Tag Archives: COVID-19

The Alaska Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Alaska senate candidates: first-term Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan (left) and physician and commercial fisherman, Democrat Al Gross.

Oct. 8, 2020 — In the Last Frontier, the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate is stressing his independence and joined a legal fight to ensure that he would only be labeled as an Independent on the ballot. Still, the national party leadership is excited over physician and commercial fisherman Al Gross and his improving prospects in the Alaska Senate race against first-term Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan.

As the national Senate situation continues to change (i.e., North Carolina’s Cal Cunningham (D) becoming embroiled in a scandal, Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) numbers improving in Maine, Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones badly trailing GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville, and trends favoring Republican wins in Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas) seeing late potential in a place like Alaska is a boon to the Democratic leadership’s goal of flipping Senate control to their side of the political aisle.

The party’s candidates remain in strong position to flip Arizona and Colorado and are competitive in South Carolina and the two Georgia seats, in addition to being favored to hold their competitive incumbents in Michigan and Minnesota. Therefore, control of the Senate could boil down to just one seat, so the emergence of the Alaska race is of national political importance.

Running with his “Always Alaska” message that includes moving beyond oil and gas and into renewable energy sources even though the former industry is one of the major employers in the state, Democrat Dr. Gross is moving close to Sen. Sullivan in polling and has plenty of money to compete.

At this point, the latest survey from the Harstad Strategic Research firm (for the Gross campaign; Sept. 20-23; 602 likely Alaska voters, live interview) finds Dr. Gross pulling within one percentage point of Sen. Sullivan, 46-45 percent. This margin is not far from the 2014 victory spread Sullivan recorded (48-46 percent) when unseating then-Sen. Mark Begich (D).
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Debate Constituencies

By Jim Ellis

The candidates in action at the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio: President Donald Trump (left) and former vice president Joe Biden.

Oct. 1, 2020 — In watching the first presidential debate the other night, the question that was hanging out there was, what was each candidate attempting to achieve in relation to the constituencies he needs to win the national election, and was each successful in achieving their specific goals?

The campaign is breaking down into two distinct issue areas for each man. President Trump wants to concentrate on rebuilding the economy and safety from the unrest in many metropolitan areas, while former vice president Joe Biden is zeroing in on healthcare, most specifically protecting the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, and attacking Trump over his COVID-19 record.

President Trump is attempting to rebuild his winning coalition in the battleground states that concentrated on 2016 economic issues. He did that in last night’s debate by highlighting his administration’s economic record pre-COVID and outlining how he would re-build the national economy moving forward after the related shutdown.

On law enforcement and public safety, an issue area emphasized in an attempt to re-connect with many suburban female voters who have left his coalition since the last election, Trump attacked hard. The president probably scored his strongest points of the night regarding this issue area as he pinned Biden down about the lack of law enforcement groups supporting the Democratic nominee’s candidacy.

Biden was strong in his defense of the Affordable Care Act, and again exposed the weakness in the Republican issue platform because the GOP doesn’t have an alternative plan to what currently exists. The Biden emphasis was also an attempt to target the higher educated suburban voter, and particularly the white, married female.

Additionally, the healthcare line of attack was also geared toward the base Democratic voter who depends on the ACA as their sole provider. Again illustrating that these individuals would lose their healthcare coverage if the Supreme Court were to declare the program as unconstitutional very likely scored political points for Biden within his targeted constituency groups.

In the closing section of the debate, President Trump used his time on the issue of mail voting to express his concerns about ballot security and the length of the post-election period that we will see in many states. Expecting political overtime to last “weeks, if not months,” Trump reiterated that concerns exist about whether we will have a verified election, while citing the many states that experienced problems during the primary season.

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Beneath the Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) in trouble?

July 30, 2020 — Two Senate polls were released earlier this week, and though the ballot tests in Maine and South Carolina didn’t show us anything particularly new, the pollsters asked their respective sampling universes some interesting ancillary questions.

Colby College, a Waterville, Maine institution housing approximately 1,800 students, released its second political poll of 2020 in conjunction with the McVey Data Science Initiative. The questions touched upon the presidential and Senate ballot tests but delved deeper into the attitudes and perspectives of their 888-person sample over the July 18-24 period.

The presidential ballot test found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump statewide, 50-38 percent. The Senate ballot test was closer in that former state House speaker Sara Gideon (D) leads Sen. Susan Collins (R), 44-39 percent.

In looking deeper, it is probable that the actual race standings are likely a bit closer. There appears to be a Democratic skew in that all favorability indexes for Democratic public officials were positive and those of the tested Republican officials were decidedly negative. Additionally, 52 percent of the sampling universe comes from the state’s southern congressional district, the 1st, which is decidedly more liberal than the northern 2nd District. Together, these factors provide us the indication that the results are a few points more favorable for Democrats than what we might see in actual voting.

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Alabama Runoff Today

By Jim Ellis

Former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions (R), faces off today against retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

July 14, 2020 — The long-awaited Alabama US Senate Republican runoff between retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and former US attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions will be decided today, and polls are suggesting we will see a clear winner relatively early tonight.

The primary election was held way back on March 3 with the original runoff scheduled for March 31. Shortly after the primary, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) postponed the runoff in response to COVID-19 suggested precautions. The primary election ended with Sessions trailing Tuberville, 33.4 – 31.6 percent, a spread of 12,528 votes from over 717,000 ballots cast.

Originally, it appeared the four-month voting delay might be a break for Sessions, giving him time to rebound from a rather poor performance in the primary election. It doesn’t appear he has been able to turn the tide. Since the primary, nine polls have been conducted and released from six different pollsters. Eight of the surveys post Tuberville to a lead, while one showed the race a tie.

The latest survey, conducted over the July 2-9 period from Auburn University at Montgomery, finds Tuberville expanding his lead to 47-31 percent. The polling methodology poses questions, however. The Auburn pollsters list 558 respondents, but this is their general election sample. They do not indicate how many people comprised the Republican runoff likely voter cell, so it is difficult to judge reliability.

It is possible, however, that Tuberville holds such a large lead heading into the election because he is averaging a 12.3 percent advantage in the eight other polls conducted during the post-primary period. In two of the polls, both taken in May by independent pollsters, the Tuberville advantage expanded to 22 and 23 points, respectively.

Sessions’ political problems took hold when he resigned as attorney general under a barrage of criticism from President Trump. Tuberville capitalized with a wave of advertising featuring a commercial that began with a NBC interview clip between Trump and Chuck Todd where the president said his biggest regret since taking office was appointing Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

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Monitoring Mail-in Vote Turnout

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2020 — With many states emphasizing mail voting as a way to increase voter participation in the COVID-19 era, has adoption of near universal mail voting in the states that have done so achieved its fundamental purpose, or has it caused more problems than it solved?

Voter turnout is always a definitive factor in determining election outcomes, and the push to change voting procedures has occurred in 31 state primaries. Therefore, the voting system alterations, should they continue into the general election, will most likely have a major impact upon the electoral outcomes.

Most of the states adopting change only expanded their mail absentee ballot procedures for the primaries; therefore, we can expect another round of battles over the general election processes to soon come before legislatures and courts.

Many of the states, Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to name several, had administrative problems with their expanded mail programs including reports of homes receiving multiple ballots because inactive voters were forced to be mailed, some people requesting absentee ballots and not receiving them, and long post-election counting periods because of the large number of mail ballots coming into the county clerk’s offices.

New York, in fact, has still not even completed its unofficial tabulation and the primary was June 23. The Clark County (Nevada) County Clerk said publicly that the directive to mail inactive voters led to chaos in the state primary since so many ballots were being sent to individuals no longer living at the mailed address.

Largely, Democrats and voting rights organizations are attempting to persuade legislatures, governors, and/or the courts to expand the mail absentee ballot voting option to all registered voters both active and inactive, enact same-day voter registration, adopt ballot harvesting, which allows any individual to collect ballots from voters and turn them into county election authorities (this process is only legal in California, to date), and allow ballots to be post-marked on Election Day as opposed to requiring that they be received on voting day. Republicans and conservative organizations typically object to most of these ideas on verification grounds.

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