Category Archives: Senate

Assessing Ohio

By Jim Ellis

April 9, 2021 — Ever since Sen. Rob Portman (R) announced his retirement in late January, the open Ohio Senate race has attracted a great deal of national political attention.

With the first quarter now at an end and Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports due on April 15, candidates who have found fundraising success in the previous 12 weeks are informally releasing their dollar totals. Such is the case for the major Ohio contenders.

At this point, the Democratic field already seems to be crystallizing. With a weak political bench in the state, the nomination favorite appears to be Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/ Youngstown). Ryan is in even stronger position because a potential opponent, former Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton (D) – who was actually faring slightly better against the Republican slate than he according to a March 18-19 Public Policy Polling survey – announced last week that she would not run.

For his part, Ryan originally said he would formally announce his Senate campaign in March, but later indicated that he would not be declaring so soon. Seeing that his first quarter political receipts exceeded $1.2 million suggests that he has been working hard on the fundraising circuit, giving us a further clue as to his actual intention.

The up-and-coming potential Republican candidate appears to be six-term Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus). His aggressive fundraising resulted in $1.4 million obtained for the quarter and added to his previous $1 million cash-on-hand figure, gives him a base war chest of over $2.4 million to begin a statewide effort with millions more to come. The congressman says he will make a final decision about entering the Senate race later in the year.

Former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, however, had an even better fundraising sprint, obtaining just over $2.1 million. Ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who held over $1.6 million in his campaign account from previous campaigns, brought in $1.3 million during Q1 of 2021. Therefore, the GOP top tier contenders are all financially strong. Two other potential entries are author J.D. Vance and US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton).

Stivers, stressing that he has not yet made the decision to run for the Senate, said in an interview with the Cleveland.com news site that, “it’s a huge statement that someone who’s not in the race can outraise announced candidates.”

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Rep. Alcee Hastings Passes Away; Murkowski Trails Early in Alaska

By Jim Ellis

April 8, 2020 — After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, veteran Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) passed away Monday morning. The 84-year-old congressman was first elected in 1992, and his 28-plus years of congressional service elevated him as the dean of the Florida delegation.

Prior to his service in Congress, Hastings was a federal judge but found himself impeached and removed from the bench over financial impropriety in 1989. He then ventured into the electoral realm with a run for Secretary of State in 1990 where he failed to win the Democratic nomination. In post-redistricting 1992, with Florida gaining four seats in reapportionment, Hastings won a new seat from the region between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. He would never again be seriously challenged.

Rep. Hastings’ death opens Florida’s 20th District that encompasses parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties to a special election. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will eventually schedule a primary and special general to determine a successor who will serve the balance of the current term.

FL-20 is heavily Democratic (’20: Biden, 77-22 percent; ’16: Clinton, 80-18 percent), so the action will be in the partisan primary. Demographically, the seat divides racially as 53 percent black, 24 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent non-Hispanic white.

The gender breakdown favors the females: 51.3 percent. In terms of age, 14 percent are over 65, and 24.1 percent fall under age 18. A whopping 36 percent are foreign born. Concerning education, 83.2 percent have a high school degree, while just under 21 percent own a college degree. There are approximately 18,000 business entities within the district confines.

The House now has four Democratic vacancies and one Republican. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) all resigned their House seats to accept positions in the Biden Administration. The lone Republican vacancy is due to Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-TX) death.

Alaska Senate

The Cygnal survey research company just released a poll of a hypothetical 2022 Alaska Senate race now that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has drawn a significant opponent. It is probable that this is the first poll conducted in Alaska that accounts for the state’s newly installed jungle primary system that allows the top four qualifying finishers to advance into the general election.

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Huge Missouri Polling Swing

By Jim Ellis

Ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R)

April 6, 2021 — Two new Missouri Senate surveys are about as divergent as polling gets.

For background purposes, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) received a great deal of media attention when he declared for the Senate during the latter part of March, just after incumbent Roy Blunt (R) announced his retirement. Much of the coverage dealt with Greitens’ 2017 sex scandal that forced him from office. Just days later, Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) went public with his plans to challenge the disgraced former governor for the 2022 Republican nomination.

With so much early attention being paid to the race, two pollsters fielded surveys during the same period, but their ballot test numbers drew very different conclusions. Fabrizio, Lee & Associates interviewed 400 likely Republican primary voters during the March 23-25 period. The Remington Research Group conducted their interactive voice response study within the same time frame, March 24-25, but their sampling universe was a much larger 1,041 Missouri likely Republican primary voters.

Fabrizio Lee puts Greitens in far better position than Remington Research. They see the ex-governor leading AG Schmitt by a whopping 48-11 percent margin with unannounced potential contenders Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) and Jason Smith (R-Salem) posting support percentages of nine and seven, respectively.

Conversely, Remington Research finds a very close race. Their ballot test finds Greitens leading AG Schmitt, by only a single percentage point, 40-39 percent. Adding the other potential candidates, Reps. Wagner and Smith along with Reps. Billy Long (R-Springfield), Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville) and St. Louis businessman John Brunner, we see a 31-18-12-9-8-6-2 percent division with Greitens and Schmitt leading the pack with Reps. Wagner, Smith, Hartzler, and Long trailing respectively. Brunner, who has previously lost two statewide races, tracks at only two percent support.

In the head-to-head pairing with Greitens and Schmitt, the geographic segmentation between the two candidates virtually mirrored the statewide 40-39 percent split in Columbia, Joplin, and Cape Girardeau. We see a much different result in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, the state’s largest population centers. Greitens built a 46-35 percent lead in Springfield and a 43-38 percent edge in Kansas City. Schmitt, however, had the advantage in his home area of St. Louis, 43-34 percent.

Severe breaks occur when an ideological prism is placed over the two candidates. Among those in the survey universe who self-identify as very conservative, Greitens has a 48-34 percent lead. For those who say they are somewhat conservative, the margin tightens: Greitens, 41-37 percent. When looking at the moderate-progressive segment, the outcome substantially flips: Schmitt, 51-21 percent.

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A Wisconsin Senate Struggle:
Sen. Ron Johnson Trailing … Again

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R)

April 5, 2021 — Another tough statewide campaign appears to be brewing in the Badger State.
Thomas Nelson is the Outagamie County, Wisconsin, executive (Appleton area) and a former Wisconsin state assembly majority leader who is assessing his chances of challenging Sen. Ron Johnson (R) next year. For his part, Sen. Johnson has not indicated whether he will seek a third term. He has hinted both toward running again and keeping the pledge he made during his first campaign in 2010 to serve only two terms.

Nelson just released the results of an internal Change Research poll that posts him to a four-point 48-44 percent lead over Sen. Johnson. Looking back to the senator’s last election campaign (2016), trailing in a survey is nothing new. It was the repetitive data continually pegging him as trailing that led to the National Republican Senatorial Committee abandoning him as a lost cause until the late polls showed him rebounding with at least a chance to win.

In the end, Johnson defeated former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), 50-47 percent, in one of the most surprising results of campaign year 2016.

Wisconsin is likely the least accurately polled state during the past few elections. In the aforementioned Johnson-Feingold race, a total of 74 surveys were publicly released, and 70 of them showed Sen. Johnson trailing. In the same election year, 33 research studies were placed in the public domain for the presidential race and only the Trafalgar Group, just as the campaign was closing, correctly projected Donald Trump with an edge.

In 2020, a total of 70 presidential polls were released and 66 gave Joe Biden the lead. He did carry the state, but only by 20,682 votes translating into a 0.7 percent margin. The final 20 polls, all conducted after Oct. 1, found President Biden carrying a 7.0 percent average advantage, well beyond the polling margin of error in relation to the final result.

Therefore, with a consistent pattern of underestimating Republican strength, seeing Sen. Johnson trailing by only four points in the early stages of the 2022 campaign suggests his actual standing is likely much better.

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New Pollster Ratings

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2021 — The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization released their latest political pollsters’ accuracy ranking chart toward the end of last week — a study that included 592 survey research firms.

Grades from A+ to C/D were assigned to the firms based upon four criteria:

  1. Their 2020 election cycle precision
  2. The predictive category that suggests how successful the firm will be in the future
  3. The number of polls analyzed in this most recent cyccle, and
  4. hat the FiveThirtyEight team terms as the company’s “mean-reverted bias” factor.

Four polling entities earned the top A+ rating. They are:

  • the Iowa-based Selzer & Company
  • ABC News/Washington Post
  • Siena College/New York Times
  • IDB/TIPP

Another six received A ratings:

  • Survey USA
  • Landmark Communications
  • Research & Polling
  • AtlasIntel
  • Monmouth University
  • Marist College
  • Fox News

Seven more posted A- rankings:

  • The Trafalgar Group
  • Public Opinion Strategies
  • CBS News/New York Times
  • Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy
  • Public Policy Polling
  • Emerson College
  • Quinnipiac University

On the other end of the spectrum, 18 firms were at the bottom of the list but a dozen from this group conducted less than 10 surveys. Of those featuring more than 10 polls, the lowest ranked of the group were Nielsen Brothers Polling, the Humphrey Institute, FM3 Research, Opinion Research Associates, McLaughlin & Associates, and Brown University.

Selzer & Company has long been recognized as one of the country’s better pollsters based upon its strong record predicting the Iowa Caucus presidential results and other races most often from the Hawkeye State.

In 2020, 12 of 19 published polls projected Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield as leading Sen. Joni Ernst (R). Approaching Election Day, only two pollsters posted the incumbent ahead four or more percentage points: Selzer & Company and Insider Advantage. Sen. Ernst’s final victory margin was 6.6 percentage points. The IA firm came closest to the end result (Ernst, plus-6; actual, 6.6 percent). Surveying for the Des Moines Register newspaper, Selzer & Company again landed within the accuracy realm (Ernst plus-4).

The ratings also included the polling firms’ partisan bias factor. The bias swing in favor of one party or the other ranged from 4.7 points toward the Democrats (Survey Monkey) to a 3.1 sway for Republicans (MRG Research). The overwhelming majority of pollsters with the highest bias rating favored the Democrats. Of the 28 firms that registered a 2.0 or greater partisan bias factor, 26 favored Democratic candidates.

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