Category Archives: Election Analysis

Kansas Breaking

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 2, 2020 — One of the most interesting Senate primary races occurred in the Sunflower State of Kansas where Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) retirement left a contentious Republican primary in his wake, one that saw even Democrats becoming involved. Now, it appears the general election may be beginning to break.

In 2018, then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach upset Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican gubernatorial primary by just over 300 votes statewide to snatch the party nomination. He would then go on to lose to Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) in a race that many Republicans believe Kobach simply gave away due to his poor campaign.

Undaunted by this loss and what was regarded as his failed chairmanship of the Trump Administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kobach entered the 2020 Senate campaign. Republican leaders even including the National Republican Senatorial Committee hierarchy, worried that Kobach would again lose the general election, got behind west Kansas US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend). He would eventually prevail in the Aug. 4 primary even though polling showed a close race throughout, usually with Kobach ahead. The final tally was 40-26 percent in Rep. Marshall’s favor.

The strangest part of the primary, however, was Democratic aligned organizations coming into the state in an attempt to actually help Kobach win the Republican nomination. They did this by attacking him as being too conservative, and much too closely aligned with President Trump, negative ads they knew would actually be viewed favorably by the most loyal of Kansas Republican primary voters.

Helping Kobach win the GOP nomination, these Democratic leaders believed, would give their candidate, party switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), the upper hand in the general election with the chance of capturing what should be a safe Republican Senate seat.

After the primary, the early polling was showing a relatively even race between Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier. Traversing a period of having no released polls since immediately after the early August primary, we now see several released surveys conducted within the same general sampling period. Most of these current studies find Marshall beginning to put some distance between he and Bollier.

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Debate Constituencies

By Jim Ellis

The candidates in action at the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio: President Donald Trump (left) and former vice president Joe Biden.

Oct. 1, 2020 — In watching the first presidential debate the other night, the question that was hanging out there was, what was each candidate attempting to achieve in relation to the constituencies he needs to win the national election, and was each successful in achieving their specific goals?

The campaign is breaking down into two distinct issue areas for each man. President Trump wants to concentrate on rebuilding the economy and safety from the unrest in many metropolitan areas, while former vice president Joe Biden is zeroing in on healthcare, most specifically protecting the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, and attacking Trump over his COVID-19 record.

President Trump is attempting to rebuild his winning coalition in the battleground states that concentrated on 2016 economic issues. He did that in last night’s debate by highlighting his administration’s economic record pre-COVID and outlining how he would re-build the national economy moving forward after the related shutdown.

On law enforcement and public safety, an issue area emphasized in an attempt to re-connect with many suburban female voters who have left his coalition since the last election, Trump attacked hard. The president probably scored his strongest points of the night regarding this issue area as he pinned Biden down about the lack of law enforcement groups supporting the Democratic nominee’s candidacy.

Biden was strong in his defense of the Affordable Care Act, and again exposed the weakness in the Republican issue platform because the GOP doesn’t have an alternative plan to what currently exists. The Biden emphasis was also an attempt to target the higher educated suburban voter, and particularly the white, married female.

Additionally, the healthcare line of attack was also geared toward the base Democratic voter who depends on the ACA as their sole provider. Again illustrating that these individuals would lose their healthcare coverage if the Supreme Court were to declare the program as unconstitutional very likely scored political points for Biden within his targeted constituency groups.

In the closing section of the debate, President Trump used his time on the issue of mail voting to express his concerns about ballot security and the length of the post-election period that we will see in many states. Expecting political overtime to last “weeks, if not months,” Trump reiterated that concerns exist about whether we will have a verified election, while citing the many states that experienced problems during the primary season.

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Challengers With a Lead – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 30, 2020 — Continuing with the second of our two-part series depicting challengers who have placed even with or ahead of their incumbent opponent at some point since summer began, today we look at the states in the second half of the alphabet. As a reminder, already eight 2020 US House challengers have unseated their incumbent opponents, obviously all in the primaries.

Below is the list of the second group of 11 incumbents, making a total of 22 challengers who have drawn even or led their incumbent opponents:


Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ-2):

• POLL: Public Policy Polling (Sept. 14-17)
Challenger: Amy Kennedy (D), margin: +5 points
• POLL: ALG (Sept. 14-15)
Challenger: Amy Kennedy (D), margin: +4 points
2016 Presidential: Trump: 51-46%
—    Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) was elected as a Democrat in 2018 but changed parties a year later. He now faces the general electorate for the first time as a Republican. At this point, we see two consecutive polls giving challenger Amy Kennedy, the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), leads at the outer edges of the polling margin of error. We will see a great deal of action here in the closing days.


Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7):

• POLL: National Republican Congressional Committee (June 24-26)
Challenger: St. Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R), margin: +2 points
2016 Presidential: Clinton: 49-47%
—    The 7th Congressional District of New Jersey, which stretches from the Pennsylvania border to the outskirts of Newark, has been a Republican seat since 1980 until two years ago when freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) unseated five-term veteran Leonard Lance (R).
State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., whose father served as governor for two terms from 1982-1990, returns for another race for federal office. He first ran for the 7th District in 2000, and then the US Senate in 2006, losing both times. Kean has served in the New Jersey legislature for 19 years. Though we’ve only seen one public poll here, this appears to be a toss-up race and more data should soon become available.


Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM-2):

• POLL: Research & Polling (Aug. 26-Sept. 2)
Rep. Torres Small, margin: +2 points
• POLL: Tarrance Group (July 7-9)
Margin: Even
• POLL: Public Opinion Strategies (Dec. 18-19, 2019)
Challenger: Ex-St. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R) margin: +2
2016 Presidential: Trump: 50-40%
—    This is a re-match of the 2018 open-seat campaign that saw political newcomer Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) slip past then-state Rep. Yvette Herrell by a 51-49 percent count. Herrell returns with a strong primary victory over New Mexico Oil & Gas Association president Claire Chase, a candidate who many believed would be a stronger opponent for the congresswoman. Herrell did take the early general election lead, but the later polling has slightly favored the incumbent. The 2nd District is a must-win for Republicans if they are to be competitive for majority status.


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Challengers With a Lead – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2020 — We’ve already seen eight 2020 US House challengers unseat their incumbent opponents so far — obviously all in the primaries. Is it possible that that’s a precursor to a larger number of incumbents losing their seats in the general election?

In typical election years, well over 90 percent of incumbents who seek re-election win. Therefore, eight members denied re-nomination in their own party primary elections is an unusually high number. What’s more, turning to the general election, 22 House incumbents have trailed in at least one poll since July began.

Below is the list of the first 11 incumbents, alphabetically by state, who are facing what appear to be the most competitive challengers in the country. The list includes 14 Republican incumbents and eight Democrats for a total of 22. Tomorrow, we will cover the remaining 11. All challengers have led the incumbent in at least one political poll of their race.


Rep. Don Young (R-AK-AL):

• Public Policy Polling (July 7-8)
Challenger: Alyse Galvin (I/D) margin: +2 points
2016 Presidential: Trump, 51-37%
—   Galvin ran in 2018 and saw similar polling numbers even as late as Oct. 29. Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon) would still go onto win the race 53-46 percent. Galvin is one of the many close finishers returning for a re-match this year.


Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ-6):

• Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (Aug. 6-12)
Challenger: Hiral Tipirneni (D) margin: +3 points
2016 Presidential: Trump, 52-42%
—   Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) has pleaded to 11 ethics violations relating to using his government resources for political purposes in addition to campaign finance irregularities. With the district becoming more Democratic in addition to his personal situation, Rep. Schweikert faces his toughest re-election campaign against physician Hiral Tipirneni who twice ran close races in the adjoining 8th CD.


Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA-25):

• Normington Petts (Sept. 21-23)
Challenger: Assemblywoman Christy Smith’s margin: +3 points
2016 Presidential: Clinton, 50-44%
—   One of the most recent polls found for this House study shows Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) — who won his seat in a May 12 special election by surprisingly taking a seat back from the Democrats — trailing state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall), the woman he defeated four months ago. With California going heavily Democratic in the presidential election, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that this race again becomes a toss-up despite Rep. Garcia’s 10-point win with a high special election turnout.


Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL-27):

• 1892 Polling (Sept. 2-6)
Challenger: Maria Elvira Salazar margin: +3 points
2016 Presidential: Clinton, 58-39%
—   This is a re-match of the 2018 open seat campaign that saw former Health & Human Services Secretary and President of the University of Miami, Donna Shalala, top former Spanish language television news reporter Maria Elvira Salazar. Shalala’s victory margin was 52-46 percent. The only public poll released so far came in early September and produced a surprising result with Salazar pulling slightly ahead.


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MN-2: Election Postponed

By Jim Ellis

Minnesota’s MN-2 Congressional District sits southeast of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, encompassing the region’s southern suburbs and traveling to the Wisconsin border.

Sept. 28, 2020 — A bizarre occurrence has happened in Minnesota that will apparently delay the 2nd Congressional District election until Feb. 9, 2021. Under state law, if a major party candidate passes away within 79 days of the general election date, the vote for the affected office is delayed for approximately three months.

Adam Weeks is the Legal Marijuana Now party congressional nominee, and under Minnesota election law this entity is recognized as a major party. Therefore, Weeks’ untimely and unexpected death earlier this week forces the congressional election of which he was a part to now be held Feb. 9. Though ballots are already printed, any votes cast for the 2nd District contest will not be recognized or counted.

The law came into effect after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) who perished along with his wife and daughter in a tragic plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election. Under Minnesota law at the time, a replacement nominee had to be chosen because the election would proceed as scheduled. That candidate became former vice president and Minnesota senator, Walter Mondale (D), who would go onto lose to Republican Norm Coleman in a close 50-47 percent election.

Taking action well after 2002, the state enacted the current statute that requires a postponement of the affected political contest. The situation directly touches freshman Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) and Republican nominee Tyler Kistner. The Legal Marijuana Now party will have the opportunity to replace Weeks for the Feb. 9 election.

There are more ramifications than meet the eye here, however. First of all, Rep. Craig will have to leave office at the end of the current Congress because her term will expire. This means she will be out of office for more than one month of the new 117th session. This would put her at the end of the seniority list for the current freshman class if and when she eventually returns to the House.

Secondly, and perhaps the greater problem for all concerned, is that this particular Minnesota statute is likely to be found conflicting with the federal law that requires all states to hold a general election for federal offices on the same day, in this case Nov. 3, 2020.

The national election law also was the key factor in forcing Louisiana to hold its formatted jungle primary election concurrently with the general election date. Before, the Bayou State primary was held in September and anyone winning an absolute majority in that one election was declared the outright victor. The Justice Department ruled that the state could no longer hold an early jungle primary that allowed someone to win outright because it conflicted with the law requiring every state to hold a uniform and simultaneous general election.

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Sen. Collins of Maine Hanging On

By Jim Ellis

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R)

Sept. 25, 2020 — Our original quick analysis may be incorrect. Soon after the announcement that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) made a statement indicating that she would not support until after the election a motion to proceed that would allow the Senate to vote on confirming a Supreme Court replacement.

Responding, we believed that Sen. Collins’ decision had sealed her own doom in regard to winning her re-election campaign against state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D). We reasoned that at least a part of Maine’s conservative bloc would likely turn away from Sen. Collins, one who they do not particularly trust anyway, yet a group she needs to close the polling deficit she faces against Gideon. This was also predicated upon the belief that her move would gain little from the center-left or mostly left voter who may have supported Sen. Collins in previous elections.

A just-released Maine political survey, however, suggests that such a conclusion may not be so clear. Moore Information, polling for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the first Maine Senate data released into the public realm after Justice Ginsburg’s death (Sept. 20-22; 500 likely Maine voters, live interview), finds Sen. Collins actually gaining support to pull into a 42-42 percent tie with Gideon. This is the first survey showing Sen. Collins even or ahead since another Moore Information poll conducted in late June posted her to an eight-point lead.

The Maine seat is critical to determining the next Senate majority. Routinely, we believe it is part of a four-state firewall that Republicans must maintain to uphold their relatively slim 53-47 chamber majority. The other three being converting Alabama, and retaining Iowa and Montana. Losing any one of these four states would likely turn the focus to North Carolina where Sen. Thom Tillis (R) would be forced to score a come-from-behind win, which could then pave the way for Republicans keeping majority control with a smaller edge.

Polling has been clear for weeks that Sen. Collins is trailing. Since 2020 began, now 18 polls have been conducted of this Senate race, and Gideon has led in all but the two Moore Information surveys. Overall, the incumbent has been trailing by an average slightly over four percentage points with a median of 4.5 percent, numbers barely within the polling margin of error range.

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Senate: A Polling Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 24, 2020 — Today, we look at the competitive Senate races and segment the group around polling consistency. Several races routinely report point spreads between the two major party candidates that are wildly inconsistent, while others vary over a small difference often within the same polling period.

The two most extreme surveys during the month are listed for each state with the most extreme first and the closest second. You will notice that the British firm, Redfield & Wilton Strategies, is often listed as the most extreme.

We begin, alphabetically by state, with the inconsistent group. Only the two Georgia races are in the September consistent segment.


INCONSISTENT


Arizona
Number of September polls: 14
Polling range: 16 points

Redfield & Wilton Strategies
(Sept. 12-16; 855 likely Arizona voters; combination online and live interview)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 52%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 35%

ABC News/Washington Post
(Sept. 15-20; 579 AZ likely voters; live interview)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 49%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 48%


Iowa
Number of September polls: 2
Polling range: 8 points

Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research (for AARP)
(Aug. 30-Sept. 5; 800 likely Iowa voters; live interview)
• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) – 50%
• Theresa Greenfield (D) – 45%

Selzer & Company
(Sept. 14-17; 658 likely Iowa voters; live interview)
• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) – 45%
• Theresa Greenfield (D) – 42%


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