Monthly Archives: August 2017

Confirming Polls in
Alabama & Arizona

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2017 — Two new surveys were released this week that verify trends for two in-cycle Republican US senators, one in a positive manner, the other, negative.

Harper Polling released new data (Aug. 24-26; 800 likely Alabama Senate run-off voters) that basically confirms the last poll we saw in the current Alabama Senate run-off campaign between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange: Voter Surveys & Consulting, Judge Moore leading 45-41 percent. According to HP, the former jurist’s lead is now only 47-45 percent.

Last week, two other polls, from JMC Analytics & Polling – a firm that has been polling not only the Alabama Senate race, but also similar campaign situations in Arizona and Nevada during the past week – and Opinion Savvy came to almost identical conclusions but dramatically different from this week’s data: Moore carrying leads of 19 and 18 percentage points, respectively.

The major dissimilarity prevalent in the Harper poll, when compared to any other current survey in the public domain, is their strongly positive favorability index for Sen. Strange. While the Opinion Savvy result found the appointed incumbent languishing in upside down approval territory among Republicans (40:46 percent positive to negative), the Harper data shows him holding a robust 60:24 percent rating, even better than race leader Moore’s 59:26 percent. President Trump scores well among Alabama Republicans in all the released polls, but most particularly Harper’s (87:10 percent).

Continue reading

Nevada: Who Can Tell?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 30, 2017 — Two new Nevada Republican polls were released Tuesday that differ so greatly it is difficult to confirm which, if either, is accurate.

JMC Analytics and Polling publicized their new Silver State data (Aug. 24-25; 700 likely GOP registered voters responding to an automated survey) that posts challenger and frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian to be running ahead of incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller, 39-31 percent, as the two prepare for a competitive 2018 Republican primary battle.

The Heller campaign immediately responded by releasing their Tarrance Group data from earlier in the month (Aug. 14-16; 300 likely Republican primary voters) that finds a completely different result. According to the Tarrance survey, Sen. Heller actually enjoys a comfortable lead over Tarkanian, 55-33 percent.

So, what does this tell us? In looking at both polling methodologies, we can see certain flaws. The JMC poll is automated with the caveat that the sampling group does not necessarily come from the Nevada universe of actual registered Republican voters. Rather, they could be from a larger segment where the respondents to an automated telephone survey are either self-identified Republicans or from geographic areas where GOP candidates normally perform strongly. Notice that the methodology statement language refers to the sample as being comprised of “likely Republican registered voters”, as opposed to the normal “likely Republican (or Democratic) primary voters.”

Continue reading

McConnell Group Counters

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 29, 2017 — Racked by two recent polls that gave former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads of 18 points or better over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the Sept. 26 special Republican run-off election, the Senate Leadership Fund, strong supporters of the interim incumbent and closely associated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), just released their own competing data.

The Voter Surveys & Consulting polling firm (for the Senate Leadership Fund; Aug. 21-23; 601 likely Alabama Republican run-off voters selected randomly from a list of previous GOP primary voters) finds a much closer contest. According to this new data, Judge Moore’s lead is a much tighter 45-41 percent, very different from the 51-32 and 50-32 percent margins that JMC Analytics & Polling and Opinion Savvy, respectively, published during the previous seven days.

Voter Surveys’ conclusion is a net 15 percentage points different than the other post-primary pollsters while surveying virtually the same universe. Dr. Jan Van Lohuizen, a 40-year polling and research industry veteran, conducted the Voter Surveys poll. Despite its wide variance from the previous pair, this latest study may have the most credibility.

Continue reading

Flake Way Down; Data Questionable

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Aug. 28, 2017 — A new poll was released late last week showing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in very poor re-election position, but the polling methodology yields serious flaws. An earlier poll with greater reliability also shows him trending badly, but brandishing upside-down favorability indexes for political subjects is a seemingly routine occurrence for the second pollster.

The Highground Public Affairs consulting firm surveyed the Arizona electorate (Aug. 18-19; 400 registered Arizona voters; 273 self-identified Republicans) and found Sen. Flake to be trailing in both the primary and general elections. Against former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent Republican primary win in 2016, Sen. Flake is down by a wide margin, 42-28 percent.

‘Is Flake trailing by a large double-digit margin? It’s hard to argue such solely based upon this poll. Is it reasonable to believe that the senator is behind, however? That answer is yes.’

It is here, however, where the Highground data reveals serious problems. With a statewide sample of only 273 respondents, it is statistically too small to draw any sound reliable conclusions. And, projecting an incumbent Senator with only 28 percent support among poll responders from his own party certainly brings the result into question.

While Flake has also fared poorly in other earlier primary polls, this is the first one where he trails Ward by a significant margin. Because the sample size is a major cause for concern, the larger 14-point support gap between Ward and Flake should be questioned but still must be viewed as at least somewhat relevant. Is Flake trailing by a large double-digit margin? It’s hard to argue such solely based upon this poll. Is it reasonable to believe that the senator is behind, however? That answer is yes.

For the general election, Highground pairs Sen. Flake only with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). After originally saying she would seek re-election to the House, the congresswoman is now admitting that she is seriously considering running for Senate and several Democratic sources believe she is close to announcing her statewide run. According to the Highground poll, Sinema would lead Sen. Flake in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, 40-32 percent. But, an incumbent in any poll barely breaking 30 percent when the statewide polling sample is the size one usually sees for a lone congressional district has to be viewed with a wary eye.

Public Policy Polling completed their Arizona survey in early August (July 31-Aug. 1; 704 registered Arizona voters) and also found Sen. Flake lagging. Though they asked no head-to-head ballot test questions, Flake scored extremely low in his approval rating index. An elected official of either party tallying an upside down favorability rating in a PPP poll is nothing unusual, however. In fact, almost everyone scores in such a manner.

The Flake numbers, however, exceed even some of the more unpopular previously tested elected officials. According to this PPP survey, his approval index is 18:63 percent positive to negative. His problem is exacerbated in that the polling segmentation crosstabs vary little.

Perhaps the senator’s biggest problem is his standing within his own Republican Party. Here, his index is just 22:57 percent, which is of course a horrific intra-party total for an incumbent. Among Independents and Democrats, the numbers are even worse: 17:65 percent, and 15:67 percent, respectively.

There is little difference in how women and men view Sen. Flake. Among women, his favorability is 18:60 percent; men: 18:65 percent. In segmenting by race, the pollsters divided the respondent universe into just three categories: Hispanics (15:49 percent), whites (19:65 percent), and others (21:71 percent).

Though the PPP polls typically skew negative on the approval rating questions, the Flake numbers signal trouble well beyond any likely methodology flaw. Coupled with what can be reasonably drawn from the Highground survey, the clear conclusion is that Sen. Flake has major political problems and is even in danger of losing his re-nomination battle.

This race will continue to attract attention, but it is clear that we are likely headed for both a highly competitive primary and general election campaign in the desert all through next year.

A Newer Alabama Poll

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 25, 2017 — We have a new Alabama US Senate Republican run-off poll that was released into the public domain late yesterday afternoon.

Earlier in the week we reported upon a JMC Analytics and Polling survey that projected Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange, 51-32 percent, in their run-off campaign scheduled for Sept. 26.

Late yesterday, the Opinion Savvy research company released their poll results (Aug. 22; 494 GOP likely run-off voters through landline and mobile phone live interviews) taken three days after the JMC survey was completed and found virtually the same results.

According to the OS poll, Judge Moore’s lead is an almost identical 50-32 percent over Sen. Strange. Even more disconcerting from the Strange camp’s perspective, the critical Huntsville area swings in virtually the same ratio that the JMC poll found, meaning 54-29 percent in Judge Moore’s favor.

Huntsville is the population anchor area of Rep. Mo Brooks’ 5th Congressional District. Brooks placed third in the Senate special GOP primary with 20 percent of the vote, but carried his 5th CD with 41 percent and secured majority support in Madison County (Huntsville). Therefore, both Moore and Strange want to court the Brooks voters since converting them could well be the difference between winning and losing for both men.

A further complicating factor also occurred yesterday. While Rep. Brooks drew a congressional primary opponent during his short-lived Senate campaign, businessman Clayton Hinchman who has strong ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political operation – a group very active in opposing Moore – another new Republican candidate appeared on the scene. State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) declared his congressional candidacy and will face both Brooks and Hinchman in the 2018 Republican primary.

The development places the Huntsville congressman in an even more intriguing predicament. While Brooks has yet to endorse a candidate for the run-off, him publicly supporting Judge Moore could well be the final dagger in dashing Sen. Strange’s political aspirations. With now two polls showing his 5th District electorate going heavily for Moore, it is arguably in his interest to do so especially now that he is facing a budding primary against two potentially strong individuals.

The Opinion Savvy poll contained more bad news for Sen. Strange, in terms of the personal favorability question. Judge Moore’s positive to negative ratio among the GOP likely run-off voters surveyed is 54:33 percent. This compares to only a 40:46 percent upside-down favorability ratio for Sen. Strange.

While a criticism of the JMC poll was an over-sampling of evangelicals (68 percent in the polling sample as compared to a US Census reporting of 49 percent statewide), the Opinion Savvy survey is even slightly more skewed. According to this report, 71 percent of those interviewed described themselves as evangelical. Like in the JMC poll, this factor could over-state Moore’s support (he attracts 57 percent of self-identified evangelicals against only 28 percent who choose Strange), but even a pronounced skew in this regard does not close the exaggerated support gap between the two contenders.

The fact that two independent pollsters are deriving virtual identical conclusions in separate polls conducted on consecutive days tells us that Sen. Strange has real political problems, and will likely need everyday of this run-off campaign to convert the necessary number of voters away from Judge Moore to win the run-off election. With the confirming Opinion Savvy poll now being studied, it appears Judge Roy Moore is safely ensconced in the political driver’s seat, at least in the early going of this critical run-off campaign.

Action Breaking in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2017
— Early last week, the three-judge federal panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling, one that contained a rather major surprise.

It was expected that Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) districts would certainly be ordered re-drawn for racial gerrymandering reasons, but it was assumed that Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-San Antonio) 23rd District would also be in the same predicament. In a ruling that certainly caught the Democratic plaintiffs off guard, the court allowed the current 23rd to stand while striking down the other two. The panel also left north Texas in tact, another region the Democrats wanted re-configured.

Now with some certainty that the district will remain intact – though it could tangentially change as a result of re-crafting Doggett’s nearby 35th District – candidates already are starting to make their moves regarding challenging vulnerable two-term incumbent Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

Congressman Hurd was first elected to represent his sprawling central-west Texas district, a seat that stretches more than 550 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, in 2014 when he upset then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), 50-48 percent, yielding a margin of just over 2,400 votes. This past November, Rep. Hurd again beat Gallego, this time 48-47 percent, a spread of just over 3,000 votes. Knowing that the turnout would literally double in the presidential year from the previous mid-term, many observers expected Gallego to re-claim the seat and were again surprised when the re-match evolved into a rerun.

Continue reading

The First Run-off Poll

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 23, 2017 — JMC Analytics and Polling, one of the pollsters for the special Alabama Senate Republican primary, is first to release run-off numbers. In their post-primary survey (Aug. 17-19; 515 completed interviews of Republican likely run-off voters), JMC finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange to be in deep political trouble, but some of the numbers may be slightly exaggerated.

According to the results, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads Sen. Strange by a substantial 51-32 percent count, remembering that the primary results four days before were 39-33 percent in the challenger’s favor. This clearly suggests that supporters of the third-place finisher, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), are flocking to Judge Moore in droves.

Geographically, the respondent sample is divided into five segments, with the Huntsville sector coming very close to the confines of Rep. Brooks’ northern Alabama 5th Congressional District. According to this grouping, Judge Moore receives a commanding 52-29 percent support factor in this region thus explaining the large statewide polling swing to Moore when compared to the primary results.

Judge Moore also does well in the Birmingham (49-36 percent), Montgomery (58-22 percent), and Dothan (69-19 percent) sectors. He carries Mobile by just a two-point spread, however, 42-40 percent.

Continue reading

A Not So Open Seat

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2017 — Currently, we see a low number of open US House seats during this 2018 election cycle, and the number is about to get even smaller. Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is expected to announce that he has changed political course once again and now will seek re-election.

In April, the six-term congressman announced his candidacy for governor, only to withdraw two months later. At the time when ending his statewide bid, Perlmutter confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term in the House. Believing the 7th District, a likely Democratic seat, would be open in 2018, three state legislators and a former US Ambassador jumped into the party primary.

At the very least, each of the three legislators has previously indicated that they would end their congressional campaigns and defer to the returning incumbent should he decide to return. Therefore, it is likely Perlmutter’s re-entry into the congressional race will not spur a competitive primary campaign.

Assuming this predicted new course of action proves true, the number of open regular cycle House seats will temporarily drop to 20. At this point in time, the total open seat universe is half of what it was in the last two election cycles, and less than one-third the high water number of 64 we saw in 2012.

Continue reading

The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

Continue reading

Alabama’s Game Within the Game

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Alabama Senate Republican primary sent former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange to the September 26th run-off election, but what can we expect from the next round of voting? Will Judge Moore’s momentum continue to thrust him forward despite being badly out-spent, or will the Alabama and national Republican establishment’s strong support for Sen. Strange allow him to overcome his primary election deficit?

On Tuesday, Judge Moore placed first, capturing 39 percent of the Republican primary vote. Just over 423,000 people voted in the election, which will likely be similar to the Sept. 26 projected participation rate. Most of the time fewer people vote in a run-off than a primary, but recent special elections have yielded a slightly different turnout pattern. Sen. Strange garnered 33 percent in the primary and showed strength in the Birmingham area, though he lost substantially in Alabama’s southern region including the metropolitan areas of Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan.

The run-off wild card may well be Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) voters. The primary’s third place finisher tallied 20 percent, translating into more than 83,000 individual supporters. Since he placed first in his congressional district (41 percent), and carried his home county of Madison with majority support, northern Alabama will become critical in determining how the run-off concludes. And, considering that Judge Moore received almost the same number of votes as those who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, it is reasonable to presume that the Republican run-off victor will become a heavy favorite to win the Dec. 12 special general election.

Continue reading

AL Run-off; Curtis Wins

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2017 — The pre-election polling proved accurate Tuesday, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election.

The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle. The survey (Aug. 12-13; 870 likely GOP primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38 percent support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5 percent. The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish.

With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39 percent of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.

Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33 percent finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20 percent).

Continue reading

Sinema’s Changing Stance

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2017 — Reports attributed to the Phoenix NBC television news affiliate indicate that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will imminently announce a challenge to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. For her part, Sinema concedes that she is “seriously considering” running for the Senate, which is much different than her previous stated position of committing to seek re-election to a fourth US House term.

With Rep. Sinema putting herself on the sidelines early in the game, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) after she was gunned down back in 2011, were being mentioned as potential Senate Democratic candidates.

If Sinema is to move forward with a Senate challenge to Flake, it is becoming apparent that Mayor Stanton would divert away from a direct confrontation with the congresswoman, and instead become a candidate for her open House seat. It is unclear what, if any, move Friese might make under this potentially new configuration of candidates.

Sen. Flake, along with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R), appears to be the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election. Though Arizona is a better Republican state than Nevada to the point of electing two GOP senators, a governor, controlling five of nine US House seats and both houses of the legislature, Flake finds himself in a tenuous political position largely through his own doing.

Continue reading

Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

Continue reading

Dina Titus’ Decision

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 14, 2017 — It’s interesting how individual political moves can often yield opportunities or create obstacles for others in a semi-related fashion. Such is the case for Las Vegas US Rep. Dina Titus (D), as she is all of a sudden looking at a much different Nevada political landscape since Republican Danny Tarkanian announced his primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) earlier in the week.

Within the past two weeks, Titus made a public statement reminding national and local political observers that she is still considering entering the 2018 Senate race even though fellow Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) has become a statewide candidate.

To review, largely at the behest of former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rosen decided to run statewide even though she was just elected to the House in November, ironically defeating Tarkanian by one percentage point with both candidates garnering less than majority political support. Just after Rosen made her announcement, Rep. Titus commented about her own Senate prospects and reminded people that she has twice beaten the “Reid Machine,” a claim few Nevada politicians can make.

Dina Titus won the 2006 gubernatorial nomination despite Reid supporting an opponent. In 2012, the Senate Leader tried to recruit now-4th District Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), then a state senator, to challenge Titus for the open 1st District party nomination, but his attempt failed. She proceeded to win the nomination, the associated 2012 general election, and remains in the House.

Continue reading

Rokita In; Tsongas to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 11, 2017 — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is generally considered to be the first or second national Republican conversion target, and the GOP candidates are beginning to come forward.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) announced, as expected, his run for the Senate and immediately pressed the attack before his supporters to “Defeat the Elite,” a phrase that he defines as pertaining to “lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and the media.”

Rokita was first elected to the House in 2010 after serving two terms as Indiana’s secretary of state. He averaged 65.5 percent in his four congressional elections, and leaves his western 4th District as a safe Republican seat.

The announcement creates a major Republican primary with fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Messer tweeted about two weeks ago that he will soon become a Senate candidate with a formal announcement to follow.

Continue reading