Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Marist Poll Shows Bunched GOP Pack Struggling to Reach Double Digits

NBC/Marist conducted a series of polls in the first three presidential nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina finding a host of Republican candidates all jumbled near the top in each place.

The surveys were commissioned during the Feb. 3-10 period. In Iowa, 320 potential Republican caucus goers were sampled; the number was 381 in New Hampshire and 450 for South Carolina. Democrats also were polled but their results did not provide any new or particularly significant information.

In none of the polls did any Republican candidate exceed 20 percent of the intra-party vote. Furthermore, no less than three and not more than five individuals found double-digits in the trio of surveys. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee led Iowa with only 17 percent. Jeb Bush finished first in New Hampshire at 18 percent, while South Carolina favorite son Lindsey Graham, the state’s senior US senator, topped the Marist result in his home territory with a similar 17 percent standing.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and neurosurgeon Ben Carson were the other candidates to reach the double-digit plateau in at least one state. All 11 tested candidates fell within 18 percentage points from top to bottom in the three studies.
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Kitzhaber Resigns in Oregon;
NRCC Announces Patriots

In this Jan. 12, 2015 photo, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber kisses fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, after he is sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term as governor in Salem, Ore.  (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

In this Jan. 12, 2015 photo, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber kisses fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, after he is sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term as governor in Salem, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

FEB. 16, 2015 — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), seeing his conflict of interest scandal involving his longtime fiancĂ© cost him key political support, announced that he will resign his office this Wednesday. Because Oregon has no lieutenant governor, Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will replace the four-term chief executive. Dr. Kitzhaber, a physician, is the only person in Oregon state history to be elected to the top office four separate times.

Though not legally married to the governor, Cylvia Hayes serves as Oregon’s First Lady. Her failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from environmental organizations with business before the state, after Kitzhaber promised complete compliance with the Oregon disclosure laws for he and Ms. Hayes, began his downfall. Gov. Kitzhaber won re-election last November even after his conflict of interest with Hayes became common knowledge. But, the situation re-intensified during the past three weeks.
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The Frontline Candidates

FEB. 13, 2015 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released its first group of Frontline program incumbents for the 2016 election cycle. These 14 representatives are viewed to be the most vulnerable of Democratic House incumbents, and a group that the DCCC is highlighting for increased outside support.

Some are more endangered than others, in addition to a group of four who is at least entertaining the idea of running statewide next year. Not having an incumbent in these marginal districts may be the Committee leadership’s greatest fear.

Clearly Competitive (in vulnerability order)

NE-2: Rep. Brad Ashford is likely the most endangered Democratic incumbent. The new congressman unseated eight-term Rep. Lee Terry (R-Omaha) in a vote that may have been more about the previous incumbent’s unpopularity than Ashford. The 2016 race, in a year when the district should vote Republican at the presidential level, could be more difficult for Ashford than his original election.

FL-2: Freshman Rep. Gwen Graham ran a strong campaign against a weak Republican incumbent. She will undoubtedly draw strong opposition, and the district will almost assuredly go Republican for president. The national trends at the time of the next election will play heavily upon how this congressional race unfolds.
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Republicans: Headed for
an Open Convention?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers his speech at Chatham House in central London, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015.  (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers his speech at Chatham House in central London, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

FEB. 12, 2015 — A new poll provides us an early clue about how spoiler candidates could force the Republican nomination into an open convention.

TargetPoint Consulting (Jan. 30-Feb. 3; 400 SC Republican primary voters) finds Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leading the GOP pack of candidates in a preliminary poll, finishing one point ahead of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) in their new survey of South Carolina Republican primary voters. Both just barely top the double-digit mark (Walker 12 percent; Graham 11 percent), but still fare better than the other candidates including ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (10 percent), who finished second in the 2008 South Carolina primary, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (9 percent).

Though the difference among the candidates is negligible, the fact that Bush cannot break away from single-digits is significant. A recent Iowa poll (Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register) also projected Gov. Walker leading with Bush similarly mired in the middle of the pack. These poll results provide further evidence that the Republican nomination battle is wide open.

Sen. Graham has been publicly toying with the idea of entering the presidential race and promises a decision by the middle of this year. Aside from this poll of his home state electorate, he hasn’t even registered in surveys conducted in other states. Still, it is regional, or favorite-son candidates like he, who could play a major role in determining who ultimately does win the nomination.
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The Tri-State Q-Poll Shows
Electorate Optimism

FEB. 11, 2015 — Quinnipiac University released the results of a three-state poll, covering the critically important presidential domains of Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.

The most interesting finding is how optimistic the people comprising the sampling cells are, particularly in Florida and Ohio. Such a tone is much different from what has been the norm for the past nine years.

All three polls were conducted during the Jan. 22 – Feb. 1 time period.

Pennsylvania

The Q-Poll surveyed 881 Pennsylvania registered voters, and tested Sen. Pat Toomey (R) as he begins his quest for a second term. At this point former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who lost to Toomey 49-51 percent in the 2010 Senate race, is the only announced major Democratic contender.

The results show Toomey residing in better re-election position than depicted in other early surveys. According to Quinnipiac, the senator has a job approval index of 43:25 percent positive to negative. Fellow Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) registered a similar 40:24 percent favorability ratio. On the ballot test, Toomey scores a healthy 45-35 percent advantage over Sestak.
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Advantage Republicans, or Democrats? Look to the
President’s Job Performance

President Barack Obama speaks during a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama speaks during a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

FEB. 10, 2015 — University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato and two others published an article that is still running in the Politico newspaper (The GOP’s 2016 Edge), but their conclusion is open to debate. They argue that the eventual Republican presidential nominee may have a slight advantage in next year’s election, yet analyzing the most recent voting data seems to point in the opposite direction.

According to Sabato and colleagues: “At this early stage, does either party have an obvious edge? Around the time of the GOP-dominated midterms, it seemed logical to say the Republicans held the advantage. Not because their strong performance in congressional and gubernatorial races has any predictive value — ask President Romney about how well 2010’s midterms predicted the future — but because President Barack Obama’s approval rating was mired in the low 40s. Should Obama’s approval be low, he’ll be a drag on any Democratic nominee, who will effectively be running for his third term.”

Doesn’t the actual voting pattern established in the two Obama elections supersede their observation about presidential job performance? Remembering, that voters in only two states, Indiana and North Carolina, changed their allegiance during those two election periods (both from President Obama to Mitt Romney), and that 48 states and the District of Columbia voted consistently, suggests a new prototype may have formed. This is further supported by the fact that 47 states and DC voted consistently during the George W. Bush years.
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Tragically, One More Special Election

The late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R, MS-1). Photo Courtesy Facebook

The late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R, MS-1). Photo Courtesy Facebook

MS-1

FEB. 9, 2015 — The news that three-term Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) tragically succumbed to a cancerous brain tumor on Friday at the age of 56 now means the northern Mississippi congressional district joins NY-11 in the 2015 special election category.

Under Mississippi law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has 60 days to schedule the succeeding vote, and the election date must be no sooner than 60 days from the time Bryant acts. It is conceivable that the special vote can be linked to the state’s regular 2015 elections, but that would mean waiting until August.

The seat should remain in Republican hands, but the last time this district went to special election (May, 2008) Democrat Travis Childers scored an upset victory. Then-Rep. Roger Wicker (R) had been appointed to the Senate replacing resigned Sen. Trent Lott (R), thus necessitating a special congressional election.
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How Can the Democrats Lose in 2016?

FEB. 6, 2015 — According to the National Journal, the next Democratic nominee should win the Presidency in 2016. The magazine editors are publishing a series of articles that examine the demographic and voting trends of key swing states in the country’s various geographic regions, showing how the most recent patterns benefit the Democrats. But, the analysis fails to tell the entire story.

The articles show that important shifts in such states as Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada are cementing what were reliable Republican entities into the exact opposite status. But, under at least one certain scenario, switching as little as one Democratic state to the GOP would change the projected national outcome … even if the Journal analysis is correct and Democrats continue to carry the aforementioned swing states.

Looking at the early version of the 2016 map, it appears that the eventual Democratic nominee can count on carrying 16 states for a total of 196 Electoral Votes. Conversely, Republicans can reasonably tally 23 states in their column for a base EV total of 179. Adding another 33 votes from the former swing states of Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada brings the adjusted Dem total to 229, or just 41 votes shy of victory.
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The Strategy Behind Electing the First Latino US Senator in California

FEB. 5, 2015 — After an immediate flurry of electoral activity dominated California politics once Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) announced her retirement, the open Senate race has slow-tracked, but its current, more passive status will soon change.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus is an organization comprised of Latino state legislators. This past week, they took the unusual step of sponsoring a political poll to test the viability of a single Latino candidate in the open Senate field. Currently, Attorney General Kamala Harris, an African American, has announced her candidacy and is quickly putting together a united northern California coalition. But, Hispanics want their own candidate and their leaders believe uniting behind one individual could carry that person to victory in November of 2016.

This week, the organization’s leadership released the results of their Garin Hart Yang Research poll (Jan. 27-29; 600 CA registered voters). Conclusion: Harris begins the campaign as the top Democrat, but she’s nowhere near a cinch to win the seat.
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Q-Poll: Hillary Cruising

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Liam Richards)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Liam Richards)

FEB. 4, 2015 — It is commonly believed that the path to the White House travels through big swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If so, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton is in strong shape less than two years before the next presidential vote.

Quinnipiac University went into the field to test the general electorates in these three critical places and found Clinton doing very well against the tested Republican candidates. The results, though too early to be a relevant predictor of any actual voting trend in November of 2016, provide us at least two important indicators.

First, the poll tells us that Clinton’s early low-key approach to this campaign is working. She has deliberately delayed forming a presidential committee, and kept a very low public profile. The Q-Poll results tell us that, so far, such a strategic move is paying dividends.
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Walker on Early Roll in Polls;
Clinton Dominates

FEB. 3, 2015 — Selzer & Company, the Des Moines Register’s standard polling firm, just surveyed the Iowa presidential field (Jan. 26-29; 402 Iowa GOP likely Caucus attenders; 401 Iowa Democratic likely Caucus attenders) and the results tell a surprising story. The survey was conducted just before 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney publicly announced his exit.

Selzer took into account, however, that the former Massachusetts governor and two-time national candidate was no certainty to run, hence asked ballot test questions with and without him as a projected participant. Even when included, Romney failed to lead and actually dropped behind two of his prospective opponents.

Irrespective of Romney’s presence, however, it was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who placed first in both configurations. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was second, just a point behind, each time. For the Democrats, not surprisingly, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton held a huge lead, topping 56 percent among those comprising the sampling cell.
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With Romney Now Out, Will Bush Benefit?

It was a surprising Friday. As we are now well aware, Mitt Romney’s conference call with key supporters was not to “fire up the base” for another presidential run but rather to inform his listeners that he will not pursue the White House for a third time. As expected, much speculation is occurring as to how this development affects the remaining GOP presidential aspirants.

Many believe that the greatest beneficiary of Romney’s departure is former Florida governor, Jeb Bush; the impending battle between these two principals was commonly labeled as a fight for the heart of the Republican establishment. But, that may not be so readily apparent. Reports show that Romney, on the night of his announcement, actually met with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and not Bush. Though it is not known what Romney and Christie specifically discussed Friday evening, it is near certain that the conversation was not about helping Bush.

Romney’s decision not to run is likely a positive one for the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee, himself. Though leading in virtually every early GOP poll, Romney’s margin was far below what one would expect for a reigning presidential nominee. In most surveys, he never broke even 30 percent, meaning seven out of every 10 Republicans polled were consistently choosing someone other than Romney.
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Anti-McCain Strategy Builds in Arizona

Sen. John McCain, first elected in 1986 after spending four years in the House and then rising to the peak of political party politics by winning the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is likely headed for a competitive re-election next year. And, his strongest opponent may not even be a Democrat.

This week, Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) held a meeting; one that could prove to be of great importance fast forwarding to their state’s August 2016 Republican primary. Both members have said publicly that they are considering launching an intra-party challenge to Sen. McCain.

The session apparently produced at least one major point of agreement. That is, both will not enter the race. They correctly reason that two congressmen jumping into the contest will guarantee McCain victory. This is particularly true in a plurality nomination state like Arizona, because the anti-incumbent vote will be split several ways, allowing the target to win with a mere base vote sometimes far under the 50 percent threshold. The pair has not yet agreed upon which man will run, only that it will be one.

The history of right-of-center challenges to more establishment political figures suggests a narrow path to victory, but part of the long odds calculation is that the conservative activists rarely coalesce to form a cohesive election strategy.
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Democrats Reeling in NY

NY-11

Things continue to go badly for Democrats in the upcoming special election to replace resigned Staten Island/Brooklyn Rep. Michael Grimm (R).

Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) still has yet to schedule the election date, it is clear that Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan will be the eventual Republican nominee in this New York congressional district. The latest developments suggest he is now becoming a prohibitive favorite to win the seat, too.

Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick was commonly viewed as the likely Democratic nominee. With polling showing him already 20 points behind Donovan, Cusick announced that he will not run for Congress after all. This leaves the Democrats with second-tier choices.

Coming into view is New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile, who is reportedly seriously looking at the race. But, Gentile is part of a continued losing Democratic formula in this district.

The 11th CD, formerly numbered 13, captures all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. The Staten Island portion represents two-thirds of the district’s population, and therefore candidates hailing from there have the upper hand. Previous Brooklyn Democratic candidates such as 2014 nominee Domenic Recchia, a former NYC councilman, fared poorly in general elections … Continue reading >

Walker’s First Ad Inaugurates 2016 Presidential Campaign Season

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) appears to be the first unofficial national candidate to release a video promoting what looks to be the underpinnings of a 2016 presidential campaign; and, the piece is not your typical soft bio ad.

Gov. Walker’s affiliated “Our American Revival” political organization is promoting a two-minute film that challenges President Obama and presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The attack message also appears to include the Republican congressional leadership when railing Continue reading >