Author Archives: Jim Ellis

North Carolina Polling Review:
Under-Estimating the GOP Vote

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2019 — The recent North Carolina special elections’ polling appears slightly flawed, containing a pattern that came to the forefront in the previous presidential race. The weakness: under-estimating the Republican vote. Doing so became a major discussion point within the research community after they cumulatively missed the 2016 Trump-Clinton race but did not regularly appear in most of the subsequent midterm campaigns.

In the two North Carolina special elections that were decided on Tuesday night, the winning Republican candidates exceeded the published polling projections. The same pattern also occurred in Pennsylvania back in late May when Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg), while predicted to win comfortably, garnered a considerably larger vote percentage than projected when he scored a 68 percent special election victory.

Four different polls were publicly released during the week preceding Tuesday’s North Carolina elections. Only RRH Elections sampled the 3rd District and tested the eventual winner, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), against former Greenville mayor, Allen Thomas. The polling result projected Murphy to a 51-40 percent lead. He won 62-37 percent, meaning RRH under-estimated Murphy’s strength and over-estimated Thomas’.

The survey was conducted during the Aug. 26-28 period, two full weeks before the election, which means the situation on the ground could have certainly changed during the intervening time between the poll and the vote. Advertising was heavy during the campaign’s final two weeks, and the survey could not account for which campaign would be more adept at turning out its vote.

Three polls, from three different survey research firms, were released for the more competitive 9th CD at irregular times, and here RRH was the closest to the actual result. Their study was also conducted over the Aug 26-28 period, and it correctly forecast a close Dan Bishop win. At the time, RRH saw a 46-45 percent spread in favor of Bishop over Democrat Dan McCready, and the actual result was 50.7 – 48.7 percent.

Harper Polling, also testing during the same Aug. 26-28 span, missed. They projected McCready to be holding a five point, 51-46 percent advantage. At the time, we mentioned that their sample contained 56 percent female respondents, which could have been a major reason for the Democratic skew.

The final poll from a lesser known firm, co/efficient, also came very close to the actual result, projecting a 44 percent tie between the two candidates over a much later Sept. 5-6 period, but this result may have come through happenstance.

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Republicans Sweep the North Carolina Special Elections

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 12, 2019 — Republican special election candidates Greg Murphy and Dan Bishop won their respective congressional campaigns Tuesday night in different parts of North Carolina.

North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

Murphy, a state representative from Greenville, was an easy winner in the 3rd District, as expected. He recorded a 62-37 percent win over former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas (D) in taking 16 of the district’s 17 counties and falling in Hyde County by just 43 votes. Rep-Elect Murphy now replaces the late congressman, Walter Jones (R-Farmville), who passed away in February.

For the special election, 113,607 individuals cast their ballots, some 40 percent fewer than the number voting in the 2018 regular election even though Rep. Jones was unopposed. In the presidential election year of 2016, congressional race turnout exceeded 323,000 voters.

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

The hotly contested election occurred to the southwest in the 9th District, the seat left vacant all year because the 2018 result was never certified because of voter fraud allegations in Bladen County. Today, the district finally has a new representative. Bishop, a state senator from Charlotte, slipped past Democratic businessman Dan McCready despite being outspent $5 million to $2 million — though the outside group spending, particularly from the National Republican Congressional Committee, added at least another $2 million to the Bishop support effort.

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The “First Four” And The Scramble
For Delegate Apportionment

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 11, 2019 — The YouGov international polling organization conducted four simultaneous surveys in the states whose electorates will cast presidential nominating ballots in February of next year, referred to in the college basketball tournament vernacular as “the First Four”. The quartet of states are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Looking at the polls’ aggregate totals, it appears the contest is already gelling into a three-way race that could meld into a free-for-all should this particular YouGov polling trend translate into actual results.

All of the polling was conducted during the Aug. 28 – Sept. 4 period, and sampled between 492 (New Hampshire) and 785 (South Carolina) likely Democratic primary voters or caucus participants. All four polls found former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) occupying the first three positions, but in different orders.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed in the fourth and fifth positions in each entity, again not in the same order in all four states, yet neither reached double-digit percentages in any of the polls. Under this set of data, neither Harris nor Buttigieg would qualify for at-large delegates in any of the First Four states.

To reach the at-large delegate apportionment plateau, a candidate must receive 15 percent of the statewide vote. Candidates can also qualify for individual congressional district delegates, but those projections are not readily available from these polling results.

In Iowa, scheduled for caucus meetings on Feb. 3, Biden begins with a small lead according to the YouGov research. From the 682 individuals surveyed, the former vice president would score 29 percent, with Sanders closely following with 26 percent, and Warren posting 17 percent. Iowa has 41 delegates, and if the congressional district result followed the statewide percentage, Biden would receive 16 delegate votes, Sanders 15, and Warren 10.

Moving to New Hampshire, which will host the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 11, 2020, it is Sen. Warren who places first, but the result among the trio is a virtual three-way tie. Warren recorded 27 percent in the YouGov poll, with Biden getting 26 percent, and Sanders 25 percent. Again, assuming New Hampshire’s two congressional districts would vote in the same proportion as the state, each candidate would receive eight delegate votes, equally splitting the state’s 24-person delegation.

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NC Special Elections Decided Today

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

Sept. 10, 2019 — Voters in eastern and south-central North Carolina will go to the polls today to fill the state’s two vacant congressional seats. The 3rd Congressional District is open because Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away in February. The 9th District will finally get a representative after going vacant for this entire Congress. As we remember, the 2018 electoral result was not certified due to voter fraud allegations; hence, the calling of this new election.

North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

The 3rd District, which includes the Outer Banks area that Hurricane Dorian recently hit, hosts the cities of Jacksonville, New Bern, and part of Greenville within the 17-county region. It should remain in Republican hands. The seat has performed strongly for the GOP, including a 60-37 percent win for President Trump in 2016. Jones represented the district since his original election in 1994, when he unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster (D) in the Republican landslide of that year. Rep. Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote in the four elections of the present decade.

The Republican special election nominee, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), is favored to defeat former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas, who won the Democratic nomination outright at the end of April. The latest available polling yielded a low double-digit lead for Murphy.

The 9th District begins in Charlotte, encompassing approximately 20 percent of Mecklenburg County, and continues to annex Union – the most Republican county and largest population entity – Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, and Anson counties along with parts of Cumberland and Bladen. The final county, Bladen, was the site of the voter fraud allegations in the last regular election.

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The Twists & Turns of Replacing
Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2019 — Political chatter about the new Georgia Senate race is becoming prevalent. As we know, last week Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) announced that he will resign at the end of this year due to health problems. A great deal of speculation has occurred since, not only about who will be appointed to succeed the senator, but also who will run in the 2020 special election, and even about the election procedure, itself.

At this point, we know that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will name a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The selected individual will serve throughout 2020 and will likely run in the succeeding special election. The winner then serves the balance of the current term and would be eligible to run for a full six-year stint in the 2022 election.

The special is scheduled somewhat concurrently with the November 2020 general election. It’s possible, however, that the initial Nov. 3 vote will not immediately produce a winner, thus forcing an early January 2021 run-off. The candidates will first run in a jungle primary – that is, all contenders regardless of party designation appearing on the same ballot – and if no one receives a majority vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election to be held Jan. 5, 2021.

There is a potential scheduling nuance, however. Since the 2020 candidate filing deadline is March 6 for a May 19 regular primary and July 21 regular run-off, it is highly unlikely that the special election candidates will also file on that particular date. Therefore, if the candidate filing deadlines are different, will that allow individuals to run for an office in the 2020 regular cycle, and then simultaneously appear on the special US Senate election ballot? The question appears to be unanswered right now, and likely won’t be resolved until Gov. Kemp names his appointment and officially sets the election calendar.

The dual office speculation is beginning on the Democratic side because freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) indicated yesterday that she is considering a potential Senate run. It would be assumed that the congresswoman would have to risk her House seat to run in the special, but is such the case? Since she, or anyone else, would already be filed for a race in 2020 before the Senate special filing deadline, does such status disqualify those candidates from entering the latter race?

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