Category Archives: Election Analysis

New Hampshire Results

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2020 — The New Hampshire nomination vote was held yesterday, ironically very late in an election cycle in which this state was the first to host a presidential primary. The results unfolded as generally predicted.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stands for a third term and was easily re-nominated with 94 percent of the vote against a weak Democratic opposition field. On the Republican side, businessman Bryant “Corky” Messner, who has already loaned his campaign approximately $4 million, defeated retired Army general Don Bolduc with a 51-42 percent victory margin. Sen. Shaheen is a clear favorite for the general election, but upsets are a frequent occurrence in New Hampshire politics, so no victory can be taken for granted.

A close election here is possible again. In Sen. Shaheen’s two federal election victories, her win percentages were only 51.6 and 51.5 percent in 2008 and 2014, respectively. Additionally, in the 2002 campaign, as the sitting governor, she lost to then-US Rep. John E. Sununu (R), 51-46 percent. Returning for the 2008 race she unseated her former opponent, and then six years later defeated former Massachusetts US Sen. Scott Brown (R) who launched a new Senate bid from his neighboring state.

The last election for the state’s other Senate seat was also very close. In 2016, then-Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) unseated Sen. Kelly Ayotte, 48.0 – 47.8 percent, a margin of just 1,017 votes from more than 739,000 ballots cast.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is running for a third two-year term – New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont are the only two states that mandate two-year gubernatorial terms – and was easily re-nominated with 90 percent of the Republican primary vote. The Democrats, however, featured a more competitive contest, with state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D-Concord) apparently topping Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, 51-49 percent, but with several precincts still outstanding. It is likely the Feltes margin will hold, though it is still mathematically possible for the final outcome to switch.

Turnout in the state was interesting because of its inconsistency between the two statewide offices, which is unusual. In the governor’s race, more Republicans than Democrats voted, so far 129,404 to 124,697 with further ballots to count. The Senate campaign, however, featuring a Democratic incumbent, saw a reversal of the turnout model. In that race, more Democrats have voted so far, 133,729 to 122,676.

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New Hampshire Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2020 — Winding through the final state primaries, voters in the Granite State cast their ballots today in order to nominate candidates for US Senate, governor, and two congressional districts. After today, only three primaries remain: next Tuesday in Delaware and Rhode Island, and the Louisiana jungle primary that runs concurrently with the general election.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stands for a third term this year and draws only minor opposition on the Democratic ballot. On the Republican side, businessman Corky Messner, who has already loaned his campaign approximately $4 million, is favored to top retired Army General Don Bolduc.

Messner certainly has the resources to run a competitive race against Sen. Shaheen, but there is no question she is a heavy favorite in the general election. Prior to being elected to the Senate in 2008, Shaheen served three two-year terms as governor but lost her first Senate bid opposite then-US Rep. John E. Sununu (R) in 2002.

Since the turn of the century, however, New Hampshire has been one of the most volatile political states, and swingingly wildly from the top of the ticket all the way down the ballot has become a frequent occurrence. Therefore, incumbents from both parties can never be considered completely safe.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) stands for a third two-year term – New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont are the only two states that mandate two-year gubernatorial terms – and faces only Franklin City councilwoman and radio talk show host Karen Testerman and a man named Nobody, who frequently runs for New Hampshire political office as a Republican or a Libertarian Party member.

The Democrats feature a two-way gubernatorial nomination race between state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D-Concord) and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. New Hampshire’s unique Executive Council is a five-member panel elected in districts and serve as gubernatorial advisors and a check on the governor’s power. The Executive Council has veto power over pardons, nominations and large state contracts. Polling suggests a close race.

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Senate Sleepers in Minnesota
and South Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Are incumbents Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 8, 2020 — At the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, it appeared that Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were set for re-election. That no longer appears to be the case.

Polling is now consistently showing close races in the two states, and Sen. Smith’s recent comments about the police have seemingly moved her re-election campaign closer to the toss-up category according to a just-released Harper Polling survey.

Looking at the HP data (Aug. 30-Sept. 1; 50 likely Minnesota voters via live interview), Sen. Smith’s ballot test edge has dropped to just 43-41 percent over former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R).

In May, Harper found Sen. Smith posting a 46-35 percent advantage over Lewis. After this release, Public Policy Polling forecast a 48-39 percent split toward the end of July. Lastly, Emerson College published what appears to be precursor data to the latest Harper findings. The Boston-based university poll (Aug. 8-10; 73 likely Minnesota voters) found a three-point split between the two contenders, 48-45 percent, again in Sen. Smith’s favor.

To the southeast of liberal Minnesota, in conservative South Carolina, veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has also fallen into a competitive contest with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, who had raised an incredible $29 million for his smaller state race through the end of June.

The most recent poll we have seen from the Palmetto State was released at the beginning of August. Quinnipiac University (July 30-Aug. 3; 91 registered South Carolina voters) detected a 44-44 percent tie between Sen. Graham and Harrison. From mid-July through the beginning of August, six surveys were conducted, including the Quinnipiac study, and Sen. Graham’s average lead was only 2.8 percentage points.

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How Sen. Markey Won in the
Massachusetts Primary

(Ed Markey’s Desk ad, 2020; recreated from 1976 ad below)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 3, 2020 — Sen. Ed Markey’s win over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) is attracting a great deal of media attention in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 55-45 percent Democratic primary election, and it should. In many ways, this was an extraordinary campaign.

Sen. Markey should be credited with running an excellent political effort in that he maximized his advantages and minimized his weaknesses. It also featured bizarre happenings in that the 74-year-old candidate received 71 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote against his 39-year-old opponent, and he re-created, virtually word for word, an ad his campaign produced for his first congressional race back in 1976 highlighting an issue that defined his career in the state legislature.

Conversely, Kennedy ran a failing campaign that never got untracked and proved strategically wrong from the outset.

Let’s go back to where this race began in order to set the stage. Kennedy announced his candidacy in October. Polling had already begun in late August, and Change Research released the first public poll of a proposed Markey-Kennedy race (Aug. 23-25, 2019; 80 registered Massachusetts voters) and found Rep. Kennedy leading Sen. Markey, 42-25 percent.

The last poll, conducted exactly a year later from Boston-based Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters), found Sen. Markey ahead 56-44 percent. Thus, all of the campaign movement favored Markey, and Kennedy was unable to expand outward from his original support base.

What Markey Did Right

Compare Markey’s 2020 ad (top) recreated from his 1976 ad (below):

(Ed Markey’s Desk 1976)

Sen. Markey can count. Understanding that his home county of Middlesex is the largest in the state by far — some 1.58 million people — he returned to his boyhood home in Malden where he based his campaign. His re-created 1976 ad from the first congressional campaign about “Ed Markey’s Desk” was done to emphasize his home roots in the Malden-Melrose area and the surrounding Boston suburbs that comprise the heart of Middlesex County.

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Markey, Neal Win Big in Massachusetts

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Ed Markey recorded a strong double-digit victory over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) yesterday in Massachusetts.

Sept. 2, 2020 — The Massachusetts primary election was held yesterday, and Sen. Ed Markey recorded a strong double-digit victory over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) after a year-long campaign in the US Senate Democratic race, which, in the Bay State, is tantamount to winning the seat in November.

Sen. Markey’s victory spread landed at exactly 10 percentage points with an estimated 20 percent of the vote still outstanding, 55.5 – 45.5 percent, and the 131,651-vote margin left no doubt about the outcome. Turnout is just under 1.2 million Democratic voters and will go higher when late-arriving ballots are collected and counted. The total turnout could reach 1.5 million individuals, which would be higher than the March 3 Democratic presidential primary participation figure that fell just under 1.4 million.

The county largely responsible for the senator’s victory margin was his home county of Middlesex; with a total population figure of over 1.5 million people, it’s the state’s largest local entity. There, Sen. Markey recorded a 65-35 percent margin and an 88,858-vote spread, which accounts for two-thirds of his statewide vote difference. Sen. Markey scored majorities in 10 of the state’s 14 counties.

The only place Rep. Kennedy recorded a county victory outside of his 4th Congressional District was in western Massachusetts. He carried Hampden County, which houses the city of Springfield, and, rather surprisingly, Worcester County despite the flap that found the Kennedy campaign sending a mailer into the locality with the name spelled, “Worchester.”

Temporarily, at the very least, Rep. Kennedy’s defeat spells the end of the Kennedy family political dynasty in the state. In fact, according to the MSNBC network, this is the first loss for a family candidate in 27 Democratic primary campaigns dating back to when John F. Kennedy won the 1946 congressional primary in what was then the Boston area’s 11th CD.

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