Surprising Q3 Financial Disclosures

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2018 — The third quarter financial disclosure reports are now public, and more details are readily available. Thus, we are able to learn about various record-setting fundraising efforts.

FEC-moneyIn addition to Texas US Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) attracting $38 million in the third quarter, an all-time record for any such campaign, several House candidates also reported financial numbers that have never been seen for district-level politics.

In the third quarter of 2018, nine House contenders exceeded raising $3 million, eight Democrats and one Republican.

In California’s 22nd District, incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was the top Republican fundraiser and appears to have accumulated more financial resources for the entire campaign than any other congressional candidate of either party. In the quarter, Rep. Nunes raised $3.14 million. For the campaign, he has exceeded the $10.5 million mark.

But his Democratic opponent, attorney Andrew Janz, brought in over $4 million for the quarter, the only congressional candidate in the US to do so, and an all-time record for a quarter. He still trails Rep. Nunes in overall receipts (Janz posted $7.13 million for the campaign), however. Together, this campaign leads the nation in combined fundraising with over $17 million. For a regular cycle congressional campaign – not including the special elections we saw earlier that became national contests – this, too, is likely an all-time record for a House contest.

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Feinstein Still Weak; Gas Tax Polling

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

Oct. 18, 2018 — Survey USA released a poll of the California electorate, one more political study that finds Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) failing to establish command in her race against fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles state senator.

The S-USA data (Oct. 12-14; 1,200 California adults; 964 registered California voters; 762 likely California voters) sees Feinstein again locked at 40 percent support versus 26 percent for de Leon. This is the sixth survey from four different pollsters that finds the Senator in the mid to low 40s since the June 5th jungle primary. But de Leon fares much worse, failing to break 30 percent in any of the half-dozen ballot test questions.

While all of the research suggests that Sen. Feinstein is politically weak, she will not lose this race. Though she brought in only $982,000 for the third quarter — a low number when campaigning in a state the size of California and understanding that many Democratic House candidates have brought in millions during the same period — de Leon raised just $254,000 and has a mere $309,000 cash-on-hand for the period ending Sept. 30. This is a low figure for a congressional race, let alone for a place that’s 53 times as large as a single CD.

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

The other feature potentially making the California Senate race a wild-card contest is the vote drop-off that we will see when comparing turnout for this office to the rest of the statewide ballot.

In 2016, when two Democrats were competing for an open Senate seat — the now-Sen. Kamala Harris vs. then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) — fewer votes were cast for that contest than in any other statewide election, including all of the ballot propositions. In fact, over 1.9 million more people voted in the presidential race than in the Senate race, and 1.3 million more chose to decide the last ballot initiative that banned single-use plastic bottles.

What occurred was a plethora of Republican voters simply skipping the Senate race rather than supporting one of the two Democrats. With de Leon running to the ideological left of Feinstein the Republican vote will likely drop even further, which becomes an interesting factor.

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The Nevada Sway

By Jim Ellis

Nevada-mapOct. 17, 2018 — A new Emerson College poll (Oct. 10-12; 625 likely Nevada voters) projects Sen. Dean Heller (R) to a 48-41 percent lead over freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), which is the largest lead for either candidate since the June 12th primary.

For most of the election cycle, this race has been rated as a toss-up campaign, but most prognosticators believed it would eventually tilt toward the Democrats yielding a challenger victory.

Viewed as a state trending Democratic because of Hillary Clinton’s 48-45 percent victory in the most recent presidential campaign added to President Obama winning here in both of his elections: 52-46 percent over Mitt Romney, and in a 55-43 percent landslide over John McCain, the 2014 Republican sweep from the governor’s race through the state legislative campaigns has generally been disregarded as an anomaly.

Outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has strong approval ratings and would clearly be a re-election favorite if the state did not have a term limit law. The governor is playing an interesting role in this year’s campaign. He is featured prominently in Sen. Heller’s advertising but refuses to endorse Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) as his successor because the latter man refuses to support the Sandoval tax program, which is becoming the governor’s legacy as Nevada’s chief executive.

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House Campaigns Turning Around

By Jim Ellis

daily-kosOct. 16, 2018 — According to the liberal Daily Kos Elections website, six congressional races that appeared to be headed in one direction look to be reversing themselves.

Four campaigns that Democrats earlier projected as red to blue conversions are now either tilting toward the Republican candidate or coming back into play. An additional campaign that we believed was always miscategorized is now performing as we predicted, while a further Republican incumbent, already projected to be in a close race, has actually dropped behind for the first time in a published poll. Descriptions for each of these contests follow.

Two GOP incumbents who were trailing in several polls — the Siena College/New York Times polls had one lagging 15 points behind and the other by 10, for example — have come back to take the lead or are hovering in virtual tie range.


IOWA

Iowa Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) has represented the most Democratic seat in Iowa for two terms. He fell significantly behind state Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) to the point where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) even canceled a flight of media advertising because they presumably believed the race was sealed.

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A Polling Dichotomy in Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

Superintendent of public instruction, Tony Evers (D), left, and Gov. Scott Walker (R)

Superintendent of public instruction, Tony Evers (D), left, and Gov. Scott Walker (R)

Sept. 15, 2018 — Two succeeding polls were just released with one showing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) barely leading in his fight for a third term, while another predicts he will be blown out. Yet, the two seemingly contradictory polls both find an almost identical Senate race status.

NBC News/Marist College went into the field during the period of Sept. 30-Oct. 3 (943 Wisconsin adults; 781 registered Wisconsin voters; 571 likely voters) and found Democratic superintendent of public instruction, Tony Evers, leading Gov. Walker by a whopping 53-43 pecent among the likeliest of voters (52-43 percent within the registered voter segment). But, Marquette University Law School, a prolific Wisconsin pollster since the 2012 election cycle, actually finds the governor clinging to a one-point, 47-46 percent edge in their just-released survey (Oct. 3-7; 1,000 registered Wisconsin voters; 799 likely voters).

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), left, and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), left, and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield)

While the two pollsters are far apart in how they see the governor’s race, they are very consistent in projecting the US Senate contest between first-term incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield). NBC/Marist gives Sen. Baldwin a 54-40 percent advantage within their likely voters cell, while Marquette finds a similar 53-42 percent spread.

A simple explanation suggests that the governor’s race is quite volatile while the Senate campaign is virtually decided. The two polls were run consecutively with NBC/Marist ending on Oct. 3 and Marquette beginning on that day. Obviously, this means the Marquette data is the most recent.

The Marquette sampling universe looks to be the stronger, as both the registered and likely voter cells are larger than NBC/Marist’s. Additionally, since Marquette exclusively polls the Wisconsin electorate and does so on what appears to be a quarterly basis but more frequently when closer to an election, their knowledge of the voter base is likely superior to NBC/Marist, which is a national pollster. Therefore, the greater local knowledge likely provides them a superior ability to better pull a reflective sample.

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McSally Surges in New Arizona Poll

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Oct. 12, 2018 — A new OH Predictive Insights survey for ABC News 15 in Phoenix (Oct. 1-2; 600 likely Arizona voters) brings new information about the open Arizona Senate race. According to the ballot test results, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has overcome Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Phoenix) consistent small lead in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and claims a six-point advantage, 47-41 percent.

Though this is the first time that Rep. McSally has scored a lead beyond the polling margin of error, the new result is plausible.

For several weeks, surveys have projected that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is expanding his small advantage over Arizona State University professor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia into a double-digit lead, but the same polls continued to forecast Rep. Sinema with a tight edge in the Senate race. It seemed only a matter of time before the act of Ducey cementing his margin would begin to help McSally.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

Secondly, McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly a combat mission and command a flight squadron, has been hitting Sinema over her role as a war protester prior to the latter woman being elected to the state legislature. The contrast is a compelling one and should play to McSally’s favor. Arizona may be more politically competitive that in past years, but Republicans still maintain a statewide advantage here. Additionally, the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain brings greater attention to those engaged in military careers, thus further helping McSally.

An outside conservative organization then began attacking Sinema over legislation she drafted while in the legislature that made it more difficult to charge individuals in child prostitution cases. Sinema’s argument was that men should not be held totally responsible for engaging in such a crime if the prostitute in question is made to look much older than her true age. This attack appears relatively weak and may miss the mark, but it adds to the multi-pronged strategy to cast Rep. Sinema in a negative light.

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New Nevada Data

By Jim Ellis

Nevada-mapOct. 11, 2018 — The new NBC News/Marist College survey (Sept. 30-Oct. 3; 920 NV residents; 780 registered Nevada voters; 574 likely Nevada voters) detects movement toward the Republicans in the two major Nevada statewide races (governor and senator), while keeping both contests in the pure toss-up column.

Marist College is an “A” rated pollster from the 538 statistical analysis organization and has partnered with NBC News since the 2012 election. Already releasing several statewide polls this year, Marist tested the Nevada electorate knowing that Sen. Dean Heller (R) is embroiled in a tough re-election campaign against freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), while the open governor’s race, featuring Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D), had begun to turn toward the latter.

According to the NBC/Marist ballot test results, Sen. Heller posts a 46-44 percent edge among likely voters and an almost identical 45-43 percent within the registered voter sample. When the Libertarian Party nominee is added and a question asking whether any of the candidates are satisfactory, Sen. Heller maintains the lead, 44-42 percent, with eight percent going to Libertarian Tim Hagan, and another two percent saying they want “none of these candidates.” Among registered voters, the respondents split 42-41-8-3 percent in Sen. Heller’s slight favor, with Rep. Rosen closely following, and Hagan and “none of the above” trailing respectively.

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Early Voting:
When, Where & Possibly Why

By Jim Ellis

voteOct. 10, 2018 — There is great discussion within political circles about the importance of early voting and whether an advantage can ascertained for one party or another, or if it is a predictor of the associated election that is decided in the succeeding vote.

As more states adopt early voting – 37 currently have enacted some form of the balloting process – it is still unclear as to whether it brings more voters into the election cycle. Offering elongated voting times does make ballot casting more convenient, no doubt, and Democrats usually are more prodigious in their use of the procedure, but there are no long-term patterns that suggest the use of early voting actually leads to more Democratic victories.

The early voting calendar is also elongating the election process, and the periods for such ballot casting are getting longer. Right now, pre-election voters in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, North and South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming already are casting their Nov. 6 ballots. This week, Arizona, California, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, and Ohio voters can join them. The states with the latest early voting start dates are Florida (Oct. 27), Maryland (Oct. 25), and West Virginia (Oct. 24).

Those who exercise their right to vote early, however, do miss the critical part of the advertising campaign, which may or may not cause them to re-think and change their votes, and it is clear that early voting has altered the campaign cycle. Thus, it is relatively clear that the more decided voters, possibly meaning the most partisan from the various parties, are the ones who generally cast their votes before Election Day.

The only states that carry early voting through Election Day itself are the three where all votes are cast via mail: Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. All others end early voting before the official Election Day, which is Nov. 6 this year.

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The CBS/YouGov Series

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 9, 2018
CBS News and the YouGov international online pollster again teamed to test four key US Senate races as part of the former’s Battleground Tracker series and finds Republican and Democratic candidates both leading in two states. All of the polls were conducted between Oct. 2-5. The polling margin of error ranges from 3.4 to 3.9 percent. The responses were submitted online and not via live telephone operators.

CBS News/YouGov Poll

CBS News/YouGov poll results (click image above to see full results posted on CBSNEWS.com)

In Arizona (1,010 registered Arizona voters), Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) continues to lead Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) by a small plurality. According to this poll, which is consistent with other known data, Sinema claims a 47-44 percent edge.

Regarding the economy, 80 percent of the Arizona respondents believe the economy is very good (26 percent) or somewhat good (54 percent). Rep. McSally is viewed as the stronger candidate on immigration, crime, and gun policy. Rep. Sinema is considered to be the stronger candidate with regard to healthcare, which is the most important issue cited.

The respondents are breaking evenly about supporting or opposing President Trump, though his job approval is an upside down 46:53 percent favorable to unfavorable.

CBS/YouGov then surveyed Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D) chances of winning re-election in New Jersey (1,009 registered New Jersey voters). Here, the senator scores a 49-39 percent advantage, one of the better reported polls for him during this election cycle.

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Forecasting the Results – Part II

By Jim Ellis

2018-democrat-house-majority-breakdown-text-graphicOct. 8, 2018 — The Democrats need to convert a net 24 seats to secure a one-seat majority in the US House on Election Day, Nov. 6. Many reports quote the number 23 as what is necessary to win control, but the new Pennsylvania map will yield one seat coming back to the Republicans — the new open 14th District — thus pushing the total up to 24.

As stated Friday, our forecasts listed below are based upon a series of factors, including current polling numbers, voter history, candidate personal and job approval favorability, fundraising, other races on the state ballot that could drive turnout, and outside issues such as the confirmation vote to for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become a Supreme Court Justice, which could change the turnout model, etc.

According to our new analysis, the Democrats are on the cusp of converting the requisite number of Republican seats to take a bare majority and seeing their caucus become significantly larger. At this point, the Democratic gain range appears to reach 23 on the low side and 35 at the apex.

Looking at the country by state and region, it appears the Democrats will do well in the Midwest, in particular. The Great Lakes region that delivered President Trump his surprise victory appears to be snapping back to the Democrats in the midterm House races. Michigan looks particularly good for them at both the statewide and district levels.

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Forecasting the Results – Part I

By Jim Ellis

2018-senate-breakdown-text-graphicOct. 5, 2018 — As we approach one month remaining in the 2018 election cycle, it is a good time to begin forecasting what may be the plausible outcome of this national midterm election campaign. Today, we look at the Senate; tomorrow, the House.

In the Senate races, 17 of the 35 feature serious competition. With a 51-49 Republican majority margin, Democrats need only two seats to gain control. Their problem is to defend 26 of the 35 in-cycle Senate states, and that ratio yields too few targets to make a realistic run for the majority.

The forecasts listed below are based upon a series of factors including current polling numbers, voter history, candidate personal and job approval favorability, fundraising, other races on the state ballot that could drive turnout, and outside issues such as the confirmation vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh that could change the turnout model, etc.

The competitive Senate campaigns are rated as to what we believe will happen on Nov. 6, and not about what might occur if the election were today. Certainly, time still remains for the outcome in many of these races to change, and currently unforeseen events in a dynamic election cycle could obviously alter the final results.

Democratic Seats Staying Democratic
• Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow
• Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown
• Pennsylvania – Sen. Bob Casey Jr.
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VA-10: Momentum Change;
Dems: Eye-Popping Dollars

By Jim Ellis

Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun County (left) | Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean (right)

Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun County (left) | Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean (right)

Oct. 4, 2018 — Recently, signals were developing that Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock’s (R-McLean) campaign status against state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun County) was trending poorly to the point that she was becoming one of the most endangered incumbents in the nation. Now, the political winds appear to be changing.

In June, Monmouth University released a survey that found the congresswoman dropping behind her Democratic opponent by a substantial margin, 50-41 percent, under a standard midterm turnout model; President Trump’s approval rating was severely upside down; and rumors were circulating that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was looking to cancel its multi-million dollar media air time reservation.

Now, things have picked up for Comstock. Yesterday, Monmouth released their new survey for this district (Sept. 26-30; 374 likely VA-10 voters), and it shows her gaining strength when compared to their June data. Still, Wexton leads in all three of their projected turnout models, but it is clear that the momentum is moving in Comstock’s direction.

Under the standard midterm participation model, the Wexton lead is 50-44 percent. If the turnout is low, her margin dips to 50-46 percent. And, if a “Democratic surge” actually takes hold of the electorate, the margin increases to 53-42 percent.

Though Rep. Comstock is behind under all turnout models, her standing has improved in each since June, and reports from inside her campaign suggest the numbers might be even better. Under the standard turnout model forecast in June, the Comstock gain is a net three percentage points. Within the low turnout model, she gains a net five points, and even her standing vis-a-vis the “Democratic surge” is better, by a net two percent.

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NJ-11: Rebounding

By Jim Ellis

Navy veteran and attorney, Mikie Sherrill

Navy veteran and attorney, Mikie Sherrill

Sep. 3, 2018 — A new poll suggests that conventional wisdom about how a northern New Jersey district will vote next month might be inaccurate.

For quite some time, the common belief has been that retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (D-Morristown) seat will convert to the Democrats in the person of attorney and Naval Academy graduate Mikie Sherrill.

An internal National Strategy poll for the Jay Webber (R) campaign (Sept. 24-27; 400 likely New Jersey voters), however, now finds the GOP nominee drawing much closer to Sherrill, to the point where he is within the polling margin of error. According to National, the ballot test finds Sherrill leading, 46-43 percent.

Published polls here have been few and far between. Right after the primary, the money count so favored Sherrill that the prognosticators began making a Democratic victory in this open Republican district a foregone conclusion.

Sherrill had already raised over $4.2 million before the end of June and held just under $3 million in the bank. This compared to Webber having less than $200,000 cash-on-hand. His fundraising was slow to gain momentum, and he had to spend in order to win the party nomination in the June 5 primary, hence his low post-primary financial total. The dollar count led to the principle idea that Sherrill was becoming a lock. Since that time, Webber’s fundraising has moved well into seven digits.

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The Healthcare Air Wars

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 2, 2018 — With the economy performing well, most recent polling finds jobs and taxes often dropping to third place as an answer to the most important issue question. Depending upon the geographic region, immigration ranks as the second most mentioned topic, but almost all now cite healthcare as number one.

(NY-24, Democrat Dana Balter’s healthcare ad)

Therefore, it is not surprising to see campaigns on both sides driving very different healthcare messages.

Democrats are consistently hitting Republicans over their vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as the Dems call it, or Obamacare, as is the GOP reference. The Democrat attacks claim that, because of this vote, the Republican House members wanted to rescind insurance coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Lately, they’re adding an attack that Republicans attempted to invoke an “age tax”, claiming that the vote to repeal would have increased insurance costs five-fold for people over 50 years of age.

Republicans are countering that the “Medicare for all” plan that some Democrats advocate will cost $32 trillion dollars and result in a “doubling of the income tax.”

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Will He Stay Or Will He Go?
New Duncan Hunter Poll Released

By Jim Ellis

California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine)

California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine)

Oct. 1, 2018 — One of the more interesting asides for the coming election is whether the two indicted congressmen, California’s Duncan Hunter and New York’s Chris Collins, can still win re-election. Since the House partisan division may be close, every seat is of critical importance particularly to Republicans who are attempting to hold their tenuous majority and risk both of these seats.

Monmouth University just released their new poll in California’s 50th Congressional District, testing Rep. Duncan Hunter’s political strength. As you may remember, Hunter is under federal indictment for campaign finance violations.

According to the Monmouth data (Sept. 22-26; 401 potential CA-50 voters who have cast a ballot in at least one of the last four primary or general elections or have newly registered to vote since January 2016), Hunter still has majority support in a district that President Trump carried, 55-40 percent.

Monmouth has been testing different turnout models in all of their latest polls. They look at all registered voters, a standard midterm model, and one that features a “Democratic surge.” In this poll, as in many other Monmouth surveys around the country, the tested Democratic candidate performs better under the registered, or “all voters” model, than under a Democratic surge, so it’s unclear as to the value of the latter test framework.

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