Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Both Parties Virtually Tied

Jan. 15, 2016 — A plethora of polling is underway in Iowa, now just 19 days away from voters casting the first ballots of the 2016 election cycle. The new surveys are consistently finding that both party contests have tightened substantially.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton had been breaking away from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) since mid-September, but the most recent polls, those conducted since the beginning of this month and year, are making the political atmospherics uncomfortable for the former Secretary of State and First Lady. Sen. Sanders has seen a resurgence of Iowa support forming behind his candidacy, and he has now pulled into a virtual tie with Clinton.

Since New Years Day, five pollsters surveyed the Hawkeye State Democratic electorate and found Clinton leading in only three of the five studies. According to NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, American Research Group, and Public Policy Polling, the spread between the two candidates now sits in a range of only three to six percentage points. Their sample sizes swing from 422 likely Democratic Caucus attenders to 600 from Jan. 2 through the 12th.

The fifth pollster, Gravis Marketing, reported their new findings yesterday. Surveying 461 likely Democratic Caucus attenders earlier this week (Jan 11-12), Gravis projects Clinton’s advantage again soaring to 57-36 percent, or back in the scope of what we were seeing in mid-September through the end of 2015. Since Gravis derives a much different conclusion than the other four pollsters surveying in the same time frame with similar methodologies, it is reasonable to consider that their latest poll could be an anomaly. We will find out for sure on Feb. 1.

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Florida Redistricting: The Latest

Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”

The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).

One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).

The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.

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Democratic Race Tightens

Jan. 13, 2016 — Several new polls are showing a tightening of the Democratic presidential campaign nationally, and for the upcoming Iowa Caucus (Feb. 1) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9). But, is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the party nomination threatened? We think, not.

The new Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll, which, the New York Times rated as the most accurate of the 23 pollsters they tested in the 2012 presidential campaign, posted their latest national results. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 967 “Americans”) finds Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) by her smallest margin in months, 43-39 percent. The last 10 national polls, not including this most recent IBD/TIPP data, finds the former First Lady’s advantage averaging approximately 55-33 percent.

The IBD/TIPP poll appears inherently flawed. First, surveying “Americans” tells us that not all of the respondents are registered voters. Second, the overall sample of 967 participants contains only 378 likely Democratic primary voters, which is the fundamental segment for determining the Clinton-Sanders ballot test. Keep in mind, however, this group of less than 400 people is supposed to represent the nation.

Such a sample may be adequate for a lone congressional district, but falls far short of the number necessary for forming accurate national conclusions. Therefore, standing alone this poll should be discarded, but it does serve as a potential base point from which to begin judging what may be a developing trend.

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Retirements 2016: House Changes?

Jan. 12, 2016 — Just before Christmas, and including three more such announcements that occurred last week, five House members made public their intention not to seek re-election in the fall. The sudden jump in the number of congressmen choosing either to retire from politics or run for a different office now makes 2016 an average election cycle when examining the vacancy rate.

Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY-22), Robert Hurt (R-VA-5), Jim McDermott (D-WA-7), Steve Israel (D-NY-3), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3) all making their political plans known in the last three weeks creates a total of 36 open seat elections for the coming year (21R-15D); an average number based upon 21st Century electoral trends, and a return to normalcy. The last two election cycles have yielded an unusually large open seat numbers: 62 in 2012, and 48 in 2014.

Interestingly, heavy competition appears to be building in only a small number of these incumbent-less US House campaigns. Based upon our internal calculations, only three of the 36 open seats are in the pure toss-up category, those of representatives Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) and John Kline (R-MN-2). Another six, three for each party, can be considered in the “Lean” category. This means, at our early point in the campaign cycle, that only nine open districts, or one-quarter of the total number, are not definitively headed toward one party camp or the other.

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Yet Another Retirement;
Virginia Update

Jan. 11, 2016 — Rounding out the week is our third House retirement announcement, this time from Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Coweta County), a 12-year congressional veteran. The congressman will serve the remainder of this term and then potentially begin a campaign for the open governor’s position in 2018. Incumbent Nathan Deal (R) will be ineligible to seek a third term that year.

Westmoreland, who is in no political danger within the confines of the 3rd District and was unopposed in the last election, said it would not be fair to his current constituency to run for another office while ostensibly representing them in Washington.

Georgia’s 3rd District is located southwest of Atlanta, stretching from the Alabama border to the northeast almost directly into The ATL’s dominant outer suburban ring. The district’s largest population centers are LaGrange, Carrollton, and Griffin, along with the Pine Mountain region. It is a heavily Republican seat, as evidenced from Mitt Romney obtaining 66 percent voter support in the 2012 presidential contest. This, and the fact that few Democrats hold any office in the region, makes it clear that the Republican nomination contest will determine Westmoreland’s successor.

The Georgia state primary is scheduled for May 24, with the all-but-certain run-off slated for July 26. We can expect a large field of Republican candidates. Rep. Westmoreland’s retirement means that 36 seats will be open in the 2016 election cycle, 21 currently in Republican hands.

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