Category Archives: Election Analysis

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.