Monthly Archives: March 2012

Conflicting Polls in Ohio, Florida Senate Races

New polls are in the public domain from Ohio and Florida with some very divergent results, particularly relating to Ohio.

Within the same timing realm, Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports sampled Ohio voters and questioned them about the upcoming US Senate race between first term incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) and newly chosen Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer. Quinnipiac conducted their survey during the March 20-26 period and interviewed 1,246 registered Ohio voters. Rasmussen launched a one-day poll, March 26, and questioned 500 likely voters. Quinnipiac gathers its responses through live telephone interviews. Rasmussen Reports employs an automated system.

Therefore, the two methodologies are quite different. Many polling analysts question Quinnipiac’s long sampling period, while believing Rasmussen is not in the field long enough. Most pollsters attempt to complete their surveys in three calling days. This allows for a compact “three-day track,” which can help detect sudden movement relating to particular happenings. Both pollsters weight their answers to bring samples in line with demographic complexion, political party disposition, and voting trend history. Yet, as you will see, their results are diametrically different.

The latest Q-Poll shows Brown leading Mandel 46-36 percent, which is similar to their Feb. 7-12 poll that posted the incumbent to a 48-35 percent advantage. But Rasmussen Reports reveals a totally different finding, placing the two candidates in a 43-43 percent tie. Several other polls have shown this race to be close, but most have reported margins closer to the Q-Poll. Since both candidates are well-funded and Ohio will be such a battleground for the presidential election, expect this race to be close by Election Day regardless of how the two candidates are positioned today.

In Florida, after a series of polls revealed the race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) to be close, Quinnipiac’s March 20-26 poll (1,228 registered Florida voters) is posting the Democrat to a 44-36 percent lead. This is a seven-point swing in Nelson’s favor when compared to the January Q-Poll (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) that gave the senator only a one-point lead, 41-40 percent.

There are a couple of reasons explaining the swing. First, the January Q-Poll sampling universe was more favorable to Republicans. In that sample, 35.1 percent of the respondents self-identified as being members of the GOP, versus only 26.6 percent saying they were Democrats. The remainder, 38.1 percent, claimed to be Independents or “other.” The March sample was more in the Democrats’ favor. In this group, 31.0 percent described themselves as Republicans and 31.9 percent as Democrats. Independents and others comprised 40.3 percent of the respondent pool. The actual breakdown of Florida registered voters is 36.1 percent Republican; 40.5 percent Democrat; and 23.3 percent Independent and “Other.”

But the sample pool is only one reason why Nelson may be gaining support. Former interim Sen. George LeMieux, opposing Mack in the Republican primary, is on television and radio with attack ads, attempting to distinguish Rep. Mack from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R), and likening the former to renegade actor Charlie Sheen because of reported bar fights in the younger Mack’s past and episodes of what the LeMieux ads call the congressman’s “road rage.” The swing toward Nelson in the latest Q-Poll can be at least partially attributed to the LeMieux ads.

As we know, a poll is merely a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and many times anomaly results do occur. To get the best understanding of campaign movement, it is important to consider many polls over a long period of time. What is important is the trend toward election day, and not necessarily the individual numbers themselves.

Since there have already been several inconsistencies in both of these states, we can reasonably expect greater movement in the coming months as the Nov. 6 election nears. Count on both the Ohio and Florida Senate races being among the most interesting in the country.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.

Analyzing Shocker Senate Polls in Ohio and Nebraska

Two polls hit the public domain yesterday that give the Democrats reason to pause. According to Rasmussen Reports, Ohio GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who many political professionals have long believed possesses the best candidate skills of all Republican contenders, has pulled into a 43-43 percent dead heat with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Mandel scored 63 percent of the Republican vote in the March 6 primary, so he is already the official GOP nominee.

This new Rasmussen Reports poll, (March 26; 500 registered Ohio voters) is not the first to show Mandel getting close to Brown, but certainly is the survey turning in the best Republican numbers to date. Fifteen polls have been commissioned here since March 2011, and the only other one showing the campaign even in the realm of a toss-up was Rasmussen’s Feb. 8 survey that put Mandel within four points of Brown, 40-44 percent. Another study that had Mandel even within ten points of the senator was Public Policy Polling’s Oct. 13-16 survey that revealed a 48-40 percent spread.

The one finding that all 15 polls have in common, however, is that none show Brown over, or even at, 50 percent. A polling axiom has always been that incumbents are in political trouble when they fall below the majority mark. Such does not always prove to be the case in practice, but it is interesting that Sen. Brown’s poll numbers remain stagnant between a relatively small 43-49 percent segment in 15 polls from four different pollsters over a 12-month period. This data, coupled with Mandel’s strong fundraising ability (he had raised $5.8 million to Brown’s $6.5 million by year’s end, clearly the best of any Republican challenger nationally) does suggest that the Ohio Senate race will become more competitive as the campaign progresses.

Many Democrats claim that Rasmussen Reports, largely because of their small sample draws and employing an automated questionnaire model, tend to skew their results toward their own conservative bias. Comparing RR polls, however, to actual results generally does not support such criticism. The Democrats certainly howled when Rasmussen released the first Nebraska poll after former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) returned from New York to enter the 2012 open seat Senate race. The RR data (March 5; 500 registered Nebraska voters) gave GOP Attorney General Jon Bruning, the leading Republican senatorial contender, a 55-33 percent lead over the former Democratic senator.

Yesterday, the Democratic survey research firm Public Policy Polling (March 22-25; 1,028 registered Nebraska voters via automated calls) surveyed the Cornhusker State electorate and actually found a similar result to the Rasmussen study. According to PPP, Bruning enjoys a 54-37 percent advantage, certainly within the same range as the RR conclusion. Obviously, this is not good news for former Sen. Kerrey and the Democrats, who know the former statewide office holder is their best chance of keeping the seat in the Democratic column.

Compounding Kerrey’s problem is that he trails even lesser known and lightly supported Republican primary candidates. Against state Sen. Deb Fischer (R), who is unfamiliar to more than 60 percent of the electorate, Kerrey trails 38-48 percent. When paired with state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who himself trails Bruning 18-46 percent in the commensurate GOP nomination poll of Nebraska voters, the former senator is behind 38-52 percent. On top of that, he is viewed favorably by just 36 percent of the people as compared to 51 percent who possess an unfavorable opinion of him.

At least in the early going, the Kerrey re-entry into the Nebraska Senate race has certainly not tipped the balance of power toward the Democrats.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that almost all of the 43 multi-congressional district maps are legally in place, little is occurring on the redistricting front, meaning that the election year 2012 political playing field has basically been established. This notwithstanding, some action did occur in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate committee of jurisdiction passed a new state Senate map to replace the one the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down. Full Senate action is expected shortly. Expect the legal challenge to the congressional map to drag on until election timing forces a decision, a similar pattern to what has occurred in many other places. Regardless of how the lower courts rule, the congressional plan will eventually come before the Florida Supreme Court. The most difficult issue to resolve is whether the congressional map complies with the voter-enacted redistricting initiative and the measure’s inherent conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – Looks like it’s back to the drawing board yet again. The state House, which previously approved the congressional map, now has voted it down, sending it back to committee for re-drawing. The state Senate and House are still miles apart on a four-district map, meaning the process could still find its way to court for a judicial draw. Kansas will likely be the last state to complete redistricting. The Sunflower State primary is Aug. 7.

LOUISIANA (current delegation: 6R-1D; loses one seat) – The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Louisiana may not proceed with its reapportionment lawsuit this year. The state was arguing that the reapportionment formula should only be allowed to count legal residents. Louisiana lost one seat in 2010 reapportionment. The high court’s ruling means any eventual ruling on the merits of the state’s case will not affect the 2012 elections.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The Granite State, with the easiest redistricting job in the country (the current lines are only 254 people out of balance) will soon pass a new congressional map, as its state legislative leaders indicated this past week. The final version will be a “least change” plan, since so little is required to bring the lines into reapportionment compliance. The approach is bad news for Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), whose western district is much more Democratic than its eastern counterpart. Bass is again being challenged by the woman he beat only 48-47 percent in 2010 – Ann McLane Kuster (D).

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – After losing their legal challenge to the new South Carolina congressional map last week, the Democratic plaintiffs have decided to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. So far, the high court has postponed action on such lawsuits (e.g., the SCOTUS decision regarding the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuits), thus keeping the legally processed maps intact for the current election cycle. It is reasonable to believe this appeal will be handled in a similar manner, and that the Palmetto State map will stand for at least the 2012 election.

Energy Policy and Presidential Politics

The energy issue, as it often does in national elections, will again be front and center in the 2012 presidential election, especially with gas prices assured to be at an all-time high. The Gallup organization just released a report about Americans’ attitudes and impressions of energy-related issues. The results suggest a movement toward the Republican position of increasing domestic energy production and reveals President Obama to be on the short side of the Keystone Pipeline controversy.

In relation to Keystone, by a margin of 57-29 percent, the respondents favored building the oil transport structure that would begin in Canada and extend to refineries in Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and export terminals along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Even a plurality of self-identified Democrats (44-38 percent) support the pipeline construction.

But the swing within the electorate, and a potential electoral problem for the President, is decidedly toward energy production versus concern for the environment. For only the second sustained time since 2001, more people (47-44 percent) favored energy development than environmental protection. The swing in this direction has been marked since 2001. Today, the gap among Republicans on this question has swung 29 points in favor of production. Independents have gone from a +24 for environment to just a +8. Even Democrats have moved 10 points closer to development from a +32 pro-environment gap in 2001 to a +22 today. Continuing these trends could give the GOP a boost as the November election draws near.