Iowa: Midwesterners Gain

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (left) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 20, 2019 — While South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are lagging in the polls nationally, new data from Iowa may be providing them each with a ray of hope.

Hawkeye State caucus attenders from both parties tend to like candidates from the Midwest. This was true for Republicans when former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole twice won the Iowa Caucuses in his presidential campaigns. President Gerald Ford (MI) also beat Ronald Reagan here in 1976.

Since the beginning of the Iowa Caucus system, a Midwestern Democratic candidate has won this nominating event exactly half of the time. Those winners were former Vice President Walter Mondale (MN), ex-House Leader Richard Gephardt (MO), home state Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, and President Barack Obama (IL) twice.

The current Democratic field features two Midwestern candidates, Mayor Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana, and Minnesota’s Sen. Klobuchar. Neither has been doing particularly well in polling lately, and both need a strong showing in Iowa, the first voting state, next February to remain viable.

Two polls were just released for the impeding 2020 Iowa Caucus and both show Mayor Buttigieg rebounding. The Civiqs polling organization, surveying for Iowa State University (Sept. 13-17; 572 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants) finds Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) placing first with 24 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tied for second, each posting 16 percent.

Mayor Buttigieg then scores 13 percent, returning to double digit support and claiming a solid fourth position. Sen. Klobuchar does not do particularly well on this poll, recording only three percent preference and tying her with New York City businessman Andrew Yang.

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Harris Down in California Poll

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California; dropping back in polls

Sept. 19, 2019 — Emerson College just released their new poll of the California Democratic electorate (Sept. 13-16; 424 likely California Democratic primary voters) and the research finds Sen. Kamala Harris (D) dropping well behind the front runners even in her home state.

In fact, just like in the rest of the country, Sen. Harris has fallen into single digits within her own California Democratic Party electorate, the very voting base that should be propelling her into the top tier. The Emerson result is Harris’ worst showing by far in California. Recording just six percent support, she drops even behind New York City businessman Andrew Yang who posted seven percent preference.

The Emerson survey was conducted directly after the televised Democratic presidential forum from Houston last week, and the California data confirms that Sen. Harris, in need of a homerun in that national forum to reverse her campaign’s downward trends, clearly did not succeed. In actuality, her poor debate performance has annotated that she should no longer be considered a first-tier candidate.

Of equivalent interest is an impending virtual three-way tie at the top for this state’s 416 first-ballot votes, a number making California the largest delegation at the upcoming Democratic National Convention scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee.

According to the Emerson results, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would tie at 26 percent while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would post 20 percent preference. With these three individuals splitting the delegate base, Biden and Sanders would each come away with approximately 150 delegate votes (if the 53 congressional districts broke in line with the statewide total; Democrats award delegates based upon statewide performance and within each individual congressional district), and Sen. Warren would record 116 bound convention delegate votes.

But the Capitol Weekly organization, running their monthly tracking poll of a Democratic segment (616) from an aggregate pool of 5,510 California voters, sees the former vice president having a bad month. In their September track, which covered the period of Sept. 1-13, Biden scored only 18 percent support as compared to Sen. Warren’s 33 percent and Sen. Sanders’ 17 percent. In this poll, Sen. Harris reaches a respectable double digit support figure at 18 percent.

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Probing the Second Choice

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden

Sept. 18, 2019 — The Morning Consult organization released their post-debate survey and it shows former Vice President Joe Biden stabilizing his lead over the Democratic presidential field. Arguably the contender who needed to register the best performance in the September debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), because she had lost considerable support since her August performance before a national televised audience, fell well short of her intended goal.

According to the MC data (Sept. 13-15; 7,487 Democratic likely primary voters with an over-sample from the first four voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), Biden remains well ahead of his two closest competitors. The results find the former vice president securing 32 percent support, holding constant from the August post-debate poll. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also remains in a stagnant position posting 20 percent both in the new September survey and from August. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), however, increased from 15 to 18 percent after the two Democratic presidential forums.

Sen. Harris has been on a downward spiral since July, a period that could prove to be her candidacy’s apex. After the first debate, Sen. Harris reached 14 percent support in the Morning Consult survey, and appeared to be on an upward trend. After the August forum, however, she slipped to nine percent, and post the September forum she slid even further to six percent preference.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has also fallen over the course of time. It appears he hit is high mark in April when he scored nine percent nationally but fell back to the five percent range in July and, except for a short-lived blip in August, has remained stagnant in the mid-single digit range.

Though the numbers are consistent for the leaders in the Morning Consult survey series, other polling firms see a much tighter contest among the top three. The second choice question that MC routinely asks, on the other hand, may provide better perspective as to where the race is headed, or where it might should one of the top three fade in the early voting states, leave the campaign, or remain tightly bunched to force additional roll call votes at the convention.

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US House Open Seat Status

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2019 — With US House retirements coming in bunches, it can be confusing to remember how many open seats currently exist for the 2020 cycle and where they stand in terms of political projections. Now that the two North Carolina special elections have been decided, it is a good time to review the future open seat contests.

As things currently stand, 20 seats are known to be open, including the WI-7 seat that Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) will resign from next week. Of the 20, only four seats are Democratic, meaning the remaining 16 belong to the Republicans.

Most of the districts are safe – likely 14 of the 20 – and are projected to remain with the succeeding incumbent party nominee. The remaining six either lean to one party or the other (4) or are already cast in the toss-up category (2).

At this point, 13 of the 14 least competitive seats are in the safe category with one in the Likely segment:

Safe D:

  • CA-53: Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) – retiring
  • NM-3: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) – running for Senate
  • NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) – retiring

Safe R:

  • AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) – running for Senate
  • AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) – retiring
  • IL-15: Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) – retiring
  • KS-1: Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) – running for Senate
  • MI-10: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden/Macomb County) – retiring
  • TX-11: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) – retiring
  • TX-17: Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan/Waco) – retiring
  • UT-1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) – retiring
  • WI-5: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menominee Falls) – retiring
  • WI-7: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) – resigning for family reasons

Likely R:

  • IN-5: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) – retiring

The most competitive seats are as follows:

Lean D:

  • IA-2: Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) – retiring

Lean R:

  • MT-AL: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) – running for Governor
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) – retiring
  • TX-24: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) – retiring

Toss-Up:

  • GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) – retiring
  • TX-23: Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) – retiring

Analysis

  • GA-7: This district produced the closest raw vote margin in the country last year, as Rep. Rob Woodall was re-elected with just a 417-vote spread over former state Senate budget director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D), who returns to run again in 2020.
    Bourdeaux, however, will not have the nomination field to herself. Six other Democrats have filed, including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak (D-Duluth), state Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), and former Fulton County commission chairman John Eaves. Nine Republicans are in the race including state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and former Atlanta Falcons football player Joe Profit.
    This race will have to gel after the primary in order to obtain a better read on how the political contest will ultimately end. It appears both parties are headed to run-off elections to settle upon a nominee. The Georgia primary is May 19, with a run-off, if necessary, scheduled for July 21.
  • TX-23: No matter who the major party candidates turn out to be, the 2020 TX-23 race will end in a razor-thin margin. The highest percentage attained by a winning candidate throughout the current decade is 50.3 percent in 2012, and no one has won with a majority since. With each major party nominee virtually assured of a percentage in the high 40s, this will be a competitive race regardless of who eventually advances into the general election.
    Grace Ortiz Jones, the 2018 Democratic nominee who came within 926 votes of unseating Rep. Will Hurd, returns to run again. She has a strong chance of becoming a consensus candidate. Republicans will likely have a contested primary and possibly a run-off. This race, in a district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, will go down to the wire before it is ultimately decided.
  • MT-AL: Republicans should have an advantage here in a presidential year, as Montana figures to be one of President Trump’s strongest states in 2020. Two Republicans elected statewide, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and state auditor and 2018 US Senate nominee, Matt Rosendale, are competing for the open seat in a field of five candidates to date.
    Democrats look to have strong candidates, as well. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who held Rep. Greg Gianforte to a 51-46 percent win last November, returns for another try. Her Democratic opponents are state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula) and rancher Matt Rains.
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is retiring after four terms from a district that is becoming much more competitive. The minority complexion is now high, with the non-Hispanic white percentage dropping to 45.9 percent among citizens of voting age. Six Republicans have announced with possibly wealthy donor and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall, who ran in the 2nd District open seat in 2018, could be the person to beat.
    Democrats are likely to back 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni, who held Rep. Olson to a 51-46 percent win. Expect this race to be a major battleground House campaign, and though the district is clearly changing, the GOP still maintains at least a slight advantage.
  • TX-24: Veteran Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell), who had a close call last November with a 51-47 percent win against an opponent who didn’t even spend $100,000, decided to retire after serving what will be eight terms. Republicans appear to be coalescing behind former Irving mayor, Beth Van Duyne, who will be a credible and energetic candidate.
    Democrats already have a crowded field that already features six candidates. The early favorite for the party nomination is retired Air Force colonel and 2018 state agriculture commission nominee Kim Olson, who lost her statewide campaign, 51-46 percent, which is one of the stronger Democratic showings in the recent past. The 24th will host another Texas competitive contest in 2020, but the seat still leans the Republicans’ way.
  • IA-2: The only competitive Democratic open seat that could come into play is Iowa’s southeastern district. With seven-term Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) retiring, Democrats are coalescing around former state senator and lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart.
    Republicans appear to have their own consensus candidate, former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who served one term after winning the 2010 election in the Rock Island/Moline district across the Mississippi River from the Iowa border. Several years later, Schilling moved to Iowa and now is looking to revive his short-lived political career.
    Democrats have a clear advantage here, but in this open seat where the candidates already appear set and President Trump outpolled Hillary Clinton, a meaningful campaign could develop.

Multiple Choice, Multiple Candidates

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 16, 2019 — The international polling firm YouGov for The Economist magazine just completed a major 86-question survey of 1,500 US adults (Sept. 8-10; online through an opt-in panel), 1,182 of whom are registered voters and found many interesting results. The most unique, however, might be their question asking the self-identified primary or caucus attending Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (632) just how many of their party’s presidential candidates they would consider supporting.

The purpose of the question was to test for multiple responses; therefore, most respondents named several candidates. Possibly the most interesting phase of the response process was that only one candidate exceeded 50 percent under this format, and the person receiving the 55 percent consideration factor might not be who you would name with your first guess.

Of the 20 candidates identified in the questionnaire, 10 broke into double digits. This is not particularly surprising when remembering that respondents were encouraged to give more than one candidate they are considering and, in fact, could name as many individuals as they liked.

But the candidate receiving the 55 percent mention factor was not former Vice President Joe Biden. Rather, it was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and this type of outcome could be quite significant in determining who people might ultimately support. Biden was second but failed to reach a majority even from a respondent pool who could render multiple choices. He posted a 48 percent score.

In third position was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (40 percent), so here again we see these three candidates, Warren, Biden, and Sanders, capturing the top positions by a wide margin.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was fourth with 32 percent followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was named by 27 percent of the sample. Others in double digits were New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 18 percent, ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke recording 14 percent, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro posting 13 percent, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York City businessman Andrew Yang both registering 11 percent under this format.

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