Monthly Archives: January 2021

Early Senate 2022 Previews:
Florida & North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 14, 2021 — Regardless of how many in-cycle Senate seats – there are 34 in the 2022 election cycle – come into political play, we can count on seeing Florida and North Carolina once again hosting crucial battleground campaigns.

Florida is always consistent in their close vote totals, particularly when remembering the 2000 presidential campaign — and pollsters, while typically forecasting tight finishes, have often missed the outcomes. In fact, the cumulative polling community has predicted close Democratic victories in the last four key statewide elections: two presidential (2016 & 2020), one senatorial (2018), one gubernatorial (2018), and been wrong on each occasion.

Since 2016, inclusive, Florida has hosted eight statewide races with Republicans winning seven. Yet, their average cumulative vote percentage for these eight victorious campaigns was just 50.7 percent, with the high point being 52.0 percent (Sen. Marco Rubio-R, 2016). Democrats recorded the low winning total: 50.04 percent — 6,753 votes from 8,059,155 votes cast; agriculture commissioner, 2018; winner Nikki Fried (D) vs. Matt Caldwell (R). The aggregate average among the statewide contests in these three most recent election years is 50.7 – 47.9 percent in the GOP’s favor.

With this background, Sen. Rubio will presumably seek a third term next year against what will surely be a highly competitive Democratic opponent. At this point, most of the speculation surrounds two Democratic House members, neither of whom has closed the door on either running for the Senate or challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as he seeks a second term.

Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) and Val Demings (D-Orlando) are the two most prominently mentioned prospective contenders, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one run for Senate and the other for governor. It is less likely that we would see a primary developing between the pair in one of the races.

Other names being floated are Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), who is always mentioned as a potential statewide candidate because he previously served both as attorney general and governor and lost two other statewide campaigns. Other potential contenders are Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami). The state’s lone Democratic office holder, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, is more often associated with running for governor as opposed to the Senate contest.

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2022 Senate Outlook

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 13, 2021 — Now that we know Democrats will have a bare 50-50 majority with the vice president breaking the tie, it’s an appropriate time to look ahead to the next election in order to see which party might have the initial advantage.

In an ironic bad news/good news scenario for Republicans, because the party lost the Georgia runoff elections and their majority, the GOP now has further winnable 2022 targets in order to attempt to regain the chamber advantage.

In the new election cycle, a total of 34 Senate seats will be on the ballot. Adding the 2020 final results, we see that 20 Republicans will be defending theirs seats in 2022 as compared with 14 Democrats. The ’22 cycle also includes two reruns from 2020 as both Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), winners of special elections, will again be on the ballot in order to secure respective six-year terms.

Reviewing political voting trends for the past six years in each of these states reveals that now the Democrats actually have more senators seeking re-election (4-3) than Republicans where the four-year major statewide vote average is under 50 percent.

Averaging five data points: the partisan vote percent from the individual senator’s most recent election, the two presidential campaigns (2020 and 2016), the state’s other Senate election, and the most recent gubernatorial vote provides us a partisan mean average vote from the immediate past four-year period.

Doing so finds that Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (AZ), Maggie Hassan (NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), and Raphael Warnock (GA) see their party’s cumulative four-year average dropping under 50 percent.

Republicans have three such Senate situations. Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), Ron Johnson (WI), and Richard Burr (NC) all represent states where their party’s average vote total drops under the majority mark for the tested period. Already, Sens. Toomey and Burr have announced they will not seek re-election, leaving at least two of the Republicans’ three most vulnerable seats in an open situation.

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Definitive Georgia Data

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2021 — Now that the 159 county returns have been published for the Georgia Senate runoffs and a third more obscure statewide Public Service Commission race, we can see just why the Democrats won the two Senate contests.

The fact that Republican Public Service Commissioner Lauren McDonald was re-elected with the same type of vote margin that saw both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win allows us to see just where the federal Republican statewide vote was deficient.

As we know, all of these contests were extremely tight. Rev. Warnock had the strongest victory margin among the three, but even his was only 51-49 percent. The final Ossoff victory spread was 50.6 – 49.4 percent, and McDonald, the lone Republican victor, won in the same percentage neighborhood, 50.4 – 49.6 percent.

Obviously, there is little difference among these races and, as we covered previously, the county returns throughout the state show a strong similarity in the Senate totals, thus proving the voters perceived the candidates as being a team. McDonald’s victory, however, does show at least some ticket-splitting tendency was present as enough voters returned to the Republican column to allow him to win re-election.

The drop-off turnout percentage from the general election to these Senate runoffs is the lowest in Georgia political history. The final runoff participation figure recorded a high of 4,474,447 voters, or 90.3 percent of the number voting in the regular Senate elections. Typically, secondary election turnout drops by about one-third. With so much on the line in these runoffs, however, the voters responded in kind.

The key to the election, however, appears to be the percentage turnout in the counties. Democrats maximized their strength to a greater degree, which proved to be the key difference in the Senate runoff outcomes.

Across the board, McDonald ran ahead of the Senate Republicans in virtually every county, but generally only exceeded the other two statewide GOP candidates by less than a percentage point. This slight increased vote spread, however, was enough to turn close losses into a tight victory for the GOP state official.

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NY-22: Up 12, Down 14, Now +27

By Jim Ellis

Former New York Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) leads by a whopping
27 votes in her bid to return to the House in the NY-22 race.

Jan. 11, 2021 — The vacant NY-22 electoral count continues to drag on with an end possibly coming soon … at least until the post-election lawsuits begin. The judge still reviewing the initial voting results, Oswego County Supreme Court of the 5th Judicial District of New York Justice Scott DelConte, is personally reviewing all of the contested ballots that at one time totaled approximately 2,100.

Former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R), originally elected in 2016 and who Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) unseated in 2018, indicated that the latest count, which election officials provided to the candidates, shows her holding a 27-vote districtwide edge. Originally, Tenney led by 12 votes, then, a later tabulation allowed Brindisi to turn the tables to post a 14 vote lead; now Tenney appears to have re-captured the slight advantage, this time by a whopping 27 votes.

The former congresswoman was quoted in a media statement saying, “now that every undisputed ballot has been counted twice, we are still in the lead.” At issue, however, are between 400-500 contested ballots recently delivered to the Justice from Oneida County, an entity that Tenney carried.

Of the district’s eight counties, six of them have finally completed their tabulation after correcting the errors in their ballot challenge procedure per the judge’s instructions. Only small Tioga County, approximately 5,700 votes, had no issues after the initial count. The other seven counties, Justice DelConte concluded, had not complied with New York election law in processing and reporting their challenged ballots; hence, the presiding judge returned the affected ballots to the county offices with orders to correctly process and account for the undetermined votes.

The two remaining outstanding counties in relation to their challenged ballots, Broome and Oneida, are the district’s largest local entities. Together all of Oneida County and the 22nd District portion of Broome, which contains almost the entire latter county’s resident number, account for 60.4 percent of the district’s population. Tenney carried Oneida, with a 50.1 – 48.5 percent vote spread. Brindisi, the 116th Congress incumbent, placed first in Broome County, 56.5 – 40.8 percent. All but the challenged ballots are accounted for, however, and Tenney still maintains the slightest of district leads.

A total of 100,618 votes were cast in Oneida County and 89,775 in Broome. Districtwide, not counting the challenged votes, the district vote total exceeds 311,000 ballots.

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Georgia: A Deeper Dive

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Senator-elect Jon Ossoff (D) at left, and Senator-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) – winners of Tuesday’s 2021 runoff in the Peach State.

Jan. 7, 2021 — With original vote totals being finalized for the Georgia runoffs we see Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) defeating appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) by 73,404 votes (50.8 percent) while Jon Ossoff (D) unseated Sen. David Perdue (R) with a margin of 35,615 tallies (50.4 percent).

Looking at the individual county returns along with adhering to the premise that despite what was a record overall runoff turnout (89.7 percent of the general election participation factor), the Democrats obviously did a better job of getting their voters to return for the secondary election than Republicans.

The result was surprising to us in that we predicted a close Republican victory in both contests. We were correct in forecasting that one party would win both seats, and a closer look at the county data indicates that the voters, as well as the contenders themselves running as teams, perceived the two individual runoffs as a candidate slate.

In our final analysis, missing the actual result can largely be attributed to a mistake in interpreting the early voting data.

The Target Smart statistical organization was reporting the early vote numbers and, throughout the pre-election vote-casting period, it was apparent that two points were running in the Democrats’ favor and three for the Republicans. It was clear at the end that the black turnout ran three points higher when compared to the regular election early voting numbers. Second, Democrats had closed the early voting partisan participation percentage gap by a net five percentage points.

These factors were countered in that the Republicans led in overall early voting and the numbers of those 50 years old and over were also up substantially over their regular 2020 election rate. Additionally, the categorization of over 211,000 unaffiliated voters being among the early voters was looked at as largely benefiting the GOP when remembering that 115,039 individuals had voted for the Libertarian candidate in the regular Perdue-Ossoff campaign, thus forcing the runoff. Since they are primarily right-of-center voters, it was presumed that they would break toward Perdue and Loeffler in the secondary elections.

This analysis proved incorrect. We can now see that the increased black participation rate and the significant closing of the overall early voting gap between Republicans and Democrats were clearly the more important clues as the precursor to the final runoff vote totals rather than the 50-plus increased turnout, overall rate, and perceived unaffiliated leaning.

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