Tag Archives: Sherrod Brown

Primary Previews

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 8, 2018 — Today’s elections kick-off the prime time of primary season, with voters in four states — Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia — choosing nominees for November. Here is an outlook for each of the states:

Indiana

With no governor’s race on the ballot this year, the Republican Senate nomination campaign tops the Indiana political card, which is one of the more interesting campaigns in the country. Here, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are battling former state representative and Meyer Distributing and Meyer Logistics companies’ owner Mike Braun for the right to face first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November. Donnelly has no opposition for his party nomination.

Braun has gained national notoriety for his campaign, which has strategically melded both congressmen into basically one person. The Braun Campaign ads have characterized Reps. Rokita and Messer as being part of the Washington “swamp”, concentrating negatively on their budget and trade votes, as well as casting them as professional politicians. He even goes so far as to brandish two cardboard cutouts of the congressmen where they are dressed exactly alike and says they are both lawyers who never practiced, instead spending their entire careers in politics.

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The Stretch Drive Begins for Senate, House Races

October is here and the political stretch drive is beginning, so it is appropriate to examine where the Senate and House campaigns stand from an aggregate party division perspective.

For most of the election cycle, Republicans appeared to be on the precipice of capturing the Senate majority, taking it away from Harry Reid and the Democrats. But, new swings in momentum show a more Democratic trend.

Recently, Democratic incumbents in Florida and Ohio have gained strength and open seat contender Tammy Baldwin has seized the initiative in the open Wisconsin campaign. Sunshine State polls have been erratic, but Sen. Bill Nelson now seems to have built a consistent and sustained advantage. First-term Sen. Sherrod Brown has also seen the polls ebb and flow, but his mid to high single digit edge over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel is stabilizing, at least for the short term. Baldwin’s ad offensive and Republican former governor Tommy Thompson’s recent comments about dismantling entitlements has posted the Democratic nominee to a slight lead.

After some flirtation with breaking toward the Democrats, the pure toss-up campaigns in Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg), and Virginia (ex-senator George Allen and former governor Tim Kaine) have re-established themselves as dead heat campaigns. All three of these races will likely go down to the wire.

Additionally, there is movement toward Republicans in at least two long shot states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while Democrats are making Arizona a race. By most polls, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) still leads Republican Linda McMahon, but the gap is closing and the latter has gained the offensive.

The sleepy Pennsylvania Senate race has finally arisen, and Republican Tom Smith’s recent ad blast appears to be bringing him to within a single-digit deficit of first-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. Democrats are still likely to prevail here and in Connecticut, but there is no question that Republican candidates in both places have created some current positive momentum.

Democrat Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General, is pulling much closer to Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in their open seat battle according to most polls. As in Connecticut and Pennsylvania for the Democratic candidates, Flake still must be considered the favorite to prevail.

The Missouri campaign between Sen. Claire McCaskill who, at the beginning of the cycle appeared to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent standing for re-election, and the mistake-ridden Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is still in toss-up territory. Most believe, however, that activity in the final stretch will favor the Democratic Senator.

Republicans were thought early to be clear favorites in North Dakota and Indiana, but polling is still indicating that both of these campaigns remain close. The GOP appears to be a lock to convert Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) open Nebraska seat, and Independent Angus King continues to maintain the inside track in retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine, though the numbers are closing.

Today, Democrats look to be ahead in enough states to give them a 49-47 aggregate lead in the Senate, with four races in the toss-up column; three of which are currently Democratically held. Hence, the majority remains in abeyance.

The House has been the most stable of the federal political entities in the 2012 cycle. Post-census redistricting will prove to be the determining factor here and that favors the Republicans. It appears the partisan swing will deviate between a +/- three seat margin in terms of aggregate gains and losses for the two parties, but Republican control seems secure.

Democrats could be gaining as many as three seats in Florida and potentially the same or more in Illinois. Republicans are positioned to score similarly in North Carolina. New York and California remain as wild cards.

While the GOP appeared to be in position to gain seats up until the last two weeks, Democrats are enjoying a swing in some House races, too. The best estimate indicates Republicans will comfortably retain control, but Democrats could make an aggregate gain in the low single digits.

Today, it appears that 233 seats are safely or trending Republican as compared to 186 headed to the Democrats. Sixteen seats are considered too close to call, with 11 of the 16 being in GOP currently held districts.

The Conflicting Trends

Though we spend a great deal of time writing about and analyzing polls, it is important to remember that even though individual ballot test data is helpful and allows us to gauge campaign trends, the isolated individual polls themselves can be misleading. Today’s examples coming from Nevada and Ohio are a case in point. In both states, polls conducted during the same sampling period are producing considerably different results.

In Nevada, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 18-20; 501 likely Nevada voters) and Public Opinion Strategies (Sept. 19-20; 500 likely Nevada voters) can’t even agree on which Senatorial candidate is leading the race. A similar range conflict is found in the Ohio Senate race between Gravis Marketing (Sept. 21-22; 594 likely Ohio voters) and the Washington Post (Sept. 19-23; 759 likely Ohio voters), though the incumbent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), leads in both studies.

Looking at the Silver State, PPP projects Democrat Shelley Berkley to have a 48-44 percent lead over appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R). But POS is posting Heller to the opposite position, as they show the Senator topping Berkley 44-39 percent. Among the Buckeye State likely voters (the Washington Post poll provides separate results for their larger sampling universe of 934 registered voters and the whittled down cell segment of 759 likely voters), the WP Poll gives Sen. Brown a substantial 51-43 percent advantage, while Gravis sees only a one-point difference (Brown over state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) 44-43 percent) between the two candidates.

Examining the aggregate for all four polls, the net swing in Nevada is D minus 7 points from PPP to POS, while both show the same level of support for Republican Heller (44%). Interestingly, the Gravis and Washington Post Ohio polls reveal a similar effect. While Democrat Brown swings seven points between the two surveys, Republican Mandel scores the same level of support in both, 43 percent.

The presidential numbers in both states also show similar divisions. PPP gives President Obama a 52-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Nevada, while POS shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent. In this case, PPP is six points higher for the Democratic candidate and three points lower for the Republican for a net swing of nine points. In Ohio, the Washington Post gives Mr. Obama a 52-44 percent edge among likely voters while Gravis Marketing projects only a one-point 45-44 percent margin in the President’s favor. Again, the two polls detect the same level of support for the Republican candidate, but vary rather substantially (once more, a difference of seven points) for the Democratic contender.

All four of these polls are live interview surveys, as compared to those using the Interactive Voice Response method, so these studies are all in the “apples to apples” comparison category. All are making their own unpublished determination as to what they define as a “likely voter.” The pollsters weight the responses to mirror the state’s population and voter registration and preference history but don’t reveal their particular weighting equations. And, clearly, this distinction is key in relation to the Democratic scale because the Republican numbers among these various studies remains constant, or virtually constant (GOP presidential number in Nevada is different).

What does this tell us? Again, looking beyond the original ballot test numbers, we are seeing clear variance, particularly on the Democratic side. This is more than likely the result of the particular pollster’s sample selection, weighting equation, and likely voter determination while, of course remembering that all polls are a mere snap shot in time of a very small group of people. This is why contrasting multiple polls to obtain a picture of a particular campaign is so important, because the comparison tells a much different story than looking at any one of these polls individually.

Throughout this election cycle, pollsters have been detecting an electorate that is inconsistent and can abruptly swing. The polls we compare today certainly continue to show such characteristics. This means, to a large extent, that we are flying blind into Election Day, and that the final determining factors either haven’t yet happened or are not fully cemented.

The Importance of Ohio

Ohio Congressional Districts

Since the 2000 presidential election, the state of Ohio has been front and center in determining the national political outcome. Despite having a Republican electoral history, the state voted twice for Bill Clinton before returning to support George W. Bush in both of his campaigns. In 2008, Ohio went 51-47 percent for candidate Barack Obama. Now four years later, it again becomes the quintessential political battleground. If Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is to unseat President Obama, his path must travel through the Buckeye State.

Along with the presidential contest, Republicans are hoping to make the Ohio Senate race highly competitive and appear to be doing so. State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who has already raised over $10 million for the statewide campaign, is challenging first term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). This race will be determined along the same lines as the presidential contest and it is plausible that the party winning at the top of the ticket will also sweep in its Senatorial candidate. House races are critically important here, too, with as many as four contests in play for the general election.

The economy will be the determining factor here, as poor financial conditions during the last decade is one reason Ohio’s population growth rate was so anemic during the last census period. The state increased its number of residents only 1.6 percent during that time, which caused it to lose two congressional districts. Along with New York, this is the most in the nation. The US population grew at a 9.7 percent clip during the commensurate period.

The Obama campaign hopes to capture the senior vote with its depiction of the Republican budget proposals as being bad for the elderly. Conversely, the GOP will attempt to coalesce small business owners around the President’s statement saying that individual entrepreneurs didn’t build their own enterprises. Obama will, as he did in 2008, build a coalition of minority voters and single women. Romney will attempt to convince regular church goers to support him en masse.

Assuming that each is successful with their strategic objectives and the aforementioned voter segments break down about evenly in Ohio, another issue could become a wild card – at least that’s what the Romney campaign hopes, as evidenced during the visit to the state last week.

It is the coal issue that could possibly become determinative in Ohio. Perhaps Mr. Obama’s biggest mistake of his presidency was pushing the Cap & Trade measure as his first major legislative initiative. His party suffered greatly at the 2010 ballot box in coal country, and Cap & Trade was a big reason for the Democrats’ poor performance.

When veteran Democratic congressmen Alan Mollohan (WV-1) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) supported the legislation, they were summarily removed from office and clearly because of their energy positions. Things got so bad for Mid-Atlantic Democrats that now-Sen. Joe Manchin actually resulted to taking a gun and shooting a copy of the Cap & Trade bill in one of his campaign ads. The question is, will this voter vitriol continue at the same fever pitch in 2012?

It may in Ohio. With eight public polls being conducted in the state since July 1, most falling within a 3.2 point range between the two candidates (the two extremes gave Obama an eight-point advantage; the other had Romney up two), it is probable that the end result will come down to just a handful of votes.

This is why the Romney campaign is turning their attention to coal, as illustrated by the candidate’s visit to an Ohio coal mine last week. Coal is responsible for generating 82 percent of Ohio’s electrical power and, despite being the seventh-largest state in America, the Buckeye’s rank fourth in coal usage and 10th in production.

It is clear Ohio voters will be hearing a great deal about energy issues throughout the remaining campaign weeks and a lot about each presidential candidate’s position on the various means of energy production. Because coal is such an integral part of the lives and economic well-being of Ohioans, Romney may have found an issue that creates a definitive contrast with Obama where the president has little maneuvering ability. Will this make the difference in Ohio? Time will soon tell.

Several Races Tighten: Fla., Ohio, Calif.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Four new polls were released on Friday and each showed developing races that are becoming close. In yet another study that depicts Rep. Connie Mack IV
(R-FL-14) performing very well against two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Survey USA produces numbers reflecting a hot Florida Senate race. According to S-USA (July 17-19; 647 likely Florida voters), Mack actually leads the incumbent Democrat 48-42 percent. The same sample gives President Obama a 48-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney, telling us there is no Republican skew in the respondent sample.

Since May 1, eight public polls of this Florida race have been released from six different pollsters (Quinnipiac University conducted three of the surveys as part of their monthly polling program). In five of the eight Nelson leads. In the other three, challenger Mack has the advantage. The swing goes all the way from 49-36 percent in the senator’s favor (Public Policy Polling; May 31-June 3) to Mack leading 46-37 percent (Rasmussen Reports, July 9). This provides us a net curve of 22 points. Such a large polling variance often reveals an extremely volatile campaign with an electorate willing to change course on a dime. There has been enough polling to tell us that the Florida Senate race features true competition and the thought that Sen. Nelson would have a relatively easy ride to re-election has now been firmly dispelled.

Staying in the Senate, Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Ohio voters) projects that the Ohio race is continuing upon a competitive path. The latest RR data gives first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 46-42 percent lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The senator has maintained at least a small lead for most of the previous 12-month period. In the presidential race, this Rasmussen sample returned a 47-46 percent spread in the president’s favor.

Other polls have shown much stronger leads for Sen. Brown. Seven surveys have been taken of the Ohio Senate race since the beginning of May, from four different pollsters. All show Brown ahead. His advantage ranges from the four-point lead in the current Rasmussen poll all the way to sixteen (50-34 percent; Quinnipiac University, June 19-25).

Polling also indicates that two southern California congressional campaigns are very close. In the new 24th Congressional District, in what appears to be a pure 50/50 toss-up seat for incumbent Rep. Lois Capps (D), Public Opinion Strategies, polling for Republican Abel Maldonado’s campaign (June 26-28; 400 registered CA-24 voters just now released), projects a two-point race with the incumbent leading 48-46 percent. In the jungle primary, Capps received 46.4 percent, Maldonado obtained 29.7 percent, and Republican Chris Mitchum, son of late actor Robert Mitchum, garnered 21.5 percent. With the combined Republican primary vote exceeding a majority of the ballots cast (51.2 percent), the general election battle is clearly becoming a toss-up.

To the southeast in Long Beach, another survey indicates a close race developing in a newly created open seat, numbered District 47. Here, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong qualified for the general election with the former scoring 33.8 percent to the latter’s 29.4 percent in a field of eight candidates.

Though this district sets up well for the Democrats, a Probolsky Research survey for the DeLong campaign (June 28-July 3, 400 registered CA-47 voters – released just now) gives Lowenthal only a 44-41 percent advantage as the general election campaign begins in earnest.

This race merits attention and should be considered a lower-level upset opportunity for Republicans. Lowenthal has been underwhelming on the fundraising front, raising just over $511,000, which pales in comparison to DeLong’s $862,908. Gov. Jerry Brown carried this seat 50-41 percent; Sen. Barbara Boxer won it 49-41 percent; and Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris lost the district 39-45 percent. The Democrats’ voter registration advantage is a little over 10 percent more than Republicans. This campaign carries a Lean Democratic rating with movement toward the toss-up column.