Tag Archives: George W. Bush

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.

O’Rourke to Run

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2017 — Reports coming from Texas, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, indicate that three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will formally announce a challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R). Will O’Rourke be a viable challenger, or will his campaign be nothing more than a political suicide run?

It will be interesting to see what type of arguments the El Paso congressman and his Democratic allies use in attempting to convince the Texas electorate to choose a Senate Democratic contender for the first time since the late Lloyd Bentsen (D) was last re-elected in 1988. It has been 26 years since the Democrats won any major Texas statewide election, last occurring in 1990 when Ann Richards became governor. Other Democratic statewide candidates were also swept into constitutional office that year, as they had been for previous generations. George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994, which actually began the period of Texas Republican dominance that continues to this day.

Beating Sen. Cruz may actually be more difficult than running against a typical Republican incumbent, meaning one who did not actively oppose President Trump. Democrats who hope to take advantage of what is typically a favorable wave for the out party in a president’s first mid-term election, may have a difficult time wrapping Cruz in such a surge, if it is to form, since he was the president’s chief electoral opponent for the GOP nomination.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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The Electoral College

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 7, 2016 — Is the Electoral College doomed, or coming into a new sphere of relevance? As we know, Hillary Clinton out-polled Donald Trump in the popular vote, now by some 2.3 million people as the totals are becoming finalized, but she failed to secure an Electoral College victory. Therefore, numerous efforts have begun to either change Electors’ votes or eliminate the system entirely.

The Gallup organization just completed a poll, as they did after the 2000 election when Al Gore suffered a similar fate at the hands of George W. Bush. Their recent results are surprising, especially when considering the tenor of the media arguments.

According to Gallup (Nov. 28-29; 1,021 US adults), 49 percent of the respondents would like to see the US Constitution amended to elect the president through an aggregate vote of the citizenry. Those in favor of keeping the current system totaled 47 percent.

In actuality, this result is a huge improvement for the pro-Electoral College segment. Just a week after the 2000 election, during the Nov. 11-12 period, Gallup conducted a similar survey and found 61 percent wanting to scrap the Electoral College versus only 35 percent status quo supporters.

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The Historical Perspective

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2016 — Everyday we see new polls that measure Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s national standing and their status in some states, but how does the 2016 race compare to the others from the past 40 years during this same time point in the election cycle?

The Gallup organization is the only consistent national pollster from the mid-20th Century through the 2012 election. After missing the final result four years ago in which they predicted a Mitt Romney popular vote victory, Gallup now confines their research work to issues and not head-to-head ballot test questions. Therefore, they are not polling the Clinton-Trump race.

Since Aug. 20, seven polls from a combination of professional national pollsters, media outlets, and universities have been publicly released. Six of the seven find Clinton holding the lead. One, the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California’s continual panel-back tracking program, says Trump is carrying a two-point advantage. Factoring in these recent seven results, Clinton’s average advantage is 3.4 percentage points, usually in the span of 42-38 percent.

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Pew: A Mixed-Message Poll

By Jim Ellis

July 11, 2016 — The Pew Research Center for US Politics and Policy late last week released the results of their major benchmark presidential campaign survey, and found high levels of interest matched with a very low degree of candidate choice satisfaction.

The Abt SRBI data firm, the company that regularly conducts the ABC News/ Washington Post polls, administered the survey that sampled 2,245 adults, 1,655 of whom are registered voters, from all 50 states over the June 15-26 period.

Though the poll directors asked a ballot test query, the questionnaire’s main purpose was to determine issues and attitudes. The 51-42 percent Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump spread, and the 45-36-11 percent margin with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson included, however, appears to lean a bit more to Clinton’s favor than the average aggregate responses among national polls.

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A Lot of Noes

June 16, 2015 — We witnessed a great many political “noes” this weekend, as Iowa Republicans voted to do away with their famous August straw poll event, and two potential major Senate candidates announced they would not run next year.

President

The Iowa Republican Party began the straw poll event in August of 1979, as a way to showcase their first-in-the nation caucus contest. Over the years, the event attracted major media attention and was generally viewed as the first official contest of the respective presidential campaign cycle. In the most recent years, it became the Iowa GOP’s top fundraising event for their entire election season. But, over this past weekend, the Iowa Republican Party Executive Committee voted 17-0 to end the famous informal poll.

Several reasons exist for the event’s elimination, which previously drew thousands to Iowa State University in Ames, the traditional event venue. First, the straw poll was never a good predictor as to who would win the Caucus event. For example, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) placed first in the 2011 straw poll, which proved to be the high point of her campaign. Basically she was not heard from in a serious way after that. In fact, of the six straw poll events, only once did the outright August vote correctly foretell the actual Caucus winner (George W. Bush in 2000).
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Harvard to Cruz’s Rescue

Journalist Charles Dudley Warner’s famous quote that “politics makes strange bedfellows” found yet another new example during the past few days.

A new Harvard Law Review article authored by two former US solicitor generals, one who served Pres. George W. Bush and the other in an acting capacity for President Obama, provides surprising support to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) argument that he is eligible to seek the presidency.

The senator is in a unique situation. He must overcome an obstacle that no other candidate need be concerned with merely to obtain ballot access. Born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, there is an argument that Sen. Cruz does not fulfill the constitutional requirement for individuals running for president, that of being a “natural born citizen.”

Neal Katyal, who served briefly as acting US Solicitor General after Elena Kagan resigned to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, and Paul Clement, who President George W. Bush appointed to the position, co-authored their article entitled, “On the Meaning of Natural Born Citizen” for the Harvard Law Review. Their piece directly discusses the Cruz situation and provides ample legal argument to suggest that the Senator does fulfill the basic legal requirements to become a presidential candidate.
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Cruz, Walker Up in Texas;
Bush, Perry Still Lagging

FEB. 25 — The University of Texas and the Texas Tribune news publication teamed to release a poll of potential Republican 2016 primary voters (YouGov; Feb. 6-15; 1,200 Texas adults; 547 sampled-matched Republican primary voters) and found home state Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leading the pack by a relatively substantial margin.

Falling back into single digits were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas’ longest-serving governor, Rick Perry. Thus, we see one more political survey attesting to Gov. Walker’s strength and ex-Gov. Bush’s early weakness.

The UT/Tribune polls have previously not been particularly reliable, but in this instance they teamed up with the international survey research company, YouGov, which has generally produced credible results around the world. This poll, however, appears to have its flaws.
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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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Wendy Davis to Announce in Texas

Later today, as expected, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) will announce her campaign for governor. With incumbent Rick Perry (R) retiring after four terms, Texas voters will witness an open governor’s campaign for the first time since 1990, when Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican businessman Clayton Williams.

The 2014 general election looks to match Sen. Davis and three-term Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott who, for years, has been waiting in the wings to run for the state’s top office. Davis attained notoriety over the summer by filibustering a bill that increased abortion restrictions and succeeded in delaying its passage for several weeks.

The GOP has dominated Texas politics ever since George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994. Of the 29 statewide offices, Republicans continue to control all of them, in addition to the two US Senate positions, a majority in the congressional delegation, and both houses of the state legislature. Since the Bush gubernatorial re-election effort in 1998, the GOP has typically won the major statewide offices by margins between 12 and 16 points.

But, will the string continue in 2014? With an ever-growing populace – remember, Texas gained four seats in the last reapportionment – and a Hispanic population reaching 37.6 percent of the state’s total population, Lone Star State Democrats claim that the demographic changes are making them more competitive.

Two polls have been conducted, both showing similar patterns. The most recent, the Texas Lyceum Poll (Sept. 6-20; 800 registered Texas voters), gives Abbott only a 29-21 percent lead with a whopping 50 percent undecided/don’t know factor. In early summer, Public Policy Polling (June 28-July 1; 500 registered Texas voters), even before Gov. Perry announced his retirement, tested several candidates against one another. At that time, Abbott led Davis 48-40 percent, holding the same eight-point edge as the Lyceum poll projects, but one where 38 percent more respondents believed they knew enough about the candidates to make a decision.

The fact that the Lyceum poll has a very long sampling window, over two weeks, and  Continue reading >

Pew Study Shows Federal Government at All-Time Low

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released the results of their new regular study (from surveys conducted on March 13-17, 1,501 adults; and March 28-31, 1,001 adults) that questioned respondents on their views and impressions about the federal, state, and local governments. The favorability response hit a new low for the federal government, but the sentiment did not carry over to state and local public sector bureaucracies.

According to the data, only 28 percent of the respondents now have a favorable opinion about the federal government. In contrast, 57 percent have a positive impression of state government and an even higher 63 percent maintain an affirmative opinion about local government.

State and Local Attitudes

There are partisan divisions within the data, but they are almost solely reserved for the federal government. For the first time since Barack Obama became president more Democrats view the national authority in negative terms: 41 percent positive compared to 51 percent negative. Republicans continue to be almost unanimous in their unfavorable opinion about the US public sector. Only 13 percent of GOP respondents, according to the current Pew data, view the federal government approvingly.

But, these partisan splits are not evident when examining attitudes toward the states or localities. In fact, Republicans have a slightly better view of state government than do Democrats (57 percent versus 56 percent). Independents hold the best opinion, recording a 59 percent positive rating. Regarding local government, the respondents’ sentiments are even more positive. Here, it is the Democrats who rate the locals the highest (67 percent), followed by Republicans (63 percent), and Independents (60 percent positive).
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Predicting the Presidential Outcome

At long last the election is finally here, but we still can’t predict the presidential outcome with any confidence. Recognizing that there have been many conflicting national polling factors present for the past several weeks, now at the end of the campaign it appears that all of the major pollsters are projecting just about the same final national popular vote result – a virtual tie.

Seven polls were released on Thursday through Saturday, and four of them (Ipsos/Reuters, Rasmussen Reports, UPI/C-Voter, and Zogby for the Washington Times) produced a high-40s deadlock between Pres. Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Two (Purple Strategies and Public Policy Polling) forecast a one-point lead for Obama. One, the ABC/Washington Post poll, showed Romney with that same single-point advantage. Simply put, the national election doesn’t get any closer.

Good news actually exists for both candidates in these final surveys. First, bringing the candidates back into a tie is positive for the president, who had been starting to drop behind. On the other hand, and an argument in Romney’s favor, an incumbent tied going into the election is rarely a good sign, because challengers typically under-poll to at least a small degree.

On the state front, Ohio still appears to be the deciding factor. There are some favorable indications that Romney will win close victories in North Carolina and Florida, which are his top priority conversion states. He also is trending upward in Virginia, but the all-important Buckeye State remains a mystery. The president has a slight edge in several polls, but not in others.

Looking at the secondary states, though Nevada and possibly Iowa look to remain in the president’s column, Romney is getting strong positive signs from Colorado. Should he be successful in taking Virginia and Ohio, Colorado would clinch a victory for the challenger.

Polling

There has been a great deal of analyses done about the myriad of polls conducted over the past months, and the conflicting nature between the ones that have projected the 2012 vote using a turnout model based upon 2008 voting patterns. Many have said that using such base data explains the polling discrepancies because the 2012 electorate is much different than that of four years ago. Therefore, using the 2008 model may skew too heavily Democratic.

Mike Barbera, a Washington lobbyist and guest columnist for our reports, has studied this situation, and offers the following perspective: Given all available evidence, the idea that the 2012 electorate will be as Democratic as 2008 is implausible – and the notion that it will be even more Democratic is to be completely rejected.

The 2008 election cycle featured the following:

  • A highly motivated Democratic base, enthused by the historic candidacy of Barack Obama and still seething with animus toward George W. Bush
  • A dispirited Republican base (although the Palin vice presidential selection remedied this to a certain degree)
  • A historically-unpopular outgoing Republican president
  • A huge funding disparity, which allowed the Obama campaign to dramatically outspend the McCain forces on the airwaves and in the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts
  • An economic meltdown a month before Election Day

That is a recipe for what a great Democratic year looks like – and indeed the Democrats in 2008 had a great year. They elected a president as well as super-majorities in both the House and Senate.

To put it mildly, 2012 looks nothing like 2008. By any measure, Republican enthusiasm is much higher than in 2008. Obama’s favorability ratings are significantly lower than they were in 2008. His job approval ratings are dismal. Romney and his GOP allies are at financial parity with the Obama campaign and the Democrats – so the Republican GOTV efforts are vastly improved from the threadbare McCain operation of 2008. Romney is doing very well among independents – John McCain lost them by a substantial margin.

Early Voting

States are reporting the number of ballots already returned through the various early voting processes. While all of the partisan numbers, i.e. the ballots returned from registered Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, are better for Romney and the Republicans than the ratios from four years ago, it is unclear if they are a precursor to a Romney victory performance.

The Romney camp compares the current early voting trends to that of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain and illustrates what they believe is their candidate’s improvement over his showing. While there seems no doubt that the already returned ballots will yield better results for the Republican, as the Obama campaign points out, Romney must exceed the president’s vote total, not just that of McCain, and in every state but Colorado (that releases early voting partisan registration data) more Democratic ballots have been returned than Republican. All totaled, almost 30 million people have already voted in this election.

The Senate

Democratic trends in the statewide contests are better than for Republicans. It now appears likely that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate and do so with about the same level of strength they currently maintain: a seat up or down from the current 53D-47R margin.

The House

While the Senate races appear to be trending Democratic, the Republicans are pulling away in the House. The GOP majority is secure, and their original majority margin, based upon 242 seats, could even increase by as many as three or four seats when analyzing the final individual race trends.

Conclusion

This election is very close, and could be following one of two election models. The first would be that of 1980, where Ronald Reagan was running close to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, only to catch a wave at the very end and go onto a major landslide victory. The second potential precursor is the 2004 election, where a relatively unpopular incumbent President, George W. Bush, won a close victory that basically came down to the state of Ohio becoming the deciding factor. Determining the actual result is now merely hours away.

Obama Approval Ratings Reach Historic Lows

While the attention of most political observers and pundits has been on the extremely volatile multi-candidate contest for the Republican presidential nomination, little attention has been paid to the standing of the certain Democratic standard-bearer, President Barack Obama.

Polling by the Gallup organization, which has been tracking presidential approval ratings since the administration of Harry S. Truman, suggests that President Obama’s approval rating is lower than each of his eleven most recent predecessors at a comparable time in their presidencies. This statistic includes: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who were either not reelected or, in the case of Ford, never elected.

For the week ending Dec. 4, Obama’s approval rating stood at 42 percent, down one percent from his historically low November rating of 43 percent. The President’s disapproval rating currently stands at 50 percent, up one point from last week’s number. Again, all of these numbers are according to Gallup. Obama will need to improve his approval rating considerably during the rest of December in order to avoid numbers that are sure to initiate jitters among congressional Democrats and others sharing the ballot with him in 11 months.

The following chart provides an illustration of the presidential approval rates at the commensurate time in office (December of third year in office):

President      Year     Average approval
Eisenhower      1955                     75
Nixon                1971                      50
Carter                1979                     53
Reagan              1983                     54
Bush ’41            1991                      51
Clinton              1995                     51
Bush ’43            2003                    54
Obama              2011                      42 (through December 6)

As you can see, public approval ratings at the end of the third year of an incumbent’s presidency does not necessarily dictate his re-election result. For example, Presidents Carter (53 percent) and Reagan (54 percent) had virtually identical numbers at the end of their third year in office, but their election results one year later, as we all know, were starkly different. The same was true for Presidents Bush and Clinton, who both scored an identical 51 percent in the December preceding the election. But, Obama’s anemic 42 percent positive rating is far below any of his predecessors. It is too early to tell, however, whether or not this number will prove to be a precursor to defeat.

Wrong Track for Incumbents

Incumbents who are accustomed to success at the ballot box are generally nervous and watchful of potential electoral trends by their very nature. They know that this week’s teapot can become next week’s tempest and the spate of recent “change elections” has proven that incumbency is anything but a guarantee of lifetime employment in the U.S. Congress.

While the outcome of individual races can be predicted with a high rate success using modern opinion research tools, it remains a much more daunting task to determine national or even regional trends.

Overall congressional approval ratings and generic ballot test questions become virtually meaningless in the effort to determine trends in congressional races because each race is run locally rather than nationally. The old political saw that says, “The Congress is composed of 434 scoundrels and ‘my guy'” still holds sway more often than not.

However, there is one national indicator to which incumbent politicians should pay close attention, particularly in a presidential election year such as 2012. The well-tested “right track/wrong track indicator” has been a largely reliable indicator of incumbent satisfaction/dissatisfaction and next year is likely to be no exception.

The alarming news for incumbents planning to face the voters again in 2012 is that as of last week, only 16 percent of likely U.S. voters say that the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, Oct. 23.

The latest finding is up a point from the previous week, but down a point from a month ago and down a whopping 16 points from this time last year.

Since mid-July, the number of voters who feel the nation is headed in the “right direction” has virtually mirrored the levels measured in the final months of the administration of George W. Bush, with voter confidence bobbing slightly up and down in the narrow range of 14 percent to 19 percent.

Perhaps even more disturbing news for incumbents is the fact that the “wrong track” number in last week’s Rasmussen survey was 77 percent. Since mid-July, the “wrong track” has stayed in the 75- to 80-percent range. When the ratio of likely voters who think that the nation is on the “wrong track” and is not moving in the “right direction” is nearly 5 to 1, that is a reliable sign that voters are planning to make big changes on Election Day.