Monthly Archives: August 2015

Hassan Waiting Too Long?

Aug. 31, 2015 — New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) continues to remain non-committal about whether she will seek re-election or challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), and her ambivalence could be hurting her. Long saying she would decide when the state budget situation was resolved (she signed the budget bill on July 9), Hassan has yet to give any indication of what she might do. Refusing to wait any longer, others are stepping up.

Earlier this week, state Rep. Frank Edelblut (R) announced his gubernatorial candidacy regardless of what Hassan decides. Previously, US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-2), long thought of as a challenger to Sen. Ayotte should Hassan stay put, announced that she will seek re-election next year irrespective of what statewide position may or may not be open.

Now a new Public Policy Polling survey (Aug. 21-24; 841 registered New Hampshire voters) that skews decidedly to the Democratic side finds Hassan making no gains against Sen. Ayotte, still trailing her by just one point, 44-43 percent. Normally, this would be considered good news for a potential challenger but, in this case, the opposite might well be true.

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Portman and Toomey Numbers

Aug. 28, 2015 — New Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate data just entered the public domain. Last week, Quinnipiac University released their presidential polling results for the three key swing states: the aforementioned two, and Florida. Now they publicize the secondary data from the Aug. 7-18 sampling period (Ohio – 1,096 registered voters; Pennsylvania – 1,085 registered voters).

Ohio Senate

The Ohio results are a bit confusing. While Sen. Rob Portman (R) enjoys a hefty 42:19 percent personal favorability ratio and a 45:26 percent job approval score, he rather surprisingly trails ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (D) 41-44 percent. The former Ohio chief executive, who fell to current incumbent John Kasich (R) in 2010, has a 44:32 percent personal mark, respectable, but not as good as Portman’s total.

This is the second released survey that places Portman behind Strickland. Quinnipiac also conducted that poll (June), finding a 46-40 percent Democratic advantage.

The ballot test(s) could be the result of a partisan skew, or simply an anomaly. What does ring true, however, is that the Ohio Senate race will be close. As was the case in 2010, Portman had a slight lead for most of the campaign but pulled away for good in the final two weeks to defeat then-Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), by a substantial 57-39 percent margin.

The race financials are not so close. Sen. Portman, one of the better Republican political fundraisers in the country, banked more than $5.7 million since the beginning of the year with over $10 million cash-on-hand. Strickland is far behind, raising $1.7 million since entering the race but having only $1.2 million in his campaign account.

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Biden Making Moves

Aug. 27, 2015 — Major speculation continues to swirl around Vice President Joe Biden. Meetings of key potential supporters now occur with great frequency, and talk of a ticket involving Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was jump-started when the two held a private meeting just last week. Therefore, it appears only a matter of time before a Biden for President campaign formally launches.

Hillary Clinton continues to stumble along the campaign trail, which is making Democratic leaders nervous, and willing to consider alternatives. But could a late-forming Biden campaign actually be successful? The answer is: possibly. It is conceivable that VP Biden could end up being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time … at least as far as the Democratic nomination is concerned.

The Democrats choose their convention delegates very differently than Republicans. Their process features greater party leadership control, so Clinton is in more trouble in the Democratic process than she might be running on the Republican side. While the GOP, featuring 17 candidates with a current front-runner who can’t reach 50 percent, could well be headed to a brokered convention, it is unlikely that Democrats will find themselves embroiled in such a predicament even though they will have three major candidates fighting through a grueling primary and caucus schedule.

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North Dakota Dominos

Aug. 26, 2015 — Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s (R) semi-surprising announcement Monday that he is not going to seek a second full term is launching North Dakota politicos into motion. The biggest question surrounds US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), and whether she will enter what is now an open race for governor.

Though North Dakota has become a solidly Republican state, Heitkamp successfully won her Senate seat in 2012 nipping then-at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), 50-49 percent. But, the governor’s office is what drives her political desire. From her post as the state’s two-term attorney general, Heitkamp ran for ND’s top office in 2000, but a diagnosis of breast cancer slowed her ability to compete. She fell to current Republican Sen. John Hoeven (55-45 percent) for what would be his first of three terms as the state’s chief executive.

Earlier in the year, speculation began growing that Sen. Heitkamp was considering challenging Gov. Dalrymple. Even though she would have been a distinct underdog, her proven ability to win difficult races in a conservative state is established. At the very least, she would have been a formidable candidate and not have had to risk her Senate seat.

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Florida Chaos; Kentucky Caucus

Aug. 25, 2015 — Like what happened last week in Virginia when the Republican legislature fumbled the redistricting special session and adjourned before drawing a map, the Florida GOP legislative leadership quickly followed suit. On Friday, the special redistricting legislative session adjourned without producing a new congressional plan. The irregular assembly was court ordered to correct legal deficiencies in eight federal districts.

To summarize, the Florida Supreme Court struck down parts of the congressional map on July 9 remanding it back to the state legislature because the eight seats, four from each party, did not comply with partisan and communication restrictions that pertain to an enacted 2010 redistricting voter initiative.

Why did the meltdown occur, and what happens now? In short, politics is the basic reason, thereby yielding a situation where both Republicans and Democrats will be making subsequent moves.

The session deteriorated for several reasons other than failing to agree upon new congressional district boundaries. At the top of the list looms a redistricting session expected to begin in October to reconfigure the state Senate.

Though the high court did not invalidate the Senate map, it was obvious such would soon be the case. Therefore, the legislative leaders went ahead and voluntarily scheduled a re-draw. Understanding this caveat, it is not surprising that internal state Senate political considerations would trump the legislature complying with their requirement to change the affected congressional districts. When personal career choices conflict with congressional politics in the halls of a legislature, the former will take precedence every time.

Secondly, the Hillsborough County legislators strenuously objected to their domain being segmented into four different sections under the proposed plan. The large Tampa Bay area delegation proved to have enough strength to help force the stalemate.

Additionally, court politics proved a significant factor in failing to reach an accord. While Republicans are in solid control of the state legislature (Senate: 26R-14D; House: 81R-39D), the Democrats have the majority on the seven-member state Supreme Court.

In Florida, judges have service limits and, before his second term ends, Gov. Rick Scott (R) will be able to change the court’s complexion. Obviously, the Democrats want to maintain their advantage. They also want to make substantial gains during the state Senate redistricting session, optimizing their check in that the state Supreme Court will approve all boundary changes. Therefore, prospective court appointments became political footballs during the special session.

Two options are now on the table to complete the congressional re-drawing process. First, Gov. Scott could call the legislature back into session in order to avoid ceding the redistricting pen wholly to the state Supreme Court. If so, the process begins again. Not doing so means the map would simply revert to the state high court, thus empowering the Justices themselves to draw the new plan.

Considering the partisan composition of the court, Republicans will want to avoid the court option. Yet, if the handling of this original special session is any indication of what may happen in the future, failing again to complete the task is certainly possible should the legislature return. Legislative bodies relinquishing power to the courts over tough political decisions is something that happens all too often, so the Florida Supreme Court eventually determining the fate of the Sunshine State congressmen may well be an eventuality.

The Kentucky Caucus

The Republican Party of Kentucky, at its state convention over the weekend, voted to change their 2016 presidential primary system to a caucus. This will allow favorite son Sen. Rand Paul to compete in the presidential event while continuing to appear on the ballot for his re-election. Over 75% of the voting members supported the caucus motion.

Sen. Paul had asked for the change and agreed to guarantee the $500,000 necessary to finance the caucus procedure. The state party must receive $250,000 by Sept. 18 in order to move forward with the caucus logistics. Each participating candidate will be charged $15,000. If the funds are secured, the caucus will be held March 5. If not, the procedure reverts to a May primary.

Q-Poll: Rubio Best Against Democrats

Aug. 24, 2015 — Quinnipiac University simultaneously polled the swing states of Florida (1,093 registered voters), Ohio (1,096 registered voters), and Pennsylvania (1,085 registered voters) during the Aug. 7-18 period and found that neither Donald Trump nor Jeb Bush is the strongest Republican against a trio of potential Democratic nominees. Rather, it is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who scores the highest in ballot test pairings opposite his Democratic counterparts.

The young senator, however, isn’t quite as strong on the Republican primary ballot test, placing third in all three states including his own. The Q-Poll’s three state combination does show that Rubio would be the Democrats’ most formidable opponent, therefore suggesting he has the potential of likewise creating a surge among Republicans.

The pollsters paired three Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Vice President Joe Biden, with three Republicans: Trump, Bush, and the Florida senator. The data finds that Rubio is the only one of the trio who leads Clinton in each of the three places. In fact, he tops all three Democrats everywhere in the tested region with the exception of trailing VP Biden in Ohio, but by just one percentage point, 42-41 percent.

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Edwards Up in Maryland;
More National Data

Aug. 21, 2015 — Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) released the results of her internal Global Strategies Group poll (Aug. 3-9; 600 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters) and, despite her severe disadvantage in fundraising, the data finds her leading fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) in their quest for the open Maryland Senate seat. Edwards maintains a five-point margin, 42-37 percent.

The released data included the Edwards-Van Hollen ballot test, plus favorability ratings for the two announced contenders and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), who remains a potential Senate candidate.

Interestingly, the index scores for Edwards and Van Hollen are almost identical. The polling respondents rate Edwards at 45:9 percent favorable to unfavorable. Van Hollen registers 45:11 percent. But, Rep. Cummings does even better. He posts a whopping 65:9 percent positive ratio.

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VA Democrats’ Redistricting Move

Aug. 20, 2015 — There won’t be a new congressional map coming from the Virginia legislature and governor, after all. In early June, based upon their previous ruling and subsequent US Supreme Court decisions, a federal three-judge panel ordered the state legislature to re-draw, by Sept. 1, the southeastern part of Virginia after affirming that Congressional District 3 — Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Newport News) is illegal.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called the special legislative session for purposes of complying with the judicial ruling, but the members have already left Richmond. The map will revert to the court, where the judges will presumably draw the new map themselves.

Judicial maneuvering, and not congressional politics, caused the session to close less than a day after it began. Virginia is one of two states, South Carolina being the other, that gives judicial appointment responsibility to the legislature. The governor, during times of recess, has the right to fill judicial vacancies.

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Hillary’s Deepening Problem

Aug. 19, 2015 — Fox News just released their latest poll (Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Company; Aug. 11-13; 1,008 registered voters; 401 likely Democratic primary voters; 381 likely Republican primary voters), and the traditional media coverage seems to be emphasizing a lesser analytical point.

Their stories highlight that Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are expanding their respective leads (25-12-10 percent) over whom the media identifies as the Republican establishment candidates, namely ex-Gov. Jeb Bush (who posts 9 percent), and the many elected governors and senators who are in the race. The Hillary Clinton results, however, are actually more compelling.

Once again we see a familiar pattern defining the Clinton performance. Democrats favorably view her, but Republicans and Independents generally hold a highly negative impression. She leads in all ballot test pairings but breaks 50 percent at no time, and the vast majority of voters don’t trust her.

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What Happens When …

Aug. 18, 2015 — Candidate jockeying, polling, fundraising, and campaign strategy are not the only practical elements that will influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential race. The voting schedule is also of prime importance and plays a key role in determining the final results.

The political calendar is coming into better focus, and the 56 (Republican) and 57 (Democratic) entities will all conduct their individual voting procedures between Feb. 1 and June 14 of next year. Most of the states can still maneuver and make changes, so the final calendar won’t be set for some time.

The additional voting entities beyond the 50 states are the District of Columbia and territories. DC, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are the ancillary jurisdictions eligible to participate in the nominating process. The Democrats authorize one more voting segment, entitled “Democrats Abroad”.

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House: Looking Ahead

Aug. 17, 2015 — With the presidential contest dominating the political news coverage on a daily basis, very little attention has been paid to the US House races. Having what appears to be a secure Republican majority and a low number of open seats, the congressional campaigns will not likely bring much drama in 2016. The states under court-mandated mid-decade redistricting: Florida, Virginia, and possibly Texas, are unlikely to threaten the Republicans’ majority status either, though we could see several seats shift between the parties.

Coming off a 2014 election that sent 59 freshmen into the House and features 239 members who had served three full terms or less when they were sworn into the 114th Congress, the coming election promises much less turnover. In the 2012 election cycle, 62 seats were open followed by another 47 in last November’s vote. (The figures count districts in which an incumbent was defeated in a primary.) So far this year, we see 20 open seats (10R; 10D), not including two vacant districts that were filled in 2015 special elections.

According to our own Ellis Insight political forecast, 234 seats are safe (182), likely (36), or lean (16) Republican, while Democrats see 179 districts coming their way: 155 in the safe category, 16 likely landing in their column, and seven more leaning in their direction.

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New Hampshire First: Sanders Tops Hillary

Aug. 14, 2015 — For a number of weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been building presidential political momentum. His crowds have been large and growing. The media covers him extensively. Yet, these positive attributes hadn’t translated into serious polling gains against Hillary Clinton … until now.

The Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey, released Thursday, finds Sen. Sanders, for the first time, overtaking Clinton, 44-37 percent, in the important New Hampshire primary. The poll appears methodologically sound. During the period of Aug. 7-10, the pollsters interviewed 442 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. The results mean a net swing of 46 points in Sanders’ direction when comparing the organization’s March 2015 poll. During the interval between surveys, Sanders gained 36 points and Clinton lost 10.

The pollsters asked some interesting under-questions that provide some telling responses. The most troubling tally, from a Clinton perspective, is the group members’ enthusiasm about her campaign. Despite 65 percent of the total response unit saying they believe she will win the Democratic nomination, only 35 percent of those saying they are voting for her “are excited about her candidacy to become president.” A majority of her voters (51 percent) say they “could support but are not enthusiastic about her candidacy.”

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Missouri Poll: Bad News for Everyone — Almost

Aug. 13, 2015 — Public Policy Polling often presents surveys that find virtually everyone with a negative personal approval rating, but their new Missouri study may be the most bizarre they’ve ever released. While it is typical for most of their political figures to record upside-down personal favorability ratios – their automated results skew negative – it is strange when virtually the one public official holding a positive number was tainted with a highly publicized sex scandal.

Three years ago, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) had to drop his bid for governor because of embarrassing news stories detailing his relationship with a stripper. Kinder quickly pivoted away from trying to seek a promotion, and was surprisingly successful in winning a 49-46 percent re-election victory despite his spate of negative publicity and the Democratic governor cruising to victory.

The new PPP survey released Tuesday (Aug. 7-9; 859 registered Missouri voters; 440 Missouri Republican primary voters) tested several Missouri 2016 campaigns, including the open governor’s race and Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R) re-election bid. They did not release any numbers for presidential candidates, neither favorability scores nor ballot tests.

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Trump Ahead in Iowa; New Dem Numbers, Too

Aug. 12, 2015 — Public Policy Polling (Aug. 7-9; 619 usual Iowa Republican primary voters; 567 usual Iowa Democratic primary voters) surveyed the Hawkeye State electorate and found, as in all other places, that Donald Trump has pulled into a lead. The survey has a methodological issue, however.

The pollsters screened for “usual primary voters” and not likely caucus attenders. As we know, both parties hold caucus meetings in Iowa rather than a direct primary. How this affects the poll’s reliability is open to conjecture, but it is a considerable factor.

According to the data, Trump has overtaken Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the man who has been leading here for the better part of a year. In this study, Trump takes 19 percent of the committed support, followed by Walker and Dr. Ben Carson with 12 percent apiece. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush posts 11 percent, and Carly Fiorina, enjoying a major bump from her debate performance in the secondary event, catapults to 10 percent. It remains to be seen if Fiorina can develop staying power or whether this improved performance is simply a debate hype blip.

Each of the Republican candidates, including Trump, has healthy favorability ratings with the exception of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (34:44 percent positive to negative), Sen. Rand Paul (31:45 percent), Sen. Lindsey Graham (22:33 percent), former governors George Pataki (14:25 percent), and Jim Gilmore (4:16 percent).

The poll detects how the candidates might fare if people went to the polls and voted, but organizing a caucus participation system is a dissimilar format that could produce substantially different results.

For the Democrats, headlines continue to suggest that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton, but his movement is negligible. According to PPP, Clinton leads Sanders 52-25 percent, which isn’t markedly different than what we have previously seen.

No other candidate scores in double-digits. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley registers seven percent, with ex-Virginia Sen. Jim Webb attracting three percent, and former Rhode Island Governor and Sen. Lincoln Chafee barely scratching the polling surface at one percent. The poll did not include Vice President Joe Biden.

The methodology has two flaws for the Democrats. As on the Republican side, the sample is based upon “usual primary voters” and not caucus attenders. Considering that Clinton will likely have a superior campaign ground organization to Sanders, her numbers will probably increase in the caucus format.

Excluding Biden, however, may be the bigger problem. Since the Vice President is seriously considering entering the race, the poll does not provide an accurate depiction of the electorate’s position without his presence.

Webb and Chafee are the two candidates who have upside down favorability ratings. Webb records a 16:21 percent negative ratio, while Chafee, a former Republican, scores 9:22 percent.

Clinton does extremely well on the favorability question among members of her own party, scoring 75:15 percent. Again, we see the pattern that virtually all of her negative ratings, which normally do produce overall upside-down ratios, come almost wholly from Republicans and Independents.

Vitter Drops Behind; Pence Update

Aug. 11, 2015 — A new poll suggests that early predictions regarding the Louisiana governor’s race may be changing. It has been a foregone conclusion that Sen. David Vitter (R) will win his state’s open chief executive position later this year, and then appoint his own successor. That may well be the end result, but this latest data indicates his victory path may not be so clear-cut.

Pollster Verne Kennedy’s Market Research Insight, a Pensacola, Florida-based survey research firm that concentrates on southern political campaigns, released a new study placing Vitter behind another Republican candidate but remaining ahead of the top Democrat in the jungle primary format. The polling dates and sample size are not yet available.

According to the reported MRI data, it is now Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) who leads the field with 24 percent, followed by Vitter’s 21 percent, while Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards holds 20 percent.

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