Category Archives: Election Analysis

Senate Vulnerability

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2021 — We all know that the 2022 US Senate election cycle will be key, largely because every race has the potential of breaking the body’s 50-50 partisan tie. Today, we prioritize the 34 seats in order of electoral strength over the past five top statewide elections in each of the 2022 in-cycle Senate states. This allows us to objectively see from a statistical point which Senate seats appear, at least on paper, to be most vulnerable.

Next year, 34 Senate races are on the ballot with the Republicans defending 20 and Democrats 14 of each party’s 50 incumbent seats.

While the statistical analysis result below largely tells us what we have seen through previous polling, averaging the last five statewide races from each place, President 2020, the most recent Senate race, the most recent governor’s contest, and both the 2016 presidential race and the Senate race that elected the current incumbent, provides more concrete data.

The winning percentage margin was researched for all five historical political contests, and then the mean averaged calculated in each of the 2022 Senate states.

The conclusions:

STATE INCUMBENT PARTY AVG
CA PADILLA D 57.6
ND HOEVEN R 36.4
HI SCHATZ D 34.8
OK LANKFORD R 31.0
ID CRAPO R 30.4
AR BOOZMAN R 28.9
UT LEE R 28.8
NY SCHUMER D 28.4
SD THUNE R 26.9
AL SHELBY (O) R 24.1
MD VAN HOLLEN D 21.5
KY PAUL R 18.1
VT LEAHY D 17.5
CT BLUMENTHAL D 17.2
WA MURRAY D 16.6
IL DUCKWORTH D 16.1
LA KENNEDY R 15.6
IN YOUNG R 15.0
OR WYDEN D 14.9
KS MORAN R 14.3
AK MURKOWSKI R 11.9
MO BLUNT (O) R 11.8
SC SCOTT R 11.7
IA GRASSLEY R 10.3
CO BENNET D 8.8
OH PORTMAN (O) R 6.8
NV MASTO D 3.2
FL RUBIO R 2.6
NC BURR (O) R 1.6
NH HASSAN D 1.6
WI JOHNSON R 1.7
GA WARNOCK D 3.6
AZ KELLY D 5.6
PA TOOMEY (O) R 5.8

(O) – denotes open seat


The above chart shows that the five strongest incumbents, based only upon the top elections from 2016 through the present, are appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and regularly elected Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Brian Schatz (D-HI), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

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Another Close Michigan Race

By Jim Ellis

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

May 18, 2021 — As it is becoming clear that retiring Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R) is preparing to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) next year, Target Insyght, polling for the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS), tested the potential general election pairing in a recent study. The results portend another tight Wolverine State campaign.

The TI poll (May 9-11; 800 registered Michigan voters, live interview) finds Gov. Whitmer leading Chief Craig by a six-point, 48-42 percent, spread. More importantly, the survey identified key areas of weakness for the governor, ones that could potentially allow a GOP contender to construct a reasonable path to victory. Chief Craig has not yet announced his candidacy but is expected to do so once he officially retires from the police force on June 1.

Where Chief Craig may have a significant advantage in such a race is his potential ability to draw more votes from the African American community particularly in heavily Democratic Detroit.

While President Biden averaged 79.1 percent of the vote in Congressional Districts 13 and 14 that encompass the city, the Target Insyght poll finds Gov. Whitmer pulling only 64 percent among black voters, while the outgoing police chief attracts 36 percent. In Detroit, 78.3 percent of the population is African American according to the latest publicly available Census Bureau estimates (July 2019).

Gov. Whitmer’s bigger weakness, however, lies in the area of jobs and rebuilding the state’s economy. According to this issue segmentation, voters would favor Chief Craig over Gov. Whitmer by a whopping 63-30 percent margin.

John James, the African American Republican who has run highly competitive campaigns in the last two consecutive Michigan Senate races, was also tested but he doesn’t perform as well as Chief Craig in a general election pairing. While the governor tops Chief Craig by six points, as mentioned above, James trails by 10 percentage points, 49-39 percent.

In the Republican primary, however, it is James who would have a clear advantage. If he and Chief Craig oppose each other for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination, the former man would begin the race with a 36-21 percent advantage in the primary according to this particular survey.

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Arizona Sen. Kelly’s Latest Polling

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Mark Kelly (D) won the special election in November to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term in office. He again comes before the voters in this election cycle to stand for a full six-year term.

May 17, 2021 — Arizona pollster OH Predictive Insights went into the field to test the Grand Canyon State’s early electorate as it relates to freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D). As we remember, Kelly won the 2020 special election to fill the unexpired portion of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term, and next year he stands for a full six-year term.

OHPI surveyed the sampling universe of 935 Arizona registered voters as part of an online opt-in panel during the May 3-5 period. The sample was weighted to properly reflect the partisan division within the state along with gender, age, education, region, and ethnicity segmentation.

The questionnaire first tested the job approval ratings of Arizona’s two Democratic senators, Kelly, and Kyrsten Sinema. Then, seven potential prominent Republicans were individually paired with Sen. Kelly to test his strength against each, one of whom is likely to be his 2022 general election opponent.

Regarding the approval ratings, Sen. Sinema scored a 44:36 percent positive to negative ratio with 10 percent landing in the very favorable category and 15 percent in the very unfavorable classification. Sen. Kelly posted a similar, but slightly worse, 45:38 percent ratio. Like Sen. Sinema, more respondents rated him very unfavorable (23 percent) than very favorable (18 percent). The upside-down extreme ratio suggests an underlying weakness since the very unfavorable outweighs the very favorable for both individuals.

Here’s how potential opponents matched up against Sen. Kelly:

CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 45%
Kimberly Yee (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 43%
Jack McCain (R) 29%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 46%
Karl Lake (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 47%
Kelli Ward (R) 36%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 47%
Andy Biggs (R) 36%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 44%
Michael McGuire (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 46%
Mark Brnovich (R) 36%

Yee is Arizona’s state treasurer. McCain is the son of the late Sen. McCain. Karl Lake is a former news anchor for one of the major network Phoenix television stations. Ward is the Arizona Republican Party chair who has previously served in the state legislature and run for the US Senate. Andy Biggs is the US congressman from the Maricopa County-anchored 5th District. Michael McGuire is a retired major general who headed the Arizona National Guard. Brnovich is the state’s attorney general.

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Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

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Examining California
Gov. Newsom’s Vulnerabilities

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

May 13, 2021 — The University of California at Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies released another of its periodic polls this week, and while it finds Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) surviving the upcoming recall election it also identifies areas of underlying weakness.

According to the survey (April 29-May 5; 10,289 registered California voters with questions asked in English and Spanish, online), Gov. Newsom would win the impending recall vote as 49 percent of the respondents said they would vote to retain him in office and 36 percent support removal. Regarding his job approval and performance on certain issues, however, the poll identifies what could possibly become an opponent’s path to victory.

The Cal-Berkeley result is very similar to another poll conducted within the same time period. Survey USA went into the field during the April 30 – May 2 time segment and interviewed 750 California registered voters of which 642 were identified as likely to vote in the gubernatorial recall election. S-USA found the sampling universe broke 47-36 percent in favor of Gov. Newsom remaining in office, almost identical to Cal-Berkeley’s tally from their much larger online sample.

Cal-Berkeley delved deeper into how the respondent sample was viewing the governor’s job performance and his standing within the electorate, and its results suggest that a focused opposition campaign could yield a close outcome.

Perhaps most troubling to the Newsom strategy team is the question that tested enthusiasm within the electorate. While Democrats were breaking 75-8 percent to retain the governor, the enthusiasm metric showed that only 36 percent of them have a high interest in the election. Another 30 percent fell into a moderate interest level, and 34 percent of the self-identified Democratic voter base said they had little or no interest.

Republicans, on the other hand, registered a 75 percent high interest level, suggesting that their turnout for the eventual election will be much greater. Though Democrats hold a large 46-24 percent party registration advantage, the interest level suggests the eventual election result could fall into a closer range. Among GOP voters, the governor would be ousted in a whopping 85-8 percent margin.

Those registering under the No Party Preference category, who account for another 24 percent of the California voting universe, would retain the governor with a 45-33 percent margin, while the six percent who identify with a minor party break 48-29 percent for removal.

Overall, Gov. Newsom’s job performance improved from Cal-Berkeley’s late January poll and stands at a 52:43 percent positive to negative ratio. In January, the performance ratio was an upside-down 46:48 percent. This is largely due to improvement regarding his handling of the Coronavirus issue, as 45 percent rate his performance as excellent or good, while 35 percent say poor or very poor. Another 16 percent gave him a fair rating, which on this poll seems to indicate a moderate support level as opposed to leaning in a negative direction as some other pollsters characterize the term.

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