Monthly Archives: October 2016

Early Voting: Definitive?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 31, 2016 — Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have some form of what is commonly called “no excuse” early voting, and some of those release the number and type of ballots being returned well before Election Day. Can this provide us an insight into how the election is already unfolding?

There are many analytical pieces now in the public domain featuring many different conclusions. It doesn’t appear likely, however, that the early voting numbers are really telling us much. It appears that no matter what your electoral preference, you can find an early voting analysis that supports your individual political outlook.

Therefore, with so many more voters projected to take advantage of the early voting process, it’s difficult to make comparisons between this election and those from the past. It is likely that either a majority of 2016 voters, or close to one, will cast their ballots prior to the actual Nov. 8 Election Day, up from approximately 40 percent in the last presidential election.

Forty states have some type of no-excuse early voting procedure, including every individual entity west of the Mississippi River. Six states: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia, technically allow early voting, but one must indicate a coming absence from the home area during the Election Day period in order to cast an early ballot.

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Nevada: Who Knows?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 28, 2014 — Nevada has proven itself as one of the most critical swing states in the 2016 election. When the presidential race was closer, carrying the 6-electoral vote Silver State was a staple towards constructing a potential Donald Trump winning coalition.

Being the only Democratic-held Senate seat where competition exists, Nevada also plays a preeminent role in determining which party will control the Senate in the next Congress. In the race to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D), we are now seeing recent polling numbers bouncing clear across the political spectrum.

For most of the year, the open Senate campaign has been relatively stable. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) continually held a small lead over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), usually ranging in the 2-4 point sphere. From the period beginning July 7 and stretching to Oct. 4, 12 public Nevada Senate surveys were released. Rep. Heck led in 11 of them (the one outlier was a tie), and his average advantage was 3.2 percentage points.

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North Carolina & New Hampshire – Tables Turning

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 27, 2016 — It is very possible that the US Senate majority, if not the presidential race, will be decided when the hard fought races in New Hampshire and North Carolina conclude.

In the past two weeks, New Hampshire polling trends have been suggesting that the top of the ticket is becoming a lock for Hillary Clinton, which should be very important for down ballot Democrats. During the past 10 years the Granite State electorate has consistently voted top-to-bottom sweeps for one party or the other, so a big Clinton New Hampshire victory is a positive sign for all other Democratic candidates here. But, a new poll shows a potential breaking of this paradigm.

The latest University of Massachusetts/YouGov poll, conducted during the Oct. 17-21 period and interviewing 848 individuals that narrowed to 772 likely voters, found Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) assuming a three point, 46-43 percent, re-election advantage over Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan that grew to 48-44 percent when “leaners” were added to the calculation.

Conversely, in the equally close and important US Senate race to the south, the latest Tar Heel State polls had been pointing to small but consistent leads for Republican incumbent Richard Burr. The release of a North Carolina university poll from the New York Times/Siena College (Oct. 20-23; 792 likely North Carolina voters), however, posts challenger Deborah Ross (D) ahead of Sen. Burr (R) by a scant one-point margin, 47-46 percent.

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Pressure Point Races

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 26, 2016 — It is widely believed that Republicans will keep the House majority in the Nov. 8 election, though Democrats will gain seats. Determining the party division change level is a point of conjecture, however.

Most believe Democrats will gain between 12-15 seats. More optimistic party strategists think they could top 20 districts. Taking the majority would require a net of more than 30 seats, because it also appears a small number of seats are poised to convert to the Republicans.

The Donald Trump presidential scenario continues to unfold, and while some polls actually show him creeping closer on the national popular vote track (Tied – IBD/TIPP, Oct. 18-23, 815 likely US voters; Trump +2 – Rasmussen Reports, Oct. 19-23, 1,500 likely US voters), the all-important state numbers continue to project Hillary Clinton leading in the critical states of Florida and Nevada, while the North Carolina numbers bounce about. Understanding that Trump needs all of the aforementioned states – not to mention each of the 23 normally Republican states, and he has trouble at least in Utah and Arizona – his victory prospects continue to dim daily.

The question looming over the down-ballot races is whether Republican turnout will be demoralized to the point of allowing Democrats to form a wave even though they are following an unpopular Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

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More Senate Movement

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 25, 2015 — Entering the final two weeks of campaigning, the Senate majority is still in limbo even though Hillary Clinton is breaking away in the presidential campaign.

Republicans hope to hold the Senate largely by relying on taking a majority of independent voters and banking on a significant group of ticket-splitters. Though partisanship has been at all-time high levels among self-identified voters of both parties, the Republicans believe this year is different because Clinton, despite building what appears to be an unstoppable majority in the presidential campaign, may have very short coattails.

The fact that her overall favorability numbers are still upside-down creates the highly unusual situation of people voting for someone who they ostensibly don’t like. Therefore, it is unlikely a Democratic wave election will occur around someone whose negatives exceed her positives. Thus, the argument to balance the presidential outcome by voting Republican for the Senate and House may be a salient one.

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The Latest Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 24, 2016 — With the presidential race appearing just about wrapped up, the Senate races are taking the center stage for competitiveness. Some of the races are changing.

The first section identifies competitive races that now appear set:

Arizona – Sen. John McCain (R) now looks to be a strong bet for re-election, as he leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in all polling. Additionally, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has pulled its media money, sending it to other states.

Illinois – Sen. Mark Kirk (R) appears in no position to overcome the strong Democratic trends that he faces. Therefore, Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Hoffman Estates) advantage should hold through Election Day, and she will become the new senator when the Congress convenes in January.

Iowa – Veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) continues to cement his lead over Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). Neither party is emphasizing the race and the only October poll recorded (Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company; Oct. 3-6; 642 likely Iowa voters) again projects Sen. Grassley’s lead as approaching 20 points (53-36 percent).

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The Money Factor

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 21, 2016 — Breaking information is now allowing us to categorize the recent rhetoric from strategists’ in both parties. The newly released Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports and accompanying media spending figures give us a pretty clear indication about which races are truly hot, versus those that can be classified as pretenders.

The 3rd quarter disclosure reports are available for most campaigns but some of the Senate contests, such as the critical Missouri and Indiana races, have not yet been processed and released to the public.

According to a Politico report, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved more media time than their Republican counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But, most of the Republican Senate candidates report more cash-on-hand than their Democratic opponents, thus making the resource deficit a bit less pronounced.

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The Senate Reset

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2016 — It’s now inside of three weeks before the election, and hearing leaders of both parties claim they could control the Senate in the next Congress, it’s time to take a step back and see where the candidates actually stand.

To re-cap, Republicans are risking 24 seats as compared to the Democrats’ 10. In order to re-capture the majority they lost in 2014, the Dems must retain all 10 of their defensive seats, and then convert at least four Republican states if Hillary Clinton is elected president and five if she is not.

The Democrats appear safe in nine of their 10 seats: California (open-Barbara Boxer), Colorado (Michael Bennet), Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal), Hawaii (Brian Schatz), Maryland (open-Barbara Mikulski), New York (Chuck Schumer), Oregon (Ron Wyden), Vermont (Patrick Leahy), and Washington (Patty Murray).

The Republicans appear headed for victory in 14 of their defensive states: Alabama (Richard Shelby), Alaska (Lisa Murkowski), Arkansas (John Boozman), Georgia (Johnny Isakson), Idaho (Mike Crapo), Iowa (Chuck Grassley), Kansas (Jerry Moran), Kentucky (Rand Paul), North Dakota (John Hoeven), Ohio (Rob Portman), Oklahoma (James Lankford), South Carolina (Tim Scott), South Dakota (John Thune), and Utah (Mike Lee).

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Senate Overtime

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2016 — Most projections suggest that the 2016 US Senate election cycle will end in a partisan division close to a 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans. If true, a new political poll suggests that the final determining factor won’t occur until well beyond Nov. 8.

A new JMC Analytics and Polling survey of the Louisiana Senate race portends that this open seat contest will be headed to a Dec. 10 run-off election. Therefore, if one Republican and one Democrat advance from the field of 24 candidates, it will mean the country must wait a full month after the general election to determine whether the Senate is tied or one party reaches 51.

But, such a majority may only last for a year. Assuming Hillary Clinton is elected president, her vice presidential nominee, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, will have to resign his seat. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) will then make an appointment – sure to be another Democrat – but this person will only serve until the next statewide general election.

Because Virginia elects its governors in odd-numbered years, the special Senate election will subsequently take place in 2017. Therefore, if the Senate breaks 50-50, with that last seat being from Virginia, the majority will be at risk just one year later. This will make an Old Dominion statewide special election the nation’s political focal point, at least in terms of determining Senate control.

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It’s Already Beginning


By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2016 — Last week we predicted that Senate and House Republicans would soon begin distancing themselves from Donald Trump and start making the argument that voters should not invest all political power with unpopular Hillary Clinton. Already, we see such a move.

In New York’s open politically marginal 22nd District, the National Republican Congressional Committee just launched a new ad (above) for GOP Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who is currently locked in a difficult three-way battle with Democratic local official Kim Myers, and wealthy, self-funding Independent Martin Babinec. The spot explains how Tenney will “stand up to Hillary Clinton just like she’s always stood up to Gov. Cuomo,” thereby at least indirectly conceding that the former Secretary of State and First Lady will become president.

The NRCC spokespeople deny that the committee’s leadership is “changing strategy or assuming that Trump will lose.” Irrespective of the political organization’s public position, however, initiating such a message does portend a Trump defeat, but is an understandable retreat in a state that will vote overwhelmingly for Clinton. The thought process behind the ad attempts to take advantage of the fact that even though Clinton is well positioned for victory, her favorability index is poor, and trepidation about her becoming the nation’s chief executive certainly exists even among those supporting her.

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Differing Data

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2016 — The presidential map has swung significantly toward Hillary Clinton in the past week, which is of little surprise considering the revelations surrounding Donald Trump. If the election were today, our count projects Clinton to receive 338 electoral votes as compared to only 200 for Trump.

As has been the case since the beginning of this campaign, in order to win the national election Trump must carry the states of Florida, Ohio and North Carolina in order to develop a base that melds into a winning coalition. Before the videotape flap, Trump held the advantage in his three staple states. This week, however, he has fallen behind in each place, albeit by small, single-digit margins.

While it is mandatory for Trump to carry Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, Clinton can win the national election without any of the three. But, should Trump rebound fully in the aforementioned, he is still not done. In addition to carrying the 23 states that have voted Republican in every presidential election in this century – all are unanimous with the one exception of Indiana, which voted for President Obama in 2008 by one percentage point — Trump needs an additional 17 electoral votes in order to actually win the election.

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Wisconsin Takes Another Look;
Telling Info in Missouri

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 14, 2016 — Candidates in both Wisconsin and Missouri may be rethinking their ad buy decisions.

Wisconsin

It’s likely that strategists in both the Democratic and Republican Senate campaign committees who took the unusual step of canceling their media buys in the Wisconsin race are reconsidering their decision. The original move was interpreted as each side coming to the clear conclusion that former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) is on an irreversible path to unseat first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R). It’s now probable that the advertising time will quickly be re-claimed.

A new Marquette University Law School poll (Oct. 6-9; 878 likely Wisconsin voters) became the third poll in a week to conclude that Sen. Johnson is making a viable comeback. The Marquette numbers found Feingold’s lead dropping to only 48-46 percent, a decided difference from the organization’s September survey that posted the ex-senator to a six-point, 47-41 percent, advantage.

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Predicting a Wave

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2016 — Democrats are attempting to get atop of what they perceive as a growing wave in response to Donald Trump’s potential collapse, but they are missing several components necessary to creating such an outcome.

During the past two days Democratic leaders and strategists have begun to predict a landslide Hillary Clinton win, a majority in the US Senate, and now an impending wave large enough to carry their House candidates to success.

In the Senate, as we know, Democrats need to hold all 10 of their in-cycle seats, and then convert at least four Republican states to re-capture the majority. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana all look like impending Democratic victories. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), in the one state Democrats are risking, continues to hold a small lead but his advantage over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is tenuous.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) are both highly vulnerable and could easily lose, as could North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R). Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) sees better trends developing in his state at the presidential level, but Democrats are using a strong performance in the open governor’s race as a potential springboard to unseating the one-term senator and former US House Majority Whip. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) look to be stemming the adverse tide. But, all of the aforementioned races could easily change one way or the other in the final four weeks.

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Wisconsin Shock Poll

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 12, 2016 — Last week, we reported on both parties canceling their Wisconsin Senate race media buys leading all to deduce that challenger Russ Feingold (D) has an insurmountable lead for incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) to overcome. Since Johnson has not been ahead in any survey for almost two years and has come within five points of ex-Sen. Feingold only a handful of times during that period, Wisconsin has climbed to the top of the Democratic conversion list.

Now, however, a new Loras College (Dubuque, IA) poll (Oct. 4-5; 500 likely Wisconsin voters) finds Sen. Johnson surprisingly rebounding to a 45-40 percent lead.

Though the result is not compatible with any other available data, the sampling group members’ attitudes and answers on other questions do blend in with previously reported results. The study appears weighted properly for voting patterns, (37 percent Democrat; 32 percent Republican) and demographics, while the presidential numbers track with all other surveys.

When asked whether the sampling group would support Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, or Green Party candidate Jill Stein for President, 43 percent of the Loras College respondents said Clinton, 35 percent Trump, and 8 percent Johnson, while Stein recorded 2 percent.

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What Now?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 11, 2016 — The weekend Donald Trump revelations have sent the Republican camp scrambling, yet again. Before Sunday night’s debate: at least a score of GOP officeholders and party leaders had withdrawn their support for Trump, the Republican National Committee chairman put the Trump Victory program on hold, and a movement was beginning to develop within the RNC membership to remove their nominated presidential candidate.

Though the ballot finalization deadline has past in all states, and Trump’s name will appear on every voting mechanism Nov. 8 and in early voting (in six states voters have already begun casting ballots), some believe that the 168-member Republican National Committee, by two-thirds vote, could still remove their presidential nominee. They reference the Committee’s Rule 9, part of which reads:

(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

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