Category Archives: Election Analysis

Romney Gaining in Key States

Based upon the media coverage of the first presidential debate, it’s not surprising to witness at least a short-term tightening of the national campaign. Fortunately for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, his standing is also improving in the most important swing states.

In Florida, two polling firms now are projecting Romney to be leading President Obama. The Sunshine State is the Republican’s most important conversion entity because there is simply no way to compensate for losing its 29 Electoral Votes. According to Rasmussen Reports (RR) on the day after the presidential debate (Oct. 4; 500 likely Florida voters), the GOP challenger has taken a two-point, 49-47 percent lead. We Ask America (WAA), which ran approximately 1,200 sample automated polls in the three most important swing states also on Oct. 4, finds Romney now leading in Florida, as well. Their margin is 49-46 percent.

Similar results are found in Virginia, another of the critical four core states. Romney’s easiest path to victory is to convert each of the cores (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio), and then take at least one more Obama state that is larger than Vermont or Delaware. The President wins re-election, for all intents and purposes, if he takes Florida or any two of the core states.

Rasmussen Reports, testing 500 Old Dominion state likely voters on Oct. 4, found a 49-48 percent Romney lead in Virginia. We Ask America, also on the same date, detected a 48-45 percent GOP challenger advantage.

In Ohio, RR still forecasts the President to be leading, but by just one point, 50-49 percent. WAA, however, sees Romney forging ahead in this critical state, up by the same one-point spread, 47-46 percent.

Regardless of whether these small margins are completely accurate, they do tell us that Romney did receive, at the very least, a quick momentum surge that penetrated into the states that will have the largest say in determining the final outcome of this presidential election.

It remains to be seen if the Romney debate bump sustains itself for more than a few days. The electorate, throughout the 2012 election cycle, seems all too willing to shift on a dime and the challenger’s improved standing could be yet one more example of this phenomenon. If so, then the vast majority of polling between now and the last week of October won’t tell us too much because we know things can quickly change based upon external events. If Romney’s improved standing holds through the next week, though, then a new, firmer Republican base may well be formulating.

What we can confidently determine is that 39 states and the District of Columbia have made their decision about this presidential contest. Among the decided states, the President enjoys a 201-176 advantage. This means Pres. Obama needs to convert 69 of the remaining 161 Electoral Votes, or 43 percent of them. Romney, on the other hand, needs 57 percent — or 94 of the remainder.

    The 11 undecided states are, from west to east:

  • Nevada (tilting Obama, but approaching toss-up status)
  • Colorado (tilting Obama, but approaching toss-up status)
  • Iowa (pure toss-up)
  • Wisconsin (tilting Obama, but approaching toss-up status)
  • Michigan (leaning Obama)
  • Ohio (leaning Obama)
  • Pennsylvania (leaning Obama)
  • New Hampshire (leaning Obama)
  • Virginia (tilting Obama, but approaching toss-up status)
  • North Carolina (leaning Romney)
  • Florida (tilting Romney, but again approaching toss-up status)

Understanding where the states currently stand, and even giving Iowa to Romney, the president would win re-election with 297 Electoral Votes. But, make no mistake, his political position is precarious. For an incumbent to be this close to losing a month away from Election Day is a bad sign for him because the majority of voters are not yet positively convinced after four years of performance from which to judge. This race remains undecided.

Is Maine’s King Losing His Luster?

Angus King

Perhaps until right now, it had been a foregone conclusion that Maine’s Independent former governor Angus King was the prohibitive favorite to replace the retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R). After the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and other outside advocacy organizations unleashed heavy anti-King media spending, however, the former two-term state chief executive’s polling numbers have come back to earth. And, in a three-way race where the majority of voters will likely vote for someone other than the eventual winner, virtually anything can happen.

The race pits King against GOP Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill. King, who champions liberal causes as indicated by his support from the trial lawyers PAC, the Council for a Livable World, and Google PAC, is portraying himself as an independent moderate, even going so far as having actor Sam Waterston appear in a television commercial to echo his campaign theme.

A new GS Strategy Group survey conducted for the NRSC shows King’s lead diminishing severely. Though he continues to place first, his margin is now only 37-33-17 percent over Summers and Dill. In another poll released to MaineToday Media on Sept. 20, King leads 50-28-12 percent. But, driving below the original ballot test numbers for that particular survey, the King supporters who say they are definitely voting for him register only 32 percent.

Maine has a penchant for electing candidates who don’t belong to either major political party. In addition to King, Independent Jim Longley was elected governor in 1974. Two years ago, Independent Eliot Cutler finished a strong second to Republican Paul LePage, losing by less than two points. It is the latter election that Charlie Summers is hoping to emulate. Assuming he holds the base Republican vote of 37-39 percent, Democrat Dill topping 20 percent would give him a chance to slip past King. This would be virtually identical to the vote dispersion that elected LePage.

The Maine Senate race is an interesting one, because if President Obama is re-elected and the Republicans hit 50 in the Senate, both of which are quite possible, it would be King alone who would decide which party would assume majority control. Most believe that he will caucus with the Democrats, which is most likely, but stressing his independence certainly makes it more difficult for him to immediately fall into the Democratic fold. Even his slogan, “… as Independent as Maine,” stresses that Mr. King is not inclined to easily conform to Washington’s over-heated partisan divisions.

The Chamber of Commerce has run a series of ads playing upon King’s name, referring to him as “the King of spending” during his tenure as governor. The claim that he over-spent and then left the state with a huge deficit is resonating in this political climate and is a probable reason for King’s decline. The former governor retorts that he cut taxes, improved education, and protected Maine’s open space.

But the more intriguing part of the campaign revolves around Dill. She has little in the way of campaign funding, so outside organizations are trying to improve her standing. The NRSC, in a negative way, but designed to improve her standing among Democrats, is illustrating that she is even more liberal than King. Meanwhile, outside groups are driving home the message that King is flawed and Dill is the preferred progressive candidate.

The dynamics of the Maine Senate race are the most unusual in the nation, and much more is potentially riding upon the election outcome than who represents the state in Washington. Under the proper circumstances, the entire Senate majority may rest upon this one campaign.

Matheson Gets No Love

Rep. Jim Matheson

A new internal Public Opinion Strategies poll for Utah congressional candidate Mia Love shows the challenger opening up a huge lead over six-term incumbent Jim Matheson (D-UT-2). The two contenders are running for the state’s new 4th Congressional District, a seat awarded the state in the 2010 reapportionment formula. The new UT-4 stretches from the southern Salt Lake City suburbs to the center of the state and includes such communities as South Salt Lake City, Millcreek, West Jordan and South Jordan, and Love’s home town of Saratoga Springs. Matheson only represents 33 percent of the new district, but it does contain the most Democrats of the state’s four congressional seats. Still, President Obama could only register 41 percent support here in 2008 and figures to do worse this time with semi-favorite son Mitt Romney leading the Republican ticket.

The new POS data for the Love campaign (Sept. 10-11; 400 likely UT-4 voters) gives the Republican a whopping 51-36 percent lead over Rep. Matheson. Though the congressman still has a positive image (57:33 percent favorable to unfavorable), a full 50 percent of those questioned now say they want a new representative.

Mia Love, 36, born of Haitian parents and elected to the city council and now mayor of her home town, received a prime speaking position at the Republican National Convention and scored rave reviews for her message and performance. The address jump-started her campaign and this new poll evidences that she is one of the country’s top Republican challengers. Expect to see a Matheson counter poll released shortly. Failure to do so will silently confirm the POS results.

The Conflicting Trends

Though we spend a great deal of time writing about and analyzing polls, it is important to remember that even though individual ballot test data is helpful and allows us to gauge campaign trends, the isolated individual polls themselves can be misleading. Today’s examples coming from Nevada and Ohio are a case in point. In both states, polls conducted during the same sampling period are producing considerably different results.

In Nevada, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 18-20; 501 likely Nevada voters) and Public Opinion Strategies (Sept. 19-20; 500 likely Nevada voters) can’t even agree on which Senatorial candidate is leading the race. A similar range conflict is found in the Ohio Senate race between Gravis Marketing (Sept. 21-22; 594 likely Ohio voters) and the Washington Post (Sept. 19-23; 759 likely Ohio voters), though the incumbent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), leads in both studies.

Looking at the Silver State, PPP projects Democrat Shelley Berkley to have a 48-44 percent lead over appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R). But POS is posting Heller to the opposite position, as they show the Senator topping Berkley 44-39 percent. Among the Buckeye State likely voters (the Washington Post poll provides separate results for their larger sampling universe of 934 registered voters and the whittled down cell segment of 759 likely voters), the WP Poll gives Sen. Brown a substantial 51-43 percent advantage, while Gravis sees only a one-point difference (Brown over state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) 44-43 percent) between the two candidates.

Examining the aggregate for all four polls, the net swing in Nevada is D minus 7 points from PPP to POS, while both show the same level of support for Republican Heller (44%). Interestingly, the Gravis and Washington Post Ohio polls reveal a similar effect. While Democrat Brown swings seven points between the two surveys, Republican Mandel scores the same level of support in both, 43 percent.

The presidential numbers in both states also show similar divisions. PPP gives President Obama a 52-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Nevada, while POS shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent. In this case, PPP is six points higher for the Democratic candidate and three points lower for the Republican for a net swing of nine points. In Ohio, the Washington Post gives Mr. Obama a 52-44 percent edge among likely voters while Gravis Marketing projects only a one-point 45-44 percent margin in the President’s favor. Again, the two polls detect the same level of support for the Republican candidate, but vary rather substantially (once more, a difference of seven points) for the Democratic contender.

All four of these polls are live interview surveys, as compared to those using the Interactive Voice Response method, so these studies are all in the “apples to apples” comparison category. All are making their own unpublished determination as to what they define as a “likely voter.” The pollsters weight the responses to mirror the state’s population and voter registration and preference history but don’t reveal their particular weighting equations. And, clearly, this distinction is key in relation to the Democratic scale because the Republican numbers among these various studies remains constant, or virtually constant (GOP presidential number in Nevada is different).

What does this tell us? Again, looking beyond the original ballot test numbers, we are seeing clear variance, particularly on the Democratic side. This is more than likely the result of the particular pollster’s sample selection, weighting equation, and likely voter determination while, of course remembering that all polls are a mere snap shot in time of a very small group of people. This is why contrasting multiple polls to obtain a picture of a particular campaign is so important, because the comparison tells a much different story than looking at any one of these polls individually.

Throughout this election cycle, pollsters have been detecting an electorate that is inconsistent and can abruptly swing. The polls we compare today certainly continue to show such characteristics. This means, to a large extent, that we are flying blind into Election Day, and that the final determining factors either haven’t yet happened or are not fully cemented.

Battleground Poll: Favorable Romney Trends

Mitt Romney

The Battleground Poll, now in partnership with George Washington University, released a new survey (Sept. 16-20; 1,000 likely voters) yesterday that contains some surprising trends. The Battleground survey is a joint, long-standing, non-partisan effort from Republican pollster Tarrance & Associates and the Democratic survey firm of Lake Research. Their new data posts Republican Mitt Romney to a substantial lead within critical swing demographic segments despite President Obama scoring a 50-47 percent national advantage.

Rather stunningly, Romney has a nine-point lead among white women and a seven-point advantage among people 45 years of age and older. Considering the Obama campaign strategy has been to paint the Romney-Ryan ticket as the enemy of senior citizens, this poll suggests that this tactic has not gained any traction within the targeted segment. A bit less surprising are Romney’s 14-point positive numbers with married respondents.

But, perhaps the most significant part of the data pertains to the candidates’ middle-class performance. According to Battleground, it is Romney, despite all of the middle-class emphasis put forth from the Obama campaign, who has a 14-point edge within this economic demographic sector.

If the Battleground data is accurate, it is telling us that the Obama campaign is failing in two of its core strategic objectives: creating the Romney negative image they want voters to envision as it relates to cutting Medicare, and middle-class tax policy. If true, the ballot test numbers should soon begin swinging Romney’s way.

Republican House Prospects Looking Strong

Last week, Anne Brady, former finance director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, analyzed the House races from her perspective. Today, Jeff Burton, the Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, offers the GOP analysis.

House Democrats held a press conference last Thursday where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that her party has a “very excellent chance” of winning the majority in the upcoming general election. There’s just one problem – just about every pundit disagrees. Even other Democrat Party leaders fail to share their former Speaker’s opinion. Whoops. Last Monday, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (IL) said he expects the House to remain in Republican hands, and Robby Mook, Executive Director of the DCCC, said just a few weeks ago, “Today, we are in a neutral environment. It is a pretty steep climb in a neutral environment. It’s tough.”

Democrats need to pick up a net of 25 seats to take control. With a month and a half before Election Day, Republicans stand an excellent chance of not only keeping control, but also gaining seats and expanding our majority in the House.

Here’s why:

History is on Our Side – Only once since WWII has the party holding the White House gained more than 15 House seats in a presidential election year. That was in President Johnson’s 1964 landslide win over Sen. Barry Goldwater. President Obama’s negatives (ObamaCare, Cap & Trade, stimulus, economy & jobs) are so ingrained with voters that there is virtually no chance of a Democratic landslide.

Republicans on Offense – In 2010, the NRCC spent over 98 percent of our election money on offense. Going in to 2012, our strategy was to stay on offense and not let the Democrats spend the bulk of their money in Republican seats. Currently, of the $50+ million that the NRCC has reserved for TV this fall, we are spending 40 percent of it on offense, with Democrats following us in most places in an attempt to defend their endangered seats. Needless to say, a majority is not won by spending the bulk of your resources playing defense.

Message – Recent polling shows voters are putting more and more blame for the bad economy on President Obama. The Obama economy has precipitated the worst economic recovery in our nation’s history, and voters aren’t ready to let Democrats get away with it. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, ObamaCare is still an albatross around the necks of congressional Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office just upped both the overall cost of ObamaCare and the commensurate amount of Medicare cuts for current seniors that offset the massive new federal expenditure. Our message of reducing spending & debt, creating jobs, and repealing and replacing ObamaCare continues to resonate with voters. Our incumbents and candidates have done a great job of communicating this message.

Resources – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) talks a lot about how they have out-raised the NRCC for the cycle. But, as any small business owner will say, ‘you can’t spend gross, you can only spend net’. According to the last report (end of August), the NRCC had $10 million more cash-on-hand than the DCCC. What does $10 million buy? It buys a month of television in Chicago, Sacramento, Denver and Las Vegas: all expensive markets where both parties are playing both offense and defense in multiple districts.

The Drive for 25 – This was the slogan the Democrats came up with after they lost the majority in record-breaking fashion back in 2010. Their math, however, doesn’t add up. Because of redistricting and key Democrat retirements in seats like OK-2 (R+14), AR-4 (R+9) and NC-13 (R+10), Republicans have a number of “gimmies” that we should pick up without spending any money. This, coupled with DCCC recruiting failures in seats in New York, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Florida, and redistricting victories in North Carolina and across the country, provides the basis for every non-partisan political analyst (and even the liberal New York Times) to say that Democrats really need to pick up somewhere between 35-40 Republican seats to win the majority.

All these factors lead to a neutral political environment. Head to head, I would take our incumbents and challengers over theirs any day. So Nancy Pelosi’s “very excellent chance” to take back the House is nothing more than a pipe dream. She won’t be wielding the Speaker’s gavel anytime soon. Hopefully, she never will again.

A Quintet of Close New House Polls

Rep. Mary Bono Mack

Now that we’ve passed Labor Day, congressional polls are going to be released at a fast and furious pace. Yesterday several surveys came into the public domain, each revealing close races for the tested subjects. Some of the new data appears surprising, but considering the redistricting or political situation surrounding the incumbent such results should have been expected.

Around the horn, close races are confirmed for Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), Bill Johnson (R-OH-6), David Rivera (R-FL-26) and the open WA-1 campaign between Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan DelBene.

Polling for the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 12-13; 1,281 likely CA-36 voters via automated interviews) gives California Rep. Bono Mack only a 47-44 percent lead over physician Raul Ruiz (D). The Riverside County district favors Republicans in registration by a 40.3 to 38.6 percent margin and the PPP sampling universe showed a 41-40 percent Republican to Democrat ratio. Therefore, the poll accurately reflects the desert district’s political division. This is the second poll that has projected the campaign to be within the margin of error. Such is not a surprise because this district can be competitive and Dr. Ruiz is proving to be a formidable opponent.

In Colorado, when the court re-drew the 2011 congressional map, the incumbent receiving the most adverse district was sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman. His 6th District went from 53-46 percent McCain to a 54-45 percent Obama, a net swing of 16 points toward the Democrats. So, it’s no surprise that he would be in a tough 2012 campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released another of their methodologically questionable interactive voice response polls, this one of only 350 people. The results show Coffman leading 42-39 percent, which on this type of survey, and being unaware of the types of questions asked, may not be a bad result for the Republican incumbent. The new confines of the district will yield a close race, but it is reasonable to conclude that the DCCC three-point Republican advantage conclusion most likely understates Rep. Coffman’s true support.

The 6th District in Ohio is a Democratic-leaning district at the very least. Freshman Rep. Bill Johnson’s upset of two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) was one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 cycle. Therefore, it was expected that the re-match would be close. According to an Anzalone-Liszt survey for the Wilson campaign (Sept. 9-12; 500 likely OH-6 voters), the results confirm such a prediction. The Democratic internal data projects the race to be a 46-46 percent tie. Both candidates are accusing the other of voting to cut Medicare. The 6th, Ohio’s largest coal-producing district, could well vote based upon energy policy. The Cap & Trade issue was a major reason for Johnson’s 2010 win, even though Wilson had opposed the bill when he was in the House. This race appears to be a pure toss-up.

In Florida, Public Policy Polling, again for Democracy for America (dates and sample size not released) fielded a survey that was basically in the push-poll category as it asked several questions regarding the FBI investigating freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-FL-26). The pre-push result showed two-time former congressional nominee Joe Garcia (D) leading the first-term representative 46-39 percent. After the push questions were asked and recorded, the secondary ballot test gave Garcia a 49-36 percent lead. There is no doubt that Rivera has political problems, and since the new 26th CD is politically marginal the six point Democratic lead is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Finally, in Washington state, a Survey USA poll (Sept. 13-15; 593 likely WA-1 voters) gives Republican John Koster a 46-42 percent lead over Democrat Suzan DelBene. Both individuals are former congressional nominees. The new 1st is much different from the current CD-1 that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Inslee formerly represented. Fifty-two percent of the territory is new to the 1st District, but it’s an area largely comprised of places Koster represented during his tenure in the legislature and on the Snohomish County Commission. While 56 percent of the CD-1 voters supported President Obama in 2008, such a number represents a swing of 12 points toward the Republicans from WA-1’s former configuration. The S-USA poll shows Koster trailing DelBene by just one point among female voters, which is likely to expand in DelBene’s favor as the campaign continues toward Election Day. This race is expected to be close, but in a presidential year, the Democrats should command at least a slight edge.