Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Election Day Today:
California, Nebraska, Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Two congressional special general elections will be conducted today, but only one is expected to produce a winner tonight. Additionally, voters in Nebraska are casting ballots in their regular state primary.

The two special elections are in California and Wisconsin. The California seat, vacated when scandal-ridden freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned from office in October, has been controversial for a few weeks. The quieter contest is in Wisconsin where Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany is expected to hold the northwest 7th District that former Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) vacated for family reasons.

In the Cornhusker State, since first-term Sen. Ben Sasse has little opposition in the Republican primary and what appears to be seven minor statewide Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination – none have even raised $100,000 – the race garnering the most attention is the 2nd Congressional District primary.

There, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) runs for a third term in what is again expected to be a competitive general election. Democrat Kara Eastman, who held Rep. Bacon to a 51-49% victory in 2018, is back on the ballot today principally facing Ann Ashford, the wife of former one-term US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), and is favored to win tonight.

The California race in the state’s 25th District, which occupies much of northern Los Angeles County and a sliver of Ventura County, is formerly a Republican seat that switched to the Democrats in 2018. Clearly moving toward the latter party in terms of demographics and voting trends, the seat is still politically marginal to the degree where either side could win. Both candidates have spent over $2.2 million and are at parity in outside spending coming into the district for a contest that has sparked controversy.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall), who represents close to half the district in the state legislature, was caught on camera disparaging Republican Mike Garcia’s military record. Mr. Garcia is a retired Navy fighter pilot. Ms. Smith later publicly apologized for her comments.

Furthermore, Republicans are already calling foul over how the election is being administered. President Trump, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Garcia have raised concern whether the election will be fair. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered this special contest conducted primarily by mail, and in California the state allows voters to postmark their ballot on Election Day meaning votes could take days to reach the county election authorities considering the state of mail delivery during the COVID-19 shut down.

In addition to the mail ballots, the state has organized fewer than 15 voting centers for people to vote in person. Another point of controversy — a new voting center was just added in the city of Lancaster, which is predominantly Democratic and 69 percent majority minority. Additionally, as Rep. McCarthy illustrates, Gov. Newsom closed the state’s beaches in response to COVID-19 health concerns but won’t heed his motion to suspend door-to-door ballot harvesting for this election.

In a way, the special election is somewhat moot. The counties have until July 15 to certify the election, so it is clear we will not have a final count for days if not weeks, thus allowing the winner even less time in Congress. Regardless of the outcome, both Garcia and Smith will advance to the regular November election, where the campaign will be re-run. Republicans sense an upset possibility, but Democrats have much more on the line. Losing a Democratic seat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home state might well sound an alarm for their general election prospects.

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Massachusetts Senate: Total Opposite

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2020 — On Friday, the most recent Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary poll was released, and it presents a very different conclusion to the close race results previously published.q

Late last week, we covered a University of Massachusetts at Lowell poll (April 27-May 1; 1,000 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) that found Sen. Ed Markey (D) locked in a virtual dead heat (42-44 percent) with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in their intra-party fight.

Emerson College (May 5-6; 740 registered Massachusetts voters, 620 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) conducted a statewide Massachusetts poll on the heels of the UMass effort and sees Rep. Kennedy crushing Sen. Markey, 58-42%.

The focal point of the Emerson poll was the presidential race and reaction to COVID-19, so just one question was asked about the Senate race. Unlike the UMass survey, Emerson did not release segmentation figures for the Senate ballot test question, so it becomes more difficult to judge reliability.

Since the two polls are so far apart, questions arise as to which is the more accurate. The sponsors are known pollsters who regularly survey Massachusetts – Emerson College is located in Boston, while the UMass affiliate resides in Lowell – so neither has a particular geographic familiarity advantage over the other. The sample sizes are both large enough to render strong results, and each has accurately depicted the state in previous studies.

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The Bay State Brawl

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Many seasoned Massachusetts political observers believed that the intra-party Democratic US Senate battle between incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) would never happen.

At the beginning of the election cycle the prevailing local political wisdom was, if Kennedy were to enter the statewide race, that Sen. Markey would simply retire after spending 48 consecutive years in elective office, counting his time in the state legislature, US House, and Senate, rather than taking on a Kennedy and risk losing. Such, however, proved not to be the case. With the candidate filing deadline passing this week, the Sept. 1 showdown between Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy is on. And, the latest poll again confirms the two men are locked in a dead heat.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell released their current survey results of the Bay State electorate (April 27-May 1; 1,00 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) and the Democratic US Senate primary ballot test finds Rep. Kennedy clinging to a 44-42 percent lead. This is not much different than the university’s February poll that found Kennedy ahead 35-34 percent.

In all, this has to be a very encouraging result for Sen. Markey. Running against the so-called “Kennedy mystique,” the media-driven term that matters more in Massachusetts than anywhere else, and qualifying for the ballot because the courts reduced the number of required petition signatures because of the COVID-19 imposed precautions, Sen. Markey’s ability to hold his status within the margin of error against Rep. Kennedy has to be considered a victory for the veteran politician.

The money count is almost as close as the polling, except Markey has the advantage. Looking at the March 31 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports, Sen. Markey has raised just over $8.8 million for the campaign cycle as compared to $5.9 million for Rep. Kennedy. The senator also has the edge in cash-on-hand resources, $4.4 million to $3.8 million. Therefore, having enough funding to communicate their campaign message to the voters will not be a problem for either man.

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Nevada: A Target?

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2020 — The Silver State of Nevada, with six Electoral College votes, has been regarded as a swing state in most 21st Century presidential elections, but in projecting the 2020 vote, it is routinely considered as a place destined to land in the Democratic column. But, could Nevada ultimately be in play for President Trump?

With a general election electoral vote map looking ever closer as we move toward November, introducing a new target could drastically change the eventual outcome or at least the campaign focus and strategy.

A new ALG Research poll (April 27-30; 76 likely Nevada general election voters) reports findings that are consistent with virtually all of the 2016 Nevada general election surveys. Last week, the firm found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump with a 49-45 percent spread. Such a margin and preference percentages fall into the same realm as all 31 polls conducted in Nevada from May through the November 2016 election.

When ‘16 ended, Hillary Clinton carried the state, but her margin was only 2.4 percentage points, meaning a 27,000-vote spread of more than 1.12 million ballots cast. And, consistent with the large number of polls that concluded a close race within the 40s would be the actual result, Clinton defeated Trump, 47.9 – 45.4 percent, validating the plethora of research conducted over the final five-plus months of that election cycle.

Four years ago, 13 different pollsters conducted the almost three dozen surveys, and in no instance did either Trump or Clinton ever reach the 50 percent plateau. On the other end of the spectrum, in just three instances did one of the candidates dip below 40 percent. Therefore, in 28 of the 31 studies logged within the 2016 Real Clear Politics polling archives, both candidates fell within the 40s, meaning this result occurred over 90 percent of the time. In terms of range, the span stretched from Clinton plus-7 to Trump plus-6, but the average between the two was only 2.7 percent, which is almost exactly the actual final total. This obviously suggests a competitive political battlefield.

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Montana Shock Poll

By Jim Ellis

(Left) Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R); Gov. Steve Bullock (D)

May 7, 2020 — Montana State University at Bozeman’s research arm just completed a survey of their state’s electorate (April 10-27; 738 Montana adults, 458 likely Montana voters) and produced a surprising tally in the Senate race.

According to MSU Bozeman, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has jumped out to a 46-39 percent lead over first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R) even with President Trump posting a 5.6 percentage point advantage over former vice president Joe Biden (46.3 – 39.7 percent) within the same sampling group.

Though Montana is viewed as a Republican state, and it generally performs as such in most federal races, the margins usually aren’t particularly lopsided, and Democrats have done well in statewide contests up until 2016. Except for Gov. Bullock’s 50-46 percent re-election victory that year, Republicans running in the wake of Trump’s 20-point landslide win over Hillary Clinton, swept the other races.

Several notes about this poll: first, the questioning period lasted 18 days, a very long time for a likely voter sample size of 458 individuals. Typically, such surveys are conducted over a three-day period. Such an implementation interval substantially increases the error rate.

Second, though the error factor is stated as 4.6 percent, the chairman of the university’s political science department, Dr. David Parker, stated in a local Helena KTVH television news story, that the Senate race is within the margin of error and in reality too close to call. While his conclusion may well be accurate, the ballot test shows a margin between Bullock and Daines of seven percentage points, meaning that the result is well beyond the polling margin of error. Therefore, Dr. Parker’s comments suggest the methodology actually yields an error factor larger than stated, which is more consistent with the elongated sampling time feature.

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