Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Jersey House Competition

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2020 — The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a statewide poll of the New Jersey electorate (April 16-19; 704 New Jersey adults, 635 registered New Jersey voters, 96 percent of whom said they are certain or likely to vote in November) and while the results returned predictable figures in the presidential and Senate races, an interesting tidbit about the House races came to light.

In the presidential race, former vice president Joe Biden led President Trump 54-38 percent according to Monmouth’s latest New Jersey poll, and Sen. Cory Booker (D) led his strongest potential Republican opponent, 55-32 percent. Both sets of numbers were predictable and consistent with recent Garden State voting history.

New Jersey congressional districts: Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 11 comprise the competitive sector.

Though the Monmouth pollsters didn’t test the individual House races, they did ask the partisan preference question and segmented the congressional districts into two campaign categories, the competitive group and the non-competitive group.

Statewide, 50 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives as compared to 38 percent who would choose the Republican contender. But when looking at the competitive House category, Republicans look to have a glimmer of hope of potentially recapturing some of the seats they lost in the 2018 election.

In that year, Democrats converted Districts 2, 3, 7, and 11, gaining four seats and leaving the 12-member NJ federal delegation with only one Republican member at the outset, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in the 4th CD. Since the election, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) changed parties after being elected as a Democrat. All of these seats, including District 4, and 5 in northern New Jersey (Rep. Josh Gottheimer-D), comprise the competitive sector. Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats.

In the “safe” House category, 56 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate as compared to 31 percent who aligned themselves with the eventual Republican general election candidate. In the competitive districts, however, by a 46-45 percent plurality, the respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate. Considering that Rep. Gottheimer will not be seriously challenged, the GOP numbers in the truly contested districts should even be stronger. This type of result should continue to make many of the Garden State seats prime 2020 Republican national targets.

The safe seats, with all incumbents seeking re-election, are held by Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Donald Payne (D-Newark), and Bonnie Coleman Watson (D-Ewing Township).

The competitive seats feature party-switching Rep. Van Drew seeking his first re-election. He looks strong in the Republican primary – a first vote as a party’s new incumbent can be difficult – and will face either college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison or Amy Kennedy, wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in what should be a competitive general election. With a solid Republican primary victory, Rep. Van Drew will be favored in November.

The 3rd District may be the Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. Freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) upset then-Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) in 2018, and now faces what should be a strong GOP opponent. Venture capitalist David Richter, who was originally running in the 2nd District until Rep. Van Drew became a Republican, is considered the favorite for the GOP primary, and he appears to be a strong challenger for Rep. Kim but will have less time to develop the campaign. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has moved the state primary from June 2 to July 7.

NJ-3 looks to be the most likely of the New Jersey seats to flip. Until Kim won here two years ago, and except for a one-term lag, Republicans had held this southern New Jersey seat since 1979.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), who was first elected to the House in 1980, looks to face an easier re-election contest this year than he did two years ago. In an election when he was the Republicans’ lone survivor, Rep. Smith scored a 55-43 percent victory.

Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) will almost assuredly face state Senate Minority Leader and former statewide candidate Tom Kean Jr. Sen. Kean’s father, Tom Kean, served as New Jersey’s governor from 1982-1990. This race promises to be a premier contest in a district that a Republican has represented since 1981 until Malinowski won in the most recent vote.

In northern New Jersey’s 11th District, freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) who won another traditionally strong Republican seat that the party had held since consecutively since 1985, stands for her first re-election. Her challenger is consensus Republican candidate Rosemary Becchi, an attorney and former Capitol Hill committee staff member, who was originally challenging Tom Kean Jr. for the party nod in the 7th District.

Party leaders were able to convince her to run in the 11th CD and helped clear the field. She will be a credible challenger to Rep. Sherrill, but the congresswoman is such a strong fundraiser (already has raised $3.4 million for this election) that the race will be a difficult one for Sherrill despite what should be a favorable district.

With Republicans developing a strong slate of New Jersey US House candidates in places where they have traditionally been successful, the Garden State elections will go a long way toward determining if the GOP has any chance of re-claiming the House majority. If the Democrats stem the tide here, they very likely will retain control.

Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

Continue reading

This Time in 2016

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in a Trump-Biden candidacy?

April 23, 2020 — It is interesting to revert back to April of 2016 to see just how Donald Trump was faring against Hillary Clinton and compare those results with today’s survey research. Thanks to the Real Clear Politics website and their polling archives, the day-by-day polling data from four years ago is still available so we can track the Trump-Clinton campaign historical progress with the new Trump-Joe Biden impending national contest.

The key point to remember about national presidential polling is that the aggregate ballot test means very little yet is the subject of most political research studies. Knowing what voters think about the campaign in places like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin is much more important when attempting to project a final outcome, but we see far fewer numbers coming from these places than we do nationally.

In 2016, we will remember that almost all analysts and political prognosticators were predicting a Clinton win, and virtually all national polling was revealing an advantage for the former secretary of state, US senator, and First Lady, yet Trump emerged the winner. After the election, most surface analysis reported that the polling was in error, but such was not generally the case. The preponderance of polling, which predicted a narrow Clinton popular vote victory was actually correct; as we will remember, Clinton finished ahead of Trump in a close plurality.

With this background in mind, let’s look at what the various polling firms are projecting this month for the Trump-Biden race and compare it to the available data from 2016.

In April 2016, through the 15th of the month, three national polls had been released from individual or collaborating media entities: CBS News (April 8-12), NBC News/Wall Street Journal (April 10-14), and Fox News (April 11-13). This year, we see a more active April polling month that yields nine studies from eight different pollsters.

In 2016, the three testing entities all predicted Hillary Clinton to be holding the advantage over Donald Trump, by margins of 10 (CBS), 11 (NBC/WSJ), and 7 (Fox) percentage points. A little over six months later, Clinton would carry the national popular vote by 2.1 percentage points but lose the presidency because the key states broke toward Trump, which added up to an Electoral College win.

Continue reading

Money Report: The Runoffs

By Jim Ellis

April 22, 2020 — Continuing with our analysis of certain 1st quarter 2020 fundraising numbers, today we look at the upcoming runoff elections that are happening in Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas.

In Alabama, former US attorney general and ex-three term senator Jeff Sessions, and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville move to a postponed July 14 runoff that was originally scheduled for March 31. Tuberville placed first in the primary election by one percentage point over former Sen. Sessions, attempting to make a political comeback and overcome his national feud with President Trump. The longer runoff cycle may give Sessions the opportunity for a rebound.

Though Tuberville finished first, he is behind Sessions in campaign resources though both have plenty with which to compete. For the campaign, Sessions has spent $3.81 million as compared to Tuberville’s $2.84 million. In the first quarter, Tuberville outraised Sessions by just over $40,000. Tuberville raised $785,513 in the first quarter and had $458,519 in his campaign account at the end of March. While Sessions posted a bit less at $743,861, he has more cash-on-hand: $749,235. These numbers tell us that both men will be able to deliver their respective campaign messages before the July 14 vote.

In the Alabama House runoffs, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl (R) outpolled former state senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) but not in first quarter fundraising. Hightower led the dollar pace with $344,627 raised versus $169,785, but as a local political official, Carl has been attracting a great deal of earned media because of area coronavirus protection messages. Cash-on-hand is virtually equal, with both men holding slightly more than $200,000. Carl spent $1.3 million in the primary opposite Hightower’s $858,000.

The 2nd District runoff features self-funding businessman Jeff Coleman, who placed first in the Republican primary against former state representative, Barry Moore. The big story here is Coleman financing just short of $1 million for his almost $2 million primary campaign. With Moore raising only $46,137 for the entire 1st quarter, it appears Coleman will be very difficult to overcome in the runoff election.

In North Carolina just one run-off is occurring — in White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ former 11th District. The Republican contest features Meadows’ endorsed candidate, former Haywood County Republican Party chair Lynda Bennett and real estate company owner Madison Cawthorn. Bennett placed first in the primary, and has an edge in fundraising, but Cawthorn was able to self-fund to a degree of $311,000.

Continue reading

Money Report: The Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2020 — The April 15 deadline for releasing the 1st Quarter 2020 campaign finance reports has come and gone, so we can now begin to assess where some of the key campaigns stand with regard to their fundraising, spending, and available resources. The races headed to special elections are best defined; hence, we begin our series with this group.

Three special general elections will culminate in May and June. On May 12, voters in California and Wisconsin will select new House members. The New York special election follows on June 23.

The California special vote to replace resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D) in the Los Angeles/Ventura County 25th District is between state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia.

This race looks to be about even across the board, so it may be an interesting precursor for the 2020 general elections. While Smith placed first in the special and regular primaries by relatively substantial margins (11 points in the special; 9 points in the regular), the combined Republican vote among the 13 candidates in the latter election’s jungle format was actually greater than the combined Democratic vote.

In terms of spending according to the just released numbers, Smith expended $1.529 million in the first set of elections as compared to Garcia’s $1.462 million. First quarter fundraising favors Garcia, $277,234 opposite Smith’s $258,972. Garcia also led in cash-on-hand at the end of March, $446,742 to $357,256. Each candidate can also expect at least $1 million coming into the district from party and outside organizations to aid their respective cause.

Regardless of what happens in the special election, both of these candidates have ballot position in the November general election to battle for the regular term beginning in 2021. The special election to fill the balance of the unexpired term is an all-mail exercise scheduled for May 12.

Also on May 12, northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District vacancy will be filled. In late August, five-term Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) resigned for family reasons and the special election to replace him is just about upon us. In the early April special primary, state senator Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker (D) advanced to the special general. The winner will serve the balance of the current term, and at least the future new member will file to compete in the regular election by the June 1 candidate filing deadline. The regular Wisconsin primary is scheduled for Aug. 11.

Continue reading

Dueling Polls in North Carolina Show Disparity in Candidate Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2020 — Within a 10-day period, two statewide polls producing radically different results were conducted of the North Carolina electorate. Rather unsurprisingly, the Republican polling firm turned in better results for the GOP candidates than did the Democratic company.

As has been the political narrative for this entire election cycle, North Carolina is going to be one of the most competitive states in the nation. The presidential, US Senate, and gubernatorial races will all be pivotal within the national context.

Harper Polling, the Republican firm, went into the field during the April 5-7 period and conducted live interviews of 500 likely general election voters. Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic survey research company, conducted a large sample poll of 1,318 North Carolina registered voters through a combination of interactive voice and text messaging response systems.

In both the presidential and US Senate campaigns we see diverse results, and particularly so for the latter, yet for the governor’s race the two firms yielded almost identical numbers.

Harper finds President Trump leading former vice president Joe Biden, 49-42 percent, well beyond the polling margin of error. This result is obviously good news for the president in what is for him a must-win state. Conversely, PPP projects only a 48-47 percent split among the two candidates, and in Biden’s favor. In actuality, the two pollsters, while a net eight points apart on their respective ballot tests, are close – within two points – on the Trump number. They are not even within the same realm, and in fact beyond any polling margin of error, on the Biden posting.

The president’s standing could actually be a bit better in North Carolina than these results, and particularly the PPP totals, indicate. In the 2016 election, he under-polled in the Tar Heel State. In the final three polls before the vote, from three different survey research firms, Hillary Clinton held an average 1.3 percentage point advantage over then-candidate Trump. The end result, however, was a 3.3 percentage point victory for the Republican nominee.

Continue reading

The Kansas Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2020 — For weeks, Democratic leaders and strategists have maintained that the open Kansas Senate seat is competitive for them if former secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 governor’s race as the party nominee, wins the 2020 Republican primary on Aug. 4. Public Policy Polling released a survey a couple days ago that seems to confirm such a premise, at least on the numerical surface.

According to the PPP research (April 13-14; 1,27 registered Kansas voters via interactive response device or text message), consensus Democratic Senate contender Barbara Bollier, a state senator from Mission Hills who is a former Republican legislator, would lead Kobach 44-42 percent in a head-to-head match-up.

Kobach is not the only Republican in the race, however, and his nomination is nowhere near being a foregone conclusion. PPP did not test Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) or Kansas state Senate president, Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), against Sen. Bollier or, if they did, such numbers were not released. Therefore, we don’t have a clear perception of the Democratic candidate’s overall strength before the Kansas electorate.

The underlying numbers would suggest another Republican would fare better against Sen. Bollier. President Trump’s job approval rating according to this poll is 52:43 percent favorable to unfavorable, and the generic partisan question – “ … would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate” – is 50-40 percent in favor of an unnamed Republican.

Additionally, after push questions were asked of the respondents that paint Sen. Bollier in a much more positive light than Kobach, particularly that “she is a physician and wants to run for the Senate to help other people,” the numbers don’t change significantly. Post push questions, the secondary ballot test went to only 47-42 percent in Dr. Bollier’s favor.

Considering the nature of the slanted questions, which PPP routinely uses in many of their more ideologically based surveys, one would expect the ballot test to have grown substantially in the favor of the candidate who was painted in the most positive light, in this case Dr. Bollier.

The closeness of the secondary ballot test is even more noticeable when the pollsters asked the respondents which of the two candidates would do a better job handling the coronavirus pandemic. By a 50:18 percent ratio, the respondent universe stated the belief that Dr. Bollier would do an excellent or good job in handling the situation. On the other hand, Kobach’s split was an upside-down 34:44 percent in response to the same question. Yet, the ballot test number did not significantly change.

Continue reading