Category Archives: Election Analysis

Missouri’s Dead Heat

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R)

By Jim Ellis

April 16, 2018 — Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted a new poll of the Missouri electorate (April 4-6; 625 registered Missouri voters) and confirmed what most political observers already believe to be the case. That is, a campaign between two-term incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is a statistical tie. According to the M-D data, McCaskill has a slight 45-44 percent lead over the attorney general in one of eight Senate campaigns where the 2018 general election participants are already clearly defined.

With first quarter fundraising numbers about to become public after the April 15 filing deadline, the McCaskill Campaign has already issued a statement saying they raised a whopping $3.5 million in the first quarter, holding $11.5 million in the committee’s financial account. Hawley has not released his fundraising numbers, but it is clear he won’t have as much money as the senator at this early point in the election cycle. The conservative Missouri Rising Super PAC, however, reports raising $650,000 in the quarter to support their efforts to oppose Sen. McCaskill.

Though Hawley’s early campaign start has been slower than many Republican leaders and strategists would have preferred, the polling clearly indicates that he remains at parity with the senator.

In favorability terms, Sen. McCaskill scores a 41:38 percent positive to negative ratio, while AG Hawley posts 33:23 percent. The senator’s name ID is virtually maximized, as 99 percent of those surveyed could identify her. Hawley’s aggregate name recognition is 83 percent. By comparison, President Trump has a 44:38 percent favorability index with everyone recognizing his name.

Geographically, the poll clearly contrasts between metropolitan and rural candidate support, which is not altogether surprising though the stark and symmetrical polarization is more distinct here than in most other places.

Sen. McCaskill performs well in the St. Louis and Kansas City subsets, scoring support percentages of 51-39 and 51-37 percent, respectively, while Hawley posts mirror-like results in southeast (51-38 percent) and southwest (52-34 percent) Missouri. The two other poll segmentation regions, northern Missouri and central Missouri, break more strongly for Hawley (northern: 55-38 percent) and a bit weaker (central: 47-40 percent).

The geographic results tell us that this contest likely will be decided on voter turnout. McCaskill will do her best to increase the voter participation rate in the state’s two major population areas while the Hawley forces will concentrate on driving turnout in all areas to the north, south, around, and between St. Louis and Kansas City. Additionally, both campaigns must do well enough in their opponents’ strongholds to avoid falling hopelessly behind to the point where even capitalizing in their own favorable areas doesn’t completely erase the statewide deficit.

The poll also detects mirror image support in several demographic and political segments. In gender, age, and party support, the candidates are again almost symmetrically opposite.

Sen. McCaskill scores a 49-41 percent advantage with women; Hawley carries men 48-39 percent. With those over 50 years of age, Hawley claims a 51-37 percent advantage, while Sen. McCaskill takes those under 50 at a 54-36 percent clip. McCaskill tallies a Democratic support factor of 90-3 percent; Hawley fares slightly worse with Republicans: 84-6 percent. Among Independents, the two candidates are virtually tied, with Hawley claiming a slight 43-42 percent edge.

Obviously, the Missouri Senate campaign will remain one of the nation’s most competitive campaigns all the way to Election Day.

Three House Polls Show Tight Races

By Jim Ellis

2018-us-house-racesApril 13, 2018 — New polls were released recently indicating that three US House races will likely become highly competitive come November. The CA-10 contest featuring Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) was always slated to be a top-tier challenger race. But it’s apparent that races in Kentucky and Michigan — KY-6 (Rep. Andy Barr-R) and MI-8 (Rep. Mike Bishop-R) — are now emerging onto the contested campaign scene. I’ll review the current status of each of the three races:

CA-10

Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted a poll for California Democratic candidate Michael Eggman (March 13-15; 471 likely CA-10 June 5 jungle primary voters, 400 likely CA-10 general election voters) and found four-term Congressman Denham leading his two-time opponent, 45-41 percent. In the past two general elections, Rep. Denham has defeated Eggman, 52-48 percent (2016) and 56-44 percent (2014).

Though the June qualifying election numbers were not released, the survey supports the underlying contention that Eggman would be a stronger candidate against Rep. Denham than Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder. While Eggman trails the congressman by four percentage points, Harder lags behind, 48-37 percent.

KY-6

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D), who lost the 2016 US Senate race in Kentucky 57-43 percent to incumbent Rand Paul (R), is coming back this year with the hope of unseating three-term Rep. Barr (R-Lexington). This week, the Gray campaign released a poll taken a month earlier that shows him easily defeating retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath in the Democratic primary. The Mellman Group survey (March 3-6; 400 likely KY-6 Democratic primary voters) finds Mayor Gray leading McGrath, 52-19 percent.

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Ryan’s Departure: Ramifications

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.

In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.

Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.

Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.

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Florida Senate Race: Now Official

By Jim Ellis

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

April 11, 2018 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) made official what everyone believed was happening for more than a year: launching a challenger offensive against three-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Gov. Scott entered elective politics in the 2010 election and said he never intended to assimilate himself into the way state politics has traditionally been run and claims to have kept that promise. He said in his announcement statement Monday that his intention is to have the same attitude toward going to Washington.

Worth in the neighborhood of $140 million and willing to spend a large amount of his personal wealth on his political campaigns, Gov. Scott had the luxury of waiting until relatively late in the cycle to launch his expensive statewide campaign. While the governor consistently said he would make his political plans known once the regular state legislative session ended, a loosely connected Super PAC was brandishing his accomplishments as Florida’s chief executive over the past year, and rallying support for Scott’s state issue agenda. So, this future Republican Senate nominee was very much in the middle of the Florida political scene even though he was not an announced candidate.

To no one’s surprise, the Florida Senate race figures to be a razor-thin contest. Since the famous 2000 presidential campaign when the national result depended upon the final Sunshine State vote (George W. Bush prevailed by an official 537 vote margin from more than 5.8 million cast ballots), and through four more one-point statewide campaigns in the ensuing presidential, governor and Senate races, Florida voting has become synonymous with very tight elections.

Two of those three one-point victory races went to Gov. Scott. He won in 2010, defeating then-state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink by a 1.2 percent margin, and was re-elected with one-point spread over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat who now serves in the US House of Representatives.

Except for a four-year break, Sen. Nelson has been in elective office consistently since winning his first election in 1972. He served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives, 12 years in the US House, and then ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1990, losing in the Democratic primary to US Sen. Lawton Chiles who would win the position later that year.

Sen. Nelson returned four years later with a victory in the treasurer, insurance commissioner, and fire marshal statewide office and was twice elected to that post. He then ran for the Senate in 2000, defeating then-US Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Orlando), who would later be elected state attorney general. Sen. Nelson topped US Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) for his first re-election in 2006, before beating then-US Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Ft. Myers) for his third US Senate victory on the same day that President Obama was re-elected.

Comments coming from Democratic activists concede that Gov. Scott was successful in winning two surprise victories for governor, but say that he has never faced as formidable an opponent as Sen. Nelson.

This assessment is open to question. When he first won in 2010, Scott, who would defeat McCollum for the Republican nomination, was the clear underdog. At the time, Sink was promoted as the best possible candidate the Democrats could field, so it was never believed that she was any second-tier contender.

Though Crist was a flawed candidate from his debacle in the 2010 US Senate race when he left the Republican Party and tried to run to Marco Rubio’s left as an Independent before switching to the Democrats in order to run for governor four years later, he still had universal name identification and was able to raise and spend almost $50 million on his campaign. Thus, the argument that Scott didn’t face anyone as tough as Nelson seems overblown.

Though we don’t likely need proof that the Nelson-Scott race will be close at the political finish line, we only have to examine the public polling for confirmation. Since August of 2017, 17 polls have been released of the proposed Senate race from 10 different pollsters. The results find Sen. Nelson leading in nine of the surveys, while Gov. Scott has the advantage in seven, and one was a flat tie. In 11 of those polls, the margin between the two candidates was four percentage points or less.

Another Resignation;
North Dakota Convention Results

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

April 10, 2018 — Four-term Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), who had shelved his plan to run for re-election well before the March 6 state primary largely due to details stemming from a sexual harassment settlement, abruptly resigned from the House on Friday. Farenthold delivered his announcement via video during the middle of the day and left his position by 5 pm.

The resignation from his TX-27 seat had been rumored because the House Ethics Committee was about to conduct a further investigation into the harassment case and the $84,000 taxpayer funded settlement. Rep. Farenthold said earlier that he would reimburse the government for the payment, but records do not indicate the refund was made. By resigning, the Ethics Committee cannot continue the investigation because Farenthold will no longer be a member.

With now former Rep. Farenthold having left office early, five House seats will be vacant upon Pennsylvania Rep-Elect Conor Lamb’s (D-Pittsburgh) imminent induction. The others are: AZ-8 (Franks-R), MI-13 (Conyers-D), NY-25 (Slaughter-D), and OH-12 (Tiberi-R). All will be filled by special election before the current Congress ends, though the Michigan seat will be done concurrently with the regular election cycle and there is no announced schedule for the New York seat. The AZ-8 seat special general election is April 24. The OH-12 special primary will be held May 8, concurrent with the regular state primary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to decide a replacement procedure for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).

The Texas succession situation is unclear. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has eight days to decide on a special election schedule. The post-primary run-off for both parties is May 22 for the now vacant 27th CD.

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