Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ernst By Six in Iowa Senate Race

The Des Moines Register released its new Selzer & Company political survey and the results provide us with the largest lead for either Iowa Senate candidate in several months. The poll (Sept. 21-24; 800 Iowa adults; 546 likely voters) gives Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst a 44-38 percent advantage over Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) in what has been a toss-up Senate race since early July.

The move is significant and clearly demonstrates a momentum shift in Ernst’s direction. Selzer also tell us that the negative attacks on both candidates appear to be working. When looking at the personal favorability ratings of each contender, both are in situations where their negatives equal their positive scores. Ernst ratio is 45:44 percent favorable to unfavorable. Braley’s is virtually identical at 42:42 percent.

Selzer & Company is the Des Moines Register’s usual pollster. They have developed a strong record, missing the latest Iowa gubernatorial, Senate, and presidential campaign by an aggregate two percentage points. Like all pollsters, Selzer has missed some, too. In the 2012 Republican presidential caucus, the firm projected Mitt Romney to win the Iowa Caucuses by approximately eight points. The actual result showed former Sen. Rick Santorum Continue reading >

Two Sleeper Races to Watch

In a normal course of an election cycle, particularly when entering the last month of campaign activity, discussion often turns to sleeper races. Some recent polling data gives us a clue in a couple of cases.

North Dakota – House

In a contest that is on virtually no one’s political board, a new Mellman Group poll for the George Sinner campaign actually shows the Democratic challenger taking a two-point, 40-38 percent, lead over freshman incumbent Rep. Kevin Cramer (R).

The survey (Sept. 20-22; 400 likely North Dakota voters) reveals a shocking turn of events that puts Sinner ahead of newcomer incumbent Cramer. The polling error factor, however, is “4.9 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence”, which is high. This means that the two candidates are running close together, from 2.5 points up to 2.5 points down. Hence, the tandem is about even, which will sound warning bells among Republican national party decision makers. Their solution will be to spend money in order to keep a seat that did not originally appear vulnerable.

It is clear that the Mellman Group, a well-known and respected Democratic Continue reading >

The Colorado Senate Swing

The Colorado Senate race is entering a volatile period, because what was becoming a predictable polling pattern has changed. In a two-month period, from mid-July to the middle of September, Sen. Mark Udall (D) had built a small but consistent lead and appeared perched on the cusp of pulling away. Now, however, according to a just released Public Policy Polling survey, the tables have turned.

The latest PPP data (Sept. 19-21; 652 CO likely voters) finds Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) now taking a 47-45 percent lead in the habitually tight Senate contest. In fact, after Sen. Udall led in seven consecutive Continue reading >

Senate: The Latest Trends for Majority Control

    Close Senate Races Leaning D:

  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
    Close Senate Races Leaning R:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
    Close Senate Races Leaning I:

  • Kansas
    Flat Tie:

  • Iowa
    Headed to Post-Election Run-off (Dec. 6):

  • Louisiana
    Today’s Count:

  • D: 46
  • Independent/D: 3 (Kansas, Maine, Vermont)
  • Total D/I: 49
  • Total R: 49
  • Undecided: 2 (Iowa; Louisiana)

Continue reading >

The Dems’ Problem


DCCC Ad “Failure”

While recent polling numbers are improving for Democrats or their allies in a number of key Senate races (North Carolina, Colorado, Louisiana, and Kansas), a look at the party’s new ad buy in congressional races capsulizes their plight in the House.

While Republicans announced electronic ad Continue reading >

Is New Hampshire Shifting Republican?

A new Vox Populi poll is either confirming a swing toward the New Hampshire Republican candidates, or is a clear outlier.

According to this new survey research firm’s latest Granite State data (Sept. 15-16; 550 likely New Hampshire voters), former Sen. Scott Brown (R) has now taken a surprising lead over Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), 47-43 percent, a spread close to exceeding the polling margin of error. The totals reach the stated share for each candidate when the respondents leaning to each individual are added.

Since Sept. 10, the results from six polls, via six different pollsters (two of which were polling for a partisan interest), find Sen. Shaheen leading in four of the scenarios and Brown, two. This suggests that Brown has growing momentum because he is now leading or trailing by a smaller number than found in previous studies.

Both Rasmussen Reports and Public Policy Polling for the League of Conservation Voters find the incumbent leading by six points, while the American Research Group posts her to a five-point advantage. The fourth survey, from New England College, gives Sen. Shaheen an 11-point margin. This latter study clearly seems to be an outlier because no other pollster has come anywhere near such a conclusion within the Continue reading >

The State of the Senate

Much has been written about which party will control the US Senate in the next Congress and, with seven pure toss-up races on the political board, there’s plenty of room for conjecture on both sides of the ideological aisle.

Let’s take a look at the aggregate Senate campaign picture, remembering that the Republicans must retain all of the seats they currently possess (15 in this election cycle) and convert six Democratic states just to reach the minimum majority level. Democrats will maintain control if the two parties deadlock at 50-50 (including the Independents who will caucus with one party or the other). The Dems hold power in such a situation because Vice President Joe Biden (D), the constitutional Senate president, will break any tie vote in his party’s favor.

The model also assumes Republican conversion victories in three Democratic retirement seats, Montana (Sen. John Walsh), South Dakota (Sen. Tim Johnson), and West Virginia (Sen. Jay Rockefeller). A three-way contest in South Dakota could Continue reading >

Kansas Senate Maneuverings; Alaska’s Polling Skew; Fox Polling Shows Interesting Data

Kansas Senate

As had been predicted by Kansas political observers since the original judicial hearing earlier this week, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of former Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s petition to withdraw from the statewide race. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who refused to remove Taylor because he is not incapacitated to the point of being unable to fulfill the duties of the office sought as mandated in Kansas election law, says the Democrats have eight days to replace Taylor. The party leadership’s political goal of having Taylor withdraw is to form a united coalition behind Independent candidate Greg Orman who was proving himself stronger than their own nominated contender. Clearly their calculations showed that incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) had the path to victory in a three-way race.

The Kansas Supreme Court, a panel of six justices (with one vacancy) dominated by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) appointees, issue rather bizarre language to support their decision. The justices unanimously said that, “[w]e conclude the plain meaning of ‘pursuant to (the law)’ Continue reading >

A Complete Look at New Hampshire Numbers

In a six-day period, seven different pollsters surveyed the New Hampshire electorate, thus providing us a well-researched picture of the state’s political position concerning the increasingly competitive US Senate contest between incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). Two other pollsters looked at the state’s pair of congressional campaigns.

Senate

With seven independent polls in the field almost simultaneously between Sept. 10-15, it appears that Sen. Shaheen holds a clear advantage over Brown. Shaheen’s strongest survey is the last one conducted, a New England College Granite State Poll (Sept. 10-11; 630 registered New Hampshire voters) that posts the incumbent to an 11-point, 51-40 percent advantage.

Though the political party division is virtually even, the poll appears to skew a bit left. President Obama’s job approval, according to the NEC data, is 48:48 percent positive to negative. Two of the other pollsters who asked the same question at the same time (Magellan Strategies and CNN/ORC), found much worse numbers that are more consistent with national reports. Magellan rates the president 33:57 percent, while CNN posts him to an even Continue reading >

Now the Kansas Senate Race is Getting Serious

Several political news bites came forth yesterday suggesting that any doubts about whether Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is now in a toss-up campaign despite Kansas’ deep red Republican voting history have been extinguished. The fact that Republicans must now divert attention and substantial resources to a state that should be a lock for them lessens their chances to secure the Senate majority.

Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments from attorneys for Democratic candidate Chad Taylor as to why the petition to remove his name from the November Continue reading >

Defensive Tactics

Kentucky Senate


“Skeet Shooting”

Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes just launched a new television ad to strike back against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hard-hitting campaign against her. But the ad likely misses its mark. In reality, the message context may be reinforcing her opponent’s points instead of scoring some of her own.

Grimes, reciting her lines as she’s shooting skeet ostensibly to prove that she can handle a gun, directly responds to being painted a rubber stamp for the president by simply saying she’s not Barack Obama. Though the script takes an offensive tone, attempting to turn the tables on McConnell, the message fails. If anything, Grimes underscores the Republican attacks against her: that she supports Obama whose job approval score in Kentucky is 2:1 negative, while reiterating the charges that she is soft on guns and the EPA anti-coal regulations.

The campaign ad fails because it repeats the attacks being made against the candidate, and then likely leads the viewer to ask questions rather than providing answers.

Alaska Senate


“Message for Begich”

In a new ad, the Dan Sullivan (R) campaign attempts to repel Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) attacks that he (Sullivan) is an outsider who knows little about the “real Alaska”. Begich has been hitting Sullivan because he hasn’t personally lived in Alaska long, even though his wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, and her family have been mainstays in the state for years.

The theme of the ad, narrated by Mrs. Sullivan, is that Begich is attacking his opponent for being away on military duty and in State Department service. Whether this explanation completely covers where Dan Sullivan lived or for how long he’s been an Alaskan is unclear, but will undoubtedly be a topic of further discussion.

The ad is moderately effective because it attempts to change the dynamic when answering an attack. It will be interesting to see how Begich’s campaign responds, and whether the incumbent can again shift attention toward Sullivan’s lack of a sufficiently long Alaska history.

Iowa Senate


“Ernst: Really Cares”

Democrats and outside organizations have been attacking Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst for wanting to “cut Social Security and Medicare.” Ernst responds to the attacks by not directly mentioning them. Rather, she extols her support for Social Security as a fundamental goal and attempts to deflect the direct attacks subtly, through what should be perceived as a positive ad.

Hearing the exact opposite message from what is being launched in attacks will likely leave many viewers confused, which is a far better alternative than seeing a clear negative image.

The Ernst campaign presents an interesting approach, but a routine positive ad is often not memorable. The ad’s underlying purpose is to let voters see the candidate and encourage voters to form a positive image of Ms. Ernst, not necessarily through the ad’s script or the state legislator’s words, but through an image that can be seen and heard. The goal is to present the candidate as a disarming person, convincing the viewer that she would never harm those earning government transfer payments.

The Ernst counter is certainly acceptable, but not particularly memorable. Therefore, the ad does not fully cement the campaign’s stated goals in the viewers’ minds.

Loras College Polls Size Up Iowa House Races

Another institution of higher learning has released political polling data, this time targeting US House elections in one particular state.

Dubuque’s Loras College conducted a statewide poll of the Hawkeye State electorate and divided the respondents evenly among Iowa’s quartet of congressional districts. At least to a degree, all of the campaigns are competitive. The methodology included weighting the responses for demographic characteristics but not political party preference. Therefore, the overall sample appears skewed Democratic by more than two full percentage points.

The pollsters first asked about President Obama’s job approval, and found that only 41 percent of the sampled respondents (300 per congressional district) expressed positive sentiments. A clear majority, 53 percent, disapproves of how he handles his official duties. In a state that twice voted for Obama and gave him six- and 10-point victory margins in 2012 and 2008, respectively, these job performance numbers have to be considered poor.

The survey questionnaire also featured a query about the direction of the country’s policies, commonly referred to as the “right track/wrong track” question. Here, as in all Continue reading >

Pressler A Factor in South Dakota

Weeks ago, it became a foregone conclusion that Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds would win the open South Dakota US Senate contest for the right to succeed the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D), but that analysis may be changing. Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R), now running as a left-leaning Independent, is surprisingly becoming a serious factor as the campaign enters the political stretch drive.

A new Survey USA poll (Sept. 3-7; 500 likely South Dakota voters) finds the former two-term governor still leading the race but coming back to the pack, while Pressler is the clear gainer. According to this sampling universe, Rounds attracts 39 percent support as compared to Democrat Rick Weiland, a former aide to ex-US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), who sits 11 points behind at 28 percent. But the story is Pressler’s 25 percent attribution level.

Larry Pressler, now 72 years old, was originally elected to the House in the Watergate year of 1974. He was re-elected in 1976 before successfully winning his Senate seat two years later. He won twice more before falling to Johnson, then a congressman, in the 1996 election. The former senator endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008, and then again in his re-election drive four years later. As part of Continue reading >

Tierney Out in Mass.; Tepid Victories Elsewhere

Massachusetts

In the last major primary of the 2014 election cycle, nine-term Rep. John Tierney (D-MA-6) became the fourth US House member to lose renomination this year, thus ending his congressional career. Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton denied Tierney the opportunity of continuing as the Democratic standard bearer with a substantial 49-41 percent victory spread against a sitting incumbent.

The Tierney defeat is really a term late. With his wife being convicted of federal tax fraud for filing illegal returns associated with her brothers’ illicit off-shore Internet gambling business several months prior to the 2012 election, Tierney barely escaped losing to former state Sen. Richard Tisei (R). The congressman won re-election 46-45 percent, even after he stopped campaigning and spending money with weeks remaining in the election cycle because he thought he was finished. Though a surprise comeback winner in 2012, his inherent political weakness made him highly vulnerable against a strong Democratic primary opponent this year.
Continue reading >

Twists and Turns in Kansas

Senate

When Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) announced that he was withdrawing from the US Senate race in Kansas in order to give better-performing Independent Greg Orman the opportunity to politically isolate vulnerable US Sen. Pat Roberts (R), the “what if” caucus sprung into action. Though we’ve had many twists and turns around this story during the past week, much speculation abounds as to exactly what will happen in a Roberts-Orman contest, and who would be most adversely affected by the Democratic nominee leaving the political battlefield.

Survey USA provides us our first glimpse into how the candidate field divides sans Taylor. The most definitive number prior to him expressing his desire to leave, a Public Policy Polling study that apparently contributed to Taylor understanding that he had little, if any, chance to win the Senate race, found Orman leading Sen. Roberts 43-33 percent. S-USA sees it differently.

At this moment, Taylor’s name will still appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Kansas secretary of state ruled shortly after the Democratic nominee’s desired withdrawal that Taylor’s name would remain on the ballot because Kansas law only allows a post-nomination change in candidate status Continue reading >