Category Archives: Election Analysis

Senate: Recapping the Latest

By Jim Ellis

June 21, 2021 — We have seen quite a few recent US Senate moves that help set the picture for a very competitive 2022 election cycle that will almost certainly break the current 50-50 chamber tie. Below is a recap of the action:

Alabama: Katie Britt (R), the former president and CEO of the Alabama Business Council joined the race and immediately secured the endorsement of her former boss, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R). Before joining the Business Council, Britt was the senator’s chief of staff. She joins Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and former US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard in the GOP field. No Democrat has yet announced.

Arizona: Two-term Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) announced his candidacy in the past week, giving the GOP a candidate who has won statewide to face freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who stands for a full six-year term in 2022 after winning the 2020 special election. Also in the Republican field are retired Air Force Major General Mick McGuire and solar energy company executive Jim Lamon. Venture capitalist Blake Masters and US Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) remain as possible candidates.

Florida: US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), the former police chief whose husband is mayor of Orange County and the former county Sheriff, formally announced her US Senate challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R). Former congressman Alan Grayson and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell are also Democratic US Senate candidates, among others.

Georgia: Former University of Georgia football star and NFL player Herschel Walker (R) is re-locating back to his home state from Texas ostensibly to soon announce a challenge to freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) who, like Sen. Kelly in Arizona, must stand for a full six-year term in 2022 after winning a 2020 special election. Also in the GOP nomination race are state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, construction company owner Kelvin King, and financial executive and former Trump White House staff member Latham Saddler.

Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who will be 89 at the next election, appears poised to seek an eighth term. At this point, state Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) is an announced Republican primary challenger, and ex-Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer (D) is the lone Democratic announced candidate. Former one-term US Rep. Abby Finkenauer is a potential candidate along with current US Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), and Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart.

Missouri: Six-term US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) is the latest Republican to join the open field with Sen. Roy Blunt (R) retiring. She will oppose former governor, Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey, with US Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin), Billy Long (R-Springfield), and Jason Smith (R-Salem) remaining as possible candidates.

Former St. Louis area state Sen. Scott Sifton is the lone prominent announced Democrat. Ex-governor, Jay Nixon, and Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas are potential Democratic candidates.

Nevada: The Republican leadership believes that former Attorney General and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, grandson of the late former Sen. Paul Laxalt (R), will soon announce his Senate candidacy to oppose first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D).

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It’s Down to a Dozen in SC-7

By Jim Ellis

South Carolina state Rep. William Bailey (R-Myrtle Beach)

June 17, 2021 — South Carolina state Rep. William Bailey (R-Myrtle Beach), who became the first individual to announce a Republican primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice (R-Myrtle Beach) has become the first candidate to withdraw, with his announcement this past Tuesday. Bailey initially entered the race immediately after the congressman voted to impeach former President Trump in relation to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Rep. Bailey indicated that there are ‘enough conservatives in the race to give Mr. Rice a strong challenge,’ and says he is leaving the congressional race to seek re-election to his state House position.

After Bailey’s departure, and including Rep. Rice, there are a dozen announced candidates for the Republican congressional primary in a 7th District that currently occupies South Carolina’s northeastern sector and includes the cities of Myrtle Beach and Conway. In the two Trump presidential elections, the district’s voters strongly supported the former president and with very consistent margins: 58-39 percent in 2016 and 59-40 percent last November.

Normally, a large field of opponents would help an incumbent, but maybe not under the South Carolina election system. The state, like many others in the south, adopts a secondary runoff election process, meaning the winning candidate must secure an absolute majority. If no one can achieve the mark in the primary election, the top two vote-getters advance to a secondary election.

What makes the Palmetto State’s system different is that the runoff cycle lasts only two weeks. Typically, South Carolina holds its primaries in mid-June with the associated runoffs following in the latter part of the month.

Therefore, an incumbent under attack doesn’t have much time to recover before the next election commences. This calendar likely enhances the most common pattern of incumbents generally losing a runoff election if they are forced into a secondary vote.

The large number of contenders notwithstanding, and without Rep. Bailey in the field, the two most prominent challengers appear to be Horry County School Board chairman Ken Richardson and former Myrtle Beach mayor, Mark McBride, though the latter man was defeated in a runoff election for a third term. McBride was also beaten badly in a 2020 special election for the state House of Representatives.

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Trump Endorsement Matters in North Carolina Senate Primary

By Jim Ellis

Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement changes the face of the race for Senate in North Carolina.

June 16, 2021 — North Carolina US Rep. Ted Budd’s (R-Advance) Senate campaign released an internal Meeting Street Insights poll (June 9-10; 500 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters, live interview) Monday that finds former President Donald Trump’s endorsement completely changes the 2022 statewide Republican primary.

Rep. Budd is challenging former Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-US Rep. Mark Walker for the GOP nomination succeeding Sen. Richard Burr (R) who is not seeking re-election to a fourth term.

According to Meeting Streets, former Gov. McCrory would lead the field, as other polls have shown, by a wide margin. On the first ballot test, McCrory scores 45 percent preference as opposed to 19 perecent for Rep. Budd, while 12 percent choose ex-representative Walker.

The picture drastically changes, however, when the pollsters ask if the respondent is aware that former President Trump has endorsed Rep. Budd. Only 20 percent of the sampling universe expressed knowledge of this development. On what the pollster terms the “educated” ballot test, meaning the respondent is told that Trump has, in fact, endorsed Rep. Budd, we see the drastic transformation.

With the Trump endorsement becoming known, Rep. Budd soars to the lead with 46 percent support, while McCrory drops to 27 percent, and ex-Rep. Walker falls to eight percent.

McCrory’s campaign fielded a Public Opinion Strategies survey in early April (April 6-8; 500 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters, live interview) and found the former governor leading 48-13-9 percent over Walker and Budd, respectively.

This was followed later in the month by a Spry Strategies study (April 21-24; 700 likely Republican North Carolina primary voters; combination live interview and interactive voice response system) that found a 40-11-5 percent split, again with Rep. Budd trailing his two opponents.

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Youngkin Within Two of McCauliffe in Virginia Governor’s Campaign

By Jim Ellis

Glenn Youngkin (R), Terry McCauliffe (D), left-to-right, Virginia gubernatorial candidates

June 15, 2021 — A just-released Virginia governor’s campaign survey yields a surprising ballot test result, especially when seeing that the data was collected before last week’s Democratic primary.

WPA Intelligence (WPAi), in their most recent poll for the Glenn Youngkin for Governor campaign (June 2-6; 506 likely Virginia voters, live interview), already finds the Republican gubernatorial nominee climbing to within two percentage points (48-46 percent) of the newly crowned Democratic nominee, former governor, Terry McAuliffe.

While certain elements point to a slight Republican survey skew, it does signal, as other research has, that the 2021 Virginia governor’s race may be tighter than the state’s most recent elections that have definitively favored the Democratic candidates.

Several analysis points need reviewing. First, WPAi is a credible Republican pollster. According to the FiveThirtyEight statistical website pollster rankings, WPA Intelligence has a very respectable 0.8 predictive rating with just a slight 0.7 percent Republican bias factor.

Second, some of the geographic segmentation returns, however, appear a bit too optimistic for the Youngkin team. While the Washington, DC DMA sector breaking 56-39 percent for McAuliffe and the Roanoke/Lynchburg DMA posting a 49-46 percent edge for Youngkin are both wholly believable, the projections for two other segmented regions raise eyebrows.

Youngkin leading 51-44 percent in the Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News DMA, which also includes the Virginia Beach area, isn’t particularly consistent with the way the Tidewater region has voted in the most recent elections. Additionally, the same should be said for the Richmond/Petersburg DMA where WPAi sees Youngkin pulling ahead with a 48-44 percent split.

Third, these latter numbers appear too favorable for Youngkin, and particularly so in the Richmond/Petersburg area where the McAuliffe favorability rating in this same poll is 45:40 percent favorable to unfavorable. Conversely, however, if the trend were to continue for these two places and is proven accurate, it would basically signal a return to the voters’ previous electoral pattern. The Virginia historical election matrix was much better for Republicans than the numbers found in elections since the early 2000s.

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Dueling Dual Polls

By Jim Ellis

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

June 14, 2021 — We open the week looking at conflicting polls from two Midwestern statewide races. The Michigan Republican Party published a survey that conflicts with earlier data we’ve seen about their state’s gubernatorial race, and the two leading Ohio Republican Senate contenders both released recent surveys that best tell their own campaign story.

In the Wolverine State, the Competitive Edge Research & Communication firm, polling for the Michigan Republican Party (May 26-June 4; 809 likely Michigan voters), projects retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R), who is soon expected to announce his bid for governor, leading incumbent Gretchen Whitmer (D) by a spread beyond the polling margin of error, 45-38 percent.

Curiously, the MIGOP leadership also released the ballot test that featured the party’s 2020 and 2018 US Senate nominee, John James. Here, the CERC finds Gov. Whitmer leading James, 50-45 percent. James has not indicated that he is going to enter the gubernatorial race, so it is surprising to see the Republican Party releasing data that puts one of their top political figures in a weaker position. James lost the 2020 Senate race to incumbent Gary Peters (D) by a tight 50-48 percent count.

In May, the Target Insyght survey research company (May 9-11; 800 registered Michigan voters) painted a different picture, forecasting a 48-42 percent lead for Gov. Whitmer over Craig and 49-39 percent against James.

The difference could be attributed to James retiring as chief of police after the TI poll was conducted and before the CERC survey was taken. Former chief Craig is a well-known and popular figure in Detroit, and the accolades given him for his tenure could certainly have helped his polling data at least on a short-term basis.

Additionally, Gov. Whitmer has been caught in several inconsistencies regarding her COVID shutdown policies, which were some of the most drastic in the country. More than once, she was found not following the letter of her own directives for herself and family.

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