Category Archives: Election Analysis

US House Open Seat Status

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2019 — With US House retirements coming in bunches, it can be confusing to remember how many open seats currently exist for the 2020 cycle and where they stand in terms of political projections. Now that the two North Carolina special elections have been decided, it is a good time to review the future open seat contests.

As things currently stand, 20 seats are known to be open, including the WI-7 seat that Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) will resign from next week. Of the 20, only four seats are Democratic, meaning the remaining 16 belong to the Republicans.

Most of the districts are safe – likely 14 of the 20 – and are projected to remain with the succeeding incumbent party nominee. The remaining six either lean to one party or the other (4) or are already cast in the toss-up category (2).

At this point, 13 of the 14 least competitive seats are in the safe category with one in the Likely segment:

Safe D:

  • CA-53: Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) – retiring
  • NM-3: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) – running for Senate
  • NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) – retiring

Safe R:

  • AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) – running for Senate
  • AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) – retiring
  • IL-15: Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) – retiring
  • KS-1: Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) – running for Senate
  • MI-10: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden/Macomb County) – retiring
  • TX-11: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) – retiring
  • TX-17: Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan/Waco) – retiring
  • UT-1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) – retiring
  • WI-5: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menominee Falls) – retiring
  • WI-7: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) – resigning for family reasons

Likely R:

  • IN-5: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) – retiring

The most competitive seats are as follows:

Lean D:

  • IA-2: Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) – retiring

Lean R:

  • MT-AL: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) – running for Governor
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) – retiring
  • TX-24: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) – retiring

Toss-Up:

  • GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) – retiring
  • TX-23: Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) – retiring

Analysis

  • GA-7: This district produced the closest raw vote margin in the country last year, as Rep. Rob Woodall was re-elected with just a 417-vote spread over former state Senate budget director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D), who returns to run again in 2020.
    Bourdeaux, however, will not have the nomination field to herself. Six other Democrats have filed, including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak (D-Duluth), state Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), and former Fulton County commission chairman John Eaves. Nine Republicans are in the race including state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and former Atlanta Falcons football player Joe Profit.
    This race will have to gel after the primary in order to obtain a better read on how the political contest will ultimately end. It appears both parties are headed to run-off elections to settle upon a nominee. The Georgia primary is May 19, with a run-off, if necessary, scheduled for July 21.
  • TX-23: No matter who the major party candidates turn out to be, the 2020 TX-23 race will end in a razor-thin margin. The highest percentage attained by a winning candidate throughout the current decade is 50.3 percent in 2012, and no one has won with a majority since. With each major party nominee virtually assured of a percentage in the high 40s, this will be a competitive race regardless of who eventually advances into the general election.
    Grace Ortiz Jones, the 2018 Democratic nominee who came within 926 votes of unseating Rep. Will Hurd, returns to run again. She has a strong chance of becoming a consensus candidate. Republicans will likely have a contested primary and possibly a run-off. This race, in a district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, will go down to the wire before it is ultimately decided.
  • MT-AL: Republicans should have an advantage here in a presidential year, as Montana figures to be one of President Trump’s strongest states in 2020. Two Republicans elected statewide, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and state auditor and 2018 US Senate nominee, Matt Rosendale, are competing for the open seat in a field of five candidates to date.
    Democrats look to have strong candidates, as well. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who held Rep. Greg Gianforte to a 51-46 percent win last November, returns for another try. Her Democratic opponents are state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula) and rancher Matt Rains.
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is retiring after four terms from a district that is becoming much more competitive. The minority complexion is now high, with the non-Hispanic white percentage dropping to 45.9 percent among citizens of voting age. Six Republicans have announced with possibly wealthy donor and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall, who ran in the 2nd District open seat in 2018, could be the person to beat.
    Democrats are likely to back 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni, who held Rep. Olson to a 51-46 percent win. Expect this race to be a major battleground House campaign, and though the district is clearly changing, the GOP still maintains at least a slight advantage.
  • TX-24: Veteran Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell), who had a close call last November with a 51-47 percent win against an opponent who didn’t even spend $100,000, decided to retire after serving what will be eight terms. Republicans appear to be coalescing behind former Irving mayor, Beth Van Duyne, who will be a credible and energetic candidate.
    Democrats already have a crowded field that already features six candidates. The early favorite for the party nomination is retired Air Force colonel and 2018 state agriculture commission nominee Kim Olson, who lost her statewide campaign, 51-46 percent, which is one of the stronger Democratic showings in the recent past. The 24th will host another Texas competitive contest in 2020, but the seat still leans the Republicans’ way.
  • IA-2: The only competitive Democratic open seat that could come into play is Iowa’s southeastern district. With seven-term Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) retiring, Democrats are coalescing around former state senator and lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart.
    Republicans appear to have their own consensus candidate, former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who served one term after winning the 2010 election in the Rock Island/Moline district across the Mississippi River from the Iowa border. Several years later, Schilling moved to Iowa and now is looking to revive his short-lived political career.
    Democrats have a clear advantage here, but in this open seat where the candidates already appear set and President Trump outpolled Hillary Clinton, a meaningful campaign could develop.

Multiple Choice, Multiple Candidates

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 16, 2019 — The international polling firm YouGov for The Economist magazine just completed a major 86-question survey of 1,500 US adults (Sept. 8-10; online through an opt-in panel), 1,182 of whom are registered voters and found many interesting results. The most unique, however, might be their question asking the self-identified primary or caucus attending Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (632) just how many of their party’s presidential candidates they would consider supporting.

The purpose of the question was to test for multiple responses; therefore, most respondents named several candidates. Possibly the most interesting phase of the response process was that only one candidate exceeded 50 percent under this format, and the person receiving the 55 percent consideration factor might not be who you would name with your first guess.

Of the 20 candidates identified in the questionnaire, 10 broke into double digits. This is not particularly surprising when remembering that respondents were encouraged to give more than one candidate they are considering and, in fact, could name as many individuals as they liked.

But the candidate receiving the 55 percent mention factor was not former Vice President Joe Biden. Rather, it was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and this type of outcome could be quite significant in determining who people might ultimately support. Biden was second but failed to reach a majority even from a respondent pool who could render multiple choices. He posted a 48 percent score.

In third position was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (40 percent), so here again we see these three candidates, Warren, Biden, and Sanders, capturing the top positions by a wide margin.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was fourth with 32 percent followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was named by 27 percent of the sample. Others in double digits were New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 18 percent, ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke recording 14 percent, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro posting 13 percent, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York City businessman Andrew Yang both registering 11 percent under this format.

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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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