Monthly Archives: August 2015

House: Looking Ahead

Aug. 17, 2015 — With the presidential contest dominating the political news coverage on a daily basis, very little attention has been paid to the US House races. Having what appears to be a secure Republican majority and a low number of open seats, the congressional campaigns will not likely bring much drama in 2016. The states under court-mandated mid-decade redistricting: Florida, Virginia, and possibly Texas, are unlikely to threaten the Republicans’ majority status either, though we could see several seats shift between the parties.

Coming off a 2014 election that sent 59 freshmen into the House and features 239 members who had served three full terms or less when they were sworn into the 114th Congress, the coming election promises much less turnover. In the 2012 election cycle, 62 seats were open followed by another 47 in last November’s vote. (The figures count districts in which an incumbent was defeated in a primary.) So far this year, we see 20 open seats (10R; 10D), not including two vacant districts that were filled in 2015 special elections.

According to our own Ellis Insight political forecast, 234 seats are safe (182), likely (36), or lean (16) Republican, while Democrats see 179 districts coming their way: 155 in the safe category, 16 likely landing in their column, and seven more leaning in their direction.

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New Hampshire First: Sanders Tops Hillary

Aug. 14, 2015 — For a number of weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been building presidential political momentum. His crowds have been large and growing. The media covers him extensively. Yet, these positive attributes hadn’t translated into serious polling gains against Hillary Clinton … until now.

The Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey, released Thursday, finds Sen. Sanders, for the first time, overtaking Clinton, 44-37 percent, in the important New Hampshire primary. The poll appears methodologically sound. During the period of Aug. 7-10, the pollsters interviewed 442 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. The results mean a net swing of 46 points in Sanders’ direction when comparing the organization’s March 2015 poll. During the interval between surveys, Sanders gained 36 points and Clinton lost 10.

The pollsters asked some interesting under-questions that provide some telling responses. The most troubling tally, from a Clinton perspective, is the group members’ enthusiasm about her campaign. Despite 65 percent of the total response unit saying they believe she will win the Democratic nomination, only 35 percent of those saying they are voting for her “are excited about her candidacy to become president.” A majority of her voters (51 percent) say they “could support but are not enthusiastic about her candidacy.”

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Missouri Poll: Bad News for Everyone — Almost

Aug. 13, 2015 — Public Policy Polling often presents surveys that find virtually everyone with a negative personal approval rating, but their new Missouri study may be the most bizarre they’ve ever released. While it is typical for most of their political figures to record upside-down personal favorability ratios – their automated results skew negative – it is strange when virtually the one public official holding a positive number was tainted with a highly publicized sex scandal.

Three years ago, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) had to drop his bid for governor because of embarrassing news stories detailing his relationship with a stripper. Kinder quickly pivoted away from trying to seek a promotion, and was surprisingly successful in winning a 49-46 percent re-election victory despite his spate of negative publicity and the Democratic governor cruising to victory.

The new PPP survey released Tuesday (Aug. 7-9; 859 registered Missouri voters; 440 Missouri Republican primary voters) tested several Missouri 2016 campaigns, including the open governor’s race and Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R) re-election bid. They did not release any numbers for presidential candidates, neither favorability scores nor ballot tests.

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Trump Ahead in Iowa; New Dem Numbers, Too

Aug. 12, 2015 — Public Policy Polling (Aug. 7-9; 619 usual Iowa Republican primary voters; 567 usual Iowa Democratic primary voters) surveyed the Hawkeye State electorate and found, as in all other places, that Donald Trump has pulled into a lead. The survey has a methodological issue, however.

The pollsters screened for “usual primary voters” and not likely caucus attenders. As we know, both parties hold caucus meetings in Iowa rather than a direct primary. How this affects the poll’s reliability is open to conjecture, but it is a considerable factor.

According to the data, Trump has overtaken Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the man who has been leading here for the better part of a year. In this study, Trump takes 19 percent of the committed support, followed by Walker and Dr. Ben Carson with 12 percent apiece. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush posts 11 percent, and Carly Fiorina, enjoying a major bump from her debate performance in the secondary event, catapults to 10 percent. It remains to be seen if Fiorina can develop staying power or whether this improved performance is simply a debate hype blip.

Each of the Republican candidates, including Trump, has healthy favorability ratings with the exception of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (34:44 percent positive to negative), Sen. Rand Paul (31:45 percent), Sen. Lindsey Graham (22:33 percent), former governors George Pataki (14:25 percent), and Jim Gilmore (4:16 percent).

The poll detects how the candidates might fare if people went to the polls and voted, but organizing a caucus participation system is a dissimilar format that could produce substantially different results.

For the Democrats, headlines continue to suggest that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton, but his movement is negligible. According to PPP, Clinton leads Sanders 52-25 percent, which isn’t markedly different than what we have previously seen.

No other candidate scores in double-digits. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley registers seven percent, with ex-Virginia Sen. Jim Webb attracting three percent, and former Rhode Island Governor and Sen. Lincoln Chafee barely scratching the polling surface at one percent. The poll did not include Vice President Joe Biden.

The methodology has two flaws for the Democrats. As on the Republican side, the sample is based upon “usual primary voters” and not caucus attenders. Considering that Clinton will likely have a superior campaign ground organization to Sanders, her numbers will probably increase in the caucus format.

Excluding Biden, however, may be the bigger problem. Since the Vice President is seriously considering entering the race, the poll does not provide an accurate depiction of the electorate’s position without his presence.

Webb and Chafee are the two candidates who have upside down favorability ratings. Webb records a 16:21 percent negative ratio, while Chafee, a former Republican, scores 9:22 percent.

Clinton does extremely well on the favorability question among members of her own party, scoring 75:15 percent. Again, we see the pattern that virtually all of her negative ratings, which normally do produce overall upside-down ratios, come almost wholly from Republicans and Independents.

Vitter Drops Behind; Pence Update

Aug. 11, 2015 — A new poll suggests that early predictions regarding the Louisiana governor’s race may be changing. It has been a foregone conclusion that Sen. David Vitter (R) will win his state’s open chief executive position later this year, and then appoint his own successor. That may well be the end result, but this latest data indicates his victory path may not be so clear-cut.

Pollster Verne Kennedy’s Market Research Insight, a Pensacola, Florida-based survey research firm that concentrates on southern political campaigns, released a new study placing Vitter behind another Republican candidate but remaining ahead of the top Democrat in the jungle primary format. The polling dates and sample size are not yet available.

According to the reported MRI data, it is now Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) who leads the field with 24 percent, followed by Vitter’s 21 percent, while Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards holds 20 percent.

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