Tag Archives: Florida

Gauging the Enthusiasm Gap

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJuly 13, 2018 — Much has been written over the past few elections cycles about voting enthusiasm and whether it is a predictive political factor. It has been seemingly apparent that the party members most interested in participating in an election, most particularly for a midterm or special election vote, generally see its candidates enjoy the greater success.

Yesterday, we looked at the extensive just-released Survey Monkey-Axios Media data that covered 13 US Senate races. The combined number of states also hosts a minimum of 15 competitive US House races. To re-cap, while the Survey Monkey analysts posted results under various turnout models in each of the tested states, it generally became clear about which candidate has the current advantage from the Senate contests in question.

Democrats were performing well in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, where incumbents in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia all held substantial leads over their Republican opponents.

The GOP held the upper hand in Indiana and North Dakota challenge races. In the South, Republican Gov. Rick Scott looks to be topping Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has opened a substantial lead over Tennessee former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Turning to the West, Democrats are moving ahead in both Arizona and Nevada and securely lead in Montana.

The Missouri contest between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) stretches from a five-point Democratic lead all the way to a five-point Republican advantage depending upon the turnout model.

The Survey Monkey pollsters tested voter enthusiasm in all 13 states. They asked the following question:

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US Senate: 13 Telling Polls

By Jim Ellis

capitolJuly 12, 2018 — The Survey Monkey organization polling for the Axios Media news and information website went into the field during the June 11 – July 2 period to test US Senate campaigns in 13 different states. All of the most competitive races were studied, including the 10 Trump states where a Democratic senator is standing for re-election this year.

The cumulative result actually brings some good news to both parties, but Republicans fare better because the representative predictive models suggest the GOP is in position for a net gain of at least one seat even while falling behind in their two key defense states of Arizona and Nevada.

Though the survey sampling period is long, the three-week time frame is the period consumed to survey all 13 states. Survey Monkey begins with a regular sampling universe of 3,000,000 individuals who have agreed to participate in their polls. For this project, 12,677 registered voters participated from a high of 1,280 in Arizona to a low of 457 from North Dakota. The sample size in the largest state tested, Florida, was 1,080. All of the surveys were weighted to reflect the demographic and political trend history for each state. The polling error factor for each place ranged between 4.5 and 5.5 for all states but North Dakota. In the latter, the error factor was 7.5.

There are several bright spots for both parties. Democrats fare better on the question of voter enthusiasm, which is consistent with data results recorded in virtually every poll conducted over the past year. Regarding intent to vote across the board in these Survey Monkey polls, however, both parties record about equal numbers. Overall, President Trump’s job approval scores have greatly improved. Looking at the combined 13-state universe, the president scored a 50:49 percent job approval ratio, going from a high of 60:39 percent in Tennessee to a low of 44:55 percent in Pennsylvania. But, even his lowest rating is an improvement from where he stood earlier in the election cycle.

According to the SM numbers, Democrats are in position to convert both the Arizona and Nevada races. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) leads all three individuals competing in the Republican primary. Her strongest opponent, unsurprisingly, is US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson). In the various modeling scenarios, Sinema posts leads of between one and six percentage points over Rep. McSally and far greater margins over the other two GOP candidates.

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Opposing Florida Gubernatorial
Candidates Both Ahead by 17 Points …

By Jim Ellis

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) -- ahead by 17 percent; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading by 17 percent

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) — ahead by 17 percent according to polling; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) — also ahead by 17 percent

July 10, 2018 — It’s not particularly unusual to find a political race where different pollsters see separate leaders in an election contest, but the open Florida Republican primary governor’s campaign may be setting a new standard.

As Ryan Nichol of the Florida Politics Blog reports, a new Remington Research poll (July 2-5; 2,900 likely Florida Republican primary voters via automated response) finds US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam 43-26 percent in the upcoming open Aug. 28 Republican primary.

What’s unusual about this survey conducted for the Tenth Amendment Project, a group supporting DeSantis, is that the result provides the opposite margin when compared to two other recent independent news organization political polls that both project Putnam to be substantially ahead — one of which by the same 17-point spread that Remington sees for DeSantis. Another poll posts the Putnam advantage at 15 percentage points.

Marist College, conducting their poll for NBC News (June 17-21; 1,083 Florida adults, 947 registered Florida voters, 326 likely Florida Republican primary voters, 344 likely Florida Democratic primary voters via live telephone interviews), found Putnam’s edge to be 38-21 percent, which is similar to the Fox News survey (Anderson Roberts Research [D] and Shaw & Company Research [R]; June 15-19; 901 likely Florida Republican primary voters via live telephone interview) that forecast Putnam leading 32-17 percent.

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Recapping the US House Open Seats — Part I: Arizona through Minnesota

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJuly 6, 2018 — Last Saturday’s election of Republican Michael Cloud (R-Victoria) to fill the vacant southeast Texas district (TX-27; Farenthold resignation) reduced the total number of open House seats from 65 to 64. Within that group, 42 seats are currently Republican held, 21 are Democratic; one seat is new, created by Pennsylvania redistricting and left open when Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) decided to run in a paired incumbent race with Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) instead of opting for the new Republican-dominated western Pennsylvania CD-14.

Among the 63 House members who have either passed away, resigned, lost their primaries, or are not seeking re-election, 23 chose to run for another office. Some of their political fates are decided, while others remain active campaigners. We we’ll look at those who became candidates for other offices and report on their current status. Today we’ll examine Arizona through Minnesota. On Monday we’ll review Nevada through West Virginia.

Arizona 2 & 9: Reps. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) are both running for the Senate and may oppose each other in the open general election. Rep. McSally is engaged in a three-way Republican primary that will be decided on Aug. 28. Rep. Sinema is the consensus Democratic Senate nominee. Polling shows McSally as the favorite to win the Republican nomination. Early general election pairings find Sinema leading the race from 7-11 points.


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Former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson Announces Comeback

By Jim Ellis

May 3, 2018 — Acerbic former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) officially announced his political comeback after creating subterfuge about which congressional contest he would actually enter.

Former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) | Facebook

Former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) | Facebook

Originally, Grayson stated he would run in CD-11 against Rep. Dan Webster (R-Clermont) in what must be regarded as a safe Republican seat. Even while saying he would file there, Grayson indicated that he was just using a potential campaign against Rep. Webster, the man who unseated him from his original 8th District seat in 2010, as a placeholder. Upon Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland) surprisingly announcing his retirement, Grayson then publicly toyed with the idea of running in what will be an open Republican 15th District, which borders his former 9th CD but then extends well westward almost to Tampa.

With time running out, the former representative and US Senate candidate has finally made his plans clear … unless, of course, he changes his mind again before Friday’s candidate filing deadline expires. As many people always believed would be the case, Grayson announced that he would challenge freshman Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) for the 9th District seat that he previously represented for two terms.

The ex-congressman said he is not so much “taking on” Soto, but is “ … running for my old seat. That seat doesn’t belong to anybody in particular. It’s up to the voters,” Grayson said, in a local news interview about his latest candidacy.

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Ryan’s Departure: Ramifications

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.

In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.

Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.

Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.

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Florida Senate Race: Now Official

By Jim Ellis

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

April 11, 2018 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) made official what everyone believed was happening for more than a year: launching a challenger offensive against three-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Gov. Scott entered elective politics in the 2010 election and said he never intended to assimilate himself into the way state politics has traditionally been run and claims to have kept that promise. He said in his announcement statement Monday that his intention is to have the same attitude toward going to Washington.

Worth in the neighborhood of $140 million and willing to spend a large amount of his personal wealth on his political campaigns, Gov. Scott had the luxury of waiting until relatively late in the cycle to launch his expensive statewide campaign. While the governor consistently said he would make his political plans known once the regular state legislative session ended, a loosely connected Super PAC was brandishing his accomplishments as Florida’s chief executive over the past year, and rallying support for Scott’s state issue agenda. So, this future Republican Senate nominee was very much in the middle of the Florida political scene even though he was not an announced candidate.

To no one’s surprise, the Florida Senate race figures to be a razor-thin contest. Since the famous 2000 presidential campaign when the national result depended upon the final Sunshine State vote (George W. Bush prevailed by an official 537 vote margin from more than 5.8 million cast ballots), and through four more one-point statewide campaigns in the ensuing presidential, governor and Senate races, Florida voting has become synonymous with very tight elections.

Two of those three one-point victory races went to Gov. Scott. He won in 2010, defeating then-state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink by a 1.2 percent margin, and was re-elected with one-point spread over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat who now serves in the US House of Representatives.

Except for a four-year break, Sen. Nelson has been in elective office consistently since winning his first election in 1972. He served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives, 12 years in the US House, and then ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1990, losing in the Democratic primary to US Sen. Lawton Chiles who would win the position later that year.

Sen. Nelson returned four years later with a victory in the treasurer, insurance commissioner, and fire marshal statewide office and was twice elected to that post. He then ran for the Senate in 2000, defeating then-US Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Orlando), who would later be elected state attorney general. Sen. Nelson topped US Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) for his first re-election in 2006, before beating then-US Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Ft. Myers) for his third US Senate victory on the same day that President Obama was re-elected.

Comments coming from Democratic activists concede that Gov. Scott was successful in winning two surprise victories for governor, but say that he has never faced as formidable an opponent as Sen. Nelson.

This assessment is open to question. When he first won in 2010, Scott, who would defeat McCollum for the Republican nomination, was the clear underdog. At the time, Sink was promoted as the best possible candidate the Democrats could field, so it was never believed that she was any second-tier contender.

Though Crist was a flawed candidate from his debacle in the 2010 US Senate race when he left the Republican Party and tried to run to Marco Rubio’s left as an Independent before switching to the Democrats in order to run for governor four years later, he still had universal name identification and was able to raise and spend almost $50 million on his campaign. Thus, the argument that Scott didn’t face anyone as tough as Nelson seems overblown.

Though we don’t likely need proof that the Nelson-Scott race will be close at the political finish line, we only have to examine the public polling for confirmation. Since August of 2017, 17 polls have been released of the proposed Senate race from 10 different pollsters. The results find Sen. Nelson leading in nine of the surveys, while Gov. Scott has the advantage in seven, and one was a flat tie. In 11 of those polls, the margin between the two candidates was four percentage points or less.

Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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“R’s” Up in Dubious Senate Polls

By Jim Ellis

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgMarch 12, 2018 — One of the keys to deciding the 2018 Senate election cycle is seeing how the 10 Democrat senators forced to defend states that President Trump carried will fare. A series of new Axios/Survey Monkey polls in these aforementioned places produces good news for Republicans, but the data appears flawed.

According to the methodology, 17,289 registered voters participated in the surveys within the 10 states between Feb. 12 and March 5. Obviously, the sampling period is too long, unless the polls were conducted successively, but there is no indication of such. The voluntary online response system also brings the polling reliability factor into question.

That being said, even suspect studies are valuable to analyze because more opportunities are provided to detect flows and trends within the various sampling sectors.

The results of the 10 polls are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):
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A Florida Polling Bonanza

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 9, 2018 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is on the cusp of becoming one of the top political campaigns in the country, but polling has been scarce … until yesterday.

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Three different pollsters released data from their recent Florida electorate surveys, each testing the impending contest between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R). Though the governor has not announced his candidacy, a loosely affiliated Super PAC has been spending heavily touting his accomplishments through various substantial statewide media buys. Since no other Republican candidate is even contemplating running, few doubt that the governor will make the race.

That being said, Florida Atlantic University, the University of North Florida, and Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy all released surveys this week. Though each arrived at different ballot test results, and all three have some methodological flaws, it is clear that the overall conclusion tells us that the Florida campaign is already in the toss-up realm.

The FAU poll (Feb. 1-4; 750 registered Florida voters; 375 on-line, 375 via automated telephone system) returns the most surprising result. According to their sampling universe, Gov. Scott has a 10-point, 44-34 percent lead over Sen. Nelson. This seems far-fetched, especially in comparison with the two succeeding polls taken during the same time frame. Additionally, the polling sample contains too many Independents, and is a bit low for both Democrats and Republicans. This makes the ballot test response even more curious and suspect.

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An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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Democrat Primary Action

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2018 — A day after Florida former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) reported to prison to serve her sentence for public corruption, her successor, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), drew a major Democratic primary challenger.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (D) announced Monday that he will enter the party primary in FL-5 against Rep. Lawson, the man who defeated Brown in the 2016 Democratic nomination contest after her legal trouble became public news but before her conviction.

The 5th District was newly configured in the state Supreme Court’s 2016 mid-decade redistricting map. Instead of stretching south from Jacksonville to Orlando to create a majority minority CD, the court map changed the draw to move west into a Jacksonville-Tallahassee split. The move forced then-Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) to retire after one term because her previous 2nd District had been divided into this new 5th District seat with Rep. Brown as the incumbent and an open Republican CD.

Lawson, a former state senate minority leader, is also a 28-year veteran of the Florida legislature. Taking advantage of Rep. Brown’s legal problems and that Tallahassee had been added to the district, Lawson racked up a 48-39 percent Democratic primary victory, and easily won the safely Democratic seat in November.

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Looking at the Governors’ Races

2018-gubernatorial-elections

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2018 — Earlier this month, we set the stage for the Senate and House campaigns. Today, we look at another important election platform, that of the nation’s governors. Though these races will elect people who will obviously determine future individual state policy, most of the 2018 gubernatorial winners will carry redistricting veto power in 2021. Therefore, these elections also carry national implications.

Of the 36 governors’ campaigns, 17 will be open races mostly due to state term limit laws. While the Democrats must protect the preponderance of US Senate seats this year, the opposite situation exists in the governors’ races. Here, Republicans must defend 26 state houses, 13 of which are open seats.

Of the 13 GOP incumbents seeking re-election, three are actually running for governor for the first time. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) were all lieutenant governors who ascended to their current position because the person elected in 2014 is no longer in office.

Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement over campaign finance violations. The other two state chief executives, Terry Branstad (IA) and Nikki Haley (SC), accepted positions in the Trump Administration. At this point in the election cycle, all three unelected governors are favored to win a full term.

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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2018 — As we continue setting the stage for the 2018 midterms now that we are in the actual election year, in a two-part series, we review the announced candidate status in each state, since much has changed in the past few weeks.

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 30, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 28, 2018
• Joe Arpaio (R) – former Sheriff, Maricopa County
• Martha McSally (R) – US Representative; 2nd District
• Kelli Ward (R) – former state Senator; 2016 US Senate candidate
• Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative; 9th District
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate
1 Green candidate

California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 9, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
Jungle Primary: Top two candidates advance to general election
• Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Erin Cruz (R) – Radio Talk Show host
5 Minor Democratic candidates
6 Minor Republican candidates
6 Independent candidates

Connecticut: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 8, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Ann-Marie Adams (D) – Journalist
• Tony Hwang (R) – State Senator – possible candidate
2 Minor Republican candidates

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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