Monthly Archives: August 2021

Michigan’s Lost Seat

Michigan Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2021 — Losing a congressional seat is nothing new to the Michigan delegation. Since the 1980 census, inclusive, the state has lost a district in every reapportionment and two in the 1990 iteration. Today, we continue our series about the states gaining and losing congressional districts under 2020 national reapportionment with a look at the Wolverine State.

Michigan is difficult to draw not only because of the consistent seat losses, but so many of the state’s districts abut immovable objects: i.e., an international or state border, or a body of water. Under the current map, 10 of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts at least partially border a country, state, or lake.

The Michigan per district population number for the 2020 census is a high 775,179 individuals. High per district resident numbers often occur when a state loses a seat. In this case, all of Michigan’s 14 districts must gain population, hence the underlying reason for another delegation reduction.

Another factor in making the state a rather unique draw for the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that is tasked with creating the new congressional map for the initial time, is the areas needing to gain the most population lie in opposite ends of the state. This, added to the fact that over 70 percent of the current districts border an immovable object, means the 2021 redistricting process is a significant challenge for the eleven commissioners (4R; 3D; 4N) with no previous experience in drawing political maps.

The area with the largest population shortfall comes in the northern part of the state. Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) 5th District is the seat furthest away from the population quota, down 104,476 individuals. Directly to his west, Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th District is 77,325 people under quota, and to the north all the way to the Canadian border, Rep. Jack Bergman’s (R-Watersmeet) Upper Peninsula 1st District will require an additional 70,829 residents. Combined, these three seats are 252,630 people short of the population quota for three congressional districts.

The area in the second-most need of population is the city of Detroit. The two districts that encompass the city, Districts 13 (Rep. Rashida Tlaib-D) and 14 (Rep. Brenda Lawrence-D) are a combined 184,290 people short for a pair of districts. Because both CDs 13 and 14 and majority minority seats, it is more than probable that the commission won’t collapse these districts because of Voting Rights Act requirements.

Continue reading

A Nevada Stunner

First-term Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D).
Is there re-election trouble brewing?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 30, 2021 — A publicly released Nevada US Senate survey released late last week revealed an eye-opening result. According to the VCreek/AMG poll conducted for the conservative Americas PAC (Aug. 9-14; 567 registered Nevada voters, live interview), former attorney general and recently announced US Senate candidate Adam Laxalt (R) holds a stunning 42-32 percent lead over first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D).

Cortez Masto was elected in 2016, defeating then-US Rep. Joe Heck (R), 47-45 percent, in another of Nevada’s typically close recent elections. Prior to winning the Senate seat, Cortez Masto served as the state’s attorney general from 2007 to 2015, winning two statewide elections for that position with substantial percentage margins, 59-36 percent in 2006 and 53-36 percent in 2010.

Preparing for what she believes will be a close contest, the senator has already raised $11.6 million in her first term and held a whopping $6.58 million in her campaign account at the June 30th Federal Election Commission finance reporting deadline.

The biggest surprise among the segmented numbers was Sen. Cortez Masto’s poor standing within her own Democratic Party. Her base vote was only 60 percent among those respondents who describe themselves as “strong” Democrats. Her preference was just 50 percent within the cell calling themselves “regular” Democrats. Among Republicans, she was taking three percent from the “strong” Republicans and recorded 13 percent support among the regulars.

Laxalt’s partisan numbers were better. He was holding 78 percent of those calling themselves strong Republicans, but a lower 62 percent from the “regular red” voters. Among Democrats, he was performing slightly better than a typical GOP candidate. Within the strong Democratic cell, he scored 10 percent preference, but reached 20 percent from the regular Democrat segment.

The moderates, or those who V/Creek terms “purple,” may be the senator’s greatest concern. Within this important segment, Laxalt held a 40-29 percent advantage. The Cortez Masto partisan numbers among Democrats will eventually return to form meaning that the 2022 Senate race will likely transform into another typically close Nevada campaign: hence, the enhanced importance of where this “purple” group falls.

To gain the Senate majority in the next election, Republicans need additional targets especially with having so many more seats to defend (20R-14D in the 2022 cycle).

Democrats appear well positioned to convert Pennsylvania and hold the pair of 2020 special election winners who must run for a six-year term next year, Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). In addition to the New Hampshire race, particularly if Gov. Chris Sununu (R) challenges first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), the Nevada contest may be the only other GOP conversion opportunity on their board.

The other two questions VCreek posed to the sample participants related to election fraud and the Senate filibuster. A total of 73 percent of the sampling universe rates election security as “very important.” Relating to the filibuster, which has attracted much attention in the previous months, 59 percent said they favor keeping the 60-vote cloture rule intact.

VCreek/AMG is graded a B/C survey research firm according to the FiveThirtyEight statistical organization’s 2021 pollster rankings. The group, headed by analyst Nate Silver, forecasts elections, and annually rates the polling community.

This year, the ranking survey totals 482 research entities from which VCreek/AMG ranks 378th. FiveThirtyEight categorizes V/Creek/AMG with a slight Democratic bias of 0.4. In the current 538 report, however, the ranking was based on a small number of VCreek surveys, meaning a larger sample would likely propel the firm to a higher rating.

Regardless of whether this VCreek/AMG poll is accurate or flawed, expect the Democrats to quickly counter with numbers showing Sen. Cortez Masto in much stronger re-election position. If Laxalt remains close, however, this race will quickly enter the competitive top tier.

Gerrymandering Wars Ignited

By Jim Ellis
Aug. 27, 2021 — In the past few days, Democratic leaders and news sources in two states, New York and Illinois, are suggesting that the party redistricting strategists will attempt to maximize Democratic US House gains. Republicans will then counter in similar states that they control.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), on her first official day in office after replacing resigned Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), bluntly answered a reporter’s question to the affirmative when asked if she would use her newfound power to maximize Democratic congressional gains through the redistricting process.

Earlier this week, news sources were reporting that Illinois Democratic map drawers, though no preliminary congressional map has yet been released, are attempting to draw a new 14D-3R map that would likely collapse Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) into a strong Democratic seat for the former and pairing for the latter with another downstate Republican.

Doing this would put added national pressure on Republicans in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia – places where the GOP has full control of the redistricting process. Here, the states are either adding seats or in position to carve a sitting Democrat into unfriendly political territory.

With New York losing one seat, the prime district for elimination would appear obvious since Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) has already announced his retirement and his 23rd District is the lowest in population among all New York seats. Adjacent Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-New Hartford) 22nd CD is second lowest, so combining those two Upstate Republican districts into one appears to be a foregone conclusion. It remains to be seen if the Democratic leaders try to do more. The current delegation breaks 19D-8R but will reduce to 26 seats in the next Congress.

Of Illinois’ current 18 congressional districts, only one, that of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), is over-populated and only by 10,986 people. While the Kinzinger seat is 61,125 individuals short of the state quota of 753,677 for the new 17-district map, his is not even close to being the most under-populated. He, however, sits between two Democratic seats that the party needs to protect, those of retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), whose 17th CD is 79,907 residents under quota, and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) 14th, where she had a close call in 2020 but is only 482 people short of quota.

While the 14th does not need many more people, it does need significantly more Democrats and they can be found by dividing Kinzinger’s 16th CD into pieces.

Redistricting is always full of surprises, so this analysis is merely educated speculation. If, however, the Democrats come away with gaining a net three or four seats from New York and Illinois combined, then how do the Republicans retaliate?

Continue reading

Herschel Walker Jumps Into Race

By Jim Ellis

Herschel Walker (R), former University of Georgia and ex-NFL football star, filed to become a candidate in the 2022 Georgia Senate race.

Aug. 26, 2021 — Former University of Georgia and ex-NFL football star Herschel Walker (R), without any formal announcement, filed organizational papers Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission to form a US Senate committee. Earlier in the year, he relocated back to his native Georgia from Texas where he had been living since retiring from the Dallas Cowboys in 1997.

Filing the preliminary papers with the federal campaign agency does not make one an official candidate. The Georgia process won’t conclude until March 11, 2022, so ample time remains to make a final decision.

The move to recruit Walker as a candidate is not universally accepted in Republican circles. In fact, Red State political blog founder Erick Erickson tweeted the following statement: “I don’t know a single Republican operative who thinks Walker will lose the primary. I don’t know a single Republican operative who thinks Walker will win the general. There is a lot of frustration out there.”

Walker is clearly Donald Trump’s candidate, and with the former president’s active personal endorsement, the former football great will have a huge advantage over Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in the Republican primary. Black is an announced candidate who has won three statewide races in Georgia. Walker obviously has high name identification in Georgia, much better than Black’s, and the combination of his football profile and Trump’s endorsement makes him the early favorite for the GOP nomination as Erickson predicts.

Furthermore, Walker is likely strong enough, especially with carrying the Trump endorsement, to scare away any other formidable Republican from entering the race. In fact, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler/Savannah) long said he would run for the Senate but step aside if Herschel Walker were to become a candidate.

With the Senate tied 50-50 and freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) forced to already run for a full six-year term after winning the special election in 2020, the Georgia race again becomes a national Senate campaign. It figures to be one of the closest elections, just as the regular and runoff contests were last year, thus it becomes a top race for both parties.

Continue reading

A Pair of Flawed Polls Out Of
Florida and Pennsylvania

By Jim Ellis

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R)

Aug. 25, 2021 — We saw two polls released into the public domain covering major races from Florida and Pennsylvania, and both appear to have reliability failings.

In the Sunshine State, the Listener Group’s Political Matrix Poll (released Aug. 22; 1,000 likely Florida voters, interactive voice response system) finds Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), 55-45 percent. While the margin is reasonable and believable, the partisan segmentation is not.

In looking at Listener’s published crosstabs, the Democratic segment yields a 52.5 – 47.5 percent split in favor of Rubio. Among Republicans, the senator scores only a 58.1 – 41.9 percent result, again a bizarre count for an incumbent within his own party with no personal scandal at such an early time in the cycle. In an era of strict partisanship, these numbers are not fathomable. Therefore, the entire ballot test has a reliability risk.

To put the partisan numbers in perspective, as an example of a scandal-ridden politician’s standing within his own party, the Civiqs polling organization surveyed the New York Democratic electorate on a rolling track from Feb. 16 through this past Sunday (of 32,623 respondents participating at some point during the period) and found outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorability at 47:36 percent positive to negative even while being forced to resign under the threat of impeachment.

Another flaw is the polling sample’s political persuasion division does not equate to Florida’s ratios. According to the July 31 voter registration report from the Florida Secretary of State’s office, Democrats have a partisan registration percentage of 36.0; Republicans’ 35.7; and Unaffiliateds’ 26.5. The Listener Group survey sample contained 45.0 percent Democrats, 43.8 percent Republicans, and 11.2 percent Unaffiliateds, far from the actual partisan share positions, and particularly so among those not belonging to one of the major political parties.

In Pennsylvania, the latest Franklin & Marshall College statewide survey was released (Aug. 9-15; 446 registered Pennsylvania voters, combination live interview and online). While the study provides a realistic picture as to where the voters are on issues of the day and favorability ratings on national and statewide figures, analyzing their ballot tests for the Republican and Democratic primaries for the state’s open US Senate race leaves something to be desired from a reliability standpoint.

The fundamental problem is that their sample sizes are much too low to accurately depict where these primary races stand.

Continue reading