Author Archives: Jim Ellis

A Wild Ending Looms in the Nebraska Senate Race

The Nebraska Republican Senate race, culminating in a primary vote tonight, has exploded in its final days. At issue is whether Attorney General Jon Bruning, the undisputed leader in the race up until this past weekend, will hold on for victory, or will state Sen. Deb Fischer nip him at the finish line. Fischer – aided by endorsements from Sarah Palin, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), former governor Kay Orr, and an outside expenditure of more than $200,000 from TD Ameritrade founder and Chicago Cubs baseball team owner Joe Ricketts – has forged into the lead according to one political poll. The We Ask America automated survey (May 13; 1,109 likely Nebraska Republican primary voters) shows the state legislator now ahead of Bruning 39-34 percent. Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg, despite receiving as much as $700,000 in outside spending from Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, continues to lag behind at 18 percent.

It is hard to know if the poll is reliable. Fischer has moved an aggregate 21 points since May 6, according to consecutive We Ask America polls. This seems like too great a swing in too short a period. Even the WAA published analysis concedes as much. Additionally, this fully automated poll was conducted on the Mother’s Day holiday, further skewing the results. Plus, We Ask America’s recent track record isn’t too strong. A week before the Illinois primary, WAA projected 16th District Rep. Don Manzullo to be holding about a half-point lead (42.6-42.2 percent) over fellow Rep. Adam Kinzinger in their incumbent Republican pairing battle. Kinzinger won going away, 54-46 percent.

It is clear that the Nebraska trends are moving toward Fischer and away from Bruning. Whether or not this break is too late will be answered in just a few hours.

Gosar’s Re-election Chances Improve in Arizona’s 4th CD

Freshman Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ-1) re-election chances improved at the end of last week when Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (R) announced that he is ending his AZ-4 congressional campaign and will instead seek re-election as sheriff. Gosar, originally elected in the 1st District, decided to run in AZ-4 despite only representing 34 percent of the constituency because of the new seat’s strong Republican voting trends.

Babeu was embroiled in controversy earlier in the year when a male former lover accused the sheriff of attempting to use his official position to have him deported. With obvious negative ramifications being heaped upon his congressional campaign as a result, Babeu finally decided to throw in the towel.

Originally thought to be an underdog to Babeu before the controversy struck, Gosar now has to be considered the favorite to capture the Republican nomination. AZ-4 is rated as safe Republican for the general election.

Poll Shows Thompson with Advantage in Wisconsin

The open Wisconsin Senate race has been close ever since incumbent Herb Kohl (D) announced that he would not seek re-election. Now, Rasmussen Reports just released a new survey (May 9; 500 likely Wisconsin voters) showing former four-term governor Tommy Thompson to be holding a substantial advantage for the first time over Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). According to the RR data, Thompson would lead the general election 50-38 percent if he and the congresswoman win their respective party nominations. Baldwin is the consensus Democratic candidate while Thompson faces three potentially strong Republican opponents. Virtually every other poll has shown the race to be within very small margins.

Pitting Baldwin against the other Republicans, Rasmussen also finds very close spreads. Against former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), Baldwin trails 42-45 percent. Opposing state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), the congresswoman leads 45-41 percent.

The Wisconsin race, along with four others, could very well decide which party will control the Senate majority in the next Congress.

A Nebraska Horse Race

Republicans will have a Senatorial nominee to oppose former Sen. Bob Kerrey tomorrow night as Nebraska voters head for the polls. Right now, retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s seat appears to be the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity since the North Dakota race shows continued signs of serious competition.

Attorney General Jon Bruning has been leading the Republican side since day one. He is still the decided favorite tomorrow, but the campaign momentum may have swung to state Sen. Deb Fischer who appears to have grabbed second place over state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

A series of polls have detected the Fischer momentum and the fact that Bruning has unleashed a late campaign ad attacking both of his opponents jointly suggests that his own internal data also shows movement away from him.

The two most recent released polls still register leads for the attorney general, but of varying margins. The We Ask America independent survey (May 6; 1,173 Nebraska Republican primary voters; automated calls) posts Bruning to a 42-26-22 percent lead over Fischer and Stenberg, respectively.

The Fischer campaign responded to We Ask America by releasing its own Singularis Group poll, the reliability of which is drawing questions. According to the analysis, the Fischer internal survey was conducted of 400 GOP primary voters on a Sunday night, an unusual night to form a reliable sampling universe and one-night data accumulation is often frowned upon, as well. For whatever they’re worth, the numbers gave Bruning only a 30-26-18 percent lead over Fischer and Stenberg.

The Fischer data is likely skewed. Only spending slightly over $100,000 so far on electronic media voter contact and not much over $300,000 in total, it is improbable that she could be making up so much ground in a short amount of time. For his part, Stenberg agrees that Bruning is falling but the treasurer says it is he, and not Fischer, who is surging. Stenberg is spending in the $600,000-plus range, and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) Senate Conservatives Fund has dropped an additional $700,000 in advertisements boosting his effort. Bruning has expended more than $1 million on television and well over $2.5 million for his primary campaign.

Low-turnout elections are difficult to predict, but there appears little foundation to support the idea that Bruning has, almost overnight, lost the lead he has held throughout the campaign. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow night.

Conflicting Texas Senate Polls

A Super PAC supporting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s (R) US Senate bid has released its own polling data to counter Public Policy Polling’s latest survey that showed the Texas GOP battle tightening.

According to the Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders polling firm, conducting a survey for the Conservative Republicans for Texas organization, Dewhurst enjoys a 51-16-7-2 percent advantage over former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, Dallas ex-mayor Tom Leppert, and college football ESPN analyst Craig James, respectively. The poll was taken over the April 27-30 period of 400 likely Texas Republican primary voters.

The Public Policy Polling data, as previously released and reported, showed the same candidate order but in a much different numbering sequence. According to their 400-person study (also of likely Texas Republican primary voters) taken a little over a week before, April 19-22, Dewhurst had only a 38-26 percent lead over Cruz with Leppert scoring 8 percent and James 7 percent.

Both polls were taken over a weekend period, though the PPP survey completed more calls during weekdays. Polling results tend to differ when asked of people on a weekend versus during the work week because a different pool of respondents are typically available. Additionally, the Dresner poll was taken after Dewhurst ran some pointed negative ads against his opponent, Cruz, who is seemingly gaining the strongest foothold against the lieutenant governor.

The difference in the two polls suggest a net 23 point swing in Dewhurst’s favor. This is seemingly too large a movement in too short a time with too little action to support such a turn.

Public Policy Polling, known as a Democratic firm but one that now releases regular independent polls from around the country, represents no particular candidate in the Texas Senate race. The Conservative Republicans for Texas back Dewhurst, which leads to questions about methodology and further asks at what point did the questions appear in the interview schedule. In other words, and this is something that we do not know from the available information, were these figures derived from the answers to push questions? If so, then the results should be discounted.

The key question is not whether Dewhurst finishes in first place, because he very likely will. The point the polling cannot definitively determine is whether he can win the nomination outright on May 29, or whether Cruz forces him into a July 31 run-off election. Dewhurst likely will not fare well in a run-off, since the most well-known candidate being forced to a second election – by definition because a majority of the people chose someone else – often leads to defeat. It is this type of an invariably low turnout run-off scenario that scares the Dewhurst people.

Watch Dewhurst make a major outright victory push between now and May 29th, which, if successful, will clinch the Republican nomination. In all practicality, because the Democrats appear weak in the general election, such a victory would also secure the Senate seat itself.

In terms of resolving the conflict between the Public Policy Polling and Dresner surveys, it is more likely that the PPP data comes closer to accurately depicting the actual campaign picture than does the Dewhurst Super PAC prognostication. Their methodological consistency and reliability appears to be superior.