Author Archives: Jim Ellis

A New Jersey Shock Poll

By Jim Ellis

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D)

Sept. 7, 2021 — The Fabrizio Lee polling firm, surveying for the Club for Growth organization (Aug. 4-29; 600 likely 2021 New Jersey election voters, live interview) finds New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) potentially falling into a precarious political position.

Since June 1, Gov. Murphy has led in all four publicly released polls, each from a different pollster, with margins ranging from a low of 11 to as high as 28 points over former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R). The Fabrizio-Lee data casts a much different light upon the race, finding Gov. Murphy leading by a scant 43-41 percent margin as the contest has apparently become tighter with August ending.

Digging deeper into the polling analysis, it appears that Gov. Murphy is in slightly better position than the Fabrizio lead ballot test suggests, but nowhere close to his previous standing. The question then posed: is there significant movement toward Ciattarelli or is this Fabrizio Lee poll an outlier?

Among the 600 respondents who identify themselves as planning to vote in the Nov. 2 election, segmentation exists between those who have previously voted in an odd-numbered year election and those who have not. Among the “Gov-election” voters, Murphy’s ballot test position improves to 46-40 percent. For those who have not cast a ballot in a previous NJ governor’s election, Ciattarelli pulls ahead of the incumbent by a 41-35 percent margin, but these individuals are significantly less likely to participate.

The poll illuminates several other warning signs for the incumbent, however. While Ciattarelli has an 87:3 percent loyalty factor among Republicans, Gov. Murphy is running slightly less robustly among Democrats (75:11 percent). More concerning for the governor is him trailing among white voters (39-48 percent), and Independents (28-43 percent). Failing to improve within these two latter sectors could result in an upset election loss for the first term state chief executive.

Though the poll responses are weighted to compensate, the sampling universe’s racial composition is different than the state population numbers. The respondent sample is more heavily white than the state as a whole, with Hispanic and black respondents totaling only about half of their standing within the population at large. This would suggest that the Murphy ballot test numbers are slightly deflated.

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NH Gov. Sununu Polling Positively

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R)

Sept. 3, 2021 — The St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll was released this week (Aug. 24-26; 1,855 registered New Hampshire voters, online weighted responses), and it contains good news for three-term Granite State Gov. Chris Sununu (R). From this data, Sununu records his largest lead of the early 2022 election cycle, 49-41 percent, over first term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D).

Gov. Sununu has yet to enter the race and says he will make a final decision about his political future well into next year. Since New Hampshire is one of two states that limits its governors to two-year terms, Sununu is in the middle of his third term even though completing just his fifth year in office. He is eligible to run for a fourth term, and beyond.

Because New Hampshire has one of the latest primaries on the election calendar – Sept. 13 in 2022 – it wouldn’t be surprising for the governor to wait even until the end of the next legislative session to declare his political intentions for the midterm cycle. With his win percentage increasing to 65.1 percent in 2020 after victories of 52.8 and 49.0 percent in his first two elections and with a current 64:34 percent positive favorability ratio, the governor has the luxury of waiting along with the ability to clear the GOP field regardless of the office for which he ultimately declares.

With Gov. Sununu as the GOP’s Senate nominee, New Hampshire becomes the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity, and he is obviously under heavy pressure from party leaders to run.

For her part, Sen. Hassan is prepared for a tough fight. Through the June 30 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure period, she reported raising $11.3 million during her out-of-cycle four years, with a whopping cash-on-hand figure of $6.56 million.

The Democrats appear fortunate that the election is so far away. The poll’s underlying numbers suggest they would fare badly in the New Hampshire general election if voting were in a close time proximity, but the Granite State electorate is wholly unpredictable. Since the turn of the century, no state has swung as wildly as New Hampshire, with the electorate going heavily for both parties in different election years.

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Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown’s Wife Soon to be a House Candidate?

By Jim Ellis

Gail Huff Brown (R)

Sept. 2, 2021 — Television news journalist Gail Huff Brown (R), wife of former Massachusetts senator and ex-US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, is reportedly preparing to run for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in what can arguably be considered the most competitive CD in the United States.

Scott Brown (R) served in the Massachusetts state House and Senate before winning the US Senate seat in a 2010 special election after veteran incumbent Ted Kennedy had passed away. Current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) then defeated Brown in the 2012 regular general election. In 2014, Brown, after moving back to his native state of New Hampshire, challenged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) but lost 51-48 percent despite running in a wave Republican election year.

Now, the Browns are looking to embark upon another political campaign, but this time the candidate will apparently be Gail Huff Brown, the former senator and ambassador’s wife of 35 years. A formal announcement is expected soon according to the NH Journal news site, which quotes Scott Brown as saying that “Gail is very close to a yes,” in responding to a question about whether his wife will run. Additionally, the ex-senator believes that former President Trump will endorse Ms. Brown, but such a move could be a long time in coming and may not be a sure bet.

Already in the Republican field hoping to challenge two-term Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) are at least two other candidates with strong Trump credentials. Matt Mowers is the 2020 GOP nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. Mowers, along with fellow 1st District congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, is a former Trump White House staff member. A third announced candidate is freshman state Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Portsmouth).

The 1st District electorate has defeated more incumbents since 2004 than any other. In fact, only twice in those eight succeeding elections did the incumbent win re-election. Republican optimism for 2022 is high, however, because the 2020 elections awarded the GOP both the state House and Senate and, with Gov. Sununu (R) in office, the Republicans have a redistricting trifecta.

The state has two congressional districts. The plan would be to make the marginal 1st District, the eastern seat that contains the state’s small coastline area, into a likely Republican domain while conceding the 2nd CD, or western seat, to five-term incumbent Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord). Currently, the 2nd plays relatively marginal – Rep. Kuster has averaged 52.9 percent of the vote over her five elections – but would be made safely Democratic under this discussed redistricting concept.

According to the Census Bureau’s per congressional district population report, the 2nd District needs 8,973 individuals from the 1st to equalize the resident figures. We can, however, expect a much bigger people swap if the defined partisan split plan is to become a political reality.

Rep. Pappas was initially elected in 2018 after then-incumbent Carol Shea-Porter (D) chose to retire. Shea-Porter first won in 2006, lost in 2010, was re-elected in 2012, defeated in 2014, and re-elected once more in 2016. Prior to his election to Congress, Pappas, a restaurant owner, was an elected member of the state’s Executive Council, a five-member board that holds certain checks and balances power over the Governor.

Pappas has said that he wants to survey the New Hampshire political situation before making his own 2022 electoral plans. If he deems the 1st District as becoming too Republican, he has not closed the door on running for governor, particularly if incumbent Sununu opts to run for the Senate. Sununu has been elected governor three times but is only in his fifth year of service because New Hampshire is one of two states, neighboring Vermont is the other, that maintains two-year terms for their state chief executives.

Though New Hampshire is a small state, the redistricting process will be closely watched because the GOP will need to convert the politically seesawing seat to meet their projected national majority numbers. With Gail Huff Brown potentially becoming a candidate, we can also expect increased national political attention coming to this race.

Additionally, it will be quite some time before we see the political patterns develop. New Hampshire still has a late primary, Sept. 13 for 2022, and candidate filing doesn’t close until June 10. Gov. Sununu is also indicating he will decide about the Senate race well into next year. Therefore, this political scenario is a long way from fully unfolding, and Gail Huff Brown’s potential entry into the congressional race brings us yet another new twist.

An Adjustment in Attitudes

Pew Research Center
(Click on link or on image above to go to Pew Research Center.)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2021 — Largely due to a major shift in perception among Republicans, some American institutions have suffered a major image decline. In July, the Pew Research Center conducted another survey of views and attitudes regarding the country’s key institutions and compared it with a similar study they conducted two years ago.

(The Pew Research report is available at this link: Republicans increasingly critical of several major U.S. institutions, including big corporations and banks)

As has been the case for the past few years, the people identifying with each of the two major political parties see things from an opposite perspective. For most institutions, the aggregate party respondents have become even more polarized in their views. In three particular instances the institutional favorability index changed rather significantly during the relatively short two-year interval between the Pew studies.

Expressing some optimism, the response to whether churches and religious organizations have a “positive or negative effect on the way things are going in the country,” actually received improved ratings.

Among both Republicans and Democrats, the religious-affiliated entities ascended. Now, 62 percent of the respondents believe these God-centric groups have a positive effect upon the country, up a net four points from the July 2019 survey. Republicans remained constant through the two surveys at a very high 76 percent approval rate. Democrats jumped from just 44 percent expressing a positive sentiment in 2019 to 52 percent this year.

For a pair of institutions, however, the normally disparate views surprisingly strike an equivalent balance. Concerning financial institutions and large corporations, the responses between the Republican and Democratic respondents were nearly identical.

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Michigan’s Lost Seat

Michigan Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2021 — Losing a congressional seat is nothing new to the Michigan delegation. Since the 1980 census, inclusive, the state has lost a district in every reapportionment and two in the 1990 iteration. Today, we continue our series about the states gaining and losing congressional districts under 2020 national reapportionment with a look at the Wolverine State.

Michigan is difficult to draw not only because of the consistent seat losses, but so many of the state’s districts abut immovable objects: i.e., an international or state border, or a body of water. Under the current map, 10 of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts at least partially border a country, state, or lake.

The Michigan per district population number for the 2020 census is a high 775,179 individuals. High per district resident numbers often occur when a state loses a seat. In this case, all of Michigan’s 14 districts must gain population, hence the underlying reason for another delegation reduction.

Another factor in making the state a rather unique draw for the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that is tasked with creating the new congressional map for the initial time, is the areas needing to gain the most population lie in opposite ends of the state. This, added to the fact that over 70 percent of the current districts border an immovable object, means the 2021 redistricting process is a significant challenge for the eleven commissioners (4R; 3D; 4N) with no previous experience in drawing political maps.

The area with the largest population shortfall comes in the northern part of the state. Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) 5th District is the seat furthest away from the population quota, down 104,476 individuals. Directly to his west, Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th District is 77,325 people under quota, and to the north all the way to the Canadian border, Rep. Jack Bergman’s (R-Watersmeet) Upper Peninsula 1st District will require an additional 70,829 residents. Combined, these three seats are 252,630 people short of the population quota for three congressional districts.

The area in the second-most need of population is the city of Detroit. The two districts that encompass the city, Districts 13 (Rep. Rashida Tlaib-D) and 14 (Rep. Brenda Lawrence-D) are a combined 184,290 people short for a pair of districts. Because both CDs 13 and 14 and majority minority seats, it is more than probable that the commission won’t collapse these districts because of Voting Rights Act requirements.

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