two men are both in the 40s, with none ever commanding majority support. The current poll is no exception.

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The Crystal Ball Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Professor Larry Sabato, University of Virginia

Professor Larry Sabato, University
of Virginia

July 31, 2018 — Last week, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato released his latest “Crystal Ball” ratings of the current US House races and declared that the Democrats are a “soft favorite” to assume the majority in the coming November elections. There’s more to the story, however.

Dr. Sabato supports his claim for several basic reasons. First, he sites the historic trends that a new president’s party loses seats in the first midterm election, and traces this electoral pattern all the way back to the Civil War era. Second, he turns to the typical polling regularly released that places President Trump’s approval ratings in what he terms “the low 40s”, and includes the generic House ratings, along with the “enthusiasm” analysis. Third, is the Democrats’ record in the current cycle’s federal and state special elections, and fourth is their second quarter fundraising “advantage.”

There are counter arguments that need mentioning for each of these points.

It is questionable to compare electoral trends developed during the 1800s to the elections of today because the world has changed so much. Bringing the analysis to at least the 20th Century and looking just at the post-World War II patterns (from President Harry Truman, inclusive, to today), we find that the average seat loss in the House during a new president’s first midterm is 26 seats. But, this average combines the six Democratic presidents losing 32 seats, and the five Republicans’ dropping 15 districts. Just three elections, 1966 (Johnson; -47 seats), 1994 (Clinton; -54), and 2010 (Obama; -63) have substantially upped the overall average.

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Feinstein: More Warning Signals

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 30, 2018 — The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a new survey of the Golden State electorate, and the pollsters uncovered some new information about the double-Democrat US Senate race that voters will decide in November.

According to the PPIC data (July 8-17; 1,711 adult California residents, 1,420 registered California voters, 1,020 likely California voters — questionnaire provided in English and Spanish), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) would lead state senator and former Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), 46-24 percent, a margin that again shows incumbent weakness. In no poll has Feinstein ever reached the majority support plateau of 50 percent or more. Additionally, in the June 5 jungle primary, she received just 44 percent of the vote, but that compares to Mr. de Leon’s 12 percent, and he finished second. In all, 32 candidates were on the Senate jungle primary ballot.

But this PPIC poll found new key information, which provides even worse news for Sen. Feinstein. Though she still must be rated as the favorite, it is becoming clearer that de Leon is developing at least a narrow victory path. A desertion among Republicans could be problematic for Feinstein, and that appears to be happening.

In a two-person race, the PPIC poll finds just 70 percent making a candidate choice. But that does not mean the remainder is fully undecided. Actually, 20 percent are saying they will deliberately skip this race, almost all of which align themselves with the Republicans or are not affiliated with a major party.

The same phenomenon happened in the 2016 general election US Senate race when then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) defeated US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Some theorized that Rep. Sanchez could be a strong candidate because she was more likely to attract Republican votes than the much more liberal Harris. Sanchez is a female Hispanic from southern California and had a textbook profile to, at least on paper, win a statewide race there. But, such didn’t prove true because so many Republicans simply skipped the Senate race even though they were in the polling booth or cast a mail ballot.

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