Monthly Archives: March 2020

Collins Way Up in Georgia Senate Race

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins – surging ahead?

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2020 — A new Battleground Connect tracking poll of the Georgia Senate special election race finds Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) beginning to pull away from the jungle primary field. According to their one-night flash poll (March 24; 1,025 likely Georgia jungle primary voters held concurrently with the Nov. 3 general election), Collins has opened up a 16-point advantage over the top Democrat and expands to a full 20-point margin over appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R). The Battleground Connect survey finds Collins recording 34 percent support followed by businessman Matt Lieberman (D), son of former Connecticut senator and 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, with 18 percent and Sen. Loeffler only posting 14 percent preference. The remaining candidates, Baptist minister Raphael Warnock (D) and former US attorney Ed Tarver (D) record 13 and 5 percent, respectively.

This latest track is one of four March polls that Battleground conducted. All had 1,025 respondent sampling universes and each were one-night surveys. In their first poll, conducted on March 7, Rep. Collins’ margin over Sen. Loeffler was 29-20 percent, with Democrats Lieberman, Warnock, and Tarver trailing consecutively with 16, 12, and 5 percentage point support. Since that time, there has been a net 11-point drop in support for Loeffler vis-à-vis her position against Rep. Collins.

Additionally, Sen. Loeffler’s personal favorability index has also dropped precipitously throughout the survey series. Originally, the March 7 poll found that 38.5 percent of the Georgia electorate had a positive opinion of the appointed senator while virtually the same number held a negative impression (37.8 percent). The latest March 24 poll produced a much different finding.

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Is Biden’s Victory Secure?

By Jim Ellis

Former VP Joe Biden

March 30, 2020 — Articles have appeared in publications on successive days that somewhat surprisingly contemplate whether former vice president Joe Biden will actually reach majority delegate support for a first ballot win at the Democratic National Convention still scheduled to begin in mid-July.

Should the former VP somehow fail to obtain 1,991 votes on the first roll call a contested convention would begin, and some are introducing the idea that a deadlock could lead toward New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerging as an alternative to Biden.

Gov. Cuomo is receiving favorable media coverage for his handling of the COVID-19 virus situation in his state, which is one of the hardest hit areas in the country. Originally thought of as a possible presidential candidate at the very beginning of the process, Cuomo was first of the potential contenders to definitively pull his name from consideration.

Arriving at a contested convention at this stage of the process when calculating the delegate numbers is not a reasonable conclusion, however. While true that approximately half the states and territories still have not voted in their respective presidential primary, only 42 percent of the delegate universe (1,688) remains unclaimed. With Biden 777 votes away from the victory number according to the Green Papers election stats firm, it would take quite a negative swing for him to lose at this point.

Using simple arithmetic calculations, Biden needs only to secure 46 percent of the remaining bound first ballot delegates to win the party nomination. While he still must participate in the various primaries and attain that total, the chances of him winning are far greater than not. Post-Super Tuesday, his cumulative percentage among the nine states voting is 53.9 meaning that the future results would have to completely reverse for him to somehow lose the nomination.

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Graham Getting Close

(Former South Carolina state Democratic Party chairman, Jaime Harrison’s negative ad on opponent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R))

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2020 — A new statewide South Carolina political survey finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) falling into a surprisingly close race with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison. According to the Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies firm (March 3-11; 804 likely South Carolina general election voters), Sen. Graham’s lead over Harrison has dwindled to just 47-44 percent.

Several points about this survey. First, the Brilliant Corners operation is a relatively new firm, one that we are only seeing for the first time, and the entity doesn’t even have a reliability rating from the FiveThirtyEight statistical operation that evaluates all polling firms. Therefore, little exists with which to compare their work. Second, this poll is not in line with other published data and, third, the survey was already two weeks old before publishing.

The other two surveys released this year both give Sen. Graham double digit polling margins. East Carolina University went into the field in early February (Jan. 31-Feb. 2; 1,756 registered South Carolina voters) and projected the senator to be holding a 51-38 percent lead over Harrison. NBC News/Marist College followed a couple of weeks later (Feb. 18-21; 2,382 registered South Carolina voters) and found a similar ballot test result, 54-37 percent, in the senator’s favor.

On the other hand, the national Democrats believe this is a sleeper race for them, and based upon Harrison’s prolific fundraising, they might be right. At year’s end, Harrison had raised an impressive $7.6 million with no candidate investment. That amount cost a fair amount to raise, however, as he was left with $4.7 million in his account to begin the election year.

This is a far cry from the gross amount obtained, but is still more than enough to already run a credible campaign effort in a smaller state with inexpensive media markets. Accounting for likely outside spending and considerably more that Harrison will raise, the South Carolina Senate campaign could become an “A” level race in terms of competitive effort.

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Runoff Review – Part II

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2020 — With Gov. Greg Abbott (R) moving the Texas runoff election date, it has drastically changed the short-term Lone Star State political scene. At the end of last week, Abbott transferred the post-primary runoff election date from May 26 to July 14 in consideration of COVID-19 virus precautions.

Statewide, the US Senate Democratic primary is headed to a runoff election, as well as 15 different congressional campaigns.

In the Senate race, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who held Rep. John Carter (R-Georgetown) to a 51-48 percent re-election victory in 2018, placed first in the Democratic primary with 22.4 percent of the vote, but a long way from the 50 percent plateau a candidate needs to claim a party nomination. She will face state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) who slipped into second place by just over a percentage point in the 12-candidate field. Sen. Royce scored 14.5 percent statewide.

The eventual nominee faces three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R), who easily secured re-nomination in his Republican primary (76 percent over four opponents). The longer runoff cycle should typically help the second place finisher, since the individual has more time to change the campaign’s flow. In this case, however, the Democratic nominee, who already starts as a severe underdog to Sen. Cornyn, would lose valuable general election time with the later runoff, thus making the task of overcoming the incumbent even more formidable.

Of the 15 House runoffs, nine are viable to some degree. The six that are not lie in districts that are safe for one party or the other. For example, it matters little which Democrat wins the 13th District runoff (Trump ’16: 79.9 percent), or who eventually becomes the victorious Republican in the 18th CD secondary vote (Clinton ’16: 76.5 percent).

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) north Texas seat is typically thought of as safely Republican, but his 54 percent win percentage in 2018 was considerably below the average GOP vote. Two attorneys, Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly will now do battle until July 14 to see who faces Rep. Taylor in his first re-election bid. The two were virtually tied in the Democratic primary, 44.5 – 43.7 percent, with the slight edge going to McCaffity. Rep. Taylor will be the decided favorite in November.

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Runoff Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 25, 2020 — Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who moved the Texas run-off from May 26 to July 14 this past Friday night means that 16 federal contests – one Senate and 15 House races – will have a longer secondary campaign cycle. In Texas, if no candidate receives majority support in a partisan primary the top two finishers from the particular party advance to a runoff election.

Similar action has occurred in Alabama, where the Senate Republican runoff and secondary elections for both parties in open Congressional District 1 and for the GOP in open Congressional District 2 will now be held on July 14 instead of March 31.

In North Carolina, all federal nominations were decided in the March 3 primary except for the Republican race in Congressional District 11, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/ Buncombe County) western state open seat. The North Carolina runoff has been moved from May 12 to June 23.

Mississippi has an inconsequential runoff for the 2nd District Republican nomination in a district where Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton/Mississippi Delta) will be the prohibitive favorite in November. Yet, this election, too, has been postponed until June 23.

The schedule change could greatly affect the Alabama Senate race and may be just what former US attorney general and ex-senator Jeff Sessions needs to re-tool his campaign message and reverse his recent political fortunes. The primary yielded retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville placing ahead of Sessions, 33.4 – 31.6 percent. All post-primary polling gave Tuberville a discernible lead, but that trajectory could now change considering Sessions will soon have considerably more time to tell his political story. The July 14 winner faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in November.

In the Mobile-anchored 1st District, both parties advanced to runoff elections. The eventual Republican nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former state senator Bill Hightower advanced to the runoff election and the winner of this runoff contest will become a heavy favorite in November. Carl placed first in the primary, nipping Hightower, 38.7 – 37.5 percent. Therefore, the runoff is anybody’s game.

For the Democrats, biologist Kiani Gardner and retired Marine Corps veteran James Averhart will battle for the party nomination. Gardner placed first with a 44.1 – 40.3 percent margin over Averhart. Almost twice as many people voted in the Republican primary within the 1st District race. The Democratic nominee will have little chance in the general election from this safely Republican seat.

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