Category Archives: Election Analysis

The Senate Picture – Part III (Of III)

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By Jim Ellis

Nov. 27, 2017 — Wrapping up our holiday recap of the 2018 Senate races — we finish our coverage with Ohio through Wyoming.

• Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 51-45 percent win in 2012 during the same election when President Obama led the ticket in Ohio, returns for a re-match next year. Mandel must first get past wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons in the Republican primary, but appears well positioned to do so. A Brown-Mandel race could again develop into a major campaign, as the Republican’s ability to run a strong statewide race has improved during the last six years. In 2014, Mandel was re-elected state Treasurer with 59 percent of the vote.
Rating: Lean D

• Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a third term after seeing President Trump and fellow Sen. Pat Toomey (R) win close Keystone State contests last year. It is conceivable that Sen. Casey will be in a tighter re-election campaign cycle than five years ago when he scored a 54-45 percent victory. Since Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) entered the race, the GOP Senate candidate field has decreased with two contenders, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) and businessman Jeff Bartos, departing to run for other offices. The general election could be competitive, but Rep. Barletta may have a difficult time re-constructing President Trump’s winning coalition. The congressman may find a very rough going in the Philadelphia suburbs as did President Trump, which means developing a winning statewide base becomes highly challenging. Like the president posted, Rep. Barletta will need a record rural turnout in order to win.
Rating: Likely/Lean D

• Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) appears poised for an easy re-election run next year, particularly with Republican attention focused upon a much more competitive governor’s race.
Rating: Safe D

• Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) is retiring after two terms, but Republicans are still in strong position to hold the seat. Democrats are attempting to recruit former Gov. Phil Bredesen, but he is not likely to become a candidate even though saying a decision about running will be made shortly. Republicans will likely feature a GOP primary between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former two-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) that will be very competitive in early August, but sure to produce a strong general election contender.
Rating: Likely R, and Safe R if Bredesen does not run.

• Texas: Though eventual Democratic nominee Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will be able to raise a large amount of national money, he will be no match for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who is seeking his second term. O’Rourke is a capable candidate who can wage a respectable campaign, but Texas voting history and Cruz’s strength within the Republican base will still yield him a victory at least in high single-digits.
Rating: Likely R

• Utah: Two major questions dominate this campaign: will Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) seek an eighth term, and if not, does former presidential nominee Mitt Romney come forward to replace him. Sen. Hatch continues to say he plans on running, but always leaves the retirement door open particularly if Romney says he will run. Either way, the seat remains in the Republican column, as Utah Democrats are too weak to field a strong statewide candidate. It is probable that the GOP dynamic will not crystallize until well after the first of next year.
Rating: Safe R

• Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders will again appear on the Vermont ballot as an Independent even though he was a major contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Regardless of his party designation, he is safe for re-election in his small state, which likely features the most liberal constituency in the country.
Rating: Safe I

• Virginia: Particularly after the Democrats’ strong showing in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is a heavy favorite for re-election as he seeks a second term on the heels of losing as the Democrats’ Vice Presidential nominee. At this point, controversial Republican Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Board chairman who ran strongly in the GOP gubernatorial primary, is Sen. Kaine’s leading opponent but Republicans desire a more viable candidate. Speculation is increasing that Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) might run especially with the Democrats turning in such a strong performance in her Northern Virginia district earlier this month. So far, there is no indication that Rep. Comstock will reverse course to enter the statewide contest, however.
Rating: Likely/Safe D

• Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) has yet to even draw an opponent as she prepares a run for a fourth term.
Rating: Safe D

• West Virginia: A major Republican primary is brewing between Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), with the winner facing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next fall. Though West Virginia has moved decidedly to the right since the turn of the century and President Trump posted 69 percent here last November, Sen. Manchin remains at least a slight favorite for re-election. A minor Democratic primary challenge from the left should help the senator continue better craft his centrist image.
Rating: Lean D

• Wisconsin: Though Republicans have seen their fortunes greatly increase here during the past seven years, the field challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) has been slow to develop. Businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) is active and receiving heavy support from outside financial sources, but the Republican conservative base is looking elsewhere. State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) is in the race and figures to be a significant candidate. With the Wisconsin primary not occurring until August, Sen. Baldwin has the luxury of having a long time to prepare for what should be an active general election campaign cycle.
Rating: Lean D

• Wyoming: The big question surrounds whether Sen. John Barrasso draws a GOP primary challenge from Blackwater Security firm founder and international businessman Erik Prince, brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or mega-conservative donor Foster Friess. Chances are neither will run, meaning Sen. Barrasso has little trouble in securing a second full term.
Rating: Safe R

The Senate Picture – Part II (of III)

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By Jim Ellis

Nov. 24, 2017 — Continuing our holiday recap of the Senate races (Happy Thanksgiving all — hope you had a great day), today we cover Michigan through North Dakota.

• Michigan: The major event occurring this past week was Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who had been seriously considering launching his own Senate campaign, announcing that he will instead run for a 17th term in the House. On the heels of Rep. Upton’s decision, wealthy venture capitalist Sandy Pensler (R) declared his own candidacy. Already in the Republican field are manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James, and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is running for a fourth term.
Rating: Likely D

• Minnesota: Months ago, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced for re-election after flirting with a gubernatorial campaign. She will face little competition in her quest for a third term.
Rating: Safe D

• Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) could face primary and general election competition. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellis County) says he will shortly decide whether to challenge Sen. Wicker or run for lieutenant governor in 2019. He came within half-percent of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in 2014, proving he can run a viable race. McDaniel would attack Sen. Wicker from the right if he chooses to run. In the general election, Brandon Presley, chairman of the state Public Service Commission and cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, is a potential Democratic candidate but has so far stopped short of launching any formal political effort. Sen. Wicker will be running for a second full term.
Rating: Safe/Likely R

• Missouri: The Show Me State Senate race is basically set, as first-term Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is challenging incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Four polls were taken during the summer, and all show Hawley claiming a small lead. The most recent survey, from Remington Research (Oct. 11-12; 956 likely Missouri voters), sees Republican Hawley leading the two-term Democratic senator, 48-45 percent. This race has the potential of becoming the nation’s premier Senate campaign.
Rating: Toss-Up

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The Senate Picture – Part I (of III)

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By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2017 — Since little in politics happens around a holiday period, it is a good time to quickly review all 34 in-cycle US Senate campaigns. Today, alphabetically in the first of a three-part series, we look at Alabama through Massachusetts.

• Alabama: The special election to permanently replace current Attorney General and former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is scheduled for Dec. 12. All are aware of the controversy surrounding Republican nominee Roy Moore, and the latest polls show him falling behind Democratic nominee Doug Jones, the former Birmingham area US Attorney. The latest poll is from Change Research (Nov. 15-16; 2,090 Alabama voters) and finds Jones leading 46-43 percent. With sexual harassment now becoming the issue of the day in politics, Hollywood, and the media, how this race will be finally affected remains unclear. If the Republicans lose this seat, it would put what should be their unassailable Senate majority in jeopardy during the regular election year.
Rating: Toss-Up

• Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) has previously announced his retirement. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is moving to become a consensus Democratic candidate. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) is poised to enter the race to challenge former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) in the Republican primary. A recent OH Predictive Insights survey (Nov. 9; 600 likely Arizona voters) finds Rep. Sinema clinging to just a one point, 46-45 percent, edge over Rep. McSally despite having greater statewide name identification. She leads Ward, 46-43 percent.
Rating: Toss-Up

• California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announced that she is seeking re-election amid speculation that the 83-year-old, five-term incumbent would retire. With state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) challenging her in the state’s jungle primary, it appears highly probable that we will see a competitive double-Democratic general election.
Rating: Safe D

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The Next Special: Nominees Set

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Nov. 21, 2017 — After the raucous Alabama special Senate election concludes on Dec. 12, voters in western Pennsylvania will go to the polls next March 13 to fill a US House vacancy. We will remember that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned under pressure in October after a series of extra-marital affairs came into public view, with allegations that he urged a mistress to have an abortion at the very time he was co-sponsoring pro-life legislation.

Murphy had represented his southwestern Keystone State district since originally winning election in 2002, in a seat the preceding redistricting plan created as open. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Murphy was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Upon the congressman’s resignation, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement general election for March 13. Under Pennsylvania statute, there is no primary to choose partisan nominees. Rather, the various political party members meet in a special district convention to choose among individual candidates.

A week ago Saturday, Republicans chose state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/ Jefferson Hills) who had previously dropped his US Senate campaign to take his chances in the open House seat. Prior to winning his position in the state legislature in 2010, Saccone had served as an Air Force officer, a civilian employee of the Army in Iraq after retiring from active duty, and a television anchorman for a South Korean English-language news station. He also was assigned to North Korea for the purpose of assisting with a proposed agreement to prevent further nuclear weapons development. Saccone won the GOP nomination on the second ballot, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).

Democrats met in their 18th District special convention Sunday and chose as their standard bearer. Lamb, like his future Republican opponent Rep. Saccone, also won nomination on the second ballot by defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Obama Veterans Administration official Pam Iovino, Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, psychologist Rueben Brock, writer Keith Seewald, and emergency physician Bob Solomon.

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Turbulent Senate Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.

While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.

But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.

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Mapping Out the
Open Seat Opportunities

By Jim Ellis

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-November-2017Nov. 16, 2017 — If the Democrats are to capture the House majority next year, they will have to score well in the burgeoning open seat category, but so far the map does not appear particularly favorable for them. Though a strong showing in the 2017 odd-year elections, particularly in Virginia, gives them a boost headed into the midterm vote, Democrats still have a significant task ahead in order to gain ground within the House open seat universe.

Witnessing six new retirement announcements since the end of October, in part because the Dec. 11 Texas candidate filing deadline for 2018 is fast approaching thus forcing early campaign decisions, the open-seat contingent has significantly changed during the past month.

Currently, counting the PA-18 vacant seat that will be decided in a March 13 special election, 36 seats are coming open next year. Monday’s retirement pronouncement from Lone Star State Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) brings the Democratic open protect count to 11 seats, meaning 25 incumbent-less Republican districts remain.

But, carefully looking at the GOP open-seat inventory yields very few highly competitive districts. One can argue, and we do, that the number of endangered Republican seats is only two: retiring veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Miami) South Florida district, and south New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s (R-Ventnor City) CD.

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The Roy Moore Polling

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Nov. 16, 2017 — Last evening’s political news featured heavy coverage of a new National Republican Senatorial Committee poll that produced bad news for Alabama GOP special Senate nominee Roy Moore, but not enough information was released to determine the reliability aspect. In fact, the NRSC didn’t even release the name of the polling company with which they contracted to conduct the survey.

This is significant because their finding that Democrat Doug Jones is leading Judge Moore, 51-39 percent, is clearly out of line with every other poll taken in the corresponding time frame. It is also interesting that they would even release such a poll considering the Republican candidate is doing so badly. It does, however, justify their previous position of cutting the Moore Campaign from additional funding because of the sexual impropriety allegations against the candidate that has dominated recent news coverage.

Below are the post-scandal publicly reported surveys as complied by the Ballotpedia website:

• National Republican Senatorial Committee (Nov. 12-13)
No pollster credited
Jones 51%; Moore 39%
500 Sample

• Fox10 (Mobile) (Nov. 13)
News Strategy Research
Moore 49%; Jones 43%
3,000 Sample (Automated)

• Emerson College Polling Society (Nov. 9-11)
Moore 55%; Jones 45%
600 Polling Sample

• JMC Analytics & Polling (Nov. 9-11)
Jones 46%; Moore 42%
575 Sample

• Decision Desk HQ (Nov. 9)
Moore 46%; Jones 46%
515 Sample

As we can see, the NRSC poll returns the most inconsistent results in comparison to the other available data during the same time frame; the period just after the Moore sexual scandal broke.

Additionally, because the NRSC did not release the name of their pollster or the survey methodology, not enough information exists to determine if their data are skewed in any particular manner.

The lack of available information does not necessarily mean that the Senatorial Committee’s results are inaccurate. It is curious, however, that the other results — and, all have larger sample sizes than the reported NRSC calling universe — finds much different ballot test margins.

Interestingly, the Fox10 poll from a local Mobile television affiliate, which is the latest released survey prior to the NRSC study, and the Emerson College Polling Society find the complete opposite result and their methodologies utilize much larger sample sizes within the studied polling grouping. The Fox10 3,000-person sampling universe clearly suggests that the questionnaire responses were obtained through an automated device, but such does not necessarily mean this poll is less accurate than the live operator polls.

The Alabama race continues to deteriorate, and it is becoming more evident that Jones is now in a strong position to win. But, despite all the negative news coverage, this phantom NRSC poll is the only one that shows him trailing badly.

The other survey to find him dropping behind, from JMC Analytics, featured a sampling universe where 56 percent of the respondents are female, a potential skew in Jones’ favor since this subset broke his way, 46-40 percent. In comparison, men favored the Democrat only 46-45 percent in the JMC crosstabs. Therefore, with a sample where the Democratic-leaning female sector was over-sampled by approximately five percentage points, correcting this skew likely brings the Jones’ 46-42 percent ballot test result back into a tied range.

The NRSC results and partial poll release is intriguing to say the least. Hopefully, we will see more substantiation of their data later today.