Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Quayle in Trouble

With national pollsters providing consistently good news for Republicans, at least one seat normally viewed as relatively safe for the party is now in play for the Democrats. Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a place where Rep. John Shadegg (R) has racked up strong victories over the past 16 years, is now highly competitive according to a new Public Policy Polling survey. The study, conducted October 16-17 (655 likely AZ-3 voters) for the Daily Kos, a national liberal blog, gives Democratic attorney Jon Hulburd a 46-44% lead over Republican nominee Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. According to the data, the younger Quayle has a personal approval ratio of only 34-52% favorable to unfavorable and trails 36-50% within the crucial Independent voter sector.

Quayle defeated nine other candidates in the August 24 Republican primary, but captured only 22% of the vote in doing so. Controversy arose during the summer about his involvement with a non-traditional website, charges that were answered with his own unusual and off-beat response advertisements. With the currently intense and fractured Grand Canyon State political climate, and virtually every congressional district in the state seeing robust competition, it is clear that anything can happen in the many races to be decided there on November 2.

An Eclectic Collection of Mid-October Polls: Reliable?

More mid-October polls are now public from races across the nation, many from unfamiliar survey firms or sources. Below are several of the most notable with an analysis as to the believability of the results:

GA-2: Lester & Associates (10/7-10; 500 GA-2 voters for the Sanford Bishop campaign)

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) …… 50%
Mike Keown (R) ………………. 40%

Rep. Bishop released his internal poll after GOP challenger Keown’s late September Public Opinion Strategies survey posted him to within one point. This is a heavy African-American district, meaning a loyal Democratic base. A low black turnout is Keown’s only chance to come through on Election Day.

IL-10: We Ask America (10/15; 1,148 likely voters; automated)

Bob Dold (R) ……….. 50%
Dan Seals (D) ………. 39%

This race has been a bit of a mystery ever since the February 2nd primary. Just last week another poll (Penn Schoen – 10/2-7) went public showing Democratic nominee Seals to be holding a similar 49-37% advantage. We Ask America has conducted sporadic polls in several states. Their reliability track record is virtually unknown. Best guess: the race is a toss-up. Dold must have a favorable turnout model to achieve victory. Though the district has elected a Republican congressman for more than 30 consecutive years, the voting trends here lean Democratic in other races.

MN-1: Survey USA (10/12-14; 584 likely voters; automated from a pool of 800 registered MN-1 voters)

Rep. Tim Walz (D) ……….. 47%
Randy Demmer (R) ………. 42%

Survey USA has reported many polls this election cycle that have been out of the mainstream, and tending to favor Republicans. In this case, however, the poll results seem reasonable. Though state Rep. Randy Demmer is being heavily outspent by two-term incumbent Tim Walz, the district can certainly elect a Republican. Former Rep. Gil Gutknecht, for example, held the seat for twelve years, winning in the GOP landslide year of 1994 and losing in the 2006 Democratic sweep. If 2010 becomes a wave, this district could yield another surprise.

PA-7: Franklin & Marshall College (10/5-11; 471 likely PA-7 voters; live telephone interviews)

Pat Meehan (R) ………… 34%
Bryan Lentz (D) ……….. 31%

PA-8: Monmouth University (10/11-13; 646 likely PA-8 voters; automated)

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) ……………. 51%
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) ……… 46%

Two college polls with differing degrees of reliability. The Franklin & Marshall survey period is extended, thus making the results less accurate. The fact that the undecided factor is still so high as the race becomes better defined also raises questions. The spread – Meehan leading, but his margin tightening – is consistent with many other surveys.

The Monmouth poll appears to be tighter, even with the automated format. This result is very consistent with other data that shows former Rep. Fitzpatrick to be leading beyond the margin of error in his attempt to regain the seat he lost to Congressman Murphy four years ago.

Upsets? Possible or Not?

Every day, new seats pop up as upset possibilities. Yesterday, for example, a new poll was publicized showing even Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) dropping to a single-digit lead. If the election becomes a Republican wave as many believe will happen, which “out of nowhere” races will actually come home?

With so many campaigns on the board, which are legitimate upset possibilities, and which are fool’s gold? The following are contests that have surfaced in recent days as potential upset picks. Our analysis:

AK-Senate: The theory is that Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid takes enough votes away from GOP nominee Joe Miller to either elect herself or throw the race to Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. Polling regarding write-in candidates is one thing; translating support into write-in votes is quite another. Had Sen. Murkowski operated a strong grassroots organization, she wouldn’t have lost her primary. The key to running a successful write-in effort is a strong ground operation. That doesn’t happen overnight, and especially not in a place as spread out as Alaska. Likely outcome: Miller wins.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-7)

AZ-7: Now the upset possibilities are even creeping into Voting Rights districts. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) has undeniably dropped to the low single digits in his battle with GOP scientist Ruth McClung. This one actually might have some legs. Grijalva is leading the charge to economically boycott his own state because of the immigration law, a position not well received by his constituents in a largely rural area experiencing tough times. Grijalva shouldn’t lose, but leading the charge to inflict economic pain upon one’s own constituents could be the catalyst that causes the seismic political shift that leads to a McClung upset.

DE-Senate: It’s wishful thinking to believe that Christine O’Donnell can still win the seat because of the Tea Party surge. She can’t. This one is done. Democrats win.

MA-4: Rep. Barney Frank (D) is in trouble. While true opponent Sean Bielat is raising a great deal of national small-dollar money and is Frank’s toughest-ever re-election opponent, the House Financial Services chairman will survive. No poll has dropped him below 50% and the district is just too Democratic in nature. Frank wins again.

Rep. John Dingell (D, MI-15)

MI-15: In December, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15) will have been in Congress for 55 years. Though at least one poll shows the Dean of the House falling behind opponent Dr. Rob Steele, it will be extremely difficult for this trend to continue. Back in 2001, the 15th district was designed to pair two Democratic incumbents, Dingell and then-Rep. Lynn Rivers, into one district. The Democratic primary would be a difficult fight for both, but the winner would get a seat for the rest of the decade. The seat will still remain intact for the Ds. Rep. Dingell wins a 29th term.

These are just a few examples of races that I detail in my daily newsletter, the PRIsm Political Update. For all the details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm-us.com.

Will Delaware Save the Senate for Democrats?

In the Senate, the latest Delaware polls continue to show Democrat Chris Coons leading controversial Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell in a race that may well save the Democratic majority. With California (Barbara Boxer) and West Virginia (Gov. Joe Manchin vs. John Raese) now trending better for Democrats, and Colorado, Illinois, and Washington in pure toss-up mode, it will be very difficult for the GOP to claim the Senate majority largely because they have so many of their own seats to defend.

Thus, entering the final phase of campaign 2010, it is more than conceivable that the Republicans will secure enough Democratic conversion seats to secure a working House majority and end the Senate cycle with between 47-49 members.

Turning to the states, the GOP is in position to command 30+ Governors, and could possibly gain a record number of state legislative chambers. This, in a redistricting year that will have a major influence over the political landscape in the ensuing decade.

Though 2010 is shaping up to be an election of historic proportions, it’s only the beginning of a series of major political events. Right after the election Congress will return for an important lame duck session, apportionment numbers will be released before the end of the year – meaning we will know for sure which states will be gaining and losing congressional districts and exactly how many – followed by 2011 redistricting where battles in all 50 states will soon begin (43 with multiple congressional districts are naturally of the highest importance), and, of course, the 2012 presidential election campaign commences in earnest.

The fluidity in our contemporary political time rivals that of any point in American history. It is an exciting time to be involved.

Georgia is No California

With several Democrats publicly saying they would prefer to vote for individuals other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the next House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Marshall (D-GA-8) just launched the strongest of anti-Pelosi ads in his own difficult run for re-election. Attacking not only Speaker Pelosi, but also her home town of San Francisco and portraying the old California hippie culture as “being a long way from Georgia,” Marshall goes on to say that he is a “long way from Pelosi.” He also claims not to support Pelosi and that he votes with Republican leaders “65% of the time.” According to the Politico newspaper, Marshall’s Democratic Party support figure is actually 88%, a number that is difficult to comprehend when he says he votes with the GOP almost two-thirds of the time. The Marshall ad ends with the announcer saying the Congressman has been endorsed by The NRA, Chamber of Commerce and “Right to Life.” The tag line at the end of the ad, referring to the three organizations, says “… and they wouldn’t have anything to do with a Nancy Pelosi supporter.”

The Marshall approach is the most brazen to come from any Democrat so far in this election cycle. It is an extraordinary attack on a leader of his own party, and a person who he twice voted for Speaker and once as Minority Leader. It will be interesting to see how GOP nominee Austin Scott responds to his opponent’s latest attempt at neutralizing what is probably his most glaring negative.