Tag Archives: Jim Ellis

The Bay State Brawl

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Many seasoned Massachusetts political observers believed that the intra-party Democratic US Senate battle between incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) would never happen.

At the beginning of the election cycle the prevailing local political wisdom was, if Kennedy were to enter the statewide race, that Sen. Markey would simply retire after spending 48 consecutive years in elective office, counting his time in the state legislature, US House, and Senate, rather than taking on a Kennedy and risk losing. Such, however, proved not to be the case. With the candidate filing deadline passing this week, the Sept. 1 showdown between Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy is on. And, the latest poll again confirms the two men are locked in a dead heat.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell released their current survey results of the Bay State electorate (April 27-May 1; 1,00 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) and the Democratic US Senate primary ballot test finds Rep. Kennedy clinging to a 44-42 percent lead. This is not much different than the university’s February poll that found Kennedy ahead 35-34 percent.

In all, this has to be a very encouraging result for Sen. Markey. Running against the so-called “Kennedy mystique,” the media-driven term that matters more in Massachusetts than anywhere else, and qualifying for the ballot because the courts reduced the number of required petition signatures because of the COVID-19 imposed precautions, Sen. Markey’s ability to hold his status within the margin of error against Rep. Kennedy has to be considered a victory for the veteran politician.

The money count is almost as close as the polling, except Markey has the advantage. Looking at the March 31 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports, Sen. Markey has raised just over $8.8 million for the campaign cycle as compared to $5.9 million for Rep. Kennedy. The senator also has the edge in cash-on-hand resources, $4.4 million to $3.8 million. Therefore, having enough funding to communicate their campaign message to the voters will not be a problem for either man.

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Georgia’s Dual Senate Races

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2020 — Georgia is the only state this year that features two US Senate races, and a new poll suggests that both are interesting.

The Peach State’s politics have garnered more national attention since 2018 as election results suggest that Georgia is moving closer to the ideological center. Still conservative, the 2018 governor’s election that saw Republican Brian Kemp slipping past former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (who has since become a national figure and one of the contenders to be Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate) by just over one percentage point. Additionally, the Democrats gained a congressional seat in the Atlanta metro area and came within 419 votes of converting a second.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler (R) to the U.S. Senate to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is leaving office at the end of the year due to health issues.

A substantial increase in the state’s minority population, almost all of which is occurring in the Atlanta metropolitan region, during the past decade (Asian, plus-31 percent; African American, plus-17 percent; Hispanic, plus-14 percent) is the chief reason for the uptick in Democratic candidate support.

With this background, the Cygnal research organization released the results of their most recent Georgia statewide poll (April 25-27; 591 Georgia voters, all but six of whom say they are definitely or probably voting) and their data finds two competitive US Senate races unfolding.

The results reveal one incumbent in serious trouble and the other headed for a potentially competitive re-election battle. In fact, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) trails not only US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), who leads the jungle primary field by over 17 points, but actually places fourth in the field behind two Democratic candidates yet close enough to them to become entangled in a statistical tie. Sen. David Perdue (R) maintains just a six-point lead over the only Democrat tested against him, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.

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COVID & Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2020 — The deadline for the Census Bureau to release the new population data is March 31, 2021, but with the entire process being delayed due to COVID-19 precautions, the ability to meet the requirement is becoming more difficult by the day. Already, the Bureau has been delayed in dispatching their door-to-door teams necessary in obtaining the responses from people who did not return their mail tabulation form.

The Trump Administration is reportedly suggesting that the March 31 deadline be postponed to sometime in the summer of 2021. If this happens, we will see a series of redistricting problems ignited in the states. First, the political leaders in New Jersey and Virginia, places that have 2021 elections and need their new state legislative lines in place well before that date, would find themselves in a difficult position.

Initially, the two states would certainly have to postpone their primary elections because both nominate their general election candidates in June. Beyond that, it is possible they would have to even postpone their general elections into 2020 or run in the obsolete boundaries that were drawn back in 2011. In either case, we could expect lawsuits being launched from whichever party loses a particular electoral contest.

Other states would be affected, too. Many have legal deadlines in place mandating that the new redistricting maps for state legislature and the US House delegation be adopted before the legislative sessions ends. Most states recess before mid-summer, which would mean special sessions being called if the legislature is to act.

The problem intensifies in the states that are either gaining or losing congressional districts in reapportionment. Currently, it appears that seven states will add seats to their delegations (the best projections suggest that Texas will gain three, Florida two, and Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon one apiece), while 10 will lose single districts (Alabama, California [for the first time in history], Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia).

The aforementioned apportionment is based upon calculations released publicly and not, of course, using the actual numbers. Therefore, we could see some differences between these projections and what the formulas actually produce when the Census Bureau finally can produce the updated real figures.

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Jersey House Competition

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2020 — The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a statewide poll of the New Jersey electorate (April 16-19; 704 New Jersey adults, 635 registered New Jersey voters, 96 percent of whom said they are certain or likely to vote in November) and while the results returned predictable figures in the presidential and Senate races, an interesting tidbit about the House races came to light.

In the presidential race, former vice president Joe Biden led President Trump 54-38 percent according to Monmouth’s latest New Jersey poll, and Sen. Cory Booker (D) led his strongest potential Republican opponent, 55-32 percent. Both sets of numbers were predictable and consistent with recent Garden State voting history.

New Jersey congressional districts: Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 11 comprise the competitive sector.

Though the Monmouth pollsters didn’t test the individual House races, they did ask the partisan preference question and segmented the congressional districts into two campaign categories, the competitive group and the non-competitive group.

Statewide, 50 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives as compared to 38 percent who would choose the Republican contender. But when looking at the competitive House category, Republicans look to have a glimmer of hope of potentially recapturing some of the seats they lost in the 2018 election.

In that year, Democrats converted Districts 2, 3, 7, and 11, gaining four seats and leaving the 12-member NJ federal delegation with only one Republican member at the outset, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in the 4th CD. Since the election, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) changed parties after being elected as a Democrat. All of these seats, including District 4, and 5 in northern New Jersey (Rep. Josh Gottheimer-D), comprise the competitive sector. Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats.

In the “safe” House category, 56 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate as compared to 31 percent who aligned themselves with the eventual Republican general election candidate. In the competitive districts, however, by a 46-45 percent plurality, the respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate. Considering that Rep. Gottheimer will not be seriously challenged, the GOP numbers in the truly contested districts should even be stronger. This type of result should continue to make many of the Garden State seats prime 2020 Republican national targets.

The safe seats, with all incumbents seeking re-election, are held by Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Donald Payne (D-Newark), and Bonnie Coleman Watson (D-Ewing Township).

The competitive seats feature party-switching Rep. Van Drew seeking his first re-election. He looks strong in the Republican primary – a first vote as a party’s new incumbent can be difficult – and will face either college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison or Amy Kennedy, wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in what should be a competitive general election. With a solid Republican primary victory, Rep. Van Drew will be favored in November.

The 3rd District may be the Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. Freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) upset then-Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) in 2018, and now faces what should be a strong GOP opponent. Venture capitalist David Richter, who was originally running in the 2nd District until Rep. Van Drew became a Republican, is considered the favorite for the GOP primary, and he appears to be a strong challenger for Rep. Kim but will have less time to develop the campaign. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has moved the state primary from June 2 to July 7.

NJ-3 looks to be the most likely of the New Jersey seats to flip. Until Kim won here two years ago, and except for a one-term lag, Republicans had held this southern New Jersey seat since 1979.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), who was first elected to the House in 1980, looks to face an easier re-election contest this year than he did two years ago. In an election when he was the Republicans’ lone survivor, Rep. Smith scored a 55-43 percent victory.

Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) will almost assuredly face state Senate Minority Leader and former statewide candidate Tom Kean Jr. Sen. Kean’s father, Tom Kean, served as New Jersey’s governor from 1982-1990. This race promises to be a premier contest in a district that a Republican has represented since 1981 until Malinowski won in the most recent vote.

In northern New Jersey’s 11th District, freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) who won another traditionally strong Republican seat that the party had held since consecutively since 1985, stands for her first re-election. Her challenger is consensus Republican candidate Rosemary Becchi, an attorney and former Capitol Hill committee staff member, who was originally challenging Tom Kean Jr. for the party nod in the 7th District.

Party leaders were able to convince her to run in the 11th CD and helped clear the field. She will be a credible challenger to Rep. Sherrill, but the congresswoman is such a strong fundraiser (already has raised $3.4 million for this election) that the race will be a difficult one for Sherrill despite what should be a favorable district.

With Republicans developing a strong slate of New Jersey US House candidates in places where they have traditionally been successful, the Garden State elections will go a long way toward determining if the GOP has any chance of re-claiming the House majority. If the Democrats stem the tide here, they very likely will retain control.

Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

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