Category Archives: Election Analysis

One Week Remaining

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 19, 2017 — Now that we’ve entered the last full week of campaigning in the Alabama special Senate Republican run-off election, several items of interest occurred in the past few days that are likely putting both candidates on edge.

As one might guess after so many polls found former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange by double-digits, the Strange campaign would find a way to counter the preponderance of data.

Late last week, the Voter Surveys and Consulting firm released a new poll for the Senate Leadership Fund (Sept. 9-10; 604 previous Alabama Republican primary voters) that finds the interim incumbent trailing Judge Moore by just one percentage point, 40-41 percent, vastly different from the spreads in most of the previously released surveys.

Often we have pointed to a potential flaw in the pro-Moore polling illustrating that the evangelical percentage represents too great a proportion of the respondent universe (between 68-81 percent in the previously published data) as compared to the statewide data as a whole. Since Judge Moore brandishes overwhelming strength within this group, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the pro-Moore polling results may be at least slightly skewed.

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VA-10: Dems Helping Comstock?

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 18, 2017 — Virginia is the most unique political state in the country when it comes to nominating political candidates. Party leaders and the incumbents themselves have great authority not only to schedule their nomination date, but also over what process will be used to determine a nominee.

At the congressional level, each district can independently decide upon its own nomination system irrespective of how the state and other CDs may operate. Therefore, some of the 11 districts may hold a direct primary, others a convention, and still others a “firehouse primary,” which is a hybrid between a convention and a direct primary.

In this latter option, voters visit a polling place, often times in a firehouse, but the number of sanctioned voting locations are few and far between thus forcing people to drive miles in order to participate. The entire system is designed for party leaders and incumbents to exact strict control, and their decisions more often than not keep rank and file voters away from directly choosing the eventual nominee.

Northern Virginia Democratic leaders are now contemplating what to do in the state’s 10th Congressional District where no fewer than nine candidates have already announced in hope of opposing second-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) in the 2018 general election. The 10th District Democratic Committee met over the weekend for purposes of discussing their nomination options, hence the serious discussion of limiting voter participation to a district convention.

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Arizona Shock Poll: Down 27

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2017 — GBA Strategies, polling for the Democratic leadership’s Senate Majority PAC (Aug. 30-Sept. 7; 600 likely Arizona general election voters and 500 Arizona Republican primary voters), just produced stunningly poor numbers for first-term Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) from their new Grand Canyon State survey.

What makes matters even worse for the senator is that the 27-point deficit referenced in the title is from the Republican primary voter sample segment. The GBA ballot test finds former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination victory in 2016, leading Flake by an incredible 58-31 percent margin. While other polls have found Flake in difficult political shape within his own Republican Party base, almost exclusively attributable to his national public feud with President Trump, none have detected anything close to this spread.

On the other hand, GBA is a Democratic pollster and not known for testing a Republican primary sample. Therefore, doubt exists regarding this survey’s reliability because the pollsters may not have the necessary experience to understand the nuances within this particular voter segment. But, the margin is so large that few if any findings exist to conclude anything other than Flake is today likely trailing badly in the fledgling Republican primary contest.

The other results don’t give the Flake team much reason for optimism, either. Among Republicans, his personal favorability is a poor 25:56 percent while his job approval ratio is a slightly better, but still an abysmal 34:58 percent positive to negative. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in even worse shape within the party base. Only 17 percent rate Sen. McConnell in a favorable light, with 42 percent of Republicans expressing disapproval of the national party leader. But, that is of little solace to Sen. Flake since McConnell doesn’t face the Arizona electorate.

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More Troubling Signs in Alabama

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 14, 2017 — Now just 13 days away from the Sept. 26 special Alabama Republican Senate run-off election two new polls have entered the public domain, likewise bringing bad news for appointed Sen. Luther Strange.

The senator has been languishing in surveys to varying degrees since the Aug. 15 primary election. All show him trailing, but the ones with sampling groups comprised primarily of evangelical voters find him down by very large margins, well into double-digits. Unfortunately for the Strange camp, these new polls project former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to be holding equally large margins. They, however, do not feature strong evangelical-based sampling universes.

Strategic National (Sept. 6-7; 800 registered Alabama voters) polled the Alabama electorate and surveyed a respondent group that is 84 percent Republican with all saying there is minimally a 50/50 chance that they will vote in the run-off election, and the overwhelming majority claiming a much larger participation preponderance (81 percent certain to vote; 13 percent very likely; 6 percent, 50/50). Alabama does not register voters by political party; hence, the sample correctly included a fraction of self-identified Democrats and Independents who are eligible to cast ballots in a partisan run-off election.

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Another Republican Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2017 — For the third time in a week, a Republican House member announced that he will not seek re-election next year. This time, it’s a junior member who is retiring. Second-term Michigan Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham/Livonia) announced that he will return to the private sector after the current Congress ends in early 2019. The congressman had built a highly successful real estate and foreclosure legal practice before coming to the House in 2015.

The move is certainly a surprise, and leaves another marginal Republican district up for grabs. Though races can get close here, the GOP congressional nominee has won in every election since the 11th District was originally created.

The seat was drawn in its near present form during the 2001 redistricting process as a result of then-Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) being paired in the former 15th District. This, after national reapportionment reduced the Michigan delegation by one seat.

In 2002, then-state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) won the new 11th District after having a hand in drawing the congressional map as a member of the Senate redistricting committee. McCotter would serve five terms, leaving because of ballot qualification problems in 2012.

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Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent
Announces Departure

By Jim Ellis

Sep. 12, 2017 — A day after Pennsylvania conservative state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) officially declared his Republican primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown), the congressman announced that he would not seek an eighth term in the House.

It is unlikely the Simmons challenge forced Dent from Congress, but the overall political climate certainly contributes to his retiring. Dent has been one of President Trump’s top Republican critics. The congressman, age 57, reminded his supporters, however, that he originally planned to only serve five or six terms and will be in elective office for 28 consecutive years once his final term in the House comes to a close at the beginning of 2019. He was originally elected to the state House of Representatives in 1990, serving until his election to the state Senate in 1998, and then to Congress in 2004.

Democrats will now be looking to target the open 15th District, which stretches from the Allentown-Bethlehem area all the way west on Interstate 78 to the outer reaches of Harrisburg. The 15th District was more of a swing district before 2011 redistricting, however. Now, it performs as a reliably Republican seat.

The Allentown-Bethlehem district was solidly in Democratic hands from 1952 through 1978, when Republican Don Ritter upset eight-term Democratic Congressman Fred Rooney (D-Bethlehem) in that latter year. Ritter would represent the Lehigh Valley until 1992 when he lost to Democrat Paul McHale. McHale (D-Bethlehem) then retired after serving three terms. In 1998, businessman Pat Toomey (R-Allentown) converted the seat for the GOP and held it for three terms until he unsuccessfully challenged then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 GOP primary.

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Strange Still Down, Lashes Back

(Alabama Sen. Luther Strange campaign’s latest ad)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 11, 2017 — A new Alabama Senate Republican runoff poll was released late last week, and it provides a similar result but with potentially the same skew as we saw from earlier surveys.

According to the Southeast Research firm (Aug. 29-31; 401 likely Alabama GOP runoff voters), former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore enjoys a 52-36 percent advantage over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. But, in comparison with two other polls, the number of evangelicals who comprise the respondent universe may be overestimated. In this particular Southeast Research poll, 79.5 percent of the Republican respondents are self-identified evangelicals. Within this segment, Moore commands a 54-32 percent margin, and 58-32 percent among those who consider themselves conservatives.

Conversely, Sen. Strange performs best with those identifying as non-evangelical Christian voters. Within this much smaller segment, Strange receives a clear majority of 55 percent versus Moore’s 40 percent. The appointed incumbent also attracts stronger support with self-described moderates. Within this segment cluster, Strange’s edge is 49-39 percent.

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Retirement Brings a Toss-Up

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2017 — Washington Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) announced earlier this week that he will not seek an eighth term next year. The congressman was first elected in 2004, succeeding veteran Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R), which proved to be only two-plus years before her untimely death.

In 2005, Reichert came to Washington after serving 33 years in the King County Sheriff’s office, his last eight as the county’s top law enforcement officer. It was in this position where Sheriff Dave Reichert gained national notoriety through apprehending the Green River serial killer. After conviction, Gary Ridgway confessed to committing 71 murders, 49 of which were confirmed. Some investigators believe his actual victim number may exceed 90. The totals make Ridgway the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Riding his local positive image, Sheriff Reichert was able to bridge the partisan gap in his first congressional race and won election to the increasingly Democratic 8th District. He would clinch three re-elections in the seat before the district lines were made more Republican. In his trio of difficult campaigns prior to redistricting, the congressman averaged 52.1 percent of the vote. Post 2011 redistricting, his average victory margin increased to 61.0 percent.

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Another Trump Appointment;
A Double-Digit West Virginia Poll

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.

Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.

There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.

The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.

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Another Open; New Special

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 6, 2017 — US House action occurred during the three-day holiday weekend both on the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. A new open Democratic House seat was announced because the incumbent has decided to run for governor of her state, and President Trump chose a GOP House member to become the new NASA administrator meaning seeing yet another special election is distinctly possible.

HI-1

Last month, stories surfaced that Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) was seriously considering challenging Gov. David Ige in next year’s Democratic primary. Over the weekend, she made public her intentions to again run statewide.

Rep. Hanabusa was originally elected to the House in 2010. She served two terms and then ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, attempting to deny appointed Sen. Brian Schatz the Democratic nomination. Then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) appointed then-Lt. Gov. Schatz to the Senate seat left vacant when long-serving incumbent Daniel Inouye (D) passed away in 2012. Hanabusa claimed the late senator wanted her as his successor, prompting her to run. In the succeeding primary, Sen. Schatz secured his victory by slightly more than one percentage point, a margin of 1,782 votes from just under 234,000 ballots cast.

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Florida: Close Again

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 5, 2017 — Last week, Florida Atlantic University released new survey research data (Aug. 25-26; 800 registered Florida voters via online questioning and telephone automated response) that tested the Sunshine State electorate about the impending Senate contest between three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Though we haven’t seen numbers here for months, the FAU data shows little has changed since the last surveys were released. Accordingly, Sen. Nelson tops Gov. Scott by only a 42-40 percent margin, meaning a virtual tie. Close races are nothing new in Florida, as we all know, so the polling results seem plausible.

Gov. Scott is not yet an official Senate candidate and repeatedly says he is no hurry to make a decision. But, the Florida political establishment and other prospective candidates believe he is going to run, which explains why there is so little activity around a Democratic incumbent who could be vulnerable.

Through his first term, the governor had been routinely plagued with poor job approval ratings but still managed to win a close 2014 re-election battle against former governor and now Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg). Though the FAU poll did not publicize candidate favorability ratios, previous 2017 studies found the governor’s index significantly rebounding into positive territory. It is likely Gov. Scott is sustaining a positive image, since he continues run close to Sen. Nelson on the ballot test question.

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Sanford’s Next Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2017 — We all remember former Gov. Mark Sanford’s ignominious exit from the South Carolina political scene in 2010, a year after his international extra-marital affair became worldwide news. His political exile did not last long, as he was able to return to the US House in 2013, winning a special election for the Charleston-anchored congressional district after then-Rep. Tim Scott (R-Charleston) was appointed to the Senate after incumbent Jim DeMint (R) resigned from office.

Considering the way in which Sanford left office, which before engaging in the affair was widely regarded as a successful governorship to the point of him being mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, his quick return to elective politics was surprising. And, his re-election to the district he previously represented from 1995-2001 proved rather extraordinary.

After winning the 2013 special, Sanford did not even draw a Democratic opponent in the 2014 regular election, capturing 93 percent of the vote against only minor party opposition.

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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).

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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.”

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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.

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