Author Archives: Jim Ellis

DCCC SHOCK POLL: NY-11

Why is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) releasing a poll that underscores their already weakened situation in the upcoming NY-11 special election? It’s unusual when a major party campaign committee allows a poll unfavorable to one of their candidates to reach the public domain, but that’s exactly what the DCCC has done.

Could it be to lower expectations in what, on paper, should be a competitive special election but doesn’t seem so at this particular time? Quite possibly.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to schedule the special election, but it will likely be at the end of March. This is consistent with the allowable time frame under New York election law, based upon the time of the office formally becoming vacant.

The Global Strategy Group (GSG), polling for the DCCC, (Jan. 16-18; 404 registered NY-11 voters) just completed an exhaustive survey in the Staten Island/Brooklyn congressional district and their findings play very well for all-but-official Republican nominee Dan Donovan, the Richmond County district attorney.

According to the results, Donovan is off to a commanding 48-28 percent (including “leaners” for both candidates) advantage over state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, the man who most believe will win the Democratic nomination. This result is even stronger when understanding that Republicans hold only a 43-42 percent edge in Continue reading >

New Senate Polling Begins

Pennsylvania Senate

Last year, a record number of publicly released polls led us to tracking what proved to be an extraordinary set of US Senate races. For the 2016 election cycle, we can expect more of the same.

Public Policy Polling commences the off-year campaign with a survey from what promises to be one of the more competitive of the in-cycle US Senate states, Pennsylvania. Here, first-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey begins a drive for re-election before a presidential year electorate that normally backs a Democratic candidate in the national vote. Sure to be a top presidential campaign target state, Pennsylvania voters can expect to witness an onslaught of political communication about both the presidential campaign and their important US Senate contest.

Though viewed as a swing entity, the Keystone State has voted Democratic in the presidential race consecutively since 1992, inclusive. But, during that same period, Pennsylvanians have elected and/or re-elected three Republican US senators and two GOP governors.

According to this new PPP survey (Jan. 15-18; 1,042 registered Pennsylvania voters) Sen. Toomey registers tepid numbers, relatively commonplace at this point in time for a senator who belongs to the state’s minority party. And, as typical for a Public Policy Polling survey, almost every political figure tests with a negative favorability image.

While President Obama’s job approval is a poor 42:51 percent in a state where he received 52 and 54 percent in 2012 and 2008, respectively, Sen. Toomey registers a 28:35 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D), who doesn’t again face the voters until 2018, does much better at 41:33 percent. The only other political figure to score a positive rating is former Gov. Ed Rendell (D), and he can only muster a 43:42 percent score.

Also typical of a PPP poll, is the testing of many well known politicians who will not be candidates in this particular Senate race. Among the six scenarios polled, only former Gov. Rendell, surely a non-candidate, out-polls Sen. Toomey. According to the results, Rendell would lead the incumbent, 44-41 percent. Against all others, the senator leads by margins of four to eight percentage points, but never breaks the 43 percent support level.

The one pairing that matters most, however, is with the only announced 2016 senatorial candidate, and the man who Toomey beat 51-49 percent in 2010, former US Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7). Here, Toomey has a 40-36 percent advantage.

Sestak, a former Navy Admiral who was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council, served two terms in the House from a Philadelphia suburban district after unseating 20-year veteran Rep. Curt Weldon (R) in 2006. Sestak was re-elected in 2008, and then ran for Senate two years later. Already announcing his statewide candidacy last year, Sestak has raised $1.6 million for the race through last September, with $1.28 million on hand. By contrast, Sen. Toomey had more than $5 million in the bank during the same time frame.

The Pennsylvania race promises to be one of the most polled during the 2016 election cycle. The fact that an incumbent senator registers numbers only in the low 40s under all scenarios is not necessarily a harbinger of a poor re-election performance, but it clearly indicates Sen. Toomey’s support must grow. In the last cycle, Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) each found themselves mired in the low 40s for more than a year, and all lost. It remains to be seen if a similar pattern ensnares Sen. Toomey, or whether he expands his appeal.

McConnell Opponent Floundering

We all remember Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), the Kentucky Secretary of State who ran a close race against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) … until the end.  In that campaign, Grimes continued to consistently poll within two to three points of the veteran senator, but fell by 15 points when the votes were actually counted.
 
Kentucky is one of five states to hold its statewide elections in odd-numbered years – Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia being the other four – so she must defend her current office later this year.  Yesterday, Grimes said she will be running for a statewide post but apparently has still not decided upon a specific race.  Candidate filing for the 2015 election closes Jan. 27, so she will quickly be forced to decide.
 
Grimes is apparently considering a campaign for governor and attorney general, in addition to a bid for re-election.  A further complicating factor came forth for her yesterday when Gravis Marketing released a statewide poll of Kentucky voters that indicates even a run for re-election as secretary of state may be fraught with peril.
 
Though talking about running for the other positions, the fact that she has yet to enter the race for governor or attorney general puts her at a major disadvantage should she actually decide to venture forth in either of those directions.  Current Attorney General Jack Conway (D), a 56-44 percent loser to Rand Paul (R) in the 2010 Senate race, is Continue reading >

An Odd Poll Leaves Some Clues

California Senate
 
The open California Senate race has dominated recent political news coverage, and yesterday a rather strange event unfolded.  It has now come to light that Public Policy Polling surveyed the California electorate at the end of the year (Dec. 29-30, 869 registered California voters) testing what appeared to be a potentially open Senate race, but is just now releasing the data as reported in The Hill newspaper.  
 
Though it is interesting to see how the candidates stack up in the early going, the tested field isn’t particularly representative of the individuals who now appear ready to jump into the race.  Hence, eyebrows are raised as to why PPP would come forth with data now when several key components are obsolete.
 
Already, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) has announced her Senate candidacy and she is included in the survey, but former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared to be moving toward a run, is not.  The latter exclusion is not particularly surprising because, at the time this poll was conducted, Villaraigosa was talking about running for governor in 2018 and not for the Senate in two years.  

Additionally, the current Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti (D), is tested but he formally pulled himself away from further consideration for the statewide office.  In the second questionnaire, Garcetti is then Continue reading >

The Democrats Have Problems Beyond Redistricting

The Democratic federal elected officials are gathered in Baltimore right now, discussing the future of their party and ways to recapture much of the political territory they lost in the 2014 elections. A clear theme settling around their US House predicament is redistricting, and how the Republican-drawn boundaries, they say, in what are typically Democratic states have unfairly cost them large numbers of seats.

North Carolina Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) spoke at length about redistricting and how it affects the party. According to an article on Yahoo News, Price said, “Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia display the most egregious examples of gerrymandered districts for congressional and state legislative races.” His solution is to continue the process Democrats are using in several states, which is to sue over the current congressional boundaries contending that the district boundaries are “racially biased”. Except for Virginia, where a court has already declared the map unconstitutional for this reason, it will likely be difficult to make such a case in places where the minority districts have actually been maximized.

The 2014 electoral statistics cast a different light on the situation, however. Let’s take the case of freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2). She won a Republican-leaning seat in what was the worst of years for Democratic congressional candidates. The fact that she Continue reading >